13 May 2012

Amare Stoudemire Enrolls for Classes At The U. Is He Now A proCane?

As reported earlier in the week Amare Stoudemire the University of Miami confirmed Monday night that Stoudemire has registered for summer classes, working toward a bachelor's degree in general studies.


Earlier in the day, Stoudemire, a.k.a STAT (Standing Tall and Talented) posted on his official Twitter account @Amareisreal "Just enrolled at the University of Miami. Working on continuing my education" and included a photo of himself throwing up "the U" sign.

My question to all of []_[] is….. Should we consider Amare Stoudemire a proCane now? Leave your comments below.

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Warren Sapp, KC Jones & Duane Starks at Hotel Noir

Big Tigger and Warren Sapp Continue to make the rounds this time turning up at The Dream Hotel with fellow proCane and Denver Bronco’s SuperBowl Champ KC Jones all hosted by 99Jamz radio personalty Felisha Monet.

KCJonesHotelNoir1 KCJonesHotelNoir2

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Ed Reed now says he will play

Ravens safety Ed Reed is backpedalling once again, saying he now plans on playing in 2012 and beyond.

Reed created a stir Thursday when he told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was "not 100 percent committed right now to playing this year." He has since changed his stance.

"It's not about retirement, it's about my focus in the offseason, health, family and football," Reed said in a statement given to the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "This is the time of year where players think through things. My goal is to play football in the years to come."

In his interview on SiriusXM, Reed indicated that he was in "deep thought" about whether he would attend the team's mandatory minicamp in June. He said there are "other things" taking place in his life that are making him think differently.

Reed talked at length about his relationship with general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens, mentioning a lack of support and “mental” issues that they were going through. He is also entering the final year of his contract.

“It has nothing to do with negotiating and all that, man,” Reed told SiriusXM. “It’s deeper than negotiating, man.”

Hensley's slant: No one reads quarterbacks better than Reed, but he might be the hardest player to read in the game right now. I'm done guessing what Reed is trying to communicate. It's like you need an interpreter to get the real meaning of his quotes. As I wrote Thursday, I won't believe he is going to retire until he actually walks away from the game.

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Vince Wilfork's AFC title game one of most dominant

Looking for a reason to re-live the Patriots' last win of the season? Go ahead. Sweep those memories of the Super Bowl under the rug, and take a trip back in time to the AFC Championship Game with the guys at Pro Football Focus.

They've put together a Top-10 of the best 3-4 defensive end performances of last season, and Vince Wilfork is featured near the top of the list for his other-worldly performance in the AFC title game against the Ravens.

According to PFF, it was the third-most dominant performance of the season by a 3-4 defensive end last season. Here's what they had to say about Wilfork's game that day:

Anyone who watched the Patriots squeak out a victory to get to the Super Bowl will have seen Vince Wilfork at his absolute best. It wasn’t just the sack and five hurries, or the three defensive stops in the run game that got Wilfork such a high rating, it was how he did it: dominating Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda like few others have. The Ravens offensive line hadn’t faced anything like that for quite some time.

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Jacory Harris works out for Philadelphia Eagles

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Registration open for Edgerrin James' free youth camp July 23

Registration is now open for the fourth annual Edgerrin James Speed and Agility Youth Football Camp on Monday, July 23 at the Immokalee Sports Complex.

The free camp is in conjunction with Collier County Parks and Recreation, as well as the Edgerrin James Foundation. Registration is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The camp is from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and for ages 6-18. Instructors include some of the best players from college and the NFL, as well as members of NFL coaching staffs.

James' cousin Javarris has been at the camp, but may have to miss it this year after signing as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. The younger James, also a running back, played at Immokalee, the University of Miami, and then with the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 before being released prior to last season.

Among those who have helped out over the past three years are sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, and former NFL players Robert Bailey, Jammi German and Clinton Portis.

The camp's structure is designed to actively engage every participant. Each camper will be placed in groups based on similar age, size, and/or experience level. The camp emphasizes the basic fundamentals and skill development essential to improving football performance. Campers will receive instruction on technique enhancements, teamwork, sportsmanship, and educational life skills.

Visit www.edgerrinjamesfoundation.org. Click on programs, then football camp to print off a registration form. Forms can be submitted to the Immokalee Sports Complex in advance or the day of the camp (forms must have original signature).

The Immokalee Sports Complex is located at 505 Escambia St.

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Jonathan Vilma sues Roger Goodell

If you thought that New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was going to take his year-long suspension for his alleged part in the Saints' bounty scandal lying down ... well, think again. Just one day after the Saints got their day in front of an arbitrator to appeal their penalties, Vilma filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (and not the NFL as an entity).

The suit claims that "Goodell, speaking publicly about certain Saints executives, coaches and players, in relation to  purported efforts designed to injure opposing players, made public statements concerning Vilma which were false, defamatory and injurious to Vilma's professional and personal reputation."

The suit reviews the public statements Goodell has made about Vilma and other Saints players, coaches and executives, and it gets specific about statements made about Vilma.

Goodell, in the March 2 Club Report, also alleged that "prior to a Saints playoff  game in January, 2010, defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player  who knocked [opposing quarterback Brett] Favre out of the game." ("Favre Allegation.")

Goodell knew and intended that the contents of the March 2 Club Report would be disseminated publicly.

The contents of the March 2 Club Report, including the Favre Allegation, were reported, and continue to be reported, by essentially every major news organization, as Goodell intended.

Upon information and belief, Goodell told others that Vilma placed $10,000 in cash on a table during a team meeting in making the alleged offer concerning Favre.

The suit then goes on to claim the lack of evidence made available by Goodell and the league, despite repeated requests by the Saints organization, Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg, and the NFLPA.

Goodell did not reveal, and, despite repeated requests from among others, Vilma, has never revealed, any evidence purportedly corroborating that a Bounty Program existed, that Vilma participated in any such Bounty Program.

And if that is true, that's where things could get sticky for the NFL, especially since Goodell has said that he may make some of the evidence public record at some point in time. The players and NFLPA are clearly frustrated by what they perceive to be Goodell's continuing efforts to try this case in the court of public opinion, while denying those accused and penalized the right and ability to review the evidence and statements against them.
In an interview Shutdown Corner conducted with NFLPA lead outside counsel Richard Smith on May 4, Smith's frustration with the process was palpable, leading us to believe that as much as this lawsuit may actually be about implied damages to Vilma's professional and personal reputation, it's also an attempt to facilitate the discovery process the players and NFLPA has claimed to want all along.

"All the PA ever physically received from the NFL were the report and the coaches' suspension decision [attached as Exhibits A and B] to the Burbank grievance, and the suspension letters to the four players, attached as Exhibits C-F to the Burbank grievance," Smith told us. "This the sum total of the 'facts' that have been provided by the NFL.  The league exhibited the PowerPoint in a meeting in March 2012, but refused to make a copy available.  They refused to make anything else available, even under an agreement of confidentiality.  The PA's multiple requests to the NFL  for documents and for the ability to interview witnesses have all been denied.  The letters that were sent asking coaches to give interviews  to the PA have all gone unanswered."

This is why the grievance heard on Wednesday was filed, and it could be an ancillary reason for Vilma's action. Then again, if Vilma truly believes that the evidence against him is sufficiently flimsy or easily shot down, the suit could be exactly what it says -- Vilma's reputation has been irrevocably damaged without his own ability to rebut and counter evidence and statements he hasn't actually seen.

In the 11 different Claims for Relief in the suit, Vilma alleges that he is a victim of (deep breath) ... Slander Per Se — Injury to Professional Reputation; Slander Per Se — Accusations of Criminal Conduct; Slander By Implication; Slander — Reckless Disregard/Malice; Libel Per Se — Injury to Professional Reputation; Libel Per Se — Accusations of Criminal Conduct; Libel By Implication; Libel — Reckless Disregard/Malice; and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

"Goodell's Statements forever falsely taint and permanently damage Vilma, in the eyes of NFL Clubs, media, fans and sponsors, as a player who brazenly disregards NFL rules and  intentionally attempts to injure his opponents," the suit concludes.

Vilma asks for "all compensatory damages  he has suffered, including consequential and incidental damages, as a result of Goodell's wrongful conduct in an amount to be determined at trial ... punitive damages in a just amount for  Goodell's willful and wanton conduct ... [and] pre-judgment and post-judgment interest."

In other words, Jonathan Vilma has gone to the mattresses, and there is no turning back. Right or wrong (and since the evidence isn't available, we don't really know), Roger Goodell had best be prepared for a serious battle.

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Bernie Kosar cited for traffic violation

NORWALK -- Former Cleveland Browns Quarterback Bernie Kosar's most recent passing attempt ended with him getting a ticket from police and only two points -- on his driver's license.

Norwalk Municipal Court records show that Kosar, identified as Bernard J. Kosar Jr, 48, of Hollywood, Fla., was driving his black 2010 GMC Yukon SUV south on Milan Avenue, heading into Norwalk at 9:07 a.m. May 7.

That's when police say he tried to pass another vehicle using the center turn lane.

Police say the "pass attempt" was made in a "reckless manner" and  Kosar was ticketed.

Norwalk police tell Channel 3 that Kosar was "polite and cooperative" with the officer and said that he was in a hurry to get to Columbus.

Kosar was scheduled to appear in court at 6 p.m. May 14. Court records show he waived his right to contest the ticket by paying $95 -- a $30 fine and $65 for court costs.

He also had two points added to his driver's license.

After leading the University of Miami to its first national championship, Kosar played for Cleveland from 1985 to 1993.

He helped guide the Browns to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, including three trips to the conference title game.

Midway through the 1993 season, the Browns released Kosar, with then-head coach Bill Belichick telling reporters the quarterback was suffering from "diminishing skills."

Kosar immediately signed with the Dallas Cowboys and won his only Super Bowl ring that season, serving as Troy Aikman's backup.

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proCane Soccer Player Beverly Goebel Learns Japanese

Goebel is currently under contract with INAC Kobe from the Nadeshiko League in Japan.

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Scott Maine Sent Back Down To Iowa

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Blake Parker from Triple-A Iowa and optioned left-handed pitcher Scott Maine to Triple-A.

Parker, who joins the first major league roster of his professional career, will wear uniform number 55 and be available for the Cubs tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field.

Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players.

Maine is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA (4 ER/5.2 IP) in six major league relief appearances this season and is 2-1 with two saves and a 5.25 ERA (7 ER/12.0 IP) in 10 relief outings with Triple-A Iowa.

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Eddy Rodriguez two-run HR lifts Storm past Blaze

LAKE ELSINORE -- Catcher Eddy Rodriguez hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning and the Lake Elsinore Storm beat the Bakersfield Blaze 3-2 on Thursday night at The Diamond.

Blaze shortstop Billy Hamilton stole his 39th base of the season, scoring Bakersfield's lone run in the fifth inning.

Blaze starter Josh Smith allowed one run over six innings, striking out nine and allowing three hits. Bakersfield reliever Jamie Walczak allowed two runs over two innings to take the loss. Dennis O'Grady pitched two scoreless innings for the victory.

Lake Elsinore (20-21) plays host to the Balze (23-17) again today at 7:05 p.m.

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No longer playing to impress, Yonder Alonso thrives

SAN DIEGO -- In describing how first baseman Yonder Alonso has settled in during his first season with the Padres, manager Bud Black compared him to an employee adjusting to a new job.

The 25-year-old first baseman has adjusted, and the Padres are seeing positive results.

Alonso doubled in a run during a 2-for-4 day in the Padres' 6-2 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday, giving him hits in 12 of the past 13 games, batting .400 (20-for-50) with eight two-baggers over the stretch. He finished the day hitting .292 and had a seven-game hitting streak.

"We've seen a guy that has settled in," Black said before the game. "When you're part of a significant trade, I think there are some internal pressures [you] put on yourself. When we get new jobs, we want to impress. You're not quite yourself, because you're trying to really make an impression. I think that was the case with Yonder."

Alonso joined the Padres along with hurlers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger and catcher Yasmani Grandal in a December trade with the Reds, who received right-hander Mat Latos.

Black said Alonso's progress is reflected in his overall game.

"Even a couple of the errors he made early in the year were made out of haste and trying to make plays, really trying to do some things defensively, because he wasn't doing them offensively," Black said. "He's relaxed. He's swinging the bat like all our scouts thought he would. He's using the whole field and he's hitting line drives."

Alonso agreed he's more relaxed.

"I think the beginning of the season was a little bit fast," Alonso said. "It was a little hectic at times, but lately, I've been slowing the game down. I've been trying to focus better. I focus a lot better, and my preparation has been a little better. And just trusting myself."

Four of Alonso's eight RBIs arrived in his last three games.

"It shows the team is grinding and getting on base and getting in scoring position," Alonso said. "It's always a plus when it's a whole team thing, so it's been good."

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Ryan Braun not concerned with becoming a target

HOUSTON -- Ryan Braun said he isn't reading into the number of times he's been hit with a pitch this season. The Brewers right fielder has been hit five times this season, already equaling his total for all of last season.

Braun leads the National League with nine homers since April 21.

"The better the hitter, usually you have to pitch him inside," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "But you're going to hit guys when you pitch inside. The ball gets away from a guy and you're going to hit him. It's just one of those things."

Braun said that he gives no thought to the possibility that pitchers are throwing at him.

"I don't think about it in any way," Braun said. "It's completely irrelevant. It does happen. All good hitters have to be pitched inside. It's something I've always said. It's a part of the game."

Roenicke is more concerned about injury to his slugging outfielder.

"But what it does is, where it hits you, you're not going to be the same," Roenicke said. "I don't care what kind of padding you have on, it still hurts. There's still swelling there. He's getting hit in the elbow, he's getting hit in the back. So physically, it definitely affects you.

"Look at Rickie [Weeks]. Rickie gets hit on the hand -- Rickie's about as tough as it comes -- and he missed three games because of it."

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Leon Williams Signs With Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs announced on Wednesday that the club has signed two draft picks and four free agents including proCane linebacker Leon Williams.

LB Leon Williams (6-3, 248) joins Kansas City after stops with the Cleveland Browns (2006-08) and Dallas Cowboys (2010). He has played in 57 NFL games (12 starts) with 154 tackles (113 solo), 5.0 sacks (-24.0 yards), one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed. In 2007, he posted career-highs by playing in all 16 games (nine starts) with 80 tackles (58 solo), 4.0 sacks (-20.0 yards) and three passes defensed. He was a fourth-round selection (110th overall) of Cleveland in the 2006 NFL Draft when Crennel was the head coach. Williams played in 47 games at the University of Miami (Fla.), where he recorded 131 tackles (78 solo), 2.5 sacks (-27.0 yards), one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. He was a Dick Butkus Award finalist in 2004.

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Colin McCarthy: Added weight is good weight

LB Colin McCarthy has added six pounds and now weighs 243. McCarthy also weighed 243 in 2009 at Miami, but feels healthier now due to the Titans' strength and conditioning program. “I was too big (in '09), it wasn't a good weight (due to lesser conditioning),” McCarthy said. “The first thing you notice is your hamstring will go when you're overweight. My hamstring feels good.”

McCarthy's top priority in the offseason is building strength so he won't get injured. McCarthy missed three games in 2011 with a sore hamstring and played through a minor knee ailment. In 2008 at Miami, McCarthy redshirted after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. “My strength numbers have gone up,” McCarthy said. “I'm just trying to take care of my body.”

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Calais Campbell’s real guarantee is $17 million

Another week, another contract that was initially reported as having a much higher value than it actually has.

It was reported on Friday Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell has received a five-year, $55 million contract with $31 million guaranteed.  Inspection of the contract reveals that the deal isn’t quite that sweet.

Only $17 million is fully guaranteed upon signing.  And, as a practical matter, it’s not a five-year, $55 million contract but a one-year, $17 million contract with a team-held option for the remainder.

That said, it’s at least a one-year, $17 million contract.  Which is nice.

The Cardinals can avoid the balance of the deal by cutting Campbell on the before the third day of the 2013 waiver period, otherwise known as the Tuesday after the Super Bowl.

And if the Cardinals should decide to move on after 2012, Campbell will hit the market after making more than $6 million more than he would have made under the franchise tag, and he’d be a free agent weeks before free agency opens.

Another $13 million in guaranteed money is guaranteed for injury only in 2012, meaning that he’ll get it only if he has a career-ending injury between now and early 2013.

Here’s the full and easily-digestible breakdown of the deal:

1.  $15 million signing bonus;
2.  $2 million base salary in 2012, fully guaranteed;
3.  $10 million option bonus in 2013;
4.  $3 million base salary in 2013 that becomes fully guaranteed if the option bonus is exercised (the salary is $13 million if the option isn’t exercised, and it becomes fully guaranteed if Campbell is on the roster on the third day of the 2013 waiver period);
5.  $5.5 million base salary in 2014, $1 million of which is guaranteed for injury only at signing (it converts to $1 million guaranteed for cap/skill but not injury as of the third day of the 2014 waiver period);
6.  $9 million base salary in 2015;
7.  $9.5 million base salary in 2016;
8.  $250,000 annual workout bonuses from 2013 through 2016.

It’s a total base value of $55 million, so that part of the report is accurate.  With a cap number, however, that starts at $5 million and increases to $8.75 million in 2013, $11.25 million in 2014, $14.75 million in 2015, and $15.25 million in 2016, the final two years could disappear — assuming that the Cardinals decide after paying $17 million in 2012 to pay another $13 million in 2013.

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Ed Reed shagging fly balls at Camden Yards

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Antrel Rolle ready to ring up another one

S Antrel Rolle is excited to have a Super Bowl ring but doesn't want to become complacent. “Once it's all said and done, we still have to go out there and take care of business,” Rolle said at Wednesday's ring ceremony. “You can always have more rings. Ask Michael Jordan.” Rolle said he's eager to show it to his former University of Miami teammates.

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Lamar Miller & Olivier Vernon Signing At Hollywood Collectibles


New Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller and line back Olivier Vernon will be present at a public signing on June 9th, 2012, at the Hollywood Collectibles sports memorabilia store in Hollywood, Florida. A former University of Miami running back, Miller is one of only three UM players to have been drafted into the Dolphins since 2004. Vernon ended an drought of 8 years without the Dolphins picking a Cane. Come meet and talk with Vernon on June 9th from 11:30am to 1:00pm! Come meet and talk with Miller and Vernon on June 9th from 11:30am to 1:00pm!

Lamar Miller Public Signing

Brand new Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller will be present at a public signing on June 9th, 2012 from 11:30am to 1:00pm at the Hollywood Collectibles sports memorabilia store in Hollywood, Florida.

Drafted into the Miami franchise on April 28th, Miller is a former University of Miami running back. Miller served as the UM starting running back during the 2011 season, during which he became the first UM running back since Willis McGahee in 2002 to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season.

Miller is one of only two players from UM that were drafted into the Dolphins this year, the other player being defensive end Olivier Vernon. Prior to Miller and Vernon, no Cane had been drafted into the Dolphins since Vernon Carey in 2004.

Olivier Vernon Public Signing

Brand new Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon will be present at a public signing on June 9th, 2012 from 11:30am to 1:00pm at the Hollywood Collectibles sports memorabilia store in Hollywood, Florida.

Vernon is one of only two players from UM that were drafted into the Dolphins this year, the other player being running back Lamar Miller. Prior to Vernon and Miller, no Cane had been drafted into the Dolphins since Vernon Carey in 2004.

Want a Lamar Miller Autograph?

The signing will be open to the general public and attendance will be free of charge. If you would like to have collectible items signed by Miller, the prices are as follows:

Flats - $25.00

Equipment - $30.00

Inscription - $10.00

Olivier Vernon, mentioned above, will also be present at this signing, with the following signing prices:

Flats - $20.00

Equipment - $25.00

Inscriptions - $5.00

Hollywood Collectibles is located at:
3311 Sheridan St
Hollywood, Fl 33021

Want more information about this signing? Contact a representative from Hollywood Collectibles by phone at (800) 844-7735 or by email at altman@hollywoodcollectibles.com

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Greg Olsen: “I Wouldn’t Want To Be In Any Other Offense Or On Any Either Team Than Here.”

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Shenise Johnson Poses For The Cameras In Media Day

proCane WNBA Rookie Shenise Johnson Poses for the Cameras at San Antonio Silver Stars Media Day.


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Scott Maine Recalled By Cubs

The Cubs got what amounted to another arm in their bullpen when little-used Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo (groin) went on the disabled list Wednesday.

But the bullpen gave up seven runs in the last two innings of a 9-2 loss to Philadelphia.

‘‘We had all the matchups, whatever kind of matchup you want,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘But [ Scott ] Maine just couldn’t throw a strike.’’

Maine, the left-hander called up from Class AAA Iowa, gave up a double, hit a guy and walked another without getting an out in the ninth. He was replaced by Michael Bowden, who immediately gave up a two-run single and later in the inning a grand slam to Hector Luna .Early bullpen MVP
Shawn Camp already had given up the go-ahead homer in the eighth.

The pen has a 5-11 record and ranks 13th in the National League with a 4.76 ERA. Bright side? They didn’t add to their eight blown saves — one shy of the league lead.

‘‘They’re trying [hard],’’ starter

Matt Garza said. ‘‘They’re young. We knew we were going to take some lumps. … But there’s no easier way to pop up than after somebody kicks you in the teeth. You get [ticked] off, and you get back up, and you make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s the kind of guys we’ve got.’’

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Ryan Braun's MVP year? Braun suggests he was just getting warmed up

NEW YORK -- The prognosticators who suggested Ryan Braun had no chance of winning his big banned-substance arbitration case aren't looking any better with their predictions of a certain on-field demise for Braun.

They figured he wouldn't be able to take the pressure that would come with many, if not most, folks presuming his guilt in the banned-substance case, never mind that he won the case.

They figured he'd wilt with all the boos that were sure to come on the road, never mind that the reaction has been fairly muted with the exception of Atlanta. (Braun's hometown of Los Angeles later this month is expected to be the worst as most Dodgers fans figure Matt Kemp should have won the 2011 MVP.)

They figured he'd wilt with Prince Fielder no longer in the lineup.

And, of course, they figured he wouldn't be able to perform as before without the alleged substances he'd obviously have to do without now.

Well thus far, Braun is having about as a good a year this year as last. With 10 home runs and 21 RBI so far, he's on pace for 45 home runs, 95 RBI and a .305 batting average compared to last year's totals of 33, 111 and .332. His OPS is up slightly, from a league-leading .994 last year to 1.002 this year, which is good for sixth place so far.

As for Braun, well, true to form he figures he was just warming up last year. Ultimately, he suggests he will blow away last year.

"I feel better this year,'' Braun said. "As long as I stay relatively healthy, I'll do better this year than last year. Last year was good. But I could do better.''

Braun isn't anxious to discuss anything to do with failed test or winning case, and that apparently includes the road reactions he's hearing. "It's not bad, it's really not bad,'' he said at one point. Later, he twice answered questions about the response of fans on the road with one word: "irrelevant.'' He's clearly not dwelling on the whole unwanted episode.

No surprise, he didn't want to touch MLB's decision to fire the arbtrator Shyam Das over his decision to clear Braun. "I don't know enough about it,'' Braun said. "Bud (Selig) doesn't consult with me before he makes decisions like that.'' (Ahem, no. No he doesn't.)

As for the preferred subject of baseball, well, it's one thing to hope to repeat an MVP performance. But to predict bettering one's MVP's output, that takes some serious stones.

To beat his numbers is one thing, too, but to win another MVP is yet another, as it takes a team effort he isn't seeing yet. Braun got the nod last year over Kemp because his Brewers won the N.L. Central while Kemp played for an also-ran Dodgers team, an improving also-ran but an also-ran nonetheless.

This year, the story could be reversed. But Braun expressed confidence his Brewers would turn it around after their disappointing 16-20 start.

"I think we will be all right,'' he said. "If guys put up their career numbers, we'll go on a prolonged run of success.''

The issue with the Brewers is, of course, the loss of three players to injury for the season -- shortstop Alex Gonzaalez, first baseman Mat Gamel and starting pitcher Chris Narvesen -- in such short oder they are all wondering whether they broke some kind of record for bad luck. The loss of Gonzalez, who had stabilizied the shortstop position after the upand-down ways of Yuniesky Betancourt, hit especially hard, people in their clubhouse say.

"It's not the way we would have drawn it up,'' Braun said. "But you just move forward.''

That very outlook has worked wonders for him.

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Inside Calais Campbell's Cardinals contract

Late last week, the Arizona Cardinals and franchised defensive end Calais Campbell to agreed on a five-year, $55 million contract that included a reported $31 million in guaranteed money.

Through a league source, Around the League has gotten a look inside the contract and can report the following details:

Campbell received a $15 million signing bonus, which will be prorated over the next five seasons, and will earn $2 million in fully guaranteed base salary in 2012. Campbell would have counted $10.605 million against the cap had he played out the season under the franchise tag. The new deal lowers his cap number to $5 million, a 2012 cap savings of $5.605 million.

Campbell is due $13 million in base salary in 2013, which is currently guaranteed for injury only and will become fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2013 waiver period, which begins on the day after the Super Bowl. The Cardinals may (and in all likelihood will with the salary cap expected to remain flat) exercise a $10 million option bonus, which would reduce Campbell's 2013 base salary to a fully guaranteed $3 million. Along with a $250,000 workout bonus, Campbell will make $13.25 million in cash in 2013, a more than $500,000 increase over the $12.726 million it would have cost the Cardinals had they not reached an extension and were forced to use the franchise tag on Campbell for a second time.

After the expected exercising of the option bonus, Campbell's 2013 cap number will be $8.75 million.

In 2014, Campbell is due $5.5 million in base salary, of which $1 million is currently guaranteed for injury only and will become fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2014 waiver period, which begins on the day after the Super Bowl. Campbell has base salaries of $9 million in 2015 and $9.5 million in 2016, with $250,000 workout bonuses available in 2014-16. Campbell's cap numbers over the final three years of the contract come in at $11.25 million (2014), $14.75 million (2015) and $15.25 million (2016).

A 2008 second-round pick out of Miami, the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell has 180 tackles, 21 sacks and 18 passes defensed as a full-time starter over the last three seasons.

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Is this the final season for Ray Lewis?

The AFC North blog doesn't give birthday shout-outs, but this one has special significance.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis turns 37 today, which could be the magic number for him. In April 2011, Lewis hinted at a target date for his retirement when he told the NFL Network, "I can’t see myself playing football past 37.”

Lewis made it clear after Baltimore's AFC Championship Game loss that he was returning in 2012, but there has to be questions about whether he will play beyond this year. At some point, Lewis is going to have to say goodbye to football, although there haven't been any recent indicators he will be calling it quits anytime soon. His contract runs through 2015, and the Ravens showed confidence in Lewis when they once again didn't draft his eventual replacement in April.

Lewis started off strong last season and was among the NFL's top inside linebackers in the first half of the 2011. Then, after missing four games with a toe injury, he seemed to wear down toward the end of the year.

Still, he has been one of the league's top Iron Men. His 222 games played is second-most among active players, ranking only behind a kicker (Jason Hanson). He is the longest-tenured Raven on the roster by six seasons (safety Ed Reed is second).

No other great middle linebacker has played as along as Lewis. Mike Singletary retired after 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears before his play declined. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Jack Lambert walked away after 11 years because of a severe toe injury. And the Bears' Dick Butkus stopped after nine seasons because of knee injuries.

Lewis is now entering his 17th season in the NFL. And, after turning 37 today, you have to wonder whether this will be his last.

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Less is more for Devin Hester

Over the past few months, the Chicago Bears have transformed their receiving corps from one of the NFL's shortest to arguably the tallest. They've reunited the key players from the Denver Broncos' dynamic 2008 offense and they've fended off questions -- including some from their quarterback -- about their offensive line. But to me, the most intriguing thing happening in Chicago at the moment is the development of a mysterious package of plays for receiver/kick returner Devin Hester, the latest in a long line of attempts to harness Hester's Hall of Fame speed and skills for their offense.

General manager Phil Emery hinted at the new approach shortly after the draft. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice and receivers coach Darryl Drake offered some morsels to reporters during last weekend's rookie minicamp, and all that's left now is to see if it actually works.

Part of me wants to roll my eyes and cringe, as we did recently on the blog, as the Bears once again refuse to accept what Hester is and isn't -- at least what he hasn't been yet. They remain unsatisfied with him simply being the best kick returner in NFL history. And another part thinks this attempt could prove to be the most productive balance the Bears have tried yet.

Drake might have best explained the plan last weekend by suggesting the "Hester Package" will limit snaps but elevate targets to make more efficient use of Hester's time on offense.

"The talent has always been there," Drake told reporters. "It's just a matter of not having him play 70 plays and throw to him twice. Play him 15 [plays], let him touch it 13 [times.] In order for him to be effective, we don't need to have him out there playing that many plays. If he's out there, put the ball in his hands. We need to have that package, and Mike Tice -- I promise you -- he's going to do it."

On the surface, it makes sense. Hester's combination of speed and open-field running ability is rare and awfully tempting to expand on. And when you look at the chart, you see what happens when a team doesn't have or utilize the speed to stretch a defense vertically. The 2011 Bears, for instance, had one of the least efficient short passing games in the NFL last season.

But running a full game's worth of pass routes probably takes the edge off Hester's energy in the return game. There is reason to think he could have a similar impact in 15 plays designed to involve him than he could in 70 plays that spread the ball around the field.

That appears to be the starting point for a tweak that appears to have emanated from, or at least endorsed by, Emery himself.

"I want to make sure that we have a special plan for Devin," Emery said last month. "We have the 'Devin Package' -- packages of plays as a receiver. You never know where he's going to line up. I don't want to get too far ahead of that in terms of letting other people know what we're going to do with him, but he will have a package of plays that we feel can bring out his dynamic ability to the forefront and if not only as carrying or catching the ball, but sometimes that's a decoy.

"Devin's speed vertically is something that has to be accounted for. So if that pulls people from coverage, to handle that vertical ball, you've got other people; we've got some awfully big targets to hit."

On the other hand, of course, it's not as easy as it sounds. You better believe that opposing defenses will notice when Hester is on the field, especially now that the Bears have announced they want to get him the ball often in the relatively brief period of time he plays offense. I don't think it will make teams leave, say, Brandon Marshall wide open to account for Hester, but his appearance isn't going to surprise anyone, either.

The "Hester Package" has already conjured comparisons to the "Randy Ratio" that Tice used after taking over the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching job in 2002. As you might recall, a study of the Vikings' 2001 season showed they won every game they targeted receiver Randy Moss on at least 40 percent of their throws. Tice announced he would make that goal a centerpiece of his offense.

The "Randy Ratio" wasn't a schematic adjustment as much as it was Tice's attempt to cajole the notoriously anti-authoritarian receiver to buy in as a team leader. It backfired on a number of fronts, and Tice himself acknowledged over the weekend that it "came back to bite me in the [rear end]."

Turning serious, Tice said: "Devin is going to be on the field. If he's not on the field, then they should fire me."

That final line speaks to the extent the Bears have prioritized Hester's potential contribution. You know the old saying: If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

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Saskatchewan Roughriders hope Sinorice Moss produces wins along with other NFL ties

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders are attempting to find the next Weston Dressler without recruiting someone of his description.

Dressler made a seamless transition from the college ranks to the CFL in 2008, earning rookie-of-the-year laurels after catching 56 passes for 1,123 yards — an average of 20.1 yards per reception.

Fast forward to 2012. Having made it a priority to increase team speed, the Roughriders’ wish list includes an impact receiver — someone who can emulate Dressler by scorching opposing secondaries. But this time, the team is concentrating on signing players with NFL credentials, as opposed to hopefuls who have yet to play beyond the university level.

The list of off-season signees includes two pass-catchers who were second-round NFL draft choices. Dwayne Jarrett was chosen 45th overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2007. The following year, the New York Giants claimed Sinorice Moss with the 44th pick.

Like Moss, Justin Harper was selected in the 2008 draft. He went in the seventh round to the Baltimore Ravens. Harper and Taj Smith — who has seen active NFL duty with the Indianapolis Colts — join Jarrett and Moss on Saskatchewan’s training-camp roster for 2012.

In the case of each player, the Roughriders are hoping that the resume translates into results. Although the pedigrees are intriguing, a cautionary note is advisable. As former Roughriders GM Roy Shivers used to say about recruits with NFL ties: “These guys are up here for a reason.’’

At some point, for some reason, they have been found wanting by the NFL. That does not disqualify someone from making an imprint north of the border. Hugh Campbell, Rhett Dawson, Matt Dominguez, Chris DeFrance, Curtis Marsh and Don Narcisse are among the pass-catchers who have excelled for the Green and White after being waived through the NFL.

That list may very well be expanded as the 2012 season unfolds.

Jarrett, who was ninth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2006, was a two-time all-American at USC before joining the Panthers. In four NFL seasons, he caught 35 passes for 428 yards and one touchdown. Moss posted similar numbers — 39 catches for 421 yards, with three touchdowns — as a member of the Giants. Smith (who dressed for five games) and Harper (two games) have also worn an NFL uniform.

The same can be said of Dallas Baker, who was obtained from the Montreal Alouettes midway through the 2011 season. Baker earned a Super Bowl ring after dressing for eight regular-season games with the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.

There is something to be said for any player who appears on an NFL active roster, regardless of the duration. If you stockpile players of that calibre, the odds of finding a bona fide starter or two become favourable.

Keep in mind that the Roughriders do not need all of the aforementioned newcomers to pan out. Three of the five starting spots are already spoken for, thanks to Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Rob Bagg. Efrem Hill, who caught 66 passes for the Roughriders in 2011, will also make a strong bid to retain his starting spot. Hence, the receivers who remain are likely vying for one or two roster spots.

Jarrett, Harper and Baker are all 6-foot-3 or taller, and are therefore inviting targets. Smith, at 6-foot-1, exhibited his elusiveness and route-running ability at a recent mini-camp. The 5-foot-8 Moss turned more heads than anyone, given his blinding speed.

But the question remains: Are those players’ skill sets transferable to the CFL game?

There is something to be said for an advanced comprehension of Canadian professional football. Non-import slotback Andy Fantuz was largely ignored by the Chicago Bears during a tryout in 2011, yet the erstwhile Roughrider — now a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — is one of the CFL’s premier receivers.

Despite a lack of NFL validation, Fantuz is ideally suited to the Canadian game. The rules are second nature to him. The waggle — the ability of players to be in motion as the ball is snapped — also works to his advantage.

Although the likes of Jarrett and Moss are not as accustomed to the nuances of the CFL, they should provide the Roughriders with a running start once training camp begins.

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Calais Campbell back where he belongs

In the offseason, Calais Campbell is often in the locker room. He works out and then he hangs out on his stool checking his phone or just chilling out. That is, until recently, when his contract situation kept him away. That’s changed, of course, and Campbell returned to the locker room Tuesday and to working out — just like normal.

“It was kind of weird not being able to work out with the guys,” Campbell said. “Everyone was here and I was home. Sometimes I’d catch up with a couple of them, get some food, but it’s not the same as it is when you are working out and horsing around here. It’s easier (to work out) when you are all struggling together. I definitely wasn’t working out as hard as we do with the John Lott program. It felt good to get back today and get a good workout in and be around the guys. That’s really what I missed the most.”

Campbell chuckled when asked if he felt any different. “I am the same exact guy and I feel the same around my teammates,” he said. “The only difference is now I think people expect me to be more of a leader. And I will be. I am more confident in being more vocal. But the number one thing is lead by example. You work hard, the people around you will work hard.”

Now, Campbell doesn’t have to answer questions about what is going to happen with his future, questions that dominated his interviews most of last season. That’s not bad either.

“I’ve got peace of mind,” Campbell said. “I’ll be here five years. And hopefully we win a lot of games in those five years.”

– Kent Somers ferreted out the details to Campbell’s contract. This year, Campbell’s cap number dropped from $10.7 million to $5 million, clearing significant space (my estimate is the Cards have approximately $8 million of room as of now, although I haven’t been able to confirm it.) Campbell’s salary this year is $2M plus a $15M signing bonus. He has a $10M option bonus in 2013.  His cap number is $8.75M for 2013 with a salary of $3M. (For those who have asked, Darnell Dockett got a $4.55M salary when he re-upped in 2010 with still a couple years left on his contract, plus a $15M option bonus the following year with a $2.35M salary. Campbell’s deal was always going to be bigger both because it is two years later and because he had more leverage.)

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Kayne Farquharson excels on field and off it

Kayne Farquharson played well on the field for the Nebraska Danger.

The former University of Miami player leads the Danger with 57 catches for 668 yards and 21 touchdowns for the 4-6 Danger, who play at Wichita on Saturday night. That touchdown total is the third best in the Indoor Football League and is just two behind league leader Andre Piper-Jordan of Everett with 23.

“I’ve pretty much taken advantage of my opportunities,” Farquharson said. “I’m a confident guy. If the ball comes my way, I think I’m coming down with it.”

But as good as Farquharson has been on the field, he’s been even better off the field. That’s because he enjoys telling people his story, especially the kids, whenever he has the chance.

“His story is just fascinating about making good choices and doing the right things and putting yourself in position to make good choices,” Danger general manager Mike McCoy said. “If you go to a place you know there’s going to be potential trouble, then you’re putting yourself in position to make a bad choice.”

Farquharson had the chance to go the wrong way when he was a youngster growing up in Miami, but he made the right choices and those choices had nothing to do with athletics.

“He didn’t even play football in high school. He couldn’t,” McCoy said. “He had to come home every day and babysit his younger sisters because his mom was working three jobs and living in projects in downtown Miami, so he helped her out as much as possible.”

Those were the choices Farquharson made, and he knows they were the right ones. He had to take care of his little sisters, now 18 and 19 years of age, instead of doing many of the things that high school boys like to do.

“When I came home from school, instead of going out and hanging out with my home boys, I had to get their hair done, feed them, get their clothes ready for the morning,” Farquharson said.

His athletic career actually started after high school when he found his way to El Camino Junior College in Torrance, Calif. He played football there, and after two years and a number of receiving records, he had numerous offers from major colleges around the country.

Farquharson choose the University of Miami.

“I had 40 scholarships and chose to go back home,” he said. “It worked out well. We were a below-average team. It wasn’t like the glory years, but I don’t have any regrets.”

He also met a couple of teammates — offensivee lineman Cedric Mack and receiver Corey Surrency at El Camino who are both are now here with the Danger, although Surrency will leave soon to join Toronto of the Canadian Football League.

Danger running back Tavares Pressley also attended El Camino while Mack and Surrency were there but missed Farquharson by one year.

Now Farquharson is doing his best to give back to the community here in Grand Island and around Central Nebraska, and he’s a natural at it.

“He’s just so much fun to be around,” McCoy said. “He just beams. People are just dawn to him. Every place we go he’s just so much fun because little kids just flock up to him and he’s so gracious with them. He’ll high five them and shake their hands. When I intro him to those classes, you could hear a pin drop. He starts talking and it’s just so much fun.”

Farquharson just tries to pass on a positive out look and to let people know that no matter where they’re at in life, they can make things better.
“It’s not how you start, it‘s how you finish,” Farquharson said. “Sometimes the chips are stacked up against you, but that’s no excuse to go out there and do the wrong things and make the wrong decisions.

“It’s giving back to the community. What goes around comes around.”

Farquharson is just one of a number of Danger players who regularly make public appearances. McCoy, quarterback Rocky Hinds and receiver Austin Tolliver went to the senior center in Central City on Tuesday.

“It’s great watching our players relate to people, high-fiving, shaking hands, signing autographs and taking an interest in what they’re doing,” McCoy said. “These guys understand how important it is to make appearances like that. I’m sure we lead the league in appearances. I don’t think anybody else goes out like we do.”

Farquharson would be making appearances no matter where he was playing football, but he said Grand Island has been special.

“It’s been a great experience,” Farquharson said. “Grand Island is starting to grow on me, so who knows what the future holds, but I’m loving every second of it now.”

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Jimmy Johnson elected to College Football Hall of Fame

Jimmy Johnson won two Super Bowls as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, but his most enjoyable coaching years did not come in the NFL.

"While winning back-to-back Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys was rewarding, the most fun I had in football was in college," Johnson said Tuesday in New York after being elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Johnson's head coaching career began at Oklahoma State but it was at Miami, where he won the national title in 1987, that established his credentials as a college football Hall of Famer.

In five seasons in Coral Gables, Johnson compiled a 52-9 record and coached two players - Bennie Blades and Russell Maryland - that preceded him into the college hall .

Johnson's teams were controversial - the Hurricanes famously arrived in Arizona for the 1986 Fiesta Bowl dressed in camouflage - but big winners. From 1985 to 1988, UM lost just two regular-season games and won the 1987 national title. Miami might have repeated in 1988 except that Johnson went for two points instead of a game-tying extra point late in a 31-30 loss to Notre Dame.

"A lot of people didn't like our approach because they had what we called a swagger," said Johnson, who coached the Dolphins from 1996-99. "Our guys were disciplined. I didn't let our guys get away with being penalized. They were confident and maybe they were free-spirited but they were good kids. Our guys got their diplomas."

Johnson is one of three UM coaches elected into the hall, joining Jack Harding (1980) and Andy Gustafson (1985).

Among UM players that have previously been inducted are Don Bosseler, Ted Hendricks. Gino Torretta, Arnold Tucker, Blades and Maryland.
Howard Schnellenberger, who led the Hurricanes to their first national championship in 1983, is not eligible for induction. According to the Hall of Fame's rules, a coach must have won 60 percent of his games. Schnellenberger, who retired as Florida Atlantic's coach last year, won 50.6 percent (158-151-3) of his games.

Aside from Johnson, the 16 other new members of the Hall of Fame are players Charles Alexander, Otis Armstrong, Steve Bartkowski, Hal Bedsole, Dave Casper, Ty Detmer, Tommy Kramer, Art Monk, Greg Myers, Jonathan Ogden, Gabe Rivera, Mark Simoneau, Scott Thomas and John Wooten, and coaches Phil Fulmer and R.C. Slocum.

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Jon Vilma to be limited during OTAs

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt expects OG Jahri Evans (knee surgery) and LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) to be limited during OTAs.
Vilma, who is appealing his year-long suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal, is apparently still rehabbing from the knee injury that limited him for most of 2011. Evans had previously insisted his arthroscopic surgery was "minor," and wouldn't hold him out of OTAs. It's unclear if he'll be 100 percent for training camp.

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Slumping Gaby Sanchez gives way to Dobbs vs. Bucs

MIAMI -- Gaby Sanchez has been searching for consistency at the plate all season. On Tuesday, the first baseman found himself out of the Marlins' lineup.

Greg Dobbs got the start at first in favor of Sanchez in the Marlins' series finale against the Pirates, but don't expect the change to be a long-term one. Manager Ozzie Guillen said the switch isn't permanent, and that he just wanted to get Dobbs, the Majors' active leader in pinch-hits, some regular at-bats to keep him sharp.

"Just play him today, get him some at-bats, put some at-bats together and give Gaby a break," Guillen said. "Gaby's swinging the bat a little bit better now. The last couple of games he's been swinging the bat a little bit better."

Sanchez, a career .269 hitter entering the year, has struggled this season. He is hitting just .198 with a .244 on-base percentage in 32 games. Sanchez has particularly struggled this month, hitting just .184 with two RBIs in 11 games.

"It is crazy, just because I know what type of player I am and what type of hitter I am, but it happens, I guess," Sanchez said. "Everybody has to go through it at one time or another, and there's a lot of guys right now in the league that are going through the same type of situations."

While a handful of other normally successful players have had trouble producing at the plate this season -- like the Angels' Albert Pujols (.197 with one home run and 12 RBIs) -- only one everyday first baseman in the National League is faring worse at the plate than Sanchez: Ike Davis. The Mets' first baseman is hitting .168 with a .227 on-base percentage in 34 games entering Tuesday.

But Sanchez isn't letting his slow start weigh too heavily on him. The last two seasons he has gotten off to fast starts on offense, only to tail off down the stretch. In 2010, he hit .307 through the first three months of the season, but hit .202 in his final 30 games. Last season he was hitting .322 when the calendar turned to June, but had just a .219 average in August and September.

"It's like they say: It's not how you start, it's how you finish," Sanchez said. "Maybe this is a different year: Start off slow and finish strong."

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Jemile Weeks swipes 10th base in loss

Jemile Weeks went 1-for-4 and picked up his 10th stolen base of the season on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Ervin Santana and the Angels.

Weeks has been struggling at the plate this year, hitting just .200 with two homers and five RBI through Tuesday's game. Still, he’s been a decent table-setter at the top of the A’s lineup with 16 runs scored and 10 steals. As long as he continues to lead off, he’ll retain solid mixed-league fantasy value.

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Playing time scarce for Aubrey Huff

Aubrey Huff has been off the disabled list since May 7, but has had five at-bats since then, all as a pinch-hitter late in games. Manager Bruce Bochy has said Huff is getting close to getting a start, but the fact that the players he’s had out there have been playing well complicates things.

“It’s getting crowded,” Bochy said of the Giants outfield. “He’s itching to get out there. It’s hard to break up that outfield right now.”

The emergence of Gregor Blanco has been a large part of that, as evidenced by his 3-for-4 night Monday that included hitting the game-tying home run and scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

And with both Brett Pill and Brandon Belt producing at first base, it seems unlikely Huff will get much time in the infield.

“When you get into a little bit of a groove you like to keep things somewhat set,” Bochy said. “But I’ll find a way to get [Huff] in there.”

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Ryan Braun explains 8-twelve bar/grill venture with MVP, friend Aaron Rodgers

First things first: What's in a name?


There was no arm-wrestling match, no money exchanged hands, like having to buy a number off an established teammate, and there was no comparison as to whose Most Valuable Player trophy was bigger.

So how did Ryan Braun's number appear first on the marquee of his new restaurant venture with Aaron Rodgers?

"I came up with the idea, so eight had to come first," Braun joked in an exclusive interview with OnMilwaukee.com. "We actually went both ways but I think eight-12 sounds better than 12-eight. So, I think it just sounded better, so we went with it that way."

Rodgers and Braun joined together with SURG Restaurant Group co-owners Omar Shaikh and Mike Polaski to come up with the concept for the restaurant that will be located at 17800 W. Bluemound Road

It was about a year in the making between the two longtime friends.

"This is an excellent opportunity for me to work with Ryan on a project that will create something for fans of the Packers, Brewers and sports in general, to take part in and enjoy," Rodgers said in a statement.

It was a natural for Braun to recommend Shaikh and Polaski, as Rodgers has seen first-hand how the SURG Group and Braun have worked together at Ryan Braun's Graffito in Downtown Milwaukee. The pair have entered into a similar licensing agreement with SURG.

"I was able to vouch for them," Braun said. "Because whenever you put your name on something – or I guess in this case, technically, our numbers – your reputation is on the line, so you want to know that you're dealing with good people who know what they're doing. Ultimately, neither of us knows much about the restaurant industry, so we're relying on their expertise."

The idea may have taken hold for Braun and Rodgers a year ago, but it took some time to develop into reality. The SURG Group was busy not only maintaining its own restaurants in Milwaukee, but opening up a high-end version of Graffito in Florida.

Braun said it was just this past winter, when his and Rodgers' offseasons overlapped, when the idea really gained momentum.

"If anyone knows these guys they're focused on their sport – you can't talk too much other business with them – and I'm not going to distract them," Shaikh said. "We have our share of challenges because you're working with two different parties, two different legal teams, two different agents and things like that, but it wasn't that difficult because they share a lot of the same vision. In many ways they're the same guy. I don't say this because of who they are, but honestly those guys are some of the classiest guys you'll ever meet. They say all the right things, they do all the right things.

"It was challenging of course, because it has to be, but not as challenging as people might think because they're just great guys and they wanted to do it, wanted to give back."

The restaurant, which is scheduled to open sometimes in the summer, will offer American cuisine with ingredients supplied by Hidden Creek Farms in New London, prepared in a wood fire grill. The group already owned a location there, and Braun and Rodgers like how it was accessible to a multitude of counties.

Naturally, memorabilia from both the Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder and Green Bay Packers quarterback will adorn the facility, and the pair are expected to make scheduled – and unscheduled – appearances.

"Their names alone and their reputations will bring people through the doors - it's up to us to execute," Shaikh said. "That's why we're bringing in a really strong team. We're excited and we're up for the challenge. We really are. It's an honor to do business with these guys. These guys are not only elite athletes, but they're great people. They really are.

While the SURG Group will own and operate 8-twelve, getting Braun and Rodgers as involved as possible is something all feel is important to the success of the venture.

"(Shaikh) asked us for our opinion on everything and it kind of gives us an opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process," Braun said. "But again, he's the expert so we kind of rely on his expertise. But yeah, he kind of throws everything by us and gets our input on basically everything."

Braun also acknowledged that 8-twelve may not be it for his partnership with Rodgers, as two native Californians realize how important Wisconsin and its fans are to them.

"Hopefully this is just a first step for us," the Brewers left-fielder said. "We both realized how fortunate we are to end up spending, hopefully, our entire professional careers in the state of Wisconsin. Just incredibly passionate fan bases, incredibly supportive. Both of us have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and I think we both want to make an effort to continue to be involved in the community and continue to do as many local businesses as possible."

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Jon Jay placed on disabled list

ST. LOUIS -- Center fielder Jon Jay was put on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday by the St. Louis Cardinals because of shoulder soreness.

St. Louis played the finale of a five-game homestand with only one regular outfielder, left fielder Matt Holliday. Right fielder Carlos Beltran missed his second straight start because of a minor knee injury but was available to pinch hit, and first baseman Lance Berkman was a late lineup scratch.

"We decided to stay cautious with Carlos and give him another day," manager Mike Matheny said. "His knee has been barking."

The team gave no reason for scratching Berkman, who had played two games since coming off the disabled list from a left calf injury.

Jay injured his right shoulder when he banged into an outfield wall last month. He's 3 for 18 on the homestand with one hit, a bunt single, in his past 15 at-bats.

Jay is hitting .343 in 26 games and went 1 for 4 in Monday's 6-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Outfielder Shane Robinson was recalled from Triple-A Memphis after one day in the minors. Robinson was 3 for 4 with a triple on Monday, and arrived minus his equipment.

Robinson planned on asking utilityman Skip Schumaker, who started in center field, for a few items of equipment to tide him over.

"I didn't think anything would happen this soon. But it did," Robinson said. "It's been pretty chaotic."

Third baseman David Freese, in an 0 for 11 slump, also was not in the lineup.

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Tommy Streeter learning from Ray Lewis

Tommy Streeter will never forget the pain he felt the weekend of the NFL draft. Projected by some analysts to be a second-day pick, Streeter remained on the board until late in the sixth round. But shortly after the Ravens ended his disappointment, his phone rang. Linebacker Ray Lewis was reaching out to the Miami Hurricanes wide receiver and welcoming him to the family.

“I basically told him that I was ready to make that next step, ready to train,” Streeter said Sunday, the final day of the team’s three-day rookie minicamp in Owings Mills. “He took it upon himself to extend that invitation. He stays probably 40 minutes away from me in Miami. He just invited me to come over, work out. I accepted it and we’ve been on a roll ever since.

”Since draft day, Lewis and Streeter have pumped iron and worked up a sweat together in Florida. Steeler, who at 23 is 13 years younger than Lewis, marveled at his new teammate’s work ethic.

“It’s been tough. He pushes his body to the limit,” Streeter said. “It’s no surprise that he plays the way he plays on game day and why he’s been playing so long in the NFL."

Standing tall at 6 feet 5, Streeter was easy to spot during Sunday's practice. His size and speed are his most enticing attributes, but the deep threat has a long way to go to become a complete receiver. Streeter had 52 catches for 967 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons at Miami. 

Ravens coach John Harbaugh provided this scouting report: “First impression, he’s really tall. Second impression, he’s really fast. I’d say third impression, he’s going to be a good player.”

Streeter isn’t the only Ravens rookie who is being mentored by one of the team’s Pro Bowlers. Safety Christian Thompson, a fourth-round pick, has been getting advice from safety Ed Reed.

“Being a DB, you always want to play under the best players and Ed Reed, to me, is the best,” Thompson said. “Being able to play under him is a blessing. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

Streeter said he would always remember how 31 teams passed on him, but he, too, feels blessed to be given the opportunity to be with the Ravens and around Lewis, a former Hurricane himself.

“I kind of felt like a lot of people didn’t believe in me even though I believe in myself. I thank God that the coaches believed in me and gave me this opportunity,” the introspective Streeter said. “Ever since I got that phone call on draft day, I had the mindset that I was willing to work.”

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Travis Benjamin in mix to start at WR for Browns

Rookie Travis Benjamin, taken by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the draft, will be in the mix for a starting wide receiver spot, coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer on Sunday.

"I would say so," Shurmur said. "I saw a lot of good stuff from Travis this weekend and I feel like he'll only continue to get better."

Shurmur expects the speedy receiver out of Miami to see significant time if he doesn't crack the starting lineup.

The 5-foot-10, 172-pound Benjamin was the only receiver taken by Cleveland in the draft, sparking speculation that the team didn't do enough to address its shortage of pass-catchers for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.

The Browns ranked 24th in the league in passing yards last season (3,090) and 27th in passing touchdowns (16).

No Cleveland receiver was able to accumulate 1,000 receiving yards in 2011. After Greg Little (709 yards, two touchdowns) and Josh Cribbs (518 yards, four scores), the Browns did not have a receiver top the 500-yard mark.

Benjamin caught 41 passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games with Miami during the 2011 season.

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Jacory Harris soaking up knowledge

PHILADELPHIA — The success rate of quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round isn’t promising, but Nick Foles and Jacory Harris aren’t thinking beyond today’s final rookie camp practice.

Foles, the former University of Arizona record-setting quarterback, wasn’t drafted until the Eagles used the 88th overall pick on him in the third round.

Harris, once a blue-chip recruit at the University of Miami, went bypassed in the entire draft and didn’t have a job until he signed with the Eagles on Friday, the eve of rookie camp.

Both figure they’ve ended up in the right place despite their draft pedigree, under the supervision of quarterback specialists Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.

After just a few camp practices and some intense film review sessions, Foles can already appreciate the education he’s receiving from two of the NFL’s most renowned quarterback groomers.

“It’s just the confidence they have, they understand the game, they understand why it works and they put plays out there to put us in positions to be successful,” Foles said. “They know the game. They’ve done such a great job coaching for so long. I’m just here learning from them and every day trying to gain a little more knowledge ... and then put that into place on the field.”

The staff’s attention to detail at practice – on footwork, mechanics, repetitions, progressions – keeps rookies on their toes.

In 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator, positions himself about 10 yards directly behind the quarterback. Reid, the head coach, takes the opposing viewpoint, perched roughly five yards behind the defense.

The slightest hitch, confusion or misalignment before the snap prompts either to blow the play dead and re-huddle the offense. The quarterback that isn’t behind center is usually two yards behind Mornhinweg, receiving instruction from quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson.

The instruction never ceases. Breaks for quarterbacks don’t come until after practice – and just a short one before film review.

“I was trying to sip some water because my mouth was getting pretty dry,” Foles said, “but to be out here is a dream come true to be here. I got a lot of work to do to get my game better and put myself in position to be able to play.”

Harris opted against auditions for Kansas City and Arizona when the Eagles made him an offer.

“It’s actually great because you’re talking to guys that are professionals and guys that are geniuses at this,” he said. “The thing they teach you is nothing but knowledge you can learn and take in, and I feel like I’m soaking it all up.”

Although they picked three players before Foles, the Eagles love his upside and potential – and that they have at least one year, and probably two, to mold him into a potential starter.

The 6-foot-6, 243-pound former high school basketball player isn’t short on promise; he grew up in the same Texas town as Drew Brees and broke all of the All-Pro quarterback’s high school passing records.

At Arizona, he set the school’s record for career completions and passing yards.

But the spread offense Foles engineered in college is vastly different from Reid’s West Coast scheme, so in some ways, he’s starting from Ground Zero.

“I think you always go back to basics,” he said.

“That’s just football. If you get away from the basics you’re in trouble. So you can always get better at the footwork, the reads, just the little things you do with the drops, your arm placement, when you step up in the pocket. But that’s something all the players do.”

Harris is trying to move on from a so-so career at Miami, where he was once considered the next great Hurricane signal caller earmarked for NFL stardom.

He started for three seasons and finished with the school’s second-most career passing yards and touchdowns but never fulfilled the promise of being Miami’s next can’t-miss prospect.

He weighs just 206 pounds and, like most raw prospects, needs to improve his footwork and accuracy. But by learning under Reid and Mornhinweg, Harris said, he’s already taken another step in his development.

“They gave me more confidence because they come out here and they basically give you the keys to the car; you just got to drive it,” he said. “They teach you everything and they make sure you run everything right.”

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Javarris James earns a contract with Cardinals

Free agent running back Javarris James, the younger cousin of Edgerrin, was waived by the Colts last offseason following a June arrest for marijuana possession.

James received an invite to Cardinals rookie minicamp over the weekend on a tryout basis, though, and was officially added to Arizona’s 90-man offseason roster on Monday.

The Cardinals announced the additions of James, cornerback Larry Parker, kicker/punter Ricky Schmitt, and safety Eddie Elder.

Elder and Parker are undrafted rookies. Schmitt is a camp leg. James, 24, spent the 2010 season with Indianapolis, appearing in ten games. He managed just 112 yards on 46 carries (2.4 average), but scored six touchdowns operating as the Colts’ short-yardage and goal-line back.

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Damien Berry Impressing In Ravens Camp

Damien Berry, the running back from Miami who spent 2011 on the Ravens’ practice squad, looked as if he had gotten stronger since the end of last season. The team has said he is among those competing for a reserve role behind Ray Rice. He would seem to have his work cut out for him since Bernard Pierce was added as a third-round pick, but Berry looked quick, polished and in shape over the weekend.
Berry shows the rookies how it's done, catching a short pass, making the cut and sprinting downfield, looking every bit of the guy who could get some serious YAC.

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Graig Cooper Impressing In Eagles Camp

Don't forget about running back Graig Cooper, who was with the team in training camp last year. He hasn't dropped anything and has made a number of acrobatic catches of poorly thrown passes.

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Tommy Streeter felt snubbed during draft , more physicaly defined than expected

Sixth-rounder WR Tommy Streeter expected to be taken in the second or third round during the draft. “I'm extremely hungry," Streeter said. "I kind of felt like a lot of people didn't believe in me even though I believe in myself."

Streeter is more physically defined than expected. Maybe he’s been hitting the weight room this spring.

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Travis Benjamin finishes rookie minicamp strong

The fourth-round pick from the University of Miami made a nice catch in front of the goal line, turned and scored in the final minutes of practice Sunday on the final day of rookie minicamp. The catch was made more difficult because a defensive back darted in front at the last second trying for the interception.

Benjamin’s weekend began Friday morning with a couple of simple drops, but coach Pat Shurmur said it was too early to get down on him. On Sunday, Shurmur said he expects Benjamin to compete for a significant role in 2012.

“I would say so,” Shurmur said. “I saw a lot of good stuff from Travis this weekend and I feel like he’ll only continue to get better.”

Benjamin was the only addition in free agency or the draft to a maligned receiving corps. He is undersized at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds with hair thicker than his legs, but has world-class speed and changes directions smoothly.

“He’s a speed guy, he’s one of those guys that you don’t expect all of that coming from a smaller guy,” running back Trent Richardson said. “But he plays like a grown man and he is a grown man out there. He plays with a lot of heart.

“With a guy like Travis, you can just throw it up anywhere and he can go get it. That’s good for your team.”

Quarterback Brandon Weeden said he started to develop a rapport with Benjamin.

“The guy can really fly,” Weeden said. “And they had him moving around a bit, playing some different positions. Travis is a real good player.”
Benjamin caught 41 passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He totaled 131 for 2,146 and 13 in his career.

His route running needs work, and the coaches stressed precision during drills. It paid off with a few nice completions along the sideline from Weeden.

“I’ve been working on it,” Benjamin said.

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From hyped to humbled - Marcus Forston eyes fresh start as pro

FOXBORO — When Marcus Forston arrived at the University of Miami, there was talk of him being the best defensive tackle from southern Florida since Vince Wilfork [stats].

That was a mighty lofty claim. And Forston, a Parade All-American out of Miami’s Northwestern High School, didn’t exactly run from it. He embraced the hype, then dialed it up a notch.

“Vince Wilfork is a tremendous defensive tackle, and it’s going to be my goal to try to beat some of his records,” Forston proclaimed in one interview after arriving at Miami. “I’m going to lay down that there’s a new sheriff in town.”

Well, there might have been a new sheriff, but he barely laid a hand on the old one. While Forston flashed on occasion, he more often struggled to stay afloat in a sea of injuries. There was also the little matter of being suspended by the NCAA for the 2011 season opener for taking impermissible benefits while being recruited.

Forston’s college career was decent, not great. He showed signs of being a major disruptive force in the middle given his natural ability, but not enough.

Opting to leave college early didn’t exactly do him any favors either, as he wasn’t drafted.

But the Pats signed him as a rookie free agent, and with Wilfork getting up in years — he turns 31 in November — and needing to lessen his load, it’s possible Forston could make the team as a backup.

Forston, however, has plenty to learn and a lot to prove before winning a roster spot. That much he knows. Speaking yesterday prior to the rookie camp workout, he sounded a bit more humble than the kid who thought he was going to take the Hurricanes by storm. There were no promises and no guarantees. Just vows of doing whatever was needed to make it at this level.

“I’m just ready to work,” Forston said. “I want to do everything my coach tells me to do at 110 percent.”

One of the knocks on Forston is that while he has incredible talent and raw ability, he doesn’t always use it. That may have been another factor as to why teams passed on him through seven rounds. Forston, however, now may be using that as a motivator.

“It don’t matter where you get drafted,” he said, “because once you come in, everyone’s on the same level. So I just want to come here, work hard, whatever role my coaches want me to do, I’m going to do it.”

As for Wilfork, Forston is looking forward to learning from the man he thought he could trump at Miami. He hasn’t formally met Big Vince yet, but was hoping to get an audience with him and the rest of the defensive line.

“I feel I can learn a lot because the way those guys play, you want to play like that, too,” Forston said. “You know when you see the Patriots [team stats] defensive line, they’re aggressive, they’re nasty, and they play hard.”

Forston is 6-foot-1, 300 pounds. He doesn’t have the same girth or body frame as Wilfork, but he did bench-press 225 pounds 35 times at the NFL combine, which is impressive.

It was suggested that coming to the Patriots might be an opportunity for him to start fresh. Sounded good to him.

“I’m going to come here (and) do everything right,” he said. “I’m going to come here and do my job. I’m going to work hard. Once you work hard, everything else comes into place.”

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Tommy Streeter could provide vertical threat

OWINGS MILLS — Tommy Streeter bolted past a Virginia Tech cornerback toward the corner of the end zone last fall, elevating high into the air to haul in a touchdown pass on a fade route.

Bigger, stronger and faster than defensive backs, the towering University of Miami wide receiver routinely accelerated away from the pack to gain separation during an encouraging junior season.

The athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pounder did enough to convince the Baltimore Ravens to draft him in the sixth round with the 198th overall selection.

“I feel like it’s always a mismatch whenever I’m on the field,” Streeter told the Times in a telephone interview prior to reporting for a three-day rookie minicamp that began Friday. “It’s rare to have a cornerback that’s big and physical and fast. There might be a little guy that can run with you, but I feel like when it comes time to match up with me in either one of those departments, it’s rare to have the size and the speed and be a physical enough player to cover me.”

Streeter isn’t exaggerating about his physical prowess. This isn’t your typical sixth-round draft pick.

It’s unique to find a wide receiver who has NBA shooting guard size who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds with a 10-5 broad jump that can bench press 225 pounds 17 times.

“Tommy was the best player on our board,” Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. “We were excited about him. It’s unusual to get a receiver with that kind of size who can run like that. These kinds of guys are rare at times. If you have a chance to get a guy like that and you are in the right position in the draft, it’s probably a good thing and he was the guy.”

The Ravens envision Streeter operating initially as an imposing red-zone target and deep threat to complement starting wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.

Streeter declared early for the draft in anticipating of going much higher in the draft. The Ravens signed him to a four-year, $2.194 million contract that includes a $94,500 signing bonus.

He thrived last season in his lone year as a regular starter for the Hurricanes, catching a career-high 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. He won a Most Improved Player award and was named second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference by one publication.

The Ravens ended Streeter’s anxiety, obtaining a downfield target with a ton of upside.

Streeter averaged 17.63 yards per reception last season after catching only six passes during his first two seasons.

Streeter acknowledged that his route-running can still use more polish and diversity.

“Yeah, I can agree with that,” said Streeter, who worked out privately for the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins before the draft. “I wasn’t asked to run all the double-moves and different routes due to the offense I was in. I did what was asked of me. Everybody has a job or skill set different than the other guys. The coaches took advantage of that.”

“You bring me in as a deep threat to stretch the field vertically. There are areas I can work on, dropping my hips and working on my technique to explode out of my routes and create separation. It’s a process. Going into the league, I’m excited for the challenge. I just want to get better.”

Once former Temple coach Al Golden took over the Miami program, everything clicked for Streeter after barely being utilized by previous coach Randy Shannon.

“I was given an opportunity,” Streeter said. “Coach Golden came in and, he had the mindset of not basing anything off the old coaches or how the other staff felt. He went off what he saw. I had the mentality to prove myself and got the opportunity.”

“Those guys came in at the bowl game and watched practice. That was the time my opportunity had begun from that moment. The coaches did a great job of pushing me and trying to get the best out of me. Coach Golden does a great job of developing you on and off the field and getting you mentally tough by conditioning your mind to be a well-rounded young man.”

That definitely fits Streeter’s description.

Streeter is deeply religious and his mother is the pastor of a Baptist church in Hollywood, Fla.

“My faith is something that’s very important to me,” Streeter said. “It kind of shapes and molds everything that I do. The way that I present myself in the community and the kind of person that I am is all because of my faith. My parents instilled positive things in me to make me a better man. I’m a humble servant of Christ.”

Streeter feels fortunate to wind up in Baltimore.

The Ravens are the defending AFC North champions. They have an established veteran in Boldin to learn from. And they have a strong-armed quarterback in Joe Flacco who’s capable of airing out long passes for Streeter to run under.

“It’s a great situation for me to learn from those guys and be groomed by them and the coaching staff to have success by giving me tips to take my game to the next level,” Streeter said. “It’s always exciting to have a guy like Joe Flacco that has good arm strength and can get the ball out there and let you catch the ball in stride and make big plays.”

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Chris Myers made 3 of the 10 best performances at C in 2010

Need another example as to why the Texans make re-signing C Chris Myers a top priority? The Pro Bowler recorded three of the 10 best performances at the position in 2011 according to Pro Football Focus. Myers' performances against the Colts (Week 1) and Browns (Week 9) were ranked 1-2, while his effort in a Week 15 loss to the Panthers was tied for tenth. The site called Myers' Week 1 effort "the likes of which you don't see often."

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Leonard Hankerson may not be ready for June’s minicamp

Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson, coming off a hip injury that ended his rookie season prematurely, is in line to earn a starting spot this season with a strong training camp. But his immediate concern is getting back on to the field, and that might not happen at the team’s June 11-13 minicamp. Nevertheless, hardly anyone — Hankerson included — is concerned about his progress following February surgery and the subsequent rehab.

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Alfredo Roberts' Son Offered Scholarship From UF

Tampa (Fla.) Plant tight end Austin Roberts is widely considered one of the top prospects in the state of Florida in the Class of 2014.

On Sunday, he learned he had picked up an offer from the Florida Gators, but he learned about the news in a much different way than usual.

“Coach (Will) Muschamp offered me,” Roberts said via text. “Well, it was kind of came from him. Actually, my dad (Alfredo Roberts, an assistant coach for the Indianapolis Colts) and him were at a convention in Dallas and that’s where he told my pops about the offer.

“So, in a way it was from coach Muschamp. Lol.”

That’s exactly how Roberts texted it, hence the “Lol” at the end. In text speak, that’s “Laugh Out Loud,” for those who didn’t know.

This offer gives the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Roberts 11 scholarship offers with Indiana, Miami and Stanford headlining the list, to go along with Florida.
The offer from the Florida football program is extra special for the Plant prospect.

“This is the offer every player in Florida dreams about,” Roberts said. “I feel so bless(ed) to have finally received one.”

A current Florida resident, Roberts will not be in the state of Florida much longer. He’s planning to move to Indianapolis on June 13 after his father recently took a job with the Colts, leaving his former gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Even though he will not be at Plant High, UF tight end coach Derek Lewis has insured Roberts he will visit him in Indianapolis.

“He told me he will personally fly up to see me play,” Roberts said. “That means a lot to me that he cares that much to fly all the way up there.”

Roberts’ father is also a tight end coach, so Roberts will have no lack of coaching when it comes to playing the position in college.

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Ryan Braun isn't rattled

After a failed drug test called his character into question during a tumultuous offseason, Ryan Braun is the one doing most of the bashing these days - looking every bit like the reigning National League MVP during a recent hot streak.

At home, he is cheered wildly during every at-bat by big crowds filled with No. 8 jerseys and T-shirts. He is opening a second restaurant in the Milwaukee area later this year, a joint venture with his pal Aaron Rodgers - the latest step in what is becoming a full-on, co-MVP Wisconsin sports bromance.

Watching a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park, there would be almost no way to tell that Braun spent the offseason defending himself against leaked details of a positive test for an elevated testosterone level. An arbitrator overturned a 50-game suspension after Braun and his representatives questioned the methods used to collect his urine sample.

That hasn't bought Braun much slack on the road, where some opposing fans have made it clear that they don't believe his innocence and aren't going to let him forget about it.

"That's a true professional," Brewers centre-fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "Words don't explain what he's gone through, just with the offseason and this year when we go on the road and how he's handling it all. It just shows he's well-mannered, well-spoken and he's all about business. You can see that he's definitely got a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. So he's doing a wonderful job with that."

Speaking to reporters before the Brewers' home opener last month, Braun acknowledged he was out to prove something.

"Of course," Braun said April 6. "It's not so much about proving anybody wrong as it much as it is proving the people who all believed in me and supported me right. So I'm definitely excited. Very motivated."

Braun might still feel that way, but he's less inclined to talk about it now. Asked last week whether he felt like he was putting everything behind him, Braun said only: "That's irrelevant."

"I don't think there's really much talk about it now," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "And I think that's a credit to him, how he has handled it. There's been obviously a few cities where he's run into a few boos or jeers, but he hasn't let it affect him."

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said Braun's production is the main indication that he is handling the scrutiny.

"He's second in the National League in home runs, right? He's got like a .980 OPS (on-base plus slugging)," Attanasio said last week. "I think he's handled it pretty well. And the same way we say the bar has been raised here, the bar has been raised so high for Ryan Braun that second in the league in home runs, people are still saying: 'Well, jeez, you're not quite back yet.' He's doing just fine."

Braun rebounded from a slow start that included an 0-for-16 skid in April. More recently, he has been playing through a nagging Achilles tendon injury.

Through Saturday, Braun was batting .305 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs.

Statistically, his home and away splits aren't significantly different.

"I've admired Ryan Braun from the moment I met him, his first day he had that press conference," Brewers infielder Travis Ishikawa said. "I didn't know the whole situation, but to be able to handle all the questions, everything that's gone on all of spring training. We haven't been to a place on the road yet where he hasn't been booed. This guy wasn't even convicted of anything, he was found innocent. But because of what happened he has to deal with it everywhere he goes, and he carries himself so professionally."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke acknowledged at the beginning of the season that dealing with opposing fans could be a challenge for Braun.
"Some are a little harsher than others," Roenicke said recently. "Whenever we go to Chicago he gets booed. It's because he's a really good player. I think all the great players, they get booed. I think he's used to that. If it happens everywhere it's probably a little different. As you guys know, he's very strong mentally. He's got a lot of confidence. I think sometimes it drives him to do better, to try harder. Sometimes that's really good and sometimes you press a little too much."

Morgan, a polarizing figure who attracts his fair share of criticism from opposing fans, acknowledged that players can't completely tune it out.

"You can feed off of it or shake it off, one of the two," Morgan said. "However you get it going. That's just how it is, the nature of the beast. You know, everything is handled just fine. We're doing it right out there. We're not letting the fans get to us, and especially he's not letting it get to him. Because I've heard some nasty things out there."

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Yonder Alonso misses collision

Yonder Alonso is not too happy with the Phillie Phanatic.

The first baseman was running onto the field Saturday for pregame warm-ups when the Phanatic’s ATV came within a foot of hitting Alonso.

“I didn’t see him coming and he was driving way too fast,” said Alonso. “I was moving around the kids’ choir getting ready to sing the National Anthem when he flew past me on his ATV. I would have sued him.

Alonso’s career-best, nine-game hitting streak ended Sunday. He was 15-for-36 during the streak. He has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games (23-for-60).

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MLB fires arbitrator from Ryan Braun case

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball management has fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun’s drug suspension in February.

MLB informed Das and the players’ association of its decision last week. Das had been baseball’s permanent arbitrator since 1999, part of what technically is a three-man panel that also includes a representative of management and labor.

“Shyam is the longest-tenured panel chair in our bargaining relationship,” union head Michael Weiner said. “For 13 years, from the beginning to the end of his tenure, he served the parties with professionalism and distinction.”

Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement says the arbitrator can be removed by the players’ association or management at any time with written notice.

“I had the distinct privilege to serve as chair of the MLB-MLBPA arbitration panel for almost 13 years,” Das wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “I have the greatest respect for the representatives of both parties I worked with during that period, and I wish the parties well in their ongoing relationship.”

The sides will now try to select a successor. If they cannot agree, baseball’s collective bargaining agreement calls for them to ask the American Arbitration Association for a list of “prominent, professional arbitrators.” The sides would then alternate striking names from the list until one remains.

Das, a graduate of Harvard and Yale University Law School, also has been an arbitrator for the NFL since 2004 and is scheduled to hear a grievance in the New Orleans Saints bounty case on Wednesday.

The baseball situation, “does not impact his role at an arbitrator for our CBA,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Following a grievance hearing, Das decided in February to overturn the 50-game suspension of Braun for a positive drug test. Lawyers for the Milwaukee outfielder, the reigning NL MVP, argued that the collection procedures specified in baseball’s drug agreement for the urine sample were not followed with Braun’s sample last Oct. 1 because it was not immediately left at a Federal Express office.

The collector testified that because the sample was taken on a Saturday and could not have been shipped that day to the testing laboratory outside Montreal, he concluded the sample would be more secure at his home. He then took it to a FedEx office on the following Monday.

Baseball’s drug agreement states that “absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”

Management loudly and publicly disagreed with his decision.

The sides asked Das to hold off on issuing a written decision while they negotiated changes to the drug agreement.

The 100-game suspension of Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo for a second positive test, announced last Sept. 14, has been dropped because of the same procedural issues that came up in the Ryan Braun case. At the time the ban was announced, Alfonzo issued a statement saying he was surprised and had not taken any prohibited substances since 2008, when he served a 50-game ban while with San Francisco.

Alfonzo was designated for assignment by the Rockies on May 7 and sent outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League two days later.

Das took over as baseball’s permanent arbitrator from Cornell professor Dana Eischen, who was hired in December 1997 but quit after ruling the following May against J.D. Drew’s grievance seeking free agency.

Many of baseball’s grievance arbitrators have had brief tenures, with the list including Lewis Gill (1970-72), Gabriel Alexander (1972-74), Peter Seitz (1974-75), Alexander Porter (1977-79), Raymond Goetz (1979-83), Richard Bloch (1983-85), Thomas Roberts (1985-86), George Nicolau (1986-95), Nicholas Zumas (1995-97) and Eischen (1997-98).

Joseph Sickles heard one case in 1976, and temporary arbitrators were used between Eischen and Das.

Seitz was fired after he ruled against owners in the Andy Messersmith-Dave McNally reserve clause case that led to free agency. Roberts was fired after deciding management colluded against free agents between the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

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PHOTOS: Jacory Harris At Eagles Rookie Camp

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PHOTOS: Travis Benjamin At Browns Rookie Camp


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PHOTOS: Tommy Streeter At Ravens Rookie Camp


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PHOTO: LaRon Byrd At Cardinals Rookie Camp


TEMPE, AZ - MAY 11: Wide receiver Michael Floyd #15 (C) of the Arizona Cardinals practices alongside Tre Gray #16 and LaRon Byrd #17 in the minicamp at the team's training center facility on May 11, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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PHOTO: Brandon Washington At Eagles Rookie Camp

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: Brandon Washington #78 maneuvers around Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles during rookie mini-camp at their practice facility on May 12, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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PHOTO: Marcus Forston At Patriots Rookie Camp


FOXBORO, MA - MAY 11: Marcus Forston and Alfonzo Dennard of the New England Patriots takes part in the 2012 Rookie Mini Camp at Gillette Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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PHOTO: Micanor Regis At Falcons Rookie Camp


FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 12: Travian Robertson #92 practices with Micanor Regis #67 of the Atlanta Falcons during the rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility on May 12, 2012 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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PHOTO: Chase Ford At Eagles Rookie Camp


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Ed Reed, fellow Ravens highlight RAACE Foundation's Family Fun Day

The RAACE Foundation, for Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere, held its seventh annual Rally for RAACE motorcycle ride, Ed Reed Flag Football Classic and Family Fun Day Saturday at Cedar Lane Regional Park near Bel Air.

Organizers said the event, held to raise public awareness of and to eliminate child sexual abuse, was well attended, as the weather cooperated with a beautiful warm, breezy and sunny day. They were hoping for as many as 1,000 bikers and several thousand people to participate in the day’s events.

The motorcycle ride started at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa and followed a 56-mile course through Harford County to Cedar Lane Regional Park southeast of Bel Air where the Ed Reed Flag Football Classic and Family Fun Day were held.

Full Access Sports Marketing and The RAACE Foundation presented The Jarvis Appliance Ed Reed Flag Football Classic and Family Fun Day activities beginning at 9 a.m.

In addition to Reed, several other players, including Lardarius Webb, Michael Oher and Vonta Leach, attended.

The huge motorcycle caravan began arriving in late morning for a big celebration among all attending.

The RACCE Foundation is based in Forest Hill and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the epidemic of child sexual abuse by raising public awareness.

According to the foundation’s mission statement, “The only way to protect children from the horrors of sexual abuse is awareness. Team RAACE provides the opportunities needed to explain the nature of the problem. An open door to communication is the first step. Because your interests and activities have the power to expose the hidden epidemic of child sexual abuse, The RAACE Foundation can educate adults so no child has to suffer the same silent fate.”

“The RAACE Foundation and those who support their goal to Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere know that until every child is safe from abuse our RAACE has no finish line,”  the mission statement concludes.

The RAACE Foundation was created in 2004 by Baltimore businessman Kenneth Smith. In the years prior, Smith began to recognize the need for an organization dedicated to raising public awareness of child sexual abuse after becoming involved with several Baltimore area child abuse charities, according to the organization’s website.

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Devin Hester still No. 1 kickoff returner for Chicago Bears

Devin Hester will be the Chicago Bears' top kickoff returner this year, special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Saturday, refuting reports that the electric wide receiver would be dropped from such duty.

"Hester is our punt returner and he is our No. 1 kickoff returner," Toub said according to The Chicago Tribune. "He is still our No. 1 kickoff returner."
The NFL's all-time leader in return touchdowns took back one kickoff for a touchdown last season, averaging 21.9 yards per return. Hester scored two punt-return touchdowns last season.

"It's pretty simple to me," Toub said. "I just laugh when I hear all these stories out here."

There had been speculation in Chicago that Hester would be used solely on punt returns after the Bears signed free agents Eric Weems and Devin Thomas to help return kicks.

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice has also beaten back speculation that Hester would no longer be an every-down receiver after the team added wideouts Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery in the offseason.

"Devin is going to be on the field," Tice said Friday. "If he's not on the field, then they should fire me."

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Travis Benjamin at Cleveland Browns rookie minicamp

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Fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin, regarded as one of the fastest men in the NFL Draft, had a so-so first practice.

On one deep route down the left sideline, he was matched stride for stride by undrafted rookie cornerback Johnson Bademosi.

On another, down the right sideline, second-year hopeful David Sims tracked Weeden’s bomb better than Benjamin did, running under the ball while Benjamin pulled up.

Putting up too little fight on possible interceptions was one of the knocks on Benjamin.

Benjamin said he is getting his timing down.

“Hopefully, I’ll have it by the second practice,” he said.

Shurmur gave Benjamin a pass for dropping a couple of balls, saying, “Let’s not go there yet.”

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NFL: Two 'bounty' hearings set for May 16, 30

Peter Ginsberg, the lawyer for Jonathan Vilma, says he still has yet to receive a single piece of evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell that proves the New Orleans Saints linebacker participated in the team's "bounty" program.

Appearing on PFT Live on Friday, Ginsberg also stated two "bounty"-related grievances filed this month are set to be heard on May 16 and May 30.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche reported Saturday the league has officially confirmed the hearing dates. So what does this mean?

• The grievance set to be heard May 16 centers on the argument that the new collective bargaining agreement forbids the NFL from penalizing players for conduct prior to August 4, 2011. The grievance also argues Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, who are employed by the NFL Players Association and the league, should hear appeals stemming from incidents of on-field discipline -- not Commissioner Roger Goodell.

• Ginsberg cited May 30 for the second hearing, set up to addresses punishments around additional "bounty" money distributed to players in violation of the salary cap. The argument here is that NFL special master Stephen Burbank should rule on these issues and not, again, the commissioner.

Vilma, suspended by the NFL for the 2012 season, plans to appeal his punishment. The remaining trio of suspended players -- Anthony Hargrove (currently with the Green Bay Packers), Will Smith (still with the Saints) and Scott Fujita (currently with the Cleveland Browns) -- have reserved the right to file an appeal.

Mary Jo White, a former U.S. Attorney hired by the league to review the bounty investigation, told Wyche the league was "solid" in terms of evidence, saying she had secured criminal convictions with less.

Ginsberg, however, has not gone silent in his request to see evidence from the NFL. As we delve deeper into the case, this is the drum he continues to beat.

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Mike Tice: If Devin Hester isn’t involved in Bears’ offense, fire me

When asked about the Bears’ most prominent returning receiver, offensive coordinator Mike Tice quickly pointed out he didn’t first mention a ‘‘Devin [Hester] package.’’

That, of course, came from Bears general manager Phil Emery during draft weekend.

Tice was a bit jumpy because of his own history.

‘‘I did the ‘Randy Ratio’; that came back to bite me in the [rear end], right?’’ a playful Tice said Friday. ‘‘But Devin is going to be on the field. If he’s not on the field, then they should fire me.’’

After he was named the Minnesota Vikings’ coach in January 2002, Tice said he had developed a formula to ensure that perennial Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss would remain active in his offense. He called it the ‘‘Randy Ratio,’’ and he explained that at least 40 percent of the Vikings’ passes would be intended for Moss.

Moss had 1,347 receiving yards the next season, but he averaged a career-low 12.7 yards per catch. In addition, the Vikings finished 6-10.
Still, Tice reiterated a common theme at Halas Hall: Hester will be very involved in the Bears’ offense.

‘‘We see him as a guy that is going to help our receiving corps in a big way,’’ Emery said at the draft. ‘‘We want to make sure that we have a special plan for Devin. We have the Devin package, a package of plays as a receiver.

‘‘You never know where he is going to line up.’’

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Steak and lobster for Calais Campbell and Co.

It's been a top-shelf week for Calais Campbell, Arizona's defensive end who signed a five-year, $55 million contract extension with the Cardinals on Thursday.

With the ink still drying on the contract, Around the League spoke via phone with Campbell, who confirmed he wouldn't celebrate his epic payday alone.

"I'll probably take the D-line out and do something fun, get some food and hang out and celebrate," Campbell said. "It's definitely one of those things, it's a great day, a dream come true."

The menu for the evening has been released: "It will probably be steak and lobsters for everybody."

That's the mood on defense after the Cardinals closed last season with a 5-1 spree. Campbell racked up eight sacks and emerged as one of the game's most underrated, disruptive 3-4 ends on the field.

It's tough to miss him at 6-foot-8, but he'd get more press if he wore blue with the Giants, green with the Jets or a little pretty star on the side of his helmet -- and he knows it.

"It's just the way the game is, but I feel like we're a great team," Campbell said. "If we go out there and keep playing the way we finished the season last year, we can definitely make a run for it this year."

Arizona's trek out of the cellar in 2011 flew under the radar like a ghost ship. Quarterback John Skelton was the league's most invisible magic man, going 5-2 in starts down the stretch. The nation couldn't tear itself away from that guy in Denver, Tim Something, but Campbell wouldn't trade his place -- or his team -- for any other heading into 2012. The Cardinals, and the city, feel the same about him.

"People look past us, that's cool, because it doesn't matter what people say at the beginning of the year," Campbell said. "All that matters is what's at the end."

In our view, one of the better offseason signings for the Cardinals -- or any team.

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Ed Reed throws out first pitch before Orioles' game

Ravens safety Ed Reed played a lot of sports growing up and has long been regarded as one of the best athletes in the NFL. So it came as no surprise when before tonight's Orioles-Tampa Bay Rays game at Camden Yards, Reed looked quite comfortable taking batting practice and running around center field shagging flyballs. 

Wearing a No.20 home white Orioles' jersey, he then proceeded to throw a nice tailing fastball to Brian Matusz for the ceremonial first pitch.

“Seeing me out here just means that I’m out here playing a little baseball and kind of putting my resume in if they need me," said Reed when asked if his presence in Baltimore means he's raring to go for the football season. "This is just, like I say, I’m in Baltimore enjoying myself, seeing family, getting into the atmosphere. It’s a different time of the year. I can remember being a rookie coming in this weekend ... and doing some foundation stuff, so it definitely brings back some memories, going into my 11th year."

Earlier in the week, Reed's safety partner - Bernard Pollard - received a three-year extension from the Ravens. Reed, who is entering the final year on his contract, said in a radio interview earlier this offseason that he felt "disrespected" by the Ravens. The comment was taken as a sign that Reed was not happy with his current contract and wanted an extension.  

Asked tonight if he had any plans to meet with General Manager Ozzie Newsome when he was in town, Reed said, "No, not meeting with Ozzie. I don’t even think Ozzie is taking my calls right now.”

Reed was laughing as he made the Newsome comment so we presume he was joking. Then again with the mercurial safety, you never know.

The free safety, who is almost a certain Hall of Famer when he retires, also acknowledged that he's spoken to Terrell Suggs since the linebacker tore his Achilles' tendon, an injury that required surgery and is expected to keep the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year out for a good part - if not all - of the 2012 season.

“It was tough and I know Suggs will do everything he can to recover. It’s all about recovery," said Reed who has dealt with own share of injuries the past couple of years. "This is a business. It’s something that you’ve got to bounce back from. It’s how he comes back is the most important thing. It’s not what everybody else is saying about timing and all that, because I’ve been through this with my hip and I had to get on [the physically unable to perform list] because I knew if I didn’t get on PUP I’d have wanted to play like I did. I’d have wanted to play the first game against the Jets and that wasn’t a smart thing to do.

"So, like I told Suggs, just make sure you recover and rehab yourself to 100 percent before you come back. Don’t try to rush this back, saying you’re going to be back August, September, whatever it is you think you’re going to be back, it’s going to be the injury that tells you that you’re ready.”

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Kayne Farquharson Adds 3 More TDs This Week

OMAHA — The Omaha Beef had its back against the wall Saturday night when it hosted the Nebraska Danger.

And the Beef responded with a 68-54 victory over the Danger to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Omaha improves to 4-5 with the win when the Danger fell to 4-6.

A home loss would have all but eliminated the Beef from the playoff race, but quarterback James McNear didn’t let that happen. The veteran QB threw for six touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Beef to the win.

McNear finished the night 21-for-28 passing for 200 yards.

Former Danger receiver Mike Jones also played a big role for the Beef with touchdown receptions of 4, 2 and 9 yards. The final two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.

Danger quarterback Rocky Hinds threw six touchdowns, including three to receiver Kayne Farquharson who had six receptions for 91 yards.
Running back Daniel Libre had a 25-yard touchdown run and caught a pass from Hinds to complete a 27-yard scoring play.

Hinds completed 19-of-31 passes for 226 yards with two interceptions. Farquharson had six catches for 91 yards while Chris Bell grabbed seven passes for 45 yards. Running back Daniel Libre had 13 carries for 60 yards and caught two passes for 54 yards.

The Danger will play at Wichita on Saturday to complete a three-game road trip before returning to the Heartland Events Center to play the Allen Wranglers on June 2.

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Shawnbrey McNeal At NY Giants Rookie Camp

Some veterans in NY Giants camp listed as a veteran tryout by the Giants are center Jamaal Jackson, quarterback Dan LeFevour, safety Will Hill, tackle Renardo Foster, guard Rich Ornberger, linebacker Nathan Triplett, punter Jy Bond, long snapper Scott Albritton, defensive end Lindsey Witten, defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, cornerback E.J. Whitley, running back Shawnbrey McNeal, cornerback Maurice Rolle, cornerback Dante Hughes and kicker Clint Stitser.

Some of the undrafted rookie free agents include UMass wide receiver Julian Talley, Arizona wide receiver David Douglas, Rutgers fullback Joe Martinek, Miami safety Jojo Nicolas, McNeese State safety Janzen Jackson, Louisiana Tech defensive end Matt Broha, Miami defensive end Adewale Ojomo and Nebraska-Kearney guard Stephen Goodin.

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Michael Phelps credits Ray Lewis for helping find his passion

If Michael Phelps again wins multiple gold medals at the Summer Olympics, Ray Lewis will deserve some of the credit.

Phelps told the Baltimore Sun that he experienced some burnout after winning eight gold medals in Beijing four years ago, and it was tough to get as motivated to compete in London this year. But getting to know Lewis, hearing his pep talks and seeing the passion the Ravens’ linebacker still has for his sport after 16 seasons in the league helped Phelps to rediscover his own passion for his sport.

“I love to watch him play. It sends chills up my spine,” Phelps said. “And his words are so powerful. It’s what friends are for.”

Phelps is a big Ravens fan, and he and Lewis have developed a bond over the last few years. Lewis has a reputation for being as good a motivator off the field as he is a linebacker on the field (he recently gave a rousing speech to Stanford’s basketball team), and Phelps says his relationship with Lewis has meant a lot to him.

“Ray is a good friend of mine,” Phelps said. “Baltimore is my hometown, and it’s where I grew up. I’m always going to have a place there. I love Baltimore, I love being close to [where] the Ravens play.”

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Marcus Forston shrugs off having 32 teams pass on him in draft

Marcus Forston was one of the more highly recruited athletes out of Southern Florida. The Parade All-America wound up at the University of Miami and the sky was the limit for the defensive tackle.

But between numerous injuries, being suspended for the 2011 season opener by the NCAA for taking impermissable benefits while being recruited, and perhaps, only showing his ability in flashes, his star never really took off.

Then he decided to leave school early, take his chances. It didn’t pay off until the Patriots opted to sign the 6-1, 300-pound tackle to a free agent deal. 

”It don’t matter where you get drafted,’’ Forston said, ‘’because, once you come in, everyone’s on the same level. So I just want to come here, work hard, whatever role my coaches want me to do, I’m going to do it.’’

The Pats are constantly looking for defensive line help, and Forston is clearly talented with some raw skills, but injuries really hurt him along the way. Forston today said he was 100 percent healthy and ready to go. He was also looking forward to learning from Vince Wilfork & Co.

’I feel I can learn a lot because the way those guys play, you want to play like that, too,’’ Forston said. ‘’You know when you see the Patriots defensive line, they’re aggressive, they’re nasty, and they play hard.’’

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On a tryout, another James in the locker room

Javarris James has long admired his uncle, Edgerrin. He followed in Edge”s footsteps when he attended the University of Miami, and did it again when he played in 2010 with the Indianapolis Colts and now — at least potentially — has a chance to follow him with the Arizona Cardinals.

Javarris James is one of 16 players working with the Cards during minicamp on a tryout basis. The Cards could probably use another running back this offseason, with both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams coming back from leg injuries. He gained 112 yards on 46 carries for the Colts a couple of years ago in 10 games, and even if he were signed would be an incredible longshot to make the roster.

But right now, that’s not what he’s thinking about.

“I feel like I’ve been through worse,” James said. “I’m just happy to have this opportunity. The decision isn’t up to me. I need to study my playbook and execute my assignments, and that’s all I can do.”

Edgerrin James’ time in Arizona ended bittersweet. Edge was benched for a chunk of 2008, although he was the main running back in the playoffs as the Cards made their memorable Super Bowl run. James was then released the following offseason when Wells was drafted. Still, Javarris said “when we have talked, he had nothing bad to say about Arizona.”

Javarris James said it was “kind of crazy” how he has followed Edgerrin to college and then to the Colts and now the Cards. “I’m just happy I have someone like that I can get advice from,” Javarris said. “I just want an oppotunity to showcase my skills and hopefully take advantage.”

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Jason Geathers Traded

The Rattlers traded reserve fullback Johnnie Kirton to the San Jose SaberCats for the rights to receiver/jack linebacker Jason Geathers.

Geathers became quarterback Nick Davila's go-to receiver late in the season and in the playoffs last year after Rod Windsor left for the NFL Cleveland Browns.

Geathers signed in the off-season with the SaberCats, with whom he was part of an ArenaBowl championship in 2008, before the league took a year off because of financial troubles.

But Geathers never reported this season with the SaberCats. He has been living in Florida. He played at the University of Miami.

Rattlers coach and general manager Kevin Guy said he anticipates Geathers joining the team next week when they travel to play the 6-2 Utah Blaze.

The Rattlers (5-3) play the Chicago Rush (6-2) on Saturday night at US Airways Center.

"We're going to get him going," Guy said. "He brings a physical presence to our team, versatility. Those are the two things we get out of him. He is a great special teams player."

Guy will see what kind of shape Geathers is in when he gets back.

Guy said he is satisfied with the receivers he has now. Maurice Purify (69 catches, 1,083 yards, 26 TDs), Kerry Reed and Glen Fox have been the Rattlers' most dependable receivers. Trandon Harvey is close to returning after suffering an arm injury a month ago.

Markee White is a big target at 6-foot-7, who is slowly getting acclimated after joining the team three weeks ago.

"We're just trying to get better as a football team," Guy said.

San Jose fills a need at fullback with its starter going on injured reserve.

The Rattlers get a player who last season caught 93 passes for 1,065 yards and 28 TDs, and ran 12 times for 42 yards and a score. Geathers also was used on occasion at linebacker, where he had 12 tackles and an interception.

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Tommy Streeter ready to be red zone threat?

According to the Carroll County Times, the Ravens may use No. 198 pick WR Tommy Streeter in the red zone.

Streeter is an imposing 6-foot-5, 219 pounds to go along with 4.40 40 speed, but admits he's extremely raw as a route runner after starting for just one season at the University of Miami. "I wasn’t asked to run all the double-moves and different routes due to the offense I was in," Streeter said. With Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta all still in the fold for the Ravens, we doubt Streeter will see frequent red-zone targets as a rookie.

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Jemile Weeks heeds mom's advice -- even on baseball

Not a week goes by without Jemile Weeks picking up the phone and calling his mother. In fact, the A's second baseman says it's more like an every-other-day occurrence.

"She's one to try to lend baseball advice because she believes she's got some knowledge after all these years," said Weeks, laughing. "With two boys playing baseball, she'll give her advice from time to time. You don't always want to hear it but she'll be right sometimes. You just give her the respect, and who knows? Maybe it ends up being helpful."

The task comes naturally for Valeria Weeks-McMillian, a pastor in Orlando and mother of two boys and one girl. Each offseason, Jemile and brother Rickie, second baseman for the Brewers, return to the area and, every Sunday, attend church before digging in to a home-cooked meal, always served with a dose of perspective.

It's one Jemile never loses sight of during the year, no matter where his baseball travels take him.

"She definitely keeps me grounded," he said. "It's kept me with the mentality to have something to believe in, as far as our religious beliefs and how we live our daily lives. I can say that having parents who provide that for a child, it keeps you safe from a lot of outside influences. I think my siblings and I benefited greatly from that.

"Once it's planted in you, it sticks. We might venture out here and there, but the foundation is always there. I think that keeps us from exploring things we don't need to explore."

For Valeria, baseball came behind only church and school. But even though the sport didn't mean much to her if math and science homework weren't done, many of her favorite early memories of Jemile came on the field, where his opponents would repeatedly -- and mistakenly -- expect little production from his 5-foot-8 frame.

"That was always funny to me because I thought, 'They really don't know who this kid is,'" Valeria said. "Whenever they did that, the ball always went over their heads. It never failed. The coaches and the parents on the sidelines, they'd say, 'Wow, look at that little kid go!'"

Even when Jemile wasn't of age to don a Little League uniform, he kept his opponents busy.

"He had all of us throwing the ball to him, with one of those plastic ball-and-bat sets," Valeria said. "I would have the ball and he'd say, 'Pitch the ball, Mama!"

Said Jemile: "God blessed us with parents that care. Growing up in our house, you just learned how to be appreciative. You're supposed to be appreciative of the little things, so you know how to be appreciative of the bigger things."

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Yonder Alonso honored for chance to use pink bats

PHILADELPHIA -- First baseman Yonder Alonso spent his first Mother's Day in the Major Leagues and had the chance to swing a pink bat for the first time against the Phillies on Sunday.

"It's awesome," Alonso said before the game. "I grew up watching guys swing pink bats and wanted to do that. It's an honor. It's for a good cause."
Alonso was one of three players to use the bats Sunday, as outfielder Chris Denorfia and shortstop Jason Bartlett did as well. Mark Kotsay would have, but he was sidelined with a lower-back injury that he suffered Saturday.

Since 2006, Major League Baseball has celebrated Mother's Day at home ballparks as a platform to raise awareness of breast cancer in the interest of prevention, treatment and a cure. Hundreds of players were expected to use pink Louisville Sluggers, stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo.

"When I got the bats, the first thing I did was take a picture of them and sent it to my mom and dad," Alonso said. "I told them how proud I was to use them."

Reliever Andrew Cashner even got into the act Sunday, not with a pink bat but by wearing pink cleats from Under Armour.

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Jemile Weeks leaves game with ankle injury

OAKLAND -- A's second baseman Jemile Weeks came out of Saturday's game after injuring his left ankle when he stumbled running out of the batter's box on a single in the second inning against the Tigers.

Weeks remained in the game for two more innings before the A's lifted him for pinch-hitter Cliff Pennington in the bottom of the fourth.

A's manager Bob Melvin said Weeks is day-to-day and probably won't play on Sunday, but Weeks said he's had this injury before and he thinks he'll be able to play.

"I've come back the next day before, and I"m looking forward to doing that this time," Weeks said.

Weeks, the A's switch-hitting second baseman, had been struggling with a .192 average coming into the game, but he had singled in his two at-bats on Saturday night. In his second trip, he stumbled just as he lined the ball into right field.

Weeks' injury came just hours after the A's had placed their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his left hand.

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