UM Coach Golden: Dolphins Got First-Rounders

During the 2012 draft, the Dolphins decided to tap the South Florida pipeline, selecting University of Miami teammates Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, both of whom grew up in Miami.

Hurricanes head coach Al Golden recently joined The Finsiders to talk about Vernon and Miller and his team’s prospects heading into the 2012 season.

Though he only coached Vernon and Miller for one season, Golden clearly came away impressed with the pair.

“When you get into the 13 and 14 years (down the road), I think the Miami Dolphins and Jeff Ireland will look back and say they got three first-rounders in this draft,” Golden said. “I really believe that. Both guys are really developing, they’re incredible players, incredibly talented. I think they’re only going to get better; they’ve got so much in front of them right now.”

Prior to April’s draft,  it had been nearly a decade since the Dolphins had selected a Hurricane–offensive tackle Vernon Carey in 2004. Many wondered, especially with so many Hurricanes thriving for the better part of the last decade, why the local NFL franchise had bypassed what could potentially be a de facto feeder system.

You, of course, don’t want to draft a local player for the sake of drafting one, but if a Hurricane succeeds with the Dolphins, it can be a big boost for both teams.

Golden feels that the reach of the mutually beneficial relationship extends past those who are directly involved, also affecting what he referred to as one of the “meccas” of high school football.

“It’s vital that we have that relationship,” Golden said. “It’s not just about the Dolphins or about the Hurricanes; it’s about the vitality of football in South Florida and making sure that stays strong and that the next generation can continue to grow and be just as good as the previous generations have been.

“I know these things go in cycles, and I know both the Dolphins and the Hurricanes are going to be back here very soon.”

Recruiting top-end talent can be both a blessing and a curse for a college coach. Sure, in the moment, it’s a necessity. To compete with the other powerhouse programs, you need to bring in potential pro prospects. If too many players begin to leave early, however, it can hurt continuity, forcing coaches to lean on freshmen and sophomores.

In a sense, though, it all ends up coming back full circle. Young players want to go to schools that churn out NFL players, and historically, arguably nobody has done that better than the University of Miami.

“Once a kid makes a decision, they have our support,” Golden said. “These two young men, I think Dolphins fans are going to be really excited about moving forward. Not just how they play but how they conduct themselves in the community. I think incredible value for the franchise in rounds three and four. From what I hear, management feels the same way.”

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson watches and learns

Despite the fact that about a dozen players watched what turned out to be the last practice of the Redskins’ minicamp on Wednesday with an assortment of injuries, none of them are expected to linger into training camp, which will start around July 26.

Mike Shanahan indicated that the player about whom there was the most concern, Leonard Hankerson, could have fully participated in minicamp.
“He’ll be able to go Day One of camp,” he said when asked about Hankerson. ‘[W]e could push him in this minicamp. He was doing drill work. The last couple of days you could see the routes that he ran were full-speed. I’m glad we didn’t try to push him or overwork him because I thought we could set him back. Hopefully, over the next five-six weeks, he’ll just be getting better and better.”

The second-year wide receiver had his rookie season cut short when he suffered a hip injury in Week 10. After trying to rehab the injury for a few months, the doctors decided that surgery was needed and the procedure was done in February.

Hankerson has been participating in some drills, running patterns and catching passes from Robert Griffin III and the other quarterbacks. But when things got more serious and they line up to run plays 11 on 11, Hankerson became a spectator. 

“It’s been every tough emotionally, I want to be out there but I can’t,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “It was very tough for me to sit on the sideline knowing that the next practice is six weeks from now, very frustrating. 

“I want to be out there.”

Hankerson understands why he has been sidelined even though he is physically able to go and he is trying to make the best of it. He says it’s a matter of attitude.

 “It depends on you. You can get down, go in the tank, and learn nothing, he said. “Or you can watch the guys, you can go in the meeting room, listen and learn, break down the notes, stuff like that. 

“You can learn a whole lot sitting on the sideline and seeing what the other guys do.”

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss performing like a receiver 'possessed'

Not so long ago, Santana Moss' place within the Redskins' receiving corps – and his spot on the 53-man roster - appeared shaky. Two positive statements by those named Shanahan later, there now appears to be only a thin chance the slimmed down 33-year-old will not be around for the regular season opener.

First, there was head coach Mike Shanahan. Following a practice earlier this month, he praised Moss' fitness, declaring, "It’s the best I've seen him since I've been here."

On Wednesday, it was Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's turn to toss a solid in number 89's direction.

"Santana’s entire offseason, he came in, to me he came in possessed. He was ready to go," the younger Shanahan said during his post-minicamp press conference in which he also noted the impact following the receiver's weight loss. After playing last season north of 200 pounds - his playing weight on the Redskins site currently reads 205 - Moss is now reportedly in the 190-pound range.

"We got Santana to come in, lose some weight and he did," Kyle Shanahan said. "You know a lot of guys can lose weight by starving themselves, staying in the steam and dehydrating themselves and just getting on a scale. Santana did it the right way. I feel he’s more powerful. He’s more explosive. He’s about 10 or 15 pounds lighter and he’s been great out there."

Last season the 11-year veteran posted a disappointing 46 receptions for 584 yards and four touchdowns. Moss played in only 12 games, missing time with a hand injury.

His projected 2012 salary cap number is around $2.65 million. For a team missing some of its precious cap space following a league sanction, that's a figure large enough to consider eliminating - especially if it's not for a frontline starter.

Maybe all those factors plus the Redskins signing two notable free agent receivers this year gave Moss an extra kick with his workout program. Who could blame him.

Of course, the new guys are just that, new. I previously wrote how experience could be Moss' trump card. The two newcomers, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, are learning the Shanahan's system while 2011 draft choice Leonard Hankerson is essentially getting a second crack at a rookie season.

With rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III preparing for his first NFL action, plying him with instinctive and playmaking weapons is vital. Moss is showing he can play that part.

"He has a better understanding of the offense," Kyle Shanahan said.

Shanahan also noted this is the first offseason since his father took over that they have had the opportunity to meet with players with their own Redskins game tape available. In 2010, the Shanahan's arrived. Last season the NFL lockout derailed spring and summer practices.

Regardless, Moss' comfort level appears to have expanded just as his physique went the other way.

"You saw it physically, and then to see him in the meeting rooms, he’s been great," Kyle Shanahan said. "He’s been so attentive and it’s shown over to the field. The guy’s not thinking out there, he’s confident in his speed. He feels confident in his knowledge of the offense and there’s no hesitation. He’s been very exciting."

Morgan and Hankerson, both recovering from injuries, have been limited participants during the spring practices. Their absence has kept Moss consistently working with the starters. Based on the Shanahan's touts, Moss' efforts might have placed him in that position regardless.

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham was MVP of offseason drills

Jimmy Graham was the MVP of the Saints' offseason workouts, according to the Times-Picayune.

Graham isn't slowing down after ripping off a jaw-dropping 99/1,310/11 line last season. He's entering just his fourth season of organized football after focusing on basketball for much of his life, meaning there's still plenty of room for improvement. Graham is sporting a second-round ADP in early fantasy drafts.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields Having Strong Practices

Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Davon House are putting the finishing touches this week on very strong spring practice performances. They were featured in Tuesday’s minicamp opener.

“They’ve gotten an awful lot of work. Both of them have made progress, gotten a better feel for man and zone concepts,” Capers said.

Shields was a rookie sensation in 2010 who fell off his game in ’11. He had company, and that might’ve been a big part of the problem.

“He had to play a lot more on first and second down in run or pass situations. He was a little more of a specialist in 2010. Going into his third year, we hope he can become a little more of a complete corner,” Capers said of Shields.

Whitt blamed himself.

“Sam’s problem is me. I did a poor job with Sam. It was some of the run-pass things. I’m not going to make any excuses. I did a poor job with him,” Whitt said.

Improved tackling would seem to be at the core of Shields' to-do list, and Whitt said, “I’m going to give him every opportunity when we put pads on.”

Bookmark and Share

Spencer Adkins Working On Strongside

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Spencer Adkins is working as the strongside starter while Stephen Nicholas recovers from a toe injury that will keep him out of next week's mini-camp.

Weatherspoon starts at the weakside, a job he's held since his rookie year, but his responsibilities are greater now.

"It's important for our team and for the dynamics of our defense for leadership to come from that position," Smith said. "Sean is going to do a very good job with it this year."

Bookmark and Share

Rams sign Rocky McIntosh

Weeks after the Rams and Redskins did a deal that sent the second overall draft pick to D.C., the Rams have added a former second-round draft pick who had spent his entire career in Washington.

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh, as expected, has signed with the Rams.  The team has announced the move.

McIntosh, who struggled with a move from outside linebacker in the 4-3 to inside linebacker in the 3-4 installed two years ago by Mike Shanahan, previously drew interest from the Vikings and the Dolphins.

Bookmark and Share

Ravens tiptoe around Ed Reed

An awkward dance continues between the Ravens and safety Ed Reed.

Reed didn’t show up for a mandatory minicamp, skipping all three days.  The team doesn’t know why he wasn’t there.

As of Wednesday night, coach John Harbaugh hadn’t even spoken to the perennial Pro Bowler.

“No, I haven’t,” Harbaugh said, via the Carroll County Times.  ”Not to make too much out of it, I have tremendous respect for Ed.  I’ve used the word admiration.  I’m not worried about Ed being ready.  I said a couple of weeks ago that I know is going to be working hard and getting himself ready for the season.”

It’s almost as if the Ravens believe that, when it’s time to play, Reed will show up and play — but that if they say or do something to upset him, maybe he won’t.

Reed, who briefly mused about retirement several weeks ago, likely realizes that his value to the team has increased given the injury to linebacker Terrell Suggs, putting Reed in line for a new deal that provides more security beyond his current contract, which pays out $7.2 million in 2012.  And he also likely wanted the Ravens to figure that out on their own, without him having to take a stand.

Now that he has, the question is whether the Ravens will conclude that they need to find a way to give Reed, a 10-year veteran, a new deal that reflects his enhanced value to the franchise, especially with Suggs’ suddenly sounding less optimistic about his timetable for a return.

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,0,0">

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis still getting used to pass-happy NFL

Here in 2012, Ray Lewis doesn't have to prove his worth to anybody. Twelve Pro Bowl selections in 16 seasons says it all, but Lewis isn't sitting tight.

The Baltimore Ravens linebacker has watched the NFL morph into a pass-happy carnival ride and he's tweaking his game to adjust to the aerial onslaught.

"My mentality was change with the game," Lewis told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday after the team's mandatory minicamp. "There are no more true, true, true, physical, physical fullbacks that are going to come at me and sledgehammer all day. So, just adjust to the game, and as you see guys get older in their careers, you see a lot of people don't do that. And that was my thing this year. It was like, 'All right, the game is changing like that. Everybody wants to go with all these little five-wides and all this different stuff.' Just change with the game, and that was kind of my thought process. ... If you've been in the game so long, you just learn to adjust to it."

Lewis shifted his famous offseason training regimen to include swimming and bike riding in recent months. The Sun reported Lewis, nearing his 37th birthday, took the field this week at the Ravens' mandatory minicamp looking leaner than last season, when he tipped the scales at 250 pounds.

We're a long way from Trent Dilfer leading a ground-oriented Baltimore offense to the Super Bowl in 2000, which in itself was an aberration. Last year's New York Giants ranked dead last in running the ball. The New England Patriots were 20th. Ground-and-pound remains effective -- the Houston Texans leaned heavily last season on Arian Foster and Ben Tate to rescue them out of a slew of quarterback injuries -- but we've seen a distinctive shift toward the pass.

Records are being shattered through the air and Lewis, instead of denying this, is tweaking his game along with it. If you've ever seen Lewis fawned over by ESPN and the Monday Night Football crew, you know he doesn't lack supporters. We're not going to go overboard here. After all, he's not the only defender learning to alter his on-field approach, but it's another example of what makes Lewis an ageless threat to offensive coordinators everywhere.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester: Tice is key to impact at WR

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Seemingly every offseason reports emerge declaring the upcoming year to be the one in which Devin Hester finally consistently makes an impact on the Chicago Bears’ offense.

Perhaps this time, it’s the truth, Hester believes.


“I’ll say because of (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice. When a guy comes up to you and says, ‘If I can’t get the ball in your hands I don’t deserve to be a head coach.’ For a guy to say that and know what I’m capable of and honestly says he has a lot of faith in me, (that’s encouraging),” Hester said.

Teammates Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler have also consistently uttered similar glowing comments about Hester, with both saying he’s poised for a breakout 2012 season. Just last month, receivers coach Darryl Drake gave some insight as to how the team plans to use Hester.

“I’ll say this about Devin Hester, and I’ve always said it: all we’ve got to do is use him, and you’ll see what kind of player he is, period,” Drake said. “If he’s out there, put the ball in his hands. We need to have that package, and (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice -- I promise you -- he's gonna do it.”

Working with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, Tice has already tweaked the passing portion of Chicago’s offense to a system very similar to the Denver Broncos’ passing offense of 2001. That means Hester will run defined routes on most plays instead of trying to think through the system the way receivers did under former coordinator Mike Martz, who utilized a scheme heavy with hot routes and routes that had to be broken off based on the look shown by the defense.

Martz’s system played a role in the team’s receiving corps playing somewhat apprehensively in the past.

“It’s gonna be a lot easier for those guys,” Cutler said of the new system.

The addition of Marshall also contributes to the team’s optimism concerning Hester. Widely considered one of the NFL’s top receivers, Marshall will likely draw double coverage from defenses, and that will result in single coverage somewhere on the field, possibly on Hester.

That's what the Bears expect this season, and the club plans to make opponents pay.

“We can’t be afraid to throw the ball down the field against single coverage. If we get single coverage, we’ve got to be able to take advantage of that,” Tice said. “Free access on a great player should be something that a defense should be punished for doing, I’ve always felt that. We’re going to make sure we do that.”

Such statements light up the eyes of Hester, who plans to “take a week and a half off” before getting back into training mode to “make sure my body is ready when it’s time for camp.”

“It’s gonna be so competitive (at the receiver position), not in a bad way but in a good way,” Hester said. “Every guy -- once they step on the field -- (is) capable of making big plays. That’s the good thing about this team: it’s (full of) a lot of great athletes.”

Bookmark and Share

Jon Vilma's attorney eager for NFL to turn over evidence Friday

The attorney for suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is "cynical" about evidence the NFL is required to turn over by Friday as the four players suspended in the bounty scandal prepare for Monday's appeals hearing.

Vilma, who has also filed a defamation civil suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, requested weeks ago to see the evidence that resulted in his one-year ban. "If the Commissioner was really interested in a fair process, he would have disclosed the evidence weeks or months ago," attorney Peter Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "That fact that this isn't occurring until now makes me cynical." The other suspended players -- Will Smith (four games), Scott Fujita (three games) and Anthony Hargrove (eight games) -- will be represented in the appeals hearing by NFL Players Association counsel. Goodell will ultimately rule on whether to maintain or reduce the penalties.

Although the NFL requested meetings with the suspended players before punishment was determined, they declined. Ginsberg said in Vilma's case, the league's offer was turned down because it would not agree to disclose evidence.

Bookmark and Share

Adewale Ojomo brings smiles to ‘wish children’

MONROE — Members of the New York Giants 2012 rookie class will spend much of their summer learning playbooks, conditioning and preparing for their first season in professional football.

Last week, the players for the defending Super Bowl champions practiced for another role, bringing smiles to the faces of young boys and girls through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. About a dozen players toured the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place, Perrineville Road, which serves as the foundation’s New Jersey headquarters, and spent time with “wish children” and their families, signing autographs and having lunch together.

Carla Volpe of Monroe, whose son Jonathan’s wish to go to Walt Disney World was granted in 2010, praised both the charity and the Giants organization.

“You can’t put a value on this,” Volpe said. “Today [my kids] are very happy. They wanted to be here. We’ll never forget this.

“God bless Make-A-Wish. We love Make-A-Wish and we’re just happy to be a part of it,” she added.

Losa Obu of Burlington County, whose son King’s wish to go to Disney World was also granted, said it was hard to articulate the impact of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“They make the impossible become possible for these children,” Obu said. “I don’t think they even understand what Make-AWish does for children. It’s like they’re bringing that child back to life.”

Obu also lauded the Giants.

“Seeing the impression they have on the children is amazing,” she said.

Members of the Giants’ rookie class said the impact factor was a two-way street and they were touched by their interactions with the children and their families.

Julian Talley, a wide receiver from the University of Massachusetts, said interacting with the wish kids was a privilege.

“It’s a real humbling experience. This is my first time being introduced to the whole Make-A-Wish organization,” Talley said. “It’s a really incredible thing they’re doing here for these children. It really touches your heart to see these people help some of these kids and granting their wishes.

“It’s humbling to know what kind of impact I can have and help them fight that much more,” he added. “After visiting this place and going through all the rooms, I definitely would like to come back and help the foundation.”

Adewale Ojomo, a defensive end from the University of Miami, said he was impressed by the courage exhibited by the wish kids.

“It touched my heart,” Ojomo said. “I thought I was tough … these kids are tough. They’re fighting all kinds of illnesses and sicknesses. They inspire me. This was a privilege. We can really inspire these kids and bring a smile to their faces.”

Tom Weatherall, president and CEO of the New Jersey chapter of Make-A-Wish, thanked the New York Giants organization and told the rookies of the significant impact they can have on the children.

“You inspire them and you give them something to cheer for and smile about,” Weatherall said. “We can’t say enough about this partnership and how grateful and blessed we are that you guys took the time to come down here to be with us today.”

Weatherall reflected on past wishes granted by coaches and players, including times when wish children were brought onto the field and into the locker room.

“One of the signs [in the Giants’ locker room] says, ‘No toughness, no championship,’ ” he said. “You won’t find a tougher group of people than every one of these wish children.”

Bookmark and Share

Darius Rice Dunking

Bookmark and Share

Bluecrabs Brian Barton Batting 6/24/12

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun blasts 16th home run in losing effort

Ryan Braun blasted his 16th home run of the season on Thursday, though he wasn't able to lead his team to victory over the Royals.

Braun finished the night 1-for-4 with the solo shot off Luke Hochevar. The homer was just his second in the month of June. He's off to an impressive start towards defending his MVP award, hitting .309 with 16 homers, 42 RBI and 11 steals. It's nice to see that all of the offseason controversy and distractions haven't hindered his play on the field.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff hurt in perfect game celebration

It wasn't as grisly as the injury suffered by Kendrys Morales two years ago and let's hope it's nowhere near as costly, but the Giants' Aubrey Huff will undergo an MRI after he hurt his knee in Wednesday night's celebration of Matt Cain's prefect game.

Huff, 35, tried to leap over the railing to join the celebration on the mound, but fell to the ground instead, and hurt his knee. Here's a gif of the fall.

Bruce Bochy told reporters that Huff could be headed to the disabled list, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Huff was scheduled to DH in American League parks during interleague play.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez Leads Majors In Saves

Bookmark and Share

LaRon Byrd Turning Heads at Cardinals Camp

LaronByrd 2
Undrafted rookie receiver LaRon Byrd made an impressive leaping grab in the corner of the end zone. He's 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. The Cardinals like his potential. He'll be a player to watch in camp. The game changes when players put on the pads. Many little-known receivers have impressed early in camp, only to fade when exhibition games start. That might not happen for Byrd, of course, but the disclaimer is worth keeping in mind.

Bookmark and Share

Tommy Streeter Has A Strong Practice

Rookie wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Tommy Streeter are trying to climb the depth chart during this week’s mandatory minicamp. They have often been shouldered out of the spotlight this spring by other youngsters like Torrey Smith and LaQuan Williams, but they took center stage late in Wednesday’s practice.

Streeter showed off his wheels when he got behind rookie cornerback Asa Jackson, but a perfectly-placed pass from quarterback Curtis Painter clanked off of his hands. The sixth-round pick bounced back quickly, though, with a few spectacular grabs, including one when he brought down a jump ball in the back corner of the end zone. Streeter ended up having 2 TDs in the red-zone.

He celebrated by punting the football about 20 yards straight up into the sky, which probably didn’t endear him to some coaches and veterans, but who knows -- pun alert -- maybe punter Sam Koch got a kick out if it.

Streeter won’t be able to make the team as a backup punter, but if he can show signs this summer that he has the hands and leaping ability to be a target for fades in the end zone -- a dimension that could help the Ravens score more touchdowns in the red zone -- it certainly won’t hurt his chances of making the squad.

“Those two guys have made big strides,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after Wednesday’s workout.

Bookmark and Share

Slimmer Santana Moss Being Praised By Shanahan

ASHBURN, Va. -- Santana Moss is no fool. When free agency opened and the Washington Redskins signed two wide receivers (and nearly a third) in the first hour, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was sure his veteran wide receiver was paying attention.

"If you don't," Shanahan said bluntly, "you've got to be an idiot."

Shanahan spoke with Moss this offseason and was blunt with him too. After a disappointing season in which he caught just 46 passes for just 584 yards, the now-33-year-old Moss was plainly in jeopardy of being cut. His mission, his coach told him, was to lose weight.

"We talked to him in the offseason and said, 'Hey, this isn't you. If you want to be part of our football team, you've got to lose some weight,'" Shanahan said after the Redskins' final minicamp practice here Wednesday. "And he came back under 190 and he looks like a different guy. He's made a commitment, and you have to at that age. And he knew that if he didn't do that, he'd probably be gone."

Even with the new additions at wide receiver, the slimmed-down Moss still projects as one of the Redskins' starting wide receivers along with Pierre Garcon. Josh Morgan, the other new addition, is working his way back from a leg injury, and Leonard Hankerson, last year's impressive rookie, is coming back from a hip injury. Moss' experience, flexibility and improved conditioning pushes him ahead of the younger injury guys.

"Last season, some of the things I wanted to do, I would get winded sometimes," Moss said. "When you get older and you see some things with yourself and your game, you just want to find some things that can help you get better. I just felt I've been at my best when I'm in the 190s, so I got back there."

The best part about it, from the coaching staff's standpoint, is that Moss didn't just lose weight. He got in better overall shape.

"I feels he's more powerful," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "He's more explosive. He has a better understanding of the offense. To me, he came in possessed. He was ready to go. You saw it physically, and then to see him in the meeting rooms, he's been great. He's been so attentive and it's shown on the field. The guy's not thinking out there. He's confident in his speed. He feels confident in his knowledge of the offense, and there's no hesitation. He's been very exciting."

Bookmark and Share

Rocky McIntosh draws interest from Rams

The Rams probably have the weakest-looking outside linebacker group in football. It only makes sense that they would sign the best-looking free-agent outside linebacker still on the market.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher would like to get free agent Rocky McIntosh under contract "relatively quickly" according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, after McIntosh participated in Rams minicamp on a tryout basis Wednesday.

(Signing him shouldn't be too hard. There's a reason he doesn't have a job now.)

A second-round pick with the Redskins in 2006, McIntosh started for most of his six years in Washington. He's had a number of knee injuries in his career, but he could have a chance to start in St. Louis where free-agent pickups like Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan are being counted on for big roles.

The Rams did a nice job upgrading the secondary this offseason. The defensive line is dangerous. The linebacker group will basically have to wait until next year.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore Makes Huge Climb Into Top 30

The San Francisco 49ers received further praise this evening as the NFL Network Top 100 recognized running back Frank Gore in the player-voted Top 100 list. Gore ranked No. 28 a year after ranking No. 94. Among players who appeared last year, this is the biggest climb thus far. Check out Gore's reaction to showing up in the top 100 once again.

We can debate Gore's ranking, particularly among the running backs, until doomsday. What this ranking shows more than anything is the kind of respect Gore receives from the players that voted. Gore had his ups and downs in 2011, but he was a workhorse for the 49ers, while also providing veteran guidance to Kendall Hunter.

There have been times in the past where Gore never wanted to come out of the game and wanted all the carries. This past year, Gore seemed to recognize he is on the other side of his career and was more understanding of the need to mix up the running backs. The team has loaded up on backs and it will be interesting to see how carries are spread around this season. If the team goes into the season with Gore, Hunter, LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs, that's a lot of options for a variety of situations.

Gore will still likely lead the team in carries, but he will likely drop from his 282 carries in 2011. I don't think we'll see a career-low, but I do think we'll see a broad mix of backs getting significant touches. While individual numbers may not be tremendously high, the entire group could be in position to put up some sizable numbers.

Bookmark and Share

Toub: Hester still No. 1 kickoff returner

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub clarified Devin Hester's role on kickoff returns Wednesday in the wake of the club adding former Pro Bowl return man/wide receiver Eric Weems to the roster in free agency.

Weems signed a three-year contract with the Bears on March 14 after spending the previous five seasons in Atlanta where he posted consecutive 1,000-yard return seasons (2009,10) on kickoffs for the Falcons.

"[Hester’s] still our No. 1 kickoff returner," Toub said. "So when we need a big one Devin is going to be in there. We have the luxury of having Eric Weems, so there will be times when we have them both back there. We'll kind of trick people as to who exactly is going to get the ball… we'll kind of move one guy up late. We'll also try to make them kick it away from Devin, maybe he can get the ball to Weems at times. There will also be times when just Weems is back there with a fullback. He's definitely a luxury for us. [Weems] can take it to the house, I mean he's scored touchdowns [on kickoff returns] and went to the Pro Bowl before.

"We're fortunate to have him."

Weems is expected to contribute in several phases of special teams, not just in the return game. Toub believes Weems can help replace 2011 Pro Bowl selection Corey Graham, who left the Bears in the offseason to sign with the Baltimore Ravens.

"That's the good thing about him; he's a good returner but he's also a good cover guy," Toub said. "He's here because he's a good cover guy. He's a No. 1 gunner. He's done a good job in that role.

"The other guy who's going to pick up a lot of slack is Blake Costanzo. He was a really good pickup for us. Those two guys were our No. 1 free agents on special teams and we got them both. They're both really good additions."

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis Lightens Up

Unlike his teammate Ed Reed, linebacker Ray Lewis is attending the Ravens’ mandatory three-day minicamp in Owings Mills.

He was at practice Tuesday, looking noticeably slimmer after months of biking, swimming and other offseason exercises in South Florida.

“Pulled a little bit from this, a little bit from that,” he said of his training regimen. ":When you go through what I go through during the season, (weight) just naturally comes off."

How much weight has he dropped since the end of the 2011 season?

“I’ll keep that between me and me,” he said with a smile.

He did reveal that there is a method to his madness, or whatever you want to label his rigorous offseason work. Having watched the NFL become more pass happy every year, he is feeling the need to be lighter and more agile. There’s no doubt some teams picked on him on third downs last season.

“In your 17th year, you want to come back with a different mentality. My mentality was change with the game,” he said. “There’s no more true, true, true, physical, physical fullback who is going to come at me and sledgehammer me all day. Everything is all about mismatches now, about speed and running and getting smaller people on the field. So just adjust to the game. You see some guys, as they get older, a lot of people don’t (adjust). That’s my thing. OK, the game is changing, everything going five wide, so just change with the game. That’s my process.”

Expect to see a lighter Lewis in the middle of the Ravens’ defense in 2012.

Bookmark and Share

Kellen Winslow catching on

Moments after walking off the field at the conclusion of the Seahawks’ minicamp practice on Tuesday, Kellen Winslow was asked how his impact on the offense might increase once he’s healthy.

Winslow’s response was as exact as it was honest.

“If I was healthy, which I never will be again, I would be Aaron Hernandez and (Jason) Witten together,” he said.

“Really?” the questioner asked.

“Yeah,” Winslow said, punctuating the assessment with a laugh. “But, hey, I do what I can out there with the situation I have.”

The former Pro Bowl tight end the Seahawks acquired last month in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never will be 100 percent healthy because of the serious knee injury he got in 2005 while playing for the Cleveland Browns, and the staph infection that followed in 2008.

“It was the hardest thing that ever happened to me – the accident and then the staph infection on top of that,” he said.

The double-whammy situation has left Winslow with a right knee that continues to limit his practice time, if not his productivity – as he averaged 73 receptions the past three seasons for the Bucs.

“I wasn’t supposed to be playing, but I wasn’t going to let that go,” he said. “This is all I have. I want to be out here with the guys and do this as long as I can.”

You would never know that Winslow is “limited” while watching him work on the practice field, where his combination of smoothness and deceptiveness allows him to get open on pass routes.

“I think he’s going to be a great addition,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “He’s come out the first couple days and made some great catches. He’s always pretty much open. He finds a way to get open, so that’s going to be big for us on offense.”

Remember all the plans the Seahawks had for using Zach Miller and John Carlson in two-tight end sets last year, before Carlson was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury and then to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency? Those plans are back on; with Winslow stepping in to the role Carlson was expected to fill.

“You always need two guys (at that position) that you can get the ball to,” Jackson said. “Zach knows the system. He’s been in it. He found a way to get open. But Kellen will be a great addition to that. We can have a two-tight end set and have dual threats on the inside, taking a lot of pressure off the outside guys.”

Winslow is a student of the game because he grew up around the game. His father, also Kellen, was a Hall of Fame tight end for the San Diego Chargers. And this student as a PhD when it comes to tight-end play – as evidenced by his reference to Hernandez, who caught 79 passes for the New England Patriots last season; and Witten, who also had 79 catches for the Dallas Cowboys and is Winslow’s pick as the most-complete tight end in the league.

Asked to elaborate on the aspect of their games that he tries to emulate, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Winslow offered, “Aaron Hernandez, his shiftiness, his routes. He’s a little shorter guy; he’s about 6-1. So he’s real shifty, real great route runner. And Witten just does everything right. I think he’s the best all-round tight end in the NFL. He has no weakness.”

That only makes Winslow’s comparison even stronger. But then, he knows his ample game, and his physical limitations.

“I’ve been playing like this ever since I came back,” he said of 2009, the start of his three-season run as the Bucs’ leading receiver. “And I’ve been playing well. So I’m OK with it. It’s something I have to deal with everyday.

“But it humbled me, and it keeps me going. It happened for a reason. So I’m OK. I’m OK.”

The Seahawks are more than OK with adding a tight end with Winslow’s talents to their still-under-construction offense.

“He finds a way to get open,” Jackson said – a reoccurring theme of an assessment whenever anyone is asked to comment on Winslow. “He changes speed. He switches up on guys. He’s a smart guy.

“I’ve seen him do some things that a lot of guys probably wouldn’t do. He’s been in the league for a long time now, so he has a little more experience than some of the guys we have. So those guys can watch him and take some stuff that he does and to apply it to their game.”
Winslow also has been watching the other tight ends.

Winslow on Miller: “Obviously, Zach is a helluva player. All-around great tight end. Can block. Can do anything you ask him to.”

Winslow on Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah: “Cam’s very athletic. Can block. And then Anthony is just real explosive and has a lot of potential.”

Winslow on himself: “I’m coming in just being a piece of the puzzle, and I’ve come to make plays. That’s what I do.”

Bulky knee and all. “I do what I can out there with the situation I have,” he said. “This is my dream to play, so I’m going to keep playing as long as I can.”

And doing for a Seahawks team that can use anything – and everything – Winslow has.

“I feel at home here,” he said. “I really do.”

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee no stranger to team's offseason workouts

The Broncos' three days of work this week are mandatory. Their work the three previous weeks wasn't. Yet RB Willis McGahee was a regular participant, which he said was a change. "I've been here and participating a lot more than I have in my whole career," he said. The biggest reason for his change? QB Peyton Manning. "That has a lot to do with it," McGahee said.

Bookmark and Share

Harbaugh still hasn't spoken to Ed Reed

OWINGS MILLS -- The silence between Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and absentee free safety Ed Reed remains unbroken.

The Pro Bowl defensive back is skipping the Ravens' mandatory minicamp, an unexcused absence expected to draw at least $63,000 in fines.

"No, I haven't," Harbaugh said when asked if he has spoken to the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "Not to make too much out of it, I have tremendous respect for Ed. I've used the word admiration. I'm not worried about Ed being ready. I said a couple of weeks ago that I know is going to be working hard and getting himself ready for the season.

"Any comment beyond that really has no value. I value our friendship. I value our relationship. I value him as a player. Whatever is going on, Ed knows how to deal with it."

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss on RG3: 'He's that dude'

Santana Moss knows Redskins quarterbacks. He’s worked with old ones (Mark Brunell, Donovan McNabb) young ones (Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell) and a few in between. He had Rex Grossman’s back when the quarterback got benched last year. Moss has lived through the hype and expectations that accompanied the arrivals of the likes of Campbell, a first-round pick, and McNabb, a successful veteran.

It didn’t take long for Moss to be impressed with the Redskins next and, hopefully, long-term solution at QB. Appearing on NFL Total Access on the NFL Network last night, Moss said that he knew that Robert Griffin III is the real deal soon after taking the field with him.

“He has a pretty good zip on the ball,” Moss said. “He has a quick release and that’s something I didn’t expect until I got out there and started going through practice with him.” 

“Once I had seen a couple of throws, I was like, ‘He’s that dude.’”

Moss said that the Redskins have been looking “that dude” for “a few years”. Truth be told, it’s been more like 27 years, ever since Joe Theismann broke his leg against the Giants in 1985. 

Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, all Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, never received the hype that RG3 is getting in Redskins Nation. “It’s crazy now and it’s going to get crazier in due time when it gets closer to the season,” Moss said.

But Moss believes that Griffin will live up to the high expectations. “Pretty much whatever you heard, you didn’t hear wrong.,” he said. “He’s exceptional. His talent is already known and what he can do.

“To be here with him practicing, going over the plays and seeing how he can throw the ball, that was an eye-opener for a lot of us. He’s going to be compared to a lot of folks and a lot of people, but I feel like he can only be himself.”

Like Moss, most believe that Robert Griffin III being himself will be plenty good enough to end the Redskins’ search for a franchise quarterback.

Bookmark and Share

Teammates forgive DJ Williams' tweet

To his forgiving teammates, Denver linebacker D.J. Williams' tweet of a playbook page last week was more LOL than OMG.

''I called him immediately,'' Champ Bailey said Tuesday after the Broncos began a three-day mandatory minicamp. ''After you really looked at it, it really wasn't that big of a deal.''

Williams was blasted on social media for what many considered a serious breach of protocol and security in the super-secretive world of the NFL after he tweeted a photo of his new high tech playbook Friday that showed six defensive formations or variations of the same formation.

Some say Williams, a ninth-year pro, should have known better than to reveal propriety information, no matter how innocuous. Others have been downright nasty, suggesting he should be cut for doing what he did.

Bailey called the public reaction to Williams' tweets ''really overblown, but at the same time, got to be careful about that kind of stuff because people take it the wrong way.''

Williams posted a photo of his new iPad playbook sitting on a desk behind a stack of note cards, a pencil sharpener and a pencil. The picture was followed by a tweet saying his coach told him to learn a new position over the weekend and that while the Broncos have uploaded their playbook and football film onto hand-held tablets, he was still old school and ''using flash cards.''

The team didn't find the joke funny.

After a call from a member of the organization, Williams quickly deleted the photo but it had already gone viral and certainly was seen by other NFL teams.

The Broncos recently gave their players a refresher on social media protocol. They encourage their players to engage with the public — just not to the extent Williams did.

''Basically, we discussed it,'' coach John Fox said, ''and I think all in all our guys do a great job of keeping our fans informed, and you're going to have a couple of mishaps and you just move on.''

Williams, the team's starting weakside linebacker, played a couple of snaps on the strong side Tuesday but otherwise manned his usual position.
Williams walked past reporters without stopping to answer questions after practice, but several of his teammates said that while Williams might have breached NFL protocol, he didn't give away secrets that would hurt the team next season.

''To be honest with you, everybody in the league runs that same type of defense,'' linebacker Joe Mays said. ''We're not really showing anything that's private or anything like that.''

''People could look at that a million times and not know what the hell is going on,'' Bailey said. ''... Even people in the NFL don't know what the hell that is. They know what it is, but it doesn't tell me anything. Everybody does that (type of formation).''

Cornerback Tracy Porter said it would be nearly impossible for opponents to capitalize on Williams' tweet.

''I guess he wanted everyone to see that our job isn't just showing up on Sunday and play. Showing them we in fact have to learn a thick playbook, as well,'' Porter said. ''We have things we have to learn outside of showing up and playing football. It's a minor mistake, nothing that guys are harping on around here. We know D.J. is a good guy. We're not taking anything negative from it.''

Besides, Porter said, it's not like he gave away the entire playbook.

''You're seeing one play. If a team we play can know when we line up that we're running that play, hats off to them. They know something that I don't know. They have psychic powers,'' Porter said. ''We can line up and show that play and run something else, and vice versa. It's nothing he gave away. He just wanted everybody to see what we were learning. It's being hyped because of who he is, a professional athlete.''

Williams, Denver's leading tackler in four of the last five seasons, is dealing with other off-the-field issues. He faces a trial on a drunken driving charge in August and he's also suing the NFL to have his impending six-game drug suspension overturned.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle will host June 14th’s First Prime Thursday!


Bookmark and Share

James Jones available for Game 2

Miami Heat swingman James Jones said he is available for Game 2 of the NBA Finals after missing the series-opener because of a migraine.

Jones said he began experiencing the symptoms after Tuesday’s morning shootaround. His absence was part of the reason coach Erik Spoelstra played basically a six-man rotation against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1.

On Wednesday, James said he was ready to go.

“I went back to the hotel and they gave me some medicine,” Jones said. “And it started to kick in late in the afternoon, but I didn’t really get better until after the game started.”

Jones said he has experienced migraines in the past, but it was the first one he had “in a while.”

“Unfortunately, it just happened on the wrong day,” Jones said.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso's homer gives Padres 1-0 win over Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) — Yonder Alonso homered in the seventh inning and Jason Marquis and three relievers combined on an eight-hitter as the San Diego Padres beat the Seattle Mariners 1-0 on Wednesday night.

Alonso hit his second homer of the season — and seventh of his career — on the first pitch of the seventh inning from starter Hector Noesi.

Marquis (1-1) gave up six hits and four walks and struck out four over 6 1-3 innings. Huston Street pitched the ninth for his seventh save.

Noesi (2-7) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. He had allowed 12 earned runs in his previous two outings combined.

Marquis left with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh after a walk to John Jaso, a single by Casper Wells and an error by Alonso at first base. Joe Thatcher, who came in specifically to face left-handed hitters Tuesday and allowed a home run and double before being removed, was called on again.

He got Ichiro Suzuki to ground into a fielder's choice and struck out Dustin Ackley looking to survive the inning.

Padres reliever Luke Gregerson worked out of an eighth-inning jam. Justin Smoak flied out to center after an eight-pitch at-bat with a runner on first. Michael Saunders singled to left, advancing pinch-runner Chone Figgins to third with two outs. But Gregerson struck out Jaso to keep Seattle off the board.

The Padres loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth against Brandon League. He struck out Cameron Maybin on three pitches and then got Nick Hundley to ground into a 5-2-3 double play.

Noesi temporarily lost command in the fourth, walking consecutive hitters before getting a groundout from Alonso. He struck out the side in the first and got an unassisted double play from Ackley in the third.

The Padres didn't get their second hit of the game until there were two outs in the fifth. Alexi Amarista singled, but was thrown out by Jesus Montero trying to steal second.

Wednesday was the second time Marquis has faced Seattle this year in as many uniforms. He started against the Mariners for the Minnesota Twins on May 5, allowing four runs over six innings 5 at Safeco Field.

The Mariners put at least one runner on base against Marquis in every inning, but could not score.

Bookmark and Share

Travis Benjamin talks to reporters today after OTAs

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis: Ed Reed will be back for training camp

LB Ray Lewis is certain S Ed Reed will report for training camp in July. "These three days won't take away from what Ed Reed's focus is, and that is to come back and help our defense be the best defense there is in football," Lewis said. "I don't think it's an issue at all," Lewis said. "When July 25 comes, Ed will be here."

Ed Reed not attending mandatory minicamp, is a finable action under the NFL collective bargaining agreement.

Reed can be fined up to $63,000 for the missed practices and $9,915 for missing a team physical, all at the Ravens' discretion.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he hasn't spoken with Reed. "I have not communicated with Ed," Harbaugh said. "I'm not sure what the situation is."

Bookmark and Share

Travis Benjamin Has Mixed Day

Cleveland Browns WR Travis Benjamin caught a deep ball down the sideline for a touchdown from QB Seneca Wallace and caught a couple of other nice passes, but he had trouble fielding punts later in practice.

“That was just at the end of practice and a little lack of focus,” he said. 

Shurmur said he likes what he’s seen in the rookie from Miami.

“What he can do is catch the ball in the deep part of the field,” Shurmur said. “He’s a good route runner. He has quickness and can get separation, but there's no bump-and-run at this point, so we have to see how he does there."

Benjamin knows he can out run most defenders, but is trying to develop techniques to get himself into the open.

“I come out every day to get better,” Benjamin said. “Knowing my speed, I can run past the defenders. I need to work on technique and little things.”

Benjamin admitted catching passes from QB Brandon Weeden is different from what he’s used to.

“(Weeden) has a little more touch than what I’m used to.”

When asked to elaborate he said,

“He has a strong arm and puts zip on the ball.”

Benjamin says he hopes to compete to break into the lineup as a rookie, either as a starter or on third down.

“I’m ready to come in and if the coaches call my number, I’ll be ready.”

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson Doing Individual Drills, Santana Moss Making Plays

Leonard Hankerson (hip), running back Tim Hightower (knee) and guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee) went through positional drills as they continue to work their way back into form from 2011 season-ending surgeries.

Santana Moss shook DeAngelo Hall when he lined up across the defensive back in the slot. Hall fell down and Moss made a midfield catch from Griffin, racing 40 yards untouched for a touchdown.

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss battling to keep job with Redskins

Ashburn, Va. (AP) — Tight end Chris Cooley and Santana Moss are probably fighting for more than just their starting jobs with the Washington Redskins— they're possibly battling for roster spots.

Cooley missed all of last summer's work following knee surgery and had just eight catches, 65 yards and no touchdowns in five games.

The 33-year-old Moss got off to a strong start, but his performance dropped off markedly once he returned from a four-game absence with a broken hand. He finished with just 46 catches, 585 yards and four touchdowns.

Both Moss and Cooley have dropped about 15 pounds each in an attempt to get quicker, but there are still financial concerns clouding their situations.

Cooley ($3.8 million) and Moss ($2.65 million) cost the Redskins $6.45 million in base salary. The franchise was penalized $18 million on its 2012 cap by the NFL for frontloading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season.

They have been well worth their salaries since Cooley became a fulltime Redskins regular in 2005 — the same year Moss arrived in Washington.
Other than 2009 when Cooley missed the final nine games with a broken leg, he and Moss were Washington's top pass-catchers every year for six straight seasons. They are one of the Redskins' top receiving duos in franchise history — behind the tandem of Hall of Famer Art Monk and Gary Clark.

But that seems like a long time ago.

During coach Mike Shanahan's first press conference since the end of last season on April 25 first press conference he praised the new receivers and Leonard Hankerson, a promising 2011 rookie, while not mentioning Moss.

Despite all the indicators, Cooley and Moss say they aren't worried about their roles with the team.

Cooley had a Redskins tight end record 428 catches while Moss' 485 catches for Washington rank him behind only Monk, Clark and Hall of Famer Charley Taylor.

That said, while Shanahan has liked what he has seen from both players this spring, he has used the word "hopefully" when discussing the futures of Moss and Cooley — who combined to catch 170 passes for 1,964 yards and nine touchdowns during the coach's Washington debut in 2010.

"I don't play worried about something," said Moss, who burned ace cornerback DeAngelo Hall for a long touchdown catch from rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III during Tuesday's minicamp practice. "You're going to get guys coming in year after year from college, from other teams, and when you have guys that played on the level (that Garcon and Morgan) played on, teams are going to want them.

"All that can do for you is to motivate you to be on that same level."

Bookmark and Share

John Fox says DJ Williams’ playbook Tweet won’t damage defense

Broncos head coach John Fox said Tuesday he isn’t worried about any secret information that may have leaked because linebacker D.J. Williams posted an image from the team’s digital playbook on Twitter late last week.

“Not very much,” Fox said, when asked if the “breach” would affect the Broncos’ defense.

Williams left the practice field without speaking to reporters.

“I think our players do a great job with social media,” Fox said. “You’re not going to get through a whole season unscathed. The world has gotten a lot smaller, but overall I think our guys do a great job.”

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason picks off Cam Newton in return to practice

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason picked off a Cam Newton pass during 11-on-11 drills in minicamp on Tuesday, winning a small but important victory for a player on the comeback trail.

Beason -- who ruptured his Achilles' tendon in Week 1 of last season -- participated in team drills for the first time this spring after being limited to individual drills and walk-throughs during organized team activities.

"It was good to see him moving around," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, according to The Charlotte Observer.

"Really, the biggest thing was just his conditioning," Rivera went on. "He was winded. He's done all the installation stuff. But he was out there. And you could see he had a little adrenaline rush going. He was all fired up to get that last extra set of reps. He (asked) out just because he was gassed."

Having Beason on the field had to be a big lift for the Panthers, who were forced to play the majority of last season without the quarterback of their defense. Rivera said Beason's interception of Newton provided a glimpse of his special skill-set.

"A natural play," Rivera said. "Somebody else might not make that play. But I think guys with his kind of his experience and his kind of ability make that. And that's what he saw. He made a nice move on the ball and a nice play."

The Panthers will give Beason every opportunity to slide back into his former role, but first-round pick Luke Kuechly could be a tempting option for the coaching staff if Beason is slow to return to form.

“I feel great,” Beason said, looking skyward. “It’s a nice day – not so sunny.”

“We’re preparing to be champions. That’s the goal every day,” Beason said. “Guys are buying in, and we keep taking baby steps toward winning it.”

Ron Rivera wisely is scaling back Beason’s pressure early on to give him the best chance to succeed later on. The coaching staff is going to unleash these guys during training camp after they have had as much rest as possible, then the Panthers will see what they have cooking.

“They literally told me the day before practice, because if they had told me way out that they planned to keep me on the sideline during OTAs, I probably would have been upset about it,” Beason said. “But now I’m just taking it in, listening and realizing it’s for the better.

“I feel really good. I’m just doing as told, and for now my role is staying on the sideline and making sure I’m ready to go in July for camp.”

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie Working On Conditioning

Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie didn't practice as the team determined that he was better off working on his conditioning.

"Bryant McKinnie is a guy we held out for conditioning purposes," Harbaugh said. "We're probably going to continue to do that and try to continue to  get him into good shape."

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips Sits Out OTAs

The Giants went through a one-hour, 40-minute practice on Tuesday afternoon -- the first day of their mandatory three-day veterans minicamp.

Starting cornerback Corey Webster also sat out Tuesday's practice, as did starting safety Kenny Phillips. Webster is nursing a hamstring injury, while the Giants continue to be careful with Phillips because of his history of knee injuries.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Fox to sit out this week's mini-camp

Allen Park— They don't call it a setback; they call it a precaution. Regardless, it's not good news for Lions third-year left tackle Jason Fox.

Fox, who has battled an assortment of injuries his first two seasons, has been scratched from the three-day mini-camp which began Tuesday.

"We have a lot of things we're trying to make sure don't roll up on us," coach Jim Schwartz said, referring to several players who were held out Tuesday. "Jason has had a good offseason. His knee was getting sore so we decided to shut him down. You won't see him out there this week."

Fox is facing a make-or-break training camp in August. Drafted in the fourth round in 2010, Fox was expected to eventually take over the left tackle spot once Jeff Backus retired. But injuries have kept him off the field, and in the meantime, the Lions used their first-round pick this year on left tackle Riley Reiff.

Fox had been working with the second-team offense during the 10 OTAs while Reiff worked with the third team. Reiff was taking second- and third-team reps on Tuesday.

"It's too early to say who's going to play where, but Riley is on track to play a lot of football for us early," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said last week. "He has exceptional talent. Where he ends up this year hasn't been determined yet but we are happy with what we've seen so far."

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee Foundation Golf Classic

Willis McGahee is a current player on the Denver Broncos and former star at University of Miami.

Two (2) people to play in a golf foursome where you get paired with a professional athlete for the 18 holes.

Willis McGahee will play 1 hole with you.

Attend the awards lunch reception and receive and autographed football from Willis McGahee.
Monday, July 2, 2012
TPC Blue Monster at Doral
4400 Northwest 87th Avenue
Miami, Florida

7:00 AM Registration & Breakfast
8:30AM Shotgun Start
1:30PM Awards Lunch Reception
The tournament benefits The Willis McGahee Foundation

Bookmark and Share

Jarrett Payton at the Public House Chicago

Bookmark and Share

James Jones misses Game 1 of Finals due to migraine

OKLAHOMA CITY —    Erik Spoelstra's eight-man rotation apparently was supposed to be a nine-man rotation if forward James Jones had not suffered a migraine shortly before the Miami Heat's 105-94 Tuesday night loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Following the loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, when asked why he had gone with such a tight rotation and whether he planned to do it again in Thursday's Game 2, Spoelstra said somewhat cryptically, "Yeah, I'm going to have to see who's really available. You know, going into this game we were going to try to keep a tight rotation, maybe not as tight as it was, and give this our best shot.  But I'll probably try to go a little bit deeper in Game 2."

Shortly after that comment, a Heat spokesman clarified that Jones took migraine medication Tuesday, with the team hopeful he could make it to the court, which he could not.

Spoelstra wouldn't up playing only six players for more than 10 minutes, with the Heat outscored 58-40 in the second half.

Asked if fatigue had done in his team, Spoelstra said, "I don't know.  We played big minutes. They had a couple guys that played big, big minutes, as well. You know, because of the circumstances, I had to shorten the rotation, but I'll probably make that change and find out who will be available in the next game. "

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun still third in NL outfield balloting

Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun remains third in the all-star fan balloting among NL outfielders in the latest results released by MLB.

Braun remains third behind Los Angeles' Matt Kemp and St. Louis' Carlos Beltran. Kemp continues to lead all NL players in fan votes with 2,589,464. Beltran has 1,782,831 and Braun is next with 1,553,356. San Francisco's Melky Cabrera is fourth with 1,357,461 votes. The top three vote-getters in the outfield will be the starters in the All-Star Game on July 10 in Kansas City. 

The only other Brewers on the leader boards are catcher Jonathan Lucroy and second baseman Rickie Weeks, both fifth at their positions.
When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes on Friday, June 22nd, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at, the 30 club web sites and their mobile devices until Thursday, June 28th at 10:59 p.m. (CDT).


Aubrey Huff To DH This Weekend

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Aubrey Huff will likely DH when the team travels to Seattle for another round of interleague play Friday.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez is baseball's rock and roll reliever

CLEVELAND -- Bored by 40-year-old artifacts that seem ancient to them, a group of junior high students were on a long, strange trip through a Grateful Dead exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when they saw something they could relate to amid Jerry Garcia's guitar collection.

Sunglasses sweeping back long hair, the bearded guy in jeans, retro sneakers and jeweled wristwatch had a rock star's look and swagger.

The kids rushed Chris Perez.

"What's your favorite thing so far?" Cleveland's colorful closer asked.

"You," one of the youngsters yelled.

Not everyone has been as excited to see Perez lately.

In case you haven't been following his exploits, Perez has been something of a renegade during this season's first two months. He's the first player to be fined under Major League's Baseball's social media policy. He's fired fastballs past opponents and offended others -- notably the Kansas City Royals -- with primal screams and gestures on the mound. He's antagonized Cleveland fans by shaming them for not backing an Indians team fighting for first place.

"You can't be afraid to speak your mind or worry about what people think about you," he said before pausing. "As long as you can back it up."
A large photo of Doors frontman Jim Morrison -- leering -- hung nearby. It seemed to fit.

In an age of political correctness, this CP doesn't worry about being PC. He's bold and brash, a baseball outlaw enjoying the ride of his life and getting paid big money to play a kid's game. He's making friends and enemies, and rattling cages along the way.

Pure rage
That's Perez's nickname, but it also would work nicely as the tag for a heavy metal band or punk group. It's also the attitude Perez carries with him to the mound. Now in his second season as Cleveland's closer, the hard-throwing 26-year-old, acquired in a trade from St. Louis in 2009, has become one of the game's top relievers.

After blowing his first chance of the year at home on opening day he was perfect since heading into the weekend, and has been a major reason the Indians, picked to finish way behind Detroit and Chicago in the AL Central, are hanging around the top of the division.

Perez's record almost is pristine. His performances have been far from perfect.

Watching him try to get the final three outs is not for the faint of heart. Perez is part knife thrower, part high-wire walker, a daring act loaded with surprise and suspense. He rarely retires the side easily, often putting a runner -- or two -- on base before working his way out of a self-inflicted mess.

It's the way he's always done it, going back to his days at the University of Miami and minor leagues.

"I was rough," Perez said. "I would walk three in a row and strike out three in a row. That still is me sometimes. But I'm more refined now."

In 2011, Perez made his first All-Star team and finished with 36 saves despite a tendon injury in his elbow he didn't reveal until spring training this year. Without his best stuff, Perez was forced to adapt. He learned how to pitch instead of just throwing heat.

If he allows a hit, Perez shrugs it off.

"This is going to sound bad, but it's all about cockiness and self-confidence," he said. "I take the mentality that if they get a hit, it's a fluke and it's not going to happen again. If I give up two hits, I think, 'OK, it's really fluky and I'm going to get the next three guys out.'

"I'm not going to lie, some days you don't have it, you don't feel right and the ball is nowhere I want it to go. What are you going to do? Cry? No, you've got to get the next guy."

Boiling over
The anger had been bubbling in Perez for weeks.

Rows of empty green seats, dwarfing filled ones by a 3-to-1 margin inside Progressive Field, irked him. The Indians were in first place and Cleveland didn't seem to care. The Indians, who once sold out 455 consecutive home games, are last in the majors in attendance, averaging about 2,500 fewer fans than the next-lowest team.

So, two days after being booed during a save at home, Perez unloaded on fans for their lack of support.

He needed to vent, and vent he did.

"I just didn't understand all the negativity," he said a few weeks later. "It's three years of seeing empty seats. We had met everyone's criteria. We were in first and playing good ball. What's your excuse now? There's no excuse. That was my whole thing. It was just building up and that one outing against Seattle was the ultimate slap in the face. Really, you guys are booing me? You don't fill the stadium and you're booing me?

"I got mad and I just went off. I tried to do it the best way possible. It was in the heat of the moment, but it was all from the heart."

It was a public relations nightmare for the Indians, but Perez stuck to his comments and found a lot of support after the initial firestorm.
"Maybe I woke up the echoes, and that's cool," he said. "That wasn't my intent, but it seemed to work."

Sure enough, the next time Perez pitched he was greeted by a standing ovation, a moment he called "humbling." He wasn't sure what to expect but was glad Cleveland, a place he seems to embody, had his back.

"I bring it every day," he said. "I got hurt in spring training and worked hard to get ready for opening day, and that didn't go very well, but I got back to the grindstone and that's what Cleveland is. My job isn't easy, but at the same time, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."

The hubbub about Perez's comments barely had quieted when he caused another ruckus.

During an outing against Kansas City last week, Perez struck out Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson and celebrated by waving his hand in front of his face, a "You can't see me" move popularized by pro wrestling star John Cena.

It wasn't Perez's first run-in with the Royals. After two bench-clearing incidents between the team in April, Perez tweeted, "You hit us, we hit you. Period." He was fined $750 by MLB for demonstrating "a reckless disregard for the safety of the players on both clubs."

Perez wasn't fazed. He has no plans to change his ways. If he records a big strikeout or save, he's going to pump his fist, scream and let his emotions flow.

"If it takes me doing stuff like that to get me pumped up, so be it," he said. "I play for my team, my teammates. If they're the only 25 guys in the league who like me, that's fine. But I know that's not the case. I've got former teammates on other teams, and they know how I am.

"I've been doing this kind of stuff since college. Honestly. That's just how I am."

Music man
When he was 10, Perez's parents divorced and he moved in with his father.

"Bachelors eating dinner in our underwear watching baseball," he said.

Living in Florida, Tim Perez took his son to Rays games and drove him to various spring training camps. Along with teaching his boy the game, the elder Perez made sure his son learned never to back down -- from anyone. His father also broadened Perez's musical tastes, which includes an affinity for '70s classic rock.

"I was born 30 years too late," joked Perez, who posts a song of the day on his Twitter page.

Music helps define him. His mother, Julie, turned him on to the Beatles and his late grandmother, Pat Fleming, cleaned her house listening to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."

Since college, Perez has made his way in from the bullpen with Prodigy's "Firestarter" blaring through the stadium speakers, the song's whaling guitar intro followed by a frenetic drumbeat that perfectly suits his potent personality as well as his powerful pitching style.

It motivates Perez to finish a game started by others.

He plays the final notes.

As for rock's best closer, Perez said there's only one band he would hand the ball. His favorite.

"It's Led Zeppelin, because they rocked hard," he said. "They brought it every day and never took a performance off. It's Jimmy Page doing some kind of solo with John Bonham because you've got to have the drums. You don't know how long it's going to last, but you know it's going to be good."

Bookmark and Share

PHOTO: Calais Campbell Buys His Mom Her First Benz

Calais Cambell this photo of his mother along with this message: “Just bought my very amazing mother her very 1st luxury car #Benz=happy mother”

Calais Campbell on WhoSay

Bookmark and Share

Judge Sapp Trailer

Bookmark and Share

Stephen Ross Talks About Lamar Miller

Owner of the Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross wasn't guarded with praise for former University of Miami tailback Lamar Miller, whom the team traded up for in the fourth round.

"Lamar Miller is an unbelievable steal in the fourth round. We had his so much higher," Ross said. "[He dropped] probably because of his shoulder [issues]. We're excited about him."

Bookmark and Share

Sean Spence Picking Up Steeler Defense Quickly

At a brief media session yesterday after the final organized team activity of 2012, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler seemed to talk as much about players who didn't participate as the ones who did.

That stands to reason. With James Farrior gone, James Harrison a scratch for the OTAs, LaMarr Woodley not practicing and Jason Worilds recuperating from wrist surgery, a lot of veteran talent was missing.

But Butler seemed pleased with what he has seen thus far in some junior members of the linebacker corps, with one caveat: "Here's the deal -- they all look good in shorts. Its almost like a beauty contest. But, when the hittin' starts, we'll find out about 'em."

He has found out, however, that third-round pick Sean Spence -- who made an eye-catching interception in drills yesterday -- is a quick study and likely will see game action this season.

"He's coming along well. A very sharp young man. He's picking up our system as good as anybody has at this point," Butler said.

"He's showed me some things ... I wouldn't say he's not going to play. The fact of the matter is, since I've been here, we've never had a rookie start for us -- not Lawrence Timmons, not LaMarr Woodley, not anybody. So we'll see with him. He may not start, but he's probably going to get some playing time."

Butler also singled out second-year man Chris Carter as well as undrafted free agents Adrian Robinson and Brandon Hicks for their good showing in OTAs, but he was most effusive in his praise for the departed James Farrior and said replacing him will be a challenge.

"I won't ever feel good about not having James Farrior. A guy with that leadership type of quality, and knowing the defense the way he knows it, it was easy for him to set the defense. Stuff that comes up -- and it always does -- on the field that you haven't covered as a coach, he can take care of."

Butler added that the experience of 11-year veteran Larry Foote will get them through.

"[Foote] knows what's going to come out of my mouth before I say it ... I think Larry's going to try to fill that void for us in terms of getting the defense set and running the defense. [But] the leadership quality that Potsie brought, I don't know if we can replace that."

Nonetheless, Butler is optimistic: "I hope we'll be as good a defense as we were last year. I do feel good about that."

Harrison has not participated in these OTAs, but Butler said he will join the team next week for minicamp, as will Woodley, who missed practice Thursday.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said that Harrison's recovery from back surgery last year "got better and better as the year went on. He told me earlier in coaching sessions, it's the best he's felt for three years, which was good news."

Butler said that Worilds had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist that he injured last season, but expects to be ready for training camp next month.

"He's going to have full range of mobility, hopefully, when its done. It's just taking some time to heal. We want to be sure about it so when we get to training camp he's ready to go," said Butler.

The absence of Harrison, Woodley and Worilds from the OTAs has not bothered LeBeau.

"The plus of that is some of these younger guys are getting awful lot of snaps," LeBeau said. "I think they'll all be up and ready to go in training camp."

Butler had a chance to leave in the offseason to become the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis, but opted to stay and work under LeBeau. "I love Dick LeBeau. I've learned a tremendous amount from him and I've got too much respect for him to be a guy that tries to push him out the door."

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham next in line after Rob Gronkowski's extension

METAIRIE, La. -- Jimmy Graham doesn't need motivation. His well-told life story proves that.

Sent to a group home by his own struggling mother, Graham overcame a fragmented, troubled upbringing to become a college basketball player at the University of Miami and eventually an NFL star for the New Orleans Saints . Only with intense personal will does one emerge from such circumstances.

And still, whether he wants it or not, whether it's necessary or not, motivation just arrived for the Pro Bowler.

And it comes in the form of, as Randy Moss famously said, straight cash, homey.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski just signed a six-year, $54-million extension that, if he stays healthy, will make him among the game's most well-paid tight ends. And all eyes turn to Graham.

Drafted in the same year, the NFL's two most electric weapons at their position will forever be linked. They are also linked on the stat sheet, as Gronkowski's 90-catch, 1,327-yard season with 17 touchdowns narrowly eclipsed what would have been a record-setting year for Graham. As it was, the Saints' 6-foot-7 monster had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 scores.

One can't help but wonder if Graham is next to cash in. He'd never say it. Graham isn't that kind of guy. In another market, in a different situation, maybe Graham would be appearing on dating shows like Gronkowski is or filling up the gossip pages. But don't think Graham's not driven to match his work.

"He's definitely deserved everything he's got, the Pro Bowl and all his other accolades," Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "Given he had a crazy situation growing up and took his life to the top, he's a star. Hat's off to the guy, because he worked extremely hard to get where he is today."

Gronkowski and Graham are not similar players, except they play the same position. Gronkowski is a mauling blocker, along with his skills as a receiver. Graham is a tight end in name only, often thriving in a flexed-out alignment. But both can abuse corners and safeties alike, creating matchup issues. Both force a team to decide whether one or two players should worry about them.

Yet Gronkowski just received a new deal that includes an $8 million signing bonus. Graham is set to make $540,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013. He can thank being a third-rounder for that.

Gronk is a star. On the field, so is Graham. He just isn't seen as one. He's quiet, reserved and doesn't seek the limelight.

Graham recently started flying single-engine planes, and that disclosure caused barely a ripple in the media world. Imagine if Gronk became a pilot. Cameras would clamor to take a shot of his Zubaz pants piling into the cockpit. Not with Graham.

"I think Jimmy's a little more low-key," said Saints tight end David Thomas , who spent time in New England early in his career. "You see him out on the field, he's very energetic and I think the team feeds off his energy. But off the field, I think he's very low-key, very relaxed and very humble. He keeps to himself. I think he enjoys his solitude."

As for a new contract, it's far-fetched to think one for Graham is imminent . For one, the Saints' top priority is getting Drew Brees signed to a long-term extension. And, of course, there is the bounty investigation. It takes up so much of the attention directed at the Saints, and it's been that way all offseason.

And so, Graham is left away from the media throng, which is probably how he likes it. His contract situation is rarely debated, which he probably doesn't mind.

But soon enough, Graham will generate the attention. It will be deserved.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle NY Giants Career Highlights

Bookmark and Share

Allen Bailey Ranks In The Top 24 AFC West Defensive Lineman

We continue our AFC West positional rankings with a very young and overly unproven group of defensive linemen:

1. Richard Seymour, Oakland: Seymour is aging, his play is slipping some and this may be his last year in Oakland. But he is still at the top of this list.
2. Elvis Dumervil, Denver: A dynamic pass-rusher who is a game changer.
3. Tommy Kelly, Oakland: Underrated player. He may play nose tackle in 3-4 looks.
4. Lamarr Houston, Oakland: A potential star has ability to take over.
5. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City: He was supposed to be great. He’s not, but he’s solid.
6. Matt Shaughnessy, Oakland: The Raiders missed this pass-rusher when he was injured last year.
7. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City: See Dorsey.
8. Robert Ayers, Denver: He became a solid player against the run last season.
9. Corey Liuget, San Diego: The Chargers expect big things from him in his second season.
10. Dontari Poe, Kansas City: Let’s see what this immensely talented rookie can do.
11. Cam Thomas, San Diego: An underrated player. He has a real future.
12. Antonio Garay, San Diego: It was important that the Chargers re-signed this rotational standout.
13. Vaughn Martin, San Diego: The Chargers think he has a chance to flourish soon.
14. Derek Wolfe, Denver: The second-round pick will be given the chance to make an instant impact.
15. Justin Bannan, Denver: A valuable rotational piece.
16. Luis Castillo, San Diego: The Chargers think he can still help.
17. Dave Tollefson, Oakland: A valuable backup on a strong line.
18. Jacques Cesaire, San Diego: The veteran is heady and he can make plays.
19. Desmond Bryant, Oakland: A solid part of the Raiders’ line.
20. Ty Warren, Denver: The Broncos hope he can make an impact after missing the past two seasons.
21. Kevin Vickerson, Denver: He gained weight to help in the middle.
22. Jason Hunter, Denver: A limited player, who has some play-making ability.
23. Allen Bailey, Kansas City: The Chiefs think he can develop quickly.
24. Kendall Reyes, San Diego: I wouldn’t be surprised if this second-round pick makes some plays right away.

Bookmark and Share

Broncos face looming question with linebacker D.J. Williams

There is an NFL head coach who, before the rumble of electronic progress could be heard, would fine his players $100 per page for a lost playbook.

And that fine was only first step, the welcome mat to the dreaded 1-on-1 meeting in said head coach’s office, which would include a long list of paint-peeling profanities sandwiched around the words “release” or “waived” or “done.” I asked the same head coach this past weekend what he would do if one of his players had not simply lost a playbook, but rather voluntarily posted several images from an iPad playbook on a Twitter account or anywhere else on the vast expanse of the online world.

Silence was the answer. For several seconds.

There were plenty of colorful words in the answer that eventually followed, but the idea was the fine would be as “enormous as humanly possible” and the player’s future would be in doubt.

I added what if the player was also facing a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy — a suspension he is currently fighting in court — as well as a DWI trial. The answer was the doubt only grows from there.

Which brings the Broncos to linebacker D.J. Williams. Williams did post some images from his playbook online this past week. He is facing a suspension he’s fighting in court and he is also dealing with a DWI trial.

He’s also one of the highest-paid Broncos and a former team captain who has already had that designation removed because of some off-the-field issues. And what the Broncos do now will be watched by many teams, including some which, like Denver, have made the move to putting their playbooks on iPads.

The multi-level security for the iPads was largely built to electronically wipe the device clean if it were lost or the player was released. Perhaps a player willingly taking some of the images and posting them on the Internet while still with the team didn’t come up in the meeting.

But the Broncos are faced with a dilemma, one of the players has already touched the stove. And they have a pile of other players, with a pile of iPads in their possession, with a pile of social media avenues originating from the keyboards.

Especially since the images Williams posted were up long enough for many fans as well as those employed by other teams to click and save. And click-and-save are exactly what they did.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason will start out at middle linebacker

Jon Beason has been cleared to participate in minicamp for the Carolina Panthers and the mainstay in the middle of the defense will remain there.

Beason, who was on the shelf last season as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon, will start at middle linebacker for coach Ron Rivera, according to the Associated Press and that means first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly, a middle linebacker at Boston College, will be lined up on the weak side.

But nothing is set and the Panthers might tinker and experiment as the summer and preseason come along. Kuechly is most comfortable in the middle. So is Beason. But the veteran is not concerned about possibly moving right now.

“If that happens I approach it the way I always have when asked to move from safety to fullback or fullback to linebacker, outside to inside or vice versa," said Beason, a three-time Pro Bowl performer. "I've kind of dealt with this situation my whole life. I look at myself as a true football player. I think I can go play offense too.”

The Panthers were rocked with injuries at linebacker last season as Thomas Davis suffered a torn ACL for the third time. It made selecting Kuechly with the ninth overall pick a shrewd move as it gives the club youth on defense even if Beason returns to top form.

"I don't know how it's all going to unfold, but I understand the draft pick," Beason said. "I understand the kid was off the charts. So you draft him and it makes your football team better. But there will be pressure on his shoulders too. He has to learn all three positions and we'll see how it works out.”

Beason also offered high praise for Kuechly. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The Panthers need both of these players on the field and both need to feel comfortable in their roles.

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss feeds into the RG3 hype machine

Can you remember an incoming rookie in recent NFL history who has inspired more excitement from teammates than Robert Griffin III with the Washington Redskins?

Last week alone, DeAngelo Hall breathlessly explained Griffin's developmental superiority to Michael Vick. That was followed by an Instagram from wide receiver Leonard Hankerson displaying a pair of gloves that had been shredded by the velocity of an RG3 spiral.

Considering the QBs he's worked with during his Redskins career, everyone would understand if Santana Moss spent the entirety of the offseason in a state of content delirium.

Moss seems to be keeping his excitement under wraps, but he's doing little to ramp down the hype machine.

"Pretty much whatever you've heard, you didn't hear wrong. He's exceptional," Moss said during an interview that will air on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" on Tuesday. "I think his talent is already known, what he can do. Just to be here practicing with him, just going over the plays and just seeing how he can throw the ball, that was an eye-opener for a lot of us. He's going to get compared to a lot of folks, but I feel like he can only be himself."

Moss said the excitement in Washington is "crazy" now and will only build as Week 1 approaches. As for the legend of Hankerson's gloves, Moss couldn't rule it out.

"He's got a pretty good zip. I didn't see the gloves, so I can't co-sign on that, but I know he's got a pretty good zip on the ball," he said. "He's got a quick release, and that's something I didn't expect until I started going through practice with him. Once I saw a couple of throws, I was like, 'Yeah, he's that dude.' "

Moss, and the Redskins, have been waiting for "that dude" for a long time.

Bookmark and Share

Murielle Ahoure wins 4th race

Ivorian sprinter, Murielle Ahoure has won her fourth race at the Lille Metropole meeting after those of Rome, Montreuil and Oslo.

Ivorian sprinter, Murielle Ahoure has won her fourth race at the Lille Metropole meeting after those of Rome, Montreuil and Oslo. Her Algerian counterpart, Zahra Bouras (400m) grabbed a second success after that of Montreuil. Ethiopian, Mohammed Aman (800m), Paul Koech (3000m) of Kenya and Idriss Muktar still from Ethiopia were noted with the three best records notably 1:44:32, 8:06:71, 13:06:92.

Bookmark and Share

10 questions with Zach Railey

Zach Railey earned silver in the Finn four years ago in China.  Railey has qualified for the 2012 Olympic team, as has his sister Paige, and he is gunning for gold but three-time Olympic Finn champion Ben Ainslie will stand in his way.

How would you compare qualifying for your second Olympic team to campaigning for the 2008 Games? I agree that the second time back is harder. If I compare it to the first time around in 2008, there wasn’t as much attention on me personally. There’s a lot of attention that’s come from my success at the Games in 2008. I think I’ve had to learn to deal with that and that’s been a development for me over the last few years. But I also think it is exciting to know that I have the ability to perform at the Olympics. I’ve already been there and done that so I think it is a bit of a competitive advantage to know that I’ve been there, I’ve done it before, I know what it takes. I’m very confident in what we are doing this time around.

How do you ensure you rise to your medal-winning standards from four years ago this time? I’m a very big believer in myself and Kenneth, my coach, in changing things because if you don’t change stuff you don’t get better. If you just stay with what you know and what you know is working at the time, other people will figure things out that you haven’t figured out or gotten better at. And then they pass you and then you start getting beat. So one of the big things that I do and work with our coaches, our nutritionists, our trainers, is we try different things and we purposely negatively affect our results by doing that. And we know that. But we know that in the process of trying to find a way to go faster downwind or have a better start or have a better technique upwind, we will make ourselves better in the future. So I’m okay with taking a step or two back if I can take three or four steps forward at an event like a World Championships or at an Olympic Games.

What have you learned from racing against Ben Ainslie, three-time Olympic Finn champion? I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from Ben and racing against him is just his deep down desire to want to win and to want to reach his goals. He will set his mind to something and he won’t let anything get in the way. I know that he is an incredibly fierce competitor. Someone who, on the racecourse, is someone that you have to be at your very best to beat. I love racing against guys like that and I love the challenge of going up against somebody like Ben. A lot of people will be scared and intimidated by it but I’m actually very motivated by it.

You were neck-and-neck with Ainslie for several races in China. Yes, I was neck and neck with him when we were in China for the first three or four days of that event. I think realistically when I look back on it, I wasn’t ready to beat Ben in China. I knew that going in. I knew what my goals were. I was ranked outside the top 10 in the world, was new in the class, had set a goal to be on the podium. I achieved that goal. But this time around our goals are a little bit different.

Have you spent time helping some of the younger U.S. Finn sailors? Yes, that’s one of the great things with the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics is that we have been able to start the Development Team. That’s been something that all of us have worked very hard on because we know that I’m not going to be able to sail the Finn forever. Paige isn’t going to be able to sail the Radial forever. We want to know that in 2016, 2020, 2024, that the U.S. Sailing Team Alphagraphics still has     sailors and athletes that can go in and win medals at the Olympic Games. I don’t want to walk away from this and say our 2008 and 2012 team was the best we ever had. I want to say that the 2008 and 2012 team was when the U.S. Sailing Team Alphagraphics changed and when they started basically breeding excellence and making sure that we’re contenders in all the Olympic classes when we go to the Olympic Games.

Have you talked to previous great Finn sailors? I have talked to a lot of past Finn sailors, past Olympians. I think that was one of the things that helped me a lot at the 2008 Olympics. The biggest piece of advice that they all gave me was to enjoy the experience. Going to the Olympic Games is something that you work your entire life for, not only as an individual but everyone that has been there to help you get to that point. I think a lot of people forget to kind of celebrate the fact that you’ve been to the Olympics and enjoy the experience. I think in getting that advice from people that have been there before really helped me take in the moment of being at the Olympic Games and not allowing the nervousness and not allowing the attention and everything that comes with being at the Olympics affect my ability to go out and perform.

The U.S. has won several silver medals in the Finn.  Are you going to be the one who gets the gold? That’s the goal. The goal is to make sure that if I’m prepared enough and I understand the competition that I’m up against and I know that I have to sail at my very best at the Olympic Games this year. I have to go in with the mindset that if I don’t sail to the best of my ability, then my results are going to be a silver because that’s how good I’m going to have to be to be able to beat Ben.

You never won a single race in China but you had a great average.  Is that the key to earning a medal? Our goal was to go in 2008 and win a medal. If you think about it, if you go into the Olympic Games and say if I just finish seventh in every race I’m going to have a chance to achieve that goal. That’s what we went into the Olympics thinking. We weren’t worried about the color. Would I have loved for it to have been a Gold medal? Absolutely. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t say that. But I was realistic with the goals that we had but also knew that I was trying to achieve a very lofty goal at the same time in being on the podium. So that’s what we went in with the mindset. It’s going to be the same mindset this time around. If there’s a boat in front of me, I’m going to figure out how to pass it because every point on the racecourse is going to count.

How do you feel about your sister, Paige, also being on the Olympic team this time? That’s the most exciting part about this whole process and this whole experience is that the two of us get to go together. I don’t think people realize how disappointing last time around was for the two of us. We’ve had a dream of wanting to go to the Olympic Games together since we were 12 or 13 years old. That dream was crushed last time around. So I had to regroup. She had to regroup and refocus on 2012 but I had to refocus on 2008. She helped me in that process. I know how hard it was for her to support me through that. It’s very sweet that we’re together on this team and we’ve come back really strong both as individuals but we look at each other as a team.  I think we’ve come back stronger this time around.

At the Olympics there is only one boat per country, whereas the World Championships can have several sailors per country.  Will the Olympics be easier for that reason? A lot of people say it is harder to win a world championship than it is to win a gold medal. I kind of disagree with that a little bit because I think maybe if you look at it competitive wise, there may be more higher level competitors from one country at the world championships but at the Olympic Games, whoever is there for that country is an incredibly good athlete and an incredibly good sailor. But then the pressures of having to perform at the Olympic Games with all the attention that comes from the Olympic Games, representing your country.  Four years of your life, or eight years of your life coming down to one week and having to make it happen that week.  That’s a very, very unique situation. So for me I think performing at the Olympic Games would be much harder than performing at the world championships. That’s why it’s the Olympics. That’s why it is so special is just because of that.

Bookmark and Share

Amazing Catch by Zeke DeVoss

Check out this amazing grab by proCane and Peoria Chiefs second baseman Zeke DeVoss which made Sportscenter’s Top 10.

Thank you to proCane fan @Bulls18 for sending us the link!

Bookmark and Share

Brian Barton Hits a Grand Slam

York, PA - No one can accuse the York Revolution of being time wasters.

They got right to things Monday night at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Just not the way they necessarily wanted to in a 10-3 loss to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the opener of a three-game series.

In 10 pitches Revolution manager Andy Etchebarren was already done for the game, ejected for arguing after his starting pitcher, Jesus Sanchez, walked the first two batters.

It's Etchebarren's second ejection in four games.

Unlike Friday, when he openly criticized the umpires, Etchebarren was unavailable for comment following the game. He had already left the stadium.

Fifteen pitches after the ejection, Sanchez joined him in the clubhouse after giving up a grand slam to Brian Barton and allowing six runs to six hitters.

And sometime soon after that, Etchebarren informed Sanchez his services with the York Revolution (20-23) were no longer needed, releasing him from the team during the middle of the game.

It was a move the Revolution planned on making after the game regardless. With Etchebarren and Sanchez in the clubhouse prematurely, why waste each other's time?

The release was official around the fifth inning, the first time the Revolution have released a player mid-game.

Sanchez had already left the stadium by the time the game had ended as well.

A corresponding move is expected to happen Wednesday.

Sanchez's night couldn't have been any worse.

It took five pitches before he threw a strike.

He walked the first two batters, prefacing Etchebarren's ejection, and then gave up singles to the next two batters. After leadoff hitter Paco Figueroa scored on Casey Benjamin's single, Barton stepped in with the bases loaded and quickly unloaded them.

The grand slam by Barton, a former highly-regarded prospect of the Cleveland Indians, hit off of the top of the green, inflatable bounce house located over the left-centerfield fence.

Sanchez, a left-hander, then walked the next batter, Matt Padgett, before leaving the game without recording an out. He threw 25 pitches, nine for strikes. All six batters he faced scored.

Southern Maryland starter Matthew Vasquez didn't work nearly as hard in all of his six innings.

Sure, the Revolution picked up two runs in the bottom of the first on an RBI groundout by Scott Grimes and an RBI single by Michael Hernandez.

But Vasquez settled in after the Hernandez single, retiring 17 of the next 21 batters he faced.

He allowed four hits, three coming in the first inning. And he walked three.

The only two runs he allowed were in the first.

Considering the six-run deficit it was handed in the first inning, the York bullpen was efficient.

After Sanchez was removed, the Blue Crabs (23-21) picked up two more runs in the first inning off of left-hander Yunior Novoa.

Novoa followed that with three scoreless innings.

"He saved our pen pretty much," York pitching coach Mark Mason said. "That was my goal at that point in the game was just try not to kill us for the next seven days. At that point in the game, managing your bullpen is what you do anyway. When it's crazy early, someone has to give you some extra time out there and Novoa did that tonight."

Dumas Garcia, James Houser, Stephen Penney and Chris Regas limited the Blue Crabs to two runs on six hits the rest of the way.

Grimes offered what little offensive moments the Revolution had, hitting a solo home run in the ninth. He finished the game 1-for-5 with two RBI.

"I thought the bullpen did a pretty good job trying to keep the damage down after the first inning," Mason said. "It's hard to comeback from a snowman in the first inning."

Bookmark and Share

PHOTO: RGIII helped rip Leonard Hankerson’s glove

“Out here grinding,” Redskins second-round receiver Leonard Hankerson posted along with this photo. “This is what #RG3 and #Kirk did to my glove.”


Bookmark and Share

Damien Berry Has Impressed So Far

Coach John Harbaugh said he's confident in the depth at backup RB. With Ray Rice skipping OTAs, Damien Berry, Anthony Allen and Bernard Pierce rotated in with the first team. Berry looked faster, stronger and significantly improved. Allen and Pierce also impressed.

Bookmark and Share

Antonio Dixon underwent back surgery

Eagles DT Antonio Dixon (torn triceps) underwent January surgery to remove a herniated disk from his back.

Dixon has been back on the field for OTAs and insists both his back and his triceps are 100 percent healed. Although he was limited to just four games last season, Dixon had emerged as a strong run-stuffer down the stretch in 2010.

Bookmark and Share

Tommy Streeter Needs Some Work

Chalk it up to learning a new system but WR Jacoby Jones' first two weeks, at least in front of the media, were rough. Jones had a solid outing on Wednesday, though. Rookie WR Tommy Streeter's had problems catching the ball and could be seen as a project player for now.

Bookmark and Share

JoJo Nicolas Praises Coach Coughlin

It's not just the veterans that are heaping praise on their coach, it's some of the rookies as well. And with only a small sample size thus far, it's very telling about the leader and man Coach Coughlin has become.

“He treats you like man. He expects you to respond like a man and carry yourself in the proper manner. Everything is team-oriented and it’s focused on the main goal of winning and not being selfish. It’s always about the team," safety Jojo Nicolas said.

Bookmark and Share

Madden NFL 13 - E3 2012: Michael Irvin Interview

Bookmark and Share

Darnell Jenkins Released

The BC Lions of the CFL released proCane WR Darnell Jenkins. Jenkins was released on Friday evening after missing a number of practices with injury problems.

“He [Jenkins] needed to be out there to have a chance,” Buono said. “We saw enough of him to make the decision. He wasn’t going to make this team.”

Bookmark and Share

D.J. Williams deletes post of defensive formations on Twitter

Is D.J. Williams trying to find trouble?

In what has to be considered a serious breach of security in the secretive world that is the NFL, Williams posted what appeared to be six formations of one defensive play from the Broncos' playbook on his Twitter account Friday.

A team official quickly contacted Williams and the plays have been deleted from his account.

"We're aware of the matter, and it's been addressed internally," a team official said.

Besides a photo of the six plays — or six formations of one play — that had the label of "Sink Sam 1 Tite (Formation Adjustment)," Williams also tweeted: "Coach told me I have to learn a new position over the weekend."

Stating that he was moving to a new position also revealed team information. Williams is a weakside linebacker who has started at four linebacker positions through his first eight seasons with the Broncos — weakside (called Will), middle (Mike), strongside (Sam) and inside Mike in the 3-4 system.

Williams was the team's first-round pick in the 2004 draft.

Although Williams deleted the defensive formations, he seemed almost defiant in subsequent tweets. On one tweet, Williams said: "Fans calling me dumb cuss the iPad had one defense showing. I was just showing I'm old school, pin n pad."

Below the photo of the six formations was a pencil, a pencil sharpener and a notebook.

"I posted a pic cause coach wants me to learn a new position," Williams said in another tweet. "We use iPads now, but I still use flash cards."

It's not Williams' only off-field issue. He is embroiled in two court cases.

In one, he is suing the NFL in hopes of overturning a suspension from the first six games of the 2012 season for violating the league's performance-enhancing-drug policy. That case will be heard in Denver District Court next month.

He also is facing trial for a driving-under-the-influence charge, a case that has been postponed until August. Williams pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge.

Williams' posting of the Broncos' defensive plays comes at a time when the team has converted its playbook to the iPad. Each Broncos player has a playbook via iPad.

However, the players did not receive their electronic playbooks without first receiving social media counsel from the team. The Broncos have been aggressive in putting together seminars on the conveniences — and hazards — of social media. The rookies received a one-hour seminar on social media before the team's organized team activity (OTA) workouts last month. The rookies and veterans are given mandatory, social media class at each training camp. Players also receive one-on-one counsel on an almost daily basis.

Make no mistake, the Broncos, like the other 31 NFL teams, want to closely guard their strategic philosophies, systems and plays.

The Broncos have long preferred to close their practices to the media and public. When the media is allowed to watch an OTA or minicamp, it must follow strict rules administered by the team that are sensitive about giving away secrets to opponents.

For instance, the team discourages the media from identifying generic pass patterns like slants and outs or charting Peyton Manning's pass attempts while the offense is running 11-on-11 drills.

It's possible the Broncos could view this as conduct detrimental to the team.

Bookmark and Share

Danger raise some Kayne (Farquharson), down Beef

The Nebraska Danger raised a little Kayne Saturday night at the Heartland Events Center.

The Danger were tied with the Omaha Beef when quarterback Rocky Hinds hit Kayne Farquharson with a 30-yard TD pass to put the Danger on top with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the half.

A bit later on the Danger’s next play from scrimmage, Hinds found Farquharson again with a 45-yard strike.

Those two TD passes turned out to be big as the Danger went on to a 50-34 victory to end the Beef’s chances of making the playoffs.

“Kayne is a great player,” Hinds said. “He runs hard and understands everything.

They were leaving him man, so I took the shot to him.

“Those were really big. The offense this week just wanted to continue to score a lot of points, and the defense stepped up big time for us tonight. We played well as a unit.”

Hinds finished the game 15-for-27 passing for 203 yards and six touchdowns. Farquharson caught four passes for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Moore caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown while Chris Bell had four catches for 40 yards and two TDs.

Those second-quarter touchdown passes to Farquharson were big, but the game was far from over. The Danger (5-8) took a 31-17 lead into the half, but head coach Mike Davis said he knew how much the team has struggled in third quarters this year.

“We talked about at half time, the third quarter has been our worst quarter all year and we needed to come out and get a stop,” Davis said. “I looked up and we were down three.

“Backs against the wall, these kids bowed their backs a little, the defense stepped up, the offense got back in rhythm and they played hard to come away with a victory.”

The Beef (6-7) scored 17 straight points in the third quarter. Omaha’s Leroy Banks returned the kickoff 45 yards for a TD to start the third quarter.
Then the Beef stripped Hinds of the ball on a running play and Diezeas Calbert took that 35 yards for another score to tie the game at 31.

Gary Cismesia then added a 30 yard field goal to put the Beef ahead 34-31 with 5:28 left in the third.

The Danger had seen this happen before, but it didn’t happen on this night.

“At half time coach told us to come out strong in the third quarter because we’ve been coming out slacking,” Hinds said. “We did again, but we were able to turn it up and our defense came up big for us.”

Hinds and Chris Bell got the Danger going with a 4-yard scoring play for a 37-34 lead late in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth, Carl Gettis made a big defensive play for the Danger by intercepting a James McNear pass and returning it 30 yards to the Omaha 20. That set up a 17-yard TD pass from Hinds to Moore that gave the Danger a 43-34 lead.

The Danger added another score when Hinds and Farquharson hooked up on a 6-yard scoring pass with 1:27 left to help put the game away.
Farquharson said the first two touchdowns in the second quarter were basically just a matter of outrunning the safety and catching the ball. This one was different.

“The third touchdown, (the defender) went to the inside, I gave a move to the inside and then jumped outside and Rocky put the ball in the perfect spot,” Farquharson said.

Farquharson said it’s always important to keep playing no matter what the score is.

“That’s why it’s four quarters of football,” Farquharson said. “You never get down when you’re down, you never stay up when you’re up. You just have to stay focused and keep playing.”

The game started about as badly as it could for the Danger. On the first snap from scrimmage from the 20, the ball sailed over Hinds’ head and into the end zone. Hinds retrieved it and tried to run it out, but he was hit again and lost the ball.

Omaha’s Ricardo Kemp recovered to put the Beef up 7-0 just 18 seconds into the game.

On the Danger’s next possession, Omaha defensive back Dual Kamara picked off a Hinds pass and returned it to the Danger 8-yard line.

But the Danger defense held, and Gary Cismesia’s 25-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the left.

That was a common theme for the game. The Danger defense held Omaha to just 12 first downs and 155 total yards.

“I always say defensively I’m a foot-on-the-gas type of guy,” Davis said. “We played a lot of man tonight. We blitzed a lot. We were trying to say to our guys that we’re better than theirs and we came out on top tonight.”

The Danger will complete the regular season Saturday with a road game at Cedar Rapids.

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed expected to be present at Ravens minicamp

Ed Reed liberally tossed around the "R" word last month. The Baltimore Ravens star safety said he was contemplating retirement and might back out of the team's upcoming mandatory minicamp.

Reed -- as he is known to do -- backpedaled from those comments. We fully expect Reed to play next season and so does Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who told Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun on Friday that he expects the All-Pro's pretty face to be on hand when the team opens minicamp next week.

Bookmark and Share

Jonathan Vilma making progress

New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) has made significant progress in the last two weeks after having offseason knee surgery.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason ready in any role

CHARLOTTE – Panthers three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason is anxious to return to the football field this season, even if that means leaving the position he loves to play.

Beason is recovering well after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon last September, a devastating injury to a player in top physical condition who hadn’t missed a game in his previous four seasons.

He has been working solely in individual drills the past three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) as a precautionary measure but has been given medical clearance to participate in team drills next week at minicamp.

“I feel ready to play four quarters of football if I had to,” Beason said. “We have minicamp, and I’m going to work in slowly. So, it’s baby steps right now.”

Beason said his Achilles feels great right now but quickly added, “I haven’t really done anything yet.”

He’s anxious to test it out next week.

The big question for Beason this season is not if he plays, but where he’ll play.

Carolina drafted Luke Kuechly from Boston College with the ninth overall pick and, like Beason, his most comfortable position is middle linebacker.
Beason was Carolina’s starting middle linebacker for most of four seasons from 2007-10, beginning in the fifth game of his rookie year.

The lone exception came in 2010 when he an injury to weak side linebacker Thomas Davis necessitated he move outside.

It wasn’t a complete failure by any means, but Beason clearly didn’t look comfortable there.

His stats dropped off significantly, and so did the big plays.

Beason never complained about the move but admitted afterward he felt a little handcuffed being unable to roam from sideline to sideline as he did when playing the middle. On the outside he was forced to “stay home” and do more reading than reacting. That’s not Beason.

For now, Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s plan is to start out with Beason in the middle and have Kuechly compete at weak side linebacker, a move that could mean limited playing time for Davis, who is trying to make it back from three torn ACLs to the same knee.

However, Rivera said the team will consider experimenting with different options throughout training camp and the preseason and that nothing’s set in stone.

If Beason does have to move, he’ll do it for the team.

“If that happens I approach it the way I always have when asked to move from safety to fullback or fullback to linebacker, outside to inside or vice versa,” said Beason, who went to Pro Bowls in 2008, ‘09 and ‘10. “I’ve kind of dealt with this situation my whole life. I look at myself as a true football player. I think I can go play offense, too.”

He joked that he could play running back alongside DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart but that “we probably don’t need me over there.”

“I think that’s why I’ve been successful at making changes because I approach it the same way and with the same competitive edge,” Beason said. “You just try to do the best that you can with it.”

Beason said he was not upset when the team drafted Kuechly.

After watching him run around in practice and being around him for the past few weeks he realizes why they did.

“I don’t know how it’s all going to unfold, but I understand the draft pick,” Beason said. “I understand the kid was off the charts. So you draft him and it makes your football team better. But there will be pressure on his shoulders too. He has to learn all three positions and we’ll see how it works out.”

Regardless, he said it’s hard not to like the rookie.

“Oh he’s great,” Beason said. “A good young kid and very, very instinctive. Wants to get better. Knows how to prepare. Stays late. He’s a good kid and going to be a great player. He has personality but he’s been a little reserved. He’s starting to come out of his shell and cracking a few jokes. We mess with him but he’s way ahead of the curve for rookies just in terms of his football IQ and how he prepares.

“He’s going to be successful right away.”

Bookmark and Share

49ers game plan: Keep Gore fresh for playoff run

During the second half of the 2011 season, there was a better than 50 percent chance that a 49ers running play went to someone other than Frank Gore. After handling more than 65 percent of the team's carries through the first eight games, Gore - nicked by injuries -- slowed down significantly in the final eight games.

From a Nov. 13 showdown against the Giants onward, Gore took 123 of the 252 regular-season carries, which is 49 percent. Through all 16 games, he handled 57 percent of the his team's total carries, which ranked 11th among NFL running backs.

Still, the 49ers ran the ball so often in 2011 - 498 times, the most in the NFC - that Gore ended up with 282 total carries, the fifth most in the NFL and the second-most of Gore's career. All of this suggests that while San Francisco's rushing attempts may be divided more than ever in 2012 among Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and others, there is still an opportunity for individual rushers to get a significant number of carries.

The goal this year, running backs coach Tom Rathman said, is to be wise in how the carries are divided. The 49ers obviously leaned heavily on Gore early last year while Hunter and the passing game were developing following the lockout.

The Faustian bargain they struck was that they didn't have Gore, their Pro Bowl tailback, at full strength at the end of the season and in the playoffs. "We need to keep him healthy," Rathman said this week. "We need to keep him fresh so he's an impact player for us."

Bookmark and Share

Vilma faces tough task challenging most powerful man in sports

The case of Jonathan Vilma v. Roger Goodell is being tried on the Internet, in arbitrators' offices, and our court system. It seems like it is just about the Saints and the bounties they supposedly handed out: $1,000 for a cart-off, $500 for a knockdown, $250 for a bloody nose, $30 for anything requiring a Band-Aid.

If you haven't been following the NFL lately, a brief summary: Goodell suspended Vilma, a Saints linebacker, for a year as part of the Saints' bounty scandal, and Vilma responded by suing Goodell for defamation and saying there were no bounties and no scandal. It's a fundamental disagreement: Goodell says this clearly happened and Vilma says "no, it didn't." The NFL says it has 50,000 pages of evidence, and Vilma's lawyer says he hasn't seen any. So the argument goes, like a pair of little brothers fighting: Yes. No. Yes. No. Shut up. YOU shut up.

This is where the parents usually intervene, but that's the great part about being Roger Goodell: He gets to be the parent, too. He referees his own fights. If the bounty scandal has shown us anything, it is this: Goodell is the most powerful person in American pro sports. He can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.

Goodell solidified this position last summer when he hammered out a new collective bargaining agreement that the owners love. Here is a little secret about rich people: They like being rich. Goodell ensured that the owners would just get richer and richer for at least 10 more years, because that's how long the CBA lasts and there is no opt-out clause. I suspect that people won't fully appreciate this until the next NFL team is sold. The price could be outrageous.

After that victory, Goodell can run his league as he sees fit. He has to answer to the owners, of course, but he can keep a few prominent, respected owners as counsel and the rest will mostly fall into line.

And this brings us back to the Vilma case. I will not defend Vilma. But shouldn't he have the right to defend himself? Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, told me that "we told the commissioner that we would make Jonathan available if he shared the underlying information." This seems pretty simple, doesn't it? If you were accused of doing something wrong, you would want to know what, and why.

Goodell is the judge, the jury and the appeals court -- thanks to that collective-bargaining agreement. Goodell issued the suspension, and then when Vilma appealed, Goodell upheld it. I don't know if Goodell then wrote a sparkling letter of recommendation for Goodell, but it's possible.
It is hard to believe that Goodell just decided to decimate the Saints organization for the fun of it. But that isn't really the point. Who ever heard of a guilty verdict before the evidence is presented? Even now, we still don't really know why Vilma was suspended.

I asked Ginsberg if Goodell had a right to uphold his own decision, because that power was collectively bargained. He said: "It would be inaccurate to say that the parties to the CBA bargained and negotiated for the commissioner's abolition of all fundamental fairness."

(I love lawyers.)

If you think the commissioner has too much power, Ginsberg is your man. I don't think Goodell will ask him to conduct any ceremonial coin flips. Ginsberg called the commissioner "judgmental and unwilling to listen to ideas that were not consistent with his own predisposition."

He also said: "I think as long as the NFL continues to look at players as products, rather than as human beings, there are bound to be issues that arise."

At the moment, Ginsberg is a pebble in Goodell's shoe. But if he somehow wins this case, he can be a voice for the players, and a man you will hear about a lot in the next few years.

He has some history with the NFL. He helped Michael Vick steer his way through financial trouble. He represented Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in what is known as the StarCaps case. In that one, the NFL suspended the Williamses for four games for ingesting banned substances in the dietary supplement StarCaps. The NFL knew that StarCaps contained the illegal substance bumetanide, but failed to specifically warn players not to take StarCaps. (Bumetanide was not on the label.)

"Players had called the NFL hotline to ask whether they could take Starcaps and were told yes," Ginsberg said. "The NFL knew that."

You can expect some similar arguments here. What did the NFL know, and when did it know it? Is the league trying to look tough on a controversial issue (player safety this time, drugs before), rather than try to be fair to everybody involved?

Ginsberg got the Williamses' suspensions cut in half, a rare victory in the world of drug testing. Now he is trying to save Vilma's season, or at least part of it. It's a long shot, but the approach has been smart. He appealed to two arbitrators on different grounds. One arbitrator ruled against Vilma this week; the players' association will appeal. The other arbitrator has yet to rule.

And of course, there is the defamation lawsuit -- deftly filed in Louisiana, where Vilma is just a wee bit more popular than Roger Goodell.

That battle is already brewing, with Yahoo! Sports reporting that the league has a ledger detailing weekly bounty earnings for New Orleans players. Ginsberg responded with a statement ripping Goodell as "misguided and irresponsible," and saying the ledger has been misconstrued.

Ginsberg told me what he has told others: Vilma "didn't endorse or participate or know about any bounty system." Ginsberg said that Vilma has never in his career put up money to injure another player or set out to hurt another player, and he is not aware of any of his teammates who engaged in that type of activity."

Did Vilma ever say he would pay somebody to injure a player, even if he didn't really mean it?

"What I have focused on is what the commissioner says Jonathan did," Ginsberg said.

That, right there, is a tiny bit of back and forth between the most powerful person in sports and the lawyer who is challenging him again. I want Vilma to get his day in court -- not because he deserves to be exonerated, but because he deserves just that: his day in court.

If the NFL wins, though, the league will seem as invincible as ever. And the most powerful man in sports will be even more powerful.

Bookmark and Share

Gerald McCoy to work with Warren Sapp

This has been a chaotic offseason for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Warren Sapp but it appears that he is ready to get back on the field. Not playing for the Buccaneers, but helping to mentor one of the Tampa defensive linemen, DT Gerald McCoy. McCoy was drafted third overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, just behind DT Ndamukong Suh. At that point, many analysts believed the two linemen were basically interchangeable, but to this point, Suh has been much more productive on the field.

Sapp said that he wants to get together with McCoy in Tampa in order to see where his mind is at and to give him so tips at advancing his game.

“When I come back from L.A., me and him are going to get on the field. I want to see what he’s thinking, you know? Get the mind right and a couple little tips here and there. This ain’t rocket science, I’m not going to give him the formulas to become the next tyrant on the field. I promise you, you’ll see a much more improved and a much more complete player on the field this year,” Sapp told local radio station WDAE 620.

McCoy, after he was drafted, told the Tampa media that he grew up idolizing Sapp, so this just might be what McCoy needs in order to elevate his game. During his two-year career, McCoy has been plagued with season ending shoulder injuries each season. He has only appeared in 19 games in the last two years. He has recorded 39 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles in his short time in the league.

For his career, Sapp recorded 438 tackles, 96.5 sacks and 19 forced fumbles.

Bookmark and Share

Jemile Weeks has two-hit day in loss

Jemile Weeks went 2-for-4 with a double and walk in Sunday's loss to the Diamondbacks.

Weeks is now 10-for-38 (.263) in June after hitting .250/.337/.315 in May and .186/.263/.326 in April. It's progress, but Weeks has a long way to go before officially being declared "back" to the impressive form he displayed as a rookie last season.

Bookmark and Share

Gaby Sanchez recalled from Triple-A

MIAMI (AP) - First baseman Gaby Sanchez was recalled Sunday from Triple-A New Orleans and he quickly gave the Miami Marlins' sputtering lineup a much-needed boost.

Sanchez went 1 for 4 with an RBI double against Tampa Bay, but the Marlins lost 4-2 and fell to 0-6 on their homestand.

Sanchez was batting .197 with one home run in 36 games when he was demoted May 19. In 19 games with New Orleans, Sanchez hit .310 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

"I figured out a couple of little things, nothing too major,'' he said. "I was getting repetitions. That's it.''

Sanchez was an All-Star for the Marlins last year, but he said being demoted wasn't a shock.

"I wasn't producing like I should and like I have in the past, and so that's what happens,'' he said. "It's never what you've done in the past. It's what you're doing right now to help the team out. As ballplayers we know that, and it's something you can't get mad about.''

Sanchez rejoined a team that has gone 5 for 50 with runners in scoring position during its homestand.

"I've been watching the games on TV,'' Sanchez said. "The last couple of games have been tough, but that's going to happen. The team was on a roll there - just a couple of bad games in a row.''

With Sanchez back in the lineup, Logan Morrison moved from first base to left field. Miami made room on the roster for Sanchez by designating infielder Donnie Murphy for assignment Saturday.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez Saves Game, Throws Up



Bookmark and Share