13 June 2010

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Giants' hopes of defensive improvement rest on Kenny Phillips' knee

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's been a lot of talk around the New York Giants about the competition between defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora, but the burning question with this team doesn't involve them. It centers on safety Kenny Phillips and his comeback from a serious knee injury.

And it should.

It's not just that Phillips' injury was so severe that some people outside the organization described it as career-threatening. It's that the guy is such a valuable member of this defense, such a rock-steady and dependable member of a once intimidating unit, that without him you wonder if the Giants D will be the same again.

I'm serious.

Yeah, I know it added free agents Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant and drafted safety Chad Jones in the third round, but I don't know how they fit in this defense. I know how Phillips does, and the moment he bowed out last season the Giants were doomed. In fact, when I called an opposing coach in mid-season to ask what was wrong with these guys the first position he pointed to was safety -- saying the Giants missed the hard-hitting Phillips more than most people realized.

Well, they miss him no more. Phillips is back with the team and was at last week's three-day mini-camp. He looks healthy and says there is nothing he can't do on his surgically repaired knee. For the moment, we'll have to take him at his word because while he ran on the sidelines, he wasn't allowed to join teammates on the field -- standing instead alongside teammates and coaches as they watched play.

But that changes when the Giants return to training camp in August. Phillips is supposed to be cleared for practice then, which means teammates and coaches can start watching him for a change. And it's then, I suggest, we get our first read on this defense and what chances it has for plugging last season's enormous holes.

"So much has been made of getting Kenny Phillips back at full speed," coach Tom Coughlin said after closing down mini-camp, "and I'm very confident -- he is also -- that he will be back. We look forward to it."

They should. They're a different team with him in the lineup. Granted, he suited up for only two games last season, but in those two starts he was a force -- with two interceptions in a Week 2 defeat of Dallas. But then he was sidelined with an arthritic knee condition that ended his season and that, basically, ended the Giants' season with it.

Forced to rely on replacements C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse, the club floundered, surrendering 40 or more points in three of its last four games and five of its last 11.

Fans wondered what went wrong, and Kenny Phillips was what. He wasn't around. So opposing quarterbacks picked apart the Giants' pass defense as they haven't in years. In the 14 games without Phillips, the Giants were tortured for 379 points -- an average of 27 a game -- with quarterbacks completing 64 percent of their passes for 29 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a passer rating of 99.75.

Brett Favre and Drew Brees each put up four TDs. Three others, including Carolina's Matt Moore, beat them for three. I think you get the idea. The Giants stunk. Afterward, team president John Mara fumed over his team's self-destruction, saying there was "no excuse" for the Giants' dreadful play the last 11 games. But, yes, there was. Kenny Phillips was absent.

Yeah, I know, sacks were down, the linebacking was awful and stupid mistakes were as widespread as pollen in May. Still, having Phillips patrolling the middle of the field would've made a difference, and the Giants know it.

"Kenny's a playmaker," said cornerback Aaron Ross. "Anytime he's back there, and the ball is in the air you feel like he's going to be there to protect you. Having 'KP' back and healthy is a huge deal."

First things first. He's back. We won't know how healthy he is until August when he intends to return to the field for the first time since last September. Phillips insists there are no problems, saying, "I can run, cut and cover ... everything." Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell the other day said he expects him in the lineup when the Giants show up at their Albany, N.Y., training camp.

Nevertheless, he still must get out there and demonstrate he's the same guy we watched last season -- a task he said he is ready to embrace.

"Do I have something to prove?" he said, repeating a question. "I do: That you can come back from this injury. A lot of people counted me out and said my career was over. I'm only in the league two years, and they're trying to get rid of me. There are a lot of people who say I won't be the same, but I'm going to prove those people wrong.

"When I was back there last year I made a lot of plays, not only in games but in practice, and guys kind of fed off my energy. And it just made us that much better. I think I bring the whole package. I'll be a leader when I have to be, and I'Il speak when I have to speak. Mostly, though, I'll just let my playing do the talking for me."

That sounds like a plan. Now let's see it in action. The Giants can't wait, and can you blame them? Their defense is counting on Phillips now more than ever.

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Santana Moss: Police find NFL file folder at Galea office

While executing a search warrant at the Toronto office of Dr. Anthony Galea last October, Canadian authorities carted off a significant amount of homeopathic medicines, almost 800 ampoules of substances with Russian labels and a small amount of human growth hormone, as well as evidence offering yet another connection to his treatment of elite athletes, specifically pro football players.

According to court documents ESPN obtained Monday, the lengthy list of items authorities seized includes an "NFL file folder," "Professional Players Journal" and "daytimer with football dates." Records indicate they also seized a "CFL [Canadian Football League] folder" from the office of Galea, former team physician to the Toronto Argonauts.

NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said Monday: "This is an ongoing federal investigation and we will cooperate fully, but we defer any comment at this time to the federal authorities."

The seven-page document filed with the Canadian court after the execution of the October search warrant does not identify any patients by name. The Washington Post reported last month that Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss was supplied HGH by Galea, and that he is among the unidentified players listed in federal documents. First-year Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, however, has said he expects the league to clear Moss "when people find out all the facts."

Moss was allegedly just one of the pro athletes Galea paid a house call on as he crisscrossed the country last summer injecting them with human growth hormone, which is banned by the NFL and most sports organizations, and other healing substances. Federal authorities have indicated it is unlikely that any of athletes who were treated by Galea will face charges.

Galea, a go-to doctor for injured athletes, emerged as the key figure in a U.S.-Canadian smuggling investigation last September after his executive assistant was flagged at the Buffalo border crossing with a bagful of medical supplies, including growth hormone. In May, the doctor was named in a federal criminal complaint with smuggling, conspiracy to lie to federal officials, unlawful distribution of HGH, introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

During the raid of Galea's office, authorities seized 42 patient medical files, the doctor's bank account statements, a file containing checks written to Galea, and computer hard drives, a recorder and other record-keeping devices. The bevy of seized substances ranges from the dietary supplement Xentropin, which promises HGH-like results, to a single ampoule of HGH and the anti-inflammatory drug Torado, to Mildronate, a heart medicine that's billed as capable of helping healthy people deal with physical and mental stress overload.

"I would imagine you could find that in any doctor's office," Mark Mahoney, Galea's Buffalo, N.Y.-based attorney, said of the items seized.

Mahoney also suggests that the government has failed to draw a distinction between Galea's use of homeopathic medicines and traditional drugs, although one of the substances he's alleged to use -- Actovegin, which is extracted from calf's blood -- is illegal in the United States and not approved for use in Canada. And growth hormone is permitted for only very limited uses by U.S. law.

"The government never seems to want to address the fact that Galea cured people with homeopathic medications," Mahoney told ESPN. "He is not using every pharmaceutical opiate and side-effect kind of drugs ... The government loves to let people think we're talking about performance enhancements when they know exactly it has nothing to do with performance enhancement."

The Toronto-based attorney for Galea, Brian Greenspan, didn't oppose the request from ESPN counsel to obtain a copy of the search warrant return. Greenspan said he signed off after recognizing that there were no patient confidentiality issues at stake, and also feeling confident the release of the documents wouldn't negatively impact his client.

"It is nothing," Greenspan told ESPN. "It is a standard return. It is an inventory of what was seized. The content of what was seized, the documents or items, there is nothing that speaks to anything or anyone inappropriate."

Greenspan said he doesn't believe the focus of the Canadian investigation centers on Galea's involvement with prominent amateur and professional athletes, although he says the same can't be true of the U.S. investigation across the border in Buffalo.

"The American prosecution seems to be focused on that exclusively," Greenspan said of the sports ties. "Dr. Galea is one of most active, successful sports physicians in this country ... He happens to have a large clientele of amateur and professional athletes."

Galea is not licensed to practice medicine in the U.S., yet he has gained a reputation in recent years for having treated well-known athletes including the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.

According to documents previously obtained by ESPN, Mary Anne Catalano, the former executive assistant to Galea, told U.S. and Canadian authorities of 23 athletes that she said Galea treated in the U.S. between last July 22 and when she was stopped at the border Sept. 14.

Catalano said she frequently accompanied Galea and met with athletes in "hotel rooms and their homes" to provide various medical treatments.

Galea is alleged to have treated athletes in eight major U.S. cities last summer, led by 11 athletes in Cleveland. Catalano told authorities that he also treated three athletes in New York during that time, as well as two each in Boston, Tampa, Fla., and Washington. He also visited athlete patients in Orlando, San Diego and San Francisco.

Catalano, a Canadian citizen, told authorities she witnessed Galea injecting a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin [growth hormone] into the injured knees of "at least seven athletes" while in the U.S. She described the cocktail as also containing Traumeel, vitamin B-12, Lymphomyosot and Procaine.

Based on documents from the case, it appears information provided by Catalano gave authorities a road map of what to look for when they showed up at Galea's office in Toronto. She told them that Galea kept separate files on his professional-athlete patients, and in some instances billed them under a separate company called Galea Investments Inc. She also identified where in the Toronto office he stored HGH, which requires refrigeration.

Catalano, who has been cooperating with the government, was initially charged with smuggling goods into the U.S. and later released on $10,000 bond. Her next court appearance is scheduled Thursday, though it's likely to be put off again.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Randy Phillips Expected To Sign With Lions This Week

After an injury-related false start in May, rookie safety Randy Phillips, an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla.), expects to sign with the Lions in time to participate in this week's mandatory minicamp (Wednesday through Friday), according to his agent, Tony Fleming.

Phillips initially joined the Lions for their rookie minicamp April 30-May 2, but lingering issues with his right shoulder -- he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in January -- kept him sidelined until now.

Phillips, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound safety, finished as the Hurricanes' fourth-leading tackler last season despite missing three games. In Detroit, he'll be reunited with Lions secondary coach Tim Walton, who was his defensive coordinator and position coach for three years at Miami.

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Saints Waive CB Glenn Sharpe

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Monday that the club has released defensive end Bobby McCray and waived cornerback Glenn Sharpe.

Sharpe is a first-year player who was signed to the Saints’ practice squad in January and spent the postseason there before participating in the club’s offseason program. A former University of Miami standout, Sharpe spent most of the 2008-09 seasons on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons after signing with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent.

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Tavares Gooden Gooden Turns to Yoga to avoid injury

Tavares Gooden can’t seem to shake the injury bug.

The third-year inside linebacker endured a groin injury during his senior year at the University of Miami, a hip injury that forced him to sit out the Senior Bowl, a hernia that cut short his rookie campaign after four games, and a concussion and a groin injury that sent him to the sideline for four contests last season.

In an effort to get sturdier, Gooden said he has added yoga to his offseason regimen and is considering seeking out a doctor to improve his flexibility.

“I’m a real fast guy and a real powerful guy. Sometimes I turn too quick or I wasn’t as flexible,” he said. “Me and Coach Harbaugh talked about that. It’s been tough, but I’ve been stretching up and rehabbing with the trainers not because of an injury, but to prevent an injury. That’s what I’ve been doing, just taking care of my body in the offseason so that it will last. … Every day is like we’re in a car crash. There’s no avoiding it.”

To that end, Gooden said he has slightly adjusted his mindset regarding practices.

“Last year, I was being reckless and treating every practice like it was a game,” he said. “That’s probably why I didn’t make it through the whole season. This year is a different approach. That’s the mentality this year. We have depth, and we’re all going to play. The competition is open, but at the same time, it’s not about killing yourself. It’s about making yourself better and becoming a better athlete. I’m going to go out there and play my game.”

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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For Giants, return of Kenny Phillips would be unexpected bonus

Giants safety Kenny Phillips followed up a promising rookie season in 2008 by earning a job in the starting lineup in 2009. But Phillips suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week Two, and now, nine months later, it's still not clear when -- or if -- he'll get back to full speed.

Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that Phillips coming back and being everything the Giants thought he'd be when they took him in the first round of the 2008 draft would have to be considered an unexpected bonus, not something the Giants can count on.

A month ago Phillips was reportedly running and cutting, but not practicing. Vacchiano reports, however, that Phillips still isn't cutting much.

And the Giants' actions -- signing free agent safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, drafting safety Chad Jones -- indicate that they view safety as a position of need. If they were confident their 2008 first-round pick would return to form, safety probably wouldn't have been such a high offseason priority.

It's still possible that Phillips could surprise everyone and get back onto the field. But nine months after his injury, it still appears that he's a long way from returning.

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Santana Moss Impressing After Knee Surgery

Santana Moss has been able to participate during the team's minicamp this week, the Washington Post reports. He is recovering from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan was pleased with his performance.

Impacts: Shanahan stated, "In these two days, Santana has really stepped up...Because we haven't had him before that. It was good to get him out here. I was expecting him to be real rusty, and he didn't look like it. He stepped up and he was the guy I've been watching my whole career. So it was good to have him." It sounds like Santana's knee will not limit him in training camp.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis: "I've Never Been a 'Me' Guy"

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

Let's set the record straight -- there are two things Clinton Portis wants you to know.

No. 1: There's no way he's a selfish NFL player who puts himself before the team.

No. 2: He's perfectly content with all of the competition the Redskins have created at the running back position headed into camp this summer.
So despite all of the radio chatter and all the words written online and in the newspapers, Portis isn't upset about his current role with the Redskins -- whatever that may be.

While some have questioned Portis's effort at mid-week practices during the regular season, he said he has given everything to the team on game days. And perhaps unlike some other players on the current roster, he doesn't think of himself first.

"I've never been a 'me' guy," Portis said. "You all have been around me long enough to know what I'm about. ... Of course, I'm going to stand for what I believe in. I'll take up for myself. If that makes me a 'me' guy, then I guess I was a 'me' guy."

But, he said, "I always put team first and gave everything that I had."

Portis said he actually practiced more with coach Jim Zorn than he did during the Joe Gibbs era.  But when the losses started mounting, focus turned to his lack of practice during the week.  Portis said that wasn't the problem, however.

"All of a sudden in the Coach Zorn era, that's what it was," Portis said. "All the problems that we had, the main problem was Clinton not practicing. It was whatever Clinton was doing, that was the cause of what was going on at Redskins Park. Therefore I stopped coming around Redskins Park. Then the cause was I wasn't a team guy, I didn't care. But when I was there, it was always, 'Well he's just standing around.' No matter what I did, it was a no-win situation."

So all of those rumors last season and during the off-season took a toll on his reputation. And when rumors started flying about who was going to be the team's next head coach after Zorn, there was definitely some uncertainty about his own future with the team.

But in the end, Mike Shanahan got the job. Portis said that if someone else was head coach besides Shanahan, he might have been looking for work elsewhere.

"Anybody else would have bought into the criticism of me," Portis said. "You're talking a year ago from the day they claimed I 'lost it,' I was leading the NFL in rushing. Then a year later it is, 'He's was washed up.' I can't do it."

Even still, the Redskins brought in plenty of competition for Portis over the off-season, adding Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, making the Skins' backfield one of the most-crowded in the league.

Once again, rumors started flying that Portis wasn't happy and that he thought the team was trying to push him out.

Not so, Portis said.

"Once I talked to Coach Shanahan and Bruce Allen, I realized I was a part of the plan, that their goal was to go out and make sure the Redskins were in position to compete," Portis said. "They brought in competition. They brought in guys who got the same hunger and desire. If anything happens, knock on wood, or goes wrong, we -- as in the Redskins organization -- will be fine. Whoever is in the backfield will be able to carry the load. I think that was a great idea."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Vince Wilfork stays true to his Florida roots

Vince Wilfork has got Florida in his bones. The Sunshine State native grew up in Florida, went to Santaluces High School in Lantana, Fla. and played his college ball at the University of Miami. (In fact, when he was considering other options before he returned to sign a long-term deal with the Patriots, he hinted that he’d love to return to Florida.)

So when he returned home recently to watch the 2010 Heath Evans 7-on-7 tournament (an affair put together by the former Patriots fullback which drew plenty of Evans’ former teammates — for more on the outcome, click here), who’s better to beat the drum about the state of football in Florida than Wilfork? In an interview with SoFLAfootball.com, the Patriots nose tackle talked a lot about players who caught his eye, the importance of academics, and vast amount of talent in the Sunshine State.

One answer that stood out was Wilfork’s advice for younger players struggling to get their academics in order.

“Grades are worth everything,” Wilfork said. “I had to sit out six months because I didn’t have them and that was one of the hardest times of my life. If you don’t have them in order, get them in order now. Get your test grades and get all that good stuff. Football will take care of itself. After football, you need something to fall back on and that’s where having some education behind you and being able to go into these big schools. I hope a lot of these guys listen to me because I’ve been through that and I don’t want to wish it on anyone.”

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Rocky McIntosh wants an extended stay

Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh was one of the most outspoken players to voice displeasure with the way labor unrest limited his options in free agency. Instead of playing the field and possibly entertaining a multi-year deal, McIntosh signed a one-year tender this week with the Redskins that will pay him $1.759 million.

Thursday, following practice, McIntosh said he's happy to return to the Redskins for another year, and gauging his long-term future, he pointed to a nearby tent packed with former Washington players attending an alumni event.

"It's cool, man. I had to be here, and I'm here, and I'm glad to be here," he said. "So hopefully one day, I'll be like one of those guys over here who played here for a long time and get to stay here. Definitely glad to be here."

McIntosh participated in the vast majority of the team's off-season workouts and said learning the new defensive system hasn't been difficult. "It looks hard on paper," he said, "but once we get out here on the field, it's pretty easy."

Redskins' linebackers all have new responsibilities under Jim Haslett's scheme, and it could result in McIntosh's name being announced more often over the stadium's PA system.

"We get a lot more pressure, both from me and London [Fletcher]," he said. "So we take turns. It's kind of even this year. Last year, outside backers had to make all the plays go to him. So it's a little bit easier this year, so we're even."

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis sounds off on Albert Haynesworth

Count Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis among the many NFL players speaking out against Albert Haynesworth’s much-publicized holdout. Lewis on Friday lashed out at the disgruntled Redskins defensive tackle on The LaVar Arrington Show on DC sports talk station 106.7 The Fan.

Haynesworth is pissed because the Redskins are switching to a 3-4 defense, and he’ll have to play an unglamorous position on the defensive line. Lewis said Haynesworth needs to be a professional and take on whatever role the coaching staff asks in whatever scheme they draw up.

"The response is, ‘Whatever you want me to do, Coach. Let's get it done,’” Lewis said.

Lewis referenced the Ravens’ switch to the 3-4 defense, and said that though he wasn’t a big fan of his new responsibilities at inside linebacker, he did what the coaching staff asked him to do – and continued to be one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL.

“[I said] ‘OK, coach, I'll adjust. Do I like it? Hmm, nah. But I'll adjust, so let's do it, you know what I'm saying?’” Lewis said.

“Bottom line: Football is football, man. No matter what the scheme is, y'all work together as businessmen to get it done. Because that's ultimately what it is, it's a business, so let's come to work and let's work together to figure this out."

For the rest of Ray's comments on Haynesworth, check out D.C. Sports Bog, or listen to Ray's raspy rant at The Lavar Arrington Show's website.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Sport was ‘ticket out of the ghetto’ for Alouettes’ Tanard Davis

LENNOXVILLE, Que. — Tanard Davis was raised in a section of Miami known as The Grove, and watched both his parents abuse drugs before turning their lives around through rehab.

But Davis had a gift for athletics and understood, early on, that prowess, combined with education, could be his potential escape from a dependant life.

“When you’re a young child, you want to embrace the education field,” said the 27-year-old, attempting to crack the Montreal Alouettes’ roster this season at cornerback. “Athletics is the easy way out. It’s your ticket out of the ghetto.”

Nonetheless, Davis was renowned more as a track star with blazing speed, receiving a track scholarship from the University of Miami. He parlayed that into a spot on the Hurricanes’ football team, making the squad as a walk-on, eventually earning a football scholarship after an excellent spring practice session in 2003, about to enter his junior season.

He became a two-sport star — winning the Big East Conference title in the 60 metres indoors in 2004, and then playing receiver for the Hurricanes before being switched to defensive back.

After three seasons bouncing around the NFL — Davis was a practice squad member of Indianapolis’ 2006 Super Bowl team, and also had stints with Carolina, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tennessee — he’s taking a stab at Canadian professional football. It won’t be easy cracking the defending Grey Cup champion’s roster, especially since Mark Estelle’s ahead of Davis at weakside corner.

But the five-foot-10, 190-pound Davis is a versatile player who can also play strong-side linebacker. He was used at both positions during last Sunday’s exhibition, against Winnipeg, playing virtually the entire game. That seemed to indicate the coaching staff wanted a long look at the prospect.

“He’s a guy you’re kind of looking for, because he can play a lot of positions,” defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke said. “He’s smart and talented. And he has a good background. He has a lot of drive and understands the game. He’s also a quick adapter. Guys who make the CFL usually adapt quickly, are smart and have talent. And he does.

“But the hard thing’s going to be making the team. We have a good secondary here.”

It’ll come down to the ratio, as it invariably does. But the Als have been forced to start a non-import — Stanford Samuels or De’Audra Dix — on the other corner to replace the departed Davis Sanchez, a Canadian who signed with the B.C. Lions as a free agent. That might translate into one less American on the roster, although Davis also plays special teams.

Davis potentially has other options should things not work out in Montreal. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expressed an interest in him, but he signed with the Als last March, upon the suggestion of his agent, believing it presented the best opportunity.

Davis also has degrees in criminology and sociology to fall back on, when his career ends. He hopes to eventually work in the Drug Enforcement Agency, perhaps following a stint as a police officer.

Although he constantly was on and off the Colts’ practice roster, Davis emphatically stated it was the best experience of his career.

He got a championship ring and Tony Dungy, the team’s head coach at the time, embraced all his players, not only the starters. Indeed, prior to the AFC championship, he implored his veterans to take care of the practice roster members and took up a collection for them to display their appreciation. According to Davis, some on the practice roster pocketed as much as $30,000.

“Being around coach Dungy, you were treated like a top guy, no matter who you are,” Davis said. “He always stressed you were part of the team.”

Davis realizes his Als fate probably rests with Saturday afternoon’s final pre-season game, against Toronto, at Molson Stadium. Having recently tweaked his groin, he’s somewhat concerned he won’t be able to lay it all on the line against the Argonauts. But he hopes he has displayed enough talent to stick around as an insurance policy.

“I know it’s the last game and you have to make an impression,” he said. “It’s all up to me. I have to play fast and smart, without hurting myself.”

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Aubrey Huff homers, scores three times in win

Aubrey Huff homered again and scored three runs as the Giants beat the Blue Jays 9-6 on Sunday.

Huff hit a solo homer in the third inning and would also come around to score on a single and a walk. The homer is Huff's 12th of the season, six of which have come in June. Since Huff has had some rather impressive years in the past, he's not necessarily someone that should be written off and considered a sell-high candidate.

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Ryan Braun opens Lake Geneva restaurant

Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun has opened a restaurant in Lake Geneva, just three months after launching a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee.

Ryan Braun’s Tavern & Grill, 430 N. Broad St., Lake Geneva, celebrated a soft opening for family and friends Sunday, June 13, followed by an event for local officials and business owners the next day. The restaurant is scheduled to open to the public the week of June 21.

The restaurant, formerly the Cactus Club, is owned by local businessman Tom Romano. It was extensively remodeled and will feature “upscale-casual” dining with Italian-American food, said Kris Kerwer, the restaurant’s business manager.

The restaurant originally was expected to open in early 2010 after a group of investors approached Romano about using the Cactus Club building for a Braun restaurant, Kerwer said. That deal fell through when the group decided to open Ryan Braun’s Waterfront at 102 N. Water St., Milwaukee.

Romano then decided to open the restaurant himself, with Braun continuing to lend his name to the venture, Kerwer said.

Braun and his agent, Nez Balelo, were heavily involved in the planning of the restaurant, offering input for the website design, decor and menu, Ker-wer said. It was important to Braun that the restaurant enhance the historic building with classy touches such as white oak floors, a stone fireplace and a wood-burning pizza oven.

Braun enjoys the Lake Geneva area and often goes there to fish, she said. He wants the website, which hasn’t launched yet, to include historical information about Lake Geneva and personal information about himself to help people understand why he’s involved with the restaurant.

“He’s not just flying into Milwaukee and playing baseball,” she said. “We appreciate that with the money he’s earned here, he’s choosing to lend his name and invest and help Wisconsin businesses.”

Braun has become known as an entrepreneur in addition to an All-Star left fielder. He invests in a T-shirt line, Remetee, and endorses AirTran Airways and Muscle Milk, a protein drink. His other restaurant, Ryan Braun’s Waterfront, opened April 5 in Milwaukee’s 3rd Ward and has been a success, Balelo said in an e-mail to The Business Journal.

“Ryan Braun’s Waterfront in Milwaukee has met all of our expectations and more,” Balelo wrote. “We created an environment that is very inviting with a comfortable decor. When you combine all of that with great food and service, you’re creating a formula for success.”

Ryan Braun’s Tavern & Grill employs 90 and has seating for 270. Most entrees cost between $12 and $18, Kerwer said.

Braun demonstrated business acumen and curiosity about the restaurant industry during the planning process, Kerwer said.

“He does have many dimensions,” she said. “He really wants to learn about the industry and understand it.”

In a previous interview with The Business Journal, Braun said he planned to be active in helping to run both restaurants.

“Whenever I get involved in a project, I want to be a big part of it,” he said. “It is my name and reputation and I feel that I can add something to make the restaurant successful.”

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Pat Burrell has been right at home with the Giants

Pat Burrell grew up amid the tall trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains, smacking whiffle balls over an ivy-covered fence in his backyard that his buddies nicknamed Wrigley Field.

It was the beginning of a baseball odyssey that led him down the hill to attend Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose and onward from there — from the first overall draft pick out of the University of Miami to a World Series championship with the Philadelphia Phillies to a brief and bitter foray as a designated hitter with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dumped by the Rays in mid-May, Burrell made one more wish.

"I hoped the Giants would call," the 33-year-old said. "This was really the first team that came to my mind."

The Giants took a flier that Burrell's right-handed power could show up occasionally to energize the offense. He surpassed expectations, needing just a couple games at Triple-A Fresno to show he still had major league bat speed. Then he forced his way into manager Bruce Bochy's lineup, and hit .355 with two home runs in his first 11 games.

It's worked both ways. The Giants have energized Burrell, too.

"You can see it," said Aubrey Huff, who is Burrell's teammate once more after they played at the University of Miami a dozen years ago. "He's never said this to me, but you could tell it just wasn't a good fit in Tampa. Being a DH wasn't his thing. I'm really convinced to play well, you've got to be happy. He's happy here."

That's what Burrell's old high school coach sees, too.

"I haven't spoken to Pat, but my perception is after everything he's gone through, this is a new lease on life," said Gary Cunningham, who retired in 2008 after 21 years at Bellarmine. "He's in a different spot in his career, but it seems he's recaptured that love for playing the game."

Burrell was a sophomore transfer to Bellarmine from little San Lorenzo Valley High in Felton, where his baseball talent was obscured among the redwoods. Burrell made the varsity team as a freshman at San Lorenzo and had such a bright future that his own coach, Tim Kenworthy, suggested he leave to get more exposure at a bigger school.

As per transfer rules, Burrell was forced to play on the junior varsity as a sophomore at Bellarmine.

"Then we had him in our summer program," Cunningham said. "And we knew he was the real deal."

Burrell was so feared that Cunningham had to bat him leadoff, just to ensure he'd get one at-bat in which he wasn't pitched around.

"He had so much fun playing the game," Cunningham said. "It came easy and natural. And the biggest thing people remember is batting practice. We had a little bandbox field and a 6-foot fence at the time, and he'd just launch balls out of there. It was unbelievable."

Burrell's father, John, worked construction in San Jose and he Pat would begin every day began with that winding, 45-minute drive down Bear Creek Road to Route 17. His parents still live in Boulder Creek.

"It's a small place," Burrell said. "Without that move, I'd have a hard time believing all this would have happened. It was a bigger school and we played top competition. That's when I decided this is what I want to do."

Burrell grew up admiring Will Clark, Matt Williams and Oakland's Bash Brothers. But most of his childhood memories are of attending games in Kansas City, where both sets of his grandparents owned Royals season tickets. George Brett became his favorite player.

"We'd go out there every summer and we'd always go to games," Burrell said. "By the time I was in high school, I was more enthralled in my own stuff."

Shortly after Burrell arrived in Miami, he established himself as one of the best college players in the country. And Huff, a self-described shy junior college transfer from Texas, never forgot the first time they met.

"I didn't like him at all," Huff said. "He was cocky, arrogant ... kind of a (jerk), really.

"But you realized he was trying to make you better. He makes you confident by ragging on you, if that makes sense. He's the best clubhouse guy you can have. He genuinely cares about every single guy doing well."

Burrell called Huff the morning the Rays cut him loose. And Huff immediately lobbied Giants manager Bruce Bochy and the coaching staff to shoot his buddy a contract.

It's just a snapshot thus far. There are no guarantees Burrell will continue to produce, or get regular at-bats. But he has already provided rewards far beyond the minimal risk.

"You look at his bat speed and approach and they're the same I remember when we were trying so hard to get him out in Philly," Bochy said. "In fact, he might be in better shape now."

And in a better frame of mind, too.

"I'm having a great time," Burrell said.

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Yonder Alonso working on swing at Triple-A

Reds 1B/OF prospect Yonder Alonso, who is playing for Triple-A Louisville, is beginning to streak the other way after seeing a five-game hitting streak end on Tuesday. Alonso went 0 for 4 on Thursday against Durham and is 0 for 8 in his last two games after going 9 for 18 (.500) in his previous five games. Alonso is hitting .237 in 34 games for Triple-A.

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Photos of the Week - Ken Dorsey Argonaut Practice Photos

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Clinton Portis said he wanted out of Washington

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

Clinton Portis says he's now happy to be with the Redskins under the Allen/Shanahan regime, but in a recent interview with Dan Hellie, the running back said he briefly wanted out before Shanahan took over.

"You become nonchalant, you become a whatever, and I think I just became a whatever-type guy," Portis told Hellie at Donovan McNabb's football camp last week. "The consideration of walking away, the idea of wanting to be traded, wanting to be out of D.C., all of the sudden it was like the people who you think know you buy into the outside conversation, like hmm, maybe he should be gone. I think that was more eye-opening, like I guess people really wanted me out of there. And I think there was a point, up until Coach Shanahan coming in, I really wanted out of there."

NBC Washington has posted a few clips from the interview, along with an assortment of quotes, delivered in Portis's typically frank style.

"I've never been a 'me' guy," Portis said, according to NBC Washington's transcription. "You all have been around me long enough to know what I'm about....Of course, I'm going to stand for what I believe in. I'll take up for myself. If that makes me a 'me' guy, then I guess I was a 'me' guy."

Portis also repeated one of his frequent claims -- that he actually practiced more under Jim Zorn than he had under Joe Gibbs -- but said that this year, there won't be any complaints about the amount of time he practices.

"This year I'm practicing, this year I feel great, this year I got a good feeling about our team," Portis told Hellie. "I think buying into the system, buying into the organization, knowing my role. Having Donovan, I mean, that's really gonna take a lot of pressure off, because everybody is so worried about where Donovan is in his career. So having Donovan, having guys who are coming in and wanting to prove [themselves], and then having young guys such as Fred Davis who eager and who on fire right now, having those guys around, it take the pressure off of me.

"Only thing I've got to do is go and play football now, and that's all I want to do. I don't have to be the center of attention, I don't' have to be the face of the Redskins, I don't have to be Oooooh, Clinton. When I get on the field, you'll know my name. You'll cheer for Clinton when I get on the field."

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Ray Lewis & Ed Reed Fitness Routine

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Kellen Winslow Returns, Despite Knee Rehab

TAMPA | Kellen Winslow is known for being such a tireless worker that the coaching staff had to demand he take days off from practice last year to save his knees.

That is why they weren't too concerned or upset when the tight end hadn't made it to any of the team's offseason training activities (OTAs). They knew if he were here, it would take more than prodding to keep him off the field, and after undergoing his sixth knee surgery in the offseason, that was the last thing the Bucs wanted.

They need Winslow ready for training camp in late July and ready for the regular season, not the middle of June.

But Winslow made his first appearance at OTAs on Monday, doing some individual work, while trying to pick up the system.

"It's time to get back," Winslow said Monday. "I've been training back in San Diego real hard and this is all I think about man, getting out here with these guys, with the coaches.

"I just want to be right when I do come back," he said. "So it's just important for me to rehab strong in the offseason."

The seven-year pro out of the University of Miami was the team's top weapon in 2009, his first with the team. Winslow caught a team-high 77 passes for 884 yards and five touchdowns, often providing the reliable target for rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.

"He looks good," Winslow said of Freeman. "It's my job to catch up. He's going to be fine. As long as I do my job, he'll get the ball there.

"Some terminology things (have changed) but the basics are the same," Winslow said. "My head is spinning right now. I'll be fine. It'll take a couple of weeks. I'll be here until training camp working, so it'll be coming back."

Despite the scope on his right knee, Winslow expects to have discomfort. Still, he doesn't expect it to slow him down this season.

"It's something I deal with every day," Winslow said. "It's an everyday thing. It really is. It's not easy by any means but I've been through worse. I'll be back and I'll do my job and my thing."

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Sinorice Moss a candidate to return kickoffs, punts

Sinorice Moss is a candidate to return both kickoffs and punts now that Domenik Hixon is out for the season with an ACL tear.

Moss' primary competition on kickoffs is expected to come from running backs D.J. Ware, Andre Brown, and Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants will likely be hesitant to use Bradshaw coming off surgery to both feet, and Brown's explosiveness will be lacking after Achilles' surgery.

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Antrel Rolle Blames Turf For WR Domenik Hixon's Injury

New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle believes the turf at the New Meadowlands Stadium is the reason why wide receiver and returner Domenik Hixon is out for the year. Rolle said he was watching when Hixon crumpled to the new FieldTurf untouched on a punt return and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Tuesday. "I was right there when it happened and I saw it right away," Rolle told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday after the Giants' final practice of veterans' minicamp. "And I was like, 'Damn, it don't look good.' He didn't make a cut or anything. It just got caught in the turf." Giants general manager Jerry Reese said on Wednesday that the new FieldTurf was not the reason why Hixon suffered his season-ending injury and that it could have happened on any surface.

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Ray Lewis, Tom Brady offer caution as NFL trumpets potential change to 18-game regular season

Perennial Pro Bowlers Tom Brady and Ray Lewis expressed skepticism over the potential for an expanded NFL season on Wednesday as the NFL met with the NFLPA to discuss logistics of extending the regular season to as many as 18 games.

Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy expressed support for the change, which would involve adding 1-2 regular-season games and decreasing the preseason by a corresponding amount.

"This is an idea that is really gaining momentum," Murphy said.

Murphy echoed comments voiced several times by commissioner Roger Goodell that four preseason games -- tickets for which cost as much as regular-season games -- are too much and short-change fans.

"There really isn't the same value there," Murphy said. "... I think there's a real issue we need to address.... I think it's very clear to many of us the players and teams don't need four (preseason) games to get ready for the regular season."

The NFL and NFLPA met on Wednesday in negotiations for a new CBA. The current deal expires after the 2010 season. Murphy said any changes to the schedule would be done in concert with the CBA and wouldn't come until 2012 at the earliest.

Brady, the three-time Super Bowl winning QB of the New England Patriots, and Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens LB who was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, said in statements to the NFLPA that they had major concerns about the effect a change would have on player safety.
Said Lewis:

"I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don't like all of them, but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games—when players already play hurt—comes at a huge cost for the player and the team."

Said Brady:

"I've taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did."

Murphy said the league will consider such concerns, and added the NFL may adjust injured reserve rules to allow players to return from the list in-season. "We have the same concerns as the players regarding safety and will address those issues with the players," he said.

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Sherko Haji-Rasouli has survived Buono's hard-line stance

Heerspink today, gone tomorrow. There but for the grace of Wally Buono goes Sherko Haji-Rasouli.

Right guard Daren Heerspink was the first projected starter to be cut by the B.C. Lions when the Canadian Football League club cleaved seven players Tuesday from its training camp roster.

Heerspink is the 26-year-old from Bellingham, Wash., who was airlifted into the starting lineup last July after a lousy couple of weeks by import left tackle Walter Stith.

Heerspink started the Lions' final 18 games, and was expected to help anchor a rebuilt offensive line this season. He was first on the depth chart at right guard, then was first to go.

It makes the survival of Haji-Rasouli even more impressive.

Only two years ago, the offensive line was considered part of the Lions' backbone. Then, elite left tackle Rob Murphy left to play in Toronto, and all- star guard Kelly Bates signed as a free agent in Saskatchewan. Right tackle Jason Jiminez, another former all-star, was cut after last season. And forever- starter Angus Reid found himself demoted to backup at centre when he arrived for training camp. The last guy standing is Haji-Rasouli, the 29-year-old Iranian-Canadian from Toronto who was ready to quit football when his CFL career began seven years ago.

``Yeah, I'm surprised he didn't get another week to show himself,'' Haji- Rasouli said when asked about the sudden departure of Heerspink before Tuesday's practices. ``But it's the nature of the business. They're showing us how specific and how strict they are as far as what they expect out of the offensive line this year. The difference between one guy playing on game day and one guy sitting at home is minute.''

``As I said before, I'm not going to be as patient with the veterans,'' added Buono, the club's head coach and general manager. ``You can't win in this league unless you're good up front. It's not possible. You can't have a physical team if you're not physical up front. You can't have a hard-working team unless you're hard-working up front. You can't have a team that competes if you don't compete up front. It affects the whole team - the fans, the media - and can get the coach fired.''

Well, not so far. But if Buono has a 6-12 season, who knows?

The Lions were not good enough last year on either side of the line of scrimmage. The offensive line was inconsistent, allowing 40 quarterback sacks and protecting the passer so well that injuries forced the Lions to use five quarterbacks.

Buono has made the line of scrimmage his top priority at training camp, and that is reflected by the offensive line's makeup. Dean Valli has replaced Reid at centre. Haji-Rasouli was shifted to right tackle from right guard, and Jon Hameister-Ries promoted to left guard. Imports are now auditioning for jobs at left tackle and right guard.

``With the first group that's practising right now, we have a collective five starts at their respective positions,'' offensive line coach Dan Dorazio said. ``I will say this about this group: It's a group that's aggressive in nature, and that's the culture we're building. We want to be more aggressive in how we play. We want to put out there the five best athletes, five toughest players, the five guys who give us the best chance to be physical. It's a game of toughness, a game of physicality, and that's the culture you have to play with. That's part of what is in construction right now.''

Dorazio said Haji-Rasouli's athleticism and ``football IQ'' have allowed him to keep his job when others have been losing theirs, but noted the veteran still must prove he can play on the outside of the line.

Haji-Rasouli did not dress for last weekend's pre-season win in Regina, but will play against the Edmonton Eskimos when the Lions inaugurate Empire Field on Sunday.

``Whether in college or in the pros, I've always just been able to play multiple positions,'' Haji-Rasouli said. ``I guess I'm a tweener. Everywhere I've been, I've played both tackle and guard.

``Offensive line is not the most gratifying position to play, so it's tough to maintain you're focus and maintain your motivation throughout your career. That's why I'm excited about the challenge of playing tackle, because it gives me added motivation to continue to play well. It's refreshing for me.''

Haji-Rasouli started on the great University of Miami teams that won 34 consecutive games at the beginning of the last decade, but contemplated quitting football when everyone but him from the Hurricanes' offensive line soon made it to the National Football League.

He returned to the Canada and after two seasons in Montreal was signed as a free-agent by Buono in 2005.

He has become one of the longest-serving Lions.

And he knows that counts for almost nothing.

``You're always prepared for it in the back of your mind,'' Haji-Rasouli said.

What's it?

Ask Heerspink.

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Astros ride Jason Michaels, Oswalt to win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Michaels is beginning to make the most of his at-bats during interleague play.

Picked to start in left field with teammate Carlos Lee as the designated hitter, Michaels came through with clutch hits to back up Roy Oswalt’s solid start and help lift the Astros to a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night before 17,675 at Kauffman Stadium.

A night after hitting his third home run of the season in the DH role, Michaels went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Astros, who snapped a four-game skid.

“Roy put us, as usual, in a good position,” Michaels said. “He pitched incredible tonight, especially after a crazy night like last night when the bats were hot on both sides.

“We did a tremendous job, and we were able to get some runs for him.”

Michaels is 4-for-8 against the Royals after going 1-for-8 at Yankee Stadium, where the Astros were swept over the weekend.

“These two days, he’s done a really good job,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “And of course today he was big, driving in those runs.”

The victory was the Astros’ second in interleague play this season and halted a six-game losing streak against American League teams.


Triple World champion Lauryn Williams for Cork City Sports

Former world champion for 100m, USA star Lauryn Williams, is the latest leading sprinter to be added to the line-up for the 59th.Cork City Sports on July 3.

Williams who won her world title in Helsinki in 2005 following a silver medal performance over the 100m a year earlier at the Athens Olympic Games has a best for the distance of 10.88 and a 200m p.b.of 22.37. She also won silver at the Osaka world championships in 2007 and placed 4th at the Bejing Olympics the following year.


Sinorice Moss A Lock To Make Giants?

The New York Giants' kick return game took a huge hit Wednesday when wide receiver and returner Domenik Hixon was diagnosed with a season-ending knee injury, one day after getting hurt during the team's first practice at its new billion-dollar stadium.

Hixon's injury was originally thought to be a simple hyper-extension of the right knee, but an MRI at the Hospital for Special Surgery revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. The injury occurred Tuesday during the Giants' first workout inside the New Meadowlands Stadium when Hixon caught his foot in the new FieldTurf surface while attempting to cut during a punt return. He left the field under his own power.

Unless the Giants go outside the organization for help, Hixon's likely successor is either wide receiver Sinorice Moss or wide receiver Mario Manningham.

Moss, a fifth-year veteran, returned punts for the first time last season, averaging a 6.7-yard return on 11 punts.. He also returned six kickoffs for an 18.2-yard average. Manningham, in his third season, has never returned a punt or a kickoff in the NFL.

Reese said the Giants' punt return game is the biggest concern. Moss was criticized last season for a lack of ball security and his penchant for going side to side instead of straight ahead.

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Rocky McIntosh Could Lead Turnover Turnaround

Jim Haslett’s primary emphasis as defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins is to design a scheme that will create more turnovers.

He took a small step toward accomplishing that goal Monday when veteran starting linebacker Rocky McIntosh signed a contract extension.

Signing McIntosh to a one-year tender offer in time for the first mandatory minicamp was a priority.  Haslett's new coaching staff is continuing the installation of a 3-4 scheme at Redskins Park this week. And it's a defense McIntosh has never played.

An outside linebacker in college and throughout his tenure in D.C., McIntosh will be moved inside to start next to London Fletcher. His ability to shed blocks and move well laterally should help him excel at his new position.

But it’s McIntosh’s play-making ability that made his presence even more critical in Haslett’s new defense.

While the Redskins have become a staple for finishing with a top-10 ranked defense every year, they’ve struggled to create the turnovers Haslett salavates over.

McIntosh, 27, has blossomed into a tackling machine in his four seasons in Washington. He’s coming off his best season, playing in all 16 games and finishing second on the team with 115 tackles (60 solo).  And he is one of the few defensive holdovers who has proven capable of generating turnovers (he interecepted two passes and forced two fumbles last season).

Had everybody on the Redskins defense contributed the four turnovers that McIntosh did last year, the Redskins would have forced 44. Instead they compiled an NFL-worst 17.  Only four teams intercepted fewer passes (11), and just one recovered fewer fumbles (6).

If the Redskins don’t dramatically change those futile takeaway totals, a renaissance season will be at least another year away. A happy, and paid, McIntosh is a positive step for Haslett’s defense.

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Martz can help Devin Hester, Muhammad says

Former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad said he believes new offensive coordinator Mike Martz can help Devin Hester's development as a receiver.

In an interview during the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1500, Muhammad likened Hester to Steve Smith, the Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl receiver, who started his career as a return specialist.

"One of the things that we did in Carolina (for Smith) is we kept it simple," said Muhammad, who played with both Smith and Hester. "You don't need a lot of plays or be complicated with what you're doing in order to make plays and be successful.

"I think Mike Martz is a guy that can come in and create opportunities for Devin Hester make it simple for him and just make him play fast and not have him think as much on the field. So if that occurs he can be that guy. I mean he has all the physical tools to be that guy."

Muhammad admitted he wasn't "that big of a fan of Ron Turner," and he called the hiring of Martz a "great move."

But Muhammad took a swipe at the Bears recent history with receivers, noting how he, Justin Gage and Bobby Engram had success after leaving Chicago.

"I would love to see Devin Hester be the number on guy. I would love to see Devin Hester have a successful career in Chicago," Muhammad said. "So prove me wrong is what I'm saying."

Muhammad spoke glowingly of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, recalling a game when he was with the Panthers and Cutler was still in Denver.
"Jay Cutler just came out and flat out threw the ball," Muhammad recalled. "He was dropping dimes in the holes. I mean he was threading the needle. He has all the intangibles."

Interestingly, though, Muhammad may have been referring to a Dec. 14, 2008, game against the Broncos in Charlotte. The Panthers won that game 30-10, and Cutler was just 21 of 33 for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

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Vince Wilfork focuses on getting ready, not contracts Wilfork focuses on getting ready, not contracts

FOXBORO - Logan Mankins became "he whose name will not be mentioned" as the Patriots opened their mandatory full-squad minicamp without him in attendance.

The starting left offensive guard, embroiled in a contract dispute with the team, was given the Orwellian "non-person" treatment when reporters asked other players to comment upon the circumstances of his absence.

"I'm not going to touch that, because I have nothing to do with Logan's situation," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said after the first practice at the Gillette Stadium complex. "I'll leave that up to Logan to talk about. I'm just happy to be here."

A year ago at this time, Wilfork was up to his helmet in his own contract "situation," with a few significant differences. He came to minicamp, and training camp, and continued to play out the final year of his contract while negotiations continued - sometimes at a snail's pace - in the background.

Mankins, entering his sixth NFL season, has already played out his rookie contract. He was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this year, but because the collective bargaining agreement has not been renewed and 2010 is the first year since 1993 that there is no salary cap in effect, the league changed the parameters for when a player could attain unrestricted status.

Mankins was tendered a contract that would force a team to surrender a first-round pick and a third-round pick to the Patriots if he were to be signed as a free agent. The only way for the Patriots to trade Mankins is if they make a deal with another team and sign Mankins to a contract to be assumed by the receiving team.

The question, however, is what kind of compensation the Patriots would receive via trade, and whether teams that weren't willing to surrender draft picks through free agency would willingly do so in a trade.

Speculation about off-field business was not high on Wilfork's priority list Tuesday.

"Whatever he wants to say, he'll say," the seventh-year veteran said. "My focus is on getting better this year. That's what my focus is, and hopefully everyone else is focused that way. We've got a lot to look forward to."

Wilfork, whose own situation resulted in a five-year, $40 million extension with $25 million in guaranteed money, threatened a quick termination to the interview if reporters persisted on that storyline, so there was a quick shift in topic from a Patriot that wasn't present to one that had just made his first appearance of the offseason.

Wilfork's linemate, end Ty Warren, has been attending classes at Texas A&M in an effort to receive his college degree in agricultural development.

"That's something big, for somebody to do that in the prime of his career," Wilfork said. "That says a lot to the type of person he is, as an individual and as a player. He has a lot of respect on this team I'm happy he's back."

"I have 11 hours that I've got to finish up next spring," Warren said. "I've said it before, it was a sacrifice that I had to make not only the sacrifice of not being up here, but also the sacrifice of a lot of hobbies and stuff like that that I like to do in the offseason. It's not a bad decision at all."

Warren said that regardless of his seven previous seasons in a Patriot uniform, there was still catching up for him to do because of the missed OTAs.

"There's terminology that I've got to get down," he said, "so I came here and got that ahead of time, and that enabled me to be here today. But it's one thing to go over it in the book, and then the coaches like to see you come out here and do it out on the field as well."

Patriots' coach Bill Belichick called the week's festivities (conducted in helmets, shirts and shorts with no hitting) a "learning camp," bearing little resemblance to the intensity of training camp that is still more than a month away.

"It's spring - not even close to training camp," Belichick said. "I don't think you could even possibly compare the two. This is a long way from training camp. It's a teaching camp. We've installed a lot of things. We work on the running game kind of against each other, against ourselves and not against each other so we keep the tempo down, blocking bags and stuff like that. You won't see much of that in training camp."

Wilfork seemed to be keeping the differences in mind Tuesday - especially since he's not the one with a sticky contract situation hanging over his head this season.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm having fun getting the defense down, working the kinks out right now, and hoping that we can put something together that's good this year."

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Jimmy Graham Turning Heads

Once again, rookie tight end Jimmy Graham continued to turn heads during Monday's practice session, catching several balls down the field from quarterback Drew Brees as he showed off his combination of size and athleticism. Graham has been a highlight-reel catch waiting to happen on the practice field. While keeping it up with pads on will be the ex-basketball player's real litmus test, Graham's first spring couldn't have been more promising.

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Jeff Feagles still retired, but working at Giants' minicamp

Punter Jeff Feagles announced his retirement from the Giants in April, but he's with the team at this week's minicamp as a special instructor for the Giants' two punters, neither one of whom has ever played in an NFL game.

Considering that Feagles has the all-time record for consecutive games played, his experience should be good for Giants punters Matt Dodge and Jy Bond. But Feagles wants to make clear that he's just helping out for now -- not considering a comeback, and not considering becoming a coach.

"The full-time coaching thing is not something I want to do because of my time I want to spend with family and things like that," Feagles said, per Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger.

Feagles also owns the all-time record for punts inside the 20-yard line, and he said he's working on teaching that to Dodge and Bond.

"Right now I think it's difficult [to teach directional kicking]," Feagles said. "You take what he does well and massage that a little bit and then move into the direction side of it. The main purpose right now with both of them is to get them to be consistent so they can hit one after another instead of one out of five. The direction will come sooner or later. But right now, they need to work on the fundamentals better."

For a few days at minicamp, they have a punter who knows the fundamentals as well as anyone to teach them.

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Kenny Phillips experiencing no swelling or pain in his knee

Kenny Phillips is running, cutting, spinning and sprinting on the side during practice. And when the defense is out on the field, he’s standing nearby, listening to the coaches and talking to his teammates.

Basically, he’s a lot closer to playing football than he has at any point since September. So that must be nice, right?

“It sucks,” the Giants’ safety said with a laugh on Monday after the first practice of minicamp. “At least last year I got to watch from home. Now, I have these up close personal seats. It sucks, but it is what it is.”

Since the end of last season, the questions about, and to, Phillips have all been pretty much about one thing: how’s the knee? The progress since his surgery last September to repair an arthritic condition has been slow – but at least for Phillips’ sake it’s been steady and in the right direction.

“He’s getting better every day,” coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. “You just have to have great confidence that he wants it so badly he can hopefully overcome anything. He’s making steady progress, and we still have the very good circumstance that (his knee) doesn’t swell.”

Phillips also said there’s no pain in the joint, which is as encouraging as the lack of swelling. The lack of any symptoms and his recently increased workload has Phillips believing he’ll be ready to practice at least once per day when training camp opens in August.

“I do. Honestly, I do,” he said. “I hope the coaches and trainers have the same mindset. If not, I’ll just wait until they say go. But I’m looking forward to training camp beginning.”

Phillips, who will continue to rehab in Miami during the next month-plus, is also looking forward to joining a secondary that has been active and vocal so far this spring.

“A lot of trash talking,” he said with a grin. “I can’t wait to get back to be a part of it.”

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Kellen Winslow says knee will be ready for training camp

TAMPA - Making his first appearance at One Buc Place since having surgery on his right knee this offseason, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow said he'll be ready for training camp in late July.

"It feels good," Winslow said. "It's just something I deal with everyday. I'm not going to let these guys down though."

Winslow has had multiple surgeries on his right knee, which was injured in a motorcycle crash that forced him to miss the 2005 season with the Cleveland Browns. The most recent surgery was described by Bucs head coach Raheem Morris as minor, an arthroscopic procedure to clean up scar tissue.

"I'm feeling good," Winslow said. "I'll be ready for training camp. I'll be ready."

Winslow declined to go into specifics about his surgery and didn't give a timeline as to when he would be 100 percent.

"This is my sixth one, but (it) can't stop me," he said. "I'll be back.

Winslow's previous surgeries included repairing a torn ACL and microfracture surgery.

"I've been through worse," he said referring to his most recent operation. "I'll be back and I'll do my job and my thing."

Winslow was the Bucs' leading receiver last season with 77 receptions for 884 yards and five touchdowns.

The former Miami Hurricane said he's never been one to partake in voluntary offseason workouts, choosing to work out in his native San Diego with trainer Todd Durkin.

"I just want to be right when I do come back," he said. "It's important for me to rehab strong in the offseason and this is something I've done in the past."

Winslow has incentive to be healthy when the Bucs open the 2010 regular season at Raymond James Stadium. The opponent is his former team, Cleveland, which drafted Winslow sixth overall in the 2004 draft.

Winslow played five seasons with the Browns before being traded to the Bucs in 2009.

"It's going to be fun, playing with some of those guys and that organization," Winslow said. "I loved playing for Cleveland and the Browns organization. It was fun times."

Winslow is not concerned about possibly falling behind because of the work he has missed this offseason. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has been busy teaching a revised playbook to quarterback Josh Freeman and others in attendance, but Winslow expects to catch up.

"My head is spinning right now, but I'll be fine," Winslow said.

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Roscoe Parrish gets another chance

Roscoe Parrish is in a happy place now.

Frustrated for years by a lack of participation on offense, the Buffalo Bills' veteran wide receiver feels he'll finally get a chance to show what he's got.

Of course, he has heard that before. Each of the Bills' last two head coaches and their offensive coordinators made the same assurances that he would be more involved. But promises weren't kept, leaving Parrish disappointed and angry.

But he believes — make that hopes — things will be different under Chan Gailey, who announced after his hiring that everyone will have a fair shot to play.

"I feel better about my situation this year," Parrish said after a recent practice. "It's a brand new coaching staff and open competition, even with some of the same guys here. So that's a plus. Everything is looking good so far."

Parrish's biggest contribution to the Bills has been on special teams. One of the most dynamic punt returners in the NFL, he led the league in yards per return in 2007 and 2008. He went into last season with the best career average (13.1) in NFL history and holds the Bills record for most punt return yards (1,445). He has returned three punts for touchdowns.

The most activity Parrish has gotten on offense came in 2007 when he had a career-high 35 catches for 352 yards and one touchdown. It has been downhill since.

Last season was the low point of Parrish's career. The arrival of Terrell Owens pushed every receiver except Lee Evans down the depth chart. Parrish was relegated to token appearances on offense, if he got on the field at all. He finished with a career-low three catches for 34 yards.

Even worse, he was stripped of return duties after fumbling away a punt to set up Cleveland for a field goal that resulted in a 6-3 loss in Week Five. He was inactive the next four games, though he dressed as the team's third quarterback twice.

Parrish went into last season thinking it would be his last in Buffalo. He was rumored to be on the trading block before the season began and he expected to be dealt by the NFL trade deadline in October. But no trade materialized.

Parrish never really wanted to leave the Bills. He just wanted to play. If another team was going to give him that opportunity, he would have welcomed it.

This season, Parrish is focused solely on making the best of his situation.

"I'm going into my sixth year, so I'm taking the approach that whatever is going to happen will happen," he said. "You can only control what you can control. In my younger days, I would get mad over certain things I couldn't control. But now I'm at a point in my career where all I can do is work hard and hope for the best."

Parrish didn't attend organized team activities this week, but he has been a regular since the Bills began offseason practices. He is getting a lot of snaps as the slot receiver in the Bills' three-wide receiver formations. He has consistently flashed his speed and quickness by beating defensive backs on long pass plays.

One of the knocks on Parrish was that his diminutive 5-foot-9, 168-pound frame made it difficult for him to beat press coverage. But he has spent this offseason trying to improve his route-running and getting in and out of breaks more quickly, which will allow him to separate from defenders more consistently.

He loves Gailey's offense and how it features wide receivers in a variety of ways.

"It is wide receiver-friendly because you can be in any situation," Parrish said. "A slot can also line up outside and vice versa. It's not going to be easy to game plan for us because we can be in different positions."

While Parrish is fighting for a spot in the receiver rotation, that doesn't prevent him from taking time to help younger teammates. As the second-oldest member of the group after Evans, the 27-year-old Parrish said veterans have a responsibility to guide less experienced teammates.

"That's just part of the game," he said. "I had guys who took me under their wing in my first couple of years. When your time comes to do that same thing you have to know how to handle those situations and don't be selfish about anything because everybody out here has talent. You've got to help one another and make sure everybody is on the same page because you never know when the guy you're helping might have to come in and win a game for us."

So Parrish is working hard to earn a prominent role on offense. And he's smiling while doing it, something he hasn't done much of in recent years.

"I'm very excited," Parrish said. "I'm just really looking forward to this season. Everybody is going to get an opportunity, and I can't ask for anything more at this point. That's all I ever wanted."

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson thinks Reggie Wayne will show up to Colts training camp

When Paul Kuharsky is not giving Peyton Manning haters a savage beatdown, he's talking to Texans receiver Andre Johnson about Reggie Wayne.

They both played in college for Miami and live there for much of the offseason. Wayne’s working out at home more often, but the two have still spent time together, Johnson said.

"We talk about it; we’ve talked about it," Johnson said. "And we understand that it’s part of the business. That’s just part of it. It’s a violent game, probably the most physical game in the world. And it’s the most cut-throat game in the world. But we all understand that.

"I think he’ll be there [when the Colts open training camp]. I know Reggie; I know what kind of guy Reggie is and I’m pretty sure things will work out for him."

Like Andre Johnson, I too think that Reggie will show up for camp. However, if he doesn't, he should expect a fairly strong fan backlash. His botched route (which led to a pick six) in Super Bowl 44 had more to do with the Colts losing than Hank Baskett's muff on the onside kick that started the third quarter. So, for Reggie to demand more money now is very bad timing.

Camp opens August 1st at Anderson University.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s or Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Leon Williams Looking To Push For Final LB Spot

Is Jason Williams LB in trouble? Lee was taking the nickel and dime reps by the end of the camp. Leon Williams might push for the final inside spot but I can't see them taking six inside linebackers. Specials teams will be big.

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Chris Perez learned about commitment from father

CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez's father, Tim, refuses to watch his son pitch in the Major Leagues.

Well, that's not entirely true. Tim's watched Chris pitch plenty of times on TV.

But when he's in attendance at a big league ballpark and his son is on the mound, Tim leaves the stands.

"He never watches it live, because he gets too nervous," Chris said with a smile. "I get up, and he goes out and watches it in the bathrooms or concourse on closed-circuit TVs. I guess that's just his nervous energy. You'd think he'd be used to it by now, but he's not."

Tim might not be committed to his seat at a ballpark, but he taught his son plenty about commitment to the task at hand. And the rule about finishing what you start, passed down from father to son, is a major reason why Chris is now in the big leagues, pitching in a prominent role out of the Indians' bullpen.

Sports were a major part of Tim's youth. He played high school football and junior college baseball. When Chris was born, Tim obviously wanted to pass along his love of sports to his child.

"He always played catch with me and pushed athletics on me when I was a kid," Chris said. "But not just baseball. I played everything growing up -- soccer, basketball, football, racquetball, all that stuff. I always wanted to do more, and he never said no."

Never saying no meant being there to watch Chris grow as an athlete and a competitor.

"If I wanted to take batting practice for three hours in the cage, he'd throw it to me," Chris said. "If I wanted to play catch, he'd be outside there with me. He never signed me up for teams I didn't want to play for or anything like that. When the Rays started playing, he took me to Spring Training games and showed me his passion for the game and taught me a lot."

But the No. 1 lesson that Tim taught his son was to never quit, to never shy away from or shirk responsibilities.

As Chris got better and better at baseball, more and more opportunities came his way. Little League teams gave way to AAU travel squads. Practice became less of a diversion from the world of homework and chores and more of an obligation.

To put it simply, Chris had what amounted to his first real job. And when he tried to rebel against it, his father set him straight.

"I remember," Chris said, "telling him one summer, when I was probably 13, 'I've got too much to do. I don't want to do it. I want to play video games.' "

Tim wouldn't hear it.

"He'd say, 'You're already committed,' " Chris recalled. "'You're expected to be there, and you have to do it.' "

Dedication and a strong work ethic had helped Tim build a successful construction business -- Perez Tile & Construction in Bradenton, Fla. -- out of college. When the business was just getting started, Tim would work full days in the field, then come home and do the company's paperwork.

By comparison, baseball seems much easier. But the message Chris was given from his dad, he would later learn, can be applied to all aspects of his life.

"Once you're committed to something, you're in," Chris said. "I used to try to get out of practice all the time, because I thought it was just so boring. But once I said yes, that was it. I had to be there. And that's not just in baseball but in everything. When you commit to something, you have to not only just be there but get something out of it."

Turns out, it was a good thing Chris didn't blow off baseball practice to play video games. Because look where he is today. And as Father's Day approached, he reflected on his father's influence in getting him here.

"He definitely instilled in me the mentality of using every day to get better," Chris said.

Now if only Tim could muster up the strength to watch his son pitch in person.

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Aubrey Huff Throws Off Bonds of AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- Aubrey Huff knew what he was getting himself into when he signed to play half his games at AT&T Park, a place where left-handed power hitters -- all except one -- have gone to die, but he did it anyway.

"It's the only choice I had," the Giants' cleanup hitter said. "It was mid-January and I had no other offers, so I took it. I didn't have a choice, but I'm glad it happened. I'm having a great time here."

And, perhaps most improbably, he's hitting home runs. Huff hit two homers on Sunday, giving him 10 for the season, and eight so far this year at AT&T Park. That may not seem like much, until you consider the park's history.

In the 10-plus seasons the Giants have played at their picturesque waterfront ballpark, the only left-handed hitter to ever hit more than 10 homers in a season at AT&T Park has been Barry Bonds. J.T. Snow hit 10 in 2000, the park's inaugural season, and switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval hit nine from the left side at home last year.

Otherwise, it's been one long string of lefties flailing away and settling for doubles, or worse, like 400-foot flyouts into the right-center-field gap.

Giants left-handed hitters have hit 323 homers at AT&T Park and 408 on the road. If you subtract Bonds from that equation, the other Giants lefties have 163 homers at home and 251 on the road. Opposing lefties have hit 202 homers at AT&T Park and 311 against the Giants at other parks.

The ballpark, originally known as Pac Bell Park, has been so tough on left-handed power hitters that it pushed at least one of them to seek therapy. Armando Rios told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, after he'd been traded to the Pirates, that the ballpark was deeply in his head.

"I go to any park and I feel 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds and I can fly," Rios said at the time. "When I'm home I feel 5-feet-2 and everyone's on top of me. I feel there are 50 guys on the field. I've tried every different stance, everything I can to get a hit. I don't know. It's just a ballpark.

"I feel like I can't get a hit there. I've talked to the guys and joked that I've got to make a pact with Pac Bell. I've got to come and walk around and talk to the park. I don't know what else I'm going to do."

Huff said he was starting to get those same feelings in his first month in San Francisco. He said he tried to swing early to pull the ball down the line, which is just 309 feet. He said he got in bad habits trying to alter his swing to fit the ballpark.

"I just gave up," he said. "I said 'I'm going to try and hit .300 this year. I don't care if I hit five homers. I'm going to try to drive in some runs.' And that's when it started happening. Go figure."

Huff didn't hit a ball over the fence at AT&T Park until April 27. (He had one inside-the-park homer on April 14.) Since then, he's hit six more. His two homers on Sunday afternoon were both towering shots to the deepest part of the park in right-center, a spot that only Bonds has reached consistently.

Huff now has his average up to .303, and he's joined in the 10-homer club by Juan Uribe. The Giants have also gotten a boost lately from Freddy Sanchez (.333 since coming off the DL May 19), Buster Posey (.368 since coming up from the minors two weeks ago) and Pat Burrell (.375 since the Giants plucked him from the scrap heap two weeks ago). Put them together and the Giants' mostly-inept offense is looking passable.

"It's like three trades without having to do anything," Huff said. "Those three guys have really turned around the offense."

What's more, Huff is sending a message to other free agents who might have shied away from AT&T Park because of its reputation.

"If you don't want to come here and play and hit for this pitching staff we have," he said, "then you don't want to win."

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Ryan Braun-Heyward race for votes razor-thin

Perhaps the National League starting lineup for the 81st All-Star Game is beginning to solidify itself, but while the leaders did not change in Tuesday's update of fan balloting, some races remain up for grabs.

The Brewers' Ryan Braun, the Braves' Jason Heyward and the Dodgers' Andre Ethier continued as the three leading outfielders, but the race to finish first couldn't be much closer, as Heyward, the Atlanta rookie, trails Braun by only 2,845 votes.

And at catcher, the Cardinals' Yadier Molina has 1,047,411 votes and has maintained a lead of about 88,000 over the Braves' Brian McCann (959,033) -- the smallest margin between first and second place in the NL infield.

There was a change in one particular race of interest. After running second in NL votes since balloting began, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has overtaken Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and is now the league's leading vote-getter.

Pujols -- batting .309 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs after Monday's game -- has received 2,093,649 votes, as he looks to make his ninth All-Star Game and seventh start in his 10th season in the big leagues. Utley has received 1,992,180 votes.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and third baseman Placido Polanco of the Phillies have also maintained their leads.

Braun has led the outfielders all year, but Heyward is breathing down his neck. Last week, the Braves' rookie phenom vaulted into the top three for the first time and trailed the first-place Braun by 8,815 votes. Now, that margin is down to under 3,000 votes, as Heyward has captured 1,419,753 and Braun sits uncomfortably ahead at 1,422,598.

Heyward, an early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, is batting .265 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs, while Braun is sporting a .300 batting average with 10 homers and 45 RBIs while seeking his third consecutive trip to the All-Star Game.

Ethier, leading the NL with a .343 batting average, increased his lead over fourth-place Jayson Werth of the Phillies from roughly 84,000 to 224,000.

While St. Louis' Matt Holliday (sixth in the outfield), the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez (ninth) and the Mets' Jason Bay (10th) are some of the most recognizable names in the NL, it's Braun, Heyward and Ethier who have been setting the tone in the outfield.

Throughout the balloting process, the race for fan votes at shortstop, between Ramirez and a still-idle Jimmy Rollins, was one of the most intriguing. In the previous two weeks, the distance between the two was among the closest in the Majors.

But after taking the lead for the first time last week, Ramirez -- batting .285 with nine homers and 33 RBIs -- has increased his lead from a little more than 40,000 to nearly 200,000.

Ramirez has 1,190,685 votes and some cushion over Rollins (992,887), who has been limited to 12 games because of a right calf strain that hasn't shown many signs of improvement.

Despite batting just .256, Utley -- Ramirez's up-the-middle partner the past two All-Star Games -- is easily ahead of Martin Prado (895,458), even though the Braves second baseman holds a much better .332 batting average.

If Utley maintains his lead, he'll be making his fifth consecutive trip to the All-Star Game.

Meanwhile, in arguably the most surprising race in the NL, Polanco continues to hold strong at the hot corner.

Polanco, batting .319, has held a lead throughout over the Mets' David Wright -- batting .286 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs after a nice start to June -- even though Polanco hasn't played third base full-time since 2002 and hasn't made an All-Star team since 2007. This week, Polanco (933,229) maintained a lead of nearly 180,000 over Wright, an All-Star in four consecutive years who now has 754,455 votes.

Thanks to a June in which he is batting .405 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 11 games, Wright's numbers are now pretty much on par with what many expected. But Mets fans will have to hurry if they think that's good enough for an All-Star nod.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites using the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot sponsored by Sprint until July 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Sprint subscribers can now vote on the go with select Sprint devices. They can learn more about how to vote on their smart phones at MLB.com/Sprint.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2010 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 4. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

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Rocky McIntosh re-signs with the Redskins

A parade of players have put pen to paper regarding their restricted free agency tenders.  Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh appears to be the latest player to pick up an ink-filled device and start using it.

The team announced earlier in the hour that McIntosh has re-signed with the team.  Though terms were not disclosed, it's likely that McIntosh simply accepted his pre-existing one-year, $1.759 million offer.

McIntosh reported for offseason workouts in early May, even though he was unhappy with his contractual situation.  With a potential reduction of the offer in the amount of $1.2 million coming if McIntosh hadn't signed by Tuesday, it was obvious even then that he'd take the money.  Even if he's not happy with $1.759 million for one season of football, that's better than the $588,000 figure that the Redskins could have invoked as of June 15.

UPDATE:  We're told that McIntosh simply signed his tender offer.

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Release Date Announced for "The U" DVD

When Dave and Billy began editing The U in Spring 2009, they knew it would be a monumental task to sandwich 20 years of football history into a 90 minute documentary.  Compromises would have to be made.

Like we do with all our projects, the film was storyboarded and assembled in scenes.  Then the scenes get laid out together, transitions are massaged, refinements are made, and ultimately entire scenes get cut. 

Scenes get cut for a variety of reasons: repetitiveness, length, deviation from pushing the story forward, etc. One of my favorite scenes that didn't make the final cut was the QB competition between Kosar and Testaverde in 1983, but there simply wasn't enough time for it.
So when The U dvd comes out August 17th, it will include a dozen deleted scenes:

The Locker Room
Schnellenberger's Pipe
QB Contest
Joe Namath 1984 Orange Bowl
Michael Irvin in the Cafeteria
Locker Room Speech
Tim Brown 1987
Discipline & Education
Tad Foote at the White House
Lamar and Irvin on the Phone
Ibis Arrest
Depth & Competition

We're also including all the player intros and three additional featurettes:
the World Premiere at the Lyric Theater Miami City Hall screening Randal Hill's Q&A from the University of Miami campus screening

On top of that, we cut an additional six scenes that didn't make it as bonus features on the DVD.  Starting next Tuesday and every Tuesday until the release on August 17th, we'll be posting those scenes on rakontur.com and on The U Facebook fan page.

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Warren Sapp to Judge BBQ Competition on TLC

Former Dancing with the Stars contestant Warren Sapp will be a judge on the next season of TLC's BBQ Pitmasters. The former Super Bowl champ will be joined at the judges' table by BBQ champion Myron Mixon and celebrity chef Art Smith when the reality TV competition launches its new format this summer.

On season two of BBQ Pitmasters,  there will be a series of barbecuing battles between teams as contestants compete to become BBQ Pitmaster. Season two will begin on August 12 at 10 pm ET/PT.

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Reggie Wayne's alleged mistress turns herself in

UPDATE: McKenzie was released on $5,000 bond after being charged with fraud and receiving stolen property on Monday. Natasha McKenzie claims to be the former mistress of Colts' wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

Her attorney said the whole thing is a misunderstanding.

"He actually sent her a text message and said, go ahead and take car of what you need to take care of, after they had flown to Los Angeles together," said attorney Lynn Bibbs.

Bibbs said her client has kept several text messages from the Colts star.

Wayne was not available for comment. He did not attend a recent off-season training camp in Indianapolis.

Natasha McKenzie, the woman who claims she is the mistress of Colts' wide receiver Reggie Wayne, turned herself into police Monday morning. Wayne accuses her of stealing his debit card and racking up nearly $100,000 in charges. McKenzie claims Wayne filed false charges to cover their affair.

McKenzie told Fox59 News in an earlier interview that Wayne gave her the debit card and told her to use it to take care of things. She believes his wife found out about their affair and he filed charges.

A warrant was issued Friday for McKenzie's arrest. She is scheduled to appear before a Marion County judge Monday for an initial appearance.

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Ed Reed recovering in Colorado

Unlike cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, safety Ed Reed has decided to rehab outside of Ravens headquarters.

Reed is recovering in Colorado, where he had a hip procedure over a month ago. The six-time Pro Bowl player will likely miss the start of training camp.

“Ed is really working hard from everything I’ve heard,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Ed is at the stage of his career where he knows himself better than anybody.”

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Jon Beason working as weakside linebacker

Panthers MLB Jon Beason was working as the weak-side linebacker in Thursday's practice.

Interesting. Beason was considered an ideal fit for the WILL spot when he entered the league, and coordinator Ron Meeks' scheme funnels the majority of plays to that position. With Thomas Davis likely out for the season, the move could last. Dan Connor entered the lineup at middle backer Thursday, with James Anderson on the strong-side.

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Santana Moss Expects To Thrive In 2010 Offense

Redskins WR Santana Moss expects to thrive in this year's offense, mainly because he'll be lining up in multiple spots. The last two years, he lined up in just one spot. "Since they're moving me around this year, defenses won't know what to expect or know where I'm going," Moss said.

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Jimmy Graham Runs with the First Team Offense

Jeremy Shockey's recent absence from Saints minicamp due to hospitalization and back spasms was a valuable opportunity for Jimmy Graham, in particular. Graham, a third-round draft pick out of Miami, is even more raw than most rookies, having spent four years as a basketball player in college before playing football for just one season.

But by all accounts the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has been a quick study, and he's eager to learn. He was one of the last players on the field Friday afternoon, catching extra passes from the quarterbacks.

"I'm very impressed with him, " quarterback Drew Brees said. "I think athletically he's as gifted as you get at the tight end position. I think (he's learning) like any young guy thrown into the mix, especially a tight end in our system where's the Y tight end and F tight end. At times you're out wide, at times you're split out, at times you're in the backfield. We do a lot with our tight ends; we move them around a lot; we put a lot on their plate and make them responsible for a lot.

"He still has a big learning curve here, but just as far as pure talent and telling him to run this and get open, he can do it. I look forward to watching him develop."

Payton said Graham's development has been especially impressive for a player with such little experience in college.

"He's getting a lot of work, " Payton said. "For us, the key is just finding a handful of packages that we think suit him, and packages that would suit Dave Thomas or Jeremy Shockey. ... (Graham) is a guy that we're giving some snaps to, and the timing with he and Drew is important.

"Just like you're seeing (rookie cornerback) Patrick (Robinson) get some snaps. Some of these guys that we've had for the better part of three weeks now -- the rookie camp, the OTAs -- they're being quickly brought up to speed."

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Chris Polian Talks About Javarris James

A recent interview with Colts General Manager Chris Polian which was done pre-mini-camp, offers a wealth of great information on how management feels the team is growing, and what players they seem excited about. Polian said the following about Javarris James:

"Edge's [Edgerrin James] cousin played in a rotation at Miami and was very productive in his role. He's not going to have great staistical production because of how he was used but a very solid player who has a chance to compete for the thrid or fourth running back spot."

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Texans set deadline for Andre Johnson deal

Speaking to ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, Texans G.M. Rick Smith made it clear that the team has a deadline for negotiations about a restructured contract for wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Week One.

"Our policy's been that we'll look at deals and we'll try to get things done during the offseason," explained Smith.  "But once the season starts, our entire focus as an organization goes to football and playing games."

Smith acknowledged that the Texans have been in discussions with Johnson's new agent, Kennard McGuire, though no new deal seems imminent.

"It's pretty well known that he's hired Kennard and we've been in contact," Smith confirmed.  "So I'll just leave it there."

Though Johnson has outplayed the eight-year, $60 million extension he signed in 2007 relative to other top NFL receivers, his camp is in a difficult position.  The Texans have Johnson under control through the 2014 season, with impending salaries of $5.8 million (2010), $6.8 million (2011), $7.3 million (2012), $7 million (2013), and $7.3 million (2014).

The sides will have to get creative to get something done before Smith's deadline.

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Frank Gore: Too set in his ways, or telling it like it is?

Yesterday afternoon, Mike Sando had an interesting post about Alex Smith and the 49ers offense. One of the sub-headings of the post discussed "The Gore Factor." In particular it mentioned how he was an outspoken advocate of the two-back offense featuring a traditional fullback. That's not surprising news, but it does have me wondering a couple things.

Last week we had our 49ers roster projection for the fullback position. While Moran Norris seems to be a lock for the roster, Brit Miller is also hanging around. We've heard Frank Gore repeatedly express his disdain at any kind of running back by committee option, and also his love for having a fullback like Moran Norris leading the charge in front of him. And yet, many folks are displeased with the quality of production coming from the fullback position. It's certainly not an easy position to assess given that it's primarily about lead-blocking. Considering Frank Gore's success, it would be easy to just assume the fullback is performing well, without looking at what he's actually doing.

In addition to the fullback position, we've heard Frank Gore express his disdain about losing carries to other running backs. While it seems logical to taper off his carries to maintain his health, he's always said he needs all those carries to really get into the flow of the game. Certainly not inspiring words for Glen Coffee and Anthony Dixon. Of course, it's not like those two have the greatest street cred, but it's still something to consider.

So at this point, as Frank Gore expresses his very strong opinions, is there any concern those opinions will force the team into a corner? I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. After all, Gore remains a highly productive running back. While he's had stretches of inconsistency, one could argue that has as much to do with poor performance by the offense as a whole, as opposed to the fullback issue or the losing carries issue.

I'm not really sure what I'm asking, other than whether the team should just stick with what Frank Gore wants as long as he's a key member of this team. Does any of this really matter in the 49ers quest to return to the playoffs?

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Connecting the Dots On the Kenny Phillips Situation

To put it lightly, the Giants are handling safety Kenny Phillips’ rehabilitation from microfracture surgery on his knee at a snail’s pace.

The 23-year-old Phillips, who was selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Giants, is currently not practicing with the team.  He watches the action from the sidelines in-between his rehab exercises.

"We’re just being cautious right now” said Phillips recently. “The doctors and trainers have given good reports. I feel great – no pain, no swelling.”

This is common with arthritis sufferers. One day they feel great, the next day they can’t move.

That is what Phillips has – arthritis. Patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee, to be exact.  It is not an injury.  It is a condition.  The surgery was performed to relieve the symptoms of the arthritis, not to repair anything.

Basically, the procedure was aimed to give Phillips a chance at strengthening the knee and stave off further arthritic deterioration.  So far, he feels as if it has been a success, and even though he’s chomping at the bit to get back on the field, he knows he has to be patient.

“There’s no reason to rush it. We’re just taking our time. I do the normal conditioning, same thing the team does – but not with the team, so I’m in pretty good shape.”

In the meanwhile, Phillips will continue to workout individually. He will not participate in team drills at next week’s mini-camp.

When asked if he expects to be out on the field come training camp, Phillips didn’t hesitate (“Yes, that is my goal.&rdquoWinking

A reporter asked if he was on track for that.  He answered with an affirmative “Yes, sir.”

The Realities………..
Safeties coach David Merritt was guarded in his analysis of Phillips. Like everyone else, he seems to hoping for the best, but is preparing for the worst.

“He and the doctors have all stated that he should be ready to go in training camp.  Now whether that’s one a day, whether that’s two a days … The kid is running right now. I don’t know how much cutting he’s doing on the knee, but I’m looking for him to come back in training camp. I’m not looking to put him in mini-camp or anything like that.

Phillips has a condition that will have to be managed for not only the remainder of his career, but for the remainder of his life.  Arthritis is unpredictable.  He can be a Pro Bowl- caliber safety one week, and then the knee could flare up causing him to either sit or be rendered ineffective.

The Giants are not saying this aloud, but they’ve been thinking it.  Their rush to get safety help in the off-season reflects their inner thinking.

They gave an enormous contract to free agent Antrel Rolle.  Then they signed reliable veteran Deon Grant.  Rolle was the prototype safety at the U of Miami before Sean Taylor and Kenny Phillips.  Grant was the player the Sporting News compared Phillips to before the Giants drafted him.  Go figure.

The Giants also added LSU’s Chad Jones in this year’s draft.  They still have Michael Johnson and Sha’reff Rashad, and free agent rookie Mike Greco from Central Florida has been praised by Merritt this spring.

GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin are still very high on Phillips, but their actions are showing otherwise. Perhaps they are buying time right now for Phillips, which is a good thing.  If he can come back this season, it’s a bonus.  If not, the Giants are prepared.

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Damione Lewis settling in with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran defensive lineman Damione Lewis did a good deed today, joining teammates Stephen Neal and Sebastian Vollmer to promote summer reading to middle school students.

The event also served as a reminder that Lewis is adjusting to life in New England.

He started to introduce himself as a Carolina Panther before quickly correcting himself.

"I had been saying that for four years, so it's just getting used to it. It's just a little different ring," he said afterwards.

Lewis is excited about what he's experienced so far in New England.

"It's been really good, I've really enjoyed it," he said. "I've been working hard with the system."

Lewis is a vying for time at right defensive end, the spot previously occupied by Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green. It is his first time playing in a 3-4 alignment after lining up at tackle in the 4-3 for St. Louis and Carolina.

One of the things that has stood out to him is how many things a defense can do out of that alignment. He's also taken note of how fans support their teams in the region.

"It's always a treat to get out and play for teams who have huge support from their fans," he said.

As for today's charity event, Lewis talked to almost 1,000 students (fifth-eighth grade) about the importance of reading. He told them how he enjoys reading to his two children each day (stories such as Cinderella) and how reading impacts everything they will do.

"Whenever we can get out and talk to kids, I am all for that," he said. "I like talking to younger children because I think they really take to what we have to say, and take it to heart. I think you have a chance to actually reach one in the crowd, three in the crowd, or however many, it's a chance to make an imprint on someone's life in a positive way."

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Jeremy Shockey gets back in the mix

New Orleans Saints veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey was back on the practice field Friday -- but not all the way back.

After recovering from a frightening episode last week when he experienced seizure-like symptoms in the Saints' weight room, Shockey was sidelined Friday by an unrelated case of back spasms.

He didn't participate in the morning practice, then he was limited to the walk-through portion and individual drills in the afternoon as the Super Bowl champions kicked off their three-day minicamp.

Shockey declined to comment, but Coach Sean Payton insisted that Shockey is fully recovered from last week's health scare, which Payton said was caused by low blood sugar and dehydration.

"What's holding him back right now is just his back, " said Payton, who described last week's incident as a "fainting episode rather than a seizure."

Shockey, too, previously had said on his Twitter account that the episode wasn't a seizure.

According to descriptions from teammates in the weight room, Shockey was convulsing for nearly a minute before he was revived. He then spent the night at a hospital for testing and observation.

"He had finished practicing, then was in the weight room and was just finishing a set on the bench press and felt faint, " said Payton, who added the only precautions needed for Shockey -- as well as the rest of the team -- is a continued emphasis on staying hydrated and eating enough before workouts. "You know, they got him hydrated, (did) all the tests over the weekend. Fortunately, they all came back positive."
Shockey was expected to fully participate in this weekend's minicamp, but Payton said at some point in the past 48 hours Shockey experienced back spasms.

Payton said Shockey has experienced similar back problems in the past. He described him as "day to day" but said there was no reason to rush him back to the practice field.

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Reggie Wayne to skip Colts' minicamp

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has two years left on his contract, will not attend Indianapolis' mandatory minicamp this weekend.

"I have tremendous respect for Jim Irsay, Bill Polian and the entire Indianapolis Colts organization, but at this time, we are in disagreement concerning my contract situation," Wayne said in an e-mailed statement. "Therefore, I will not be attending this weekend's minicamp.

"I will continue training diligently in Florida, as I have each offseason since my rookie year, to ensure that I am fully ready for this season," he wrote. "I hope that a fair resolution can be reached in the not-too-distant future that allows me to achieve my goal of playing my entire career with the Indianapolis Colts."

Wayne, 31, is scheduled to make $5.47 million this season and $5.95 million next season. He is coming off his fourth straight Pro Bowl season and has at least 100 catches in two of the past three seasons.

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Phillip Buchanon Is An Offensive-Minded Defender

When Phillip Buchanon was growing up, it seems like he wanted to be a lot of things other than what he ended up being.

When Buchanon, a cornerback who the Washington Redskins signed to a free agent contract this offseason, first started playing football, he wanted to be on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“I’m an offensive player at heart,” he told Comcast SportsNet’s Ivan Carter on Washington Post Live. “Anytime we get a chance to touch a ball, I’m going to be very excited trying to make it to the end zone.”

“That’s always been my passion since day one playing football. I played running back, messed around a little at quarterback and played receiver, so I love touching the ball and I love trying to score with it,” he said. “I look forward to making some big plays.”

Buchanon was quite a baseball player. He was good enough, in fact, to warrant a $500 thousand contract offer from the Cincinnati Reds when he graduated from Lehigh High School in Fort Myers, Florida. He decided to accept a football scholarship to Miami instead.

“Florida is a major football state,” Buchanon said. “I had a lot of my buddies telling me, we know you’re into baseball, but you should stick to football because that’s what we do.”

Buchanon expressed a tinge of regret when topics such as the contract that the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer recently inked (8 years, $184 million, all of it guaranteed) was brought up.

“When I look back on it I think, ‘Man, I missed out on a lot of money,’” he said.

Buchanon, 29 and entering his ninth NFL season, got a modest contract from the Redskins, a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with another $750 thousand in incentives. He came to Washington because of his familiarity with some of the people on the team. Santana Moss and Clinton Portis were teammates at Miami, and Bruce Allen was the general manager during Buchanon’s stints in Oakland and Tampa Bay.

He also likes the atmosphere around Redskins Park.  “They treat you how you approach the game,” said Buchanon. “If you approach the game like a professional, the coach is going to treat you that way. I like that. I’ve been on teams that are too young, and the coaches run you into the ground.”

Buchanon, in fact, almost became a Redskin several years ago. In 2005 the Raiders, who drafted Buchanon 17th overall in 2002, put the cornerback up on the trading block. The Redskins were one of the interested teams, and Washington was on Buchanon’s list of teams he wanted to play for. But he ended up being dealt to Houston.

There has been discussion of Buchanon filling the Redskins’ need for a punt returner in addition to his defensive duties.

“That’s something we’ve talked about, so I’m definitely involved in that and looking forward to that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

He has a career average of 9.1 yards per punt return with three touchdowns (although none since 2003).

Something else that Buchanon might bring to the Redskins is the pick six. He has scored five touchdowns on interceptions returns during his career, and that is an element that has been missing from the Redskins’ defense for quite some time.

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Kellen Winslow in the loop

Tight end Kellen Winslow is missing voluntary workouts as he recovers from knee surgery, but is still in the loop.

Tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts said he is in constant contact with Winslow this offseason and keeps him informed about changes to Tampa Bay's offense.

"I try to keep him updated on what we're doing, just the things we've talked about in the room that might be a little bit different," Roberts said. "Make sure he's up to date and keep him current. He works so hard when he's in the building.

"He's one of the guys who are early in and late out. He's a big film watcher. This is my fourth year with him, and not to be complacent, but I'm used to the things he does."

Roberts has spent most of this offseason watching tight end Jerramy Stevens fill in for Winslow, who had 77 receptions for 884 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Stevens, a nine-year veteran, said he has spent this offseason bonding with his teammates and is trying to gain quarterback Josh Freeman's trust.

"The grind is competitive after nine years and it can get old, but you need to be here," Stevens said. "It's more for the team building than anything else. If you're a vet, you can pick up the offense. You know how to play football. It's about being around the guys.

"(Coach Raheem Morris) does not need me to be here everyday. (Offensive coordinator Greg Olson) doesn't need to be here everyday, but I'm here because I like being around the guys."

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Olsen getting tired of talking about role in Martz's offense

Bears tight end Greg Olsen knows everyone is wondering whether he's a good fit in the offense run by new coordinator Mike Martz. But he's getting tired of talking about it.

"I've addressed this a million times," Olsen said. "I feel good the way things have gone so far, and it's early in the process, but so far everything's been great."

A million times is a slight exaggeration, but It's true that Olsen has addressed the issue. However, Olsen himself acknowledged that he was concerned at first about Martz's offense, and with good reason: Martz typically views tight ends as blockers first and receivers second.

Olsen, on the other hand, has always been a receiver first, and last year he was the Bears' leading receiver, with 60 catches. Martz typically doesn't give tight ends the opportunity to catch 60 passes in a season.

But Olsen thinks Martz's philosophy ultimately comes down to putting the ball in the best players' hands.

"Sometimes you focus your offense around what you've got," Olsen said. "In the past, [Martz] has had great wide receivers and great backs. It's the same here, but we feel like we have a couple tight ends who can do some stuff in the passing game along with those other guys. So we'll see how that works out."

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Jonathan Vilma, Reggie Bush team up with Mayor Mitch Landrieu for hurricane prep

In advising residents this week to get ready for what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season, Mayor Mitch Landrieu got some help from two familiar faces: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and running back Reggie Bush.

In a pair of public-service announcements set to air on local TV, the players share the spotlight with the mayor in urging New Orleanians to be prepared.

In nearly identical scripts filmed in the Superdome, the players recommend that residents stock up on bottled water and nonperishable food items, get a battery-powered radio, and make plans to leave town if a hurricane bears down. They suggest using the state's evacuation website, www.getagameplan.org, as a guide.

"Like our New Orleans Saints, we all need a game plan to keep up with hurricane season and to keep our families safe," Landrieu says in the spots.

Though the mayor and the players simply speak to the camera for most of the 30-second commercials, both spots end with Landrieu jogging away from the lens, calling, "Hit me deep, coach."

He catches both passes.

"Not bad, huh? I got game," the mayor quipped after the spots' debut during a news conference Tuesday. "One hand, look at that! Come on, give it to me."

Some of the officials standing with Landrieu were skeptical.

"How many times did they have to edit it?" City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson asked.

"We did that about a hundred times," the mayor deadpanned.

Council President Arnie Fielkow expressed more confidence in Landrieu, an avid distance runner and cyclist. "Knowing your athletic prowess," Fielkow said, "I don't think there were many takes."

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Wins are special for Aubrey Huff

Huff is happy he's put losing ways behind him.

The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball, they've lost 17 of their past 19 games, and the ax already fell on manager Dave Trembley.

Aubrey Huff knows this situation all too well. The Orioles come to town today, and Huff will face his former club for the first time since they traded him to the Detroit Tigers last August.

"They're having a tough year, but you can't take 'em lightly, man," Huff said. "You never know what's going to happen."

The same was true for Huff's free agency last winter. The Giants were the only team to offer him a major league contract, and he's ecstatic at how it's turned out.

"I'm really enjoying my time here," he said. "It's a great coaching staff, a great team and fans and a beautiful ballpark. Tell me you don't want to come here with this starting staff and want to win."

Huff hasn't played a full season for a winning team in his 11-year career.

"The last couple years, you really start getting so down about it," said Huff, who broke in with Tampa Bay. "You start thinking you'd rather retire than go through that. Here we've got a great pitching staff and a chance to win every day. I wouldn't rather be anyplace in baseball than right here."

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Drive paying off for Jon Jay

During a stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training, outfielder Jon Jay hit .231 with three RBI.

Although it was nothing to brag about, Jay left Jupiter, Fla., as confident as ever that he could play for the Cardinals. So after joining the Redbirds, Jay went out and showed he was ready, hitting over .300 in the season's first three weeks.

It was enough to open some eyes in St. Louis as the Cardinals gave their second-round pick in 2006 his first promotion to the big leagues on April 26. This time, the former University of Miami star didn't disappoint.

In just over a month with the Cardinals, Jay hit .302 with four RBI and his first big league homer in 26 games. Jay finally got to see his confidence become fruition.

"It's definitely nice to see it, to be able to see it and feel it," Jay said. "Sometimes you envision it, but you don't really get to feel it. It was a great feeling.

"I've always had confidence, even when I was struggling. I know I can play this game. I was just fortunate to put together a good string there. It helps when you're able to compete. That's the best baseball playing field that there is. It's just good to be able to show what I can do in that short period. Hopefully, it's going to help me out in the future."

What made his big league dream's coming true even more special was that his parents were there to enjoy it with him.

"They're the ones that have been there every step of the way, taking me since I was 5 years old to everything," Jay said. "So it was nice for them to be able to see that."

Jay returned to the Redbirds on June 4 and quickly picked up where he left off. In his first four games back, Jay knocked in at least one run in each game while hitting .474 (9-for-19) with eight RBI.

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Gaby Sanchez creeps into NL Rookie of Year race

With all the hoopla surrounding young rookie phenoms such as Atlanta's Jason Heyward, Washington's Stephen Strasburg and the Marlins' Mike Stanton, it's easy to overlook a more seasoned Gaby Sanchez for possible NL Rookie of the Year honors.

But after Friday night's four-hit barrage, which included his first multi-homer game and a career-high six RBI — one shy of the club record and the most since Josh Willingham on Aug. 23, 2007 — Sanchez should be in the early conversation.

Sanchez is ranked first among rookies in doubles (14), second in extra-base hits (22), hits (59), total bases (31) and runs scored (31). He's third in average (.282), homers (7), walks (22), and slugging percentage (.459).

"It would be a great award to win, but winning [games] is everything,'' said Sanchez, 26, at least five years older than Heyward, Stanton and Strasburg. "I don't look at the publicity I'm not getting or [Heyward's] getting. I can't control that.

"I don't think about numbers or where I stand. I just care about winning and the only thing I look at is the standings.''

Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan, last year's NL Rookie of the Year, was practically ignored until August, when he was in the midst of a torrid second half in which he batted .372 to end up at .321.

This year, Sanchez has been overshadowed by Heyward, who leads NL rookies in homers (10), total bases (102) and extra-base hits (24), and St. Louis' David Frees, the leader in average (.311) and hits (60).

"Let's see where he is in September,'' Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said when asked if Sanchez could be the team's fourth rookie of the year, following Coghlan, Hanley Ramirez and Dontrelle Willis.

"He's one of those guys the more you see him, the more you appreciate him. He won't light up the stopwatch running to first base and he's not going to have Stanton-type power, not going to steal a bag, but over the course of a season he's pretty good.''

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Lauryn Williams selling her Nike gear to benefit charity

About the only things Lauryn Williams has more of than medals for running fast are clothes for running fast. So she's doing some spring cleaning.

Organizing her closet is also a metaphor for organizing her mind as she enters the next stage of her track and field career. At 26, the former world champion and Olympic silver medal-winning sprinter is healthy, seasoned and keen to capitalize on her sport's current crest in popularity after years during which it was smudged by scandal.

Williams also has a new sponsor, Saucony. The switch prompted her to shed her Nike gear, a trove of 250 swoosh-adorned items, gently or never used. She's selling the workout clothes and donating all proceeds to the charity Fun 4 Kidz, an organization founded by former University of Miami student Andrew Post that promotes literacy through sports for underprivileged children.

``I've accumulated a lot of stuff and I didn't want it to go to waste,'' Williams said. ``I thought this would be a nice way for people to get workout clothes of high quality at a low price and contribute to a good cause at the same time.''

Williams is offering packs of five items (three tops, two bottoms) for $50, quite a deal considering some items still have $45 price tags on them. She has raised nearly $1,000 so far.

On her website, laurynwilliams.net, Williams asks prospective buyers to describe the person who will benefit from the purchase.

``I've heard from aspiring track athletes, college students, people who want to get back in shape,'' she said. ``One person said she had low self-confidence and so did her daughter and this would inspire them to run.''

Jackie Kosakowski, 26, a former collegiate steeplechase runner who now coaches at Utica (N.Y.) College, is one satisfied customer.

``It's cool to wear something an Olympian wore,'' Kosakowski said. ``She sent a red Nike shirt with Olympic rings and I think, `Maybe Lauryn wore this in Beijing,' and it helps me when I don't want to go out and run.''

At 5-foot-8, Kosakowski was worried the clothes might be too small. Williams is famously short -- 5-foot-3 1/4-inches, emphasis on the 1/4.
``I know she's tiny but everything fit fine because it stretches,'' Kosakowski said.

Not for sale: Williams' U.S. uniforms.

Each brings back memories: her silver in the 100 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics when she was a 21-year-old unknown; her golds at the 2005 world championships in the 100- and 400-meter relays; silver at 2007 worlds in the 100 in a photo finish against Jamaica's Veronica Campbell and gold in the relay; fourth place in the 100 at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Williams plans to add to that wardrobe at the 2011 worlds in South Korea and the 2012 Olympics in London. This year, her goals are to build strength, hone technique and avoid injury.

The University of Miami graduate, who continues to train at UM under coach Amy Deem, has added swimming, spinning and Pilates to her regimen.

``I get an ugly arm sometimes at full speed so we are working on that detail and hip placement and other little things that could shave off .01 in the long run,'' she said.

Deem and Williams had a heart-to-heart talk after the runner's fifth-place finish at the 2009 world championships.

``She was not happy. I asked some tough questions and we discussed what it would take to get her back on the medal stand,'' Deem said. ``She's made a lot of improvements over the years but at this point she's got to make those last few technical changes to really take ownership of her event.

``One of our goals is for her to become more consistent, more than a big meet performer, and I hope that comes with maturity.''

Williams, who ran her personal best of 10.88 in 2005, will run in about a half-dozen European meets this summer, leaving her plenty of time to train and work on volunteer projects, including the Lauryn Williams Mentoring Program, in which she pairs 40 UM athletes with 40 middle-school students.

For Williams, it's a great time to be a track and field star. The sport is on the upswing thanks to the charismatic, record-obliterating Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

``We want to be the world's best track and field team and we're motivated by the Jamaicans.''

Williams was impressed to see 35,000 spectators at Jamaica's junior championships.

``I wish Americans would catch the fire for track and field, and maybe they will,'' she said. ``We've got lots of interesting characters and the emphasis is on integrity, on competing clean.''

Williams is building for big things in 2011 and 2012.

``I'm getting ready to peak,'' she said. ``Age 26 is the new 18.''

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Texans ink Darryl Sharpton

The Houston Texans picked linebacker Darryl Sharpton with the fourth selection in round four of the 2010 draft.

Per a league source, they've now signed him to a contract.

It's a four-year deal with a $534,940 signing bonus for the former University of Miami player.

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Ken Dorsey Engineers Game Winning Drive in Preseason Game

TORONTO -- It's not so much the win that impressed Jim Barker, but how the Toronto Argonauts went about getting it.

Robbie Dehaze's 13-yard yard field goal with 51 seconds remaining rallied the Argos to a 13-10 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday in the first CFL exhibition game for both teams Sunday.

Trailing 10-1 heading into the second half, Toronto pulled to within 10-7 thanks to fine play from quarterback Dalton Bell, who guided the offence on marches of 55 and 58 yards in the third quarter that culminated with field goals.

In the fourth, after Grant Shaw's 39-yard field goal made it 10-10, former Miami Hurricanes star Ken Dorsey hit a wide-open Derek Stanley on a 44-yard completion to put the Argos on the Hamilton 10-yard line with just over a minute remaining.

After a Bryan Crawford four-yard run and incompletion, Dehaze gave the sparse Rogers Centre gathering of 12,514 something to cheer about with his game-winning boot to cap an eight-play, 73-yard drive.

"I was proud of the way our guys battled all the way to the end. I mean, they wanted to win the game," Barker said. "When you haven't won much in the previous years that's important.

"I was excited for our players that they got the chance to win the game."

Barker wasn't excited about the Argos' penchant for taking penalties. They were flagged 16 times for 104 yards, with 20 coming after defensive tackle Adriano Belli was offside, then called for unnecessary roughness.

That put Hamilton on Toronto's 15-yard line in the first and set up a 22-yard field goal that put the visitors ahead 3-1.

"Adriano is a work in progress, he is what he is and we are working hard to make him understand the importance of being a part of a team," Barker said. "Adriano goes out with the very best of intentions always but he knows what he did was wrong."

Victories have been hard to come by for Toronto -- which has won a combined seven games the last two seasons. Barker replaced the fired Bart Andrus this off-season with the mandate to get the Argos back into the playoffs.

Dorsey, the last of four Toronto quarterbacks, finished 8-of-17 passing for 96 yards with an interception in his first football game since 2008 with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. Dorsey's pick came on the Argos' possession before their game-winning drive and right after they tied the game. He said there was no anxiety on the sideline.

"I felt like even before the interception I was pretty comfortable," he said. "I don't think the demeanour changed (after interception), there was no panic."

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Nate Webster Gets Drafted in the 9th Round of the UFL Draft

Nate Webster was drafted in the 9th Round of the 2010 UFL draft by the Omaha Nighthawks. Webster was out of football during the 2009 team after starting at the middle linebacker position the previous season for the Denver Broncos. Webster was the 43rd overall pick of the draft.

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Eric Moncur a determined challenger within DE position for Eagles

Bring up the Eagles’ defensive end position, and names like Brandon Graham and Trent Cole are sure to be among the first mentioned. Dive deeper, considering guys battling for reserve jobs, and players like the versatile rookie Ricky Sapp and trade acquisition Darryl Tapp will be discussed. However, there’s one challenger within the position that has been put in the background, yet is determined to make an impact and could be a surprise candidate to stick with the team for the remainder of the offseason–Eric Moncur.

Though he doesn’t have the flash and college credentials that some of the team’s other defenders do, Moncur (pictured) has just as good of a chance to make the final roster as other players on the team competing, such as two-year veteran Alex Hall, who has similar characteristics. His inconsistency and seeming unwillingness to engage blockers while playing for the University of Miami in the NCAA make him a questionable option as a potential starter, but the 25-year-old rookie definitely possesses a solid work ethic and respectable pass rushing skills to make it at the professional level, even if in a reserve or special teams role. One of Moncur’s best seasons during his collegiate career came in 2007, when he notched 31 tackles and five sacks.

A variety of injuries while in college greatly effected Moncur’s stock in the 2010 Draft, hence the fact that he was not selected by a team and joined the Eagles as a rookie free agent. Obviously his history of getting hurt will be a factor while with Philadelphia (especially since the Birds dealt with plenty of injuries on their squad last season, which undoubtedly negated their defense’s success at times), but he’s got the right amount of determination and potential to star for the Eagles.

Thus far in the offseason, Moncur has been taking repetitions as the team’s third-string defensive end, but there’s a good shot the staff will work him within the linebacker corps as well. No matter what, the absence of Victor Abiamiri–who has been struggling to get on the field as of late with knee issues–and the unproven state of other Eagles makes Moncur a player to keep an eye on as OTAs progress and the roster battles intensify.

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Derrick Morse signs with UFL team, holds on to NFL dream

ESTERO — Derrick Morse isn’t ready to contemplate retirement from the gridiron.

At 25, the desire to play in the NFL still burns inside the immense frame of the former Estero High and University of Miami offensive lineman.
That’s why Morse is eager to give professional football another shot.

Morse said that he agreed to a one-year contract with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League on Thursday night.

“I’m excited,” the Bonita Springs resident said. “It’s another opportunity for me to show what I can do. I think there’s still some football left in me.”

Invited by his former college line coach Art Kehoe, who holds the same position with the Mountain Lions, Morse attended Sacramento’s one-day tryout last month. He’ll return to California on Tuesday for the team’s mini-camp.

Morse hopes to earn a spot as a starting guard or center for a team which is owned by the husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is coached and managed by former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green. Sacramento will open its season on Sept. 18 in Connecticut against the Hartford Colonials.

Morse’s 6-foot-5, 325-pound figure is close to the dimensions he sported when he manned the OL for four years in Coral Gables.

Since those college days ceased, Morse’s ultimate goal -— playing in the NFL — hasn’t evaporated. He believes a strong performance in the second-year UFL could catch some eyes.

“I’m trying to use this as a stepping stone to get back to the NFL,” he said.

After his college career concluded in 2007, Morse pursued a job in the NFL. He played in four preseason games with Cleveland in 2008, but was cut by the Browns before the regular season commenced.

When no team expressed interest in him last year, Morse acknowledged he was “down in the dumps.”

Down, but not out.

Morse won’t allow his dream to fade.

“That’s what’s keeping me going,” he said. “If I felt I didn’t belong, I wouldn’t keep trying.”

Even though it’s been nearly two years since he last played in a game, Morse said he might be in the best shape of his life. He’s been working out under the guidance of Rick Lademann at Beyond Motion in Naples.

“He’s got me in crazy, awesome shape,” Morse said. “He’s brought me to the next level.”

Whether Morse’s playing career ascends to higher levels remains to be seen. The long-term substitute teacher and assistant football coach at Cape Coral’s Island Coast High admits, however, that this shot might just be his final one.

“This is kind of like my last hurrah,” he said.

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Bills' Roscoe Parrish wants increased role

After falling out of favor with last season's head coach Dick Jauron, Bills WR Roscoe Parrish is hoping for an increased role on offense under new coach Chan Gailey. Parrish has seen time with the first team this spring in the slot, where Josh Reed used to line up. He's hoping his small size (5-foot-9, 171) won't limit him to being just a punt returner in 2010 -- he sees himself as a DeSean Jackson-like weapon. 'This year I'm just trying to establish myself on offense more because I know I can do it at receiver,' Parrish said.

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish's proCane Rookie Card.

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Sherko Haji-Raouli Could Move to Left Tackle

It would be a sign of panic at the start of the season but in training camp a discussion on whether to move starters around on the offensive line is viewed as an experiment. Either way, the good, early work of backup sophomore OL Justin Sorensen is causing the B.C. Lions to re-examine their options.

One move being discussed is to move Sherko Haji-Rasouli across the line to left tackle and let Sorensen fill the vacancy left by Jason Jimenez last year on the right side.

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Keep on an Eye on Darnell Jenkins

One kid to keep an eye on at training camp is Darnell Jenkins. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami in 2008, Jenkins has bounced from the practice squads of the Texans, Bucs and Browns to here in New England. The 27-year-old is 5-10, 191, but he keeps making circus catches and clearly has NFL speed. The Pats have a wideout glut right now, but Jenkins has been interesting.

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New details in Reggie Wayne credit card fraud investigation, Warrant Issued

More details have emerged in the fraud investigation involving Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne's credit card.

Police say their investigation is wrapping up and charges could soon be coming against Wayne's ex-girlfriend.

According to an affidavit for probable cause, Wayne's ex-girlfriend Natasha McKenzie and her friends and family were scoring big - on Wayne's tab. McKenzie told police that Wayne knew what she was up to. Wayne told police McKenzie never had his go ahead.

"(McKenzie) stated, 'When you have money like Reggie, it really doesn't matter,'" IMPD Sgt. Paul Thompson said. "She felt that she was entitled to a certain amount of compensation for being in the company of Mr. Wayne."

Police say this was McKenzie's justification for racking up almost $95,000 on one of Wayne's credit cards over the past year. Such 'compensation' included a personal computer, a dining set, a Nintendo DS, a Wii Fit, shoes, tickets to Colts games and a Jay-Z concert at Conseco Fieldhouse, along with dozens of money transfers from PayPal.

But police say McKenzie also took care of friends and family at Wayne's expense, paying the childcare costs and cell phone bills for her friend and hair dresser.

"She said that she helps people and this was her way of helping these people by providing them funds, discounted products, buying computers, televisions, things of that nature and giving them to those individuals," Thompson said. "She would put things on the card, charge them half the amount of what she put on the card, plus about a $10 transaction fee."

According to the affidavit, McKenzie told detectives Wayne gave her permission to "take care of what you need to take care of."

Apparently, that included McKenzie's mother. Indianapolis police and the United States Secret Service continued their investigation at Bavarian Village Apartments, searching the home of McKenzie's mother Wednesday morning.

"Apparently they went in and found a television set and a couple lap top computers that were the proceeds of the debit card usage," Thompson said.

Police say Wayne told them he helped McKenzie buy a plane ticket.  According to detectives, McKenzie had saved Wayne's credit card number on her phone and began using it so much she didn't feel she needed permission. 

An arrest warrant has been issued for Natasha McKenzie, the former girlfriend of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police confirmed a warrant has been issued for her arrest. It charges her with one count of theft (receiving stolen property) and one count of fraud. Both counts are class D felonies.

The warrant was issued Friday.

Once arrested, McKenzie will have to post $20,000 bond before she can be released.

Click here to order Reggie Wayne's proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis makes appearance at McNabb's football camp

Clinton Portis was a no-show for the Redskins' final voluntary organized team activities session on Thursday but flew up to Philadelphia from Miami on Saturday morning in time to support teammate Donovan McNabb's annual football clinic for kids.

Asked what motivated him to come from spending time with his family in Miami for the event, Portis said he didn't need any.

"You don't need any motivation," Portis said on Saturday in Marlton, N.J. "You're doing something positive for the community. [McNabb] asked me to come and I showed up."

McNabb said he appreciated Portis coming up when he could have been with his family at home.

"To fly here from Miami to Philadelphia - from Miami - to participate in this particular camp, that says a lot," the quarterback said.

An animated and upbeat Portis was working at one of the clinic's stations with former Eagles running back - and possible future teammate -- Brian Westbrook and Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver.

"You gotta have fun with these kids, man," Portis said. "Everything isn't competition, competition and you don't always got to be serious. You got to have fun with what you're doing to enjoy it and being able to have fun and learn at the same time is the best way to learn [for the children]."

Asked about his absence at practice, Portis said everything is fine.

"I told [head coach Mike Shanahan] ahead of time so it wasn't like I just didn't show up," Portis said. "I hadn't missed a day until Thursday so everything's cool."

Click here to order Clinton Portis' proCane Rookie Card.

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Lance Leggett Interview with Dawgs by Nature

Biography : Lance Leggett was born on February 11, 1985 in Bartow, Florida. He moved to Texas before his junior season of football in high school and attended Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington. He was ranked in the top 15 wide receivers nationally coming out of high school.  During his junior year, he had 40 receptions, 880 yards (22 YPC avg.), and 13 touchdowns. During his senior year, he had 42 receptions for 950 yards (22.6 avg.), and had 18 touchdowns. LL decided he would attend University of Miami to continue football. In his freshman year (2004), he accumulated 17 receptions for 345 yards, and 4 TDs. During his sophomore season, he had 15 receptions for 204 yards and 2 TDs. During his junior year, he had 38 receptions for 584 yards, and 4 TDs.  His best games came against Duke where he had 6 receptions, 131 yards and FIU where he had 7 receptions, 77 yards and 2 TDs. In addition to his best football season in 2006, he was an ACC Champion in the 400 meter hurdles. In 2007, he had 15 receptions for 238 yards and 1 TD. He finished his career at UM with 85 receptions, 1,375 yards, and 11 TDs. During his pro day, Lance ran a 4.43 forty, and had a 10’04″ broad jump. Leggett signed with the Browns as an un-drafted free agent. He caught a touchdown pass in preseason which was enough for him to make the practice squad for almost a year and a half. However, after the Browns cut him, and he joined the New York Sentinels. Leggett is currently looking for an NFL team.

MS : How long have you played football?
LL : I’ve played since I was eight years old.

MS : Did you play any other sports in high school?
LL : I played basketball and also ran track.

MS : What is your favorite sport to play other than football?
LL : My favorite sport is track.

MS : What was your favorite NFL team growing up?
LL : I liked the Jacksonville Jaguars.

MS : When did you realize that you were going to play football in the NFL?
LL : Well, that was always my dream.

MS : If you weren’t playing in the NFL, what would you want to do?
LL : I’d like to start my own business and have a website.

MS : When did you see your first live NFL game?
LL : My first game was the Buccaneers and the Lions, and the Lions won.

MS : What is your favorite memory from Miami?
LL : My 1st game we played Florida State University, and I got to play in that game a lot.

MS : Why do you make it a habit to connect to the fans?
LL : It’s a chance to build a relationship, and they will see that I love to have fun.

MS : Who was your childhood star?
LL : Kobe, he will never let anyone out work him.

MS : What is your favorite song to listen to before a game?
LL : Plies… All Day.

MS : What is your favorite movie of all time?
LL : Friday.

MS : What is your favorite type of pie?
LL : Cheesecake, if you want to call that a pie… haha

MS : What is your favorite TV-Show?
LL : ESPN, BET, and The 1st 48.

MS : What is your favorite video game?
LL : NBA 2K10.

MS : What is the one thing you can’t leave your house without?
LL : My cell phone, lol.

MS : How did the number process work in the NFL?
LL : The number 9 is the number I have worn all my life.

MS : What impact did your high school coach have on your college and professional career?
LL : BIG, words can not describe, I can write a book for you, lol.

MS : Describe the hardest change between the jump from high school to college.
LL : Like any other level, the speed of the game.

MS : How was Coach Shannon influential to your growth?
LL : I love coach, and he will make you become a man REAL FAST!

MS : How had your game improved from your freshman to your senior year of college?
LL : I became stronger.

MS : What’s the hardest workout for you to complete?
LL : Track workouts.

MS : Could you have predicted how far football was going to carry you?
LL : Yes, only because it was all up to me.

MS : What was it like to catch your first touchdown in preseason?
LL : I loved it! Everyone back from my home town was watching, so it gave my city something to smile about.

MS : What is an experience you have had that changed your life?
LL : My kids, and for the better, I will do any and everything for them.

MS : What is your favorite quote?
LL : “Go hard or stay home.”

MS : For someone aspiring to play football in college and in the NFL, do you have any advice for them?
LL : Just keep your eye on the prize!

MS : Thank you for your time.
LL : No problem, fans be ready for http://www.minglesports.com my new website.

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Ray Lewis gets players' attention at 'unique' camp

A weeklong football academy for high school players was starting to drag on for some teenagers Friday.

That's when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis showed up.

"Listen up! You can succeed or fail," said the perennial All-Pro. "It's all up to you."

When Hannibal Navies asked Lewis to join the 360 Football Academy as a partner and advocate, Lewis didn't hesitate. He was sold on what Navies calls an unprecedented offering of services to high school football players.

Lewis cannot imagine how farther he could've gone in life by avoiding some teenage mistakes.

"Oh, man," the former Super Bowl MVP said. "There's no telling, but that time has passed. The point now is these young men here today have an unprecedented opportunity to get a head start."

The players were given advice by industry experts on the potential pitfalls of credit cards, NCAA compliance and performance enhancement.
Navies, a retired NFL linebacker whose best seasons were with Green Bay from 2004-05, and Jon Shibley, founder and CEO of Lenox Financial, spent the last 2 1/2 years planning the academy.

Open to high school players, the academy used former NFL and college standouts to teach football skills. The National Collegiate Scouting Association, which coordinates an exchange of information for approximately 35,000 college coaches, instructed players how to market themselves to Division I schools.

Lewis was one of 15 former and current NFL players who worked on the field with players, but inspirational messages were predominant during water breaks.

Former Indianapolis running back Dominic Rhodes was particularly blunt. He told about growing up in Abilene, Tex., and how his dream of playing for the University of Texas was derailed by poor grades and a low SAT score.

Recruiting services praised him. So did the local media. The Longhorns wanted to offer a scholarship, but Rhodes had no chance to qualify for admission.

"The next thing I know I'm in junior college and I had something like a 0.7 GPA my freshman year," Rhodes said. "It kind of hurt me. No, actually, not kind of hurt me. It did hurt me."

And it's the classroom work that Navies says makes his academy unique.

"I've never seen anything or heard of anything like it," said Franklin Stephens, head coach of Atlanta powerhouse Tucker High. "It's a special camp for so many different reasons, mostly because they're going to track (players progress) and that's why I've got a couple of my guys here."

Navies hosted the five-day event at Georgia Tech, where Kaplan representatives walked kids through the demands of college entrance exams, employees of online company EverFi talked to them about financial literacy, and officials from Team Doctors Preferred Access provided insight on sports rehabilitation and concussions.

"I didn't know how colleges look at your GPA and your SAT score differently," said Terrance Smith, a linebacker who's verbally committed to sign at Florida State and a rising senior at Atlanta's Southwest DeKalb High. "There's a lot to learn and the more you hear, the more questions you have."

Representatives from two companies, GetN10s and Competitive Edge Sports, gave lectures on appropriate training, and others from CRONS Achievers Program ran through the importance of attitude in setting and reaching goals.

Players also heard from William Swift, owner and president of Business Traveler Services and from Hob Nob Jobs, which showed the players what steps to take to help ensure steady employment after football.

"The classroom time — none of it is spent on football," Navies said. "I've done football camps through my (personal) foundation, but I didn't feel like I was really serving them for what to prepare for in life. If you just teach kids football and don't teach them the things that happen in life, I don't feel like you're doing them that much good."

Navies promises the academy will stay in contact with its 147 participants, whom he calls "student-athletes," throughout the next three school years — high school and college — to make sure deadlines are met and progress is made.

"I didn't want to be a five-day camp and say, 'Hey, good luck,'" Navies said.

The cost of the camp varied for individual participants. Some attended on full scholarships from corporate sponsors and others were on partial scholarships. Navies said a couple of the players even lived with other families because their parents were homeless.

Navies says he wants the program open to everyone. He remembers the difficulty in several parts of his life and the pain he endured trying to find solutions.

"That 1 percent, or even less, of high school players that one day make it to the NFL isn't what drives us," Navies said, "as much as it's the 99 percent that don't make it."

Click here to order Ray Lewis' proCane Rookie Card.

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Yasmani Grandal is emotional about draft selection

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The minutes before his team's most important game of the year certainly didn't call for many smiles. But Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal couldn't help being emotional when he was selected in Monday's major league draft.

Grandal learned that the Cincinnati Reds made him the 12th overall pick as the Hurricanes warmed up for a Coral Gables regional championship game against Texas A&M. Teammates and coaches hugged and congratulated Grandal.

The game was postponed because of rain and will be played Tuesday afternoon.

"In between my mom crying and all my friends congratulating me, it got to me," Grandal said. "My eyes got kind of watery."

The junior had declined to sign a professional contract out of Miami Springs High school after he was drafted in a lower round.

Grandal is hitting .412 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI this season and was named ACC Player of the Year. He plans to begin negotiations with the Reds after his college season ends.

"Obviously, pursuing a professional career has always been a dream," Grandal said. "I want to thank the Reds for drafting me.
Grandal was especially delighted with the reaction he received from his mother, who took him out of his native Cuba when he was nine.
In Spanish, she said, "I love you. You worked hard for it."

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Aubrey Huff does all right in right

A couple of weeks ago, no one - including the Giants - could have imagined an outfield alignment with Pat Burrell in left and Aubrey Huff in right, especially in home games.

But there it was Saturday night, a Burrell-Andres Torres-Huff outfield. Manager Bruce Bochy played Huff three times in right on the most recent trip, but Saturday was Huff's debut in front of the quirky and uneven 24-foot brick wall along the shores of McCovey Cove.

"He's done it in the past," Bochy said. "Sure, this is a tough right field, but he'll be fine."

Huff has played more career games in right (241) than left (19, including 11 this year). But until last week, he hadn't been a right fielder since he was with the Astros at the end of the 2006 season.

Opening the season at first base, Huff moved to left when Buster Posey arrived and is playing right, now that Burrell is aboard. "He's been talking about going to short," Bochy said, "but that's not going to happen."

Huff made two routine catches, then moved to left in the eighth inning, replaced in right by Nate Schierholtz.

As for Burrell, who was a designated hitter with Tampa Bay before joining the Giants, Bochy said, "He has a pretty good arm, gets rid of the ball quick, charges the ball well. What he can lack in range, he makes up in some other things. He's been working hard out there."

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Chris Perez nails down sixth save

Cleveland Indians RP Chris Perez came on for a five-out save in Friday's game against the Nationals, locking up his sixth save of the season. He walked one and did not allow a hit, throwing nine of his 17 pitches for strikes. Perez was getting the save chance on Friday after Kerry Wood blew an opportunity on Thursday against the Red Sox. It's uncertain if manager Manny Acta was simply resting Wood or if a change will be made. Wood owners will want Perez as a handcuff just in case.

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Giants bring up Pat Burrell from minors, looks to shine one more time

Hopefully, Pat Burrell doesn't need the money, especially since Tampa Bay is still on the hook for the two-year, $16 million guaranteed contract they gave him in 2009.

So, it is the strong desire to compete at the highest level that put him in a Fresno Grizzlies uniform, with the understanding that the run-desperate San Francisco Giants would give the veteran a chance to play in their outfield.

Burrell is also a realist.

"I believe I can be productive," he said prior to a May 30 game against the Salt Lake Bees. "But a lot of guys believe that and it's not exactly true.

"We'll soon see."

Burrell was called up Friday. He was OK in Triple-A. In five games, he hit .313 with a home run - against the Bees - and drove in six. The Giants hope that the 33-year-old outfielder can squeeze out one more good year and boost one of the National League's most anemic offenses.

San Francisco ranks 14th among all N.L. teams in runs per game, a shame considering the team's high level of pitching. With Burrell, the Giants' outfield defense is not exactly water tight now, either. Not with Aubrey Huff, a first baseman, also taking a fielder's glove to make room for rookie Buster Posey.

In 2009, Burrell signed as a designated hitter for Tampa. He was unsuccessful in the role, having hit just .218 with 16 homers in less than 500 at bats. He was released in April.

"Whatever happens, I'm thankful for the Giants giving me a chance to play," he said. "The DH thing wasn't working out. I'd like a chance to play the field. I don't think I can contribute at the major league level as a DH."

Some players like hanging out in the dugout and clubhouse for nine innings, then taking their four whacks at the plate. Burrell didn't, but with the likes of Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, there wasn't room for Burrell in the Rays outfield.

The Giants want the 2008 version of Burrell, the one who cranked out 33 homers and helped Philadelphia win the World Series.

Burrell was allowed to participate in the Phillies ring ceremony before flying onward to Boston for a game later that night.

"It was emotional," Burrell said. "The ovation from the fans. I had good times and bad times. Winning the World Series helped. I went out on that note."

Burrell has had a respectable big league career, one that includes 267 homers and 904 RBIs. He left the park 30 or more times and drove in 100 or more twice.

He also helped make Philadelphia respectable. The Phillies won 75 games in 1998, the year Burrell was their No. 1 draft pick.

"It made it all worthwhile," Burrell said of going from the cellar to the penthouse.

So, the Giants have banked that Burrell brings some thunder as well as a winning attitude. Whether it happens is another story. There is a sense, though, that Burrell is ready for whatever comes.

"I wouldn't be here unless I believed it," he said.

Then again, others have, too.

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Jon Jay Sent To Minors

The St. Louis Cardinals signed outfielder Randy Winn on Saturday. Winn, a switch-hitter with a .285 career average, hit .213 with one homer and eight RBI in 29 games with the New York Yankees before he was designated for assignment last month.

The Cardinals optioned outfielder Jon Jay to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and moved right-hander Kyle Lohse from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list.

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