Tony Gonzalez: Saints' Jimmy Graham is 'underpaid still'

Though Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints spent the offseason disputing what position Graham played, it ended up not mattering after the two sides agreed on a 4-year, $40 million contract with $21 million guaranteed Tuesday. Even after Graham's big payday, however, 14-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez thinks the Saints tight end is underpaid. 

For the Win spoke to Gonzalez at a photoshoot Tuesday, and the former Chiefs and Falcons tight end shared his thoughts: 

"If you look at the numbers and production and what he means to that team, I think he’s underpaid still. If you compare him to all the other elite receivers around the league and leading the league with 16 touchdowns, 1,200 yards and 14 yards per catch. That’s an elite receiver and he should be paid like one. Just because he’s a tight end and that’s the name of his position he’s going to be paid less. I don’t think that’s fair."

Graham's 36 receiving touchdowns from 2011-2013 are the most in the NFL in that time. Graham's new deal makes him the league's highest-paid tight end. 

Bookmark and Share

Edgerrin James' free camp growing once again

In its second year at its new location, Edgerrin James' youth football camp is expecting a bigger turnout than last summer. But there's still room for more kids to sign up, organizers of the free event said.

The Edgerrin James Foundation Youth Football Camp is expected to bring about 600 kids from around the state to Ave Maria's North Park on Monday. The event, now in its fifth year in Collier County, is free to kids ages 6-18.

Last year around 500 children came to the camp its first time in Ave Maria. James, the former NFL All-Pro running back, started the camp in his hometown Immokalee in 2009. After the 2012 event was canceled due to maintenance on the facilities, the camp was moved to Ave Maria in 2013.

"We're expecting more people this year," said Karen Mingo, a project manager with James' foundation. "Last year we changed to a different location. It's a very nice facility, a very nice area. We had great support from the Immokalee and Naples areas. It should be even better this year."

After a year off and a change of venue, the camp's enrollment could creep back to the levels it enjoyed in Immokalee. The event hosted about 1,000 kids in 2010 and nearly 1,200 in 2011.

Foundation program director Yhonsha Rue said 200 kids have registered for the event. However, that doesn't include the charter buses the foundation is bringing in packed with kids from the Orlando and Miami areas.

Several high school football teams from South and Central Florida also are bringing their own buses, Rue said. Many high school teams come just for the 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the camp each year.

James, who played 11 seasons in the NFL for three teams, runs the camp and brings along some of his famous football friends to help coach. In the past, NFL players Reggie Wayne and Clinton Portis have been at the camp, along with super agent Drew Rosenhaus.

The list of this year's coaches isn't finalized, Rue said. Members of the James family, who help run the foundation, will be there. James' brother Jeffrey James, and cousins Javarris James, Walter James and Dedrin Smith all will be instructors. Each played football at Immokalee High School.

"Edgerrin's goal is to give back to the community that helped him," Rue said. "Kids can look forward to learning football and agility techniques. The focus is to get kids active in a safe environment."

Anyone wishing to attend the free camp can register on the Edgerrin James Foundation and Charities Inc. Facebook page. Registration the day of the event begins at 8 a.m., while the camp begins at 9.

Bookmark and Share

Arian Foster: Andre Johnson owns Houston

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster told local television station KPRC that Houston is receiver Andre Johnson's city, above other high-profile athletes.
Johnson is unhappy with the Texans over a disputed $1 million workout bonus and has said he is unsure if he will continue his career with the team. The 33 year-old has drawn considerable interest on the trade market as teams hope Houston parts with its star receiver.

Foster tried to persuade Johnson to reconsider his stance:

"He is Houston," Foster said. "I remember when I had my little run where I had like two back-to-back great seasons. I felt like this city loves me, they love me here. Everywhere I go, this is still Dre's city. I don't care if James Harden is walking around, Dwight Howard, whatever. This is Andre Johnson's city. He is Houston."

Johnson has been with the team his entire career since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2003. He finished the 2013 season with 1,407 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the 2-14 Texans.

Bookmark and Share

Olivier Vernon’s Breakout Season Is Just The Beginning

Among the most pleasant developments for the Dolphins during the 2013 season was the emergence of defensive end Olivier Vernonicon-article-link as a pass-rushing force.

It may have come to a surprise to some outside the organization, but the Dolphins had high hopes for Vernon from the time they made him a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. And it certainly wasn’t anything unexpected from the man himself.

In fact, Vernon is confident it was only the beginning.

“With me, I always have high confidence in myself,” Vernon said. “That’s how you play the game. You play the game with confidence. You need to have a lot of confidence when you’re out there on that field. Even my rookie year I had a lot of confidence out there. I just didn’t play as much as I expected to, but that’s how it is as a rookie.

“Coming into this season, I’ve just got to elevate my game, got to get better than I was last year on certain things. I’m looking forward to it. I wish the season was next month.”

No matter how hard he tries, Vernon will have his work cut out to match his output of 2013 when he tied for seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, the first time since 2008 (Joey Porter) that any Dolphins player other than Cameron Wakeicon-article-link had reached double digits in sacks.

The last thing Dolphins coaches should be concerned about, though, is Vernon getting complacent after his breakthrough season.

“The great thing about OV when you watch the tape, you’re hard-pressed to find guys that run to the football consistently like he does,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s a great effort player, he’s a team player, he has become a lot more disciplined. His rookie season, there was always that occasional one or two plays a game where he might have not cut a line correctly or missed an opportunity on something, but last year he was on point. He’s got a chance to develop into a dynamic player.”

When Head Coach Joe Philbin was asked about Vernon during the spring, he pretty much offered the same review of Vernon in terms of his nonstop effort.

It’s that work ethic that led, in large part, to Vernon’s success last season. It’s also why he wasn’t surprised by what he accomplished.

“Obviously I was really excited,” Vernon said. “My hard work was paying off and it was showing out there on the field. Pretty much the offseason I was just working on all my fundamentals and getting everything complete as far as my hand technique and stopping the run. As soon as the season started and the results started coming in I was kind of excited about it.”

Vernon’s emergence provided a big boost for the pass rush.

But even now, Vernon somehow gets overlooked because he plays a position where the Dolphins have one of the best pass rushers in the game over the past five years and also have the first defensive player taken in the 2013 NFL draft.

Rest assured Vernon won’t be overlooked this season by opposing offensive coordinators. Truth is, he probably can expect getting more attention.

“I hope not,” he joked. “Nah, I’m playing. It’s all about making your name known out there. Everybody wants to build that respect. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

And of being possibly overlooked by the media, Vernon simply says, “It is what it is. My play is going to speak for itself. That’s all that matters.”

For Vernon, it’s not so much about the results but about the process.

“My motivation is just competition, just competing,” Vernon said. “I have my own personal goals that I had last year. I’ve just written up some new ones for this year. It’s all about keeping yourself motivated by just competing out there. That’s one thing I just love to do. I love to compete. It’s the style of player (I am). My plays and the actions are going to speak for themselves.”

In that sense, Vernon is a little bit like the greatest pass rusher in Dolphins history, Jason Taylor.

Vernon got to pick Taylor’s brain in the offseason when Taylor spent some time at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University as a guest coach.

“I was kind of surprised when he came out here,” Vernon said. “I was excited in a way as well. I was excited for him coming into the building. That’s a future Hall of Famer right there. He did so much for this organization and to just pick his brain on anything that he has to dish out and just help us, I was excited.

“(He did) a lot with the hand technique, being able to get the offensive lineman’s hands off you as quick as you can, just recognizing how offensive linemen set, so better play recognition and what to expect before the play starts.”

The kind of advice someone like Taylor can dish out is only bound to help Vernon and the other Dolphins defensive ends.

For Vernon, every little bit can help. And that’s what it’s all about for him, always getting better. And that comes with hard work.

“(The 2013 season) wasn’t a surprise to me because I put in the work,” he said. “When you put that work in, you try to get some good results. This year I’m just trying to do the same thing, trying to get better as a player and a person and as a leader.”

Bookmark and Share

Calais Campbell lands on 'defensive matchup nightmares' list

Even in a league populated by physical freaks, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is an anomaly.

With his combination of height, muscle and agility, Campbell is consistently a matchup concern for opposing offensive coordinators.

Now, he's landed on ESPN insider Field Yates' list of the the league's biggest defensive matchup nightmares. Campbell, who is entering his seventh season with the Cardinals, is seventh in Yates' pecking order.

Campbell's numbers are very good, but it's best to evaluate him by throwing out the stats. His combination of a thick build and length (he's 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds) allows him to play practically anywhere along the defensive line. Campbell can line up as an edge rusher; he can anchor the middle of the line; he can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 -- no matter where he is, he's bound to generate pressure. His long arms allow Campbell to ward off double-teams at the point of attack and wield leverage against stockier offensive linemen. He has a Watt-like feel for when to get his hands up in the passing lane, too.

Campbell is the third defensive end on the list, behind only Houston's J.J. Watt (first overall) and St. Louis' Robert Quinn (second overall).

In 2013, the former Miami Hurricane registered 58 total tackles and a career-high nine sacks for a defense that took great strides under first-year coordinator Todd Bowles. Campbell also forced one fumble, recovered two others and knocked down six passes.

Bookmark and Share

James Jones joins LeBron James in Cleveland

LeBron James is the sly fox raiding the Heat’s pantry at this point.

Heat president Pat Riley knew he couldn’t keep them all in Miami, but losing James Jones to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday must have come as a mild surprise to the Miami Heat president.

Jones had said after the NBA Finals he wanted to remain with the Heat if they would have him, but now he’ll be wearing Cleveland colors alongside James next season. Jones reportedly agreed to a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum.

It’s unclear if the Heat actually had plans to bring Jones back, but there’s no doubting the fact that the Heat is short a few veteran shooters at this point in the free agency process.

Someone with Jones’ unique expertise is valued on any roster, and James jumped at the opportunity to bring Jones with him to the Cleveland. Jones shot over 50 percent from three-point range last season in 20 games, and shot nearly 47 percent from the field in the 2014 playoffs.

For the Heat, he would have been a nice security blanket now that Shane Battier has retired and Rashard Lewis, late Tuesday night, agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

Jones, 33, spent six seasons with the Heat, winning two championships, and was valued for his work ethic and uncanny ability to come off the bench and make timely three-pointers.

But despite Jones’ expressed desire to stay with the Heat, James apparently recruited the Miami native and former Hurricanes star heavily. James, Jones and Ray Allen went on vacation together to the Bahamas after the Heat lost to the Spurs. At the time, that was viewed as positive sign for the Heat. On second thought, James might have been plotting to take Jones to Cleveland all along.

James received a commitment from another former Heat player on Tuesday when Mike Miller joined the Cavaliers. James values Jones and Miller for their ability to spread the floor offensively. James openly called for Jones to be inserted into the Heat’s rotation during the NBA playoffs. In Cleveland, Jones will be a valued mentor on a young team.

Bookmark and Share

Why to watch Erik Swoope at training camp

The Indianapolis Colts have a 90-man roster heading into training camp and have to find a way to cut that down to 53 players before the start of the regular.

Now while there aren’t many coaches to watch every single player, rookie tight end Erik Swoope is a must watch in this year’s camp.

Now let’s take a look at Swoope’s history playing football: there is none.

That was quick.

But don’t let that take away from his chances of not only making the team, but making an impact on this upcoming season.

A few guys you may have heard of would be tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, and Tony Gonzalez. Those names sound familiar? Not surprised. Players like them are some of the best tight ends in the NFL today and have all made transitions from playing basketball to playing football.

When you look at the size and speed of Swoope, it is a framework that can easily translate to having success in the NFL.

Swoope is 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 246 pounds, a prototypical size for an NFL tight end. Analyzing a player such as Swoope this early is a challenge for anyone, but like I’ve said before, this wouldn’t be the first time a basketball player has made a transition to the NFL. What can help the transition from basketball to football is boxing out. Obviously, when a player misses a shot in basketball you have to be able to box out and get the rebound.

Now in the NFL, there are situations when the quarterback throws a fade route to the end zone and as a receiver catching the pass it is your job to set yourself up in position where you can jump up and make the catch.

Head coach Chuck Pagano has been impressed with Swoope so far stating how he has “exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you’d ever imagine for a guy that never played.”

Swoope is currently in a position where he could compete for a lot of playing time with the Colts.

Tight end Coby Fleener is currently the starter for the Colts with tight end Dwayne Allen currently his backup. Allen is coming off a season-ending hip injury he suffered in the first week of the season against the Oakland Raiders. While Allen did have a productive rookie season the year before leading all rookie tight ends in receptions in 2012, the Colts may try to play it safe with Allen and not give him a heavy workload his first season back from injury. This move could lead to the opportunity for Swoope to see a lot of playing time and impress the Colts coaching staff even more.

Even though Swoope will have a lot to learn in the NFL, there is no doubt he is a player that can be a stud tight end in the game today.

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham, Saints agree to 4-year, $40M contract

Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints reached an agreement on a four-year, $40 million contract that makes the pass-catcher the highest-paid tight end in the league, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, per a source involved in the deal. The team later confirmed that they agreed to terms on a multi-year deal.

Graham received a $12 million signing bonus and between $20 to $21 million of the deal is guaranteed, Rapoport reported. Graham will be paid $13 million -- more money than if he was ruled a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes -- but will carry just a $4 million cap number for 2014. He will earn $21 million over the first two years of the contract and $30 million over three years.

The tight end's new contract places him above Rob Gronkowski's annual average salary of $9 million per season. Graham also got a higher guaranteed number than Gronk's $16.5 million on the Patriots' six-year, $53 million extension signed in 2012.

The four-year pact gives Graham another shot at free agency when he is 31 years old.

Graham and the Saints underwent a fierce offseason battle after the team placed the franchise tag on the player. Graham argued he should be tagged at the wide receiver level -- not the tight end level (a $5 million difference). The Saints won the system-arbitration decision.

On Monday, Rapoport reported that Graham appealed the league's arbitration decision that he is a tight end for franchise tag purposes. That move was insurance in case the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The appeal now becomes moot.

Graham and the Saints had until Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline to get a long-term deal signed. Much like Brees' negotiation with the Saints in 2012, deadlines generally spurn action.

Graham certainly deserves to be the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. He led the league last year with 16 touchdowns and gobbled up 86 passes for 1,215 yards -- despite being slowed by a plantar fascia injury for most of the second half of the season.

The $10 million average salary pays Graham closer to $12 million receiver tag than the $7 million tight end tag.

On its face, that average salary is similar to the contract extension receiver Brandon Marshall signed this offseason -- Marshall got a slightly higher guarantee at $22.3 million.

Graham's guaranteed money also outdistances the recent tight end deals of Jared Cook and Dennis Pitta by $5 million.

The Saints tight end would slide next to Marshall, as the seventh-highest deal for a receiver based on yearly average, with the guaranteed number placing him at No. 6 among wideout contracts, per

The facts of the deal boil down simply: Graham got paid as a top-flight pass-catcher -- which he is -- and can test the market again in 2018. The Saints locked up their most dynamic playmaker for four seasons at a reasonable cost.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore Should Still Rank Among NFL's Most Complete Backs

Maybe it’s Frank Gore’s age. At 31, the 49ers’ running back should be slowing down – though he’s not shown any signs of it even after nine NFL seasons.

Or maybe it’s because Gore is on an offense with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and a group of able running backs waiting to succeed Gore in the starting lineup.

Perhaps NFL observers already are penciling in Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter for more carries and snaps in 2014.

But for whatever reason, Gore – long considered one of the NFL’s most versatile and skilled running backs – was left off a list this week compiled by analyst Bucky Brooks about the top 10 most complete running backs in the NFL.

Even though Gore had his third straight season of more than 1,100 yards rushing in 2013. Even though 49ers coaches consistently note that he’s perhaps the best-blocking running back in the NFL. Even though he’s caught 331 passes during his pro career – with five seasons of 40 or more receptions – Gore couldn’t crack the 10-man lineup of (from No. 10 to No. 1)  Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Matthews, Reggie Bush, DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.

Gore of course is past the age when most running backs hit the wall.

But with one more year on his contract, Gore continues to punish himself with challenging offseason workouts to keep himself sharp, and his teammates marvel at his fitness and desire to stay at the top of his game.

“I really think Frank has three more good years,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Bay Area reporters this spring. “I truly believe that. But we’re in a game of taking it one year at a time.”

In the playoffs last season, Gore proved in a victory over the Packers what an all-around talent he is. He had a key block on a 42-yard Kaepernick run, had a 10-yard TD run and a key 11-yard reception on the 49ers’ drive to the winning score.

Said Kaepernick after that game: “He’s one of the best, whether it’s lead blocking on a scramble or pass protection. He’s one of the best in the league at what he does.”

Offensive tackle Joe Staley agreed, saying Gore is “willing to do anything to help the team.”

Gore says being an all-around back is something that’s very important to him, and he credits former 49ers running back and current position coac, Tom Rathman for helping him focus on being the best blocker he can be.

“I’d rather do whatever it takes, whether it’s running, catching, blocking, whatever it takes to be successful,” Gore said during the 49ers playoff run last season. “My coach, Tom Rathman, he’s really big on it.”

With Gore’s proven track record, plus his 1,269 yards from scrimmage in 2013, it’s surprising Gore didn’t make Brooks’ top-10 list. But, Gore has been proving skeptics wrong for years.

It’s very likely he’ll do it again in 2014.

Bookmark and Share

Football IQ gives Greg Olsen edge

CHARLOTTE – I had a good idea what his answer would be, but I had to ask.

So not long ago, I stopped head coach Ron Rivera in the hallway at Bank of America Stadium.

"Which player on the team is best suited to devise a game plan and coach a game?"

Rivera thought for a couple seconds.

"Greg Olsen," he answered.

Just as I suspected.

Rivera smirked before adding one more thing.

"He's a coach's kid."

I'm well aware.

Chris Olsen is Greg's father and was his football coach at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey.

Chris Olsen was also my gym and driver's education teacher (I graduated from Wayne Hills in 2007; Greg graduated in 2003.)

In his time as head coach from 1987-2012, Olsen's father transformed Wayne Hills football. The program went from mediocre to unbeatable. From 2002-11, Wayne Hills won eight state football championships. At one point, the team won 55 consecutive games.

This wildly successful program produced an astounding number of victories but few major college prospects. The brightest stars were the three Olsen boys – the eldest, Chris, Jr., who played quarterback at Virginia, the middle child Greg and the youngest Kevin, who is a redshirt freshman quarterback at Miami.

Greg, a nominee for Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior, was a supremely talented high school player. But his father's teams did not overwhelm the opposition with sheer talent. They won with a commitment to preparation and consistent execution.

That was the program's edge.

Greg didn't need that edge to succeed in high school. But that's where he first discovered it.

Having a football coach for a father meant Greg constantly absorbed the game from the time he was a water boy.

"He was always there," Chris said.

On Monday nights in junior high, Greg watched film with his father's coaching staff. After his high school games, Greg would spend Saturday morning critiquing the film with his father.

"Being young and learning the intricacies of what's expected – and that there's a lot that goes into it – I think that laid the foundation that allowed me to be coached by anyone and absorb any type of system," Greg said.

And it laid the foundation for a successful football career.

"It's like if your father was the president of a bank and you grow up to be a successful banker," Chris explained. "You're exposed to it at an early age, and it certainly gave him a leg up. And being a smart person on top of it doesn't hurt.

"Some people just don't get it. Greg always got it."

When he arrived at talent-rich Miami, Greg's football acumen played an instrumental role in his rise up the tight end depth chart.

"I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to just get by on being one of the best athletes. I wasn't one of the best athletes at my own position, let alone the entire team," he explained. "I knew I couldn't just show up and be better than a lot of guys. I had to try to find that edge, and for me, a lot of times that edge was cerebral. I always tried to know what to do, and that carries you a long way."


Bookmark and Share

49ers Deep at Running Back behind Frank Gore

- Frank Gore continues to box in the offseason. The hand-speed and stamina training allows the 10-year veteran to fight off any runner who wants to take his on-field reps. Gore reached the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh time of his career last season and is poised to show no drop in his game once again. If prize fighters can stick around long into their sporting careers, why can’t Gore do the same?

- Marcus Lattimore is poised to face live contact in training camp and preseason games for the first time since he suffered his second devastating knee injury in the late stages of the 2012 college football season. Lattimore has shown a lot of burst and play-making ability in non-contact drills this offseason. We’ll know soon how this translates into the physical side of the game in the coming weeks.

- Don’t sleep on Kendall Hunter. He might be quiet, but the fourth-year runner does his talking in between the lines. Hunter had a solid offseason and like Gore, appears to be in line to maintain his running back duties of the past three seasons. Hunter has been solid as a backup, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 262 career rushes.

Carlos Hyde. San Francisco drafted the Ohio State product in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and it’ll be interesting to see how the physical runner is used in his first pro season. Hyde prides himself on being an every-down back. He showed he can catch the ball out of the backfield in spring drills, but how will he fare when picking up blitzing linebackers in one-on-one blocking drills? Hyde’s addition, coupled with LaMichael James’ change-of-pace skills, gives the 49ers an embarrassment of riches at the position. If Lattimore can return to form, San Francisco will have by far the deepest backfield in the league.

Bruce Miller signed a three-year contract extension through 2017, and all he got was a quill pen selfie… Miller probably won’t have to do as much H-back work this year, but the versatile fullback proved he can be a chess piece in coordinator Greg Roman’s offense… The 49ers drafted Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard in the seventh-round of the draft and he was the favorite player of Sooners head coach Bob Stoops. Millard is coming off a torn ACL and will likely start the year on the team’s Non-Football Injury List… Jewell Hampton rounds out San Francisco’s running back depth. He spent the past two seasons on San Francisco’s practice squad… The 49ers have averaged 137.6, 155.7 and 127.8 rushing yards per game in the past three regular seasons… Will that trend continue with a deep wide receiving corps on the roster? It remains to be seen. However, the running backs can help the passing attack, too.

Bookmark and Share

James Jones Foundation Hosts Camp For Under Privileged Kids

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It will be a summer to remember for more than 50 under privileged kids from South Florida thanks to Miami Heat player James Jones and his wife Destiny.

This week the 55 kids from the Chapman Partnership, a homeless assistance center, will be a part of the James Jones Legacy Foundation’s ‘Crew 22 Training Camp’.

The week long camp is filled with educational experiences the some kids can only only dream about. For example, the campers will get a chance to help tag sharks at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. They’ll also get to learn about loftier pursuits, a.k.a. aviation skills & lessons, at Experience Aviation based in Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

Then its back to the wonders of the sea at the Miami Seaquarium where they will experience marine life animal interactions, conservation education classes and hands-on experiments.

Jones and his wife founded the James Jones Legacy Foundation with the belief that every child who enters the program is welcomed with respect, the affirmation that he or she is special in this world and can make a difference.

By building confidence, character and hope, the foundation works to give the kids they serve a better future.

Bookmark and Share

GIF: Chase Ford With One Of The Top Vikings PLays of 2013

Adrian Peterson gets the football a lot. He gets the football a lot because he's the best in the world at what he does. Seriously, until he decides otherwise, the running back hierarchy in the National Football League is Adrian Peterson. . .huge gap. . .everybody else.

But sometimes, even AD needs a little bit of help to get by, and he got a significant boost from an unlikely source in the Minnesota Vikings' game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9.

Check out the GIF below to see proCane TE Chase Ford #86 give the extra boost Peterson was looking for to get into the end zone.


Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham appeals ruling, but record pact may be close

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday night that Graham and the Saints are close to an agreement on a contract that will make Graham the highest-paid tight end in NFL history. Terms were not disclosed.

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has appealed an arbitrator’s ruling that declared Graham is a tight end and not a wide receiver and should be franchise-tagged as a tight end. broke the news, citing a source close to the situation.

The difference between the two is $5.27 million — $5 million more than Graham was apparently willing to walk away from without a bigger fight.

The deadline to sign a long-term deal is 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That isn’t likely to happen now that Graham is digging his heels in. If no long-term deal is struck, he cannot negotiate a new contract until after this season.

The NFLPA agreed to advise Graham on his options at the conclusion of the arbitration ruling decided by special master Stephen Burbank last month. The crux of his decision was based on the distance from offensive tackle in which Graham lined up most frequently, and his multiple duties from that position — as a pass-catcher, but also as both a pass- and run-blocker. Saints coach Sean Payton was among those who testified in support of the Saints.

Graham made only $1.3 million in the last year of his rookie contract in 2013. He may want upward of $12 million, but the two parties may find something agreeable between that and the $7 million for a franchise-tagged tight end. But unless it happens between now and Tuesday’s deadline, no decision will be made until after the season.

Bookmark and Share

Eric Winston An Impactful NFL Free Agents Still Available

Offensive tackle Eric Winston, ex-Arizona Cardinal – Winston has become a well-traveled player, having spent six years with the Saints and one each with the Chiefs and Cardinals. He is not going to win a spot in the Pro Bowl, but he is a solid and functional tackle who should be able to man a spot on the right side.

At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Winston is a strong man who understands blocking tackles and can handle power rushers. He may have some problems with the speed guys, but he has the stature and experience to get the job done for one or two seasons for any team looking for consistency and depth on the offensive line.

Look for Winston to sign shortly after any team suffers a serious offensive-line injury during the early part of training camp.

Bookmark and Share

Big Things Expected of proCane Chiefs DL Allen Bailey

All has been quiet on the Kansas City Chiefs front as of late- the team has made no big moves in draft or free agency. Guys like Tyson Jackson and Brandon Flowers have come and gone, and new guys like Vance Walker have arrived.

Training camp is right around the corner- July 24th is the start of the roller coaster ride we call the NFL season. Much has been looked at this offseason about what the Chiefs may not have done in the offseason, but it’s time to turn the page and look at what some players have done.

Allen Bailey, the Georgia boy, has had quite the offseason that has gone a little too far under the radar. Bailey has played the majority of his NFL career in the  280′s coming in as a rotational linemen. All that is about to change as Tyson Jackson was given chance after chance to perform up to his draft status, but never broke through completely, resulting in the Chiefs moving on.

Bailey is one of the guys that will be assigned with replacing Jackson who just never lived up to the lofty expectations that being drafted number three overall brings. With Jackson gone, Bailey has looked at this offseason has a golden opportunity. This still-young player from middle of no where Georgia is ready to make the next step.

To Bailey that first step was packing on a few extra pounds to his smaller frame- Bailey has recently joined the 300 club. He says he has kept the same speed and agility he always had, but has now packed on the extra weight to be a force on running downs as well.

Training camp will be an essential time for Bailey, this is his time to shine. He will receive plenty of first team reps and will be given every opportunity to be a starter or a guy that is a regular in the line rotation. During OTA’s he did nothing but impress coaches.

At the very least Bailey is a guy to root for. This is a young guy from a small town with population under 100. He grew up hunting and fishing, and he’s no city kid looking for the spotlight. This is a blue collar kid that grew up fighting and earning everything he has ever gotten.

Should I mention this guy is a legend around where he is from? He was rumored to have killed an alligator with a shovel. Turns out that is no rumor as Bailey has confirmed that report during multiple different interviews.

What is not to love about this young player? He comes into the league as a 3rd round pick and has had to be patient with his playing time. It is not easy to dethrone a player that’s slated ahead of you when they were drafted number 3 overall. They will be given every opportunity imaginable to succeed, much more so than a 3rd rounder will be given that chance.

Instead of complaining, Bailey has gotten bigger and stronger every offseason. When his number is being called this training camp to prove he belongs in the starting line-up, what does he do? He goes out, bulks up so he is no longer just a specialist player but has now transformed himself into a potential every down player.

Allen Bailey has all of the intangibles to be the next starting defensive linemen for this team, he is physically there and mentally he wants it more than anything. Watch for this guy this training camp, #97 will be everywhere.

Bookmark and Share

John Salmons agrees to one-year deal to join the New Orleans Pelicans

While center Omer Asik is prominently in the New Orleans Pelicans' plans to help strengthen their frontcourt for this upcoming season, small forward Omri Casspi apparently is not.

That's because free agent small forward John Salmons agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal on Monday to join the Pelicans, a league source confirmed.
It appeared on Sunday, the Pelicans had fulfilled their need at small forward after reaching an agreement in a three-team trade to acquire center Asik and Casspi from the Houston Rockets.

But a league source said Monday that Casspi will ''most likely'' be waived after the NBA approves the trade involving the Pelicans, Rockets and Washington Wizards.

New Orleans desires a proven veteran and the 34-year-old Salmons has been in the league since 2002-03 and has a career 9.4 scoring average. He began his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, but has played for the Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.

This past season, he played in 60 games for the Raptors and averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds. Salmons, 6-6, 207 pounds, has not been in a starting role since the 2012-13 season when he started 72 of 76 games for the Kings and averaged 8.8 points.

Salmon's best season came in 2009-10 after he was traded by the Chicago Bulls to the Milwaukee Bucks. In the final 30 games, which he started 28, Salmons averaged 19.9 points.

Last week, the Atlanta Hawks put Salmons on waivers to clear salary cap space after acquiring him a week earlier from the Raptors in a trade.

Despite signing Salmons, the Pelicans could still look to fill the backup small forward spot with a player on their summer league roster. Former NBA veteran Josh Howard, DeQuan Jones, James Southerland and Courtney Fells are all vying for minutes this week.

Bookmark and Share

Jacory Harris & Jeremy Lewis Signed

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have signed international quarterback Jacory Harris and international offensive lineman Jeremy Lewis.

Harris, a 6-3, 203-pound native of Miami, Florida, spent last season with the Edmonton Eskimos following stints with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles. During his four-year NCAA career at Miami, he threw for 8,826 yards and 70 touchdowns while running for 626 yards and five rushing majors.

Lewis, a 6-4, 312-pound native of West Palm Beach, Florida, previously spent time with the Toronto Argonauts and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers after four seasons at Miami.

The Ticats also announced that national kicker/punter Brett Lauther has been moved to the practice roster and international defensive end Brandon Thurmond has been added to the six-game injured list.

The Ticats next game is Friday, July 18 when they take on the Stampeders in Calgary.

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Linder expected to man right guard for Jags

The Florida Times Union expects third-round rookie Brandon Linder to open the season as the Jaguars' starting right guard.

"The Jaguars drafted Linder to start right away," writes beat reporter Ryan O'Halloran. Linder finished spring practices as Jacksonville's first-team right guard, passing Jacques McClendon on the depth chart. Linder is the better talent. He and RT Austin Pasztor will make up the right side of the Jags' line.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson still unsure about Texans future, but trade more iffy

Just when there seemed to be detente between Andre Johnson and the Texans, it's getting harder to read the intentions of both sides regarding the 32-year-old wide receiver's near future in Houston.

On one hand, he just told the NFL Network that he's had some conversations with team officials and 'hopefully" will be there when the Texans open training camp in late July. On the other hand, he chose not to "talk publicly" about those discussions, and has no idea if he'll be a Texan come Week 1 of the 2014 regular season.

Another report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport detailed a potenital bigger rift between Johnson and the team. The issues include Johnson wanting his $1 million workout bonus as a good faith gesture for putting in his own extra work after he missed the early part of team workouts. That prompted Johnson to express his desire to play for another team, despite the fact the Texans have shown little willingness to trade him.

At this point, the Texans are opposed to dealing Johnson because he's a needed savvy No. 1 receiver in first-year head coach Bill O'Brien's passing offense. They need him to help their two newcomer quarterbacks, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tom Savage, as well as oto boost the value of secondary targets Deandre Hopkins and Garrett Graham.

Johnson also remains difficult to trade because of the fact it would cost the Texans nearly $12 million (in dead money) toward their salary cap for '14. Their better bet is to give the best Texan in franchise history assurances, both in terms of money and security beyond a contract that already goes through 2016, that he's still a highly valued member in their quest to quickly turn around a 2-14 season.

But should a trade occur, Johnson reportedly is willing to restructure yet again in order for his new team to be able to fit the receiver.

Stay tuned, but it still would be surprising if Johnson played anywhere other than Houston this season and for that matter, during what's left of his already great career.

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee holds football camp at Fontana Miller

Former Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee hosted his first youth football camp in California on Sunday at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana.
McGahee, who played 11 years in the NFL as a running back, wanted to try something new with his camp this year.

“I have done camps in Miami because I am from Florida, so it has always been there,” McGahee explained. “I thought why not expand and think outside the box.”

The Florida native was not sure what to expect when he decided to host a camp in the Inland Empire.

“It is a great experience, especially not being from this area, I did not know what the turnout would be,” he said.

McGahee was not the only person at the camp with NFL experience, Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward also attended McGahee’s camp as a coach. Ward and McGahee were teammates on the Cleveland Browns during the 2013 NFL season.

The NFL players partnered up with Miller football coach Justin Nast and his staff during the event.

“It was different (from previous camps),” McGahee said. “The coaches were really into it and helped me do things and showed me the way out here.”

The coaches broke up the participants into groups based on their football positions.

One of the participants was A.B. Miller linebacker Brian Martin, who was excited about the opportunity to take part in the camp activities with NFL players.

“I never did a camp before, so it was awesome to meet them and learn from their experiences,” Martin said. “They were very helpful and I plan to use some of the skills I learned during practice.”

Nast was happy that he was able to partner up with McGahee to bring a camp to the high school and San Bernardino County.

“Willis did a great job interacting with not only our kids, but also with the kids in the community,” Nast said. “We have a lot of great football around here and it is great to get recognized by such a high profile-star here.”

Nast also expressed how events such as this can provide positive outcomes and moments for the community.

“Our football team over the last couple of years has taken our shots and lumps, but giving our kids opportunities to be involved with players like this make it worthwhile,” he said.

An example that Nast shared was when Miller football player Marcus Cobian got the chance to meet his NFL idol, T.J. Ward.

“He got to meet T.J. Ward today, and that is one of the coolest things because his face dropped when he saw him walking onto the football field,” Nast said. “Those are moments and things you cannot get anywhere else, and that is why I love coaching and being here at Miller.”

The age of the campers ranged from ages eight to 18. The camp also saw football players travel from schools such as Moreno Valley Rancho Verde and Walnut to take part in the activities.

“It was a nice turnout — we had some high school kids and some younger kids out here,” McGahee said. “It was truly a blessing.”

At the conclusion of the football camp, McGahee preached to the campers about listening to their parents, teachers and coaches. He also told them that they should really be focused on their studies in the classroom at this age.

McGahee also told the campers that he plans to return to the University of Miami to finish his academic path in forensic science.

“I left early my junior year to pursue a dream I had of playing in the NFL,” he said.

He wanted to make kids aware that education is the key to success.


Shane Larkin excited about fresh start

The World Cup ended Sunday, and with it all the pronouncements about soccer being such a cruel game, as if the sport had a monopoly on misery.

Anyone who follows the NBA knows basketball can be just as cruel, if not more so. You can get hurt a few days after you get drafted, miss most of your rookie season, then get traded away, leaving you empty, frustrated and looking at an uncertain future.

In other words, you could be Shane Larkin.

The former University of Miami star guard was taken No. 18 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by Atlanta and immediately traded to Dallas. He had parlayed a strong sophomore season with the Hurricanes where he was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year into first-round draft status and he was looking forward to building on that success at the NBA’s Vegas Summer League. But the day before the Mavericks were scheduled to depart for the VSL, Larkin broke his right ankle. He would be out of action for nearly five months. Upon his return he was thrown into the deep end by the Mavs and wound up averaging just 10 minutes and 2.8 points.

But last month, Larkin found himself leaving Dallas as he was dealt to the New York Knicks as part of a five-player trade. For him, it marked a fresh start and he’s in Las Vegas this week trying to take advantage of the opportunity after rumors were bubbling that the Knicks were going to move him, rumors that turned out to be false.

“It was a tough year, definitely,” Larkin said. “Coming into last summer, I had a lot of momentum. I went from not being on anyone’s draft radar screen to getting picked in the first round. I was adjusting very well and then the tragedy of breaking my ankle and being out, it set me back and put me behind the 8-ball again.

“But I’m real excited about this opportunity. I’m playing for a coach in Derek Fisher who was a great point guard in this league for many years and I know I’ll learn a lot from him.”

Larkin said last year, while frustrating, wasn’t a total waste.

“I’ve seen how people work and how they prepare and what the NBA game is about,” Larkin said. “The speed of the game. The physicality. I’ve been able to already adjust to that. So I feel I’m a little further ahead.”

Larkin seems to have a good grasp of the triangle offense the Knicks are running. Heading into today’s 1 p.m. contest with Charlotte at Cox Pavilion, Larkin has averaged 8.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 turnovers for the Knicks, who are 2-0 in VSL play.

“When it’s run right, it’s a hard offense to stop,” Larkin said of the triangle, of which only the most basic elements have been installed by Fisher for the Knicks’ summer league stint. “But there’s always an option and I like that. There’s still a lot to learn. But so far, I’m pretty comfortable with it.”

Fisher said Larkin has proved to be quick learner during the short time the 5-foot-11 guard has been with the Knicks.

“Shane’s a solid person and he’s willing to listen and be coached,” Fisher said. “Hopefully, we can teach him a few things here in Vegas and get him some experience.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to him last year. But in some ways, it’s a blessing in disguise. He probably has an open mind toward things and he’s more of an open book in terms of learning.”

The son of Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, he was reminded by his dad when the trade took place to look at it from the positive side.

“My dad played his entire career in one place — Cincinnati — but he saw hundreds of guys get traded,” Larkin said. “He explained to me that professional sports is a business and the NBA is about business. When my agent told me I was traded to the Knicks, my whole world flipped upside down. I went from a place where I was comfortable in Dallas and where I knew the system and the coaches to having to learn new coaches, a new system and a new city.

“It was difficult at first. But for me, I see this as a great chance to start fresh. I also want to show everyone that my being picked 18th last year wasn’t a mistake.”


Shane Larkin clarifies his father's comments on Carlisle, Cuban

LAS VEGAS -- At this time last season, New York Knicks point guard Shane Larkin was on the sidelines due to an ankle injury. The surgery forced the then-Dallas Mavericks guard to miss his opportunity at NBA basketball in the Las Vegas Summer League. A year has passed, and Larkin is now a part of the Knicks. Larkin was acquired in the Tyson Chandler-Raymond Felton trade in late June. Shortly after the trade was announced, Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin spoke to the New York Post about the trade.

Shane Larkin wanted to clear the air on the comments.

"Let me clarify that situation," Larkin told ESPN Dallas. "My dad never said Coach Carlisle, [Mavs owner Mark] Cuban -- he never said that they don't know how to develop players because I got a lot better last year and I'm a lot better today than I was a year ago, regardless of the injury or anything. What my dad said was that the Dallas Mavericks are in win-now mode.

"Of course you're going to play Devin Harris, you're going to play Jose Calderon, you're going to play Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki. You're going to play the guys who have proven themselves in the league."

The article quoted Barry Larkin as saying that "Dallas doesn’t do a good job of developing players. They’re in win-now mode. [Coach] Rick Carlisle doesn’t know how to develop young players, and Shane was a rookie. It always was a struggle for him to figure out what was going on."

The Knicks point guard went on to contradict the comments that suggested his father had negative feelings about the Mavs.

"My dad never said that Rick Carlisle is a dummy, [that] he doesn't know what he's doing," Larkin continued. "It's not like that. My dad was just saying that they're a veteran team, they're going to playing their veterans because they want to win right now. That's not saying Shane can't help them, but they're going with the guys that have already proven themselves. That's exactly what he said. Whoever said that my dad was badmouthing the Dallas Mavericks organization, that's a complete lie.

"My dad has mad love for everybody in Dallas. He called Coach Carlisle, he called Cuban and he told him that the reporter took it out of proportion. I just wanted to clarify it for everybody, everybody in Dallas. That's not what happened."

Larkin was presented early with an interesting situation as he got to face his former team in the first game of the Las Vegas Summer League. Larkin said that he certainly doesn't have any bad feelings toward the team he was with during his rookie season.

"They did what was good for them, what was going to make them a better team," Larkin explained. "Dirk is getting towards the end of his career, so they had to bring in players who could help him now. I completely understood the situation. They did what they did. Now I'm in New York, and I'm in a great situation where I can hopefully grow in their system and get better and hopefully just become a great player in this league."

Larkin gets a fresh start in New York, but he wanted to make sure Dallas knew that there wasn't any real bad blood.


Yankees prospect Peter O'Brien is headed to the big time (eventually)

TRENTON — The weekend has to get better for Thunder power hitter Peter O’Brien, because it certainly didn’t start off very well.

O’Brien was ejected in the top of the first inning of Friday night’s series opener against the Akron RubberDucks. And that was the only game he was scheduled to play this weekend.

Saturday, O’Brien was on a flight to Minnesota for today’s MLB Futures Game. From there, he will fly to Altoona for Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star Game.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” O’Brien said before he left. “It’s an opportunity to represent the Yankees, the Trenton Thunder and USA baseball. I’m looking forward to it.”

O’Brien, one of five Thunder players in the EL All-Star Game and the only one in the Futures Game, is third in all of Minor League Baseball with 29 home runs. His power at Arm & Hammer Park has already become stuff of legend.

In his first weekend with the Thunder after being called up from Single-A Tampa, he homered three times in two games against the Reading Fightin Phillies, with one leaving the stadium and landing somewhere on Route 29.

More recently, he was coming off a three-homer series against Reading in Reading, Pa., in which the Thunder actually won three out of the four games.
“His power is substantial,” manager Tony Franklin said. “It’s quite impressive.”

A 2012 second-round pick of the Yankees out of the University of Miami, O’Brien is making a name for himself and getting honored accordingly.

“He deserves it,” Franklin said. “The Futures Game is a nice honor for him. It’s quite the honor. He’ll be in a Major League setting, a Major League atmosphere. That’s good. I hope he hits a home run.

“People in baseball know who you are when you have that kind of power. They’ll find you. It’s hard for a guy like that to be overlooked.”

O’Brien has done more than just hit home runs lately. He’s had six multi-hit games in his last 14 and was 5-for-11 in the Reading series after going 7-for-16 a few before against vs. Portland.

Now, he’ll get to go on a bigger stage on his way to what he hopes will eventually be the biggest stage of them all.

“It should be a lot of fun,” O’Brien said. “I’m just going to try to relax and take it all in as much as I can.”

This isn’t the first time O’Brien has played in a big-time atmosphere. In 2010, he played for Team USA in Japan.

“We beat Japan in Japan,” he said. “That was huge. Then we lost to a real good Cuba team, 2-1, in the final.”

Bookmark and Share