Chiefs RB Tervaris Johnson Is Back, Placed On IR

After the Kansas City Chiefs night practice a week and a half ago, RB Tervaris Johnson was seen being carted off the field with a wrap on his leg.

A couple of days later and the Chiefs announced that he had been waived. The technical designation was waived/injured.

Like Brad Cottam, a few weeks ago, the Chiefs technically had to waive him before he could be placed on injured reserve.

This is a procedure done in the NFL to basically stop teams from "stashing" young players on IR. So if you have a player who is not a vested veteran (less than four years of service), he must be sent to the waiver wire, pass through without anyone claiming him and then his rights are returned to the Chiefs.

So Johnson is now on IR along with Brad Cottam and Chandler Williams (from 2009).

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Sam Shields Needs to Prove He's Got Game

The Green Bay Packers open the preseason Saturday night against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

Starters won't be around for long, giving the young guys a good opportunity to impress.

Not many have been more impressive than undrafted rookie corner Sam Shields. He continued his camp thievery with another pick Thursday and looks to be next in a long line of undrafted rookies to make the Packers roster.

But he needs to prove he can do it in games, starting Saturday.

"The games are what count. Practice counts, but you have to be able to do it in games. I'm ready," Shields said.

"The guy has a lot of ability, but he is young. He just has to work on his technique and continue to improve. The sky is the limit for the guy, though," Tramon Williams, who made the Packers as an undrafted free agent, said.

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Q&A with... Kenny Phillips

The Post’s Steve Serby sat down with the Giants’ 23-year-old strong safety who missed most of last season with a knee injury.

Q: Are you ready to be Superman again?
A: That’s the plan.

Q: How heartbreaking was it when you learned you’d need microfracture surgery on your left knee after the second game of the 2009 season?
A: It was real tough. I was starting to really, really feel part of the team. I just felt like I missed an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. I felt at the time that’s where we were heading.

Q: The low point emotionally?
A: Probably as soon as it happened. I was starting to feel comfortable back there playing safety. Everything was going so well.

Q: Did you fear your career might be over?
A: Not at all. The doctors and trainers reassured me guys who have had this type of injury before have made a 100-percent recovery.

Q: Low point of the rehab?
A: When I first started running. It just felt so weird. I was like a fish out of water. . . . A lot of limping. It didn’t look right, it didn’t feel right.

Q: Jason Kidd had microfracture surgery. . . . Did you talk to him about it?
A: No. I talked to a few guys on our team who reassured me I’d be all right.

Q: Guys who’d had the same operation?
A: Similar.

Q: How scary was it when you had a gun pulled on you?
A: They say your life flashes before your eyes. . . . It was just so surreal. It was like slow motion. It made me think about life differently. I had more than one gun pulled on me growing up.

Q: The first time, you were in sixth grade?
A: I had a chain on. I was walking home from school and a guy rode up on me and snatched it off my neck and rode away. I ran home and told my father.

Q: The second time someone pulled a gun on you?
A: To show off in front of his girlfriend. He thought one of us hit his car with firecrackers. He jumped out of his car yelling things at us. We weren’t respecting what he was saying. He decided to pull out a gun.

Q: What did you do?
A: I apologized.

Q: Do you think you’re more like Ed Reed or Sean Taylor, stylewise?
A: Sean Taylor. He never cared how he really looked. I don’t tape up my shoes or have a million wristbands on. I just go out there and play. Sometimes, Sean wouldn’t wear gloves.

Q: What was it like for you being at his funeral?
A: It was tough . . . it was real tough. It was a real emotional time for me just because I admired the guy so much. To hear everyone speak, and say how he changed his life around. . . . He died at such a young age (24).

Q: Did Sean’s murder change you in any way?
A: I never took life for granted from the first day that gun got pulled on me. It just made me more aware of my surroundings.

Q: Growing up in Carol City, Fla.?
A: It had a few street gangs, but for the most part, you just had to be careful. I survived. It wasn’t the worst neighborhood, but it definitely wasn’t the best. I learned a lot playing outside with my friends. You kinda grew up fast. You see so many bad things happening . . . guys selling drugs.

Q: You lost some friends to the streets?
A: I lost a few friends to guys being dumb, just young people not appreciating life.

Q: Were any close friends shot and killed?
A: Some close, some not so close.

Q: Best single play you ever made on any level?
A: Wow. That’s hard to say.

Q: How about the 100-yard interception return in high school?
A: Probably wasn’t the best, but that was pretty cool.

Q: What happened on the play?
A: The quarterback rolled to his right, my left, I was playing almost like a one-third. I ran over, the receiver tipped it right into me.

Q: Clear sailing to the end zone?
A: Pretty much. I was the only one there.

Q: You’re right, that can’t be the best play . . . how about your hit on Mewelde Moore?
A: I wouldn’t say that was the best. That was pretty nice (chuckles).

Q: What’s better, making a big hit or a pick for a touchdown?
A: The pick. It does so much more. You get points on the board for your team. It gets everyone excited on defense.

Q: When you were 10, your father had to talk your mother into letting you play football?
A: I guess she thought I would get hurt. She never gave me an explanation why. My father got tired of me begging her and got her to let me play.

Q: You played basketball in high school?
A: I played power forward. I was just good at getting rebounds. I could out-jump everyone.

Q: Antrel Rolle?
A: It’s a privilege playing with a guy like him. He’s a playmaker, a great player . . . and a great friend, too. Anything you need, he’s gonna be there for you.

Q: Perry Fewell?
A: Great coach. He has a lot of energy, real aggressive guy. You could tell we’re gonna get after people.

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Obama; Oprah; Michael Jordan.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Paid in Full.”

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Alicia Keys.

Q: Favorite tattoo?
A: I have a scroll with my mom, my dad and my little brother’s names. I’m really big on family.

Q: You have one that says Heart Of A Lion.
A: It’s just how I felt at the time.

Q: Another one says Wartime.
A: That goes back to high school. Our legendary coach, Walt Frazier, it’s something he used to say right before the games. Santana Moss, Sinorice and myself and a few other guys in the league have it on their arm. He used to get everybody pumped up.

Q: Another one says Faith. You’re spiritual?
A: Yes, very.

Q: Does that come from your parents?
A: I was in church every Sunday growing up.

Q: When did you get your Destined To Be Great tattoo?
A: Right after my freshman year in college (University of Miami) after we lost the Peach Bowl to LSU. I felt like I was coming into my own. I had a fresh, new start. That’s what I felt in my head so I put it on my body.

Q: Do you still feel that way?
A: Yes I do. It’s never gonna change.

Q: Are you Destined to Be Great as a New York Giant?
A: That’s the plan. And I hope it’s theirs, too.

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen getting plenty of targets at camp

Greg Olsen and the Bears' tight ends have been a "prominent part" of Mike Martz's offense so far at training camp.

Last week, beat writer Brad Biggs noted that Olsen was tied for second on the team in targets during team drills with Devin Hester. Still, we continue to advise skepticism here. Martz has never used his tight ends in the past, including the year he had all-universe athlete Vernon Davis. Let someone else gamble that he's going to keep calling Olsen's number once the games count.

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kellen Bucs' Winslow gets your annual pay every 6 yards

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Kellen Winslow Jr. to a six-year, $36.1 million contract extension last year, giving him one of the top salaries among tight ends in the National Football League.

This year, as the Bucs try to rebuild around a nucleus of new stars, fans will be looking for great things from the 27-year-old Winslow and wondering whether he's worth the money the team invested.

"A lot of people questioned that, and I understand that, but then he goes out and catches 77 balls, which sets a franchise record for tight ends, and so I'm glad we did that deal," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said in March.

For some perspective on how much Winslow makes, and on the pay of all NFL athletes in their prime, click here to use the TBO calculator, "Is your salary setting records?" and compare his pay with yours.

One example: If you make $49,762 a year — the median household income for Hillsborough County, according to the Census Bureau — Winslow is racking up your annual pay every time he gains about 6 yards.

The Bucs acquired Winslow in a 2009 trade with the Cleveland Browns, giving up a pair of draft picks for him, including a second-rounder this year.

Winslow made $5.2 million last year, and this year, according to The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, he will make $6.7 million.

A few key stats give a sense of what Winslow did last season to earn that new contract:
• 77 receptions
• 884 yards
• 11 1/2 average yards per catch
• Five touchdowns

Two games with more than 100 yards receiving – Week 5, against the Philadelphia Eagles (nine catches, 102 yards) and Week 10, against the Miami Dolphins (seven catches, 102 yards)

How do those numbers stack up against other elite tight ends? While Winslow was productive last season, his stats didn't top any of the key categories for his position.

Winslow ranked No. 6 last season in receptions and total yards, according to Indianapolis' Dallas Clark pulled in 100 catches during the 2009 regular season to claim the No. 1 spot in that category but was narrowly edged out for the top spot in receiving yards by San Diego's Antonio Gates, who racked up 1,157 yards.

Eight tight ends scored more touchdowns than Winslow, led by San Francisco's Vernon Davis, who had 13 in the regular season.
Winslow's 11.5-yard-per-catch average put him 11th last season among tight ends gaining at least 500 yards.

So, is he worth the money? Winslow will provide more information to help answer that question starting Sept. 12, when the Bucs kick off the regular season against the team he left.

Click here to order Kellen Winslow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Devin Hester happy to see LeBron land in Miami

Not all NBA fans in Chicago were sorry to see LeBron James choose the Miami Heat. Take Bears receiver Devin Hester. He was delighted to see James join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.

"I have always been a Heat fan, so now I am more of a Heat fan, now that LeBron's there," Hester told us Tuesday during a break at Bears training camp. "They are going to give the Lakers a run for their money."

Hester grew up in Miami and played at the University of Miami.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis remains heart, soul in middle of Ravens’ defense

WESTMINSTER, Md. — There is no way to determine for sure if Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker in NFL history.

Many would argue in his favor. Others might suggest Hall of Fame stars Ray Nitschke, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert and Willie Lanier were more talented and fearsome.

This much is certain: No one has played the position as effectively for so long as Ray Anthony Lewis.

The Baltimore Ravens are preparing for their 15th NFL season, and so too is Lewis. He has been their starting middle linebacker since their opener against the Oakland Raiders, when he had nine tackles and an interception to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Lewis has since been invited to 11 Pro Bowls, was named Super Bowl MVP in 2001, twice was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year and has led the Ravens in tackles in 12 of his 14 seasons.

“Nobody in the history of the league at his position has done what he’s done. It’s incredible. It’s not even close,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Some of those guys played nine, 10, 11, 12 years at the most. Here he is in his 15th season.”

Singletary made it through 12 years, Lambert and Lanier hung on for 11 seasons, and Butkus quit with bad knees after nine seasons. Nitschke survived 15 years, but back in those days the NFL had a 14-game schedule. Nitschke played in 190 games; Lewis is at 194 and still going strong.

And the 35-year-old Lewis has given no indication that he’s even close to wrapping up his sensational career.

“The love of the game keeps me going,” he said. “It’s just the 1-on-1 battle, man, and the love for me will never stop.”

That’s how it’s always been for Lewis. His fierce tackling, passion for the game, outstanding lateral movement and ability to lead has been part of his repertoire since his rookie season.

“Like Day 1, that’s how I feel in the 15th year,” Lewis said. “It’s the same thing. The bottom line is, football isn’t going to change. Football is always going to be football. The integrity of the game is built by coming to help your team win a championship.”

That, as much as his affection for the game, keeps Lewis coming back year after year. It’s been a decade since Lewis and the Ravens won their only Super Bowl, and he’s thinking it’s about time it happened again.

“When I won it, (safety) Rod Woodson made it special for me. (Tight end) Shannon Sharpe made it special for me,” Lewis said. “And now, the chemistry that I’ve built with Ray Rice or Michael Oher or Joe Flacco, to win one with them would be a very special thing. Then they’ll talk about the same thing, when Ray was special. It always comes around.”

Heck, his teammates are already talking about Lewis with reverence.

“The guy is unbelievable. He really is,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “To play that long at that position, and as physical as he’s played — whatever water he’s got linked to his house, I’ve got to get some.

“It’s not just the physical side, but the mental side,” Johnson added. “He’s always got a chip on his shoulder, he’s always hungry, never content, never satisfied.”

Said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who signed as a free agent during the offseason: “Everybody in the league knows what kind of respect Ray gets for what he’s put into the game.”

After all these years, Lewis hasn’t changed.

“He’s just as excited, he’s just as enthusiastic about football, he’s just as into it. He wants to have an impact on all the young players, he wants to have an impact on the team,” Harbaugh said. “All he can think about is this season. Maybe that’s what has made him so good. He thinks about one practice, one week at a time, one season at a time.”

There’s no telling how long the cycle will continue.

“At some point in time, the end of his career is going to come,” Harbaugh said. “And when it does, there’s no linebacker in the history of the game that’s going to have a better body of work than what he’s had.”

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Bernie Kosar comes to Baltimore, makes up with Modell

If Bernie Kosar can make up with Art Modell, will the rest of Cleveland follow?

That's the question after reading Terry Pluto's terrific column about Kosar in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer. It starts off with Kosar making a trip to Baltimore to see Modell.

"Why not make up with him? Life is too short. We had a great visit," Pluto quotes Kosar as saying about Modell, who moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kosar, he was LeBron James before LeBron James was born. Kosar was raised in Northwest Ohio, was a superstar athlete at a young age, played for the hometown Browns and wanted nothing more than to bring a championship to Cleveland.

He was, and maybe still is, Cleveland's favorite son. Instead of leaving via free agency, he was unceremoniously waived by then-Browns head coach Bill Belichick. The city was crushed. Kosar was crushed. Yet he's made up with Belichick and he's made up with the man who allowed Belichick to waive him -- Modell.

I've never been ashamed to admit that I'm from Cleveland and I'm a huge fan of Cleveland sports. I've also come around to the view that Modell should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sooner rather than later, too. It would be nice if Modell was alive when he goes in.

 That doesn't mean I've forgiven Modell for moving the Browns. It was and still is despicable. But you can't discount the man's influence on the NFL. There are many in the Hall who did far less than Modell.

So Kosar has made peace with Modell. Will the faction in Cleveland that has fought to keep Modell out of the Hall come around to Kosar's thinking? Can Modell ever return to Cleveland?

Like Kosar said, life is too short.

Click here to order Bernie Kosar’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Check out WQAM's interviews with proCanes This Week

Jimmy Johnson, Ray Lewis, Jon Beason and Vinny Testaverde were guests on the Micheal Irvin Show this past week. Click here to listen to the interviews.

Click here to order Michael Irvin’s, Ray Lewis’, Jon Beason’s, Vinny Testaverde’s or Warren Sapp’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Reggie Wayne Q&A: Fried food, the U and new contract

ANDERSON, Ind. – Wide receiver Reggie Wayne(notes) spent the offseason asking the Indianapolis Colts for a new contract. While he didn’t get it, that didn’t stop him from getting in the best shape possible for his 10th season with the Colts.

Now 31, Wayne has posted six consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards. He will likely surpass the 700 mark in career receptions early in the season (he has 676).

He stopped to chat last week:

Jason Cole: Can you describe what the communication is like between you and quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) after so much time together?
Reggie Wayne: After 10 years, you tend to know somebody pretty good. It’s scary that sometimes I know what he’s thinking before he says anything. So it’s like you say, sometimes it just takes him to give me a look or a nod of the head or we’ll be in meetings and he’ll say something like, “Reggie, you remember two years ago against Green Bay how we did it?” And I’ll remember. After so much time and doing it over and over again I guess we’re married, I don’t know.

Cole: Keith Jackson, the former tight end, said that one time when he was playing with Dan Marino, a situation came up that they had never worked on. He felt he knew how Marino would react and went a certain direction. As soon as he turned around he saw the ball in the air already. Is it like that with you and Manning?
Wayne: Yeah that’s happened before. It’s happened quite a few times, really. Normally, Peyton might throw a ball into a certain window, but I might adjust to how the defense is playing me or the formation and Peyton will have the ball in the air already, so I better get my head around right away or it’s probably going to knock me out. It’s scary sometimes how we click, but that just goes to show you the extra time and effort we’ve put into it. Some things go without being said, it’s already understood.

Cole: Have you ever been around anyone in your career, even going back to the University of Miami, who worked this hard at the game, even after 10 years, 11 years of doing it?
Wayne: You know what, a lot of people might disagree with me, but believe it or not, I am a huge fan of Ken Dorsey(notes). Ken Dorsey is a baby Peyton. … In his college days, Ken was always in the film room, he was always willing to do extra and he wanted to go out and win. You could tell just by his work ethic that he wanted to be good. I tell Peyton all the time, “You look just like Ken Dorsey.” That’s as close as I can get. Still, they’re thousands and thousands of miles apart.

Cole: Have you lost weight?
Wayne: Since the Super Bowl, I’ve lost 14 or 15 pounds. I weigh about 191 [pounds] now.

Cole: What’s behind the thinking for losing weight?
Wayne: I’m getting older. I just wanted to come in light. My goal every offseason is to be 195 coming into camp. Normally I start in June, trying to get lighter, but I actually started earlier this year. So I knocked off a couple more pounds.

Cole: What did you do?
Wayne: Just eating good. I ate a lot of fish, a lot of chicken. Stayed away from the fried [food], which is awfully hard. I feel good, I feel quick.

Cole: Have you picked up a step?
Wayne: I would hope so. Normally, after the first practice you get a compliment from coach, Peyton or somebody, like “You look quick.” So that says you’re on the right path. I’m going to try my best to keep it down at that level, but my problem is, when it starts snowing in Indy, there ain’t nothing to do but eat.

Cole: Aside from fried food, what else did you give up?
Wayne: I didn’t eat after 7:30 [p.m.]. That was hard. Going to bed hungry is not fun. … I made sure I ate by 7:30. I was able to do that, the best thing is to just go to sleep.

Cole: Are you asleep by midnight or do you stay up later than that?
Wayne: I wanna say midnight, it will be 1 or 2 (a.m.) and I’ll still be up. I guess that’s all the years of hanging with Edgerrin James(notes), because you don’t get much sleep with him. But I try to be asleep by midnight and then wake up in the morning and start a routine all over again.

Cole: Your contract situation was obviously a point of discussion in the offseason. How are you handling it now that you’re in training camp?
Wayne: There’s not much I can do. I can speak my mind, I can speak my piece, but it’s all a chess match. You move, he moves. You take my pawn, I’ll try to take your pawn, until somebody gets checkmate. That’s just the way I look at it. I look at it as I am at the 15th, 16th or 17th highest-paid receiver. I know how much my worth is and it’s all business. If I buy a house for $1 million and try to sell it a couple of years later and it’s worth $3 million, I’m not going to sell it for $1 million. I’m going to sell it for all it’s worth. I feel like I have improved in value, but that’s my opinion. I still have two years left on my contract. I’ll go play those two years and then keep going.

Cole: What’s going on at the University of Miami these days?
Wayne: Same old, same old. They say they’re supposed to win the ACC this year. I feel like they’ve been playing with their young guys enough that those guys will step it up and start winning so they get some more recruits in there. That’s what happens down there in Florida. They got three powerhouses down there and the kids are going to go to the school that’s winning.

Cole: Is it a little rough when Florida is playing that well these days?
Wayne: It is, but that’s the way it goes down there. It goes in waves. One year it will be Florida State, one year it will be Miami, and then for a while it’ll be Florida. It just seems like after four or five years, it turns. It’s like a new club in a city. For the first couple of years, that club is off the chain. Then, the next few years, somebody comes up with a better club and everybody starts going to that club. I went down there and worked out with them. They’re not that far away. They kind of reminded me of when I started there my freshman year, we’re 5-6. Then we were 9-3, then 9-3 and we really started going.

Cole: How has Anthony Gonzalez(notes) looked so far after missing basically all of last season?
Wayne: He’s good so far. He’s the type of guy who’s a real competitor. He came in ready to work hard. He’s made some good plays, caught a couple of deep balls. He’s typical Gonzo. He’s really a factor; every time he catches the ball he makes somebody miss some kind of way. It’s training camp, and everybody was sitting back waiting to see how he’s going to be. It’s exciting.

Cole: Is it going to be hard to get Pierre Garcon(notes) off the field the way he is playing?
Wayne: Yeah, but I feel like Gonzo, if he had been healthy, would have been making those plays, too. I think they both have the ability, our whole team has the ability, to make plays if given the opportunity. For a lot of guys it’s playoff atmosphere.

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

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Ravens May Be Willing To Trade RB Willis McGahee

For our next post, we present an interesting line from Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun this morning.

"One reason why the Ravens might be willing to trade Willis McGahee is their growing confidence in running back Jalen Parmele, who should get a large number of carries in Thursday night's preseason opener," Hensley writes.

McGahee's salary -- $3.6 million in what will surely be the last year of his deal -- also makes McGahee a trade candidate, but tougher to move.  Would a team like the Seahawks consider adding him at the end of camp?

McGahee has received kudos for a strong month to this point, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him "showcased" for a possible deal.  Parmele and fullback Le'Ron McClain could then handle all the work in Baltimore behind Ray Rice.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Frank Gore has less competition for carries

Frank Gore has even less competition for carries following the sudden retirement of 49ers No. 2 back Glen Coffee.

Anthony Dixon is squarely in his development phase, and Michael Robinson -- owner of a career 3.4 yards-per-carry average -- is hardly an option. Gore no longer has a "handcuff," and is a realistic candidate to finish among the top five in the league in touches. He's a shoe-in top-five fantasy pick.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Darnell Jenkins catches eyes

FOXBORO - Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins knew last night’s preseason opener against the Saints likely weighed in the balance as he left the Patriots [team stats] huddle and slid out to the left.

With the score tied at 24 and the Pats facing a third-and-11 from their own 36-yard line with 1:57 to go, a wide receiver screen was called for the player.

So when he caught quarterback Zac Robinson’s dump pass, he had an entire cheerleading corps - led by an arm-flapping Tom Brady [stats] - rooting him on down the sideline.

Jenkins took the pass, dodged one Saints defender and flew down the field with electrifying speed for a 52-yard gain. The big catch set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning 28-yard field goal in the Pats’ 27-24 victory.

Jenkins, a member of the Patriots practice squad at the end of last season, didn’t see his cheerleading squad. But his eyes widened when he saw the wall of blockers who joined him on the fly.

“Everyone did their job on that play,” he said of his lone reception of the night. “The play was set up for the offensive line to get out and for me to have patience. They did their jobs. They made it easy for me. All I had to do was run. And that’s what I do every day.”

Jenkins knows he’s in a tough fight for one of the 53 regular-season roster spots. The 5-foot-10, 191-pound receiver out of the University of Miami realizes any time he gets his hands on the ball, he must prove he belongs.

“Most importantly, I just right now have to play my role,” he said. “And when the opportunity comes, if the opportunity comes, I have to step up and make plays. I’m just working hard and trying to get better every day at what I do, whether it’s special teams or receiver . . . you have to let your effort and your hard work speak for your mouth.”

Did Jenkins hear Brady yelling and pushing him along as he ran down the sideline?

“No. All that was going through my head was, ‘Run!’ ” Jenkins said. “The first thing that came to my head was get as much yardage as I could. We have Gostkowski . . . just try to put it in his hands.”

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Jimmy Graham Has Sprained Ankle

New Orleans Saints rookie tight end Jimmy Graham sustained a sprained right ankle in Thursday's preseason opener. He was seen with his foot in a walking boot at today's practice and coach Payton said his status is day-to-day. Graham was a standout in spring practices and is considered the long-term successor to Jeremy Shockey.

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Darryl Sharpton shows athleticism, play-making ability

When the Texans drafted  linebacker Darryl Sharpton in the fourth round, they hoped the rookie would provide depth and excel on special teams.

Sharpton has been so good he has been playing backup to Zac Diles on the weak side and backup to DeMeco Ryans in the middle, where he played at Miami.

Sharpton is 5-11, 248 pounds, but he’s fast and athletic. He showed that when he made a diving interception in the third quarter at Arizona on Saturday. End Connor Barwin pressured QB Derek Anderson, who was forced to throw off balance. Sharpton also showed good hands, and his pick led to a Texans field goal.

“It’s good to see young guys like that make plays like that,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.

Ryans watched Sharpton make several good plays.

“He’s done great,” Ryans said. “He’s been a Mike linebacker calling the defense. He’s doing a good job of handling it.”

Barring injury, Sharpton doesn’t figure to start as a rookie, but being able to back up at both positions and be the kind of special-teams demon Joe Marciano loves makes him even more valuable.

As he showed against the Cardinals, Sharpton also is strong at the point of attack. Because he’s short he gets good leverage. Because he’s strong he anchors well and is tough to knock off his feet.

“And he’s going to get better and better,” Kubiak said.

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Orien Harris Performs Well Versus the Cowboys

Orien Harris had a strong performance against the Cowboys. While I wouldn't be surprised if Harris makes the squad, his fate ties in with Jonathan Fanene, who tends to slide inside as a defensive tackle in nickel packages. In that case, there's no justified reason to hold onto Harris. But again, I wouldn't be surprised if they kept him on the roster.

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Kenny Phillips shows flashes of his old self at Giants practice

ALBANY, N.Y. - There was a deep ball early in practice Wednesday evening that started out looking like the one safeties coach David Merritt was waiting to see: the long pass in Kenny Phillips' area. The one he could finally make a play on. The one that would test his knee and let everyone know it's okay.

That ball never got there. But another one did later on. And Phillips made the play.

The former first-round pick, less than a year removed from microfracture surgery, crossed the field to the left sideline from his spot as the single-high safety. Before the snap, Phillips was lined up where he prefers: well off the ball - 22 yards deep, in fact. Once he saw QB Jim Sorgi start to throw in WR Victor Cruz's direction, Phillips broke. And unlike Tuesday's practice, he didn't jog this time; he sprinted hard and got there to get his hands on the ball to knock it away.

"Superman is back!" cornerback Aaron Ross yelled.

Not all the way. Not yet, anyway. But Phillips, who took two snaps per team period once again, certainly looked more comfortable Wednesday evening.

"I'm trying to be real patient because I know the coaches only want the best for me," Phillips said through the Giants' public-relations staff, as players are off-limits to interviews after practice. "But it is tough, it really is. You know, I want to get those reps, and I want to get my legs under me, but I know this is going to be a long process and whatever they say I'm going to do."

After the low throw early in practice, Phillips told Merritt, "I knew it was pass," to which Merritt replied, "He needed a little more air for ya."
Phillips diagnosed the ball to Cruz even more quickly.

"I kind of recognized what was going on," Phillips said. "I saw the formation - they had a running back and a tight end to the right side of the field with two receivers to the left. So I figured they're not throwing over there to the two sluggo guys, I knew they were throwing it over to the two receivers. So with that already in my mind, once I saw the route, I just took off for it and I was right.

"That definitely felt good. I feel like what I've been doing for these last 11 months and the way the coaches have been letting me gradually get in the ballgame has paid off. I'm just looking forward to that next step - no pain, no soreness. I feel good with my range and everything so I'm just looking forward to it. That's all I'm waiting on."

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Rashad Butler developing mean streak in camp

When left tackle Rashad Butler takes the field, he sometimes has to remind himself to be mean to opposing players.

Entering his fifth season in the NFL, Butler (6-4, 309) is as gentle a giant as they come.

But when he’s on the field, he puts away the wide smile and fends off pass rushers. He played in 14 games last season, primarily on special teams.

He filled in for an injured starter Duane Brown in December and said the experience helped his mental preparedness.

“I don’t really have to think about everything as much,” Butler said. “I just walk up to the line, look at the defense, make my calls, and we’re good to go.”

Butler, 27, worked in the offseason to improve his explosiveness and technique. Coaches say he made a big leap from last year’s training camp. Under new offensive line coach John Benton, Butler has seen more playing time during practice. He should get plenty of chances this preseason to showcase his quickness on the line.

Butler has been a natural fit as a backup on the Texans line the past three seasons, primarily because he played at Miami with fellow offensive linemen Chris Myers and Eric Winston. Butler has been described by teammates as lighthearted, goofy and easygoing.

But when it comes time for competition, Butler’s challenge is turning that friendliness off.

“It’s been especially hard,” he said. “You have to compete hard every day because nobody is going to give anything to you.

“You always have something to prove. I have to go out and show the coaches that I can be a monster.”

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Sam Shields Delivers Again

Another day, another couple big plays by undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields.

During Thursday morning’s practice, Flynn threw a short pass toward the sideline to Jason Chery. Shields broke on the ball, tipped the ball just as it reached Chery’s hands and caught it for what would have been a touchdown for the defense.

Shields was at it again during the night practice, with a leaping deflection of a long pass to Patrick Williams and a breakup of an intermediate route to Chery. He wasn’t perfect, as he got beaten deep for a touchdown by Greg Jennings.

The next step in Shields’ run to a roster spot will take place in Saturday night’s preseason game against Cleveland at Lambeau Field.

“I’m very excited,” the usually understated Shields said after the morning practice. “It’s the first game of the preseason. Just go out there and make some plays and make one of the coaches proud.”

Based on sheer ability, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt says Shields is the most talented cornerback on the team. If he gets the mental game down, he could wind up being a major steal, Whitt said.

“Oh, I’ve made big, big progress,” he said. “When I first got here, I was lost, and each day I kept staying in the playbook, coach Joe Whitt, he told me strategies on how to learn the plays and that’s what I did and it helped me out a lot.”

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Ray Lewis optimistic about Reed's return

With all the starters resting in the second half of the Ravens’ 17-12 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener for both teams Thursday night, 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis spent a few minutes in an interview with Suzy Kolber of ESPN.

When Kolber asked Lewis about his “gut feeling” on the return of six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, Lewis sounded optimistic.

“Just to listen to him, I think he’s excited just about his improvement and where he is,” Lewis said. “The surgery is healing kind of fast. I won’t really speak for him. I just speak about what he told me. He’s just feeling good, and anytime you can come out of surgery and hear somebody is feeling good, that’s all you can ask for.”

Kolber also asked Lewis if the team had watched the first episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which centers on the New York Jets and former Ravens defensive coordinator and current Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

“I don’t know,” Lewis said. “I think everybody else was in their room, but I passed out in five minutes. I think it’s a great opportunity for [the Jets]. Congratulations to Rex and his team and all the fun they have over there. We’re going to be working, and we’ll see them Week 1.”

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Chris Perez on a roll

Righty Chris Perez had allowed five earned runs in 28 innings of 28 appearances, lowering his ERA from 3.44 to 2.33.

"A little luck, a little skill and a lot of fastballs," he said. "I've been able to run the fastball away from lefties and in on righties. The pitches haven't been straight. And I've made better pitches after I've fallen behind in the count; they're on the corners instead of over the plate."

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