JoJo Nicolas Hopes to Bring Versatility to Defensive Backfield

Jojo Nicolas, an undrafted free agent safety, came in knowing plenty about a couple guys in the Giants secondary. A member of the proud University of Miami football fraternity, Nicolas credits Kenny Phillips for showing him the ropes when he arrived in Coral Gables and Antrel Rolle, who grew up in the same neighborhood in Homestead, Fla., for being an inspiration.

Now Nicolas, who led the Hurricanes in interceptions and was third in tackles his senior season, is looking to secure a spot on the roster beside them. In this latest installment of our Giants summer questionnaire series, Nicolas talks adjusting to the NFL, what he brings to the table at safety, and the "U".

The rookies went to a Mets game and have done a couple other events together. How's the cohesion between you guys?
It's pretty good. It's fun. It's keeping us involved in everything. We're seeing how the NFL works and it's a good way for us to give back and learn how to give back. A lot of players who come into this league have never been able to get back into it and to come here to the NFL and have a chance to give back and be a role model, it's a great feeling.

How did your first OTAs and minicamp go?
It's great. It's a great advantage being at OTAs and minicamp because you're able to learn everything and pick up things and then you get to interact with the vets. Even though the OTAs are voluntary, they still were there with the young guys showing us how things work. When you have a team of veterans like that, that's how you get your Super Bowl rings. So it's been great. I'm enjoying and just being able to come everyday and get better, it's a great opportunity and a blessing.

Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips, both starters in the secondary, also went to Miami. Is it nice to have guys from the "U" with you?
Oh, man, it's the best. It just gives you that feeling of being more comfortable because there are guys that you have played with back in college and they've been here and everything you're going through now, they've already went through. It's a big advantage.

Why does it seem like there's a little more swagger and pride between guys from the "U"?
There is because where we come from being in Miami, most of us that are on the team are actually from that area and everything we come from so you'll see some of the same chemistry and type of swagger that you'll see just because of the fact that it's the University of Miami. It's a little different and we have great camaderie between each other no matter if it's a guy who is five years ahead of you and you never even met or a guy you played next to in college, it's the same feeling of "this is my brother, we're family because he's from the University of Miami."

Where do you see yourself fitting in in secondary?
Anywhere I can help. I'm playing safety so I'm doing everything I can to learn the plays and help out on special teams. Whatever it is I can do, I'll do my best to do it.

How would you describe your game?
I'm pretty versatile. Anything the coaches and team need me to do, I'll do

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Leonard Hankerson: "I'm ready"

Leonard Hankerson said his recovery from hip surgery remains on target and that he’s anxiously awaiting his return to the field next week at Redskins Park.

“Right now, I’m feeling pretty good,” the second-year receiver said at Brian Orakpo’s youth football camp in Fairfax. “I’ve been in the training room this whole off-season, working out, working on my hip, doing little things to get me prepared for next Wednesday.”

Veterans report to Ashburn on Wednesday; the first practice of training camp is Thursday.

“I can’t wait to get out there and get going and see how it goes for me,” added Hankerson, who, if healthy, could be another weapon for an improved receiving corps that includes veterans Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss.

Hankerson showed flashes of promise last season – he had eight receptions for 108 yards at Miami in November – before a torn labrum in his right hip ended his season. In four games, the 23-year old notched 13 catches for 163 yards and no touchdowns.

Hankerson underwent surgery in February, but was withheld from last month’s mini camp for precautionary reasons.

The surgery “impacted me a little bit because I missed all of the off-season program with my teammates,” Hankerson said. “I wanted to be out there working with them guys, but I couldn’t because of the injury. I was a little disappointed, but it didn’t stop me. I kept working, stayed focused doing the little things I had to get done. I’m ready.”

Hankerson said he has yet to be on the receiving end of a pass from rookie Robert Griffin III. But the wait, he added with a smile, will end soon enough.

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times,” Hankerson said. “He’s there now, so I’m going to get back over there and go workout with him. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

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Ed Reed worked out at the Ravens' facility Thursday

Ed Reed was inside the Castle on Thursday, another positive sign that suggests the Ravens safety plans to report for training camp next week. According to the team’s Twitter account, Reed was at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, running sprints and doing agility drills on the outdoor practice fields.

This news comes a day after Reed reportedly told fans at his charity golf tournament that he would be playing in 2012.

The Ed Reed saga has dragged on throughout this offseason -- causing some vocal Ravens fans to turn on the future Hall-of-Famer while also making beat reporters cringe every time he goes near a microphone -- but the fact that Reed was at the facility is a significant development. As was summarized in this blog post, Reed wasn’t in touch with team officials for at least a chunk of the offseason and has felt disrespected by the team.

Reed had hinted last week that he might hold out from training camp, but seemed to change his tune in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. Meanwhile, the Ravens have said all along that they expected Reed to play this season, something that head coach John Harbaugh reiterated in a radio interview on Thursday.

As I have said in this space before, Reed’s actions have always spoken louder than his words. But either way, we won’t know Reed’s intentions for sure until Wednesday, when veterans are scheduled to report before Thursday's full-scale start to camp.

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HOF inductee Russell Maryland has plenty of love for 'The U'

Standing behind the bench, Russell Maryland gaped as Vinny Testaverde escaped a sack, dodged five tackles, juked here, faked there and then exploded 10 yards for a first down. Remembering that 1986 game against Oklahoma, Maryland, who was not yet playing for the University of Miami, marked this play as the most influential part of his career.

Now, 26 years later, Maryland is adding his own impressive move to his résumé: the College Football Hall of Fame.

Maryland, 16 other players and five coaches will be enshrined Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Although the honor is an individual award, Maryland said his successes are wholly due to teammates such as Testaverde.

"They were the ones that trained me on how to become a great collegiate football player," Maryland, now 43, said in an interview with USA TODAY SPORTS. "I may be the one getting the honor, but it's really about the whole university."

The defensive lineman began playing at "The U" as a redshirt freshman in 1987 and recorded 279 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 20½ sacks in his career. During those four years, the Hurricanes won two national titles, four bowl games, had a perfect home record and a 44-4 overall record.

But for Maryland, who went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL, his football career almost ended after high school.

He grew up in Chicago and attended Whitney M. Young High, where he played offense and defense for the Dolphins. Maryland was offered a scholarship to Indiana State but said his father made him turn it down.

"I was a guy who was pretty much left unrecruited because I was just one of thousands of Chicago kids who played football," Maryland said.

His father was unhappy with Maryland's bid to Indiana State, so he compiled a video and mailed it to Miami. "One thing led to another and they offered me the last scholarship in 1986. That's where my dad wanted me to go, so that's where I went."

In his senior season, Maryland was defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl and became the first Hurricane to win the Outland Trophy. He was the first pick of the 1991 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He also played for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers.

"Since then I've largely been living under the radar," Maryland said, adding that he is now a self-proclaimed "Mr. Mom" to his three children: Kyra, 15; Iris, 12; and Russell Jr., 8. "The greatest thing about playing in the NFL is now I have this extra time to do things with the kids. Dad knows all the cheers just as well as the girls do."

Every morning before the bus comes, he and Junior throw a football around in their Texas yard. And even though Maryland has replaced playing with teaching, he hasn't forgotten about the Hurricanes.

"Anything I can do to help the University of Miami program, I'm there," he said. "There are a lot of great kids that go through that program. We've built a tradition of hard work, excellence, sacrifice and just a great work ethic out there on the football field and that's what I try to convey to them."

The reputation of his Hurricanes was blemished last August, though, when Yahoo! Sports published reports of players accepting illegal benefits from Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro from 2002-10. At least 72 athletes from the football and basketball programs are alleged to have accepted cash, prostitutes, jewelry, bounties for on-field play and, in one case, an abortion, according to Yahoo.

The NCAA investigation is ongoing.

"It's unfortunate that happened," Maryland said. "We let our guards down and let those who didn't have our best interest at heart infiltrate. It fills me with sadness and anger."

But it'll only be a minor setback, he said.

"We've had some battles in the past, but the University of Miami always seems to bounce back and I don't see this being any different." Maryland said. "You will weather some storms as a family unit, but when you build a solid foundation and you have some good people in your corner, you will bounce back. The University of Miami will bounce back."

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Meet Jarrett Payton

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A grand day with Calais Campbell and the Marines

Even though I had to get up at the crack of dawn today, the event I covered was well worth it.

I got to hang out with my fellow Marines and Cardinals DE Calais Campbell at Skyline High School, as Calais took part in some training with them and 51 applicants who are striving to earn the title of “United States Marine.”

I really applaud Calais for two reasons: 1.) He volunteered for this “mission,” and 2.) He did as many exercises as he could, considering he was under the weather.

I talked to Calais in-between exercise stations, and he told me that he liked what he saw from the Marines and the applicants. The “strict” nature of how things ran really impressed him.

For those of you that workout, you might think that lifting 30 pounds over your head is easy, but try lifting it in a steel ammo can over 110 times, which is what Calais did!

That was a truly impressive site, but what impressed me more was the effort and desire from the 51 who are trying to be one of “The Few, The Proud.”

When I looked at them and how hard they were working, I couldn’t help but flash back to the year 1989.

I graduated high school in Harrisburg, Pa., and two weeks later, I was at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., for Boot Camp.

Should all 51 make it that far, they are in for an experience like no other!

I really hope that Calais got something out of the training, and takes it back to his team. I know it’ll benefit them greatly.

After all, it’s worked for us for 237 years. It should work for the Cardinals.

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Jon Vilma motion to reconsider rehabbing at Saints facility denied

A motion filed by Jonathan Vilma’s lawyer requesting an expedited decision on allowing him to rehabilitate at the Saints facility was denied by Judge Helen G. Berrigan on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the NFL said Vilma could rehabilitate his surgically-repaired left knee offsite with the Saints training staff.

However, head trainer Scottie Patton filed an affidavit in support of Vilma’s cause, showing how extensive an injury the linebacker had and why he needed to work out with Patton.

In the motion filed Wednesday that the Eastern District of Louisiana judge overturned Thursday, Vilma’s lawyer , Peter Ginsburg, argues that Patton won’t have the time to leave the Saints’ Metairie facility because players are already reporting.

Patton, the motion says, “is responsible for ever team member and literally works round-the-clock to fulfill those duties.”

It goes on to say that “Patton simply cannot and does not have the time to travel to a private facility to administer rehabilitation sessions to Vilma that take three to five hours per day.”

A settlement conference has been set for Monday and a hearing on his request for an injunction, which could delay his suspension, is set for Thursday, the first day of preseason practice for the Saints. Both the conference and the hearing are scheduled in New Orleans.

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Vince Wilfork and his heavy workload

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork registered arguably his finest season as a pro in 2011, and also his busiest. He played the greatest percentage of snaps in his career (86.8), and the most snaps by a single nose tackle in all of football, 957 (via

Conventionally, nose tackles have struggled to stay on the field as regularly as other members of the defense, given both their size (Wilfork is listed at 325 pounds) and skill set (many nose tackles are not counted on as regular pass rushers).

But Wilfork has proven over his career that he is amongst the rare nose tackles who can endure a heavy workload while remaining effective as both a run stuffer and pass rusher, which was never more evident than last season.

Another imposing interior defensive lineman, B.J. Raji of the Packers (the only nose tackle to play in 800-plus plays in each of the last two seasons), is likely facing a scaled back workload this season, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, as passed along by "Around The League" on

The Patriots have added talent along the defensive front this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how – if at all – Wilfork’s snaps logged change as a result of that. Because of his dynamic ability, the team may opt to lean as heavily on him in 2012 as they did in 2011, or it also seems possible they would decrease his snaps in an effort to conserve his energy over the grind of a long season.

No matter the number of snaps for Wilfork in 2012, he figures to be a central part of the Patriots defense once again.

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NBA title is not lone summer highlight for James Jones

James Jones turns 32 in October and is entering his 10th season in the NBA. He played sparingly during the Heat’s NBA championship run against the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 10.8 minutes and 2.8 points.

As secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association and holder of a finance degree from the University of Miami, Jones is savvy enough to know those numbers don’t translate into job security.

That became even more apparent when the Heat went and signed free agent shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

But don’t think for a minute that Jones is ready to retire. Not a chance. Not as long as he is still in the running for a spot with his beloved hometown Heat.
He has two years left on his contract, and if he gets his way, he will end his career here. If the Heat starts talking trade, he might contemplate retirement. But as long as Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra want the 2011 All-Star Three-Point Shooting champ in camp, he’s showing up. He isn’t afraid of Allen and Lewis. He’s inspired by their presence and welcomes the challenge.

“Story of my life,” Jones said Monday. “I have always fought an uphill battle, always had to compete for everything. I’ve been around a long time, and I know that anything can happen in the summer. No one is untradeable, no one is untouchable. The only way for the team to get better is to increase competition. I am one of many great shooters in the league, and I have to keep improving if I want to survive.”

He insists he doesn’t worry about his stats.

“I’m not a numbers guy,” Jones said. “That doesn’t matter to me anymore. I don’t define myself by numbers. I used to, but that changed after my wrist injury three years ago. Low point of my career. A shooter with a broken wrist is useless. But I learned since then that it doesn’t matter if you score 20 points or six, it’s how efficient you are that matters most. I expect my numbers and minutes to decline with age, but I want to make sure I am as efficient as possible when I do go in.”
Jones spends three to four hours per day working out during the summer.

In the morning, he drops his three children (ages 7, 4, 2) off at day camp and then spends two hours in the gym doing strength and conditioning.

In the afternoon, he spends another hour and a half doing cardio and endurance on a bike and treadmill. Wednesday is his recovery day, his time for a massage and stretching and relaxing. The heavy basketball drills won’t start until late August or early September.

When he isn’t working out, Jones is running summer camps for local children.

This week, he has the Camp for Champions, a three-day, life-enrichment camp for 60 foster children. He teamed with the Florida Department of Children and Families on the project two years ago. He takes the kids to a Davie ranch to ride and groom horses. He takes them to the FIU North campus, where they do team building through ropes courses, volleyball, cheerleading, dance and football.

While he has their attention, he talks to them about life.

“These kids see me as a basketball player and maybe consider me a hero for that, but I want to teach them that basketball is just a job for me and it isn’t the end-all,” Jones said.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m experiencing life, and that’s what they need to focus on, life. For many of these kids, just having someone take the time to notice them can make a big difference.”

Last week, Jones made an appearance at a camp in Little Haiti and shared the same message.

Next week, he will focus on basketball fundamentals at the 2012 Dibia Elite Basketball Skills Camp, which he runs with former UM teammate Brandon Okpalobi at Ransom Everglades High School in Coconut Grove for ages 8-18.

Jones’ dream, he said, is to expand his life-enrichment camps all over South Florida. He grew up in Miami, attended American High in Hialeah and is committed to this community.

He proved that when he accepted the league’s minimum salary to sign with the Heat in 2011 rather than make more money elsewhere. That, he said, is why the NBA title was extra special for him.

“It was more than I imagined,” he said. “When I lifted that trophy, it felt even better than I dreamed it would. To win an NBA championship at home, playing for the Heat, it doesn’t get any better for a Miami kid. I had never won any kind of big title before, not in high school or AAU or college. The next-best championship I ever won was districts in high school, and that was just a small plaque. There aren’t too many guys who get to win a title in the town they grew up in.”

“Only after you play so long in the league can you truly appreciate how hard it is to win that trophy,” Jones added. “It would not have meant as much if I won it early in my career. Everything means more the older I get.”

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Aubrey Huff (knee) will return to High-A San Jose on Friday

Huff (knee) will return to High-A San Jose on Friday and won't travel with Triple-A Fresno to Salt Lake City, Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group reports.

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Edgerrin James' annual youth football camp in Immokalee canceled

Edgerrin James and some of his famous football friends won’t be returning to his hometown this summer. At least not for the former NFL star’s annual youth camp.

Because of renovations to the fields where the event is held, the Edgerrin James Speed and Agility Youth Football Camp has been canceled. James was schedule to host the free camp, which included more than 1,000 kids last summer, for the fourth straight year Monday in Immokalee.

The Immokalee Sports Complex, home to the camp the past three years, needed to restore its fields this summer to repair normal wear and tear. The complex laid down thousands of dollars of new sod, and the grass won’t be set and ready for action until August.

With the fields not ready to go, the Edgerrin James Foundation was forced to cancel the football camp.

“We were really looking forward to it,” said Karen Mingo, project manager of James’ foundation. “We were ready to go. Unfortunately we will not be there this year, but we have plans of going back next year.”

James first hosted the camp in 2009 in his hometown, where he graduated from Immokalee High School in 1996 before playing running back for the University of Miami and in the NFL for 11 years.

The summer camp has grown the past three years, which included James bringing in children from as far as Orlando to take part. More than 900 kids took part in the free camp in 2010 before the camp set a record with last year’s attendance.

“Anytime kids get to play football, it makes them better,” Immokalee High football coach Jerrod Ackley said. “Any missed opportunities are disappointing … but things change, and it’s something you have no control over.”

In the past James has brought former and current NFL players with him, including his cousin and fellow Immokalee grad Javarris James. Former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis was at the camp last year, and NFL super agent Drew Rosenhaus came in 2010.

The Immokalee Sports Complex didn’t run the camp, which also included a cookout and pool party at the center, but let James’ foundation use the fields. Supervisor Derrick Dimas said it was disappointing the complex’s fields won’t be ready, but the repairs needed to be done.

“(The fields) were real bad,” Dimas said. “There were a bunch of holes, and we had to get them done for the safety of the kids. They just couldn’t be ready in time for the camp.”

James is in Orlando this summer hosting his foundation’s Youth Summer Camp for a third consecutive year. The day camp goes Monday to Thursday all summer and is free for kids ages 6 to 18.

Javarris James signed with the Arizona Cardinals this summer and might have missed the summer camp in Immokalee to attend training camp, which begins Tuesday.

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Ed Reed now says he plans on playing in 2012

Another day, another twist in the Ed Reed saga. On Wednesday, the Ravens safety told Comcast SportsNet that he "always planned on playing this year." That obviously sounds like a positive development, but be warned that the Reed roller coaster hasn’t yet come to a halt and won’t until he reports to training camp next Wednesday.

So keep your seatbelts fastened and fingers crossed that Reed’s mindset won’t swerve before camp begins.

After all, Reed’s comments have been pretty inconsistent all offseason. Here is a complete (we think) recap.

March 29th to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “There’s a lot of talk out there. I’m not going to say I’m 50-50 because I’m not. I want to play football, but it’s something me and my team have been discussing the last couple of weeks. My partners, they do a great job of making sure I know the pros and cons of what’s going on with my body and with the organization and where we’re at. I plan on doing it, but depending, it could change.”

March 29th to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (yes, later in the very same interview): “If it was up to me, I’d be with a walking cane out there. I don’t know, man. I think four to five [more] years is a reality for me.”

April 4th to Baltimore radio station 105.7 The Fan: “I plan on playing. Everybody in the world knows that plans tend to change. I’ve got some unfinished business. I got a lot on my mind I’ve been thinking about and the truth of the matter is that it’s about respect. It’s about getting respect and it’s a business. … When I’m on the football field, I’m giving you everything. Do the Ravens know that? Yes they do. Did [Ravens general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] know that Ed Reed was going to be playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers regardless of negotiating his contract? Yes he did. Did Ed get the respect that he deserves? No he did not. Am I going to get it? Probably won’t. Hopefully he do. If I don’t, then, hey man, I’m alright with me.”

May 11 to The Baltimore Sun (while in town attending an Orioles game, Reed was asked if he planned to meet with Newsome): "No, not meeting with Ozzie. I don’t even think Ozzie is taking my calls right now.”

May 17 to Sirius/XM’s NFL Radio (after he told the hosts he wasn’t “100 percent committed” to playing in 2012): “It’s still May. I know that time is kind of inching away at me. We do have a mandatory camp coming up that I’m still in deep thought about because other things are important to me now. I still know I can play at a high level. I can still go for another couple years physically. But other things is kind of taking place in my life right now and making me think about things differently.”

June 12 to Ravens coach John Harbaugh (about why he wasn’t attending mandatory minicamp): Actually, Reed didn’t say a word this time. Harbaugh said Reed never called him to let him know he wasn’t showing up.

July 7 on his Twitter account: “Back home with my son, he's riding his bike [and] I'm doing yard work! Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!”

July 9 and 10 on his Twitter account: “Build people up, not tear them down. ... Players that have2be smart business men,in a business that don't care an inch about them though we grind for that inch-notalwaysrightbutreal … The media only picks out the negative. Controversy is what they hunt out. Haters gonna hate. Just gotta rise above it. … Y'all believe money really make a difference to the families that lost love1's bc of football? Some people just want us to entertain them! … $,it matters that's y it's a busines w/ two sides to it and the players r wrong, but we on the field and getting RELEASE at any point”

July 11 on 105.7 The Fan: “The only way we protect ourselves, the only way a player gets what he wants is by holding out.”

July 16 to The Baltimore Sun (after local reporters were told to steer clear of football questions before interviewing Reed after his youth camp): “This is about [this] camp, man. This is about these kids today. My mind is just so far away from what’s about to happen in the fall. I’m thinking about other things.”

July 16 to a national reporter who was a guest at the youth football camp (minutes after local media were done interviewing Reed): "I love this game, and I put my heart and soul into it. You could see it out here today. I'm sure the Ravens are confident I'll be there for camp, because they know how much I love the game, too. But I'll say this, they're not going to get me for cheap, not a chance.”

Today to Comcast Sportsnet (after he reportedly told fans at Reed's charity golf tournament that he would report to training camp next week): "I always planned on playing this year. I never thought about not playing."

Literally 30 seconds later to Comcast Sportsnet: "I retired this offseason. I honestly got myself away from football. That's why I didn't come to minicamp. I was away from football. I was spending time with my family."

But remember what I said about keeping those seatbelts buckled and those fingers crossed. There could be another loopty-loop or stomach-twisting turn before the Ed Reed roller coaster comes to a complete stop.

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D.J. Williams ordered to pay NFL $536 in court costs

In closing out its case between Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams and the NFL, the U.S. District Court in the District of Colorado ordered Williams to pay $568 in court costs to the league.

It may be getting tougher for Williams to meet such costs. Although his contract calls for him to make $5 million this year, the six-game suspension he was _ and still is _ trying to fight means his salary would be reduced 35.3 percent, which would leave Williams with $3.235 million. Uncle Sam takes roughly half of that in taxes which would leave Williams with roughly $1.62 million.

While that may keep Williams in the 1 percenter group, $1.62 million is a long way from $5 million. Williams did appeal the District Court’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit against the league, which gave him a six-game suspension for violating its performance-enhancement policy.

As to what the league will do with that $58, it appears lunch in Manhattan is on Roger Goodell.

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NFL says Jonathan Vilma's expedited hearing should be denied

The NFL filed a request to deny New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's request for an expedited hearing for a temporary restraining order against the league.

One of reasons cited in Vilma's request filed Monday hinged on the fact that he could suffer irreparable damage during time he should be rehabbing with the New Orleans Saints medical staff. In response to Vilma's filing on Tuesday, the NFL said that is simply not the case.

"Mr. Vilma is incorrect about the ability of the Saints medical staff to interact with him during his suspension; while Mr. Vilma may not attend the Club facility, he can rehabilitate and condition at a private facility and Saints trainers and physicians can monitor and help guide his rehabilitation there," according to the filing obtained by and NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche.

UPDATE: Scottie Patton, the New Orleans Saints head athletic trainer submitted an affidavit on Tuesday in support of Vilma's need to return to the team's training facility.

"I believe it's essential for Vilma to continue his rehab & recovery under the close supervision of Saints training staff," Patton stated in the affidavit obtained by and NFL Network's Albert Breer.

Vilma requested a hearing on Thursday, or as soon as the Eastern District Court of Louisiana's schedule allows. His lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, filed the motion as Vilma continues to contest his season-long suspension for his involvement in the Saints' "bounty" scandal.

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London 2012 Olympics - Interview with Finn Class sailor Zach Railey

Going into the 2008 Olympics Zach Railey was a relative unknown. He was one of the newest sailors in the class and was not really expected to win a medal. However his consistency in the early days left him leading the regatta and he was suddenly the centre of attention. As the event closed out he held his cool despite being match raced out of the first attempt to get the medal race away by the eventual Gold medalist Ben Ainslie. Zach eventually took Silver a day later when it was re-sailed in strong winds and big seas. It was a day that changed his life, and the realisation of an ambition that started when he was 12.

Now, four years later he is the US Team Captain and a role model for a generation of young sailors. He started sailing at age eight, following a suggestion from his family dentist to try summer sailing classes. Sailing Optimists until he was almost 13 he switched to the Radial and then the Laser, but outgrew each boat in turn. Then Chris Cook (CAN) asked Zach to sail with him one day in a Finn and he has been hooked ever since.

Last time around the US Olympic trials was a single winner-takes-all regatta. Like many elements of the new US approach to Olympic sailing, the trials system has radically changed, and this time around major regattas were used as indicators. 'I like the new format as it measures you against the international competition you will race against at the Olympics. It also allows you to continue on the Olympic circuit without having to come home and concentrate on a trials event in the middle of the season. Overall, I think this was a huge success and I think it should be the way forward for our qualifications for 2016 and beyond. There may have to be some different regattas used next time but the general idea is a huge success.'

While winning the Silver in China was a massive achievement by any standards, bettering that colour in Weymouth is an even bigger ask, yet Zach is never negative about his chances and always focusses on what he is able to control.

'It is a big ask to qualify for the Olympics let alone then medal or win. This is hard and you are competing against the best in the world. That being said I am confident in my abilities and confident in the training and planning that has gone into the last four years. These are the best Finn sailors in the world going head to head at their best and that is the exact situation I want to put myself into and see where I come out in the end. It is the ultimate test and I can't wait for it to begin.'

'I race every race from a clean slate. I do not worry about the end result until the regatta takes me there. My job is to go out and post the best results that I can in each race and see how the regatta unfolds. Every event is different and there is no way to predict what will happen so I worry about me and let the results speak for themselves. If I am beaten by someone because they were better than I was, I can accept that, but I cannot accept beating myself.'

'The athletes always get better and better and smarter and smarter. It is amazing the progress you see over just a four year period. You have to constantly keep making improvements or you get left behind. I think physically this four years has been a huge difference as I am now almost 40 pounds heavier than when I was in China. That has taken a lot of work and I am very proud of getting my body ready for the conditions in Weymouth.. I also think the addition of the free pumping rule to 10 knots has made the boat much more physically gruelling and has really pushed the class forward in terms of a true athletic test.'

Over the last four years Zach has matured as a Finn sailor and has achieved a resonable level of success on the circuit. A year after the Olympic medal he took another silver, this time at the Finn God Cup in Copenhagen, and very nearly won the world title. Over the last two years he has picked up several medals including a silver at Hyeres in 2011 and a silver at Palma earlier this year. He also took gold, albeit in a smaller fleet at Miami this year. Top 10 places at the last four world championships is evidence enough that he is a force to be reckoned with, as well as being a record that not many other Finn sailors in Weymouth can match.

'I like to challenge myself. For me that means sailing against the best and trying to beat the best. For sailing that means the Olympics, Volvo Ocean Race or the America's Cup. I fell in love with the Olympics in 1996 when Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games. I was 12 years old and remember watching Michael Johnson win the 200 meters on TV and thought one day I could be there. I'm living the dream right now.'

'You have to be very dedicated to do an Olympic campaign, so dedicated that most people see it as being selfish. I don't think of myself as selfish but as a person who has a dream and knows that there are people out there who will help me achieve my dream. I know that I have given up so much to get to this point but I am perfectly content with the decision to do so because I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do with my life.'

'I know that most people will not understand why you would sacrifice so much but I have a great support system and they sometimes don't understand it themselves, but they will always stand by me no matter what sacrifices have to be made. One of my favourite quotes is: 'Talent is common. Disciplined talent is rare'I believe that I am a very disciplined person.'

What about the sacrifices? 'My personal life has taken the biggest toll. I have an amazing family who are incredibly supportive of what I do, and also what my sister Paige does, and we have both made it to the Olympics in 2012 because of our family support system. The number of relationships lost over the years because of being gone, doing so much training and travelling are too many to count but I would change nothing, it's all worth it, and those who have been there for the long haul are truly special to me.'

Did winning an Olympic medal in 2008 change his life? 'It certainly brought a lot more attention to me after 2008. That took some time for me to adjust to afterwards. I think the greatest thing about it was the opportunities I was given to achieve some none sailing goals like the OliviaLives Charity ( which is a huge accomplishment for Paige, myself, our entire family and all of the supporters who help make it a success.'

'Also, becoming a role model for younger sailors to show them that they can do exactly what I have done. Expectations, of course, have gone up and you accept that as part of the territory.'

In 2008 Zach was famously sailed out of the first attempt at the medal race in very light winds by a ruthless Ben Ainslie. They were both way behind the fleet when it was finally abandoned. When it was re-sailed in strong winds, it was easier for Zach to sail his own race and secure the Silver. Did he learn anything that will help in 2012? 'I think the biggest lesson from the experience is to always to be prepared for any situation.'

Getting the gear right is a crucial part of winning in the Finn as the rig can be tailored around particular body weights and sailing styles.'This is an area where I really learned a lot over the past four years. With my big weight change and the difference in my strength and techniques we changed my gear, but they are small changes like having a little bit stiffer mast in some areas. It is nothing that the other competitors have not done themselves.'

'Most of it had to do with my weight gain and getting the correct bend in the mast to support the weight and strength I had added and then matching the sail to that mast. My gear in 2008 was for when I weighed 185 pounds and was for a light air venue. Now I am much larger and Weymouth is a very different venue so we needed to add some more strength to my equipment and power in the rig.'

The last four years has also seen the introduction of free pumping on offwind legs in winds over 10 knots and this has changed the game a bit, favouring the tall, athletic sailors. Has there been a change in rig design or sail shape brought on by the free pumping rule? 'I do not think there has been a change because of the pumping rule with equipment, but physically it's been a huge development of maintaining power while increasing your cardiovascular capacity. It's very hard to maintain both correctly and we have worked hard to get where I am at today.'

At a venue like Weymouth with many different conditions, how do you select the right gear? 'Great question and I wish I knew 100% the answer. I think you need to develop your gear for what conditions are most likely to be present but not totally specialise them in case there are a few days that are different. So you go with an all around set-up. Weymouth could be anything – we have seen it all there – but compared to China in 2008 it is a much windier and colder venue.'

Does he have any rituals or superstitions when racing? 'I do have a few that mostly go back a long way. I always wear a University of Miami hat, I listen to the same song before going on the water, which no one knows not even my family and lastly I will not shave during a regatta except for the night before the medal race. So I guess I am superstitious but they are fun.'

What's planned after the Olympics? 'I am really interested in the Volvo Ocean Race and want to do some more offshore sailing after the Olympics. Of course, the America's Cup has always been a dream and we will see if an opportunity presents itself there in the future. My big three in sailing have always been Olympics, Volvo Ocean Race and the America's Cup. After 2012, we will see which one of those three I put my efforts toward but for now its all about the Olympics.'

And Finn sailing? 'I love the Finn and I will always have one for sure and compete at events. As for doing another campaign in the Finn...'

When asked to pick three favourites for a medal? 'This one is hard. I really think that there are about 10 guys who can make it happen and be on the podium. To narrow it down to three is what the Olympics will tell us. Ask me again on August 6th.'

And finally, what are you looking forward to the most over the next few weeks? 'Walking into the Opening Ceremony with my sister Paige. We have been dreaming of that moment since we were little kids. It's going to be a very special moment for both of us.'

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Yasmani Grandal making strides behind plate

SAN DIEGO ---- Yasmani Grandal isn't stressing his results controlling the running game. Padres manager Bud Black isn't either, even with all 17 runners successfully swiping bases against his rookie catcher.

It's simply not all on Grandal.

"Don't read too much into those stats," Black said a day after two stolen bases led to the only runs the Astros managed off Ross Ohlendorf. "There's more to it than that. He's had some tough pitches to throw on and he hasn't had a whole lot of cooperation from the pitchers as far as their release. There's a lot of factors that go into a caught stealing."

Those factors range from pitchers holding runners, the type of pitch, its location and cooperation with middle infielders. What Grandal can control ---- mechanics affecting strength of throws, glove-to-glove times and accuracy ---- he's making progress with while learning on the job in the majors.

"His times are fine, his exchange is fine and his hands are fine," Black said. "Long-term, he's going to be fine. You have to understand that this guy was in the 2010 draft. That's two years in pro ball. The pro game, especially at this level, is a lot different than where he was two years ago at the University of Miami.
"For him to climb this fast, you just don't see that."

And Black expects to see more progression as Grandal gets acclimated to the big leagues. To that end, Grandal was cleaning up mechanics before Monday's game during early work, specifically, keeping his left knee and foot and head in line on throws to second base ---- not toward third.

"It's working out so far," Grandal said. "I was pretty comfortable in the minor leagues because I knew I could do it. Then I get here and you kind of press a little bit, especially catching. You know, I'm not too worried about the running game. There's so many things that go into it.

"... As long as I'm making good throws, I'm happy with what I'm doing."

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Ryan Braun expected back Friday

Manager Ron Roenicke told us this morning that he expects left fielder Ryan Braun back from his slight groin strain on Friday, when the Brewers begin a big three-game series in Cincinnati.

Braun exited the game Tuesday night in the seventh inning after tweaking a groin strain earlier that has been bothering him off and on throughout the season. With a scheduled off day Thursday, Roenicke can give Braun the day off and he will get two days of rest before Cincinnati.

"I always think that way if I have to take a guy out in the middle of a game," said Roenicke. "(Trainer) Dan (Wright) had contact with him early this morning and he still felt it.

"Even thought we need him in there against these guys, if he can't do it and with the off day tomorrow, he should be good for Cincinnati. Usually when he has these little things and we can give him a day, and if we have an off day connected with it, it usually goes away and he's OK. I don't think it's anything big."

Braun dealt with a sore Achilles tendon earlier in the year but managed to play through that for the most part. Obviously, his nagging injuries haven't prevented him from having a big year.

I asked Roenicke if he was surprised that Braun could do so well with nagging injuries and he said, "No. Even though he's had some issues witht the Achilles -- and he had that for a long time -- I still think when he's swinging the bat that doesn't come into play. It comes into play when he takes off and runs."

Roenicke did think Braun's groin issue affected his at-bats Tuesday, when he went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

"The groin bothered him a little bit swinging," said Roenicke. "That's part of the reason why I took him out at that time. If it was just out in the field, he controls himself pretty well when he runs. But if it's both swinging and running, then we probably need to get him out of there." 

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Yonder Alonso's 3 RBIs lift Padres to 8-4 victory over Astros

SAN DIEGO — Yonder Alonso's propensity for hitting doubles helped his team to another win.

Alonso went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs and the San Diego Padres used a five-run fourth inning to beat the Houston Astros 8-4 on Wednesday.

With two more doubles on Wednesday, Alonso has 23 this year and has hit two or more in a game seven times this season, which is a franchise record. Adrian Gonzalez and Tony Gwynn held the previous mark with six each.

"That's pretty unique," Alonso said. "It feels good when you're in the company of those guys. I knew what was going on and the guys on the team were making jokes about it. It's a cool moment for myself."

Clayton Richard (7-10) allowed four runs in 8 1-3 innings to snap a two-game losing streak. The left-hander gave up nine hits, including two home runs by Matt Downs and struck out two.

"It's so nice to have that type of padding in the game," Richard said. "You know you can make a couple of mistakes."

Richard fell short of his first career complete game and added an RBI double in the sixth.

"When you come to the ballpark as a starting pitcher, that's what you want to do," Richard said. "It's disappointing not making a few pitches at the end there to go through with it."

The Padres won for the fourth time in five games.

"It was a good performance today with contributions all around the lineup," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It's like we've talked about that it's going to take all of our guys to get it done, and today was a good example of a lineup contributing top to bottom."

After Carlos Corporan singled to chase Richard in the ninth, Nick Vincent got one out, but walked Jordan Schafer to put the tying run on deck. Huston Street entered and struck out Scott Moore to convert his 15th save.

"We've talked about Clayton's work ethic and what he does between starts, and he's equipped for a complete game," Black said. "I was pulling hard for him."

Downs' three-run home run in the sixth landed in the first deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field. He hit a solo shot off Richard in the ninth, also to left and has three home runs against Richard this season. Houston has lost 14 of 15 games on the road.

"He's very good," Downs said of Richard. "I think it's just he made two mistakes and I think they were both to me."

After Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez retired the first nine batters, the Padres broke through in the fourth.

The first six batters reached base, highlighted by Alonso's and Chris Denorfia's run-scoring hits. Rodriguez also walked two in the inning and threw a wild pitch as San Diego built a 5-0 lead.

"It's kind of tough to put your full finger on," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "That's kind of been his Achilles' heel, being able to stop those from getting started."

Rodriguez (7-8) allowed five runs and four hits over four innings, snapping a streak of 48 games in which the left-hander had lasted at least five innings.

"He didn't want to come out of the game, but we had to try to get a run on the board," Mills said.

Alonso's double in the seventh scored Denorfia and gave San Diego an 8-3 lead. Chase Headley scored on a Houston defensive breakdown in the fifth as Enerio Del Rosario threw wide of first base on an attempted pickoff. Headley ran to third and Downs skipped the ball past Chris Johnson as Headley scored.

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Ultimate Jimmy Graham Video Highlights

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Allen Bailey Listed As No. 8 NFL Prospect By ESPN

Don't be fooled by the headline. ESPN's list of top 25 NFL prospects has a series of limitations to help whittle down a list of unearthed gems in the National Football League. Still, it's nice to see that Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey is getting recognized for his potential, and how productive he was in his rookie season despite very little fanfare.

The Chiefs chose Allen Bailey in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft and it was Justin Houston who received more of the accolades as the defensive rookie star of the last year for the team. But Bailey maximized his playing time and there's little doubt that the Chiefs coaching staff is well aware of what ESPN's Aaron Schatz sees. That's why Bailey earned the No. 8 spot on his list of the NFL's Top Prospects.

Now the caveat here is that the pool of players to choose from is limited. Schatz broke down the criteria:
• Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent
• Entered the NFL between 2009 and 2011
• Fewer than five career games started
• Still on their initial contract
• Age 26 or younger in 2012

Within that system, Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks was listed as the best overall prospect and Bailey lands at No. 25. Here's his breakdown on the Chiefs defensive lineman:

Bailey, a third-round rookie, made only eight plays last year, but five of them were defeats. He's a two-time All-ACC player who twice led the Miami Hurricanes in sacks, a versatile talent who was an outside linebacker as a freshman, then later started at both defensive end and tackle. The pessimistic term for this, of course, would be "tweener," as he's too slow to play defensive end in a 4-3, and not quite big enough to be an NFL defensive tackle. Romeo Crennel has a pretty good history with "tweeners" like Bailey who have smarts and a nonstop motor. The Chiefs occasionally used him last year as a situational pass-rusher on passing downs. This year, they'll likely use him a lot more often, and it isn't far-fetched to think he could earn a starting job in 2013.

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Darryl Sharpton still recovering

Houston Texans LB Darryl Sharpton (quadriceps) said he's still recovering from a torn right quadriceps. "I've kind of transitioned from the training room to the weight room," said Sharpton, who made 12 tackles in eight games. "I've definitely gotten over that hump, I'm feeling good and I'm pretty much there, ready to go." He's expected to see more playing time in 2012, and he's expected to be ready for training camp July 27.

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Jonathan Vilma's hearing moved up

NEW ORLEANS -- Jonathan Vilma's hearing as he attempts to delay or overturn his season-long suspension has been moved up a week to July 26.

A U.S. District Court judge in Louisiana granted Vilma's motion Tuesday, although Vilma sought a hearing for Thursday. The Saints open training camp next Tuesday.

On Monday, Vilma's attorneys asked Judge Helen G. Berrigan to hear their request for a temporary restraining order before the Saints' training camp opens.
Vilma was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in the team's bounty program. He also has sued Goodell for defamation.

Earlier Tuesday, the league filed a claim that the New Orleans linebacker did not "exhaust the dispute resolution procedures" in the collective bargaining agreement.

Vilma and the other three players suspended -- Saints defensive end Will Smith, current Packers DE Anthony Hargrove and current Browns LB Scott Fujita -- did not defend themselves at their appeals hearing before Goodell last month. Goodell then upheld the suspensions.

Saints coach Sean Payton, like Vilma, is suspended for the 2012 season.

The NFL also says Vilma is incorrect in stating he can't have the Saints' medical staff monitor and guide his rehabilitation. He can, as long as it is at a private facility and not at the team's training complex.

Berrigan made note of that data in her decision Tuesday.

Interim coach Joe Vitt, who will serve a six-game suspension when the season begins, also filed an affidavit with the court in support of Vilma's request. Vitt, who did not fight his suspension imposed by Goodell, also called the bounty program "nonexistent" in the affidavit.

Vitt said he wanted "to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty program or that any member of our defense, including Mr. Vilma, ever placed a bounty on an opposing player or set out to injure anyone or to encourage any other Saints player to injure anyone."

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No Way Ed Reed Doesn't Play

Glenn Younes joined the Gary Stein Show over the weekend to talk more about the future of Ed Reed with the Baltimore Ravens, and if current NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith, is in danger of losing his job.

Younes believes that Ed Reed will be on the field come this September.

“My opinion alone, I don’t think there is any way he doesn’t play,” he said.

If Reed plays this year, Younes believes that the Ravens will allow Reed to test free agency because they did the same with Linebacker Ray Lewis.

“If they played a game with free agency chicken with Ray Lewis, you don’t think they would play that with Ed Reed?” he said.

Younes believes that in order to build up the legacy of the Ravens, the owners have to keep franchise players like Ed Reed in the Raven’s uniform for life.

“What’s 15 million dollars in the life of the Franchise? Again we have to remember we are starting business here in Baltimore, the business of football. It’s only been going since 1996, how long have the Giants, and the Redskins, and the Cowboys, and the Steelers, and the Patriots and Jets, how long have they been doing business? They have legacies. They have Super-Bowl Hall of Famers. We have Ed [Reed] and Ray [Lewis] and we need to make sure we lock them up,” he said.

Glenn got into how Reed’s friendship with NFL PA President Dominque Foxworth has changed his views of the NFL and that Ed Reed wants to speak out for the players who do not have the status to do so against the business side of the NFL.

“I think he’s being sort of a mouth piece for other players saying ‘hey listen, this is a business and we the players aren’t just pieces on a chess board that you can move around. We’re actually human beings and we have to have some level of respect from the league in general,” he said.

Recently there have been people criticizing the way DeMaurice Smith handled the CBA agreements last year, but Younes said he thinks Smith is not necessarily the problem.

“I think he did a decent job. The problem with the way the NFL structure is, that the owners unlike basketball, baseball, and hockey, have all the power in football, the players have none of it and it’s reversed in every other business model. It’s so tilted in the owners favor in football,” he said.

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Saints interim coach Joe Vitt drills NFL in Vilma lawsuit

Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma got strong support Tuesday from interim coach Joe Vitt.

Vitt and team trainer Scottie Patton filed affidavits in federal court in New Orleans to support Vilma's motion for an expedited hearing in the player's lawsuit against the NFL in the alleged "pay-to-injure" bounty scandal. Vilma wants his one-year suspension overturned.

"Our inability to work with Mr. Vilma, in my opinion, jeopardizes the entire Saints football team and our 2012-2013 season," Vitt's affidavit said.

Vitt also took a swipe at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Vitt said he would provide "substantive and truthful testimony and information about the allegations made by Mr. Goodell regarding the so-called but non-existent bounty program and to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty program."

Vitt's affidavit described Vilma as "proud of playing cleanly and fairly" and said, "Mr. Vilma, to be clear, is one of the finest, fairest and most decent people I have ever known, both in and out of football."

Vitt will serve a six-game suspension beginning Week 1 of the regular season for his involvement, but he can lead the team through training camp.

He was named interim coach in April after coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year. Before the NFL draft, Vitt said, "No. 1, at no time did any of our players ever cross the white line with the intention of hurting another player. Now that being said, I'm serving a six-game suspension for the spoken word, not the clinched fist."

He was asked at a news conference what he meant by that.

"We never taught any of our players that when they crossed the white line to injure another player," Vitt said. "I regret the words that were spoken at meetings. … The body of work that our players have on the field has spoken well. I don't think that you acquire the players that we have and the coaches that have come here unless you're a first-class organization. That's what we have here."

In Patton's affidavit, the trainer said Vilma was barred from entering the Saints facility for treatment in recovering from a serious knee injury. "Our inability to work with Mr. Vilma, in my opinion, compromises Mr. Vilma's medical condition and could directly and negatively impact his recovering."

The NFL opposed the motion, contending Vilma could not seek a court order to block the suspension because he had not exhausted all of his options under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

In an order issued later Tuesday, the court said a hearing that had been set for Aug. 1 would be rescheduled for July 26. That would follow a settlement conference July 23. The Saints will open training camp July 24. In the order, the court said, "(Vilma) can in fact receive treatment from the Saints medical staff during his suspension as long as it is at a private facility."

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Matt Schaub: Andre Johnson and I all clear for Texans

We learned last week that Matt Schaub has been cleared for training camp by the Houston Texans.

The quarterback missed his team's final eight games after suffering a foot injury in November. Schaub underwent surgery and was held out of OTAs and minicamp as a precaution, but he's been working with Andre Johnson and other Texans receivers at the University of Houston.

"I'm 100 percent, ready to go, with no restrictions," Schaub said Monday, via the Houston Chronicle. "Andre looks great. He's also 100 percent and ready to go."
This is great news for the Texans, who were without Schaub, Johnson and running back Arian Foster at various points last season. When The Big 3 is on the field, the Texans can beat opponents in multiple ways.

"Our expectation level is higher than it's ever been, and all of us couldn't be more excited about getting back on the field," Schaub said.

Schaub told the Chronicle he's not worried about entering the final year of his contract, which makes sense. If he can stay healthy and lead the Texans to another AFC South crown, he'll have more leverage than ever.

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Michael Irvin disappointed by Dez Bryant arrest

IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant in 2010, they gave him No. 88 in hopes he would be the team’s next Drew Pearson or Michael Irvin.

Speaking on the NFL Network on Tuesday, Irvin, the Cowboys’ Hall of Fame wide receiver, said he was disappointed to learn of Bryant’s arrest Monday for family violence. DeSoto Police allege Bryant grabbed his mother, Angela, by her t-shirt and hair and “hit her across the face with his ball cap” last Saturday.

“To say this is totally out of the realm of possibility, I wouldn’t be totally honest,” Irvin said. “We know (with) Dez’s background and his upbringing that he may have the proclivity to make bad decisions. I had that proclivity. But to go this distance with it is a bit far. I don’t even care to talk about what the Dallas Cowboys must be doing here. I need to know what some counsel is going to tell Dez or what guy he is talking to about this issue. You cannot -- and you heard (Bryant’s mother) say she is tired of this, she can’t take it. Obviously it’s so sad because it’s not the first time and there certainly is something going on there. If we care anything about him, the man -- forget the football -- we need to make sure somebody looks into this.”

Irvin, who had a number of off-field incidents in his career and incurred a five-game suspension to start the 1996 season, said his “heart bleeds,” after hearing the 911 call placed by Angela Bryant.

“This is uncharted waters. I like to speak out of my spirit on a lot of things, both the highs and the lows, the peaks and the valleys I’ve experienced,” Irvin said. “But this is out of the world for me. I’ve never laid my hands on any woman, let alone talk about the No. 1 woman in any man’s life, which should be his mother. You have to only try to think about where the anger and all of that is for you to get to that point. That’s why the pressures or the stress of what you’re dealing with, whatever is going on, we can’t have that. I know he has to be saying the same things now.”

Irvin did not want to discuss whether he felt Bryant was worth the trouble for the Cowboys to keep. In his first two seasons, Bryant has 108 receptions for 1,489 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns as a rookie.

“Those are all-world numbers for a guy in his first two years to come with 60-something catches last year in your second year, just about 900 yards and double-digit touchdowns (actually nine),” Irvin said. “That is off-the-chart numbers. And all of the other stuff has been absolutely (worth it) because that’s up to your debate whether someone sagging pants is really a national story or cultural difference, even though it may have shown a lacking in judgment. But here again, this issue is something new. You guys want to talk about football; I want to tell you about the man. I don’t care what the Dallas Cowboys think on this situation; I only want somebody to talk to Dez about figuring out how you get to the place where your mom is begging you to go home and not hit her. I don’t care about anything else. That’s serious stuff that we have to get to the bottom of.”

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Inspiration, preacher, evangelist: Meet Ray Lewis, the man who bounced back from a murder rap

It happened 12 years ago but the events of that night still cling to one of America’s greatest sportsmen.

Talking to Ray Lewis about it at a smart London hotel this week, we called it ‘the situation’ or ‘the case’. Or just ‘Atlanta’.

Atlanta. It was Lewis’s Chappaquiddick. The tragedy he has never been able to shake despite an ongoing stellar career and a wealth of inspiring charity work.
Two men were murdered. He was at the scene. Or close to it. No one was convicted.

“What you learn quickly in this world,” Lewis said, “is that if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, trouble don’t care who you are.

“Trouble don’t have no name on it. That’s why so many people find themselves in it so quickly.

“I will live with Atlanta my whole life in the perception of how people want to look at me. That’s why I don’t live to please people. I don’t live to be liked. I live to be respected.”

Atlanta. Lewis was easy to spot there during Super Bowl week in January 2000. He wasn’t playing. He was a young man then, 24 years old. He had come to party.

Contemporaneous reports said he wore a full-length white fur coat and rode around town in the back of a 40-foot Lincoln Navigator limousine.

The night of the game, a group Lewis was with became embroiled in a violent brawl outside a smart club called the Cobalt Lounge.

At the end of it, Lewis and his companions fled in the limo. Two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, lay dead. They had been beaten and stabbed.
Eleven days later, Lewis and two companions were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges.

Then, the murder charge was dropped. Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He was given a year’s probation and the NFL fined him $250,000.
A year later, Lewis won the Super Bowl in Tampa with the Baltimore Ravens. Not only that, he was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player.

He cut a sullen, bitter unrepentant figure that year. Questioned by the media about Atlanta, Lewis refused to engage.

It has been hard for the public to shake that image, even though many idolise him as an intimidator, the heart and soul of the Ravens team for close to two decades.

I was in Tampa. The stories about Atlanta were fresh and vivid then. So this week, I told him I had always found him rather sinister.

Does he now, 12 years on from their deaths, have any sympathy for the families of Baker and Lollar?

“Why wouldn’t you?” Lewis says. “I have sympathy for a lot of people when it comes to death and stupid deaths and people getting involved in stupid things.
“The difference is that if you take me out of the equation, that is just two dead black brothers on the street. That’s it. That’s the sad part about the whole thing.
“At the Super Bowl in Tampa I was so pissed off that people would not give a damn about the people affected. They don’t care. All they want to do is write.
“That’s a family. If you all want to talk to me about the story then you are opening up wounds afresh.

“You have to be careful about how much you share with people. If you pray to God you don’t have to try to convince people too much.”

Atlanta. Lewis says it did not change him. Not immediately. He said it took time. “That is what wisdom is,” he said. “Learning things over time.”

Gradually, he stopped moving with the same crowd. He stopped going out late. He stopped drinking what he called ‘heavy alcohol’.

And he began to live by a simple creed. “The people around you – either they are helping you or they are hurting you,” he said. “There ain’t no in-betweens.”

Meeting Lewis now, it is impossible not to be enthralled by what he once was and impressed by what he has become.

He has played at the top level of the NFL for 16 years, a remarkable achievement in a brutally physical and attritional sport.

For five of his 16 seasons as a linebacker, he led the league in tackles. Last season, he became the first player in NFL history to achieve 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.

But he is to be admired for other things, too. He has set up the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation to help deprived families.

There is no doubting the sincerity of his involvement in his charitable work nor of the extent of it.

The reason for his presence in London, for instance, was to pay a surprise visit to the London Warriors.

Based in Croydon, the Warriors have players who have been taken out of gang culture and persuaded to use sport to change.

Lewis was not paid for his visit. He wanted to do it. “I found out when I got there that they are exactly who I am,” he said.

He knew all about deprived, difficult childhoods. Born in Bartow, Florida, he had one himself.

“Mum would walk in my room sometimes and say ‘I can’t feed you tonight’,” Lewis said. “’Okay, I got it’,” I’d say. ‘Feed my brothers and sisters. I will survive’.

“I started to weightlift or train because I got tired of seeing my mum with black eyes. The guy she was with just loved to beat her.”

He talked to the Warriors players for more than an hour the first night he was here.

He talks now with the articulate force and intensity of a preacher, an evangelist, a man who wants to warn others away from the dangers he once faced.

“One kid asked me ‘when does the grind stop, when do you feel that you made it?’” Lewis said.

“I am 17 years in and I am 37 years old and I am still grinding. There is no stopping.

“I don’t know what point you are looking to get to but you will always have the next step, next step, next step.

“That’s the thing that sports is able to give you: next step, next step, next step and if you use it right, it can step you right out of the situation you are in.

“With a lot of kids, talent overrides morals nowadays because they have figured out that if they can run a fast 40m and jump a high vertical leap, they can make a lot of money.

“So they think they don’t have to work on these other things that ultimately define them as a man. They think they don’t need those. I tell them there are no short cuts. Period.”

Lewis talks with great feeling, too, about others he has encountered and helped through his foundation.

A Baltimore patriarch called Papa Bill who died of cancer last week after Lewis helped him to reunite his fractured family.

And the kid Lewis had been planning to visit before the end of last season but who died on the eve of the Ravens’ narrow AFC Championship defeat to the New England Patriots which cost them a chance to return to the Super Bowl.

“I spoke to his mom on the phone and she was screaming ‘my only son is gone’,” Lewis recalled.

“I appreciated the game so much that day but I appreciated life even more. That’s what I tried to relate to my teammates, that win, lose or draw, don’t ever discredit life.

“In the locker room, I said to them ‘for you to be in here crying right now because of the loss of the game but I got a different story that means you can’t cry over no game’.

“Nah, we are bigger than that because there is real pain in this world.”

There was real pain in Atlanta, too. Whatever happened that night outside the Cobalt Lounge, Lewis has done much that is good in the second act of his American life.

“Before I was a football player,” Lewis said, “I was a man. I was a son. Now I love for people to meet me because they say ‘oh, you’re so different’.

“In America, they say once you go through something like Atlanta, you never bounce back.

“Your name never resurfaces. You kind of fade away. But I claim that to be a totally bogus lie.”

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Murielle Ahoure, a rising sprinter on the international lane

Current African Record holder in Women’s 200m indoor, Murielle Ahoure, is making her mark on the international scene as she has already grabbed two medals since taking part in her first international competition in March 2012. She will be one to watch at the 2012 Olympics in the 100m and 200m events

Born on August 23, 1987 in the Ivorian capital city, Abidjan, Murielle Ahoure moved to France at the age of two and stayed there till when she was twelve. She then travelled to the United States to continue her studies. Ahoure fell in love with athletics at the age of 17 while still in the University. In May 2006, she participated in her first competition, the U.S National Championships where she did 11.42 in the 100m race. She didn’t give up the chase for excellent performance in spite of her time in the first race. Two years after that, her perseverance paid off. She stole the show at the NC where she finished first ahead of some of the world’s top runners. The following year, She was the 2009 NCAA Indoor Champion at 200 metres while running for the University of Miami. She finished first in 22.78 (her personal best in 200m). The Ivorian Arrow, as she is popularly known on the lane, started training seriously for international competitions as she kept a low profile for the following two years participating in championships within the United States. When she sprang to the international scene in March 2012, she came second (7, 04) in the 60m at the 2012 IAAF World indoor Championships that took place in Istanbul, Turkey. Her best personal 100m outdoor record (11, 00) was set in May of the same year in Rome, Italy, when she beat Jamaican born 2008 Olympic medallists, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson. Still holding tight to excellence, Ahoure went ahead to perform her best time in 200m outdoor (22, 42) in Bislett, Oslo, July 2012. She reached the finish line before the Jamaican trio for the second time in three months.

The African Queen is presently the Ivorian champion (11, 00) in the 100m outdoor race and the continent’s fastest sprinter (22, 42) in the 200m indoor event. She is currently ranked 8th in the Women’s 100m event and occupies the 33rd position on the general classification table of athletes. What more surprises does Cote d’Ivoire’s Murielle Ahoure have in store for lovers of sports during the 2012 London Olympics Games? Hopes are rising. Everyone is waiting...

Murielle Ahoure
Born on August 23, 1987
Specialty: 100m and 200m
100m personal best, 11.00 (Rome, 2012)
200 m personal best 22.78 (2009)

2009: NCAA Indoor Champion at 200 metres
2012: Silver medal at the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul

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Tim George Jr. Earns Top-15 Finish at Iowa Speedway

Start - 18                             
Finish - 15                       
Laps Led - 0                
Owner Points - 9

Tim George Jr. and the No. 2 Applebee's/Potomac Family Dining Group team finished 15th at Iowa Speedway after battling handling conditions on the Chevrolet for the majority of the American Ethanol 200. George Jr. started the 200-lap affair from the 18th position and maintained a running position within the top 20 for the first portion of the event. The New York City native reported a loose-handling condition in the entry of the corners and a tight-handling condition in the exit of the corners in the early stages of the race. Crew chief Gere Kennon instructed the Richard Childress Racing driver to increase and decrease the amount of brake on the Chevrolet Silverado to help remedy the handling issues. Over the course of three pit stops, the Kennon-led team made routine chassis adjustments to assist with the handling on George's No. 2 Chevrolet. George battled for position in the closing laps and was a to maneuver around the 0.875-mile track to cross the finish line in the 15th position.

TIM GEORGE JR. QUOTE: "For tonight to be successful, I wanted a top-15 finish and a No. 2 Applebee's/ Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet in one piece. We came here and accomplished that. I'm happy with how the race went and really enjoyed racing at Iowa Speedway. I'm excited to get to Pocono Raceway because it's my home track, and I've performed well there in the past."

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Yonder Alonso blasts Padres to victory over Astros

Yonder Alonso went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run and three RBI during Tuesday's 8-2 victory against Houston.

Celebration is in order for Alonso owners every time he displays power. It hasn't happened often this season. In fact, Tuesday's pair of extra base hits were his first since July 5. After a terrible opening month to the season and a solid bounce back in May, Alonso posted an abysmal .541 OPS in June. Although he hasn't hit for a ton of power in July, Alonso has posted a great 9/6 BB/K ratio in just 39 at-bats for an encouraging .417 OBP and .853 OPS. Perhaps improved plate discipline will unleash the immense potential of his bat.

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Video: One On One With Ryan Braun

WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

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Ryan Braun leaves game with right groin strain

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun has left Tuesday’s game against St. Louis with a right groin strain.

Braun was taken out of the game in the seventh inning. It was not immediately clear how the injury occurred, or how serious it was.

Braun was bothered by a right groin injury in May.

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday left the game earlier after being hit in the leg with a pitch by Brewers starter Randy Wolf.

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Andrew Luck Working Out At University Of Miami With Reggie Wayne


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The last time a number one overall draft pick quarterback was making his way around Miami, the local television stations went into full fledged Peyton Manning overload coverage.

But another number one overall pick at quarterback is in Miami and working with his new crop of receivers. Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is working out at the University of Miami with receivers Donnie Avery, Reggie Wayne, and Griff Whalen, according to

Avery sent a picture of the group out on Instagram as proof of the workout.

The workout was at UM because veteran Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne went to the school and still works out there.

Luck hasn’t had the ability to work out with his new receivers much during the offseason. Because Stanford ends their semesters so late, Luck couldn’t work out with the team until a mandatory mini-camp in June.

The workout could come in handy for Luck and the Colts. Currently, Luck and the Colts are at an impasse in contract negotiations.

Luck, and the next seven picks in the NFL Draft remain unsigned over contract language included in their deals. The teams don’t want to fully guarantee the last season if a player is cut before the final fifth year of the contract. The players want that final year guaranteed.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has said twice in the last two weeks that a deal with Luck is close. Once Luck’s deal is done, it will set the benchmark for the rest of the deals to work from the top and then use number nine overall pick Luke Kuechly’s contract as a base.

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Dolphins Believe Olivier Vernon can make immediate impact

Players believe rookie Olivier Vernon will make an immediate impact as a situational pass rusher. “He plays with a low center of gravity and with good angles, just like Cam Wake,” Odrick said.

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Lamar Miller Will Help Dolphins This Season

Lamar Miller often has turned the corner on running plays to the sidelines and flashed electric open-field skills as a receiver. “Lamar is very shifty, and you see that with him running routes,” Reggie Bush said. “He’ll learn quickly. He’ll definitely be able to help us this year. He can be a huge addition.”

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Michael Irvin bids farewell

With his contract expiring, former University of Miami great Michael Irvin left his WQAM-560 talk show on Monday, telling listeners that it "hurts" that his two-year stint on the station has ended.

Irvin’s agent, Steve Mandel, said WQAM wanted to keep the former Dallas Cowboys star but only if he moved from Dallas to South Florida.  Irvin “wasn’t prepared” to do that, Mandel said.

After Irvin declined that request, the station asked if he wanted to appear weekly on Joe Rose’s morning show and make other occasional appearances, Mandel said. But Irvin said no.

WQAM general manager Joe Bell said he prefered Irvin do the show from South Florida because it would have been easier to market it.

Irvin, who has been an NFL Network analyst since 2009, plans to explore options elsewhere in the market, with WMEN-640 and WINZ-940 among stations he is expected to approach.

Though 790 The Ticket has an opening, Irvin appears unlikely to end up there in a full-time role. The station is looking at pairing Marc Hochman with either Jon Weiner or Jonathan Zaslow on its morning show.

“I promise you – stay tuned,” Irvin told listeners. “I will find my way back on the air to you.”

He told listeners that leaving WQAM “absolutely hurts” because “I’ve got a season coming up at UM. I wanted to talk you through this season. But business is business. I can’t begrudge anyone. I wish everybody the best.”

Irvin hosted the show for the first year with former TNT NFL analyst Kevin Kiley before Kiley retired last year. This year, his co-host has been South Florida-based WQAM staffer Curtis Stevenson. In January, Irvin’s program was shifted two hours earlier (to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

Jorge Sedano, who left 790 The Ticket’s morning show in April to concentrate on a television career, is the front-runner to replace Irvin. Because of a non-compete clause in his 790 contract, Sedano could not join WQAM until after Aug. 9.

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Judge Sapp: Drag Race Wreck - Ep 8

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Andre Johnson, not Calvin Johnson, NFL's top receiver?

NFL Films tape guru Greg Cosell still believes one receiver stands above Megatron. Here are Cosell's top five wideouts, according to a Monday blog post:

5. A.J. Green
4. Steve Smith
3. Larry Fitzgerald
2. Calvin Johnson
1. Andre Johnson

At first glance, Green sticks out, considering his lack of experience, though Cosell builds a case around Green's ceiling as an evolutionary Randy Moss. Arguments can be made for guys like Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Kenny Britt, Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings and Roddy White.

As for the No. 1 spot, Cosell says a 2011 hamstring injury -- and the relative low profile that comes with playing for the Houston Texans -- makes it easy to forget how special Andre Johnson is. Cosell calls the difference between Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson "microscopic," but says the Texans' Johnson is "more purely athletic and explosive."

"When you watch him on film, you see the quickness, lateral agility and short-area burst of a much smaller man," Cosell wrote. "... Talk to many receivers and defensive backs in the league, and they will tell you that his combination of size, speed and sheer athleticism is off the charts. They have never seen another receiver like him."

For our money, Calvin Johnson now is El Hombre when you factor in his resume, age and durability. But Cosell is right not to sleep on the other Johnson.

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Jon Vilma asks for hearing Thursday in bounty case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is asking a federal judge for a hearing Thursday on his bid to block his season-long suspension stemming from the NFL's bounty investigation.

In a court filing Monday, Vilma's attorneys ask U.S. District Judge Helen "Ginger" Berrigan to hear their request for a temporary restraining order before the Saints' training camp opens on July 23.

Berrigan didn't immediately rule on Vilma's hearing request.

Vilma has said his suspension is without merit and has accused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of damaging his reputation and irreparably harming his career.

Vilma wants to attend training camp so he can continue receiving treatment for a knee injury.

Vilma said in court papers Monday that he has resumed running for the first time in six months after being treated in early July by a doctor in Germany. Vilma said New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez told him about the doctor, whose procedure is not FDA-approved according to the doctor's website, and so is not available in the United States.

"For me to continue my progress, it is vital that my rehabilitation be carefully supervised," Vilma said in an affidavit. "The Saints head trainer, Scottie Patton, is the person best qualified to help me make sure my ability to engage in my profession is back on track.

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Ray Lewis wants to sell you $75 fitness playing cards

There's no question Ray Lewis is one fit, fierce guy. But just a bet here -- his muscles have nothing to do with playing cards.

And yet, the Ravens linebacker is selling a new fitness programs that involves little more than a deck of cards. It costs $75 but dealhunters can snag it today for $35 through Groupon. (Plus shipping.)

A $35 deck of cards? For working out?

Maybe for working out AND a Go Fish. Still.

Lewis' website, RL52 Cycling Shop, insists that all anyone needs to build muscle and lose fat, Ray-style, is that deck of cards and 52 days. Oh, and some hand weights, a jump rope and motivation -- none of which are included.

"The program allows you to play your way to fitness," says the site. "Join the movement."

Buyers choose between three types of decks. The "Rookie" for beginners, "Amateur" for people who've been to the gym before and "Pro" for athletes.

By mid-morning today, two people had gone for the cards through Groupon.

Lewis, by the way, is also selling workout DVDs -- they're going two for $59.90.

One of his exercise bikes -- he's got three models on the site -- will cost $1,100 to $1,900.

Being fit like Ray Lewis doesn't come cheap.

"Ray Lewis has worked with thousands of ordinary people and changed their lives forever by helping them transition to a healthier lifestyle," the site says. "At 36 years of age and in the best shape of his life, Ray Lewis knows what it takes to achieve a healthy and fit lifestyle."

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Jon Beason says he’s back, but expects “a grind”

Panthers linebacker Jon Beason said Thursday he’d be ready for training camp after missing last year with a torn Achilles.

“I’ll be out there. I’ll take the reps with the ones,” Beason told the Charlotte Observer. “Camp is a grind. I expect it to be sore. You’re going to have good days and bad days. It’s just camp, even if you are healthy. Getting in football shape is always a tough task. I’ll do as much as I can and be smart about it.”

As positive as that sounds on its face, acknowledging that it will be a process is a sign that Beason might not be 100 percent from Day 1.

The Panthers drafted Luke Kuechly in the first round, and while coach Ron Rivera said earlier this summer they’d start with Beason in the middle and Kuechly on the weak side, the reality is there are a many in the organization who think that’ll alignment will flip at some point.

Beason told PFT recently that he had spoken with Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans this offseason about coming back from an Achilles tear, giving him insight into the process. And he knows it’s a gradual thing, with improvements to be made even after he’s cleared.

While Beason’s teammates are optimistic he’ll be full speed, that’s probably an unfair expectation for anyone coming off such an injury. When he’s well, Beason’s a playmaker, and the kind of leader you can build a defense around.

But the fact the Panthers drafted a player with a similar description in Kuechly should tell you there’s a degree of concern about when Beason will get back to looking like the Beason of old.

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D.J. Williams' appeal case doesn't look good

Suspended Broncos WLB D.J. Williams is accused of two failed drug tests and "manipulating" a third leading up to his six-game ban.

Williams has repeatedly challenged the suspension, but it doesn't sound like the appeal is going to get very far. Williams flunked two tests, and on the third "a bottle fell from his waist area while he was providing a urine sample," per court records. The Broncos' 2012 bye week falls in Week 7. So we wouldn't count on seeing Williams back on the field prior to Week 8.

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Ed Reed still mum about plans with Baltimore Ravens

Ed Reed said Monday that his mind is nowhere near football at the moment.

This is ironic, considering the eight-time Pro Bowl safety is at Stevenson University for the third annual Ed Reed Football Camp.

We assume what Reed really meant was his mind was nowhere near the Baltimore Ravens. Reed still wants a new contract, and he still appears ready to hold out if a lucrative extension isn't presented to him before training camp.

Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reported that Reed was seen having a friendly conversation with Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. This isn't exactly a shock -- Pees is volunteering at the camp, after all -- and besides, Reed's beef is with a front office he believes is under-compensating him.

Wilson said Reed looked to be in good shape -- "I take care of myself," the safety said -- but Reed declined to get into specifics about his future plans.

"You're not always going to be understood," Reed said. "You do the best that you can."

Reed, 33, is set to complete the final year of a six-year, $40 million contract that he signed in 2006. He's due a $7.2 million base salary this season and is already in line to be docked $70,000 for sitting out mandatory minicamp.

Though a holdout remains a very real possibility, it's important to remember Reed has remained mostly cryptic about his plans. Don't be surprised if he sits out the start of camp. Be very surprised if he's still missing in action by Week 1.

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Devin Hester could see less playing time

Chicago Bears WR Devin Hester will likely see a decrease in playing time this upcoming season; however, he could be more productive. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice will make sure he gets Hester in position to make plays whether it's in the backfield or at receiver.

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Adrian Thomas Hits Three Threes For Miami Heat in Summer League

A Monday night update on the Heat's Summer League victory, Marlins items and a local radio shakeup:

The Heat's 106-56 thumping of a dreadful Lakers team in Las Vegas was not only immensely impressive but also historic: It was the largest margin of victory ever in an NBA Summer League game. (Do you get a prize for that?)

Adrian Thomas, who played what seemed like 14 years at UM (actually, six), hit three three-pointers (in eight attempts) but is obviously a long shot to make the NBA. He spent last season playing for Bakersfield in the NDBL.

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Jon Jay hitting .255 since return

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay returned from the disabled list in late June and has made 14 starts since then. He has gone 13 for 51 (.255) with four RBI and three stolen bases in 16 games since returning from a separated right shoulder.

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