Eric Winston signs with Chiefs

EricWinston
Two former Texans – offensive tackle Eric Winston and cornerback Jason Allen – signed with new teams on Saturday.

After visiting Miami and Kansas City, Winston cancelled other visits to sign with the Chiefs.

Winston, who never missed a start for the Texans after he worked his way into the lineup, was a casualty of the salary cap. The Texans saved $4.5 million by releasing him. When they re-signed Chris Myers, his cap figure this year was $4.5 million.

“The Chiefs showed me how much they really wanted me,” Winston said. “I had offers, but at the end of the day, it came down to what they can be and me wanting to be a part of it.”

The Chiefs have been looking for a player to solidify right tackle for years, and few have been as durable or as good as Winston.
Rashad Butler inherits Winston’s starting job.


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(chron.com)
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Chris Myers stays with the Texans

ChrisMyersTexans
Houston fans have been getting a little nervous this week.  Between tackle Eric Winston and fullback Lawrence Vickers being cut and linebacker Mario Williams and guard Mike Briesel signing elsewhere, a sense had developed that the franchise that finally made it to the playoffs was now moving in the wrong direction.

A step in the right direction (or at least not another one in the wrong direction) arrived Friday night, when center Chris Myers agreed to terms on a four-year deal.  A league source tells PFT that Myers will receiver $14 million fully guaranteed on the $25 million contract.

Myers had said he wanted to stay in Houston, but he also wanted to hit the open market.  Myers also drew interest from the Titans, but nothing from the Packers after the market opened.  (Three weeks ago, it was reported that Green Bay had been communicated with Myers’ agent, which would have been a clear violation of the tampering rules.)

The move leaves the Titans at 0-2 in their quest for a new guy who would snap the ball to Peyton Manning, if Manning comes to Tennessee.  Scott Wells recently opted to join the Rams.

Of course, the Titans always could sign Jeff Saturday.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Eric Winston scheduled to arrive at Rams Park tod

EricWinston
The Chiefs hosted offensive tackle Eric Winston for a free agent visit on Thursday.

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reported last night that Kansas City was “pretty serious” about keeping Winston at club headquarters, intending to make the Chiefs his final free agent visit.

Winston is scheduled to visit Rams Park on Friday, however, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

So if the Chiefs let Winston get out of town, he might not come back.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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All Canes Radio With Cory Nelms

NFLU2009
Every Thursday Night proCanes.com joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes live from the All Canes Store in Coral Gables. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interview with rookie proCane Cory Nelms of the San Francisco 49ers. Cory was at the []_[] on a track scholarship when he walked onto the football team and played on special teams his junior and senior seasons. He then signed as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers and made the practice squad in 2011 earning the most improved player award.



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Jeremy Shockey and Toomer trade Twitter jabs

JeremyShockey
The Giants have added tight end Martellus Bennett but also have an old tight end who reportedly wants to return.

According to the New York Daily News, Jeremy Shockey has let the Giants know he wants to return. Of course, there appears to be too much history and baggage here as a source confirmed the Giants don't seem to be interested in a reunion. Former teammate Amani Toomer had some strong words about this as well.

Remember, Shockey reportedly once screamed at GM Jerry Reese and forced his way out of New York. He's 31 and had a career-low 37 catches for 455 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Panthers.

"No!!Shockey"I will never play4 you again!"he yelled at jerry Reese in 08. Let him keep his word. Bad teammate, worse person," Toomer tweeted on Thursday morning.

Shockey responded via his Twitter account with this tweet: "Amani Toomer on Jeremy Shockey: Bad teammate, Haha. Well he was the lazy one that broke my leg!!"

The tight end also tweeted, "@AmaniAToomer Go get a bucket of rocks and start throwing them at your glass house."

Toomer responded by tweeting, "Shockey,Thanks 4 proving my statement about being a bad person. Enough said.Have a nice day& good luck as a FA"

And on the idea that he wants to return, Shockey tweeted, "It's funny how the Ny media still try's to make money off me! Can anyone find a quote from me on me wanting to play for the GAINTS?"

The Giants could perhaps use another tight end even though Bennett is on board. But their eyes are on a Cowboys wide receiver. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reports Cowboys free agent wide receiver Kevin Ogleetree is visiting the Giants today.

The Giants could use another wide receiver for depth considering that Mario Manningham will likely depart. Manningham is scheduled to visit the Niners today. Cornerback Aaron Ross is also visiting Cincinnati today.


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(espn.com)
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Reggie Wayne says his return to Colts shouldn’t have been a surprise

ReggieWayne
Many were surprised by the decision of receiver Reggie Wayne to sign a new three-year deal with the Colts, the team with which Wayne spent 11 prior seasons.  Wayne doesn’t get it.

“Why would they be surprised?” Wayne said Thursday in comments distributed by the team.  “This is where I’ve always played at.  What’s the surprising part?”

Well, where do we start?

First, he had been trying to get a new deal for the last couple years.  At one point, he held out of an offseason mandatory minicamp to illustrate his displeasure.

Second, there had been no effort to keep him until very recently.

Third, the team is in full-blown blow-it-up-and-start-over mode, bidding farewell to multiple big-name players.

Fourth, Wayne sounded like he wanted to get back together with Peyton Manning, preferably with the Dolphins.

“It’d be great, it’d be fun,” Wayne told Michael Irvin of WQAM in Miami.  “Exciting.  Now you got me visualizing it.  I see the visual, it is there.  I see it.  It would be great.  It would definitely be a fun time, and an outstanding journey in South Florida.”

It won’t be happening.  Wayne has recommitted to the Colts.

“Colt for life,” Wayne said Wednesday.  “I’m going to get that tattoo put on my back. . . .  I’m here in the 317, which is Indianapolis and I’m here for the rest of my career.  Let’s go ahead and win while we can.”

That last statement implies that the team has been winning.  Last year, it wasn’t.  Next year, it will be just as challenging.  If Wayne is lucky, the Colts will become competitive again just in time for him to retire.


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(nbcsports.com)
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Eric Winston expected to meet with Lions soon

EricWinston
Former Texans' RT Eric Winston will meet with Lions' officials in the near future, according to multiple reports. Winston's proficiency as a run blocker would be a welcome addition to a Lions' O-line that struggled in that area during the 2011 season. The six-year veteran started 87 of 92 career games played before being released by Houston on Monday. Winston is also expected to meet with the Rams, Chiefs and Ravens.

Winston (Texans) left the Dolphins' facility without a contract Wednesday, and the free agent OT pool is getting thinner by the day. Miami could opt to draft OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) with the No. 8 selection. But the trading of WR Brandon Marshall to the Bears creates another gaping hole, seemingly making drafting an OL unlikely.


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(cbssports.com)
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Bryant McKinnie expected to be back in Baltimore

BryantMcKinnieRavens
OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie met with general manager Ozzie Newsome today, and is expected to be retained by the defending AFC North champions.

It was regarded as a very positive meeting.

McKinnie, 32, is due a $500,000 roster bonus later this week. He's due a $3.2 million base salary next season and carries a $4.2 million salary-cap figure.

McKinnie has dropped some more weight since the end of last season.

The 6-foot-8, 360-pounder was cut by the Minnesota Vikings last year after reporting at nearly 400 pounds.

McKinnie got in better shape quickly and started every game for the Ravens.

Although his run blocking didn't grade out as high as the team would prefer, McKinnie is still regarded as a blocker the Ravens want to keep.

The Ravens have scheduled Houston Texans free agent offensive tackle Eric Winston for a visit later this week, but it's after his trips to the Kansas City Chiefs today and the St. Louis Rams.

He has visited the Miami Dolphins and has a visit scheduled with the Detroit Lions after Baltimore.

Winston plays right tackle.


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(carrollcountytimes.com)
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Saints Considering releasing Jonathan Vilma

JonVilma
Saints have been mulling possibly releasing LB Jon Vilma. Linebacker market may start to materialize more if Lofton signs.





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(kffl.com)
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Lions ink Anthony Reddick to extension

AnthonyReddick
VANCOUVER -- Defensive back Anthony Reddick signed a contract extension with Grey Cup-champion B.C. Lions on Thursday.

"Anthony has contributed in many ways to making our team into a champion,'' Wally Buono, the Lion's vice-president of football operations and general manager, said in a statement.

"His signing brings depth and stability to a very good group in the secondary.''

Reddick enters his third year with the CFL club. He has registered 73 defensive tackles in 31 appearances with the Lions, adding four interceptions and eight sacks.


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(cfl.ca)
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Lamar Miller Has 1st Round Talent But Could Fall

LamarMillerCanes
RB Lamar Miller, Miami (Fla.) (5-11, 212): Possesses a good first step, a natural feel between the tackles and exhibits the cut back ability to slice his way up the field. However, looks more like an ideal fit for a zone-blocking scheme because he isn't a guy who is going to make a ton of NFL defenders miss or break many tackles inside.



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(usatoday.com)
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Redskins sign S Brandon Meriweather

BrandonMeriweatherWallpaper
The Washington Redskins didn't wait for free agency to begin the rebuilding process. Last week they sent the Rams a bevy of draft picks for the right to take Robert Griffin III second overall in April's NFL Draft. But they weren't done. Once free agency got under way, Washington inked wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, re-upped defensive lineman Adam Carriker, and now they've signed safety Brandon Meriweather, most recently of the Bears.

Meriweather came into the league in 2007 as a Patriots first-round selection. He was a Pro Bowler in 2009 and 2010 but fell out of favor with New England head coach Bill Belichick and was released before last season. At the time, Belichick explained the decision to cut ties with the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

"I just don't think you can pick teams, or pick your players based on what's happened in the pastm: he said. "You have to pick them based on what you think is going to happen this year, and that's relative to the competition, to the make of your team, and player's performance."

When the Bears signed Meriweather days before the start of the season, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco was skeptical. "If you can't cover these days, you aren't worth having on the field." Colleague Clark Judge added, "New England isn't afraid to make the difficult decision, and it just proved it. Again. … Bottom line: Change is good."

Before arriving in Chicago, Meriweather started 40 games during his four-year stint in New England, recorded 261 tackles and 12 picks. However, his Patriots career might best be remembered for the vicious hit on Todd Heap during the 2010 season that led to a $50,000 fine and a vow to remain aggressive, "point blank."

With the Bears, Meriweather made four starts and appeared in 11 games (he was benched in October).

History proves that Belichick made the right decision. But the Redskins, who won't re-sign LaRon Landry, have a need at safety. And while the move may not be overwhelmingly popular, at least the team didn't overpay for him. According to the Washington Post's Mike Jones, Meriweather got a two-year, $6 million deal.

We hate to be that guy, but, well, we're gonna be that guy…

The Skins let safety Ryan Clark walk after the 2005 season. He was great in the locker room, an on-field leader (he was instrumental in helping Sean Taylor) and a pretty good player, too. Oh, and he was cheap. Clark ended up signing with the Steelers, where he won a Super Bowl in 2008 and made the Pro Bowl earlier this year. Sometimes (nearly all the time?) the grass isn't always greener.


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(cbssports.com)
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Damien Berry Will Get Opportunities in Camp

DamienBerryRavens
When Ricky Williams surprisingly announced his retirement six weeks ago, the Ravens said they planned to give Anthony Allen – their 2011 seventh-round draft pick – every chance to win the job as Ray Rice’s backup.

Meanwhile, suggestions of “name” veterans who could fill the role consistently circulated, with Le’Ron McClain and Peyton Hillis among those mentioned. Both had the power running style the Ravens want.

But two days into free agency, the market for such established, straight-ahead ball-carriers is dwindling, seemingly increasing the chances of Allen taking over the job.

The Ravens also have Damien Berry, who spent 2011 on their practice squad as an undrafted free agent from Miami.

“We have Anthony Allen, a young kid that we drafted out of Georgia Tech, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to be that guy,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said last month. “Now that you’ve had a guy on campus for a full year, it’s almost like having those two young tight ends (Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta) last year and having a good feeling that those guys can play for us. We’ve got Anthony and we’ll give him every opportunity. Damien Berry, he’ll get some opportunities. We’ll go into August like we did last year and try to (figure) that out.”


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(csnwashington.com)
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Heat's James Jones again heats up in a hurry

JamesJonesHeat
PHILADELPHIA— Few in the NBA make as much out of less than James Jones.

So Wednesday night, in a flash of 3.2 seconds, the veteran 3-point specialist managed to score more points than any other Miami Heat reserve scored the balance of the night against the Chicago Bulls, draining consecutive 3-pointers.

Actually, Jones achieved his six-point night in 2.2 seconds, removed for the intervening Heat defensive sequence.

In the wake of the 106-102 loss at the United Center, the question was whether accounting for two of the Heat's six 3-point conversions and six of the Heat's 15 bench points might lead to more time amid this continued injury absence of swingman Mike Miller.

Jones, though, seems to know better, having been through the drill these past two seasons.

"I'm not expecting that if I make shots that I'll continue to play, not expecting that if I miss shots that my number won't be called," he said, as the Heat looked ahead of Friday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the final stop on this three-game trip that has opened with losses to the Orlando Magic and Bulls. "For me, I know my role for this team is to be able to make shots at a moment's notice and to just have a free-and-clear mind."

So with 10 seconds remaining Wednesday, he drained his first shot of the night, a 3-pointer that drew the Heat within 102-99. With 6.8 seconds to play, his 3-pointer made it 104-102.

It was as close as the Heat would get. But on a night when there was LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and little else, Jones again provided hope that he is there if needed, when called upon.

"We all know what James is capable of," said James, who scored 35 points against the Bulls, but only two in the fourth quarter. "Hopefully he continues to get minutes, continues to get out there with us.

"We love him on the floor. He has no fear, no conscience. Every time he shoots the ball, we believe it's going in. And for the most part, it is."

Coach Erik Spoelstra was not as forthcoming when it came to discussing Jones' time on the floor going forward

"We'll see," he said after utilizing Jones for 14:41, less than all four of the other reserves utilized other than seldom-used center Dexter Pittman. "But he's definitely going to play while Mike is out, anyway. Our late-game execution, in general, has been much better, anyway."

But few can do what Jones can, come off the bench cold and heat up in an instant.

"I mean, I don't have that ability, so I can't even talk to that ability," said guard Dwyane Wade, who scored a season-high 36 points against the Bulls, including 19 in the fourth quarter. "I mean, that's special. You give a lot of credit to guys like that.

"But he works hard. When he's not playing, when he's not getting his opportunities he's still working just as hard. Like we said, credit goes to him for being a professional."

Jones now needs three 3-pointers to tie Antoine Walker (221) for 12th place on the Heat's all-time list and seven more to tie Damon Jones (225) for 11th.

"We're all big supporters of J.J.," Wade said. "And, obviously, with Mike going down, it gives him an opportunity to get back into the flow of the game with us."

But Jones has resigned himself to such opportunities being fleeting.

"I'm a pro and I know the work I put in every day," he said. "So I don't think my lack of playing time is an indictment on my skill. It's more of my position, my role with this team."


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(sun-sentinel.com)
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Darius Rice Leads Team With 29 Points

DariusRice
MANAMA were yesterday back on track in their bid to retain the Zain Bahrain Basketball Championship with a hard-fought 84-78 victory over Al Ahli at Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam.

In an action-packed second-week tie, Manama made amends for their disappointing start to the competition last week when they suffered a 84-89 defeat to Sitra to bounce back and revive their title chances.

American professional Darius Rice was the star of the night for Manama, scoring 29 points, guiding his side for their maiden win in the six-team tournament.

Coached by Argentina's Ricardo Daniel, Manama were also inspired by some of Bahrain's best basketball players, including skipper Mahmood Ghuloom, Mohammed Hassan, Ahmed Abdulaziz, Mohammed Hussain, Ahmed Al Mutawa, Isa Ebrahim, Jassim Mohammed and Omran Abdulreda.

Al Ahli, on the other hand, were banking on their American import Johnny Antony who was the team's top scorer with 29 points.

Playmaker Hussain Shaker, along with Maytham Jameel, Sayed Hashim Habib, Hisham Sarhan, Mohammed Qurban and Mahdi Ashoor also spearheaded Al Ahli in yesterday's thriller.

The result saw both clubs tied with three points each from two matches in the six-team tournament, with three matches remaining to mark the end of the first half of this double round robin stage.


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(gulf-daily-news.com)
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Jemile Weeks bangs homers from both sides of plate

JemileWeeksAthletics
Jemile Weeks knocked homers from both sides of the plate today, the first batting right-handed in the first inning of the A’s 11-7 victory and the second hitting left-handed in the fourth.

After that second blast, hitting coach Chili Davis greeted Weeks by saying, “You know who had the lead in switch-hit homers in the same game before (Mark) Teixeira? It was me.”

Teixeira has done it 12 times, Davis and Eddie Murray did it 11 times. Weeks said he does not believe he ever has homered from both sides of the plate in the same game, at any level.

“It’s a testament to the approach I have right now,” Weeks said. “I’m still working on some things, but I’ve been able to power up some balls here. I know that will be surprising to everyone here.”

Weeks also added a single and a walk,  he’s 7 for his past 13, and he is batting .419 overall.

Cliff Pennington, batting second behind Weeks, was 4-for-4. Between them, they reached base safely in eight total plate appearances before Weeks struck out in the eighth.

“Weeksie made that out his last time up so I had to pull them both out,” manager Bob Melvin joked.

Pennington is batting .464 overall.

“He’s been on all spring training,” Weeks said. “I believe that will carry on throughout the year for him.”


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(sfgate.com)
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Jemile Weeks steps from brother Rickie’s shadow

JemileWeeksAthletics
PHOENIX — A couple of times every week during the baseball season, Oakland Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks will catch up via phone with older brother Rickie of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Of course, Jemile has been playing catch-up with his older brother his entire life. And it always seemed that wherever Rickie went, Jemile figured to be there sooner or later.

Second base on the diamond first-round pick in the amateur draft and, as of June, a starter in the major leagues.

Their age gap of four years and four months kept Jemile from playing at the same level with Rickie, but it didn't stop him from trying.

"We competed a lot," Jemile recalls of their childhood in Altamonte Springs Fla., "from Wiffle Ball to throwing the tennis ball out front, just me and him, trying to strike each other out from about 40feet away throwing as hard as we can. We did all of that."

Fast-forward a little more than a decade later, and Jemile is forging his own identity as the A's full-time starter and leadoff man. In fact, the younger Weeks might be on a faster big-league track, as it took Rickie five seasons to become a consistent major league producer; in 2011, his sixth season, Rickie was an All-Star.

Drafted 12th overall in 2008, Jemile advanced quickly and was hitting .321 with 10 steals in 45games with the Class AAA Sacramento River Cats last season when he got the call to the majors.

In less than two weeks the A's made him their leadoff hitter. In less than three weeks, they traded longtime second baseman Mark Ellis. And after his first month, Weeks was hitting .309.

But just as it was playing in the backyard with his older brother, things didn't come easily.

"The biggest difference is the rate at which (pitchers) make adjustments," Weeks says. "When I felt like I was finally starting to feel better, they immediately switched things up. They understand what your weaknesses are really fast."

Still, Weeks finished his rookie year in Oakland with a .303 average and 22 stolen bases in 97 games. He'll be back in the leadoff spot again this season for a team that finished 12th out of 14 American League teams in scoring.

But before Weeks arrived, the A's averaged 3.6 runs a game. After he was called up, they averaged 4.2 a game.

"I take it upon myself to be a table-setter ," he says.

Now, when Jemile and Rickie talk on the phone, it's not so much competition they share, but encouragement.

"Motivate each other and keep each other confident," Jemile says.

But there's one thing his older brother has done that Jemile hasn't — go to the playoffs. Unless you count going with the entire Weeks family to watch Rickie in last year's National League Division Series.

While the A's might be playoff long shots for the foreseeable future, the Weeks' pattern suggests Jemile might follow in his brother's footsteps one more time.


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(usatoday.com)
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Alex Cora eyes reserve role, mentoring youngsters

AlexCora
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The past two days provide all the information needed to understand who Alex Cora is.

On Wednesday, he made his first career start of any sort at first base. On Thursday, he was starting at the other corner. While taking ground balls there during batting practice, the veteran infielder was chatting up prospect Ryan Jackson before moving over to get some work in at second base as well.

After spending several years early in his career as an everyday infielder, Cora has been able to remain a Major Leaguer for 14 seasons thanks largely to his versatility, as well as what appears to be his natural leadership skills. He came to the Cardinals on a Minor League deal with the hopes of bringing those qualities to the defending World Series champions and extending his career just a little bit longer.

"[Manager] Mike [Matheny] picked a great day yesterday with like 20 lefties in the lineup," Cora joked about his start at first. "In the situation I'm in, I'll take whatever comes my way. I'm not going to make excuses. It's a learning process. I'm 36 years old, and every time I come here, I learn something new. If I have to learn how to play first base, I'll do it.

"It's just a matter of repetition. I've done it before, but it was always, like, in an emergency. People think it's an easy position. I was talking to Lance Berkman about it yesterday. There are some ins and outs of the position."

"That's going to be a part of his game," Matheny said. "I thought he looked good over there. I think he can play anywhere on the infield and stand out as a solid defender. A guy that's been around for [14 years] in the big leagues has a pretty good understanding of what he needs to do there even though he hasn't had the starts. We've been talking since Day 1 about having versatility and flexibility, and a guy like that certainly can do that."

Cora has played in 13 regular-season games at first base, but only a handful of innings. Cora has played all over the infield over the course of his career, and he will continue to do so assuming he earns a spot on St. Louis' 25-man roster. Ironically, the position he's played with less frequency in recent years is the one he played every day for the Dodgers: shortstop. Cora is the first to recognize that's one question about his game he needs to answer to stick around, that he can still play the premium position when called upon.

Other players in his position, nearing the end of a robust career and working to win a roster spot, might take a more me-first approach to Spring Training. Yet Cora has been tireless in his efforts to mentor young infielders like Jackson throughout the spring. It's a pay-it-forward attitude that is very much appreciated by the mentees.

"It always means a lot when you have a guy who's had a lot of years in the big leagues and has played a lot of positions," Jackson said. "He's been there and done it. It's a really reliable source in terms of giving you information."

For Cora, it's just what's done. When he first got to Los Angeles, there were veterans like Jeff Reboulet, Dave Hansen and Kevin Elster, who took him under their wings. And of course there's his brother, Joey, a former All-Star and now the bench coach for the Marlins, who was a shining example of how to conduct business on the field from an early age.

Once Cora stopped being an everyday guy, when he got to Cleveland in 2005, he understood immediately that it was his time to take on that veteran role. Jhonny Peralta was Cora's first student. Then there was that undersized middle infielder with the Red Sox who took over at second base in 2007, followed by keeping an eye on Jose Reyes (and filling in for him quite a bit when he was hurt) in New York in 2009.

It was never a question of worrying about the student outstripping the teacher. It's what the previous generation had done for him, and there was never any doubt about whether he would follow suit when the time came.

"I learned from them, and that's what I do, too," Cora said. "I'm a part of this organization, and for us to be better, anything I can do to help those kids out, I'll do it."

Having a coach on the field like Cora is a good thing for any manager, and perhaps an even bigger bonus for a rookie skipper like Matheny. In the short time they've been together this spring, Matheny already sees a future path for the veteran, one Cora's older brother has already taken.

"That's Alex's makeup," Matheny said. "I know it's something our veterans have a desire to do, to help out our younger players and figure out how they can pass on some of the things they know. You can see he's wired, he can be in this game for a long time instructing and teaching if he desires to do so once he's done."

Cora appreciates the kind words, but he doesn't want to dwell on his coaching bona fides just yet. Perhaps it's something that will come down the road, but it's clear he's not ready to talk about career changes just yet.

"I appreciate that, but the less I talk about [coaching], the better it is for Alex, the player," Cora said. "I take it as a compliment, but I really don't want to cross that line yet. I still want to play baseball. I still feel I can contribute."


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(mlb.com)
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Jemile Weeks Will Provide Speed And Spark To Top Of Athletics’ Lineup

JemileWeeksAthletics
Jemile Weeks, Second Baseman, Oakland Athletics

2011 season: 97 G, 406 AB, .303 AVG, 50 R, 2 HR, 22 SB, .761 OPS

Last year, the A’s had only three players post an OPS above the league average of .720: Josh Willingham, Scott Sizemore and Weeks. Willingham signed with the Twins and Sizemore sustained a season-ending injury early in Spring Training, leaving Weeks as arguably the team’s best returning offensive contributor. That’s not what one would normally expect out of a team’s leadoff hitter and second baseman.

The brother of Brewers All-Star Rickie Weeks, Jemile was first-round pick by the A’s in 2008 but does not possess the same bat as his sibling. He has not hit more than nine home runs in a professional season, and playing in the cavernous Coliseum in Oakland won’t help his cause in that regard. The spacious stadium does aid him in other ways, though, because it allows him to use his speed to churn out extra-base hits. Despite not being called up until June last year, Weeks led the squad with eight triples and ranked just two doubles behind team leader Hideki Matsui with 26. Unlike many who play in Oakland, Weeks’ offensive numbers were actually significantly better at home (.794 OPS) than they were on the road (.727).

Weeks also used his speed to steal an impressive 22 bases in that time, but he’ll have to work more on picking his spots in the future. He was caught stealing on 11 occasions last year, giving him just a 67 percent success rate. In order to provide value from steals, players need to make it across at least 75 percent of the time. Weeks also could stand to take more walks, a particularly important attribute in a speedy leadoff hitter, and he needs to continue to work on his defense, which was below average last season.

Overall, Weeks is far from a perfect player, but he’s clearly a talented athlete who’s capable of making an impact at the Major League level. At 25 years old, there’s still time for him to work out the kinks in his game, though he’ll most likely end up as a solid regular. There’s no shame in that – on most teams, Weeks would be a welcome role player who could provide a spark at the top of the lineup. And on the A’s this year, he might be one of the only sparks anywhere in the lineup.


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(denver.cbslocal.com)
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Scott Maine Challenging for Second Lefty Spot

ScottMaine
Scott Maine gave up his first run of the spring.  He walked a batter but did not give up a hit.  He's the last challenger to Trever Miller for the second lefty spot, and he does have the advantage of holding a roster spot, but he won't make the team if he walks hitters.



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(chicagonow.com)
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Blake Tekotte Optioned, Jason Hagerty Reassigned

BlakeTekotte
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres are down to 48 players in Major League camp, after a handful of moves on Thursday that saw six players optioned and two more reassigned to Minor League camp.

The players who were optioned included pitchers Jose De Paula, Juan Pablo Oramas and Erik Hamren, outfielders Rymer Liriano, Blake Tekotte and infielder Edinson Rincon.

The two players who were reassigned to Minor League camp were left-handed pitcher Robbie Erlin and catcher Jason Hagerty

The eight players will likely start playing in Minor League games beginning on Friday, said Padres manager Bud Black.

This is the second round of camp cuts, as the Padres reassigned five players to Minor League camp on Monday.


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(mlb.com)
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James Bryant Signs Contract With Lions

NFLU2009
James Bryant who played last season in the CFL for the BC Lions at DE, and had was having a great season before being injured signed a 1-year deal with the Detroit Lions. Bryant will actually be playing at FB for Lions, a position he played at when attending the University of Miami. Congrats to Bryant, his hard work has definitely paid off!


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Sinorice Moss defines his own style and path

Former New York Giants wide receiver Sinorice [sih-naw-riss] Moss traded in his football uniform for something a little more personalized. Now an actor and a philanthropist, Moss defines his own style and path.

SMoss2C4464431C084268F923A8F305B

If asked to describe a professional football player, one might be inclined to use words like “imposing,” “hulking” or “intimidating.” When describing the former New York Giants wide receiver, Sinorice Moss, on the other hand, appropriate descriptors could include “inspiring,” “enthusiastic” and “role model.”
 
A warm, wide grin crosses his face when he discusses his next moves. He’s passionate about his charity, the Dare to Dream Foundation, and equally enthused about his second film, “The Last Fall,” which debuted at South by Southwest, and Nomadic Music, his independent music label formed with best friend Jesse Boykins III.

SMoss9384DE445F649FB7BC52271085
Your name is so unique. Do you think having such a different name has helped to shape you in any way?
I love having such a unique name, one you don’t hear often. With a name this unusual, the first time you hear it, it kind of grabs you and you want to know the origin and you just want to know more.

SMossBD7C69F9C1C97ECD25916BB965F76
How would you define your personal style? Did you always have this look, or has it changed and evolved as you have?
I would say that my style until now has been very traditional. I consider my style very conservative, very business-like at times, but I can adapt to whatever style or trend is in. I’m still discovering my personal style. I believe that your style can include the people that you hang around with, the places you shop, what you eat, your hobbies, the books you read – that’s your personal style. It all comes together to define the person that you are.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY AND SEE MORE PHOTOS


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(msn.com)
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Ravens, Lions interested in Eric Winston

EricWinston
The wooing of LT Eric Winston added two more suitors, as the Ravens and Lions have shown interest, according to the Houston Chronicle. Released by the Texans on Monday, Winston will visit the Chiefs on Thursday and also has the Rams in play.



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(cbssports.com)
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Reggie Wayne: 'This is home and this is where I wanted to be'

ReggieWayne
WR Reggie Wayne, who signed a three-year, $17.5M deal contract Wednesday, on returning to Indy: "This is home and this is where I wanted to be. I really just took my time, thought about everything, sat with my family, put everything together and this was the right choice.”



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(cbssports.com)
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Raiders Release Kevin Boss, Open the Door For Richard Gordon?

RichardGordonRaiders
So who will replace Boss at tight end?

It’s likely his replacement will come from a trio of recent draft picks. Brandon Myers, selected in 2009, caught 16 passes for 154 yards last season. Also on the roster are tight ends David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, both drafted in 2011. Ausberry, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds and a seventh-round pick from USC, mostly played on special teams. He had just two catches in 12 games. The former wide receiver – converted to tight end with the Trojans – had 64 catches and seven TDs in college.

Gordon, a sixth-round pick from Miami, is 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds and had just one catch his rookie season.

Myers, a sixth-round choice from Iowa, has the inside track. He’s started 12 games in his three seasons with 32 total catches for 250 yards.
With little room to maneuver under the salary cap and only two draft choices, the Raiders have holes to fill at tight end, cornerback and safety, among others.


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(nbcbayarea.com)
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Santana Moss might want to start packing his bags

SantanaMoss
Tuesday’s signings of Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon are intended to upgrade the Redskins’ receiver corps, but they are inevitably going to cost other wideouts roster spots.

As the Washington Times‘ Rich Campbell hints, longtime leading receiver Santana Moss could be on the chopping block.

Moss, who turns 33 in June, is due a $2.65 million salary. Per Campbell, the Redskins would save $1.3 million if they released Moss before June 1, and $2.83 million if they released Moss with the post-June 1 designation.

Cutting Moss is all but a no-brainer for Washington. The club is flirting with free agent Eddie Royal to take his slot position in three-receiver sets, and Moss already lost his job in the base offense to Garcon.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Antonio Dixon Signs

AntonioDixonEagles
The Eagles continue to make moves, as the team announced Wednesday the re-signing of defensive tackle Antonio Dixon and a trade of offensive tackle Winston Justice. Justice and a 2012 sixth-round pick will be sent to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2012 sixth-round pick.

Dixon, meanwhile, was a restricted free agent tendered at the second-round level. The 26-year-old defensive tackle was originally claimed off waivers prior to the 2009 season opener. The powerful, run-stuffing defensive tackle has played in 35 games (10 starts) for the Eagles, compiling 62 tackle, 3.0 sacks and one blocked field goal. He spent much of the 2011 season on injured reserve with a torn triceps.


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(eagles.com)
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Free agent center Chris Myers to visit Titans on Today

ChrisMyersTexans
Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reports that free agent center Chris Myers will visit the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.

Florio previously reported that Myers was on Tennessee’s radar.

The Titans are showing an awful lot of interest in interior offensive linemen, which is no surprise after they struggled so mightily to run block last season. They’ve also hosted center Scott Wells and met with free agent guard Steve Hutchinson.

Myers, 30, has been in a zone-blocking scheme with the Texans for the past four seasons. He’s started 80 consecutive games.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Darryl Sharpton & friends Invade Main Stage Saturday

DarrylSharpton
NFL Houston Texans Darryl Sharpton & Friends Invade Main Stage This Saturday March 17th.| $4 ciroc happy hour wit live band performance from 9pm - 11pm.| $100 rozay bottles all night| Food served on patio| Gift bags given out by Revamped Boutique | Dress Code Strictly enforced| For Free Entry Or Vip text/call 832.816.4070



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Jeremy Shockey would like to return to Giants

JeremyShockey
Jeremy Shockey is looking for another bite at the apple.

The free-agent tight end would like a chance to continue his career where it began, with the New York Giants.

Shockey played last season for the Carolina Panthers and they have expressed some interest in bringing him back but that hasn’t happened and now Shockey has let the Giants know he’s open to a return, according to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News.

Shockey spent six seasons with the Giants but forced his way out four years ago, heading to the New Orleans Saints. How much do the Giants need Shockey? They signed Martellus Bennett to a one-year contract, and Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum could each miss the 2012 season after suffering torn ACL’s in Super Bowl XLVI.

Some wonder how much the 31-year-old Shockey has left but he wouldn’t be required to be the man. He’s familiar with the surroundings and would be a solid fit. But this strikes us as the kind of deal that might take a while to come together. Shockey's original stay with the Giants ended with drama and some hard feelings but that may be smoothed over.


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(nationalfootballpost.com)
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Pondering Santana Moss' future with Redskins

SantanaMoss
The Redskins begin the first full day of the new league year with a revamped receiving corps. Pierre Garcon is their new No. 1 receiver. Josh Morgan is expected to push Leonard Hankerson for the other starting spot, with Hankerson coming off hip labrum surgery.

Signing Garcon and Morgan and pursuing Eddie Royal is a scathing indictment of the 2011 receiving corps. Not that that's surprising. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan lamented the team's lack of playmakers at the end of last season, so the Redskins bought some players they believe will fill the void.

Thursday's moves, however, make it somewhat difficult to see how Santana Moss fits into this new group. He signed a three-year, $15 million deal with Washington last summer, but whether he lasts through the end of it is in doubt.

In the three seasons from 2008 through 2010, Moss averaged 5.42, 5.46 and 5.37 yards after the catch, respectively. In 2011, at age 32, he averaged only 3.8 in 12 games. That's a significant drop off. Consider that Garcon - who is positioned to take Moss's starting X receiver spot - averaged 5.2 in 2011.

Moss must report to the Redskins' offseason program determined to get in superb physical condition and prove he has the legs to be the explosive after-the-catch player he once was. Otherwise, the Redskins must consider these numbers:

Moss approached the new league year accounting for $4.6 million against the Redskins' 2012 cap. Washington would save $1.3 million by releasing him before June 1 and $2.83 million after June 1.

At the very least, Tuesday's moves marked the end of Moss' celebrated seven-year run as Washington's top receiver. He ranks fourth on the franchise's all-time receiving yards (6,726) and catches (488) lists behind only Art Monk, Charley Taylor and Gary Clark. We'll see if he'll earn the chance to add to those totals.


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(washingtontimes.com)
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Chris Perez eager for upcoming bullpen session

ChrisPerezIndians
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez cracked a smile when asked if it was silly to wonder if he was excited about finally being cleared to throw a bullpen session.

"It's not silly at all," said Perez, who has been sidelined for the past three weeks with a left oblique strain. "I'm excited about a bullpen. It's the next step."

On Wednesday, Perez threw long toss from a distance of 150 feet, marking the final stage of his flat-ground throwing program before being able to move back on a mound. If Perez feels fine over the next two days, the closer will be able to work through a bullpen session during Friday morning's workout at the Indians' player development complex.

Perez injured his side near the end of his first bullpen session of the spring and the team indicated that he would need four to six weeks to fully recover. If he continues at his current pace, Perez believes he will be able to squeeze in five or six Cactus League appearances before camp breaks.

Prior to pitching in spring games, though, Perez needs to work through one or two bullpen sessions and likely a simulated game against Minor League hitters.

"We're still on pace to make it for Opening Day, which is our biggest goal right now," Perez said. "No setbacks. I'm feeling good. My arm feels better than it did last year at any point. It feels like I did in 2010. I'm ready to go.

"That's another frustrating part. My arm feels so good that I want to get out there. I want to attack. I want to do my job and I can't do it."

Perez's job is to hold down the ninth inning and he did so to the tune of 36 saves in 40 chances as an American League All-Star last season. Cleveland remains hopeful that he will be able to be in the bullpen come Opening Day, but manager Manny Acta has noted that setup man Vinnie Pestano could serve as a temporary closer, if necessary.


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(mlb.com)
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Jemile Weeks may shine in second season with A's

JemileWeeksAthletics
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There are not many familiar faces on the Oakland A's roster this season due to an offseason purge, but A's fans will enjoy getting more familiar with second baseman Jemile Weeks.

Weeks was brought up on June 7th last season and it was his first stint in the big leagues. He started 96 games, hit .303, with 26 doubles, 8 triples, and 22 stolen bases. This year the 25-year-old switch hitter feels like he belongs.

"Yeah, it's a little bit of a comfort level. This year I still have that mentality you're ready to shine, but you also know you might be able to work on a few things to perfect your game," said Weeks.

Manager Bob Melvin has noticed a big difference in Weeks' approach.

"He hasn't had as much experience as a lot of guys have, so as good as he is, we feel like he can get better, but he's a great kid on top of it and a hard worker," said Melvin.

Weeks has only been in the big leagues for a season, but he's a veteran in this new look clubhouse.

"We didn't have a great season last year, you want to revamp get a new feel, and bring in some guys with more potential, guys that are hungry, guys that will go out and put it all on the line because we have much expectation right now," said Weeks.


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(abclocal.com)
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Al Golden Reaches Out To NFL Teams About proCane Rookies-to-be

NFLU2009
Classy move by Al Golden to reach out to all 32 teams and give background information and recommendations of UM’s numerous draft eligible players.




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(miamiherald.com)
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Reggie Wayne signs three-year deal with Colts

ReggieWayne
Reggie Wayne won't be following his quarterback out of town. The NFL Network reported the free-agent wide receiver has agreed to a three-year, $17.5 million deal to stay with the Indianapolis Colts rather than pursue a potential reunion with Peyton Manning elsewhere.

Wayne is one of few familiar names who will stick around in the Colts' offense. In addition to Manning, who was released last week, tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai were cut by the team. On Tuesday evening, Pierre Garcon, the receiver who started opposite Wayne in Indainapolis, signed a lucrative long-term deal with the Washington Redskins.

The signing of Wayne means he'll be around to help develop the Colts' next franchise quarterback. That player is presumed to be Stanford's Andrew Luck, who is expected to be selected by the Colts with the first overall pick in April's draft.

Wayne, 33, is now in line to start and end his fine career with the Colts, who selected him in the first round of the 2001 draft. He has made five trips to the Pro Bowl in his 11 seasons, racking up impressive totals of 862 catches, 11,708 yards and 73 touchdowns.

Colts owner Jim Irsay took to Twitter to share his enthusiasm about re-signing Wayne with three simple words: REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!!!!!!!


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(sportingnews.com)
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Chris Myers will look elsewhere

ChrisMyersTexans
Saying the Texans are "more conversations than negotiations," Pro Bowl C Chris Myers will hit the open market, according to a Tweet from SiriusXM NFL Radio's Adam Schein. With LT Eric Winston's release and the team also struggling to re-sign OG Mike Brisiel, Houston could be without 3/5ths of an offensive line that has been a foundation of the team since 2009.

Myers is in discussions with the Texans, yet the AFC South rival Titans have jumped into the fray, according to Profootballtalk.com. The Packers, who reportedly talked to Myers during the combine, have yet to be contacted by him.


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(cbssports.com)
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Eric Winston To Visit Dolphins

EricWinston
Winston, who went to the University of Miami, started all 16 games last season and ranked 11th among all NFL tackles, according to profootballfocus.com. He ranked fourth as a run blocker. Winston, cut by the Texans on Monday, is the best free agent right tackle on the market. He told me he will visit the Dolphins in the next couple days but does not yet have an offer from Miami.

The Dolphins want to save much of their cap space until they receive an answer from Peyton Manning, or potentially, backup plan Matt Flynn. But Winston would clearly be the best right tackle available unless the Dolphins use the eighth pick of the draft on Iowa's Riley Reiff. Problem is, bidding will be high for him.


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(miamiherald.com)
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Clinton Portis scheduled to meet with NFL teams

clintonportis
After sitting out last season, Clinton Portis is apparently moving closer toward rejoining the NFL playing ranks.

The former Redskins running back reportedly has two visits lined up with NFL teams and been contacted by four teams since the start of free agency on Tuesday, according to his agent, Jason Fletcher via NFL writer Aaron Wilson.

The 30-year-old Portis recovered from a significant groin injury last season after rushing for 227 yards on 54 carries in 2010. The nine-year veteran has rushed for 9,923 career yards and 75 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. 

“Clinton looks like he did when he first came out of the University of Miami," Fletcher of B&F Sports told Wilson in a telephone interview. "He is in tip-top shape. He has been medically cleared since January. He is in Arizona training six days per week. He is a chiseled 222 pounds, and he is eager to re-establish himself as one of the top running backs in the NFL, not only as a rusher, but also as a pass blocker and as a receiver."

Wilson notes that last season, Portis worked out for the Titans, Seahawks, Patriots and Dolphins.

In seven seasons with the Redskins, Portis had four-1,000 yard seasons, his final one coming in 2008 when he rushed for 1,487 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Redskins are unlikely to show interest in the aging back, but other teams are open to kicking Portis' tires.

"There's definitely good interest in Clinton," Fletcher said. "I can honestly say when talking to these teams that age is not a factor. Clinton is ready to go and excited about getting back on the football field."


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(csnwashington.com)
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Willis McGahee to share workload with big back

WillisMcGaheeBroncos
The Broncos are reportedly seeking a "bigger tailback" to share the workload with Willis McGahee.

Coach John Fox is seeking physicality and durability as much as pure size at tailback. The Denver Post lists Boise State's Doug Martin, Utah State's Robert Turbin, Notre Dame's Jonas Gray, San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman and Mississippi State's Vick Ballard as potential targets in next month's draft.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Texans take a big risk in releasing Eric Winston

EricWinston
In the shadow of a nasty defense and the brilliance of Arian Foster, the offensive line of the Houston Texans may have been overlooked last season. It was one of the league's best units, especially in the running game, and Monday, the Texans said goodbye to one of the line's anchors. Eric Winston was released.

It came as a surprise to everyone, including Winston. The guy had started 87 straight games at tackle for the Texans, and was one of the reasons that Houston ‒ when Matt Schaub missed games, when Andre Johnson missed games, and when Arian Foster missed games ‒ could stay competitive offensively. They could still block.

It's a salary cap move, of course, and the Texans need to create a little wiggle room under the cap if they want to keep Mario Williams or some of their other free agents. Here's Winston, via John McClain at chron.com:

"Basically, they told me they were up against it (the salary cap) and didn't want to insult me by asking me to take a pay cut," he said. "They said they hated to do it and maybe we could work something out down the road, but, well, I'm just stunned. I didn't want to leave. This just sucks." [...]

"I still think the Texans are going to be great. They don't need me to be great. I think they're going to have a big-time team next season, and I'm sorry I'm not going to be part of it."

Sounds like a sweet guy.

I just wonder if the Texans, with Mario Williams about to get a fruit basket from every GM in the league, wouldn't have been better off hanging on to Winston. Someone's going to make Williams a massive offer ‒ something that, if the Texans could afford, they'd have paid by now.

Yes, they were up against the cap, but they weren't over it. They're probably going to lose Williams no matter what, and after that, I don't know what free agent they have that's more worth keeping than Eric Winston. Having a cohesive, reliable offensive line was so important to the Texans' success last year. I don't know why they'd want to mess with that.


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(yahoo.com)
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Brandon Meriweather To Visit Broncos, Jets Interested

BrandonMerriweather
Jets are interested in S Brandon Meriweather, per source. Safety is a priority for the Jets. The Broncos are also interested in Meriweather and he reportedly visited the Broncos last night.



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D.J. Williams, Ryan McBean sue NFL over positive drug tests

DJWilliams2
Peter R. Ginsberg, the New York-based attorney representing Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams, Tuesday said the NFL's actions leading to the six-game suspensions of Williams and former teammate Ryan McBean "are much more egregious" than the circumstances involved in Major League Baseball's since-overturned suspension of Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder Ryan Braun.

The NFL ruled that the two players violated the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, based on what the league said was the substitution of "nonhuman" urine samples during August tests.

Williams and McBean, a veteran defensive tackle who became a free agent Tuesday, filed suit against the NFL on Monday in Denver District Court, seeking to force the league to vacate the suspensions levied against the players after their appeals were denied. Four attorneys are listed on the filings — Ginsberg and Marci Gilligan of Denver for Williams; and Harvey Steinberg and Peter Schaffer of Denver for McBean.

"In D.J. and Ryan's case, the NFL violated every guideline for safeguarding and processing a specimen, so that this situation stands apart," Ginsberg said. "The NFL's handling of the specimens was so bad that the specimen collector was fired based of the way he handled our clients' specimens; the finding that the specimen was nonhuman has no validity ... If anybody at the NFL had properly viewed the records, we should have seen that the NFL could not stand behind the test results. I don't think it should have even gotten this far, and taken as long as it has, if the NFL truly was interested in maintaining the integrity of the program."

The filings note that the specimen collector, an employee of Stadium Medical, was fired Oct. 11. The National Center for Drug Free Sport Inc., the administrator of the league's drug-testing program, hired Stadium Medical to collect and analyze the urine samples from Broncos players.

The players' petition to vacate the suspensions cites the recent Braun case, noting his successful appeal of his 50-game suspension primarily because the collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., stored the sample in his home refrigerator and waited 44 hours to ship it to a Montreal laboratory. The sample was found to have testosterone levels far exceeding allowable levels.

Laurenzi said the delay in shipping the sample was because of the complications tied to international shipping on weekends after the sample was collected Saturday, Oct. 1.

By a 2-1 vote, an arbitration panel granted Braun's appeal, and his suspension was overturned Feb. 25. After reporting to spring training, the reigning National League most valuable player labeled the collection and tracking process of his sample "fatally flawed," and seemed to hint of the possibility of tampering — a reference that drew a pointed response from Laurenzi, who denied any wrongdoing or misconduct.

The Broncos have been involved in another appeal to an NFL drug testing result, after running back Travis Henry was found to have tested positive for marijuana in late August 2007. Henry said that the positive test might have been because of second-hand smoke.

Henry's attorney — Steinberg — argued at a league hearing in November 2007 that procedural mistakes had been made. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell eventually ruled in Henry's favor.

The Broncos released Henry in June 2008, a month before it was revealed another test had come up positive for marijuana, and he was suspended for a year on Aug. 31, 2008, effectively ending his NFL career.


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(denverpost.com)
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49ers sign Tavares Gooden to 1-year contract

TGooden49ers
Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman officially have a backup under contract.

A few minutes into the start of free agency this afternoon, the 49ers announced the signing of linebacker and special-team standout Tavares Gooden, 27, to a one-year contract. Gooden, Willis and Bowman are the team’s only inside linebackers. Restricted free agent Larry Grant is expected to sign elsewhere after performing well in place of Willis during a three-start stretch in 2011.

Gooden, who played just 13 defensive snaps last year, made his mark on special teams where he ranked third with 12 tackles. Blake Costanzo, another special-teams star, is a free agent.

“Tavares was an integral part of our success on special teams last year,” general manager Trent Baalke said. “He brought an energy to our locker room that was evident on the field as well. We are pleased to have him back with us for another season, and look forward to his continued growth as a player.”

A third-round pick of the Ravens in 2008, Gooden has played extensively at linebacker during his career, starting 12 games in Baltimore in 2008. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was Gooden’s position coach with the Ravens from 2008-09.

Gooden said he wanted to return to the 49ers, particularly in light of their 20-17 overtime loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
“I wanted to be here, having a salty taste in my mouth after last season,” he said. “I just felt like there was unfinished business.”


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(sfgate.com)
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Agent for Shockey won't talk about his future

ShockeyPanthers
When asked if Jeremy Shockey is retiring after 10 seasons, as well as the early free-agent status of LB Dan Connor, agent Drew Rosenhaus on Tuesday declined to speculate on either of his clients' immediate futures. “We will not have a comment on either player,” Rosenhaus said.



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(cbssports.com)
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Dallas Cowboys Interested in Vernon Carey

VernonCarey
Vernon Carey – OG – Dolphins:  made a successful move from RT to RG for Miami last season…at 6-4, 335 pounds, gives much needed size to interior line…a middle of the road option financially, Carey won’t break the bank and beyond being a starter at guard, he brings position flexibility since he could move out to tackle if there was an injury to either Tyron Smith or Doug Free…an often overlooked need since untested Jermey Parnell is currently the swing tackle on the roster.


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(cbslocal.com)
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Why was Eric Winston cut? Here are four theories

EricWinston
I don’t believe that cutting Eric Winston was a good “football decision”…. at least not entirely.  Clearly, the Texans needed to shave salary to get underneath the salary cap. By cutting Winston, they accomplished that.  However, I’m not sure why the Texans didn’t go to Winston to restructure his deal.  They wouldn’t have saved as much with a restructure, but they could have kept their offensive line together.

Continuity on the offensive line is key.  The best run blocking units are the ones who play together the longest, and the Texans unit has been together for consecutive years.  Good zone-scheme teams work as one fluid unit with five, six or seven players up front working as one.  When you get a running back like Arian Foster who runs with elite tempo and vision, that running game unit is a sight to behold.

So with Eric Winston gone, there has to be a concern about continuity on the offensive line along with timing.  Will the running game be as good?  How long will it take a new right tackle to get into a groove at that position?  Or worse yet, what if cutting Winston doesn’t ensure that Mike Brisiel and Chris Myers are still Houston Texans?  What will happen to the Texans offensive line if they lose two or more starters?

Why Was Eric Winston Cut?

Let’s take a look at some potential theories as to why Eric Winston was cut.

The Mario Factor?: There is still a theory out there that the Texans continue to make room under the cap so that they can re-sign Mario Williams.  Winston had only two years left on his deal so the Texans wouldn’t have been able to restructure the deal to their liking without more years available to spread a prorated signing bonus over.  While Winston’s cut clears a decent amount of space, sources have told me that they aren’t close on a deal with Chris Myers or Mike Brisiel.  If the Texans lose the right side of their line and their center along with the cap cuts they have already made, they could be putting together enough space to get Mario Williams done….. but at what cost to the team?

Stabilizing Offensive Line Prices?: Duane Brown is one of the top offensive tackles in football and will command that type of salary next year when he is a free agent.  If you pay Duane Brown top dollar, then you would have a fairly expensive running game when you factor in Chris Myers, Eric Winston and Arian Foster.  The Texans have already spent on Foster so they may be deciding that they need to preemptively attack the amount of money they want to pay to their running game which includes offensive linemen.

Better Value To Be Had?: Maybe the Texans simply thought Eric Winston wasn’t as good as he needed to be relative to his salary.  If that were the case, they could have decided to cut him in favor of the less expensive Rashad Butler who has longer arms and maybe a shade more athleticism.
Are The Manning Rumors True?: This one is a long-shot, but what if the Texans are clearing out space for Peyton Manning?  If they also dealt Matt Schaub, they could save even more cap space and potentially have enough room for a 2nd-tier wide receiver as well as Manning if they structured the salaries appropriately.  I don’t see this as a viable option, but at least it is on the table.


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(chron.com)
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Chris Perez (oblique) to throw from 150 ft. Wed.

ChrisPerezIndians
Chris Perez (oblique) is planning to play long-toss from a distance of 150 feet on Wednesday.

If that goes well, it won't be long before Perez is cleared for mound work. He suffered an oblique strain while throwing his first bullpen session of the spring and was originally prescribed a recovery timetable of 4-6 weeks. But he's currently ahead of that pace and could be ready for Opening Day if the progress continues.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Danny Valencia hopes to rebound in 2012

DannyValencia
Danny Valencia may smile more per minute than any other player in the Minnesota Twins’ clubhouse, like a kid living the dream of being a pro baseball player.

Last year, those smiles were fewer and farther between.

“This game is very humbling,” Valencia said. “It’s a tough game, it’s a hard game. It’s a game of adjustments.”

Valencia has already had to make a few adjustments, starting last year with his expectations. The third baseman made a quick impression on the Twins in his major league debut in 2010, hitting .311 after getting called up and .394 with runners in scoring position, best in the American League. He finished third in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year honors.

But 2011 hit hard for the Twins as they dropped from AL Central champs to dead last with 99 losses. It hit similarly hard for their rising star at third base.

“Last year was tough because we got used to winning so much in 2010, and to come into 2011 and not play the way we need to play was definitely disappointing,” Valencia said. “It was definitely frustrating.”

Valencia experienced a similar dip from the year before, watching his batting average drop from .311 to .246 over his first whole season, adding 15 home runs and 72 RBI. His struggles carried over to defense, where he committed 18 errors.

It was disheartening for Valencia, and worrisome for a Twins organization hoping he could be the next big star to follow in former MVPs Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer’s footsteps.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. “I think that’s the apparent visual of him. He can do everything most third basemen that make all-star teams can do. He can hit a long way, he can really throw, he’s a better runner than you’d think. He’s certainly athletic enough to play the position.”

But Valencia got frustrated with his inconsistent production and his team’s spiral downward, and the frustrations manifested on the field and in the clubhouse.

“Sometimes it was about taking your bat out to the field, or sometimes it was how you’d react to a bad call,” Ryan said. “Sometimes it was about what was written, and players, some react better than others. How you fit into a clubhouse and all that stuff. A couple of years ago, when he came up here, you didn’t hear much of that about him because we were winning a lot. Last year, some stuff might have come out because we weren’t winning.”

But Valencia is smiling again this spring, with the hopes of a breakout for himself and a return to glory for his team. Though the Twins have struggled at the plate, Valencia has shown some encouraging signs, knocking out home runs two home runs in the last four games to lead the team in the statistic this spring.

And Valencia is starting to show that enthusiasm again.

“I try to be in good spirits. I try to have fun,” Valencia said. “I’m getting paid to play a game. And this game’s predicated on failure, so to get the best out of all the failure and to deal with it throughout the season, you’ve got to loosen it up and have a little fun with it.”

He’s focusing now on improving every outing with the belief he can be the next homegrown star for the Twins.

“I think so,” Valencia said. “I feel that way. I have confidence in my abilities. But until then, I’m a role player. I’ll do my best to help my team, drive in runs, play good defense, and let our so-called ‘big boys’ do what they do.”


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(news-press.com)
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Texans waive offensive tackle Eric Winston

EricWinston
After starting 87 consecutive games and helping the Texans win the AFC South for the first time, right tackle Eric Winston became a shocking victim of the salary cap on Monday.

Winston was surprised when coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith called him in, gave him the bad news and explained their reasoning.

“Basically, they told me they were up against it (the salary cap) and didn’t want to insult me by asking me to take a pay cut,” he said. “They said they hated to do it and maybe we could work something out down the road, but, well, I’m just stunned. I didn’t want to leave. This just sucks.”

Winston, who returned this weekend from a USO trip to Afghanistan with other players from around the NFL, is regarded as one of the best in the league at his position. It could turn into a bittersweet situation because productive offensive tackles are going to be scarce in free agency.

“It’s kind of exciting, too, not knowing what’s going to be out there,” he said. “I know there’s not going to be a lot of right tackles out there, so it’s going to be exciting to see how it shakes out.

“Unless somebody blows my socks off (with an offer), I won’t be in a rush to sign. I definitely want to be in a good situation like we had here.”
Winston, a third-round pick in 2006, leaves a hole in the starting lineup.

The only remaining tackles on the team besides starter Duane Brown on the left side are Rashad Butler and Derek Newton. Butler spent last season on injured reserve. Newton was a seventh-round pick last year. He played on special teams and in short-yardage situations.

“It’s frustrating in a sense because we went through so much to get to where we finished the season,” Winston said. “I wanted to be a part of what’s ahead.

“I still think the Texans are going to be great. They don’t need me to be great. I think they’re going to have a big-time team next season, and I’m sorry I’m not going to be part of it.

“But one door closes, and it’s a little exciting to see what door opens.”


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(chron.com)
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Eagles Tender RFA Antonio Dixon

AntonioDixonEagles
The Eagles tendered defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, a restricted free agent, at a second-round level on Monday.

If another team attempts to sign Dixon before April 20, the Eagles would have seven days to match the offer or receive a second-round draft pick as compensation.

Dixon's salary for the year will be $1.927 million.

The fourth-year defensive tackle suffered a season-ending triceps tear in October, but is said to be on course to return by the start of spring practices. Dixon, a former undrafted free agent of the Redskins, was acquired by the Eagles in 2009 and developed into one of their best run-stopping defensive tackles.

Dixon is the Eagles' lone restricted free agent.

Free agency and the start of the league year opens Tuesday at 4 p.m. The Eagles have ten unrestricted free agents, including guard Evan Mathis and defensive tackle Derek Landri.


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(philly.com)
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Bruce Johnson New Contract Details

BruceJohnsonGiants
I've changed a bit of this entry because of some new information. First, remember a few weeks ago when I reported (along with all my colleagues) that CB Bruce Johnson and TE Jake Ballard each signed their "Exclusive rights free agent" tender offers (one year, $540,000)? Well, in Ballard's case that was true. But Johnson, it turns out, was actually a restricted free agent.

Coming off a torn Achilles (and with the minimum restricted tender price being $1.26 million) the Giants were going to tender him, so instead he signed what appears to be a one-year, $540,000 contract.


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(nydailynews.com)
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Cards not expected to sign Reggie Wayne

ReggieWayne
If the Cardinals do land Peyton Manning, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic does not expect them to pair him with free agent Reggie Wayne.

Wayne wants a "package deal" with Manning, but he also seems primarily intent on returning to Miami, where Wayne went to college. At this point, Wayne has emerged as a likelier candidate than his longtime quarterback to play for the Dolphins. The Cardinals could use Wayne, but they're also a bit strapped for cap space. They might defer to Early Doucet's younger legs.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Will Eric Winston savings save Chris Myers?

EricWinston
Texans right tackle Eric Winston announced on Twitter that he’s being released by the Texans in a move that’s got to be coming to help give the team enough money to make bids to keep outside linebacker Mario Williams and center Chris Myers.

Winston was slated to make a $5.5 million base salary in 2012.

Four tweets from Winston:

Unfortunately I have bad news. The Texans have decided to release me today. Although it is a surprise, I have nothing but positive memories

And great relationships that I have built over the years. While my future seems uncertain, I am confident I will land on my feet.

Let me say thank you to Mr. McNair and the whole Texan organization. They have had big role in the player and person I have become.

And last but not least to my fans and teammates. You guys are the absolute best! I will miss all of you more than you know.

It’s a classy exit following surprising news.

The Texans' offensive line has been a team strength and Winston has been an effective player in helping spring Arian Foster for an awful lot of yards. When an O-line is a team strength, continuity is usually a big part of it.

The Texans now need a starting right tackle, and their center (Myers) and right guard (Mike Brisiel) are on the eve of becoming free agents.

Houston fans are surely hoping news of new contracts is coming before then.

As for Winston, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said he could see him landing in Washington, Seattle, Miami or with the Jets.

"Winston came to THE U as a TE, but just kept growing," Williamson wrote me. "Before blowing out his knee, many considered him a truly elite LT prospect. He fell in the draft a bit after his injury, but remains long, athletic and very mobile. Perfect for the system he was in with the Texans, and I thought he had a very good year. I bet the Skins would kill to get him."


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(espn.com)
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Interview - Muriel Ahouré (CIV) SILVER MEDALLIST, 60m Women, IAAF World Indoor Championships Istanbul 2012.




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Danny Valencia showing signs of returning to form

DannyValencia
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- After breaking out as a rookie in 2010, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia went through a sophomore slump of sorts last season.

There were some bright spots -- he hit 15 homers while leading the team in games played (154) and RBIs (72) -- but saw his batting line tumble from a .311 batting average/.351 on-base percentage/.448 slugging percentage to .246/.294/.383.

Valencia also had his fair share of struggles in the field, committing 18 errors and ranking in the bottom half among third basemen in advanced metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and the Fielding Bible's Plus/Minus System.

As a result, Valencia spent all offseason working hard on both his offense and his defense, and it's carried over into Spring Training.

Valencia has spent extra time on practice fields working on his swing with hitting coach Joe Vavra and Hall of Famer Rod Carew, while also taking his fair share of ground balls.

The results have been paying off, as Valencia is hitting .353 with two homers and five RBIs in six games while looking much more comfortable at third base.

"Danny has been working at it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been on the extra field taking extra swings, doing things in the cages. He's told himself he's going to use the whole field and drive the ball. When he starts looking around and tries to hit the ball where they ain't, [that] is when he starts to get in trouble. But when he gets the barrel out on the ball, he can drive it with anybody."

Valencia said one thing he's been trying to get better at is driving the ball with power to right field, as he hit just .179 with three doubles and no homers on balls hit to the opposite field last year. This spring, he already has two doubles to right.

"I feel like I'm doing well and at my best when I'm using right field," Valencia said. "I'm a natural right-field hitter and it's something I've been my whole life. So it's something in Spring Training I've really emphasized."

But while Valencia is trying to improve his all-around approach with ability to use the whole field, he's also not shying away from turning on the ball, either.

Both of his homers this spring went to left field, and his raw power remains one of his best tools, as evidenced by his 15 homers last year and the shows he puts on during batting practice.

"We've been working on staying through the ball," Valencia said. "Working on driving the ball to the big part of the park and getting some good backspin on the ball. Trying to get it true with some good spin on it. I feel like I've gotten some good results with it, but obviously it's still just Spring Training, so it's a process. I've made some strides, but I'm not where I want to be yet."

Valencia is also working hard to improve his defense, as he had trouble ranging to his left year because of his tendency to stand straight up, which allowed balls to get under his glove. He also is trying to set his feet better on throws, as he made 10 throwing errors last season.

"I've worked a ton on my defense," Valencia said. "After last year, obviously, you can't be content with the way things went. I need to get better. My defense is going to be a work in progress forever. It's not just going to be, 'Oh, he's great.' It's something I'm going to have to work at."

Gardenhire has noticed a difference already this camp, and he praised Valencia for making the necessary changes.

"He's attacking the ball a lot lower," Gardenhire said. "His legs are underneath him a lot better. The big thing with us is not standing up and going after a ball. He's staying low now. He's using his legs a lot better. That will help his movement automatically, because he's going to be closer to the ground rather than standing straight up in the air and having to go back down."

So while Valencia has been impressive at camp, it's only been through six games and he needs to prove it over the course of the season.
The Twins remain hopeful that Valencia can be their third baseman of the future, but now it's up to him to prove it this year.

"Everybody wants Valencia to take the next step is what it comes down to," Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said. "There's no reason he shouldn't be a guy who's a productive member of this organization. We've been looking for a guy to get over there who's got the prototypical third-base skills, and he has them. Now we've just got to get some consistency, is all."


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(mlb.com)
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DJ Williams Suspended 6 Games

DJWilliams2
Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams issued a statement to ESPN.com in response to his six-game suspension from the NFL to start the 2012 season. Denver free-agent defensive lineman Ryan McBean was also suspended for six games.

STATEMENT OF D.J. WILLIAMS, LINEBACKER, DENVER BRONCOS

I understand from media reports today that the NFL has announced a suspension based on a specimen that the NFL acknowledges did not contain steroids or any illegal substance. Instead, the NFL contends that I provided a non-human specimen.

I have never failed a test of any kind — for steroids or illegal substances — during my eight-year pro career. I am proud of my record and proud of the way in which I conduct myself as a professional athlete and citizen. We proved — conclusively — at the NFL hearing on this matter that the NFL and its specimen collector wholly failed in their duties to safeguard and process my specimen properly.

In fact, the specimen collector was fired by the NFL after compromising my specimen as well as others’. The hearing officer, an NFL executive, ignored the NFL’s own Policy, engaged in inappropriate communications with top NFL officials about this matter without my knowledge or approval, corrupted the system, ignored that my specimen had been compromised, and now has subjected me to humiliation as well as suspension. We will be vigorously pursuing my rights in the judicial system.

My suspension is unjust; the NFL has undermined and corrupted its own steroid policy.


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(espn.com)
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Olivier Vernon Looked Explosive in LB Drills

OlivierVernonCanes
Defender Olivier Vernon ran under 4.7 seconds today, the time he hoped to clock at the combine. His weight was 262 pounds and afterward Vernon looked explosive and fast in linebacker drills.




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(cnnsi.com)
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Laron Byrd & Aldarius Johnson Sizzled at Pro Day

AldariusJohnson
Receiver Aldarius Johnson, who was suspended for the 2011 campaign due to off-field infractions, and Laron Byrd, a highly rated senior wideout who put up pedestrian numbers last season, both sizzled on at their pro day.

Johnson measured just under 6-2 and weighed 208 pounds. His 40 times clocked in the low 4.4-second range, with a few watches reading 4.40. Byrd, who is slightly larger and was considered a potential third-round choice entering the season, ran a tad slower, timing 4.45 seconds. Both wideouts caught the ball well during workouts, showing the ability to easily adjust and catch the errant throw in stride.


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(cnnsi.com)
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JoJo Nicolas Underrated, And Impressive

JoJoNicolas
Also impressing at Pro Day was underrated safety JoJo Nicolas. He measured 6-0, 196 pounds and ran a time of 4.56 in the 40. During drills, Nicolas showed impressive ball skills and the ability to cover large amounts of area in a short time. He performed much better than expected and set himself up as a potential late-round choice.


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(cnnsi.com)
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Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Buys $3.4 Million Estate From Vernon Carey

TheRock
You may not be able to smell what Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is cooking, but you can see the gleaming backyard grill where it's about to go down.

After unloading multiple South Florida properties last year, the movie star and WWE legend just bought a massive 13,353-square foot mansion just north of Miami from another former University of Miami football player, Miami Dolphins tackle Vernon Carey.

Though the two didn't overlap on the UM practice field, clearly some guys don't just bleed orange and green but buy it, too. South Florida Business Journal reports The Rock paid $3.4 million for Carey's grandiose gated estate, which features six bedrooms, six and a half baths, a pool, 14-seat home theatre, and a lush, sprawling footprint in the midst of Southwest Ranches' much sought-after Landmark Ranch Estates.

(Perhaps The Rock can organize block parties with the Dolphins' Karlos Dansby, who lives across the street, and new neighbor Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat.)

Not only did the Johnson and Carey keep it in the U family, but the sale was made by Campins Company agent Octavia McDougle, who is married to former Dolphins tackle Stockar McDougle and the sister-in-law of former UM defensive end Jerome McDougle.

"Campins Company congratulates one of our own, Octavia McDougle, on keeping it all in the family with this recent sale," said celebrity and sports real estate mogul Katrina Campins. "There is strength in unity, and The 'U' continues to prevail and stick together...champion blood pumping, with swag. Once again, it all starts at home. We grow and we give. We learn and we teach. As the legacy continues, forever, for always and no matter what."

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Tavares Gooden Wants To Test Market

TGooden49ers
Tavares Gooden: The 49ers want Gooden back and have made him an offer, but the linebacker seems to want to test the market.




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(sacbee.com)
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Jeremy Shockey will have to take pay-cut, Unlikely To Return To Panthers

ShockeyPanthers
The Panthers are not expected to offer free agent Jeremy Shockey the $4 million he made in 2011.

Shockey is one of the "jewels" of an extremely thin tight end market, but has little leverage with the Panthers with Greg Olsen already set to make $5.5 million between bonuses and salary next season. GM Marty Hurney has said he expects Shockey back with the Panthers in 2012.

With Olsen already on the roster and signed through 2015, it just doesn't make sense to bring Shockey back at such a high cap number. If he were to take something much lower, he could return, although the veteran tight end will likely try to find more money elsewhere.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Super Bowl Champ Antrel Rolle Talks Class Act Brackets With Class Act Sports



Everyone is preparing to join in the annual college basketball festivities in the month of March, including Super Bowl champion defensive back Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants. While enjoying the offseason and taking in some sports other than football, the two-time Pro Bowler will be kicking back and playing along with Class Act Sports brand new app, Class Act Brackets.

A completely free pick 'em style bracket game, Class Act Brackets gives all players the chance to win $100,000 for completing a perfect bracket. Prizes will also be awarded to the top five gamers, and people can create as many custom private or public leagues as they wish while enjoying this year's college basketball tournament.

All 67 matchups will be announced during Selection Sunday on March 11, and fans can begin completing their brackets shortly after the schedule is set. Class Act Brackets is available for iPhone, iPad and Android, or directly through the official website at Brackets.ClassActSports.com
Check out ClassActSports.com along with Antrel and all the other basketball fans around the country for your chance to put 100 grand in your hand for free today!


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(classactsports.com)
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Murielle Ahoure Wins Silver

MurielleAhoure
Bulgaria's star sprint runner finished 8th at the 60 m women's final of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics in Istanbul Sunday.

Lalova, who was competing in a physically worsened condition, having a flu and fever, finished at 7.27 seconds.

Earlier Sunday the Bulgarian runner finished second in her semi-final group at 7.23 seconds.

The world gold went to Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, who ran the 60 m for 7.01 seconds.

Second was Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure (7.04 sec), while USA's Tianna Madison got the bronze (7.09 sec).


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Chris Perez on track to resume mound work this week

ChrisPerezIndians
Indians closer Chris Perez is making a steady recovery from the oblique strain that he suffered during his first bullpen session of the spring, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, and may be ready to resume mound workouts this week.

Perez, who was originally prescribed a recovery timetable of 4-6 weeks, has already progressed to throwing long toss at a distance of 105 feet.
Once he’s able to extend that to 120 feet, the Indians’ medical staff will clear him for bullpen sessions and then live batting practice.

“I feel good,” Perez told reporters Saturday in Indians camp. “Right now, everything is based on how I’m feeling each day and I’m feeling really good.”

The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 3.32 ERA in 59 2/3 innings last year, saving 36 games in 40 tries. If he’s not ready by Opening Day, early save chances will likely go to talented setup man Vinnie Pestano.


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(hardballtalk.com)
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Eddy Rodriguez trying to catch on at Padres Training Camp

EddyRodriguezCanes
Eddy Rodriguez, 26, who only three summers ago was the catcher for the El Paso Diablos, is one of seven catchers in the San Diego Padres’ major league camp.

“I’m pretty confident in what I bring to the table, but you never know,” said Rodriguez. “All you can do is show up and work hard.” The 6-foot, University of Miami (FL) product spent four seasons in the Cincinnati farm system, then played for El Paso, TX (American Association) before landing in Sioux Falls to anchor the catching for the record-setting 63-win season.

Known largely for his defense, Rodriguez is continuing to prove he also has some offensive skills, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 55 runs in 80 games at Sioux Falls and delivering another 10 round-trippers while covering all three classifications in his first season in the Padres’ system. “I’m a lot more confident after a couple of mechanical changes, and I have a better mental plan at the plate,” he said prior to spring training.

“An invitation to big-league camp is not something that is given out lightly, so we’re very excited about him having the opportunity,” praised Sioux Falls Manager Steve Shirley. One can only imagine the pride that showed up in the Pheasants’ office when the newspaper arrived Wednesday to show that Eddy Rodriguez, despite an 0-for-1 day, had gotten into his initial spring training game for a couple of innings, a 7-4 loss to Kansas City.


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(ktsm.com)
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Danny Valencia homers, doubles in victory

DannyValencia
Danny Valencia homered and doubled off Jo-Jo Reyes as the Twins beat the Pirates 4-2 on Saturday.

The Twins finally found a pitcher they could knock around a bit, scoring their four runs off Reyes in the fifth and sixth innings today. Valencia is 5-for-14 this spring. He'll be the Twins' everyday third baseman once again, but as much as his average fell off last year, his future as a long-term regular is in doubt.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Jon Jay is happy flying under the radar

JonJayCards
Jon Jay is used to being overlooked, at least by those outside his clubhouse.

Though the Cardinals made him their second-round selection in the 2006 draft, Jay was never considered his team's best player at the University of Miami.

That status was typically saved for current Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun or Miami Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Jay played alongside ex-Cardinals reliever and current Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez, Minnesota Twins third baseman Danny Valencia and Oakland A's second baseman Jemile Weeks.

During Jay's ascent to the parent club he was never regarded as the minor-league system's best outfielder. That distinction belonged to Colby Rasmus until he reached St. Louis in 2009.

"He may seem to some people like kind of a below-the-radar guy but, make no mistake, Jon's a great player," first baseman Lance Berkman said. "We don't win last year without him."

Jay, who turns 27 on Thursday, led the World Series champions in appearances (158) last summer and carries a career .298 average into his third major-league season.

Jay waited until the July 2010 trade of right fielder Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres before receiving an everyday opportunity. Jay's presence last season allowed general manager John Mozeliak sufficient leverage to package Rasmus within a three-team deal that brought pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson in return. Jay made 90 starts batting either leadoff or second for a team that led the National League in runs scored.

"Everybody has numbers but that's not what I'm primarily concerned about," Jay said before Sunday's Grapefruit League rainout against the Washington Nationals. "It's important for me to provide the manager options. I'm out there ready to play.

"My mind-set is to win every day. It's been that way in college and in the minor leagues. If the team needs a sacrifice or a hit-and-run, that's my role."

Jay's role has become a focal point since the Cardinals signed free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran to a two-year contract in December. Beltran once played elite center field for the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros and New York Mets before knee issues led him to a corner outfield position. However, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny may periodically explore returning Beltran to his former position as a way to get power bat Allen Craig playing time on an outfield flank.

On most days, Jay will find himself stationed behind five-time All-Star Matt Holliday and Beltran, a six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who opened his career as 1999 AL Rookie of the Year.

"I'm appreciated here. That's all that matters to me," he said. "I think that's been my story since high school. I've been lucky enough to play for a lot of talented teams where I've never been the best guy or a top-three guy. I've always been a guy whose role is to set up the big guys on the team."

"He's as valuable as anybody in here; he really is," Berkman said. "Guys like him and (infielder Daniel) Descalso are baseball players. Their value doesn't begin and end with statistics. The same applies with Craig. It's very unusual to see three young guys like that on the same team."

Jay has spent much of the last week listening to Jim Edmonds' thoughts on playing center field. He is also concentrating on translating his plus speed into more of a base-stealing weapon. (Jay stole a base before a fourth-inning downpour scrubbed Saturday's game.)

"He's got it in him," Matheny said. "You saw that today. He's got intelligence. He's got baseball instincts. He studies the game. He studies pitchers."
"There are certain guys that play a lot faster. He's not a burner like a Michael Bourn but he plays as good a center fielder because he gets great jumps, he positions himself well and he has great hands," Berkman said. "He runs good routes to the ball. At the plate he puts together great at-bats.

"To me, he was one of the unsung heroes of last year's team," Berkman added. "His ability to play center field allowed us to make the trade that got us the pieces we needed."

Jay's career has been predicated on events affecting others. That may again be the case this season given Matheny's use of Beltran at a position he hasn't patrolled since 2009.

"I've never been a player who took anything for granted," Jay said. "I just take it one day at a time. I never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I think things are definitely different this year. But I'm going about things the same way. I know nothing's guaranteed in this game, or in anything."


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(stltoday.com)
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