Watch Devin Hester's NFL Record-Breaking 20th Return For a TD

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Watch Devin Hester's First TD vs Tampa Bay on a Reverse

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Devin Hester Breaks Deion Sander's NFL TD Return Record

The two men were sitting together. One had just moved past the other for a place in the NFL record book. And neither could hide what they were feeling.

Devin Hester and Deion Sanders. Student and mentor. Hall of Famer and a player who might join him in Canton.

They were sharing an NFL Network stage inside the Georgia Dome ("MY house," Deion famously called it 20 years ago). Sanders was in the center of that stage as Hester, to his left, talked about a memorable play in a forgettable game.

As the panel's interview went on, Sanders could no longer hold back.

"I love you as a man, as a father, as a husband," Sanders told Hester, fighting tears. "I remember the beginning, man. I love you, dude. I'm so proud of you. You know that."

Sanders put his hand on Hester's shoulder, and Hester, too, became emotional. Heck, everyone on the set probably felt a catch in his throat. Hester then told the story of the first time Sanders called him, when Hester was at Miami. He finished it by telling Sanders that he appreciated everything that Sanders has done for him. Sanders pulled Hester toward him, and the tears again came to the surface.

Like that, a genuine primetime (and Prime Time) moment.

Hester set it in motion a couple hours earlier when he sped and weaved and high-stepped his way through the Bucs' punt coverage team for career return touchdown No. 20, one more than Sanders. It was a 56-yard work of art in a sloppy game that ended Atlanta 56, Tampa Bay 14. Hester hid his head in a towel after he returned to the Falcons' bench.

Sanders wasn't shocked that he witnessed history. Heck, he called it before the game. And Hester was determined to make it happen.

"I told you I was going to do it, man," Hester told Sanders on the postgame show.

"I'm gonna say it: I wasn't happy the last three, four years in Chicago, because things weren't going the way I expected," he said. "(I would) always have a great camp, have all the elder receivers and coaches saying I had the best camp, and then once the season started I'm not there."

Hester had just one catch Thursday, for 25 yards. He has seven receptions on the season. Still, he had nice things to say about the Falcons' offense. "I've got a quarterback (Matt Ryan) now (who) loves ... even the walk-ons, and coaches that know how to get the ball to me," he said.

It was that kind of night for Hester. Besides setting the record in front of Deion, his new team had just embarrassed an opponent that was being coached by one of his former bosses, Lovie Smith.

Everything had lined up just right, just like the blocking on a return that goes to the house. Everything felt just right.

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Devin Hester unhappy at end of Chicago tenure

Jubilant and still emotional after high-stepping into league history Thursday night on a 56-yard punt return to collect his NFL-record 20th career return touchdown, former Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester admitted to feeling unhappy about his role in the final years of his tenure with the club that drafted him.

Hester played receiver for six years of his eight-year tenure in Chicago, but spent his final season (2013) working exclusively as a return man.

Now with the Atlanta Falcons, Hester scored on the return Thursday night as well as a 20-yard run in the first half of his team’s 56-14 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

“I’m gonna say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last three or four years in Chicago,” Hester said during the postgame show on NFL Network’s Total Access. “Things weren’t going the way I expected. I would always have a great camp; have all the receivers saying and all the coaches saying I had the best camp out of all the receivers. And then, once the season starts off, I’m not there.”

Hester didn’t elaborate, but sources have said he didn’t want to play receiver for the Bears in 2013.

Hester spent eight seasons with the Bears (2006-13) and participated in 123 games, racking up 11,632 all-purpose yards. The veteran spent parts of his career playing defensive back and receiver with the team. But last season, the Bears coaching staff and Hester mutually agreed he’d concentrate solely on duties as a return man.

Hester caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, quarterback Jay Cutler's first season with the team. But Hester and Cutler never clicked. Hester finished with 2,908 yards and 14 touchdowns, but caught just 23 passes in 2012, his final season playing receiver for the Bears.

“I’ve got a quarterback now that ... he loves even the walk-ons,” Hester said, “and coaches that know how to get the ball to me; how to make plays for me. I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team. It’s a team that knows how to utilize their talent. Everybody’s making plays, and we’ve got a team that, if you’re good at running this route, we don’t care if you’ve been a starter for 12 years. If this guy is two years in the league and he’s good at this route, we’re gonna let him run this route.”

A three-time Pro Bowler (2006, 2007 and 2010), Hester was named to the 2000s All-Decade team by The Associated Press and ESPN. He was the rookie recipient of the team's 2006 Brian Piccolo Award, which is elected by Bears players for teammates they feel best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Piccolo.

But the team informed Hester in March he wouldn’t be returning for a ninth season in Chicago.

“For the past eight seasons, we have been honored to have Devin Hester as part of our organization,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said at the time. “While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers.”

The Chicago Bears organization and former teammates showered Hester with praise and congratulatory words on Twitter after he broke Deion Sanders' record for return TDs.

Hester admitted that when he left Chicago, he was no longer the player he used to be. Still, he's plenty dangerous based off the performance against the Buccaneers.

"You hear rumors about, 'Man, he lost it.' You know, I lost it a little bit. I used to run a 4.2[-second 40-yard dash], but now I run 4.3," Hester joked. "I ain't gonna lie, I've lost it a little bit. But I've still got that hunger. As the years have grown, I've learned the game. I understand the game. I know what I'm capable of doing, and I know how to utilize and rally my troops. Those guys, I'm proud of them my blockers, because those guys wanted it just as badly as I did."

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Seantrel Henderson stands out, as Bills O-Line starts strong

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - Rookie seventh round draft pick Seantrel Henderson has quietly had a very strong start to his NFL career.

After shutting down Pro Bowler Cameron Wake last Sunday, though, it’s time to take notice.

“Yeah, you initially see him and you think, “Wow.  He’s got all the talent in the world.”  And then you  say, “Well something’s got to be wrong with him,” and then he goes out and he’s beating us all down the field chasing plays and works hard day in and day out and he’s extremely smart in the room.  Nothing but good things to say about him,” said center Eric Wood.

Henderson settled in to the right tackle spot, once the Bills finished shuffling the offensive line late in training camp, moving last year’s starter Erik Pears to right guard.

“I played a little left tackle in preseason, now I’m at right tackle. Pears hasn’t played guard in, I believe, four years or something like that. I think for all the adjustments that we have made, I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job,” said Henderson.

The offensive line as a whole has been very strong through the first two weeks. While they have played well, Wood says there is more to their success, than just the five guys up front.

“It’s a group effort. The receivers are doing a great job of getting open, EJ’s doing a great job of getting the ball out of his hands. Tight ends and running backs when in on protection are doing a great job, that allows us to be successful,” said Wood.

The Bills host San Diego this Sunday at 1pm, looking to improve to 3-0 on the season.

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Andre Johnson: "Almost feels like I'm back in college"

This year feels different for Andre Johnson, both on and off the field.

Now in his twelfth season, the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver contemplated walking away from the game completely after last season's 2-14 finish. A new head coach, a new quarterback, a new system – what would it be like starting all over again at this point in his career?

“It’s different, it’s definitely different,” Johnson said on Texans Radio. “Being around here, back around the team, it almost feels like I’m back in college. Football is fun. You’re enjoying it, the coaches making things fun, they’re not just walking around with a sad face and not interacting with the players. Coach (Bill) O’Brien walks in the locker room and cracks jokes with the guys and stuff like that. When you have stuff like that going on with the team, it makes you want to do a lot for your coach. It lets you know that he has your back. It keeps everybody loose.”

Johnson has since said he’s glad he returned. In fact, he wishes he had come back sooner. That’s how much he has enjoyed these past few months. Plus, he had to study hard with less time to learn the playbook and the new offense installed by O’Brien.

“It’s a challenge,” Johnson said. “It’s probably the most I’ve studied in a long time as far as just trying to pick something up really quick. I know I had to play catch up coming in here and they told me they were going to move me around a lot. I know I had to learn all the positions as far as playing wide receiver. I was able to pick it up pretty fast. I spent a lot of time just looking at the different route combinations and stuff like that, just trying to learn the different concepts. I think once I learned the different concepts that helped me out more. No matter where I line up, if you know the concept then you know what you got.”

Through two games, Johnson leads the Texans receivers with 167 yards, averaging 13.9 yards per catch.

Each week, Johnson continues to climb the all-time yards receiving list, surpassing Irving Fryar to move into 15th place with his performance at Oakland. He also currently ranks 14th with the most receptions in NFL history with 939 catches.

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Jon Beason to See Foot Specialist

Giants middle linebacker and defensive leader Jon Beason plans to visit a foot specialist in Charlotte, N.C., to evaluate the injury he aggravated in last Sunday's game.

Beason said Thursday that he stepped on teammate Jameel McClain's foot during the loss to Arizona and felt a pop. It was the same foot the linebacker injured during a practice in June, when he sustained a fracture and torn ligaments. He said Thursday that he doesn't think he did any new damage, but rather moved scar tissue from the existing injury.

The good news Thursday was that Beason had ditched the walking boot he'd been wearing and said he felt much better. "And when I say a whole lot, that is good," he said after missing his second straight day of practice.

Beason is preparing to play Sunday, but coach Tom Coughlin said he was unsure whether he would play.

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Brandon Harris ready to help Titans in secondary

Cornerback Brandon Harris was out of a job three weeks ago, released by the Texans just prior to the start of the season.

But the Titans claimed him, and if veteran cornerback Jason McCourty isn't able to play because of a groin injury, he'll likely see action in some packages against the Bengals on Sunday (noon, WTVF-5, 104.5-FM).

The same goes for rookie defensive back Marqueston Huff. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton named both players as potential fill-ins as McCourty was limited Thursday for the second straight day.

If McCourty can't go, Coty Sensabaugh would start with Blidi-Wreh Wilson. Harris and Huff are on call for packages with extra defensive backs.

Harris played in 31 games for the Texans from 2011-13. He said he's up to speed with the defense after a crash course and that his confidence never wavered following his release from the Texans.

"I'm expecting to play, and I'm fully ready to go if J-Mac can't go,'' Harris said. "I feel very confident with the defense. I've caught up and feel like I know what I am doing. I have complete confidence in myself, and 100 percent believe in my ability and I know what type of player I am. I have never wavered at all."

Huff, a fourth-round pick out of Wyoming, played on special teams in the first two games.

"I am a rookie and I get a chance to show the whole world, and most importantly my teammates, that I deserve to be here and I can play in this league,'' Huff said. "This is something I have been waiting on. I have been preparing to play."

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Marlon Moore replaces Travis Benjamin as kick returner

Marlon Moore has replaced Travis Benjamin as the Browns’ primary kick returner.
Special teams coach Chris Tabor made the decision to make Moore first on the depth chart, though he says he still believes in Benjamin. Benjamin has four returns for 85 yards. His longest return is 28 yards.
Moore returned one kick 32 yards last week against the Saints. He did not play in the first game because he was serving a one-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy before signing with the Browns. Moore returned six kicks in preseason for 197 yards — a 32.8 average. He had a long return of 52 yards.
“He did some great things for us in the preseason and deserved that opportunity,” Tabor said on Sept. 18. “Travis’ role expanded a little bit offensively, so we took a little off his plate there. But Travis Benjamin will still also return kicks for us this season.”
Benjamin suffered a torn ACL on a punt return against the Chiefs last year. He said he’s 100 percent and Tabor said he hasn’t detected any hesitation from Benjamin. But Benjamin has fair-caught five of seven punts. As a wide receiver, he has three catches for 26 yards.
“It’s just a depth chart to me,” Moore said after practice. “Outside looking in it means a lot, but inside this locker room, we know all the talent we have, so somebody has to be first on the depth chart.”
Kickers routinely boot the ball five yards or more into the end zone. A kick returner could have a 27-yard return average but still leave the ball for the offense inside the 20. Moore said a returner has to make a split-second decision while the ball is in the air.
“I want to take it out every time,” Moore said. “You have to take into consideration your team. That could be a selfish play if you want to make it that way. You could take it out 8, 9 yards deep and get tackled on the 15 and put your offense in a bad field position.
“Everybody wants to get across that 20. That’s my goal every time. If it’s 8, 9 deep, you really have to assess the situation. Is the ball in the air long? Is it a line drive so you can just catch it and go and catch the kick (coverage) team off guard? A lot goes into it.”
The Browns need a boost on their kick returns. Their average starting position is the 16.9-yard line — second-worst in the league. Arizona is last at 13.6. The Browns started inside the 20 four times. Benjamin returned kicks to the Cleveland 25, 14, 18 and 9 in the season opener.
Cameron ‘very limited’
Tight end Jordan Cameron will likely miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. He was listed as “limited” on Sept. 18 injury report, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Cameron was “very limited.”
“I think it can go either way,” Shanahan said. “Really, in my mind, it’s the same as last week. I’m definitely hoping he can be ready. You’ve got to have some stuff available for him, but when a guy is limited on a Thursday, you know there’s no guarantee. You can’t game-plan all around him.”
Cameron said the same thing he did the previous day. He will wake up and see how it feels.
If he rests the shoulder against the Ravens, he will have another week to rest it because the Browns are on their bye Sept. 28.
“I want to play. But if I can’t, I won’t,” Cameron said. “We still have a lot of season left. We have 13 more games and hopefully more.”
Linebacker Barkevious Mingo was also limited with a shoulder injury. Running back Ben Tate (knee) did not practice.

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Gruden wants reinstated Brandon Meriweather to 'bring the funk'

Maybe they’re not Batman and Robin or any other dynamic duo you can think of. After all, Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather haven’t yet lined up on the field together for a regular season game. But now that Meriweather has served his two-game suspension for repeated violations of the NFL’s safety rules, Redskins coach Jay Gruden is excited to get both of his team’s starting safeties onto the field.

“It’s another guy to communicate, another guy to help handle the defense,” said Gruden. “Ryan Clark has done a great job of holding the fort down. Now you throw another guy out there who knows the defense inside and out and can communicate with the linebackers and the defensive line and they really play well together. You can see that all through training camp.”

And Gruden likes more than the communication aspect of the two safeties playing together. He likes the fact that the middle of the field might be a very inhospitable place for opposing receivers.

“[Meriweather is] another physical presence to our defense,” said Gruden. “You throw Ryan Clark out there and Brandon Meriweather out there, two guys that’ll bring the funk so to speak, tackling-wise, it makes a big deal when receivers go across the middle.”

If Clark and Meriweather do indeed “bring the funk” when they tackle the defense will have a dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time. As long as both safeties stay with the NFL’s safety rules it could be fun to watch.  

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What Antrel Rolle preached in players-only meeting

You might see a Giants team you don’t recognize from the first two weeks of this season when they play the 2-0 Texans Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

You might see a more aggressive, angry Giants team playing with less tentativeness and more abandon than you saw in their lackluster losses to the Lions and Cardinals that so far have marred this season.

And if you do see that team — if you see the defense slow down Houston’s star running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson, see the offense play with more purpose which should lead to more points, see them beat the Texans — the talk in the winning locker room will be centered around a special Rolle call that took place on Wednesday.

The Post learned exclusively Thursday that safety Antrel Rolle, the Giants’ resident vocal leader and a big part of the team’s soul, called a players-only meeting and was the first of several players to speak.

The message?

“Just go out there and play fast,’’ Rolle told The Post. “First and foremost, know your assignment and that’s going to allow you to play fast and confident. Go out there expecting to win, expecting to make that play — as opposed to playing cautious and not really knowing what the outcome is going to be.

“You’ve got to go out there expecting to dominate. The mind is a powerful thing. Mind controls all.’’

Giants safety Stevie Brown told The Post: “Antrel called the meeting and he started it off, with everyone else chipping in their own point of view. That definitely was the message: We need to quit waiting and take the game to the opponent.’’

If you’ve watched the Giants closely in these first two games, you have yet to see them really get after it. The Lions jumped them as soon as they got off the team buses in Detroit. The Giants played better last Sunday in their home opener, but they let the Cardinals hang around long enough to steal the game in the fourth quarter.

Some tentativeness was to be expected from the offense, dealing with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system for the first time. But defensively, the Giants have not been totally right, either, and it has cost them.

“We’ve got to go into this game knowing that we’re going to win. We can’t go into this game tiptoeing and trying to feeling our way into it, we’ve got to be the type of team that throws the first punch,’’ linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.

“People have been a little tight and afraid to make mistakes,’’ Brown said. “We have to get to the point where we can’t walk on egg shells, we can’t be afraid to make mistakes. We know what we’re doing. We need to play how we know we can play and go out there and take it to [the Texans].’’

Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who like Rolle is one of the team leaders, but a much more understated, E.F. Hutton type, also has a message for his teammates.

“Turn it loose,’’ he told The Post. “It’s time. Were all prepared. We’re all professionals. We’re better than them, so let’s go get it.’’

Kiwanuka acknowledged there has been “a hesitation’’ and “a bit of unsureness’’ to the entire team in the first two games.

“You can see it on film,’’ he said. “But we’re getting it corrected as we speak. [Thursday] was a great day practice-wise with energy and confidence. When it finally turns for us, there’s no doubt in my mind we’re a championship-caliber team. It’s a matter of going out there and getting the first ‘W’ this week and the next thing you know we’re trying to get into the playoffs.’’

Brown said the words of Rolle and the other leaders in the meeting resonate with more power “because you’re hearing it from your peers.’’

“It’s not the same as hearing it from a coach,’’ Brown said. “It might be the same message, but it’s definitely different hearing it from the guys who are going through the same thing as you, who have been with you through OTAs, in the weight room and have experienced everything you’ve experienced.

“The thing about Antrel is he’s been All-Pro, he’s been a Pro Bowler, he’s been to a Super Bowl. Everything he talks about he’s done. He talks it, he walks it, so it’s easy to follow him.’’

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Calais Campbell hosts CRC Foundation fundraiser

SCOTTSDALE -- Calais Campbell, defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals, will host his fourth annual CRC Foundation fundraiser dinner at Eddie V’s in Scottsdale on Monday, Oct. 13.

Calais will be joined by his Cardinals teammates and other celebrities including Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Larry Foote, and Matt Shaughnessy.

A limited number of dinner tickets and sponsorships are available online at or

All proceeds will benefit Calais’ CRC Foundation.

“Every year I look forward to this evening as a chance connect with supporters to recognize and celebrate the good work the CRC Foundation is doing in our community,” said Campbell.

“I invite Cardinals fans to join me for a night of great food in an amazing atmosphere with our new host, Eddie V’s.”

The CRC Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2010 to teach skills that are not typically learned in a traditional classroom setting that are necessary for real life, such as accounting, budgeting, drug and alcohol awareness, cooking, diversity awareness, and writing.

On Sept. 9 the CRC Foundation launched Right Track, an after-school program at the Black Family and Child Services center to providing daily tutoring to 60 students. The CRC Foundation also provides college scholarships for students from families with five or more children.

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Jemile Weeks Involved In Crazy Play In Red Sox’s Loss To Pirates (Video)

Not too many things have gone right for the Boston Red Sox this season. The Sox staged a late comeback against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night, but their rally was killed in part by a strange play involving pinch runner Jemile Weeks.

As Weeks took his lead off third base with nobody out, Will Middlebrooks hit a chopper directly toward the third base bag that ended up hitting Weeks in the leg as he dove back to the bag. Weeks was in fair territory when the ball hit him, though, so he was ruled out. Pirates closer Mark Melancon retired the next two batters to hand the Sox the loss.

After the game, Weeks explained that he was doing what his coach told him to but didn’t expect the ball to come that close to him. “My natural instinct was to do what I was told and get back on a slow chopper,” Weeks said. “I tried to get back as fast as I could, and I didn’t think it was going to come right on top of me.” Hear more from Weeks in the video above.

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Edgerrin James, OJ Anderson & Jerome Brown among Hall of Fame nominees

INDIANAPOLIS - Former Colts Coach Tony Dungy is among the Modern-Era candidates nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

Three former Colts players are also up for consideration: wide receiver Marvin Harrison, running back Edgerrin James and offensive lineman Chris Hinton.

Quarterback Kurt Warner, linebacker Junior Seau, wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, tackle Orlando Pace, and kicker Jason Elam are also in the running.

This year's list of Modern-Era nominees includes 99 players and 14 coaches. A Modern-Era candidate - player or coach - must be retired for at least five consecutive seasons to be eligible for consideration.

That list will be whittled down to 25 semifinalists and 15 finalists to be announced in January.

List of Modern-Era Nominees for the Class of 2015
*Finalist in 2014

Quarterbacks: (4) - Randall Cunningham, Rich Gannon, Phil Simms, Kurt Warner

Wide Receivers: (9) - *Tim Brown (also KR), Isaac Bruce, Gary Clark, Henry Ellard (also PR), *Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith

Tight End: (1) - Mark Bavaro

Running Backs: (14) - Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Tiki Barber, *Jerome Bettis, Roger Craig, Stephen Davis, Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James, Daryl Johnston, Jamal Lewis, Herschel Walker (also KR), Ricky Watters

Offensive Linemen: (23) - Willie Anderson (T), Tony Boselli (T), Jeff Bostic (C), Lomas Brown (T), Jim Covert (T), Bill Fralic (G/T), Jay Hilgenberg (C), Chris Hinton (G/T), Kent Hull (C), Joe Jacoby (T), Jon Jansen (T), Mike Kenn (T), Jim Lachey (T), Kevin Mawae (C/G), Mark May (G/T/C),Tom Nalen (C), Nate Newton (G), Orlando Pace (T), Chris Samuels (T), Mark Schlereth (G), *Will Shields (G), Tra Thomas (T), Steve Wisniewski (G)

Defensive Linemen: (12) - Al "Bubba" Baker (DE), Jerome Brown (DT), Carl Hairston (DE/DT), *Charles Haley (also LB), Jevon Kearse (DE), Dexter Manley (DE), Charles Mann (DE), Steve McMichael (DT/NT), Fred Smerlas (NT), Greg Townsend (DE), Ted Washington (DT/NT), Bryant Young (DE)

Linebackers: (13) - Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, *Kevin Greene (also DE), Ken Harvey, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest (also DE), Karl Mecklenburg, Matt Millen, Sam Mills, Junior Seau, Chris Spielman, Darryl Talley, Zach Thomas

Defensive Backs: (16) - Eric Allen (CB), Steve Atwater (S), Joey Browner (S), LeRoy Butler (S), Thomas Everett (S), Rodney Harrison (S), Ty Law (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), *John Lynch (S), Terry McDaniel (CB), Tim McDonald (S), Frank Minnifield (CB), Shawn Springs (CB), Troy Vincent (CB/S), Everson Walls (CB), Darren Woodson (S)

Jamal Lewis is the youngest player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl (21)

Kickers/Punters: (5) - *Morten Andersen (K), Gary Anderson (K), Jason Elam (K), Sean Landeta (P), Nick Lowery (K)

Special Teams/Position Players: (2) - Brian Mitchell (RB/PR/KR), Steve Tasker (also WR)

Coaches: (14) -Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, *Tony Dungy, Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Lou Saban, Marty Schottenheimer, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil

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When Vince Wilfork drops into coverage

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of our favorite weekly segments is when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick breaks down plays after a victory, as it sheds light on things that he deemed critical to a favorable result.

His first breakdown of the 2014 season is posted on, and the play that stands out is Chandler Jones' fourth-quarter sack in which defensive tackle Vince Wilfork drops off the line.

"We actually go to a three-man rush here, where Vince pulls out into coverage," Belichick explained. "They are trying to run a clear-out route with the crosser underneath. We have good coverage from [Darrelle] Revis, ready to pick up [Kyle] Rudolph on the crosser. Vince drops out here and you see [Matt] Cassel come off the crosser and come back to the check-down, and probably didn't expect to see Vince to be standing there in front of the check-down. ... Can't find that receiver."

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Jimmy Graham tops list of best red-zone threats

Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position. So, we covered running backs and safeties. This week, we turn our attention to the league's best red-zone threats.
On to the rankings:

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: For all of the serious football fans lamenting the fact that LeBron James chose the hardwood instead, the NFL presents Graham as the freak athlete posting up defensive backs like a power forward in the end zone. Flip on Game Rewind for last week's game at Cleveland, and you will see Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden clinging to Graham's legs like a toddler. This is your ultimate mismatch.

2. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Megatron is the only active player with four seasons of at least a dozen touchdowns. He would have even more if not for bad luck and a nonsensical going-to-the-ground rule named after himself.

3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: No player pulls in a greater percentage of red-zone targets. Bryant succeeds in tight spaces with a my-ball mentality, physicality, impressive catch radius and extraordinary strong hands.

4. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Gronk has rewritten the early-career expectations for tight ends as Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson did for quarterbacks and running backs in the 1980s. He broke the mold. A fully healthy Gronkowski is the most lethal red-zone weapon in the game. Outside of a four-game window from Weeks 7-11 last season, we haven't seen that version since he led all 2010-2012 players in red-zone touchdowns (29), quarterback-to-receiver completion percentage (72.2) and yards after contact per reception (2.54).

5. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: Davis leads the NFL in touchdown receptions (53) since the start of the 2009 season. That's not even counting the playoffs, where he has averaged 75 yards and a touchdown per game. With 4.38 speed, a 42-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-8 broad jump, Davis has the most impressive measurables of any tight end in history.

6. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears: There once was a time when Marshall was among the least effective red-zone threats, dropping a half-dozen end-zone passes in one year alone with the Dolphins. Over the past three years, though, no player has more touchdown receptions. Marshall showed off his repertoire in an upset win over the 49ers, reeling in a leaping one-handed catch, boxing out a defender and coming down with a fade pass.

7. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Five years ago, Fitzgerald would have been the unanimous No. 1 choice. Post-Kurt Warner quarterbacks artificially deflated his numbers. Now Carson Palmer is reluctant to target the team's best receiver in tight spaces where Fitzgerald does his best work. He might be catching passes from a different quarterback in 2015.

8. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: Hall of Famer Cris Carter was the model boundary receiver. Nelson is today's version, specializing in back-shoulder catches while keeping his balance on the sideline or the back of the end zone. Aaron Rodgers' passer rating on throws intended for Nelson has been 150.2, 130.3 and 111.6 over the past three seasons, per Pro Football Focus.

9. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns: Like fellow former college hoopsters Graham and Tony Gonzalez, Cameron is a hyper-athletic mismatch who specializes in acrobatic catches in traffic. Contested passes are his bread-and-butter. With better quarterback play, Cameron would be a household name pulling in double-digit touchdowns.

10. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos: Thomas has 16 touchdowns in 16 career starts. That's a scary proposition for safeties and linebackers considering the former Portland State basketball player is just now starting to feel comfortable on the gridiron.

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Devin Hester forever tied to Lovie Smith

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It was a devastating moment for Devin Hester, one that nearly caused him to run away from football.

Back in December 2012, the day Lovie Smith was fired as the head coach in Chicago, an emotional Hester addressed reporters in the Bears' locker room and contemplated retirement. He never imagined playing for another coach after establishing an everlasting bond with Smith.

"That situation goes so deep because he was the first coach who took a chance on me coming out of college in Miami," Hester said. "From that point, I just had so much respect for him. I'm a loyal guy, man. He'll always be one of my favorite coaches.

"The situation I was in back in Chicago, he was the only one that was going to bat for me. He was the only one who had the power to do it. I knew right then when he was gone, my career there was going to be pretty short."

Hester decided to gut out one more disappointing season in Chicago before signing with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Now, he'll face his former coach for the first time Thursday night as Smith's Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to the Georgia Dome.

"I just have so much respect for him not only as a person, but as a coach," Hester said. "He was fun to be around."

Smith is just as anxious about the reunion.

"Everyone who knows me knows that Devin's one of my favorites," Smith said. "He's one of my favorite players, talking just football. My first head job and I got to coach the greatest returner of all time. That was special, the things I was able to see him do with his hands on the ball.

"But when I talk about favorite, Devin Hester is family. This is a lifetime relationship we have here. Devin Hester is one of the best people you'll ever get a chance to meet."

Smith wanted to sign Hester in Tampa, particularly since the return game is something the Buccaneers are lacking. Hester also has a close tie with Buccaneers receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker and would have been utilized on offense. In the end, the Falcons' three-year, $9 million deal to Hester that included $4 million guaranteed was something the Buccaneers couldn't match.

"I wanted Devin to get as much money as he possibly could," Smith said.

Hester also respects Smith for believing in him as a receiver. Hester actually came to the Bears as a return man/defensive back. In 2009, he had a career-high 57 catches for 757 yards and three touchdowns in then-offensive coordinator Ron Turner's scheme.

Critics often questioned Hester's ability to absorb the offensive playbook. Such talk annoyed Smith.

"It's a shame when you get labeled a little bit for something," Smith said. "I remember when Brandon Marshall first got there in Chicago and talked about how special Devin was as a receiver. If you're special with the ball, you're special with the ball. It's a shame what happened with him as a receiver in Chicago."

A big part of the problem was the lack of chemistry between Hester and quarterback Jay Cutler. It's no secret Cutler scolded Hester, at times. It led to Hester asking not to play offense his final season with the Bears.

"I don't know all the dynamics on that, but you've got to really search hard not to like Devin Hester," Smith said.

In Atlanta, Hester has opened eyes at receiver. He gives the Falcons another dynamic weapon alongside Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas. Hester has six catches for 101 yards with a long play of 35 yards. He had two touchdown receptions in preseason games.

"That's the great part about what Mike (Smith) has done along with Terry Robiskie and Dirk Koetter, to see that Devin can do more than just return kicks," Smith said.

In the return game, Hester sits one touchdown away from setting the NFL record for all-return touchdowns. He is currently tied with mentor Deion Sanders at 19.

Wouldn't it be something if No. 20 came against his old coach?

"He's a lifetime friend; I feel like he'll be a part of my family forever," Smith said. "And he's the greatest returner of all time. So when you're on the opposing sideline, you're not real happy about that."

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Gruden has high expectations for Meriweather-Clark pairing

After two weeks of trying to make do at the strong safety position, the Washington Redskins get starter Brandon Meriweather back from suspension, and he’ll make his debut on Sunday.

Bacarri Rambo started at strong safety in place of Meriweather, but he struggled mightily in the tackling department. Rambo surrendered a 76-yard touchdown reception in Week 1 and a 63-yard touchdown in Week 2.

But now with Meriweather back in the mix, Coach Jay Gruden believes that the eight-year veteran will help solidify the secondary, giving Washington a talented, versatile, hard-hitting safety duo.

“It’s another guy to communicate, another guy to help handle the defense,” Gruden said of Meriweather. “Ryan Clark has done a great job of holding the fort down. Now you throw another guy out there who knows the defense inside and out and can communicate with the linebackers and the defensive line and they really play well together. You can see that all through training camp. When Ryan and Meriweather are out there together, they really do a great job at communicating and working well. He’s another physical presence to our defense. You throw Ryan Clark out there and Brandon Meriweather out there, two guys that’ll bring the funk so to speak, tackling-wise, it makes a big deal when receivers go across the middle.”

Washington released Rambo on Tuesday to make room for Meriweather. Along with Meriweather and Clark, the Redskins kept backups Trenton Robinson (who replaced Rambo in the second half of Sunday’s game and recorded an interception), Akeem Davis and Duke Ihenacho.

Gruden didn’t offer much of an explanation on the decision to waive Rambo, whom Washington selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.

“Well, when Brandon came back, we had to release somebody and I think Trenton Robinson has done such a great job on special teams, same with Akeem Davis, that they were going to stick,” Gruden said. “Then, we got [Ihenacho] just now. We had to release a safety and that’s what we chose.”

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Sam Shields planning to challenge 'Megatron' Calvin Johnson

Green Bay — Leaning against a table inside the Green Bay Packers locker room, Sam Shields stirs a bowl of chili. He takes a bite. He's in a very chill state of mind.

Relaxed, confident, this cornerback gets the stakes.

When the Green Bay Packers decided to pay premium dollar to keep him — $39 million over four years — this is the kind of matchup they had in mind. Calvin Johnson at Ford Field.

"Oh yeah, most definitely," Shields said. "Any game, they want to see that. So I'm going to give them what they want."

Will Johnson be alone on Shields Island all day? Hardly. Players say whoever's on "Megatron" will get help through Sunday's NFC North opener. But much like last year's meeting in Detroit, odds are it'll be the 5-foot-11, 184-pound Shields shadowing Johnson most often.

Sunday is an opportunity to justify the decision general manager Ted Thompson made in March.

Shields lauds Johnson as "a big target," a "beast." However, to him, he is not some immortal robot who cannot be stopped, as the moniker suggests.

"He can be stopped," Shields said. "You have to go in there with that mind-set that 'I'm here.'"

Shields' career arc has led to this challenge. As an undrafted rookie in 2010, as the cornerback struggling to tackle in 2011, he wasn't ready for the 6-foot-5, 236-pounder. Tramon Williams guarded Johnson, often with a safety cheating his way. In 12 games against Green Bay, Johnson has erupted for 71 receptions, 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns. It's always relative. He only won two of those games, one with Aaron Rodgers on the field (for a half in 2010).
A year ago, a contract year, Shields got his shot. The Packers were embarrassed, 40-10, but Shields earned points at the negotiating table. Outside of three slant passes underneath for 46 yards, he battled. On one deep throw, he wrestled the ball away from Johnson for an interception.

There's a chance defensive coordinator Dom Capers could throw a Davon House-sized wrench into the Lions' plans. Possibly House's physicality is worth a look.

Shields, however, sounds like a player ready for the showdown. If it were up to him, he'd cover Johnson one on one all game, no help.

"There are going to be some one-on-one situations," Shields said. "Sometimes, there will be the other situation. Whatever the coach wants to do, I'm willing to go for it.

"He's a guy who's going to catch balls because he's a great receiver. It's just me going in with that mind-set that, 'Hey, he can't catch the ball.' Go in there with a DB mind-set — we're going to go at one-on-one."

Against Johnson, Shields continued, you must eliminate yards after the catch. He cannot gain a head of steam.

And against Shields, Johnson knows he's facing a cornerback who'll play the ball, citing the fact that Shields was initially a wide receiver at Miami. In four seasons, Shields has 13 interceptions and 46 pass break-ups.

"He is pretty sticky in coverage," Johnson said, "and he has good ball skills, so that's a good thing for a corner."

It's been an up-and-down start for Shields. At Seattle, he broke beautifully on a Russell Wilson pass that inside linebacker Brad Jones should have intercepted. Against New York, he was burned not so beautifully on a double move by Eric Decker for a 29-yard touchdown.

Complicating matters for Green Bay this week is the fact that the Lions' passing game is no longer a monopoly.

Golden Tate was signed to a five-year, $31 million contract to be everything the combustible Titus Young was not. Tight end Eric Ebron was drafted 10th overall. The names Reggie Bush and Joique Bell come up a lot in the Green Bay locker room. Coach Jim Caldwell said these additions all "tip the scales" to keep double-coverage off of Johnson. Then again, when the New York Giants single-covered Johnson, he went off for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Even though it'd help if one cornerback could track Johnson much of the day, that's probably an unrealistic proposition.

"No, I don't think we'll necessarily put it on one guy to take care of Calvin Johnson," safety Micah Hyde said. "We're all out there helping each other. You have to know where he is. If you're on him, you have to know where the help is. There's a lot that goes into it. We're trying to simplify it as much as possible.

"A huge weapon, a great receiver, you just have to have a lot of respect for him."

You'll just see No. 37 and No. 81 in the same vicinity very often.

How far has Sam Shields come? The Packers are about to find out.

During the summer, Shields brushed off this whole NFL emphasis on illegal contact. Wouldn't affect his game, he said. His game is based on speed, footwork, timing — not hand-to-hand combat.

Ten years ago, cornerbacks might have been able to knock Johnson off the top of his route. Commissioner Roger Goodell and Co. put the kibosh on that.

Now, the Packers are hoping Shields (with help, of course) is the answer.

They paid him accordingly.

"I'm working on it day by day," Shields said. "It's getting better. Me as a DB, I'm still learning. I'm getting better at it. Throughout the year, it'll come."

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Atlanta Falcons extend punter Matt Bosher

Punters often are overlooked in the NFL, but such isn't the case with Matt Bosher.

The Atlanta Falcons appreciate Bosher's ability to have an impact on games, which is why they rewarded him with a contract extension.

The Falcons signed Bosher to a five-year extension through 2019, as reported by ESPN's Field Yates. The deal includes a $2.5 million signing bonus and $5.95 guaranteed.

The Falcons also extended long-snapper Josh Harris through 2018, according to Yates. His deal included a $500,000 signing bonus.

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong emphasized Bosher's importance when he addressed the media following the season-opening win against New Orleans. Bosher was ESPN Stats & Information's punter of the week for his performance against the Saints.

"I think the best thing we did was Bosher really doing a good job of controlling the field position with the touchbacks," Armstrong said last week. "And I thought also he did a nice job of hanging the ball on punts. That kind of contained them with fair catches and that type of stuff. When you talk about coverage, we really covered one kick because Bosh was on fire and really did a nice job placing it and hanging it."

Bosher has been consistent since joining the Falcons as a sixth-round draft pick out of Miami (2011).

"He's done a really good job for us," Armstrong said of Bosher. "Very professional; works on it year-round. Tough is the one thing that jumps out with him. When I look for a kicker or punter, I'm looking for a guy that's not a typical kicker, but he's got some toughness to him. And he's got some legitimate toughness to him. He doesn't back down from anybody. That's kind of the guy we were looking for when we got him.

"He does a hell of a job for us on the kickoffs. As you know, he'll go down and cover as well. ...The other thing that nobody ever talks about is he's holding (on field goals), and he never did it before he got here."

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Sore Ankle Doesn't Keep Lamar Miller From Practicing

Miami Dolphins starting tailback Lamar Miller practiced on Tuesday despite having suffered a right ankle injury in Sunday's 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Miller, who has gained 105 rushing yards on 22 carries this season, is ranked 23rd in rushing.

As long as he doesn't suffer a setback, Miller will likely carry the bulk of the Dolphins' tailback workload despite the re-signing of Daniel Thomas on Monday. But coach Joe Philbin actually hinted that rookie tailback Damien Williams might have his role on offensive expanded during the four weeks Knowshon Moreno is sidelined his dislocated left elbow.

"[Damien] didn't have a lot of carries in the game Sunday, but we thought the runs that he did have, he didn't look out of place," Philbin said. "So we'll see how it shakes out during the practice week."

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Jon Beason reaggravated foot injury, timetable unclear

New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason's new foot injury is a re-aggravation of his previous injury, the team announced Tuesday.

Beason left Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals in the second half after injuring his foot, which the team first said was a toe injury. The linebacker missed all of training camp after he tore a ligament and fractured the sesamoid bone in his foot in a June OTA. Beason returned to start both of the team's first games.

The Giants said Beason may see specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte but didn't give a timetable for his recovery. According to the New York Daily News, the Giants' announcement means Beason shouldn't miss the rest of the season as feared, but that he is likely out for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Beason, acquired from the Carolina Panthers in a trade last October, had 93 tackles in 12 games with New York last season and has eight tackles so far this season. The Giants promoted linebacker Dan Fox from the practice squad to help replace Beason.

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McCourty: Whenever you get a pick, you look for Vince Wilfork

The Patriots secondary made a big impact on Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings as they forced four interceptions against Matt Cassel.

One of those interceptions was made by Devin McCourty, who nearly returned it for a touchdown. 

On Quick Slants, the Patriots safety walked Tom E. Curran through his attempt to find the end zone.

"If you get an interception, you look for one person. You find 75," said McCourty. "He's the lead blocker. You find Vince [Wilfork], you find him right away and run to him. That's your best chance of getting into the end zone."

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Santana Moss: I Hate ‘Mouthy’ Guys Like Richard Sherman

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – During his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s “Chad Dukes vs. The World,” Santana Moss of the Washington Redskins was asked to name an NFL player he doesn’t like.

“You know what? I don’t have a problem with guys until I see these guys like the Richard Shermans,” Moss answered.

“Hmm. I don’t like him either,” Dukes said.

“It’s not even about, you know, you respect a guy when they go out and play the ball he plays,” Moss said. “I will respect anything when you go out there and you play the kind of ball, but I hate a mouthy guy. I hate a guy that talks so much to where, at the end of the day, that even when he had nothing to talk about, he still finds a way to talk. So them the guys I hate. So if there’s any guy like him, then I dislike him.”

“One of the things about it, too, is, after you beat — you beat an opponent — I’ve never gotten, then you go and you want to run your mouth,” said Dukes. “It’s like, you kinda win and act like you’ve been there. And then this past week when they went after him, when San Diego went after him, he didn’t address the media. He wouldn’t talk to anybody after that. And I was like, ‘Ah, well that kinda makes sense.'”

The Seattle Seahawks defense gave up 284 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air to Philip Rivers in their 30-21 Week 2 loss to the Chargers.
Sherman, who’s liberally referred to himself as “the best cornerback in the NFL,” was targeted early and often by Rivers.

Here’s Gregg Rosenthal for, after the game:

It’s rare to see the Seahawks’ pass defense so thoroughly dominated. They missed a lot of tackles and struggled with short crossing patterns. Rivers wasn’t afraid of throwing at Richard Sherman. They completed their first four passes toward Sherman for 56 yards.

Sherman, rarely one to avoid a microphone, declined to speak to media following the loss. He did have time to tweet, though (I guess, technically, most phones today double as microphones).

“And that makes you not respect a guy like that, because honestly, if you’re gonna have something to say when you’re up, you gotta have something to say when you’re down,” said Moss. “And I don’t look at the performance he put up as a down moment for him. Every cornerback in this league can get beaten. You’re gonna get a pass caught on you.

“So at the end of the day, regardless if it’s a touchdown or not, that happens. That’s why you play the position, because you have the best memory less. Every corner has to have that gift of having amnesia, and that’s something special about those guys who play that position. It comes with the territory, man. You wanna talk it, you gotta be able to talk about your highs and your lows. I’m pretty sure he’ll think about it, and next time around he’ll have something to say.”

The only shame here is Moss not having tweeted since Dec. 2011. Sherman loves engaging Redskins on Twitter.

The Redskins host the defending Super Bowl-champion Seahawks in Week 5 at FedEx Field.

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Antrel Rolle: Giants have no excuses for ‘must-win’ game

t’s only Week 3, but the 0-2 Giants are already feeling desperate.

“It’s a must-win,” safety Antrel Rolle said Tuesday on WFAN as the Giants look to pick up their first win Sunday against the 2-0 Texans. “No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

“We’re going to bring the pain,” he added.

Rolle said he isn’t worried about the state of the team, despite the poor start that has reminded fans about last season’s 0-6 beginning. The Giants have been outscored 60-28 by the Lions and Cardinals, but Rolle said he believes they are getting closer.

“Give it a little time,” he said. “We’re 0-2. We’re not down. We’re not the same team as we were last year. We’re not that team, and we’re going to go and show you this upcoming Sunday.

“We’re right there. If we find a way not to beat ourselves, we’re right there. Our talent level is through the roof.”

Rolle expects to see a different team Sunday against the undefeated Texans. That includes wide receiver Victor Cruz, the target of boo-birds in the fourth quarter this past Sunday because of two killer drops.

“Victor will get them to play that salsa music soon enough,” Rolle said. “Victor will make those plays for us. He’s human. We’re all going to have those moments at some point in our career. Victor has been clutch for us for a number of years. I look for him to have a big game Sunday. I’m sure of that.”

Lastly, Rolle called on Giants fans to make a difference at MetLife Stadium against the Texans. There were plenty of empty seats for the home opener against the Cardinals.

“I’m going to challenge the fans, all the fans of the New York Giants, this week to be even louder, and I want them to challenge us to be better,” he said. “In order for them to be louder, we have to give them something to be loud about. I challenge us to make more players, to get them into the game.

“We have to give them something to cheer for, we have to give them [a reason] to get out of their seats.”

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Eric Winston stresses 'due process'

NFL Players Association president Eric Winston said Tuesday that the union isn't against disciplining players who commit crimes, but he warned that the public must avoid rushing to judgment once an arrest is made.

Winston, in an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" program, was asked to address the NFL's off-the-field troubles, which include the domestic violence cases against Ray Rice, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald, as well as charges of alleged child abuse against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

"I'd let the court system and process run its course. I don't want to get into a world where we're snapping to judgment, and that's where we're all the sudden saying, 'Oh well, since he was arrested before, he's automatically guilty of it.' I don't think that's the right world to live in," Winston said.

"Now, who knows? There might be some crazy, outlying standard. But at the same time, I think for 99 percent of things that go on, we need to let the due process run its course."

Winston emphasized that the union isn't against disciplining players who deserve to be penalized.

"The players aren't against discipline," he said. "And the union is not against discipline. All we're for is a fair process. If a player feels like his rights have been violated under the CBA, then he's got a fair appeal process.

"I don't want anybody to think that we're trying to cover guys and make sure that they don't get disciplined in any way. We are not against discipline. We are not against it -- that if you mess up, you shouldn't have to pay the price."

Winston also addressed the league's new drug policy, which is expected to be finalized soon. He said the big takeaway for the players is that appeals now will be heard by a neutral third party instead of the NFL.

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Yonder Alonso: 'Hopefully I'll be back' with Padres

By virtue of the trade that brought him to San Diego, Yonder Alonso was Josh Byrnes’ guy. How that relates to the beleaguered first baseman’s standing with the Padres is of no consequence to his long-term future even as A.J. Preller settles into his role as the club’s general manager.

That much Alonso is sure of.

“In the long-term, I’m a baseball player,” Alonso said Tuesday while taking a break from his rehab in Los Angeles. “I don’t deal with the business side of it, but I think we have really good people here, really good guys that make really good decisions (as far as) the guys that came in. They know the game, they know baseball and they know what I can bring.

“I have a track record and hopefully they know that. Hopefully I’ll be back. Right now, it’s a matter of going out there and getting healthy.”

On that front, Alonso – who could be a non-tender candidate as he enters his first year of arbitration – is making significant progress since undergoing season-ending surgery on a ruptured tendon in a right wrist.

In the procedure, doctors snipped off the end of a damaged tendon and anchored the rest of it to his bone. The tendon in question – which doesn’t serve any baseball-related functions, Alonso said – was originally damaged when a runaway pitch broke a bone in his right hand last year.

Injections had healed the tendon at different points well enough to swing a bat until the latest setback forced Alonso to look into a different course of action. The one he settled on comes with a five- to six-week rehab – instead of the original five-month prognosis.

“It’s funny because I got the surgery and four days later, the doctor took off the cast and said, ‘Alright, start moving it,’” Alonso said. “Next thing you know I’m moving it and it doesn’t hurt. When I got hurt, I couldn’t even pick up a hanger – that simple movement hurt (before).”

Not anymore.

Both Alonso and his doctors believe he’s well on his way to a 100 percent recovery. He expects to move through a normal offseason at the conclusion of his rehab with an eye on starting spring training at full strength.

Alonso, of course, thought he was on his way to full strength when he hit .421/.471/.737 in his first 15 games off the disabled list shortly after the all-star break. That production, Alonso said, is a glimpse of the hitter that the Padres can expect if Preller elects to bring him back for a fourth season in San Diego.

“In that three- to four-week period when I was really hitting well, I had no pain; I had nothing,” said Alonso, who raised his average from .210 to .240 over that period. “That’s something I feel I can do on a regular basis. If I’m healthy, if I don’t have anything going on with my hands, I can become the player I was for those three weeks – but on a 27-week period.

“You’ve got your ups and downs in baseball. My thing is just to continue on this path and continue to be as healthy as I can and go play baseball.”

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Lovie Smith not looking forward to facing Devin Hester

Q: How strange will it be for you facing Devin Hester?
A: I’m not really looking forward to that in one sense. I went and worked out Devin Hester at the University of Miami personally. I knew what we were going to get from him. He’s a lifetime friend. I feel like he’s going to be a part of my family forever. He’s only the greatest returner of all time. When you’re on the opposing sideline, you’re not real happy about that. It’s been great that he’s gotten an opportunity to really play wide receiver. He’s just a special player with his hands on the ball.

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Comments EXCLUSIVE Preview of Article Running TOMORROW on the 2001 Hurricanes

A message from Aaron Torres of

“They’re the greatest team of all-time.”

It’s a statement we often hear about the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, both by fans, and the media members who cover college football as well.

But after hearing it earlier this year, a light-bulb went off in my head: Just about everyone seems to have an opinion the 2001 ‘Canes, except Miami’s former players and coaches themselves.

And from there, another thought immediately popped into my head: What if I tracked down as many Hurricanes players and coaches from that 2001 season as I could, interviewed them, and asked what they thought about their team, and where they rank in college football history.

How awesome would that be?

Well, six months later, the answer was “spectacular” and after collecting interviews with roughly 50 former players and coaches, an article, the definitive article on the greatest team in the history of college football will run on on Wednesday.

If you’re a ‘Canes fan (which I have to imagine you are if you’re reading this website), I can promise you that you can enjoy the article.

But here’s the thing: During the process of reporting the article, I learned that I wasn’t the only one who shared the same passion for the 2001 ‘Canes. As it turned out, one of the former players I interviewed, Najeh Davenport, also shared that passion, and like me wanted to tell the world his team’s story. Najeh recently released a documentary about the team, titled ‘The U: Reloaded’ which premiered last month. Through Najeh, I met his business partner Platon, who runs things here at

And it was through my friendship with Platon, that we’ve decided to give Miami fans a treat. Before the article runs in full on Wednesday, Platon was nice enough to offer up his space here on, to run an excerpt. It’s a treat for all you diehard ‘Canes fans, and proCanes is the only place that you can read this exclusive excerpt.

Of course the article will still run in its entirety Wednesday, and if you enjoy what you read here, be sure to check out the article on You can also follow on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, where I’ll post the link once it goes live.

In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt from the article….

In the excerpt, we pick things up shortly after Larry Coker was hired as head coach, as the team prepared for the 2001 season.

As you’ll learn however, it really didn’t matter who the Hurricanes had hired as head coach. The team was not going to be denied the title that had eluded them the year before.

Again, enjoy and be sure to look for the full article on Wednesday.

The final, and arguably most important piece to the 2001 team was set: Miami had its head coach.

Now it was time to get to work. A team that had been denied a shot at a National Championship the season before, was not going to allow that to happen again.

Joaquin Gonzalez (senior, offensive tackle): The one thing I remember going into 2001 was, Larry Coker and his staff, as well as the players decided that we weren’t going to leave the decision on who plays for the championship on anyone else’s plate but our own. 

Brett Romberg (junior, center): (Our mindset was) ‘This year it ain’t gonna be decided on a poll or whatever kind of computer analysis.’ We were worked up, ready to get back at it.

Maurice Sikes (sophomore, safety): If you’re going to say you’re a champion, earn it. Don’t leave it to a voter; don’t leave it to anything to chance.’

D.J. Williams (sophomore, linebacker): It was great to be there with Butch, but when he left our plan didn’t change.

Brett Romberg (junior, center): We were anxious to get back at it. We didn’t want downtime. Usually you’re excited to get back home, brag ‘We just won the Sugar Bowl’ but we didn’t want that. We were like, ‘Let’s get back in the weight room, and get after it.

Ed Reed (senior, safety): When we got back to Miami to start spring football … my God. That spring before that National Championship year, those off-season workouts, it was like no other in the world.

Andreu Swasey (strength and conditioning coach): That was our DNA (to work hard). That is part of our system. It wasn’t talent-driven, it was work-ethic driven.

Mike Rumph (senior, cornerback): I don’t feel like we get ever get credit for our work ethic. I played six years in the NFL and the hardest I ever worked was at Miami. Those summers were treacherous.

Frank Gore (freshman, running back): My first day I get there, we were doing agilities with the linebackers; I’m competing with Chris Campbell, God rest his soul, and I’m like ‘Man, I think I made the wrong decision.’ I’m the top (high school) running back, how is a linebacker beating me in agilities?

Clinton Portis (junior, running back): We competed in everything! We all wanted to be the fastest player, we all wanted to be the best basketball player, we all wanted to be the highest jumper, we all wanted to be the best at everything we did.

Antrel Rolle (freshman, cornerback): The way we practiced, it was insane. I’ll be honest with you, it was literally insane. You would think that we did not like each other, on the field, off the field.

Mike Rumph (senior, cornerback): It was just a machine. It was a machine but we were just so afraid to have failure.

Curtis Johnson (wide receivers coach): Andreu Swasey said this all the time: The players were always around. They were always around us, always around the office. It’d be Friday night, Saturday morning, they’d be around, they’d want to want watch more film, and we couldn’t get rid of these guys for nothing. Their whole lives revolved around this little football team.

Mark Stoops (defensive backs coach): Soon after I was hired by Larry (as defensive backs coach in 2001) I was in my office working on a Saturday and I saw one of my players come by, then I saw another one. Over the course of the morning several guys stopped up and were talking. And I thought it was odd. I asked one of them, ‘What are you doing here on a Saturday morning?’ And one of them just looked at me and tilted his head and was like ‘Coach, this is just what we do.’

Mike Rumph (senior, cornerback): People didn’t see the Saturdays where we met up as a team (in the off-season). Or the meetings we’d have 6 in the morning, where there were no coaches there.

Brett Romberg (junior, center): Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., no matter how hung-over you were, you are in the field.

Mark Stoops (defensive backs coach): Over the course of the morning several guys stopped up and were talking. And I thought it was odd. I asked one of them, ‘What are you doing here on a Saturday morning?’ And one of them just looked at me and tilted his head and was like ‘Coach, this is just what we do.’

Brett Romberg (junior, center): Granted, you didn’t have to be there. At any other school a guy might show up at 8:05 with his shoes untied or something. Not at Miami. No, if you didn’t show up at 7:55 ready to go, you got shunned. Nobody wants to talk to you, because you think you’re so much bigger than the group. There were never any egos.

Mark Stoops (defensive backs coach): They did seven-on-seven with each other, the o-line and d-line worked basically the whole year round. That’s just what they did; it was part of their culture… I was blown away by the player’s self-motivation and how great the leaders were there.

Don Soldinger (running backs coach): One time, Frank Gore called me at 3:30 a.m. to ask me about pass protections.

Frank Gore (freshman, running back): He said ‘If you need help, don’t be afraid to call.’ So I was studying my plays and I called him and told him to quiz me.

Andreu Swasey (strength and conditioning coach): Who stood out as leaders and workers from that group? Can I say ‘The team?’ I had so many guys.

Curtis Johnson (wide receivers coach): It started during 2000, but the players, they really policed themselves. We had no altercations, we had no nothing.

Ed Reed (senior, safety): We told coach, ‘If anything happens with the players on the team coach, we got it. Don’t you worry about it.’

D.J. Williams (sophomore, linebacker): As far as punishment, that was all done within the locker room.

Andreu Swasey (strength and conditioning coach): If you didn’t make your times, it wasn’t pretty for you. And I didn’t have anything to do with it! I did everything to help you, I might try to save you, but the rest of the guys would be like ‘Coach, you might not want to see this.’

Phillip Buchanon (junior, cornerback): The coaches aren’t gonna handle this. This is our locker room. We’re going to handle this.

Andreu Swasey (strength and conditioning coach): They handled their own discipline. So I’d start talking and Ed Reed would cut me off, like ‘I don’t mean any disrespect…’ then he’d handle the lecture for me. And I’m like ‘Damn, ok.’

Curtis Johnson (wide receivers coach): I remember, Sean Taylor was a freshman and I was watching him right at the beginning of two-a-days and Sean, he just didn’t run (as) fast (as he could) or something. And the coach went to get on him, and before the coach could get there Ed Reed just jumped on him; Sean was almost crying. It was the worst thing you could ever see, but the coaches didn’t have to do any of that, the players did it all. When that happens, I knew we were well on our way.

Najeh Davenport (senior, fullback): This may seem bad to say, but my senior year, Coach Coker was the head coach, Coach Chud was the offensive coordinator, but once we learned the system, that’s all she wrote.

Maurice Sikes (sophomore, safety): (Coker) knew how great of a team he had. He had been there with us. We had great leadership on our team, we had great coaches, great assistants, great starters, great back-ups. We knew what we had, and knew we didn’t need much tinkering.

Brett Romberg (junior, center): Butch Davis had done a great job steering that ship and doing a great job in building it, and all we needed was somebody to maintain the animal. Coker was the perfect fit.

Maurice Sikes (sophomore, safety): He had a very good understanding of the fact that he had a masterpiece. All he had to do was take it to the damn museum.

Najeh Davenport (senior, fullback): We were teaching each other, coaching each other, watching film together. We were destined to win the National Championship. 

Randy Shannon (defensive coordinator): I felt like we had a bunch of guys who had a common goal. They wanted to win a championship.
Aaron is a contributor at You can follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, and be sure to check for the full article on Wednesday.

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#NFLU Week 2 #proCane Wrap Up

Every Tuesday we will wrap up the all the action from the previous week’s NFL action.

The Streak: Two proCanes scored (Jimmy Graham (2 TDs), Frank Gore (1 TD)) to extend the TD Streak to 8 straight weeks a proCane has scored an NFL touchdown. As reminder the record is 149 straight weeks by the Hurricanes.

Jimmy Graham, Saints: Graham caught 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Since the start of the 2012 NFL season, no player has had more touchdowns than New Orleans’ fifth-year tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham ranks first among all NFL tight ends with 200 receiving yards through the first two games of the season.

Andre Johnson, Texans: Johnson used a six-catch, 74-yard performance against the Oakland Raiders to move past Irving Fryar for 15th place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list by hauling in six of his seven targets from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The longest gain came on Johnson's final reception of the day, a 20-yard run-and-catch on a screen pass in the 3rd quarter. Though he's yet to reach the end zone this season, Johnson is off to a promising start under new head coach Bill O'Brien, having accounted for 12 of the team's 28 receptions through two games. Now 15th on the all-time receiving yardage list with 12,828, Johnson figures to climb much higher by the end of the season. Things are bunched pretty close, with the exception of all-time leader Jerry Rice, whose 22,895 career receiving yards are far beyond the 15,934 of second-place Terrell Owens.Johnson will likely pass Steve Largent (13,089) and Andre Reed (13,189) by midseason, and the 33-year-old Texan also figures to eclipse 12th-place Torry Holt (13,382) by the end of the year.

Frank Gore, 49ers: Gore carried the ball 13 times for 63 yards, and his eight-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The touchdown was the 61st of Gore’s career, which put him in a tie with Herschel Walker and O.J. Simpson for 43rd all-time in the category.

Calais Campbell, Cardinals: Campbell recorded the first sack of his season and 37th of his career on a takedown of Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and was one of the Cardinals top contributors against the New York running attack. Campbell led the Cardinals with 10 tackles and a sack on Sunday in their impressive victory over the Giants.

Seantrel Henderson, Bills: Henderson, who was drafted in seventh round of the year’s NFL Draft started his second straight game and did very well against the Dolphins top DE Cameron Wake.

Greg Olsen, Panthers: 8 catches, 72 yards
Matt Bosher, Falcons: 6 punts for 266 yards and a 44.3 avg with 2 punts downed inside the 20.
Pat O’Donnell, Bears: 5 punts for 238 yards and a 47.6 avg with 1 punt downed inside the 20.

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Reggie Wayne catches three passes in loss

Reggie Wayne caught three passes for 28 yards in the Colts' Week 2 loss to the Eagles on Monday night.

Wayne was targeted seven times on the night, but couldn't shake free for any big gains. Andrew Luck also couldn't complete any passes downfield with OC Pep Hamilton dialing up run play after run play mixed in with short throwing plays. Wayne should rebound next week against Jacksonville. He's a WR3/4.

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Allen Hurns Day-to-Day

The Jaguars lucked out  a little bit with undrafted free agent Allen Hurns. In the game for no logical reason in the 4th quarter, Allen Hurns’ injury appeared to be serious, but we now know he’s just day-to-day. With Cecil Shorts already out and rookie Marqise Lee dealing with nagging injuries, the Jaguars are running out of wide receivers. Hurns has probably been the Jaguars best offensive player so far in 2014 and he looks to be a guy who can contribute consistently if he stays healthy.

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Andre Johnson Moves into 15th Place on All-Time Receiving Yardage List

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson used a six-catch, 74-yard performance against the Oakland Raiders to move past Irving Fryar for 15th place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list, per CSN Houston's James Palmer.

Johnson had an efficient afternoon in the Texans' 30-14 blowout victory, hauling in six of his seven targets from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The longest gain came on Johnson's final reception of the day, a 20-yard run-and-catch on a screen pass in the third quarter.

Though he's yet to reach the end zone this season, Johnson is off to a promising start under new head coach Bill O'Brien, having accounted for 12 of the team's 28 receptions through two games. The lack of team-wide volume is due to the fact that Fitzpatrick has attempted just 41 passes, the fewest for any NFL quarterback that has started and played through both of his team's games.

Now 15th on the all-time receiving yardage list with 12,828, Johnson figures to climb much higher by the end of the season. Things are bunched pretty close, with the exception of all-time leader Jerry Rice, whose 22,895 career receiving yards are far beyond the 15,934 of second-place Terrell Owens.

Johnson will likely pass Steve Largent (13,089) and Andre Reed (13,189) by midseason, and the 33-year-old Texan also figures to eclipse 12th-place Torry Holt (13,382) by the end of the year.

Heading into Monday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts sits in 11th place with 13,664 yards.

While Johnson is unlikely to pass Wayne this year, 10th-place Henry Ellard (13,777) and ninth-place Cris Carter (13,899) are well within reach. If Johnson really has a big season, he could even pass eighth-place James Lofton (14,004).

With both Wayne and Johnson appearing to have a few good years of football left, the two could eventually settle into second and third places on the all-time list. The 35-year-old Wayne needs just 2,271 more receiving yards to pass second-place Owens, while Johnson needs 3,107.

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After two game ban, Brandon Meriweather returns to Redskins Park

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather returned to Redskins Park on Monday after serving a two-game suspension for a helmet to helmet hit.

The suspension was the second in two years for Meriweather, who took responsibility for the illegal blow and said he’ll continue to work on giving the “NFL what they want” when it comes to hits.

“Very, very hard,” Meriweather said, asked how hard it was to sit out the Redskins’ first two games. “Especially seeing them guys out there that I went to war with all of camp, to see them out there without me, it was heartbreaking. I’m just happy to be back. It’s a blessing to just to be in this locker room again.”

It’s unclear if Meriweather will immediately return but given the team’s inconsistent play at safety while he was suspended--his replacement, Bacarri Rambo, saw his playing time cut significantly on Sunday--it would seem likely that he’ll line up next to fellow safety Ryan Clark when the Redskins visit the Eagles on Sunday.

And, assuming that he does, Meriweather says he’ll continue to try to lower his target.

“I think I changed,” he said. “I just have to do it a little more. I can’t give it a chance where it could be even close. I have to go even lower.”

Meriweather added: “Don’t make no excuses. Give the NFL what they want and do my job.”

Meriweather also seemed to realize that after two bans and numerous fines for high hits, he could be running out of chances.

“I have no choice but to consciously tell myself to do it now,” he said of avoiding helmet-to-helmet strikes. “It’s nothing I’m willing to chance. I’m not trying to get kicked out of the league just to hit somebody hard. It’s something I have to do.”

The ninth-year pro was suspended for a hit on the Ravens’ Torrey Smith in the third preseason game.

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Antrel Rolle bemoans lack of takeaways by defense

As if the turnovers by the offense weren't bad enough, the Giants' defense is not doing its part to even the ledger. After almost two weeks of football, they remain one of four teams without a takeaway, joining the Chiefs, Steelers and Colts, who are playing Monday night. Those four teams have a combined record of 1-6 heading into the Colts game against the Eagles.

"I thought we had a couple of chances for interceptions," Tom Coughlin said on Monday. "Why we're not playing the ball as sharply as we need to [I don't know]."

This from a secondary that was supposed to be the strength of the defense. Instead, through two games, they have looked hesitant and almost reluctant to make plays. Safety Antrel Rolle said they need their aggression to match their talent.

"You have to take chances," he said. "I don't feel like we're taking enough chances as a defense as far as believing what we see. If you see it, go get it. If they make a play, we line up and we play again. You have to take chances. You can't be a defense that's scared to get beat or, you know, not sure, second-guessing yourselves. We're all smart guys. We all have played the game a long time so if you see it, you've got to go get it."

The Giants have lost their last 12 games without a takeaway, including the two this season. It's become as much a barometer of success as their turnovers.
"We're not taking the ball away from opponents," Coughlin said. "It's an issue now. No fumbles. No interceptions. It's something every team counts on in the NFL."

There were a few chances for those big momentum-swinging plays on Sunday against the Cardinals. Safety Stevie Brown nearly picked off a deep pass, one he probably would have grabbed two years ago before his knee injury that kept him off the field in 2013. "He's not back yet to where he was a couple of years ago," Coughlin said. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a chance to pick a pass off but didn't.

"There were a couple of them out there, maybe a third that we should have had that we didn't," Coughlin said. ""We're getting closer. I think we're in position. We gotta catch the ball."

One of the frustrating aspects of Sunday's lack of takeaways was that it came against a backup quarterback seeing his first game action since 2010 in Drew Stanton.

"I thought on a couple of occasions the quarterback was actually staring the ball down where he was going and still we weren't influenced enough to go in that direction and be in position to make a play," Coughlin said, seemingly backing up Rolle's opinion that the defenders are not trusting themselves.

Rolle noted that players shouldn't go rogue and start running all over the field to make plays.

"You can't get too greedy; you just have to capture the ones that come to you," he said. "You can't play out of the defense and start doing your own thing because that's when everything's going to get out of control."

But when the chance is there . . .

"I think you're only going to get very minimal opportunities to get turnovers in a game," Rolle said, "so when an opportunity does present itself, you have to go get it, you have to attack it."

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MGM Grand Casino Sues Clinton Portis

LAS VEGAS (CN) - Former NFL running back Clinton Portis owes a Las Vegas casino more than $10,000 for two unpaid markers, the MGM Grand Casino claims in court.

The MGM Grand Hotel sued Portis on Friday, in Clark County Court.

The casino claims Portis got two "negotiable credit instruments known as markers," worth more than $10,000, on Jan. 31, 2011.

The casino says the markers "were presented through normal banking channels for payment" on Portis' bank account, but they were "returned dishonored and unpaid."

MGM Grand says it sent a written demand by certified mail on March 26, 2011, but Portis refuses to pay.

The casino wants the money, plus $1,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.

The Denver Broncos drafted Portis in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft. He earned the NFL Rookie of the Year award after rushing for 1,508 yards and 15 touchdowns on 273 rushing attempts and catching 33 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos traded Portis to Washington in 2004. He finished his career with 9,923 rushing yards and 11,941 yards in total offense. He earned trips to the Pro Bowl in 2003 and 2008.

Portis retired after the 2010 season and is among several former NFL players who in August 2013 sued the league over concussions.

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Ed Reed weighs in on Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ravens' win over Steelers

Now that former Ravens star free safety Ed Reed has joined the media, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is in the position of commenting on his former team as well as weighing in on former teammate Ray Rice and his high-profile domestic violence incident.

Reed told The Baltimore Sun during Ravens senior advisor of player development O.J. Brigance's 45th birthday party last weekend that he's trying to strike a balance between doing his job and remaining supportive of Rice.

"The Ray Rice situation, what happened, yeah, it's terrible," said Reed, a rookie analyst for Showtime's Inside the NFL program. "I'm not defending domestic violence, by any means. At the same time, I've seen on Twitter and social networks how domestic violence has affected other people even worse with women set on fire, beautiful women hurt badly by people who are truly sick in this world. Who's to say one situation is worse than another situation."

Reed said he's also reached out through text messages to Rice, whose $35 million contract was terminated by the Ravens last week with the NFL indefinitely suspending him and declaring him ineligible to sign with another NFL team.

"I've been sending him positive words," Reed said. "I've been telling him to keep working out. I know it's tough. If he wants to talk, I told him just to text me. From this side, I know a bunch of teams need running backs."

Reed took issue with the video of Rice punching his then-fiancee, Janay, whom he later married, constantly being replayed on television and on the Internet.
"We're all human, but society loves that stuff to some degree," Reed said. "It's like watching the news, I don't even watch the news anymore because it's always something bad. We need compassion, love and a bunch of mirrors in our houses.  We need to look at ourselves and  really search our hearts. We all make mistakes. How can we take the situation and make it better? We are all in the construction site of life.

"There's bricks lying everywhere to be thrown or you can take bricks and build people up. There's people at the construction site waiting with bricks in hand versus, 'I'm going to stack this to build up a nice foundation of life to benefit from.' It takes a village. We are all in it together. We are one community. We are one village. That's what we need to really understand. We're all the same. You cut us and we all bleed the same."

Reed said it's a challenge for him to comment on Rice.

"I'm on your side now on the media side and to have to talk about someone who's close to you, it's difficult," Reed said. "It's like family. It does get hard. You have to do your job and you want to do it the right way. You have people looking over your shoulder on Twitter, but you're not going to please everybody."

Reed, who is now working for Showtime's Inside the NFL,  also weighed in on the Adrian Peterson situation. The Minnesota Vikings running back has been arrested for causing injuries to his 4-year-old son for hitting him with a "switch," and injuring his legs, back, hands and private parts.

"Man, all of us have been whipped before," Reed said. "I picked my own switch as a child. If you're child's not listening to you, he's not going to listen to that officer one day. We all grew up in different environments and were raised differently.

"Who knows the true relationship between him and his girl for her to report that? I'm going to continue to discipline my child. As parents, we tend to go too far. My parents went too far at times. I bet his kid will be better for that."

Reed attended the Ravens' 26-6 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, an AFC North win that evened their record.

"You know as well as I do that Pittsburgh's not very good," Reed said. "Pittsburgh will get better as the season goes by the way they always do, as will the Ravens. It's hard to say what it all means, but I do know Pittsburgh's not very good.

"It was a great win. You can't go down 0-2 in the division. This next game could be a tough one. Cleveland actually has a pretty decent team."

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Allen Hurns could continue tradition of great Miami WRs

Allen Hurns proved he could run with some heavyweight All-Pros while training his past few offseasons at the University of Miami with Hurricane receiving legends Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss.

Sunday, the undrafted Jacksonville Jaguars rookie showed he might be the next one in a distinguished line of standout receivers from "The U."

The 6-3, 195-pound Hurns set the school's single-season record with 1,162 receiving yards last season. After reuniting with former Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on the receiver-desperate Jaguars, Hurns jumped out in Sunday's historic NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles with four catches, two for touchdowns, totaling 110 yards.

Starting because veteran Cecil Shorts remains sidelined by a nagging hamstring strain, Hurns became the first player to notch a pair of touchdown catches in the first quarter of his NFL debut.

How has life changed?

"I'm getting a lot of attention, a lot of text and phone messages from my former U.M. teammates like (Cleveland Browns receiver) Travis Benjamin,'' Hurns told USA TODAY Sports. "I talk to Santana every other week. He told me, 'I'm doing a great job. Just keep it up.'

"I just have to continue to improve. My focus is on the Washington Redskins Sunday."

The question Hurns begged with his impressive debut that included a 46-yard reception in Sunday's 34-17 Jaguars loss was how does such a talented playmaker slip through the comprehensive scouting thresher?

"I really don't know,'' Hurns said. "All I know is that I use it for motivation every day when I wake up.''

That Hurns got behind cornerback Cary Williams on a post pattern for a 34-yard touchdown to lift the Jaguars to a 7-0 lead was no surprise to quarterback Chad Henne, who learned to trust the sure-handed, precise-route runner who led all receivers with 232 preseason receiving yards.

"I don't know how he didn't get drafted,'' Henne said. "He has all the records at the University of Miami, which is a pretty prestigious school with receivers and talent. He just knows and understands the system and has showed it on the field.

"I'm really excited about his development and where we can go with him. If he keeps making those plays, he's going to be one of our go-to guys.''

Especially with so many guys gone. Hurns jumped at the chance general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley gave him to make a receiver-thin roster reeling from the indefinite suspension of Justin Blackmon for his latest violation of the league's substance-abuse policy and the suspension the first four games of slot receiver Ace Sanders. The Jaguars were further depleted by injuries to Shorts and rookie Allen Robinson during training camp. And Hurns took advantage by catching Bradley's eye.

But what helped most in his bid to stick was that his former Hurricanes offensive coordinator Fisch implemented Miami's system last season as Jaguars offensive coordinator. Hurns can play all three receiver spots.

"Knowing coach Fisch's system gave me a great head start,'' Hurns said. "Especially as a rookie, knowing his playbook took a load off me. When you're coming to the line, you don't have to worry about what route do I have to run and what coverage or anything like that.

"I was able to just go out there and play fast.''

The best intangibles Hurns brings are his work ethic and that chip he carries after hearing the names of 33 drafted receivers and getting passed over despite workouts for the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I'm very thankful to Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley for the opportunity,'' Hurns said. "They took a lot of pressure off. They didn't say, 'You have to beat out this or that guy.' They just let me focus on getting better every day.

"It means a lot that Chad Henne trusted me enough Sunday to get me the ball in key situations.''

At one point, the Jaguars were tied 17-17 after Hurns' 21-yard scoring catch.

"We showed we can do some good things,'' Hurns said. "Now we just have to show we can finish strong.''

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Frank Gore gives 49ers 17-0 lead over Bears (GIF)

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Seantrel Henderson holds his own against Cameron Wake

Orchard Park, N.Y. — When Doug Marrone said he was confident in his right tackle and rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson lining up across from Cameron Wake, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, people laughed.

How could Henderson, who just a few months ago was in danger of going undrafted, possibly contain Wake, who had two sacks against the Patriots in Week 1 and has been a double-digit sack player multiple times in his career?

With a little help, that's how.

"We had a lot planned to make sure that Cameron Wake, who we have all the respect in the world for, would not be able to take over that game," Marrone said after the Buffalo Bills' 29-10 win over the Dolphins. "We had chips and things like that to help Seantrel get off to a good start, yes. Did he play well, too? Yes, he did, but I don't want to make it look like we didn't have anything planned for him."

Henderson admitted he was nervous before the game. He was thinking about the matchup all week, studying film and taking note of how Wake could beat him.

"I didn't lose any sleep, I was just a little nervous before the game," Henderson said.

After the game, Henderson was all smiles, joking with his teammates in the locker room and almost speechless about how Wake ended up without a sack and with only one tackle in the game.

"Wake is very powerful, very fast off the ball," Henderson said. "He's a hard guy to stop. I just had to focus in, use my feet and get my hands on him."
Oh, and he had to keep him to the outside, too.

"I knew if I didn't I was going to get killed on the sideline," Henderson said with a laugh.

In the end, Henderson got the last laugh, and he couldn't have imagined a better first game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"It was awesome. The atmosphere was crazy. It felt like the whole city of Buffalo came out to the game. From the guys come flying in from the sky, to how loud it was, it was awesome."


Tommy Streeter Exactly Where He Wanted To Be On Draft Day

The Dolphins have four Hurricanes under contract (tied with UF for the most on the team), including practice squad receiver Tommy Streeter.

“I’m in a position I always hoped I would be, being on the Dolphins; I wore a Dolphins shirt on draft day [in 2012],” said Streeter, the former Miami Northwestern star, who averaged an impressive 18.5 yards per reception at UM.

“Every wide receiver coach I’ve had said I can play in this league. I’m a deep ball guy and still need to work on that. Vincent Jackson is the one guy who has the same stature as me [6-5] and he took me under his wing in Tampa last year.”

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Jon Vilma Would Have Loved To Have Been Called By Dolphins

Ex-Hurricane Jonathan Vilma, 32, would have loved a call from the Dolphins amid their linebacker injuries last week, but Miami wasn’t interested.

But the Dolphins have four Hurricanes under contract (tied with UF for the most on the team), including practice squad receiver Tommy Streeter.

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Jon Beason re-injures foot, leaves in walking boot after Giants loss

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason missed all of training camp and preseason with a right foot injury. He also missed a practice earlier this week because of "soreness" in that foot.

So when Beason walks out of the stadium after Sunday's 25-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals with a walking boot on that foot, there is ample reason for concern.

"Again the toe," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Whatever they want to call it, foot or toe, Coughlin seemed to think it was related to the injury that kept Beason off the field for three months. Beason had an X-ray during the game. The results were not disclosed. The Giants would only say that they'll know more after an MRI on Monday.

Beason fractured his foot during a minicamp practice in June, but didn't undergo surgery. He returned to practice a week before the season opener against the Lions, and started in Detroit despite not playing a single snap in the preseason.

Beason left the contest Sunday against the Cardinals in the third quarter with four tackles and a quarterback hurry. He did not return.

The veteran linebacker left the locker room before reporters were allowed to enter, but said he was fine as he was walked out of the stadium.

That's hard to believe at this point considering he was sporting the boot and missed most of the second half. It also comes on the heels of Beason surprisingly sitting out a day of practice because of what was called "soreness." Coughlin admitted Thursday he didn't know until moments before the workout that Beason, who was changing shoes trying to be comfortable enough to play, would be unable to participate.

On Sunday, he couldn't make it through the entire 60 minutes. Since the Giants were already without rookie linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), Mark Herzlich stepped in at middle linebacker and Jameel McClain remained at the strongside with Beason sidelined.

Beason is a team captain and the leader of the defense. Losing him would be a substantial blow as the Giants (0-2) try and right the ship. Beason was a stabilizing force in the middle of the defense and huddle last season.

McClain serviceably filled the void at middle linebacker this summer when Beason was sidelined.

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Greg Olsen goes for 72 yards in Week 2

Greg Olsen secured 6-of-8 targets for 72 yards in the Panthers' Week 2 win over the Lions.
While Kelvin Benjamin has battled drops and inconsistency, Olsen has been the Panthers' most stable pass catcher through two weeks, securing 14 passes on 19 targets. He'll continue to be a solid TE1 when Carolina faces the Steelers' burnable defense in Week 3. Owen Daniels scored two touchdowns against Pittsburgh in Week 2.

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A week after breakout performance, Allen Hurns shows his rookie colors

By now, we shouldn’t expect anything less from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Still, after he posted 110 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Eagles, Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns was on target to be everyone’s next big fantasy star.  Not only did he rack up over 100 yards and pull in multiple touchdowns, Hurns also managed to post that statline by only hauling in four passes on nine targets. His yards per catch was a whopping 27.5.

But, one week later, he’s off to a bit of a rough start. And so are the Jaguars.

On the Jaguars second offensive play from scrimmage, quarterback Chad Henne located a wide-open Hurns down the field. Hurns, isolated and streaking down the field, had already burned his defender, DeAngelo Hall. He was poised to open up the game with a 76-yard touchdown pass.

And for the second straight week, the Jaguars appeared to be on their way to an early lead. Of course, the Jaguars eventually blew a 17-point lead against Philadelphia last week, but hey, who is counting?

On this particular play, the throw from Henne was there; the green space ahead of Hurns was there. It appeared all the glory for Hurns was there. Unfortunately for Hurns and Jaguars fans everywhere, the catch was not there.

Look at that bobble. I’m pretty sure I can count three legitimate attempts at the ball right there.

On the very next play, Henne was sacked by Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher and the Jaguars were forced to punt. Not quite the kind of start Gus Bradley was hoping for. Then again, opening up a game with a big lead hasn’t worked out for the team so far this season, so maybe the Jaguars are simply trying to find a new way to lose.

Apparently, this way includes dropping 76-yard touchdown bombs and disappointing fantasy owners everywhere.

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Santana Moss among Redskins inactives for second straight week

For the second consecutive week, Washington Redskins 14th-year wide receiver Santana Moss was made inactive by Redskins Coach Jay Gruden despite being healthy.

Moss, 35, has been one of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s more reliable targets the past two seasons, but because he has no role on special teams, he’s having trouble getting in the lineup. As he did for the season opener against Houston, Gruden chose to dress five wide receivers for Sunday’s home opener against Jacksonville (0-1): DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Aldrick Robinson and rookie Ryan Grant.

In addition to Moss, the inactives are: Quarterback Colt McCoy, Cornerback Tracy Porter, linebacker Akeem Jordan, guard Spencer Long, defensive lineman Kedric Golston and tight end Jordan Reed.

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Jimmy Graham expresses love for Brees

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham expressed his "love" for quarterback Drew Brees on Friday when asked about a recent ESPN The Magazine story that described some tension in their relationship this summer.

When asked if that was real, Graham said, "Nah. No, Drew's my guy. I love Drew."

According to the story, a source close to Graham said he was extremely annoyed by a comment Brees made to USA Today during his contract negotiations, suggesting the team would be ready to go with or without Graham.

There have been no outward signs of any tension with Brees and Graham since -- and their on-field rapport seems fine after Graham caught eight passes for 82 yards in Week 1.

Earlier this summer, however, Graham was open about how tough it was for him to deal with the emotions of being isolated from his team during the contract negotiations -- which included an arbitration hearing in which coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis testified against Graham's claim to be considered a wide receiver.

And Graham reiterated that when he was specifically asked at the start of training camp about Brees' comments.

"Yeah it's tough [to deal with the emotions of all those things]," Graham said at the time. "I didn't get into football to learn litigation. That's just the truth. Just being in an uncomfortable position and really not wanting to deal with it. I just wanted to move on and play. That's all I do, that's all I want to do, and I'm just glad all of that is over with."

Graham hit on a number of interesting topics during his weekly visit with the media Friday, including his blocking ability and the way young tight ends are following his lead in more ways than one.

When asked about how Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron changed his Twitter handle from "Pro Bowl tight end" to "Pro Bowl pass catcher" in the wake of Graham's arbitration hearing over his franchise tag, Graham smiled and said, "Smart. Smart."

The two Pro Bowlers obviously have a lot in common, from their basketball backgrounds to their roles as a dynamic new breed of offensive weapon. Graham said they've met before, though Sunday's game will be their first regular-season faceoff.

"I feel like we all kind of watch each other, and we all try to pick things up. But he's got a lot of speed, he's a big guy, and if they throw it up, he's gonna go and get it. He's a great player, so I'm excited to see him," said Graham, who was asked how it feels to be a role model of sorts for young tight ends.

"You know, it's a little different. I think more than tight ends, offenses have really come around. And they look to make tight ends a pivotal role in the offense after what me and Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] have done," Graham said. "And I think that trend's just gonna keep going. As I've seen the last two weeks out there in Denver, he's feeding that kid [Peyton Manning to Julius Thomas]. And Baltimore with two tight ends.

"Everyone's looking to really get the tight end the ball because there's a lot of matchup issues down the field in the middle."

When asked if Cameron was also "a hacker" like him on the basketball court, Graham said, "He's a finesse guy. I'm more of the hacking type."

Speaking of Graham's physical side, his blocking ability seems to have been criticized more than ever over the past year by some analysts and by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who called him "overrated" after their teams' playoff matchup.

But Graham had a strong performance as a blocker in the run game during the Saints' 37-34 overtime loss at Atlanta in Week 1. And though he laughed when the subject came up, Graham said it's something he's always been serious about.

"You know, I would say every offseason, normally I try to work on something. And for the last two seasons with all of the injuries I've had, it's really kind of hindered the blocking. So I was in there mainly on third down and two-minute situations," said Graham, who has dealt with foot, wrist and elbow injuries over the past two seasons. "But this year, being healthy, I'm able to be more aggressive in the run game. So hopefully I can just stay healthy and help us win."

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Healthy again, Brandon McGee hopes to help on defense

After dealing with an ankle injury through much of the preseason, Rams defensive back Brandon McGee had his patience tested.

“When you get hurt at a key time like that, it’s devastating,’’ the second-year pro from the University of Miami said. “You want to be out there, you want to compete, but you also have to be smart about it. If you go out there before you’re ready, you’re taking a chance on hurting the team and yourself.

“I tried to be positive, knowing it’s all part of God’s plan.’’

But McGee, a fifth-round draft pick in 2013, is healthy and “back to my normal self.’’

“Just trying to stay ready, staying on top of the game plan and ready to contribute in any way I’m needed,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back on the field and play and be effective.’’

The 5-foot-11, 193-pound McGee was in on 15 special-teams plays in the loss to Minnesota and could be in line for some defensive action this week with nickel back Lamarcus Joyner dealing with a back issue.

“I’m probably more comfortable outside,’’ he said. “But worked in the nickel during OTAs and I’ve also been part of the dime package, too. The time is here for me to step up and I’m ready to do whatever the coaches ask me to do.’’

McGee played in 15 games as a rookie, contributing 10 tackles on defense and tying for third on the squad with six special-teams tackles.

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Ray Lewis remembers his mother being beaten when considering Ra

This is the second time this week that Lewis has spoken on the Rice situation on ESPN. Lewis was a star for the Ravens and knows the running back well.

On ESPN's "Monday Night Football" pregame show, Lewis said his previous legal situation, in which he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection to a double murder, was not the same as Rice's.

"Me speaking with the owner of the Ravens, Steve Bisciotti, just moments ago," Lewis said, "and just listening to what Steve was saying about the reason why Ray Rice will never play for the Ravens again is because when he saw this video himself, he put anybody that's connected to him that's a female in that position. You have to take a step back when you're an owner and you see that type of evidence that you haven't heard before, haven't seen before.

"One thing Steve made very clear: There is no comparison of me and Ray Rice. It's night and day. It's night and day of anything we've ever been through. And that's why both situations are totally different."

On the Monday night program, Lewis said he planned to speak with Rice.

"Sometimes friends tell you what you want to hear," Lewis said. "Best friends tell you what you need to hear. I told him, 'I will be there to talk to him.' I really want to sit down and know what's going on in his heart and what's next for Ray Rice. I'm not talking about football. I'm talking about as a man. 'Where is your focus right now?' Me and him have been going back and forth via text. I wanted to let him know I'm still encouraged. A lot of fire and darkness are coming at you, but you have to stand still in the midst of this storm. How do you find your way out of this? You humble yourself. You figure out ways to get yourself out of this and you seek counsel. That's why I'm going home to definitely meet with him to be the same mentor I was the first time he walked through the door."

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