Frank Gore: 'I wanted to be with a great QB'

Frank Gore sent a shockwave through the Eagles complex last week when he left Philadelphia at the altar for the Indianapolis Colts.

The former 49ers running back acknowledged that he was minutes away from joining Chip Kelly's squad before making one last request of his agent.

"I told (him) to talk back with the Colts and see if they would match the deal or make it better," Gore told ESPN's Josina Anderson, per the team's official website. "And they did. That's where I wanted to be so that's why I made the decision."

On the latest podcast, we listed the Colts as one of the teams that strengthened their roster because of the additions on offense. Veteran wideout Andre Johnson finished last season with a flourish and still has plenty left in the tank. Gore gives the Colts a proven hammer on the ground and a runner who fits well into play-caller Pep Hamilton's scheme.

Gore would have been sensational in Kelly's run-happy attack, but, in the end, the Colts had something the Eagles couldn't offer:

"When I knew I wasn't going back to the 49ers, my first option was I wanted to be with a great quarterback," Gore said. "I feel that you have to have a great quarterback to have a chance. Luck is a young quarterback and he does everything. He can throw. He can run. He's physical. He's a leader."

The Colts threw plenty of coin at a pair of aging stars on offense, but we don't frown on that from a team that came within one game of Super Bowl XLIX. Gore hopes to help tip the scales in the AFC come September.

"I don't know how many years I've got left, two, three," Gore said. "But I want to have the opportunities to get back and chase that trophy I really want before I leave."


Bucky Brooks: RB Duke Johnson scoring rave reviews

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks notes that scouts have "raved about" Miami RB Duke Johnson's "footwork, quickness and creativity."

"The scouts also touted Miami RB Duke Johnson as a playmaker. They raved about his footwork, quickness and creativity. Impressed with IQ, too," Brooks tweeted. The 5-foot-9, 194-pound Johnson possesses a ton of explosiveness, which should translate well to the next level. However, the Miami prospect will have to continue to improve in pass-protection, in order to see valuable time on the field. NFL teams looking for a back with game-changing ability in the open field, will look to grab him on day 2 of the draft.

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What Numbers Will Frank Gore And Andre Johnson Wear In 2015?

Frank Gore will be wearing No. 23 in Indianapolis, the opposite number of another great Miami running back for the Colts (Edgerrin James). Johnson has gone with No. 81 as he begins a “new chapter” in his life. 

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Frank Gore says signing with Colts was his first choice all along

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Ray Lewis sues former business partner over development project that failed

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has filed a lawsuit against his former attorney and business partner, alleging that he was duped out of more than $1.5 million after lending his name to a development project in Hunt Valley that never materialized.

In the lawsuit, filed against Marc Seldin Rosen in Baltimore Circuit Court, Lewis alleges that he believed he was only lending his name and likeness to the MVP Lanes entertainment complex, a Hunt Valley bowling alley project.

Lewis alleges that Rosen persuaded him to sign a line of credit that the attorney used to obtain $1.5 million for the project, announced in 2009. Lewis said he has been on the hook for the loan and has never been paid back.

The lawsuit, filed late last week, alleges legal malpractice, breach of contract and fraud, among other counts. Lewis' current attorney, Steven Freeman of Towson, declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Rosen did not return a call seeking comment.Jeffrey M. Kotz, an attorney who represented MVP Lanes LLC during the project, said in a statement that the allegations are false and that Lewis was "integrally involved from the outset" and "knowingly made his financial commitments."
"The MVP project was a business venture that failed, but that does not justify Mr. Lewis rewriting history in a lawsuit," Kotz said.

Lewis and Rosen worked together for years, and Rosen was a member of the board of directors for Lewis' nonprofit foundation.

The sports-themed development project was to include a bowling alley, an arcade and restaurants, with visions of it becoming a national chain. At the time, Lewis was said to have a majority stake, with Rosen and Rosen's wife as minority partners.

"Instead of putting on a helmet, you put on a tie and a suit," Lewis said in 2009 about the project. "That's where my next phase in life is going — the building and giving back to who we are in this world."

In the lawsuit, Lewis says he only lent his "name and likeness to the project for the purpose of attracting potential investors and promoting the project."

"Lewis then inquired whether his proposed involvement with the project would carry with it any potential negative legal and/or financial ramifications, and was assured by Rosen that it would not and that Lewis' own money would never be touched," the lawsuit states.

Lewis alleges that in early 2010, with the project in need of financing, Rosen persuaded him "unwittingly" to take out a line of credit that Rosen used to obtain $1.5 million, according to the suit. Lewis says he again was assured that he wouldn't have to lend any money to the project or be responsible for any losses.

Another $200,000 was obtained in January 2011 and transferred to an account related to the project, Lewis says in the suit. Rosen made interest payments on the loan until 2013, at which point he stopped and Lewis was required to make them to avoid default.

MVP is now out of business, and the project has been abandoned.

The project's troubles were apparent by 2012, with subcontractors filing suit against MVP and MVP suing a New England financier for failing to deliver on funds.

The financier was ordered in 2011 to give MVP $90,000, the amount the company had deposited into a trust in hopes of securing a $65 million line of credit that never materialized.

Lewis retired in 2013 and has been working as a contributor to ESPN. Before the MVP project, he opened a barbecue restaurant in Canton that closed four years later.

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Check Out Shane Larkin's Killer Behind-the-Back Pass

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Ryan Braun Struggling Mightily

Ryan Braun has stumbled out of the gate so far this spring. He has failed to record a hit through 12 plate appearances and has struck out five times. He has also walked three times.

Fantasy Impact: While not recording a hit thus far this spring isn't necessarily a big deal for Braun, he is coming off a career-low .266 batting average in 2014. Braun's numbers were down all across the board last year and he may be showing signs of regression. He should still be drafted as an elite outfielder but don't be caught off guard by a continued slump.


Brewers reliever Chris Perez puts up a battle

Chris Perez is getting a bit closer to learning his fate.

The veteran reliever, invited to the Milwaukee Brewers' spring camp as a nonroster player, must be told by March 31 if he is being placed on the 40-man roster, assigned to Class AAA Colorado Springs or getting released.

With more relievers in camp than available spots, it doesn't seem to be a good year to make the staff as a nonroster player. But Perez, 29, has plugged away, pitching better with each of his five exhibition outings.

"This year has been a little different because I don't have a spot," Perez said Wednesday. "I'm still taking the same approach. Regardless, I have to get ready for the season. It doesn't matter where it's at. Each time out, I'm feeling a little better, a little sharper, a little crisper."

With a scoreless inning Monday in a 6-4 victory over San Diego, Perez lowered his spring earned run average to 3.38 (two earned runs in 51/3 innings). He has allowed four hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

The bullpen picture remains a bit murky until either Jim Henderson or Tyler Thornburg, or both, are deemed ready or not after returning from injuries. Relievers who appear to have spots locked up are Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Neal Cotts and Brandon Kintzler.

If those six indeed have spots, there would be just one opening. Beyond Henderson and Perez, Rob Wooten has big-league experience that puts him in the picture. If the Brewers keep Perez, he gets a $1.5 million base salary. If they assign him to Colorado Springs, he qualifies for a $100,000 retention bonus as a player with at least five years in the majors.

"It's up to them," Perez said. "They could offer me to other teams before sending me to Triple-A but that would just be a courtesy. They don't have to.

"I imagine they'll keep the normal seven (relievers). I can't worry about that. Other guys have options. So, they have moving parts....I have a track record so it's not like it's all about this spring.

"I've made some adjustments since last year with my mechanics, and I'm working on improving that. I'm healthy and ready to go."

Manager Ron Roenicke isn't sure how many openings there are until everything shakes out with Henderson and Thornburg.

"I think his stuff is good," Roenicke said of Perez. "It's a live fastball; it's got sink on it. The slider has been really inconsistent but we've seen some good ones. It's a matter of him just being more consistent with what he's doing.

"If he shows he can do that, he's going to get out big-league hitters. His stuff really plays. (Being a nonroster player) doesn't help but we're hoping we take our best guys."

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D-backs sure O'Brien can fix arm woes

When the D-backs acquired Peter O'Brien from the Yankees in a trade deadline deal last summer, they knew the catcher could hit. His defense presented some different quandaries, and another has reared up in recent days.

The organization and observers aren't ready to dub it a case of the dreaded "yips," but O'Brien has shown some struggles in getting the ball accurately back to the pitcher's mound and elsewhere around the diamond. According to a report Monday from, Arizona's No. 8 prospect didn't get the ball back to his pitcher accurately at least four times in a Minor League game last Thursday. The problem flared up again Sunday with over six more errant throws, including some to third base after bases-empty strikeouts.

The catcher was unfazed by the issue when asked this week, saying, "I played a lot of different positions last year and had a lot of different arm angles. Now being back behind the plate full time, it's making sure I keep my arm slot consistent back there and keep throwing it and keep the tempo of the game up. It happens. It's part of the game. I'm looking to keep working on it and keep getting better and keep firing the ball."

On Wednesday at the D-backs offices at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Arizona director of player development Mike Bell echoed that sentiment.

"He'll take care of it," Bell said. "It is a challenging game when you're bouncing around from position to position. There are different arm angles. He'll be fine with it and put the work into it that he needs to. He's done a good job."

O'Brien played first base, catcher and right field and served as a designated hitter in 106 combined games between the New York and Arizona systems last year. The 24-year-old was chasing the Minor League home run lead when he fouled a ball off his shin in just his fourth game as a member of the D-backs organization in August. He missed the rest of the year but appeared in 25 Arizona Fall League games, batting .256/.393/.512 for Salt River.

O'Brien started in Thursday night's Major League game for Arizona and went 0-for-3 with a walk.

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Ryan Braun to play consecutive games this weekend

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is expected to play in consecutive games this weekend for the first time since having surgery on his right thumb, reports
"I would prefer him going out there getting hits, but the swings are better lately," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Early, I didn't like the swings too much. The [batting practice] has been real good. I think that's going to carry over and we'll start seeing it in some games."

Roenicke is continuing to be patient with Braun as he brings him along this spring.

"Everything is good," Roenicke said. "You can tell the way I've been playing him. We're going pretty slow with him. He's always been a guy who hasn't needed a lot of at-bats in Spring Training, and I think with where we are with everything, there's no reason to force him into playing a ton.

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Ryan Jackson shining for Royals

It has been a good spring training for three players with local ties in the major league camp of the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals.

Former Owasso lefty Brian Flynn, acquired in the offseason from Miami, has been a starter in his pro career, but is showing his future may be in the bullpen.

Flynn has a 2.25 ERA in five spring appearances, including four in relief. He has allowed six hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out six.

Adams, an outfielder from Red Oak, spent the last month of the 2014 regular season with the Royals. On Wednesday, he was sent down to Triple-A Omaha, after batting .286 with a homer in 10 games this spring.

Jackson, an infielder with family ties to Tulsa, was once a hot prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals and appeared to have been viewed by them ahead of Owasso's Pete Kozma for a time back in 2011-12. Since then, Jackson has been bothered by injuries and bounced around from the Cards to the Astros to the Padres to the Dodgers and now to the Royals, where he may have finally found a home.

This spring, he is 8-for-18 (.444) with three RBIs in 10 games....

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Jon Jay on track to make spring debut Friday

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay (wrist) is on track to make his spring debut Friday against the Mets, per

Jay played in a simulated game Wednesday against minor leaguers. He took 13 at-bats, totaling two singles, one double, one stolen base and one run.

"Obviously, I've been through a lot this offseason with surgery and rehab," Jay said after Wednesday's simulated game. "It's good to finally get out there and take swings against live pitching. I just kind of did a little bit of everything, getting me ready for a game. I'm feeling good out there, moving along and I'm ready to get out there."

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Chris Perez will know his future by Wednesday

Brewers veteran reliever Chris Perez will know his fate by next Wednesday. The club will decide if he will be added to the club's 40-man roster, assigned to Triple-A, or released, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Perez signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league camp with the Brewers in early February. He is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA over 5 1/3 innings this spring.

"This year has been a little different because I don't have a spot," Perez said. "I'm still taking the same approach. Regardless, I have to get ready for the season. It doesn't matter where it's at.

"Each time out, I'm feeling a little better, a little sharper, a little crisper. Spring training is weird. (Tuesday) was probably the worst I've felt playing catch in the morning. I was a little stiff after the off day (Monday). But it was a hot day, which is good, and I threw the ball OK. I was ahead (in the count) more. The goal is to improve every time out."

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Vince Wilfork to get $5 million guaranteed from Texans

Vince Wilfork still has some gas in the tank, and he's heading down to Patriots South to finish his career.

The veteran nose tackle and career-long New Englander will play for the Houston Texans, the team announced on Monday. The Texans' staff has his former teammate Mike Vrabel on the coaching payroll alongside head coach Bill O'Brien, a former Patriots offensive coordinator, and Romeo Crennel, a former Pats defensive coordinator.

According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the deal is for two years and $9 million with $5 million guaranteed.

"This has been an interesting process for me and my family, one we have taken very seriously and given a lot of thought," Wilfork wrote in a message posted on his official Twitter page Monday. "We want to thank the Kraft family and the entire Patriot organization for the last 11 years however we will be starting a new chapter in our lives as Houston Texans."

He added: "The coaching staff in Houston has made this new exciting transition feel like home to us. We will forever be Patriots in our hearts, thank you everyone for everything."

Of all the puzzles free agency has presented us with this offseason, Wilfork joining the Texans seems like a logical, clean fit. The team is in desperate need of a 3-4 nose tackle but, more importantly, they could stand to expand the group of influential veterans around 2014 No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney.

Wilfork, 33, will be perfect in such a role.

"He is the best defensive linemen I ever coached, an all-time great Patriot whose place on our team will be missed but whose remarkable career as a Patriot will be remembered forever," Bill Belichick said in a statement released through the team.

Houston now boasts one of the more fearsome defensive lines in football. Wilfork's run-stopping ability alongside party-crashers like Clowney and J.J. Watt will go a long way toward supplementing the team's offense.

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Reggie Wayne Generating Little Interest Around NFL So Far

The Indianapolis Colts made quite a splash in free agency by landing highly sought after veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson just two days after he was released. Two former Colts veteran receivers aren't receiving the same treatment from other teams, however.

According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Hakeem Nicks has been one of a number of receivers who has generated "little to no interest" so far during the free agency period, while the market for Reggie Wayne has similarly been "MIA throughout the first seven days of free agency."

It doesn't really come as much of a surprise that there is currently little interest for either player, though as the offseason moves on it's more likely that one or both of the players could receive some attention from teams.  They were never going to be near the first wave of free agency, though, and so as we're just one week into the free agency period it's no surprise to see neither generating much interest.

Wayne, a borderline Hall of Famer who is one of the greatest Colts of all-time, had a down year in 2014 as he played much of the season with a torn triceps, catching 64 passes for 779 yards and two scores on the year.  The team announced that they would not be re-signing the fan favorite, though he might listen to offers from contenders.

Nicks signed with the Colts last offseason on a "prove it," and, well, he didn't really prove it.  For much of the season he was completely ineffective and had no timing with Andrew Luck, though he noticeably improved as the season went on.  Playing in all 16 games and starting six, Nicks caught 38 passes for 405 yards and four scores.

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Jimmy Graham offers tickets to girl devastated over trade

When Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks at the start of free agency, just about everyone was stunned. It ignited what would be the craziest free agency frenzy in NFL history. One young Saints fan was more upset than most when she found out that her favorite player had been traded.

Seeing your favorite player leave is tough for many fans, especially younger ones.

Last week a video went viral of young 7-year-old Saints fan Lexia Woods who tearfully discussed the departure of the tight end.

“Wherever Jimmy Graham goes is where I go, no matter what team,” Woods tearfully states in the video, “He’s going to the Seahawks. It’s just not smart of them to let Jimmy Graham over there.”

She isn’t wrong. Trading Graham to the Seahawks gives the NFC Champions a legit scoring threat and another dangerous weapon to a team that is already dangerous enough.

Graham, hearing of the video, reached out to Woods and her family.

According to Andy Paras of The Post and Courier, Graham has invited the family to the first Seahawks game and Woods is doing a lot better now.

But don’t cry for Lexia, she’s doing much better now, her mom says, after receiving a flood of supportive messages from both Saints and Seahawks fans — and Graham himself, who sent them a message inviting Lexia to Seattle for the Seahawks’ opening game.

“She felt a lot better when Jimmy reached out to her,” Ashley-Ann Woods said. “He said watching the video made him smile. She said, ‘Mom, I made Jimmy smile.’ To her that was the most important thing.”

So while Graham leaving made Woods and many New Orleans Saints fans sad, he didn’t want to lose the young fan’s support.

While Graham will be scoring touchdown in blue and green and not black and gold, he still has a young fan’s support for life.

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Andre Johnson: I’m not in Indy to be the big dog

Unless Andre Johnson was injured, he was the leading threat on the Texans Offense pretty much from the moment when the team drafted him and his 1,012 catches over the last 12 seasons show how well suited he was for that role.

Even with the Texans DeAndre Hopkins taking a leap in his second season and the Texans struggling at quarterback last year, Johnson caught 85 passes and drew 146 targets overall. The Texans wanted to slash Johnson’s role for 2015, however, and that led Johnson to ask for and receive his release from the team.
Johnson landed with the Colts, where he will play with wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Johnson said it isn’t important that he be the leading light in the offense.

“Just a big receiver, a big body receiver, that you could probably use in the red zone and stuff like that and help T.Y. out where guys can’t double him,” Johnson said, via the team’s website. “I’m just here to help. I’m not here to be no big dog, nothing like that. I’m here to help this organization win a Super Bowl. That’s my goal.”

Johnson’s role will be more than just red zone work, obviously, but he won’t be asked to do nearly as much as he did in Houston. That’s the right direction for things to be moving at this point in his career, especially since his big frame and football expertise make a perfect complement with what the Colts already get from their other young wideouts.

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Seantrel Henderson leads all players in performance-based pay

The NFL’s performance-based pay system is designed to reward lower-paid players who get a lot of playing time. In the case of Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson, the rewards were significant.

Henderson, the Bills’ seventh-round draft pick last year, started all 16 games as a rookie and was on the field for a total of 1,132 plays. That meant Henderson, whose total compensation last year was $470,880 (based on a rookie minimum salary of $420,000 and a signing bonus of $50,880), got a big performance-based pay bonus of $373,671.

In all NFL players received more than $116 million in performance-based pay, and Henderson’s payout was the biggest of them all. Henderson’s rookie season shows how a guy who falls in the draft can make a lot of extra money if he performs well in his first year.

The other top earners in performance-based pay were Packers center Corey Linsley ($339,566), Bengals center Russell Bodine ($318,612), Titans linebacker Avery Williamson ($315,120) and Rams defensive back E.J. Gaines ($308,338).

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Clinton Portis: Denzel Perryman can fill Patrick Willis' void on 49ers

Denzel Perryman's shoe size probably isn't much more impressive than his height (5-foot-11), but the way two-time Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis sees it, Perryman could be filling some awfully big shoes as an NFL rookie.

Those of Patrick Willis.

"If you put him in the right scheme he will be excellent," Portis told "I can see the 49ers taking a long look at him with Patrick Willis retiring. Picking up a linebacker who comes with his attitude would really help them."

Willis retired last week at age 30 after a prolific but abbreviated eight-year career. Perryman was the soul of the Hurricanes' defense last year and is their top defensive draft prospect amid a cast of offensive prospects that includes running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, tackle Ereck Flowers and tight end Clive Walford.

But while Perryman might be a good fit for the 49ers, the draft order suggests he might not fit any of the club's draft choices. Perryman is regarded as a late-first or early second-round prospect. Two of five NFL Media analysts project him as a late first-round pick, and Portis sees him as a late-first or early second-rounder as well. The trouble is, San Francisco picks at No. 15 in the first round -- perhaps too rich of a pick for Perryman's draft value -- and by the time the club selects again in the middle of the second round, Perryman could easily be wearing another club's hat.

A trade up or down might be required to facilitate a Perryman-49ers marriage. Regardless, Portis likes Perryman above all the other Miami prospects on the offensive side of the ball. He likened Perryman to former NFL linebackers London Fletcher, Al Wilson and Nate Webster.

"I definitely think he will go at the end of the first or early in the second round," Portis said. "Watching the film of all of the players from Miami, the person who stood out the most was Denzel, because of how he attacked the ball. He sometimes even played off double teams -- a linebacker should never face double teams."
Other thoughts from Portis on Miami's top prospects:

» On Johnson: "I think Duke probably is most talented running back to ever come out of the University of Miami."
That's high praise, given the long list of UM backs to have big NFL careers, including Edgerrin James and Portis himself.

» On Dorsett: "When you look at that Florida State game, Phillip Dorsett still hasn't been covered. They should have never stopped getting him the ball."
Dorsett had four catches for 90 yards and a touchdown in a 30-26 loss to the Seminoles last season. Of note in that game is that FSU's two cornerbacks, P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, will both get draft-day calls, as well.

» On Walford: "If you look at his ability to get open and catch the ball, he follows well in the UM tradition of Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow and Jimmy Graham. Walford is going to be in that category."

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Antrel Rolle says sign from God led him to Chicago Bears

A sign from God is the reason Antrel Rolle is a member of the Chicago Bears now.

The ex-Giants safety signed a three-year deal with the Bears late Wednesday night. Shortly before inking his contract, he delivered an Instagram post discussing his sign from God.

“I asked God for a sign and this is what I woke up to at 4:33am Monday morning!! What does this mean???? I DONT KNOW . . . let’s see!! #staytuned,” he said on Instagram.

Along with the post was a photo of an Orbitz ad that highlighted flights to Chicago.

He expanded on his social media post during an appearance on WFAN.

"I just asked God. It was Sunday night before I was going to sleep (and) I just asked him, 'God, I pray that you just give me a level head. I pray that you just give me a sign to lead me in the right direction, and I'll follow your lead.'

"It was Monday morning at 4:33 a.m. I never wake up in the middle of the night, and it was 4:33 Monday morning, and I got an email to my phone. And the email said, 'Orbitz alert: flights to Chicago, discount fair.' And I'm like, 'wow,' you know what I mean?"

Rolle, 32, played five seasons with the Giants, but the franchise had little interest in bringing him back this offseason. Rolle visited the Chicago Bears at the start of free agency Tuesday and signed his contract a day later.

He was one of the Giants’ most vocal leaders during his time in East Rutherford.

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Chiefs re-sign Richard Gordon

The Chiefs signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin this week, reuniting him with coach Andy Reid and others who were in the Eagles organization earlier in Maclin’s career.

On Friday, they re-signed a player that Maclin also knows from his days in Philly. The Chiefs announced that they have re-signed wide receiver Jason Avant, who joined them in November after an uneventful stint with the Panthers.

Avant caught 13 passes for 152 yards in five games with the team and his return extends a working relationship with Reid that dates back to when the Eagles picked Avant in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. Avant was never the most dynamic receiver, but he’s been a reliable possession receiver throughout his career and could remain one for a receiving corps that’s still thin beyond Maclin.

The team also announced that they’ve re-signed tight end Richard Gordon and safety Kelcie McCray. McCray had 11 tackles while playing mostly on special teams in all 16 games last year while Gordon had one catch in four games with the Chiefs in the last two seasons.

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Jimmy Graham eager for chemistry class with Russell Wilson to begin

For Russell Wilson, the comparisons to Drew Brees started before he ever entered the NFL because the opposite-ends-of-their-careers quarterbacks share a lack of prototypical height but also an uncanny ability to sense and elude pressure.

And Jimmy Graham has more than just a passing interest in this QB comparison because he has played with one – the 6-foot Brees, for the past five seasons with the New Orleans Saints; and is about to play with the other – the 5-11 Wilson, who was the first of Graham’s new teammates to call him Tuesday after the Seahawks acquired the three-time Pro Bowl tight end in a trade.

“They do have similar games, except Russell really will run with the ball,” Graham said Thursday during a conference-call interview. “Drew will really, really stay and sit in the pocket, no matter what. He rarely runs.”

Graham is well aware that he won’t be playing in New Orleans anymore, and that his role with the Seahawks will be altered because of it. During Graham’s five seasons with the Saints, Brees averaged 659 pass attempts. He threw more passes than QB in the league last season (659); ranked No. 2 in 2012 (670), 2011 (657) and 2010 (658); and was No. 3 in 2013 (650).

“In New Orleans, we’ve really been slinging the rock,” Graham said.

In Seattle? Wilson has thrown 393, 407 and 452 passes in his first three seasons since the Seahawks selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

“I’ve been watching some film, and it seems like a lot of teams play a lot of Cover 0 versus them,” Graham said of the alignment where the defense is in man-to-man coverage because a safety or two are being used in run support.

“That’s because of Marshawn Lynch, and because that read-option is so good. Marshawn, I mean you have to put guys in the box; you have to bring safeties down. So when you’re playing Cover 0, there are a lot of opportunities down the field, there are a lot of opportunities in that middle section where you’ll have guys in these one-on-one matchups. And I think eventually teams won’t be able to do that. You’re not going to be able to go Cover 0 just to stop the run. I think I can help open that up.”

Back to the running element of Wilson’s game that Graham mentioned. Wilson rushed for 849 yards last season, the fifth-highest total by a QB in league history. Brees has run for 690 yards in his 14-season career.

“I was watching a lot of film where Russell ends up kind of breaking out of the pocket. And really that’s when he’s scary,” Graham said. “That’s when coverages are broken down. And you’ve got to respect him as a runner because he’s so good at it.

“And he’s able to get these shots down the field and these huge game-changing plays. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that for the first time, because Drew really is a pocket passer. Wilson, he can be a pocket passer. But he’s so dynamic in what he can do and he’s so dangerous outside the pocket that it’s really going to be fun.”

And that fun will begin with Graham developing the same kind of chemistry with Wilson that he had with Brees. After a rookie season where Graham had 31 receptions, he more than tripled that in 2011 – when he put up career-best totals in receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,310).

“The way Drew and me really sped that up, especially early in my career, was having a full practice or an OTA and then after practice we would get even more reps in,” Graham said.

Sounds like Wilson’s kind of guy. He is, after all, the first player in and the last to leave during the season and “There’s no time to sleep” is one of his favorite catchphrases.

“As long as he wants to throw to me, I’ll keep catching,” Graham said. “I know we’re probably going to spend a lot of time after practice just working routes. What he likes. What he doesn’t like. And what he prefers, because Russell is a fantastic quarterback.

“I’ve been able to watch some film on him and clearly I’ve played against him quite a bit these last couple years. So I’m excited about working with him and about getting this chemistry together.”

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Will Frank Gore's number be retired?

Whether you like it or not, Frank Gore is gone and he’s not coming back.

Instead of the red and gold the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher wore for the first decade of his storied career, he will be donning blue and white probably for the rest of his career.

And he also will most likely be wearing a different number, too.

Currently, Vontae Davis (who happens the be the younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis) wears the number 21 for the Colts — that’s been Gore’s number since he entered the pro ranks. According to reports, Davis rebuffed Gore’s attempt to get his number form him.

But, if Gore can’t have number 21, maybe no one should — at least, on the 49ers.

Gore is one of just two active running backs (free-agent Steven Jackson is the other) currently in the NFL’s top 20 list of all-time rushers. Gore sits at 20th currently, but a 1,000 yard season  — which is very doable for the durable Gore — would put him at number 16.

Let’s say he balls out this season and carries the rock for 1,200 yards, then he’ll be in 10th place all time. Either way, the man will be in the top 10 at the end of his career.

So, the questions is, should the 49ers retire Gore’s number 21? Steve Young’s jersey number 8 was de facto retired, though not officially, and he won Super Bowl rings.

Only time will tell, but certainly, Gore stands a chance.

These are the numbers that are either officially retired or de facto retired:
8 — QB Steve Young
12 — QB John Brodie
16 — QB Joe Montana
34 — RB Joe Perry
37 — DB Jimmy Johnson
39 — RB Hugh McElhenney
42 — S Ronnie Lott
70 — DT Charlie Krueger
73 — T Leo Nomellini
79 — T Bob St. Clair
80 — WR Jerry Rice
87 — WR Dwight Clark

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Antrel Rolle cried over Giants exit, says he ‘cannot be replaced’

Antrel Rolle admitted the thought of leaving a group that now must be described as his former teammates “made a 32-year old man cry’’ and acknowledged “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life is leave the New York Giants.’’

For five years, Rolle called the Giants workplace his home, but he signed this week to play for the Bears.

“It doesn’t matter what uniform I’ll be wearing on Sunday, I have New York tattooed on my chest and that ain’t going anywhere,’’ Rolle said Friday on WFAN, the radio station that benefited from his candor and emotion in weekly Tuesday spots during the past seasons.

Rolle did not want to leave the Giants, but once free agency hit and he had not heard from the team, he knew he was headed elsewhere. Sure, that hurt, but Rolle signed a three-year, $11.25 million contract with the Bears and has not uttered a bad word about his former team.

“I wish everyone the best and I wish the New York Giants the best of the best,’’ Rolle said, “and I have all the confidence in the world in those guys there. I know they’ll be on top in no time.’’

Rather than air any bitterness, Rolle sounded nostalgic and appreciative of his stay with the Giants, generous with praise for several individuals in the building.
He saluted David Merritt, the coach in charge of safeties, former defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and former cornerback coach Pete Giunta. He lauded special assistant (and former Giants linebacker) Jessie Armstead – “Times when I felt like when I was just gonna go off at certain times, he was always a guy who talked to me, bring me down and just keep me calm’’ – and radio analyst (and former Giants linebacker) Carl Banks: “He’s been my mentor, he’s been that angel on my shoulder and he’s taught me to do things the right way, the Giants way.’’

Rolle even praised general manager Jerry Reese, who ultimately decided Rolle would not get a competitive offer to stay.

“Jerry Reese is a sharp guy,’’ Rolle said. “He’s involved in everything, from film watching to everything else. Jerry Reese knows how valuable I was to the defense. Everyone has a job to do. I’ve had several conversations with Jerry Reese, and maybe they wanted to go younger, I don’t know what there angle is.’’

Rolle choked up again when he brought up Tom Coughlin.

“More importantly, more than any one man, is coach Coughlin, that old man like that, he’s a one-of-a kind individual,’’ Rolle said. “It took a lot to get to the point where we are right now, man, and it’s like I told him yesterday, ‘Coach, when you get inducted into the Hall of Fame you better give me a call because I want to the right there up front and center.’’’

Rolle said he decided between the Bears and the Redskins and that he did not receive an offer from the Giants until he was about to sign in Chicago. There also was interest from the Jets, he said, but said it “would have been weird being in a Jets uniform.’’

A signal that he was headed to the Bears, Rolle said, came after he prayed for some guidance and was awakened in the middle of the night by an email alert from the travel website Orbitz offering discount fares to Chicago.

Rolle mentioned his age (32) several times as a reason some teams might not have shown interest, a reason he disdains. He called himself “a guy who has crazy, crazy amount of pride in himself and belief in himself, and even at the age of 32, I know there’s a million things I can do that 24-, 23-year-old guys can’t get done.’’
How do the Giants replace him?

“Antrel Rolle cannot be replaced in that defense,’’ he said. “But you can get someone to go in there and play ball and make plays and be a helluva player, 200 percent I don’t doubt that. But an Antrel Rolle will never be replaced in that secondary.’’

Though he won a Super Bowl with the Giants, Rolle said the most memorable highlight in his five years was the way the team held together in 2013 after the 0-6 start, rallying to finish that season 7-9.

“I mean, I think that was a true testament of brotherhood, a true testament about what it is to be a Giant, win, lose, or draw,’’ Rolle said. “We stood up, we stood together, we took some heavy, heavy punches and we stood up fighting and we finished it off strong. Those guys were phenomenal in that locker room, from Eli [Manning] all the way down, those guys are the real deal, man.’’

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Orlando Franklin adds toughness, grit to Chargers' offensive line

SAN DIEGO -- You don’t have to tell Orlando Franklin to bring the pain on game days.

“If you’re not a nasty player and a physical player, and you don’t bring an attitude to this league, why are you really here?” Franklin told reporters during his introductory news conference last week.

Franklin said he was born with a nasty disposition, and it’s one of the reasons the San Diego Chargers signed him to a five-year, $36.5 million deal in free agency.
Facing someone who will compete with a chip on his shoulder comes with the territory when a defensive lineman lines up across from the mammoth Franklin. And although Chargers general manager Tom Telesco wanted to improve the team’s toughness up front, he was more attracted to Franklin’s overall skillset as an offensive lineman.

The Chargers were one of the worst teams running the football last season, averaging 3.43 yards per carry, second worst in the NFL. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 36 times, No. 10 in the NFL. The Chargers threw the football 57 percent of the time in 2014, compared to 51 percent in 2013, when San Diego had more balance on offense.

The addition of Franklin should improve San Diego’s ability to effectively run the football, along with keeping Rivers upright.

“He’s an excellent run blocker,” Telesco said. “And a lot of stuff that Denver does, where he has to use his feet and quickness to get an angle -- get a position and seal somebody and finish them off -- he does an excellent job at that.

“And in pass pro, he uses his long arms, he uses his feet and he can move. He’s a hard guy to run through because he’s so big and strong. So he’s a well-rounded offensive lineman.”

Franklin said the transition from Denver to San Diego in terms of scheme should be a smooth one because a lot of the offensive concepts are the same from the time coach Mike McCoy spent in Denver as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

A smooth transition should allow Franklin to play fast and physical once he begins working in San Diego’s offensive system.

“If all else fails, I’ve always prided myself on being a physical player in this league,” Franklin said. “I’m going to get the job done, no ands, ifs or buts about it. I take pride in what I do. I’m a person where it’s not enough for us to get a big gain, or score a touchdown. I want to be the first offensive lineman in the end zone congratulating the receiver or the running back each and every time.

“So I want to be down the field. I think I bring a lot of intensity, and a lot of effort. I play with a high motor, and I’m going to give you 110 percent each and every play.”

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Texans take Wilfork despite their Ed Reed misadventure

On one hand, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork presents the Texans with a completely different set of circumstances than did safety Ed Reed.  On the other hand, the similarities are sufficient to make Texans fans worry a little.  Or a lot.

Two years ago, the Texans pounced on free-agent safety Ed Reed, who left the Ravens after winning a Super Bowl in his 11th NFL season.  A pre-existing hip problem that the Texans apparently didn’t notice when giving him a physical resulted in surgery before he ever suited up once for Houston.  Reed was released during the season after getting $5 million guaranteed.

On Monday, the Texans signed free-agent defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who left the Patriots after winning a Super Bowl in his 11th NFL season.  Surely, the Texans poked and prodded the big guy in order to be sure that he won’t suddenly need to have one of his body parts surgically repaired now that he, like Reed, has gotten $5 million guaranteed.

Sandwiched between the two veterans was a No. 1 overall pick who apparently had a pre-existing need for hernia surgery that may or may not have been noticed by team doctors.

Bottom line?  If the team doctors missed any problems with Wilfork, the Texans eventually may be getting new team doctors.

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Classy: Reggie Wayne pens touching letter to Colts fans

Reggie Wayne is class personified.

The veteran wide receiver spent 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, racking up six Pro Bowl appearances along with three selections as a first-team All-Pro. The team decided not to offer him a new contract this year, making him a free agent.

On Friday, Wayne sent a letter to all the Colts fans via the IndyStar. Here it is in full:

With the 30th pick in the 2001 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts decided to take a chance on me. They allowed me to wear the horseshoe and represent the organization. With that pick they made my childhood dream come true. I bled blue and white for 14 years, and I was truly grateful for the opportunity to play a kids game week in and week out. Everyone who plays this game has to make a huge "sacrifice" to become the best football player they could possibly be. I laid it on the line every day and stayed committed to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship.

During this same time, Jim Irsay and the Irsay family embraced me as one of their own. Jim's door was always open to me no matter the situation or the circumstance. For that I will always be thankful. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to call myself a Colt.

To Coach Mora, Coach Dungy, Coach Caldwell and the man I have known since my college days, Coach Pagano - you and your staffs always put in time to help me perfect my craft. You allowed me to evolve as a player on the field. You accepted me for who I am and trusted me to be a vital part of the team.

To every teammate that has laced up with me throughout my Colts career - thank you for playing with heart, passion and dedication. We were successful because of our selflessness as we worked towards a common goal. We always treated each other with TRUST, LOYALTY and RESPECT.

To the state of Indiana, Colts Nation and especially the 317 - thank you for making this my home away from home. As a Louisiana kid, I came from a community that really embraces its own, and Indianapolis did that with me from day one. That made my transition here all those years ago so easy, and now there are so many of you that I call my friends. I am going to miss the REG-GIE chants before every home game, where each time I felt like I got a personal "good luck" wish from each of you. My goal every game was to give everyone in the stadium and at home watching on TV all I could because all of you deserved nothing less. I can't thank you enough for all the love and support all of you have given me.

Thanks for everything Colts Nation!

Reggie Wayne, #87

Good luck, Reggie!

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Andre Johnson takes out 'thank you' ad in Houston newspaper

Andre Johnson spent 12 years as a member of the Houston Texans organization. That run ended this week when he became a member of the AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts. Johnson was released Monday, and then signed with Indianapolis on Wednesday.

It didn’t take him long to find a new team, which surprises nobody. It also didn’t take him long to do the right thing in thanking the Texans organization and the entire Houston community. He took out a full page ad in the Houston Chronicle in Sunday’s to be published edition on Sunday morning.

It reads, “I want to thank the Texans organization, Mr. McNair, my teammates and the City of Houston for your support during these past 12 years.”

He continues, “And especially to the fans–Thank you for allowing me to live out my childhood dream. It was an honor and a privilege to play in front of you every Sunday. No matter where I go Houston will always be home.”

Where Johnson is going in the immediate future is the city of Indianapolis, where he’ll team with the best quarterback under 25 in Andrew Luck, who has already taken his team to the playoffs three times in three seasons, and just last year played in his first AFC Championship Game.

The Colts let go of their own classy, veteran wide receiver from “The U” last week in Reggie Wayne. Wayne will forever be known as a Colt. Johnson will likely be remembered a Texan, but now the two share more DNA as great NFL receivers who played for the Colts.

Wayne similarly thanked his Colts family–teammates, organization and city–in the Indy Star on Friday. In many ways, Wayne’s “thank you” sounds quite similar to Johnson’s, but Wayne goes into greater detail.

The Colts hope they are getting the pre-Bill O’Brien Johnson, as he has struggled to stay healthy and play at his top level the past few years. The Texans, meanwhile, were simply willing to try new things at the position, though, arguably, Johnson’s struggles could also be blamed on not having a legitimate quarterback for much of that time.

The two teams play twice each season.

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Jimmy Graham glad to be part of 'best team in football'

Like most of the football world, Jimmy Graham was shocked he was traded from the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, just a year after inking the richest contract ever for a tight end.

Speaking with reporters on a conference call Thursday the new Seahawk said when Saints coach Sean Payton called him to relay news of the trade he thought he'd end up on one of the teams with a lot of cap space -- Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars.

"But when he told me Seattle, it definitely put a grin on my face," Graham said, per the Seattle Times.

The 28-year-old has had some notable run-ins with the Seahawks -- both pre and in game -- in the past but is glad he's joining the back-to-back NFC champions.
"I've had some battles clearly against their defense the last couple of years," Graham said. "We've struggled against them as a team as a whole. It's probably the one game as a player you always look forward to because they're always so good, and it's usually a prime-time game.

"So for me it was a moment of shock, but once that shock cleared, I realized that I was going to the best team in football."

The best football team in the NFC just got better thanks to the Saints.

The Seahawks needed a game-changing red-zone threat and plucked one of the best in the NFL. Graham knows exactly what he'll bring to Russell Wilson's offense.

"You won't be able to go Cover Zero to stop the run, and I think I can help open (the running game) up," he said. "And then in the red zone, that's something I've always been good at. I'm 6-7, 260 pounds, and most of those are like a rebound for me."

Everyone in the NFC hates the Saints right now.

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Antrel Rolle claims tax lawyer defrauded him of $1.8 million

God (and Orbitz) may have pointed Antrel Rolle towards signing with the Chicago Bears, but He probably should have given Rolle better advice on hiring a tax attorney.

The former Giants safety, who signed a three-year $11.25 million contract with the Bears last week, filed a federal civil complaint against attorney Hiram Martin, of Martin Law & Associates, and Harold Sterling of San Fernando Valley for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, misrepresentation, conspiracy and other counts. Rolle is seeking $1,857,303 in damages.

Here are the details of the lawsuit, via the Courthouse News Service:

With his mother Armelia's help, Rolle says he hired Martin to file his taxes after the attorney said he could save Rolle millions of dollars. According to Rolle, Martin and Sterling conspired to steal more than $1.2 million of his withholdings in the 2005 and 2006 tax years by forging his signature on tax documents. In addition, Martin filed Arizona state tax returns under the NFL player's name for the tax years 2005 to 2009, pocketing more than $600,000, Rolle says.

Rolle also accuses Sterling of making "bogus charitable contributions" to a chapel Sterling was president of, giving letters to Martin stating that Rolle had made contributions of $632,000 in 2005, and $1,901,000 in 2006. The contributions were then utilized by Martin and Sterling to create large refunds which were then deposited into accounts owned by Martin without Rolle's knowledge.

Rolle also went through some tax problems with the IRS, perhaps as a result of Martin's negligence.

In January 2010, Forbes reported that the Internal Revenue Service had sent Rolle a $2.2 million demand for back taxes for underreporting his tax income by 50 percent for the years 2005 and 2006. Martin said he was "outraged" and that it was "totally inappropriate" for the business magazine to have looked at tax court filings, even though they are in the public record, Forbes reported at the time. Rolle says he fired Martin in 2012, after the IRS sent him a notice of lien. The accountant he hired to replace Martin uncovered the fraud with the help of the National Football League's Investigative Services, after taking a closer look at his tax records, Rolle says.

Here's hoping Rolle gets this straightened out and receives every last cent he's owed if the courts rule that his former lawyers acted maliciously. NFL players have enough to be concerned about financially without fully guaranteed contracts, to also worry about being potentially ripped off by their lawyers.

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James Jones finding increased role and effectiveness

As soon as the Cleveland Cavaliers got a commitment from LeBron James this summer, their first free agency moves were to sign three veteran wings to provide depth at the Cavs' weakest spot. Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and James Jones were brought in on relatively cheap contracts in order to fill in the bench depth behind LeBron James and Dion Waiters on the wing, and to provide specific skills for short spurts: Miller and Jones were to provide shooting, and Marion was here to provide wing defense.

So far, there's been some disappointment regarding the play of these three. Marion has been a pretty solid defensive player throughout the season, but offensively he's been very iffy, particularly his shooting, and he's dealt with a fair share of injuries this season, ultimately missing the last 13 games before the Cavs' game against the Heat on Monday with a hip issue. Miller has fallen off a cliff on both ends, shooting just 32 percent from both the field and three this season, and with the additions of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, he's completely fallen out of the rotation; Miller last played more than 13 minutes in a game on January 11th, and his removal from the rotation has coincided with the Cavs' big second-half turnaround. Jones, meanwhile, hasn't done anything but shoot this season, though you could hardly call him a disappointment, as no one really expected much of him coming in.

As we hit the stretch run, though, it's Jones, not Marion or Miller, that's still playing regular rotation minutes. Over the last 15 games, Jones has averaged 17 minutes per game, far more than the 5.5 Miller has received in half the amount of games played. While Marion has sat out with his hip issues, Jones has stepped in as a regular part of the rotation, and he's outperformed the way he did earlier in the season when he was seeing around 10-11 minutes per game. He's averaged 4.4 points per game this season on 37.7 percent shooting, but over the last 15 games, that's increased to 6.7 points per game on a much more lethal 42 percent shooting. His three-point percentage has increased to 43.3 percent, tops on the team over that stretch, and even his astronomical three-point rate, buzzing along at 89.9 percent of his total attempts this season, has increased to 91.8 percent over the last 15.

Jones has been much more effective as the Cavs have found a more concrete role for him to play as a pseudo-stretch four in the second and fourth quarters. Over this recent stretch of games, Jones has been playing a majority of his minutes in lineups with Tristan Thompson at the five and one or both of Kyrie Irving and LeBron on the floor. The results of this have been mostly good. Here's the list of the top five Jones lineups of the last 15 games, minus the garbage time squad of Jones, Joe Harris, Matthew Dellavedova, Mike Miller, and Kendrick Perkins.

As you can see, even though it's woefully small sample size, the offensive capabilities of these groups are quite remarkable. Jones is able to stretch the floor in ways that guys like Miller, Marion, and even Shumpert cannot, and using Jones as a four when Love sits has been a great idea, even if the defense can bleed points at times. It's a useful tactic for short stretches, especially when LeBron and Jones share the floor, where the Cavs have a +10.0 net rating over 11 games in this span. Coincidentally, most of these lineups have been used exclusively over this 15-game sample:


Net Rtg

Back before the season, I was perhaps the only person who was high on James Jones's potential on this team. And even though he struggled early, and I backpedaled on this positivity quicker than Kevin Garnett during an on-court scrap, he's found a pretty effective role lately as a stretch four that can spread the floor and add a small-ball dimension to the Cavs' offense. We will have to see if this role stays constant now that Marion is back, but in certain playoff matchups (Such as potential showdowns with Washington or Chicago, neither of whom have the frontcourt flexibility to adequately handle a Jones/James/ Thompson frontcourt), Jones could see significant minutes as a key contributor. My dream of James Jones burying a team in a playoff game with an avalanche of threes is still alive, but even if he doesn't do that, Jones is showing he has value in the rotation as the Cavs gear up for a playoff run.

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Jon Jay nearly ready for game action, says April 5th is the goal

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Baseball STL) -- Anyone who's watched the Cardinals for the last week and a half knows full well there's one everyday player who is yet to appear. That would be the center fielder, Jon Jay. The 30-year old had offseason wrist surgery to correct an injury that plagued him for a decent part of the 2014 season.

You wouldn't know it by his .483 postseason batting average but it was there nonetheless.

The Cardinals and Jay have been very slow to push the center fielder back into game duty so far this spring. He's worked a lot in the cage, he's taken at-bats in live pitching practice against the starters. He's done almost everything there is to do.

Except play in a Grapefruit League game, that is.

"The goal is to be ready April 5th so we're on a schedule and we're just trying to be smart about it," Jay said. "We'll see what happens. You never know when you get your timing back but it's hopefully sooner than later."

A big influence on Jay thus far has been newly acquired right fielder Jason Heyward. The two have spent a lot of time together and appear to be creating a bond. After all, Jay did lose his almost all of his good friends to trades and releases the last couple years. David Freese is an Angel, Daniel Descalso is a Rockie and Allen Craig is a Red Sox.  

So having Heyward around help from a personal as well as professional standpoint.

"We all know (Jason's) reputation. He's a great baseball player and a great dude so it's been great to have him here," Jay said. "We've welcomed him with open arms and it's like he's always been here. It's amazing to see how poised he is for his age (25). He was a young big leaguer. He came into this thing at 20 years old so the way he handles himself is impressive for a younger guy. 

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Pablo Sandoval fires back: 'Who is Aubrey Huff?'

Pablo Sandoval keeps firing shots at the Giants.

"The truth hurts," the beloved/once-beloved Panda said.

The latest round came in the wake of Aubrey Huff's Facebook post, in which Huff paints a picture of Sandoval that wasn't necessarily portrayed during his years in San Francisco to fans or media.

Sandoval's response to the former Giants first baseman?

"Who is Aubrey Huff?" he told ESPN Boston. "What is important here is to see where the person who made those comments is, and where I am now, that's what counts."

Huff was the Giants home run leader in 2010, when they won their first championship in San Francisco. Sandoval spent most of the 2010 playoffs on the bench because he was neither in shape nor productive.

Here is what Huff posted:

"I'm pretty sure their (sic) wasn't a tear shed on behalf of all the players, and the coaches when he signed with Boston. It has always been about Pablo. He had the fans fooled but not the players! One of the biggest reasons he didn't want to come back is because the Giants made him workout on the treadmill every day! Pretty subre that was a driving force for him! Never the less [sic] he could have always been a legend in San Fran but ego always will come in to play when it comes to Pablo! Sorry for the rant just want to take up for the players who are there now holding their tongues, because they don't want to get in the middle of this! If you can't get along with guys like (Buster) Posey, (Madison) Bumgarner, (Matt) Cain, (Jeremy) Affeldt (sic), just to name a few, then maybe it's time to look in the mirror! Rant over!"

Said Sandoval: "Those were completely incoherent comments."

Sandoval, who left the Giants for a five-year, $95 million contract in Boston, first sounded off in a Bleacher Report story, saying he wasn't treated right by the Giants during contract negotiations and the only Giants he'll miss are Bruce Bochy and Hunter Pence.

"I'm not selfish. I am where I am because I have worked very hard and have always done my job," Sandoval said. "Anyone can say whatever they want. I will not lose sleep or stop working my hardest because of that."

He added, "I said what I had to say, and I'm not going to take it back. I stand by it. I was clear, and you know what they say, the truth hurts."

Sandoval was asked about his image among Giants fans.

"Yes, maybe some people will change their perception," he said. "But I felt I really had something to say, and I wanted to get it out. It's nothing against the fans or against the players; fans always supported me in good and bad times."

He added, "But it's nothing personal. It's time to move on and turn the page, and now I am focused on my new home with my new teammates, and have left the rest behind. I am focused on my own teammates now and spending as much time together as possible."

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Decision time regarding Chris Perez is slowly approaching

You know how everyone says major league baseball's rule are too simplistic? Kidding, no one says that. They're usually ridiculously complicated. Well here's another example of that. Teams that signed any 2014-2015 Article XX(B) Free Agents (no I didn't just make that up) have some decisions to make in the coming weeks and the deadline is 5 days before Opening Day (Apr 5th).

Those free agents must receive a $100,000 retention bonus if they aren't on the 25-man roster by that deadline and if the team chooses to keep them around. Then, if they are kept, they get an opt-out clause set for June 1st. The Brewers signed 1 such free agent: Chris Perez.

If the Brewers want to keep Perez they'll either have to award him a spot on the active roster or give him $100,000 along with the opt-out clause for June 1st. In my opinion, at least as things are now, it seems highly unlikely the Brewers will place him on the active roster.

Ahead of Chris Perez, and already on the 40-man roster, are Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler, Neal Cotts, Tyler Thornburg, Jim Henderson, Rob Wooten, Corey Knebel, and David Goforth. That's not even mentioning guys like Taylor Jungmann, Michael Blazek, and Michael Strong.

There's also the issue of making room for him on the 40-man roster which is currently full. I'm not sure there is a single player currently on the 40-man roster that I'd want to risk losing in favor of Chris Perez. You can take a look for yourself here. I'm not sure there would be a point in making room for him anyway. It's not like they risk losing Perez immediately.

The opt-out doesn't come until June 1st. Tons of stuff can happen between now and then. If a player hits the 60-Day DL that clears a 40-man roster spot which eliminates one of the hurdles for Perez. Less likely though still possible is that one of the relievers just burns out and gets cut. Might as well keep him in the minors as depth until either possibility occurs.

There are two ways I can see Perez making the 25-man roster before such a time. One is injury as I already mentioned. The other is if the Brewers decide to trade a player. More specifically, if they decide to trade a reliever. I'm not advocating doing such a thing, but in a recent chat Tom Haudricout guessed a trade was a possibility. He was asked if the Brewers might enter the season with an 8-man bullpen to which he responded: "Doubtful. I'm guessing somebody gets traded."

Now, let's be clear. He is just guessing, which he states, and he doesn't say he heard anything from anyone about a trade. This possibility also considers Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson as healthy and ready to contribute from Day 1. It is possible that's the case with both of them and that will become clearer the close we get to April.

A few months ago I'd have ruled out the possibility. But after the trades of Marco Estrada and, more significantly, Yovani Gallardo I'm not so quick to dismiss this. I do consider it highly unlikely though. That's mostly because I'm not convinced the Brewers could get much for any of the relievers I expect they'd be willing to deal.

K-Rod and Cotts were just signed so they cannot be traded. I don't see the Brewers being willing to part with Will Smith. It's hard to imagine them parting with Tyler Thornburg either considering their relative lack of rotation depth. That leaves Broxton (large salary, velo questions), Jeffress (command questions), Kintzler (coming off knee surgery and a poor 2014, low K%), and Henderson (coming off shoulder surgery after missing most of 2014, velo questions). I like the upside for all of these guys, but it's hard to see them netting a lot in return.

But who knows, maybe they can package a reliever in a larger deal for a third baseman which is something they desperately need after the 2015 (and possibly during if Aramis Ramirez gets hurt). Or maybe they can find another 6th starter type? That seems more realistic. But I'm just making wild guesses now which probably isn't worth wasting our time on.

Regardless, a decision about Chris Perez will have to be made by April. If they don't trade a reliever that leaves them with 8 (not counting Wooten, Knebel, Goforth) bullpen options for 7 spots making it all the more unlikely Perez has a chance. I'm guessing they just give him the retention bonus and go into the season with the (actually quite impressive) relief depth they currently possess. But things can change and they could get interesting over the next three weeks.

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Diamondbacks' Peter O'Brien working on throwing issues

Diamondbacks catcher Peter O'Brien has had plenty of throwing issues this spring, which is problematic considering the position he plays.

Simple things such as tossing the ball back to the pitcher or throwing the ball to third base after a strikeout have been wild. Via the Arizona Republic, O'Brien said he is working on gaining better control when throwing the ball.

"It's part of the game," O'Brien said. "We throw the baseball so much. I've been working on it, getting it under control and making sure I keep the tempo of the game up and keep working from there."

O'Brien chalked up the issues to playing a lot of different positions a year ago. Now that he's behind the plate, he said it's just a matter of repetition.

"I played a lot of different positions last year and had a lot of different arm angles," he said. "Now being back behind the plate full time, it's making sure I keep my arm slot consistent back there and keep throwing it and keep the tempo of the game up.

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Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Yasmani Grandal may not be on same page yet

Clayton Kershaw stood in front of his locker Sunday and shook his head. He had just finished throwing 65 pitches in the Dodgers' 5-2 exhibition win over the Seattle Mariners and, by Kershaw's standards, it had not gone well.

"Today was rough," he complained. "I was all over the place. Had no idea where the ball was going. I'm getting worse as the spring goes on. So I've got to figure it out."

Not more than 20 feet away his catcher, Yasmani Grandal, was asked about the same performance.

"I think he did a good job," he offered brightly.

Good isn't nearly good enough for Kershaw, who last year became the first National League pitcher in 47 years to win both the MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season. Now he wants to get better.

"That's what I think we love about him," Manager Don Mattingly said of Kershaw, who gave up a run, four hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. "He's always going to be striving for perfection."

Grandal will learn. Sunday was his first experience catching Kershaw and a rapport between the two was clearly lacking. The Mariners loaded the bases against Kershaw in the first inning and got two runners on in the second, and Kershaw gave up a double, a walk and a wild pitch in the third, when Seattle scored its only run.

For Kershaw and Grandal, chemistry class is just beginning.

"It's part of the process that you've got to go through," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "They'll get to know each other more. And know those little things that you feel like you can say or do to get a pitcher through the tough innings."

Kershaw has that kind of relationship with A.J. Ellis, a longtime teammate and his preferred catcher. However, Ellis hit just .191 in 2014 and .238 the year before. Grandal, a switch hitter, batted .245 in three seasons with the San Diego Padres — including .357 against Kershaw.

Yet for Kershaw, who follows a rigid routine on the days when he pitches, the comfort level he has with Ellis might be worth a little more than some extra offense behind the plate.

The pitcher was careful not to blame his struggles Sunday on his catcher — "He's good back there," he said of Grandal — but he did note his performance was uncharacteristic.

"I walked three guys in three innings," he said. "I haven't done that in a long time. There's a lot of things to figure out."

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Cardinals' Jon Jay is a survivor — and winner

JUPITER, Fla. • Center fielder Jon Jay has played for the Cardinals in four straight National League championship series and in two World Series in that time. He has been in the majors for only four full seasons so those accomplishments seem very significant. But ... there always are naysayers.

Arm isn’t strong enough. Doesn’t have enough power. Not really all that fast. Would be a good fourth outfielder.

Yet, all he does is hit .300 and wind up playing in October. So Jon Jay must be doing something right.

Asked the other day how often he had heard people say he was lacking in one area or another, the 5-foot-11 Jay quickly answered, “My whole life. But I don’t worry about other people. That’s (a trait) I’ve always had since I was young. I stayed on track and didn’t pay attention to what was going on.”

Jay and a half dozen or more Cardinals prospects had a watershed year in 2009, when they banded and bonded on the Class AAA Memphis club that won the Pacific Coast League title under manager Chris Maloney — now the Cardinals’ first-base coach. Jay’s teammates included Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Shane Robinson and Tyler Greene, all of whom would make it to the big leagues with the Cardinals and all of whom played for the Cardinals in 2011 when they won the World Series.

Craig, Descalso, Robinson and Jay also were with the club during the next three seasons that all ended with at least a berth in the National League championship series.

“‘Hammer’ (Maloney) always kept things loose,” Jay said. “He let us play our game and believed in us. He didn’t try to change us. We kind of got knocked around in the first half of the season because we were up against a lot of veteran guys. But in the second half of that season, what we were able to do was awesome. At the beginning, he had said, ‘You guys are good ballplayers. You’ll figure it out.’’’

Jay did, hitting .281 at Memphis that year and then .321 the next year before being promoted to St. Louis, where he hit .300 in the second half of 2010. Now, of those half-dozen players, only Jay remains with the Cardinals.

He admitted that the group often talked of getting to the big leagues together, even though in some other organization they might have advanced quicker.

“But we always talked about having a chance to win once we got to St. Louis,” he said. “Not a lot of guys get a chance to do that. Two years later, we get to the World Series and we’ve had a nice run since then.”

Maloney said he had no doubt that Jay would make the big leagues and excel. p:BC body copy 1st graph

“He was a winning-type ballplayer back then,” Maloney said. “The way he loves baseball, he’s still like a little leaguer, which is very rare at this level.

“He’s a true Cardinal guy,” Maloney added. “He’s what you want to draw up on the board for being a big-league player.”

That he is the lone survivor of that group disappoints Jay to an extent.

“You form good friendships,” he said. “Those were my go-to guys but I have a lot of other good friends on the team. It’s like going to college. You spend three years with some of your best friends and then you move on. That’s kind of what happened here.”

Craig, who was traded to Boston last year, says Jay has survived “because he’s a great ballplayer and he’s a natural leader.”

Jay was a top player on his Columbus High School baseball team in his native Miami but he said, “I knew I wasn’t ready for pro ball out of high school. I knew I wanted to go to college and get better.”

Jay enrolled at the University of Miami but before he got there, he gained valuable experience playing for the Florida Bombers amateur team.

“We traveled all over the country and our whole team was Division I prospects,” Jay said. “We had five or six (future) big leaguers on that team. Then, I went to Miami and played with 10 big-league guys there — guys like (Ryan) Braun and Gaby Sanchez.

“After my sophomore year in college, I played on Team USA. We had David Price and Max Scherzer and (Matt) Wieters. These were all elite guys — Cy Young guys or All-Stars. So, I always had confidence in myself knowing that once I got to pro ball, I had to just take care of myself and make adjustments and I would be all right.”
Jay was a second-round draft choice by the Cardinals in 2006 and immediately put up a .342 average in 60 games at Class A Quad Cities. He then hit .286 at Class A Palm Beach and then .306 at Class AA Springfield before finishing 2008 with a .345 mark in 15 games at Memphis. He was on his way.

“I always felt like I was a big leaguer,” said Jay, who turns 30 on Sunday.

This offseason, Jay was rewarded with a two-year, $10.975 million contract.

“I was glad to be able to get a two-year deal done,” he said. “Now it’s up to me to continue to show why I should be here beyond that.”

Last year, Jay hit a club-high .303. His defense, which generally had been strong in center field every year except the second half of 2013 (“there were some balls that year that maybe I had caught in the past&rdquoWinking again was above the norm last year. And Jay fended off the advance of Peter Bourjos, who was acquired from the Angels to be the regular center fielder.

“Something I’ve always said about this organization since Day One is they’re going to do whatever they can to continue to win,” Jay said.

“Last year we brought in Peter. I had a pretty good rookie year in 2010 and then we brought in (Lance) Berkman the next year. And the next year after that, we brought in (Carlos) Beltran. We’re going to try to get better any way we can and that’s just the bottom line.”

Bourjos, who is trying to win a reserve role now, can appreciate what Jay has done.

“Jay is a .300 hitter and has shown that over several years,” Bourjos said. “That’s not easy to do, and you look at what he did last year, and how it was a ‘bounce back’ year. He was bouncing back to the player he is.”

In the 2014 postseason, Jay was even better, going 14 for 29, all with a sore left wrist that required surgery that has kept him out of games so far this spring but not for much longer, Jay thinks.

Perhaps Jay was consistent because, for much of last season and the playoffs, he stayed with one batting stance, rather than trying on several versions. No longer waggling the bat furiously as he holds it aloft, Jay lays the bat against his shoulder before starting his approach.p:BC body copy 1st graph

Jay credits hitting coach John Mabry for enabling him to maintain one stance.

“I’ve been able to work with some good hitting coaches — Mark McGwire as well — but ‘Mabes’ helped get me to the next level,” Jay said.

“It was all timing. Sometimes, my hands would get started late and pitchers would take advantage. I was fouling off or missing pitches that I should hit early in the count.”

Jay glances around the clubhouse and sees the makings of another quest for World Series gold.

“If everyone can just do a little better than last year and be a little smarter, then I’ll think we’ll be all right,” he said.

On a personal level, Jay said, “My goal is always to be playing in September in meaningful games and being part of the lineup. If I’m in the lineup and playing meaningful games ... then I did something well.”

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For the Yankees’ Other Rodriguez, Little Fanfare but Big Adventures

DUNEDIN, Fla. — When the Toronto Blue Jays’ public-address announcer boomed the arrival into the batter’s box of a Yankees player named Rodriguez on Saturday, there was neither a boo nor a cheer, nor even a single pair of clapping hands from among the 5,511 fans at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Just silence.

This Rodriguez, after all, was the other Rodriguez in Yankees camp: Eddy Rodriguez, a 29-year-old journeyman catcher. Not the famous No. 13, Alex Rodriguez, although if you add the two digits on the back of Eddy Rodriguez’s pinstriped jersey, they equal 13. He wears No. 67, a sure sign that he is a nonroster invitee, though one whose journey, in his telling, is worthy of an ovation.

On a balmy summer day, Aug. 31, 1993, Rodriguez, then age 7, gathered with his family in El Santo, a speck of land on the northern part of Cuba protected by several barrier keys. The family often went there to fish. What young Eddy did not realize was that his father, Edilio, had been burying drums of diesel fuel in the sand at El Santo.

As the sun set, Rodriguez; his parents; his 10-year-old sister, Yanisbet; and his 16-year-old cousin, Carlos, boarded a 17-foot wooden boat, left everything behind and ventured into the Straits of Florida for what they hoped would be an uneventful 90-mile journey to the United States.

“We had more than most other Cubans,” Rodriguez said, explaining that the family had land, livestock and produce. “We had an abundance, and my father would share what we had with others. He also built a hydroelectric power plant for the neighborhood so we could have electricity, because the government electricity was always going out.

“We had a lot compared to others, but what we didn’t have was a future. I think a big part of why my parents risked everything was for me, so I could have a future.”
Over the next four days, they faced an open sea, a violent storm and sharks.

The storm, with 20-foot waves, happened on them almost immediately, Rodriguez said. His mother, Ylya, kept feeding the children sleeping pills, trying to shield them from as much terror as possible, but Eddy was awake long enough to see the pounding waves and water leaking into the vessel.

“My cousin was throwing up and trying to hand-pump water out of the boat at the same time,” Rodriguez said. “We weren’t making any progress. We’d get to the crest of a wave and then roll straight back, burning fuel but not going anywhere.”

With her daughter interpreting from their home in Colorado Springs, Ylya recently told how a flying piece of wood opened a gash on her head, and how they compressed the wound with towels, frantic not to allow her blood to mingle with the water they were pumping out of the boat, for fear it would attract sharks.
By Day 3, Rodriguez said, the storm continued to rage, and the food and fuel were nearly exhausted.

The castaways huddled in the middle of the boat and prayed as Ylya sat between her husband’s legs and draped her arms around the children.
Everything was black — the sea, the sky, and especially their dreams of a new life.

And then, Rodriguez said, a miracle.

“I know people don’t believe it, but I was there,” he said.

To the left and right, the storm raged. “But where we were, straight ahead, it opened up,” he said. “It was like a clear tunnel for us.”

With the little fuel they had left, they motored into calmer waters. Eventually, a freighter en route to Chile, from New York, spotted them. The crew fed them scrambled eggs, bread, apples, cantaloupe, bananas, water and coffee.

The freighter also radioed the United States Coast Guard. Almost five hours later, the Rodriguez family arrived in Miami, where relatives helped them settle into a small apartment.

Rodriguez went from playing baseball with broomsticks and wadded-up medical tape passing as a ball to playing with real equipment. He latched onto a South Florida player with the same surname: Alex Rodriguez.

“I had a plaque of him in my bedroom, when he played for Seattle,” Eddy Rodriguez said. “My friends started calling me E-Rod.

“Later, when I began playing catcher, Pudge Rodriguez became my favorite player,” he added, referring to Ivan Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said he told his mother that one day he would attend the University of Miami, and when he was a high school sophomore, the program sent him a questionnaire.

“When I saw it, I cried,” he said. He eventually played for the Hurricanes before signing with the Cincinnati Reds as a 20th-round draft pick in 2006.

The Yankees are Rodriguez’s fifth organization in 10 years, with his only major league experience coming in 2012, when he had five at-bats with the San Diego Padres, hitting a home run in his first plate appearance. His career minor league batting average is .235.

Last season, he worked as a minor league coach in the Boston Red Sox organization, ready to move into the next phase of his career. But then, in January, while Rodriguez was on his honeymoon in Puerto Rico, the Yankees called and offered him another shot at playing.

“He can catch — we know that,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said.

With Austin Romine out of options and expected to be traded or released, and with John Ryan Murphy expected to be Brian McCann’s backup, Rodriguez will very likely serve as insurance at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which is fine with him.

“I use to stress about what was going to happen,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t anymore.”

Several years ago, while working out at Miami, he met the other Rodriguez on the Yankees’ roster and forged a relationship.

“I’ve reached out to him a lot over the last few years,” Eddy Rodriguez said of Alex. “We’ve hit together, trained together. I think I’m a good catcher, but hitting has always been my Achilles’ heel. This off-season, and this spring, Alex has helped me a lot, simplifying my swing and my approach. He’s always been very, very giving.”

Alex Rodriguez smiled when those words were relayed to him.

“Eddy is a great guy,” he said. “He’s been working hard, improving his swing, asking a lot of questions. The thing about Eddy, when you can catch and throw and call a good game like he does, anything you can do offensively is a bonus.”

For Eddy Rodriguez, everything in life is a bonus.

When he saw his name on the same lineup card with Alex Rodriguez, he took a picture of it with his camera phone and texted it to his buddies with the question, “Is this a typo?”

“You couldn’t script all the things that have happened to me in my life,” he said. “My story is already a success story.”

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