Four Future proCane Invited To The Senior Bowl

It looks like four Hurricanes will be heading to this year's senior bowl: linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, receiver Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford.

Eric Galko, an editor at Optimum Scouting who also provides content for the Sporting News and the National Football Post, tweeted the news out Wednesday evening. projects all four players as draft picks for the Hurricanes with Perryman currently tabbed as the best of the senior group at 58th overall (2nd round) -- seven spots behind junior tailback Duke Johnson, considered UM's top draft prospect. 

Walford, who is enjoying a stellar senior season, has seen his draft stock rise over the last couple weeks and is now tabbed as the second-best available tight end, and the 74th best prospect (2nd or 3rd rounder). Junior left tackle Ereck Flowers is also receiving a lot of love after his stellar performance against FSU two weeks removed from knee surgery. Flowers is tabbed the 77th best prospect and the ninth best draft-eligible offensive tackle (2nd or 3rd rounder).

Truth is, though, Flowers could soar even higher -- maybe into the first round.

"I think he'll go first round or early second," an NFL scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity told me by phone Thursday. "I haven't watched the [FSU] tape yet. But I don't have to. He's a big, physical, good player. And he's tough as hell."

In article by's Rob Rang on Wednesday Flowers was been tabbed the 30th best prospect overall.

30. Ereck Flowers, OT, 6-5, 322, 5.26, Jr, Miami: Flowers returns to the Big Board after a very impressive performance against Mario Edwards, Jr. and Florida State. He dropped off the list after undergoing knee surgery in late October but certainly looked no worse for wear against the defending champs. Flowers is light on his feet and balanced in pass protection. He is aggressive and active as a run blocker, including looking for defenders in pursuit. If Flowers checks out medically, he's a likely first-round pick.

Gunter is tabbed as the 18th best available cornerback in the draft and projected to go in the fourth round along with Dorsett, ranked the 20th best receiver.
Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo, now expected to play at Virginia on Saturday and make his 45th consecutive start, is rated the 18th best defensive end and is given a 4th or 5th round grade. Other Hurricanes seniors on's projected board include outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister (210th overall, 6th round), defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (228th overall, 6th-7th round), guard Jon Feliciano (234th overall, 6th-7th round), and center Shane McDermott (298th overall, 7th round-free agent).

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Travis Benjamin's return to returns

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BEREA, Ohio -- Travis Benjamin has emerged as one of Brian Hoyer’s most reliable targets at wide receiver this season. It’s particularly good news for Benjamin because his previous bread-and-butter, returning punts, hasn’t been nearly as reliable.

Benjamin, who shared punt return duties in 2012 with Joshua Cribbs and took the reins from him in 2013, returned two punts for touchdowns in his first two seasons and averaged over 10 yards per return in 2013. He has struggled fielding punts this season, one in which the Browns' overall punt return game has been lacking. Despite his struggles, Benjamin, who recently returned to the job, will continue as the team’s punt returner Sunday in Atlanta.

"Yeah, he sure did," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor when asked if Benjamin had done enough against Houston to keep the job. "He's going to be our punt returner. 'Rabbit' is going to be back there."

“(Confidence) never was a problem,” said Benjamin after practice on Thursday. “Throughout my years of catching punts it never was a problem. It’s all about getting refocused, knowing that, what’s on your plate -- knowing that you got to go to offense then go back to punt return -- it’s all about just settling in."

As for why he lost the punt return job in the first place?

“I wouldn’t say it was taken away,” said Benjamin "'cause I always had the call. 'Well, OK, (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor), this week I felt good,’ I was going back there. … Just sort of giving it the time to get my confidence back in myself and get the job done myself.”

Just to reiterate his confidence level, Benjamin stood by an earlier prediction he would have a punt return touchdown this season.

“Yes. I’m sticking to my prediction that I will have a punt return (touchdown) before the season is over with.”

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Tabor: Devin Hester is Hall of Famer

BEREA, Ohio -- Earlier this season, Cleveland Browns special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor jokingly said certain punt and kickoff returners around the league give him sleepless nights in the week leading up to a game.

But that has not been the case with the Atlanta Falcons this week, who drop back ninth-year NFL record holder, and multi-time Pro Bowler, Devin Hester to return kickoffs and punts.

"I slept real well last night," Tabor said Thursday. "I slept like a baby, cried my way to sleep last night.

"He's a future Hall of Famer. I know him real well, have a lot of respect for him, not only as a player, but more importantly, as a person. It's a great challenge for our cover units. I have confidence in our coverage guys, so we'll see where we're at based off this returner."

Tabor knows very well the kind of impact Hester can have on a football game.

Before being named the Browns' special-teams coordinator prior to the 2011 season, Tabor was an assistant with the Chicago Bears from 2008-2010, where he got the opportunity to coach Hester for three seasons.

During those three seasons, Hester returned 89 punts for 949 yards and three touchdowns, and 50 kickoffs for 1,262 yards, but was no more effective on special teams than in 2010, Tabor's final year in Chicago, Hester returned 33 punts for 564 yards and three touchdowns.

"He catches the ball real well," Tabor said. "The thing that separates him obviously is his speed but more his vision and his instincts. Devin makes you cover the whole field as opposed to just a little bit of the field. With that, you have to take into consideration his talents. At the same time, we've got to play to our talents and our strengths, and we'll do that.

"Some people thought (he slowed), but this year, as you watch him on tape, I think he's kind of found the fountain of youth a little bit. He's not one of the leading punt returners because he hasn't had enough opportunities, but he's over 12 yards per return. Kickoff wise, he's making you cover the whole thing. He looks like old Devin to me."

In week three in September, Hester, a three-time Pro Bowler, broke former Atlanta cornerback Deion Sanders' NFL record for the most return touchdowns when he ran back a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in a 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During that same game, when Hester scored a 20-yard touchdown on a reverse, he became only the second NFL player to score touchdowns rushing, receiving, on kick, punt and missed field goal returns.

Hester has returned an NFL record 14 punts for touchdowns, and has 20 special-teams scores in his career. Hester's 3,392 punt return yards are the most among all active players.

"A lot of memories with him," Tabor said. "One of them was a Monday night game when the Metrodome kind of collapsed. We had to go play at the University of Minnesota, and he set a record that night for punt returns. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was a heck of a return.

"Probably my biggest memory of him though is you could stand over on the sideline and kind of say, ''Hess, what do you like?' He'd say, 'Coach, send me to the field,' and you'd say, 'The field it is.'

"He's a dynamic player, but at the same time, he's a true pro. That's why he's been playing a lot time and been so successful. I have a lot of stories. Not one really sticks out, but I think highly of him."

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Calais Campbell among Pro Bowl voting leaders

Pro Bowl voting is in full swing. Fans can vote for their favorite or the best NFL players to be on the Pro Bowl, which will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium the week before the Super Bowl.

The NFL announced the current results of fan voting and a couple of players do not appear in the top 10 in votes at their position.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald is not there, nor is defensive end Calais Campbell.

Fitz is understandable. He hasn't been there among the fan votes for a while. But Campbell continues to not get the credit he deserves.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson is among the top 10 corners in voting,. He is currently sixth.

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Peter O'Brien Impressing

Peter O'Brien is being groomed as a catcher, and he did all of his extra work this fall behind the plate, with an emphasis on the transfer from glove to throwing hand against potential base stealers. He had some good days, throwing out three base stealers in an Oct. 24 game against Glendale. Because each Fall League team has four catchers, O'Brien also spent a lot of time at first base and was used as a DH. O'Brien does not figure to get much time at first behind Paul Goldschmidt, but versatility is always a selling point. If the jury is out on O'Brien's defensive skills, it has reached a unanimous verdict on his bat. He can hit, and his approach is sound. One major league talent evaluator likened O'Brien to Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario, whose bat earned him a place in the lineup as his defensive skills improved. O'Brien had 38 home runs in 133 games at four stops this season even though he missed about a month with a shin injury just after he was obtained from the Yankees. He showed good strike zone knowledge and drew 17 walks in 25 games for a .393 on-base percentage in the Fall League. Peter O'Brien tied for third in the league with five home runs, one short of the league co-leaders, as the Salt River Rafters -- the D-backs' prospects used the same clubhouse as the parent team does during spring training -- rolled to the best record in the league and on Saturday won the championship game.

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Lamar Miller able to practice in full

Dolphins running back Lamar Miller was able to practice in full Wednesday.

Miller is dealing with a shoulder injury, but was able to go Wednesday. As long as he continues to practice, Miller should be good to go Week 12.

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Frank Gore aware time with 49ers could be running out

Frank Gore, at age 31, appears to understand that his time in San Francisco is nearing its end.

He's done a lot of great things for the 49ers over the years. He's been a downhill, hard-nosed bruiser that has been able to keep up his production despite hearing that he's becoming an aging running back in the NFL. However, he's in the final year of his contract. It'll be tough for the 49ers to bring back Gore based on his age, and how that projects with running backs in this league.

"I’d love to be back here but they got younger guys,” Gore said on The Jim Rome Show. “You know how they feel about running backs. That’s why each week I go out to play for my team and to play for myself, and also to show other teams I can still be Frank Gore.”

Those younger guys are Carlos Hyde (23 years old), Alfonso Smith (27) and Kendall Hunter (26). Hyde appears to be the back of the future with Hunter being an ideal change-of-pace runner, though he'll be coming off an ACL tear sustained at the beginning of this past training camp.

Gore is still on pace for 1,000 yards this year, which he's accomplished in every NFL season he's played in except two. It would be a shame to see him leave San Francisco after this season, but that's the way it works in the NFL sometimes.

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Andre Johnson earning place among the greatest receivers to play football

On Sunday, Andre Johnson caught his 982nd NFL pass, lifting him to 10th all-time in career receptions.

In doing so, he tied Randy Moss on the list and will, barring injury, move ahead of him this weekend. He's 18 catches behind Hines Ward, who is ninth, and 42 catches behind Isaac Bruce in eighth.

After the game in Cleveland, Johnson showed his typical deference for those who have come before him.

"I used to wear the clown socks like he wore in college," Johnson said. "It's a tremendous honor."

The thing is, this happens often. Now in this 12th NFL season, Johnson has been eclipsing some of the greatest receivers of all time or at least matching their accomplishments with regularity.

"You never think about stuff like that," Johnson said. "When you come in, you just want to be a good player, play to the best of your ability. To be on the all-time list, that’s big. Like I said, I think it’ll all sink in the day that you hang them cleats up, you look back over your career and see what you’ve been able to accomplish."

He's interacted with a lot of those great receivers over time and received their praise either directly or indirectly. Earlier this season, Jerry Rice heaped praise upon Johnson -- that's special because Rice is the reason Johnson wears the number 80.

"Most of the time when you see them, they talk to you about what you’re doing on the field," Johnson said. "... It’s surprising because you never really know that those guys pay attention to you. A lot of them just tell me they love the way I play, the way I carry myself and approach the games. It’s just big to hear that from people who you’ve looked up to or watched growing up."

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Zach Ertz says he doesn't think Jimmy Graham could play for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles second-year tight end Zach Ertz has seen his playing time decrease this season, a result of being in an offense that requires tight ends to block more than catch the ball.

How committed are the Eagles to that philosophy? According to Ertz, even one of the best tight ends in the league, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, wouldn't see the field.

"Probably not, to be honest," Ertz said on if Graham would play for the Eagles. "I don't want to take anything away from Jimmy, but the things I've seen, he is more of a pass-catching tight end. In this offense we are a run-first team and we don't sub because we go at (a fast pace)."

The question was posed to Ertz after head coach Chip Kelly said on Wednesday that the reason the second-year player has seen less playing time is because of how effective Celek has been in the blocking game.

When asked about his coaches assessment that Celek is a better blocker, Ertz didn't disagree.

"Brent has been here for a long time," Ertz said. "He might be the best run-blocking tight end in the league."

What Ertz did disagree with was that he isn't capable of blocking, something he worked on throughout the offseason.

"I definitely don't think it is a negative part to my game anymore," Ertz said. "The perception that I can't block isn't true."

Celek's strengths as a run blocker puts Ertz in a tough spot, as he is stuck behind the veteran in what has become a one-tight-end offense. Ertz admitted that being on the bench has been tough for him, especially early on in the season.

"It was a big maturation process for me. Kind of a stubborn 23-year old to a mature 24-year old," Ertz said. "I was really hard on myself. If I had one negative play, it would impact the next one. In this league, that can kind of spiral. It effected me on-and-off the field. But I have learned you can't take things personally."

Ertz said he was able to turn the corner emotionally after a sit down with his tight end coaches, a meeting that took place a few weeks ago.

"The attitude maybe wasn't as up to par as it should have been," Ertz said of the reason for the meeting. "I can't control (my playing time). I can control my attitude and my playing time."

His attitude may have improved, but his playing time has not. Ertz was on the field for 28 snaps this pack Sunday in Green Bay, a little more than half of the 53 snaps he played in Week 1.

"We are 7-3," Ertz said. "I don't have a lot of merit (to complain)," Ertz said. "If Brent or James (Casey) gives us a better chance to win, then I am all for that.

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Jason Fox could get chance to shine Sunday against the Broncos

Dolphins coaches had a pointed message for Jason Fox this week: “Stay ready.”

Although that’s the marching order for every backup, it carries extra weight because of the Dolphins’ tenuous situation at offensive tackle.

The Dolphins signed Fox in the spring for just this scenario — when injury or performance scrambles their best-laid plans.

But when Branden Albert went down with a season-ending knee injury, it was Dallas Thomas, not Fox, who slid into the starting lineup. Fox has been on the field for just 16 offensive snaps all year, and wasn’t even active in seven of the Dolphins’ first 10 games.

“Everybody wants to play, but I’m here for the team,” Fox said. “Whatever role they want me to play to help the team, that’s what I’ll do.”

He probably will start out on the bench Sunday. Early indications are Thomas will again be the team’s right tackle in Denver.

But the hook might not be too far off. Thomas must play substantially better than he has when he faces the Broncos’ fearsome pass rush Sunday.

Denver’s Von Miller and Demarcus Ware have combined for 19 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 53 hurries this season. Those numbers are better than even the Dolphins’ standout defensive ends, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, who have tallied 14, 19 and 47, respectively.

And when Thomas has faced elite defenders this year, he has struggled.

His showing against Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in the preseason — when Thomas allowed a strip-sack, a quarterback hit, a hurry and committed two penalties — cost him a starting job.

And in his first career start at right tackle last Thursday, Thomas had no answer for Buffalo’s Mario Williams.

In 67 snaps, Thomas surrendered 2 1/2 sacks, a hit and four hurries, receiving the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of any Dolphins lineman all season.
By way of comparison, Fox allowed one sack, one quarterback hit and two hurries — in all of 2013.

“Every week, we decide what linemen go to the game,” coach Joe Philbin said. “Typically, if you study us, we bring seven guys. So far, the guys that we’ve given the playing time are the ones we think give us the best chance to win. It’s really not an indictment of [Fox]. It’s just where we feel we are.”

For now, at least.

With Albert’s injury, Fox is suddenly the old guy at the tackle position — even though he’s just 26.

Rookie Ja’Wuan James started the season’s first eight games at right tackle and was a rock, but has been shaky since moving to the left side. He has allowed nine quarterback hurries in the past two weeks.

Yet it’s hard to envision a scenario — short of injury — in which James is anything but the Dolphins’ starting left tackle for the rest of the season. If at some point the Dolphins do make a move, it would likely be a one-for-one switch: Fox in and Thomas out.

Fox has gotten some snaps with the first team in practice this week, but nothing beyond the normal rotation. That suggests the Dolphins will go with Thomas on Sunday — at least to start.

“The first thing I would tell Dallas is to have some confidence because there are a whole bunch of great clips on video,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “He was not perfect and we know that Mario came out with some production, but I think Dallas should have some confidence. When I watch the tape, I see him, especially in the run game, blocking more confidently all of the time.”

Lazor added that his offensive line was in for “a heck of a challenge with these pass rushers. I’ve had the chance to coach against them all before and there is no easy answer.”

Having Daryn Colledge back should help.

The veteran left guard, who has missed the past three games with a back injury, is on track to play Sunday.

“I expect to just be in the mix,” Colledge said. “I expect to go out there and try to compete.”

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Devin Hester fined for scuffle with Panthers

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons receivers Roddy White and Devin Hester said they were fined $8,268 each for their roles in separate third-quarter scuffles with the Carolina Panthers during last Sunday’s 19-17 win.

Hester received a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for diving head first in attempt to knock Panthers cornerback Josh Norman off teammate Harry Douglas as Norman and Douglas wrestled on the ground. Douglas appeared to pull down Norman by the facemask, but Douglas declined to say if he received a fine.

Several Carolina players went after Hester and threw him down after his hit on Norman. White pushed one of the players away from Hester.

Moments after, White got facemask to facemask with Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy. Ealy then gave White a two-hand shove, and White fired back. No penalty was called on either player although it occurred in front of the official.

Both White and Hester plan to appeal the fines.

"Yes, of course," White said of appealing. "I’m not just going to let them just take my money.’’

The initial incident involved Panthers safety Roman Harper getting into it with Falcons running back Antone Smith after Harper was flagged for unnecessary roughness against White. Smith was not penalized for shoving Harper.

It remains unclear which Carolina players received fines, if any. Falcons coach Mike Smith was obviously upset when Hester was the only player flagged following the scuffles.

"I'm sure that when it all gets said and done that the league office will take a look at it, and if there were other guys involved in it, even though it wasn't a 15-yard penalty,’’ Smith said after the game. "That's what the league does. But I thought it was very unusual to have all that take place and only one player is penalized."

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Orlando Franklin couldn't "care less" about Mark Schlereth's O-line critique

Orlando Franklin said he only cares what those inside the Broncos' locker rooms thinks of their offensive line.

Broncos left guard Orlando Franklin told The Denver Post he couldn't "care less" about former Denver all-pro Mark Schlereth's scathing critique of the offensive line.

"All I care about is what the guys inside the locker room think. What the Denver Broncos think," Franklin said Wednesday. "I (couldn't) care less what he thinks."

Talking on ESPN 102.3 FM, Schlereth offered his review of the past three games, saying "they don't block anybody ... and I thought it was a good decision to move Franklin inside, but I was wrong and they were wrong."

Wednesday, quarterback Peyton Manning and running back C.J. Anderson defended the offensive line, which has been under scrutiny since the loss at New England when the Patriots confused Denver on fourth downs and stuffed the running game. Manning pointed out the difficulty of switching the group midstream, with Will Montgomery moving to center, Manny Ramirez to right guard and Louis Vasquez switching to right tackle.

"Certainly," said Manning when asked if the offensive line is good enough to win. "It's not easy forming chemistry in just two weeks. What's that, just a handful of practices together? There is a lot of communication that goes into playing offensive line in the NFL, especially in this offense. They are working hard at it."

Coach John Fox promised more balance in the offense, admitting that Denver abandoned the run too quickly in St. Louis. Asked about Schlereth's analysis, Fox responded, "everybody's got an opinion, but the are like a body part, and everybody's got one. So I will leave it at that."

All but Franklin received a negative grade in the loss to the Rams, according to ProFootball Focus, as the Broncos rushed for 28 yards on 10 carries.

"I am getting tired of the criticism. It bothers me," Anderson said. "The only way we can shut them up is go out and execute."

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Trucker pleads guilty to ripping off Devin Hester

A trucker who conned former Chicago Bears kickoff return star Devin Hester and others out of $1.5 million pleaded guilty Wednesday and said he’s struggling with booze and gambling addictions.

Gregg Steinnagel, 53, promised quick, large profits to Hester if he invested with a pal, then kept the cash for himself.

The pair met after Hester — who famously ran back the opening kickoff of Superbowl XLI for a touchdown — paid Steinnagel to transport a car from Lake County to Florida, where he grew up.

Steinnagel admitted Wednesday that he teamed up with a flight attendant named Jeffrey Fazzio, who posed as an attorney using the alias “Neal Rubenstein.”

After transporting the player’s car to Florida, Steinnagel introduced the player to Fazzio and promised huge returns at low risk for investments in distressed real estate.

Starting in 2011, Hester made several small investments that paid off; then Steinnagel and Fazzio took him for 14 investments totaling nearly $400,000, court documents state.

Fazzio, of Pittsburgh, has since died but Steinnagel was arrested at his Chicago home in May.

Prosecutors said Steinnagel gambled with the loot he stole from Hester and others at casinos in the Chicago area, Nevada and Florida.

Steinnagel admitted Wednesday that he’s being treated by a doctor for alcohol and gambling problems.

He’s due to be sentenced in the new year. Federal sentencing guidelines suggest he should get between 41 and 51 months in prison, though his attorney is free to ask for less.

Hester currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons. His representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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Allen Bailey, Chiefs’ newly-paid ‘Hulk’ of a defensive end, lives up to comic moniker

One day this summer, while the Chiefs were still training in St. Joseph, Allen Bailey walked over to his locker to gather a few things. He’d just left a defensive meeting, and was about to head back to his room, when all of a sudden, he saw a green, foreign object in his locker.

A doll — actually, an Incredible Hulk doll, to be exact.

“I saw the thing, and then I squeezed it — because you know it makes noises or whatever,” Bailey recently recalled with a chuckle. “I just laughed because (my teammates) were laughing, too.”

The culprit, it turns out, was Britt Reid, the son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Britt is a defensive quality control coach for the Chiefs, but he’s also a comics fan who shares his name with the alter ego of the Green Hornet, a popular DC Comics character.

“He always makes fun of us, like which one of us would be action figures,” Bailey said. “Like, I’m the Hulk, (Dontari) Poe and (Mike) DeVito would be the Juggernaut and Jaye (Howard) is The Thing.”

Poe, DeVito and Howard earned those comparisons because of their considerable size and strength, but Bailey’s teammates say the Hulk fits him best.

“That’s him, man, that’s him,” Howard said. “Before the game, they even give him the green Gatorade. That’s the Hulk right there, man. He’s cut. I’ve never seen anything like it. His strength, I don’t care how big a dude is, he can find a way to get him on the ground, just throw him and shed him.”

Linebacker Dee Ford took the comparison even farther.

“It’s perfect,” Ford said. “Looks like the Hulk. Plays like the Hulk. He’s a complete player, man. He’s powerful, fast. He’s just a freak. You see him do certain stuff … there’s a select few guys in the league like that.”

The Chiefs’ front office agrees, apparently. Listed at 6 feet 3 and 288 pounds, Bailey has shown enough promise that the team opted to keep him from hitting free agency next March by signing him to a four-year, $25 million extension with $15 million in guaranteed money and a $10 million signing bonus.

That’s good money, particularly for a the fourth-year pro and first-year starter who, by all accounts, isn’t the best interior defender on his own team (that honor would go to Poe). But in today’s pass-happy NFL, three-down linemen are important to provide scheme versatility, and the Chiefs believe Bailey’s age — he’s just 25 — plus combination of size, strength smarts and athleticism, equal a high ceiling.

“He’s a smart kid, and so that’s carried over into his play,” Andy Reid said. “He’s really taken to learning the scheme and the concepts the offenses are throwing at him. So aptitude wise, he’s able to handle that and put it to use in play.”

Reid added that Bailey has always had the physical part, and he’s certainly right about that. After all, Britt Reid isn’t the first person to bestow the “Hulk” nickname upon Bailey.

“Ever since I was a freshman (in college), I’ve been called that sometimes,” said Bailey, who went to the University of Miami. “You know, because I wasn’t the average-sized freshman.”

Bailey’s childhood was unconventional in some significant ways — he grew up on a tiny Georgia Island with two paved roads, no cellphone services, no supermarket and no police — but he did have at least one thing in common with other football-loving kids in the South.

“In high school, I wanted to be like Ray Lewis,” Bailey said.

After a ballyhooed prep career in which he starred as a 6-foot-4, 252-pound linebacker, Bailey received offers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. But he settled on Miami, Lewis’ alma mater, which promised him an opportunity to play at his idol’s position.

“I had the ability to run,” Bailey said. “I was good.”

Only, Bailey kept growing. Under the supervision of a collegiate weight-training program, his powerful legs and massive upper body only expanded. After spending his freshman year as a contributor on special teams, Bailey was convinced by Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to move to defensive end.

“A gift and a curse,” Bailey joked.

It turned out to be a good decision, as he grew into a two-year starter who finished his career with 103 tackles and 12 sacks.

He was selected by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but that proved to be a rude awakening. On this level, everyone was strong, and everyone was quick. Often, the difference between making the play and missing it is a combination of instincts, confidence and knowledge of assignments.

Bailey, who had played in a 4-3 defense his entire life, was tasked with playing another new position — defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

“It took me some years just to get comfortable in the 3-4, understand two-gapping,” Bailey said. “I’m used to firing off and having one responsibility in a gap.”

In Bailey’s first two NFL seasons, he recorded 11 tackles and one sack in 26 games and seemed to be at risk during the Chiefs’ regime change from general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel to John Dorsey and Andy Reid.

But Bailey showed signs of improvement last season in new coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense, which sometimes calls on players to attack gaps.

He quickly emerged as the team’s best interior pass-rushing option next to Poe, and while he only had one sack, he had 18 hurries — tied for 18th in the league among 3-4 defensive ends and 11 more than starter Tyson Jackson, who left for Atlanta in free agency.

“I think everybody in the building felt like this guy can do this job,” Sutton said. “He (was) on his way up, and if he just keeps grinding away at this and working hard at it, we can get a real football player here.”

Bailey was eager for the opportunity but knew there were others waiting in the wings, including free-agent signee Vance Walker, who joined the Chiefs on a three-year, $13 million deal in March.

So last offseason, Bailey tried a meal plan for the first time in hopes of adding good weight. He ate burgers, chicken, steak and vegetables, and by the time he reported for camp, he weighed in at 293 pounds — up from the 283 he played at in 2013.

“I was afraid at first like, maybe my body won’t be able to move as quickly as I have,” Bailey said. “But during OTAs and camp, my body adapted to it.”

He soon found the extra weight helped him anchor against the 330-pound men he faced in the trenches. He not only managed to hold off Walker for the starting job — playing 541 snaps to Walker’s 106 — he has thrived.

In 10 games, Bailey already has four sacks — three more than last year — and 11 hurries, the same number as Poe. Against the run, Bailey’s had good and bad moments, but overall, Sutton says he’s turned into “a real effective” first- and second-down player.

“I think the area that he’s really improved on is his technique,” Sutton added. “He’s really taken that to heart. … I think those two elements, technique and maybe the additional weight, has helped him become a more patient run player and good run player throughout the course of the season.”

Add this to Bailey’s freakish athleticism, and it’s not hard to see why the team considers him to be an ascending player.

“Yeah, he’s chiseled,” Reid said. “Every defensive lineman is going to get out of position sometime. That’s just going to happen. Very few of them can recover and get themselves back into position, and he can do that because of the athleticism.”

This isn’t lip service, by the way. The Chiefs have just $2.8 million in cap room this season, which means it will be difficult for them to extend star outside linebacker Justin Houston’s contract during the season, barring a restructure or two.

While that likely is an indicator of how far apart the Chiefs and Houston are on a new deal, Bailey’s deal is also an indicator of how the team really feels about him.

“Every week he gets a little bit better,” Reid said. “I think the coaches feel good about it, and (Dorsey) feels good about it, and I trust John and the job he does.”
So does Sutton, who was thrilled to retain Bailey’s services.

“I was happy, you know,” Sutton said. “Why wouldn’t you be, coaching him? That’s an exciting thing. It’s certainly well deserved. He’s really made a tremendous amount of progress starting last year. You can start to see some of the potential that was there.”

Bailey is every bit as happy as his bosses are about the new deal.

One reason is because he was spooked by the recent season-ending injury to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.

“It was a great deal at the same time,” Bailey said, “but I heard about that happening and I was like, ‘Wow, you never know. Any snap, anything can happen.’”

Bailey does not have big plans for his money, at least not yet, though he plans on buying his mother a truck. The thought of it brings a smile to his face, one his teammates have seen plenty.

Turns out that while Bailey’s size and athleticism more than live up to his “Hulk” nickname, his friendly and laid-back disposition does not.

“He’s one of the nicest guys I know, and I’ve had my locker around him the last couple of years,” linebacker Josh Martin said. “A great guy. Laid back, mellow. But when it’s time to play, obviously, he makes a difference.”

Likewise, Ford said Bailey was one of the players who showed him the ropes when he first arrived in Kansas City in May, but added that you shouldn’t mistake his kind, quiet side for weakness on the field. Bailey, he said, is not one of those players who needs to play angry to play well.

“That doesn’t have to be his personality for him to be physical,” Ford said.

So yes, Bailey says, a handful of his teammates still call him Hulk. The doll Britt Reid gave him sits in his locker every day, and every week, either Bailey or a member of the equipment staff packs it up and places it in his game-day locker — a not-so-subtle reminder of what the Chiefs are paying him to be from now on.

“Yeah, I call him Hulk,” Howard said with a mischievous grin. “But now, his new name is Big Money.”

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Michael Irvin fears for his sons who play football

PLANO, Texas — If you have ever watched Michael Irvin do his very public business, you know he€™s never needed a megaphone. On television or radio or simply chatting in an otherwise quiet restaurant, his volume is set on high.

Want an autograph, a photo, a quick lecture on responsibility or a sermon on redemption, Irvin, who maintains he has seen the light, is more than willing to share. He’s a one-man pep rally, self-help guru and revival-tent preacher.

When he helped the Cowboys return to Super Bowl glory in the early 1990s, the pass-catching triplet’s voice was the loudest on the mountaintop. He was an unquestioned locker room leader.

But here, he is different. Here, he yearns for privacy. He sits alone, isolated by choice, hoping to go unbothered in a crowd of football enthusiasts, most of whom have worshiped at the Cowboys alter.

Here, he eschews center stage in the more inviting seats that look down on midfield to instead sit stoically behind a video camera, 25 hard metal-bleacher rows off to the side.

His camera’s audio is off. Always. He wants no recording of his mutterings. Such is a wise course of action for any father taping his child’s games for future joint analysis.

Like so many other Cowboys of his generation, Michael Irvin is a football dad. He has come to Prestonwood Christian Academy’s stadium this Friday night to watch his son play. The son, also Michael, is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior wide receiver wearing the familiar No. 88.

The father, whose broadcasting work takes him around the country, has made it a habit to try to never miss a game between airport hops. Fly in Fridays; fly out Saturdays. Always at home games, he sits in this same lonely row.

When he arrived this night, the Playmaker came with the same Friday night frights he feels every game. It’s the same baggage his Cowboys contemporaries carry. They love the game that has brought them glory and riches beyond their wildest expectations. They are supportive of their sons playing but know all too well the damage it can wreak.

“I’m scared for him,�Irvin says mid-game while the Prestonwood offense rests on the sideline.

Scared that his oldest son might run the wrong play? Miss a block? Drop a key pass?

“Nervous for that,�the father admits, his volume dropping by the syllable.

Ah, the old feelings the father felt in his own high school days in South Florida, at the University of Miami and his Pro Football Hall of Fame seasons with the Cowboys?

Irvin sits up straight, stares at the camera’s viewfinder, refocuses the lens on No. 88 on an offense returning to the field and allows his voice to fall to almost a whisper. Here is a Michael Irvin few have heard.

Here Irvin speaks for a generation of Cowboys, who could afford to fear nothing on their way to winning Super Bowls but now worry on the sidelines.
“Scared he might get hurt because there are no feelings like the feelings a parent has for a son,�he explained before returning to muttering through the offensive series.

Michael Irvin’s final play as a Cowboy remains etched in his memory. In his 168th NFL game, on a wet, dreary Philadelphia afternoon in October 1999, he caught an 8-yard slant pass from Troy Aikman.

It was Irvin’s first reception of the game, his 10th of the season, the 750th of his Cowboys career.

As he latched on to that first-quarter pass, having run his signature route surrounded by defenders, Irvin could have no idea it would be his last.

As he tried to avoid an incoming defensive back, he went down head first into a concrete-like artificial slab of Veterans Stadium turf.

The Eagles crowd cheered his misfortune. Teammates prayed. Irvin didn’t know what to think as he lay motionless on the field for almost 20 minutes. Finally, he was carried off on a stretcher and taken to a Philadelphia hospital with damage to his vertebrae. Sandy, his wife, was at his side. She cried all the way to the hospital.

In the blink of an eye, Michael Irvin’s career was finished. The doctors told him it would be too dangerous to try to play again. He was 33.

He calls the play “the last act.�But it hardly overshadowed his career.

“My memories of playing football are much better than that,�he said.

He cited the camaraderie. The life lessons. The glitz, glamor and the money.

How could he possibly deny his son Michael and his second son, Elijah, a sophomore reserve running back at Prestonwood, the opportunity to make memories of their own?

Sandy Irvin wanted her sons to play basketball and wasn’t shy about making her feelings known.

Her son Michael listened to her concerns.

“But we are a football family,�son told mother.

Standing off to the side, his father couldn’t help but smile.

“That’s my boy,�Michael Irvin thought.

The father said he always looked for ways to be more physical during his playing days.

“I used to put my head down and try to use it as a weapon,�Irvin said. “I loved to hit before I was hit.�br />
That is not the lesson he has passed on.

“We’ve learned so much about the danger of doing something like that,�he said. “The game is changing. The rules are changing. It’s a smarter game.�br />
To ensure his sons hear him, he has enlisted others to relay the same message.

Irvin has a wide network of friends he has leaned on, including ex-teammates. Among the friends is Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“It’s like all fathers and sons,�Irvin said. “I can say something to my son 1,000 times, but as soon as Larry says the same thing, the light bulb goes off.�br />
The Irvin men spend summers at Fitzgerald’s camp.

“I tell Larry. Larry tells Michael. It’s all good,�the father said.

Six games into the 1989 season, his second with the Cowboys, Irvin’s left knee exploded as his right anterior cruciate ligament was torn apart. His season was over. At age 23, he thought his career might be over as well.

The 15th of 17 children who grew up in a blue-collar roofer’s home, he was unsure what future life held.

He poured every ounce of his strength in rehabilitating the knee.

“That was the only time I was anything close to scared in football,�he said. “That I wouldn’t be able to play.�br />
He is unsure how his children might react in a similar situation.

“I don’t know if my kids or any players’ kids, with all they have, could have such a hunger for the game.

“But in the end, it doesn’t matter,�Irvin concluded. “I’ve always told my boys that whatever they decided is that important to them we will work toward that.

“That’s what any father would do.�br />

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Edgerrin James Among 26 Pro Football Hall Of Fame Semifinalists

INDIANAPOLIS – Another cut has been made for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class and several Colts still remain.

A list of more than 126 candidates is down to 26 with Tony Dungy, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison left as semifinalists.

On January 8, the 26-man list will be dwindled down to 15 finalists before a 4-to-8 man class is voted on the Saturday of Super Bowl weekend.

The 2015 ballot is the first year James has been eligible for Canton.

James is the Colts franchise leader in rushing yards (9,226) and ranks 13th in NFL history with 15,610 total yards from scrimmage.

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Jags will start Allen Hurns over Marqise Lee

Coach Gus Bradley said Allen Hurns, not Marqise Lee, will replace Allen Robinson (foot) in the starting lineup.

Hurns will start opposite Cecil Shorts and play just about every snap, with Lee functioning as the No. 3. It's a role we'd have more excitement about if Hurns had more consistency and Blake Bortles wasn't so error-prone. Shorts is the one more likely to see volume and take advantage of the garbage-time stats that will inevitably come. Hurns, expected to get cleared off his concussion in time for Week 12 at Indy, is a WR4.

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Extra shot of Bailey helping charge Chiefs' defense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It has taken almost eight years for Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey to find a home on the football field.

After four seasons of being moved to different positions while playing for the University of Miami Hurricanes, and then three more years of being a jack of all trades on the Kansas City defensive line, Bailey has spent the 2014 season playing left defensive end and only left defensive end. It has been a motivator for him and revelation for the Chiefs as they try to repeat their postseason position from last season.

"I found a home," Bailey said as he prepared to play a Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders. "I know I feel more comfortable. I think I've been able to contribute."

The Chiefs obviously agree with that assessment - last week they finalized a four-year contract extension with the former third-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. It's a $25 million deal with $15 million in guaranteed money, including a $10 million signing bonus.

Bailey is one of the faceless players who have lifted the Chiefs to the upper level of the league's defenses. After 10 games, Kansas City is No. 8 in fewest yards allowed and No. 1 against the pass. The Chiefs are No. 2 in fewest points allowed. Pro Bowl defenders like safety Eric Berry, nose tackle Dontari Poe and outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are known around the league.

But, it has been players like free safety Husain Abdullah, slot cornerback Chris Owens, inside linebacker Josh Mauga and Bailey that have lifted their play and made coordinator Bob Sutton's defense the engine that has driven the team to a 7-3 record and a share of first place in the AFC West.

In 10 games, Bailey has taken part in 29 total tackles, just one less than he had all of last season. He has four sacks, or two more than he produced through his first three seasons in the league. Bailey has been credited with seven pressures on the quarterback, also two more than he had in his previous years.

"He's really made a tremendous amount of progress, starting last year," said Sutton. "I just think the more he's played, the better he's got and I think the arrows really point up on him. He's made himself into a real effective first and second down player. We always thought he had the skill to be effective on third down because he's got speed and he's got range.

"I think he's just really become a much better all-around football player."

Bailey is a native of Hog Hammock, a community on Sapelo Island, just off the coast of Georgia, where he commuted to school not only by bus, but a ferry. Gifted with one of those chiseled and athletic bodies, Bailey ended up with the Hurricanes, where he played 50 games and made multiple starts at left and right defensive end and left defensive tackle.

That story continued through the first three seasons with the Chiefs, as Bailey played for three head coaches and three defensive coordinators. Sutton, head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey liked what they saw from Bailey last year and made the decision to not pursue starting defensive end Tyson Jackson, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. The coaches indicated to him that Jackson's spot was his for the taking. Bailey added some weight, grabbed the position and has not let go.

Now, he has a home, a new contract and he's a major player for a defense that faces some strong offenses in the last month of the season like Denver, Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

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Marvin Lewis: Penalty for hit on Jimmy Graham was worth it

Bengals safety George Iloka got a personal foul penalty for a late hit on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham on Sunday. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn’t mind.

Lewis said that while he’d prefer not to lose 15 yards, he believed that hit set the tone for the physical way the Bengals’ defense played against Graham. And Lewis was very pleased with the way his defense played against Graham, who had only three catches for 29 yards.

“Unfortunately it cost us a penalty, but I think . . . it took a little bit out of him for the rest of the football game,” Lewis said, via “He’s obviously someone we wanted to get hands on every chance we get. He’s such an effective receiver.”

Much like Lewis’s statement that the media make too much of concussions, Lewis’s statement that he sees a benefit to a hit that drew a personal foul penalty comes across as tone deaf in the image-conscious NFL, a league that is doing all it can to stress player safety. But Lewis is less interested in image than he is in coaching a tough, physical football team. And if that means sometimes his players cross the line and get a penalty, Lewis can live with that.

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Frank Gore: Players don’t think about friction between Harbaugh and team

There have been reports about 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh losing the locker room this season, but he doesn’t appear to be at risk of losing the portion of it that contains running back Frank Gore.

During an appearance on The Jim Rome Show, Gore said that Harbaugh is a winner and wondered how anyone wouldn’t respect the success that Harbaugh has had since taking on the Job in 2011. He also said that the players on the team aren’t paying any attention to what may or may not be going on between Harbaugh and the front office.

“We don’t even think about it,” Gore said. “As long as we practice, he can prepare us for Sunday, and hopefully we get a win, that’s all we’re about over here.”

Gore also said that he knows there’s a chance he won’t be back with the 49ers in 2015 whether Harbaugh is there or not. His contract is up after this year and he’s on the wrong side of 30 for a running back, but what once looked like a loaded depth chart of young backs behind him is a lot thinner with Kendall Hunter hurt, Marcus Lattimore retired and LaMichael James in Miami. If the price is right, another year of Gore and Carlos Hyde with Hyde seeing more action might end up working out for the 49ers.

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Antrel Rolle: ‘Offense will pick it up’ and Giants can run table

Assessing the performance of the Giants’ defense in their 16-10 loss to the 49ers, Antrel Rolle said, “We did enough to get a win, but I don’t think we did enough to help our team win.’’

History certainly backs up Rolle’s contention that the defense did enough to win. Under coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants are 61-7 in games in which they hold the opponent to fewer than 20 points, but what has happened 90 percent of the time in the past 11 years didn’t ring true Sunday.

Despite the offensive meltdown that led to the latest loss, Rolle sounded moderately upbeat Tuesday when asked if he believes the Giants can run the table and win their remaining six games.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a possibility,” Rolle on his weekly WFAN spot. “There’s no doubt in my mind. But in order for it to be a possibility, we have to go out there and play as a team. All three phases have to be on the same page at the same time.”

All three phases more often have played poorly in the same game than those three phases rallying and playing well simultaneously. The Giants are coming off a game in which they received an outstanding performance from their special teams and a solid outing from their defense, but Eli Manning threw five interceptions and the offense managed just 10 points.

“I know our offense will pick it up,’’ Rolle said. “They’re a great offense. They just had a bad day.”

There have been more bad days than good ones for the Giants, as they lug a record of 3-7 into Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys. The Giants are searching for a way out of what is now a five-game losing streak, and facing their NFC East rival “just means that much more,” Rolle said.

The loss to the 49ers came after the Giants failed four times to gain an inch on four cracks from the San Francisco 4-yard line, with the first three plays fade passes — the first-down call was a run that Manning changed at the line of scrimmage — that were not completed.

Asked if he was thrilled with those play-calls, Rolle said, “From a defensive standpoint, I can’t say I was thrilled about it, no,’’ but it did not come across as a knock on the offense.

“We all know there have been plenty of times where the offense saved our butts,” he said.

After the Cowboys, the schedule softens, with games against four non-playoff contenders — Jaguars, Titans and Rams on the road and the Redskins at home — before closing out the season at home against the Eagles.

Run the table?

“This team is more than capable,’’ Rolle said, “but right now we’re just not doing the things that are asked of us to do.’’

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Chase Ford thinks clock malfunction impacted last-minute interception

Vikings tight end Chase Ford said on Monday that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater likely wouldn’t have thrown the a late fourth quarter interception against the Bears if he knew how much time was on the clock.

On the final Vikings possession, they dealt with a clock malfunction that occurred throughout the game as Soldier Field. The game clocks in the north and south end zones went dark with the Vikings trailing by eight points in the two-minute situation during the 21-13 loss.

“You definitely need the clock,” Ford said. “I’m sure if it was the other way, if the shoe was on the other foot, that clock would’ve been fixed. They would’ve found a way to fix the clock.”

Ford, who was on the field for the entire drive over tight end Kyle Rudolph, noted how the Bridgewater completed three passes over the middle following the two-minute warning and had no clue how much time remained in the game with the clock running. Following those completions, Bridgewater was picked off by safety Ryan Mundy with the Vikings facing a 2nd and 3 at the Bears’ 29.

“If the clock was working, and Teddy knew how much time there was, I don’t think he takes that chance on that play,” Ford said. “Maybe the next one or something, but on that play I don’t think he takes that chance.”

The interception occurred with 42 seconds left in the game, which Ford mentioned, “I still don’t know how much time was left when that picked was thrown.” Still, even with the clock issues and Bridgewater’s interception, Ford wasn’t using it as an excuse for the team’s sixth loss this season.

The Vikings offense had just 254 total yards on just 47 snaps. The offense was ineffective all game, scoring its only touchdown after a well-designed fake punt stopped seven yards short of the end zone.

“Either way, we came up short with the loss,” Ford said. “It shouldn’t have came down to that. We could’ve played better on the offensive side of the ball.”

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Allen Hurns almost back to being full-go

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns has one more step to go in his recovery from a concussion before being cleared for full activity, accorind to The Florida Times-Union. Hurns went through individual drills Monday as the Jaguars returned from their Week 11 bye.

“I feel like I’m back on track,” Hurns said Monday, adding that he expects to play when the Jaguars (1-9) play the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts (6-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

Hurns has one more step before being fully cleared in the NFL’s concussion program, the team announced.

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Frank Gore wants to play in 2015, with 49ers or somebody else

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Frank Gore surpassed Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis on Sunday to move into No. 22 on the NFL’s all-time career rushing list.

But Gore took particular delight in the accomplishments of one of his teammates because he is in a similar position with an uncertain future.

Gore celebrated wildly with wide receiver Michael Crabtree after he turned a short post pattern into a 48-yard touchdown to open the second half. It was the 49ers’ only touchdown in their 16-10 victory over the New York Giants.

“I was happy for him, man,” Gore said of Crabtree. “I know he’d been frustrated. I’m very happy for him. But, you know, he came to play. Like we told each other, whatever’s meant to happen for us, it’s going to happen.”

Crabtree had three receptions for a season-high 85 yards. He ranks 45th in the NFL with 509 receiving yards this season.

“And I know it’s a contract year for him, and I want the best for him because he’s a great player,” Gore said. “I know the stats. He might not have the stats. But for me, and knowing football, he’s a top receiver in my book.”

Gore, of course, has been a top running back for the past decade. With 10,615 yards, Gore is closing in on becoming a top-20 all-time rusher. Next on the list are Ricky Watters (10,643) and Warrick Dunn (10,967) at Nos. 21 and 22, respectively.

Gore, 31, is in the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2011 that pays him an average annual salary of $6.5 million. He is setting out to prove that he is capable of being a productive player for a bit longer.

“I feel great and I know it’s a contract year for me,” Gore said. “I still love the game and I feel great and I still want to play the game. I feel like I’m still playing at a high level and you know I’m just coming out here week to week.

"And if I won’t be back here, then I’ll show the other teams what I can do.

“But I want to be back here.”

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Allen Bailey on signing extension now: I saw what happened to Carson Palmer

The Chiefs Defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, including a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter on Sunday that helped them protect a 24-20 lead and turn it into a victory.

Bailey was also at the tip of the spear when the Chiefs stuffed Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch on a fourth-and-1 later in the fourth quarter, a stop that pushed Kansas City even closer to its seventh win of the season and continued a strong 2014 season for the 2011 third-round pick. It’s been such a strong season that some may wonder why Bailey gave up the chance to hit the open market in favor of a four-year, $25 million extension that he signed with the Chiefs on Saturday.

After Sunday’s game, Bailey explained that seeing Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer tear his ACL had an impact on his decision to take the money now rather than wait to see if he could make more after the season.

“I saw the Carson Palmer incident,” Bailey said, via Peter King of “That was an eye-opener. Anything can happen, on any play. I decided to do it now. Plus, this is a great place for me. I love the family atmosphere we have here. We all buy in, and we all work hard. It’s a great bunch of guys.”

Getting Bailey’s deal done should allow the Chiefs to turn their full attention toward keeping linebacker Justin Houston and keeping that great bunch of guys together a little bit longer. With 2012 first-round defensive tackle Dontari Poe also in the fold, it’s a strong foundation to build around for a Chiefs team that is now 18-8 since Andy Reid took over as head coach.

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Reggie Wayne slams Indianapolis Colts display

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne has slammed his side's performance in their defeat to the New England Patriots.

Chuck Pagano's men were hammered 42-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium as they missed the chance to stake their claim for the number one seed in the AFC with their loss to Bill Belichick's side.

Wayne told reporters: "It stinks; it's terrible. Our main objective has always been to protect our home turf. We knew it was going be a tough fight, but we let this one slip, we let this one squander.

"It was a terrible display as a team. But right now we still control our own destiny in the AFC South. Who knows, we may see this team again, it might be a little bit chilly."

The Colts are 6-4 in their season, but have a one-game lead over the Houston Texans in the race for the AFC South title.

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Devin Hester sorry for flag; not sorry for defending Harry Douglas

CHARLOTTE -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester, who picked up what could have been a costly unnecessary roughness penalty for going after a Carolina player with his helmet, said he actions were all about defending teammate Harry Douglas.

During a series of fights in the third quarter of Sunday's 19-17 win against the Panthers, Hester was flagged for diving in with the crown of his helmet to knock Panthers cornerback Josh Norman off Douglas after Norman and Douglas wrestled each other to the ground. Panthers safety Colin Jones then went after Hester. Eventually, three different Carolina players -- including Mario Addison, Hester's former teammate in Chicago -- pulled Hester to the ground.

"Once the play was over, I turned and Harry was about 10, 15 yards in front of me and the guy was on top of him just pushing him in the face," Hester said. "I was walking toward them and nobody was breaking it up. So I started speeding up.

"When you're around these guys every day, you build that brotherly relationship. When you see somebody doing that ... that's Harry, man. I thought they were trying to take some cheap shots. I was a tough game with two division teams. When it came down to it, stuff got heated."

Hester's 15-yard penalty came after a Steven Jackson run put the Falcons' at the Panthers' 27-yard line, so it essentially backed the team out of field goal range. Hester then fumbled the ball over to Carolina on the next play as linebacker Thomas Davis put a ball-jarring hit on him.

Hester admitted coach Mike Smith scolded him about the penalty.

"He was just like 'you have to be smart, with the situation that we're in right now,'" Hester said. "At the end of the day, about 95 percent of people would agree that it was a silly mistake, but it was right to defend your teammate. You can't let anybody do that to your teammate.

"Could I have handled it in a better way? Yeah. But I do I regret it? No."

Smith obviously was discouraged about Hester's penalty, but wondered why Hester was the only one to draw a flag following the melee.

"It was very costly again, I don't know how through all of that that transpired -- there was a lot, from where I was standing, going on," Smith said. "I don't know how it's a one-sided flag. I don't know. I've never seen that.

"I'm sure that when it all gets said and done that the league office will take a look at it, and if there were other guys involved in it, even though it wasn't a 15-yard penalty. That's what the league does. But I thought it was very unusual to have all that take place and only one player is penalized."

Douglas talked about Hester defending him.

"One thing I know about our team is that we're going to have each others' backs," Douglas said. "That's every group on this team. I know one thing: Our group, the receiver group, we're not backing down to nobody, we don't care who it is. And no matter who is in the situation, we're going to come protect one another. That's just who we are in our group. That's what we do."

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Frank Gore totals 114 yards in Week 11 win

49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for a team-high 95 yards on 19 carries during a 16-10 win Week 11 at N.Y. Giants. He added two catches for 19 yards to finish with 114 total yards in the win.

Gore came close to his first 100-yard rushing performance in five games. He still has totaled more than 100 rushing yards just twice this season, with his last 100-yard game coming in Week 5.

The veteran running back did lose a fumble in Sunday's win on the opening drive, which led to a 19-yard touchdown catch by Giants tight end Larry Donnell. The 49ers are back in action Week 12 vs. Washington.

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Reggie Wayne leads Colts WRs with 91 yards in Week 11

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne paced his position group Sunday with five catches on nine targets for 91 yards in his team's 42-20 loss to the Patriots in Week 11.

Tight end Coby Fleener led the passing attack with 144 yards Sunday but Wayne was the clear second option, with the rest of the Colts offensive players combining for just 68 yards. Wayne racked up his most yards since delivering a 119-yard performance in Week 4. However, the two touchdowns thrown by Andrew Luck went to offensive tackle Anthony Costanzo and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Costanzo's touchdown was his only catch of the day, while Nicks managed two catches for 15 yards.

T.Y. Hilton, the team's leading receiver, only managed to catch three of his seven targets for just 24 yards. His yardage was a new season low, and it was his second consecutive game catching just three passes. He now has 59 receptions for 961 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

The Colts have lost two of their last three games heading into a Week 12 matchup with the Jaguars.

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VIDEO: Lamar Miller Literally Broke Bills' Leodis McKelvin's Ankle on a Cutback

Heading into Thursday night’s game between the Bills and Dolphins, Buffalo cornerback Leodis McKelvin — who has had a good 2014, with four interceptions and 48 tackles — was pretty confident in his team’s chances.


Then he crossed paths with Lamar Miller in the second quarter:

Ouch. McKelvin is out indefinitely with a fractured ankle, and the Bills are considering putting him on injured reserve, which would end his season. This was a complete freak play (and in fact, it doesn’t look like it was Miller’s cut that broke McKelvin as much as his slip on the soft field), but once again, the time-worn adage “Karma’s a bitch” comes to mind.

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Jimmy Graham swears off leaping into stands after getting 'groped up'

After hauling in a touchdown pass at home last week against the 49ers, all Jimmy Graham wanted to do was share the moment with the Saints fans.

After this harrowing experience, Graham swore off jumping into the stands according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

“That’ll probably be my last one after I got groped up,” Graham said. “It was a moment in the game and I just wanted to go and thank all the fans for being there. Some people were trying to thank me a little too much.”

First no more dunking the ball through the goalposts and now this. We can’t ever have nice things.

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Andre Johnson moves into top 10 of NFL’s all-time receptions list

CLEVELAND – Andre Johnson issued several no comments after the Texans’ Week 9 home loss to Philadelphia.

The veteran wide receiver benefited from an open week and new starting quarterback Ryan Mallett. Johnson was a key part of the offense, catching a team-high seven balls for 68 yards, including a critical fourth-down reception.

“Oh, man. Oh, man,” said Mallett, referring to the difficulty of Johnson’s catch.

Moss tied Randy Moss for 10th on the all-time receptions list with 982.

“Andre Johnson, that guy wants to win,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “That’s what he wants to do.”

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Chiefs sign DE Allen Bailey to 4-year extension worth reported $25M

KANSAS CITY, MO.   —  The Chiefs and Allen Bailey agreed to a four-year, $25 million contract extension Saturday that could keep the defensive end playing in Kansas City through the 2018 season.

The former third-round pick is guaranteed $15 million and will receive a $10 million signing bonus, a source told FOX Sports 1 NFL Insider Mike Garafolo.
Pro Football Talk was the first to report that a deal was in place.

''We are happy that we were able to reach an agreement to keep Allen in Kansas City,'' general manager John Dorsey said in a statement Saturday. ''He has developed into a good football player and a key member of our defense.''

The 25-year-old Bailey has had a breakout season for the Chiefs, starting all nine games and establishing a career-high four sacks. He's helped the Chiefs deal with season-ending injuries to starters Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito and still become one of the NFL's best defenses.

Garafolo said although Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston leads the NFL in sacks with 12, he is making $1.4 million this season because the two sides haven't been able to strike a deal. 

The Chiefs (6-3), winners of six of their past seven, ranked first in the league against the pass and seventh in total defense heading into Sunday's game against Seattle.

''Allen's had a really good year and he made a big jump a year ago, I thought, in football and knowing what's going on,'' Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Suttons said recently. ''He's obviously a very gifted guy athletically. Like I say, he could play 80 plays every week and never get tired. He and (Dontari) Poe are very similar in that way.''

Bailey played mostly in sub packages his first three seasons out of Miami, but he was thrust into a bigger role this season. His mammoth size -- 6-foot-3, 280 pounds -- and uncanny speed make him a dangerous pass rusher on the defensive line, and gives opposing offenses another player to worry about along with talented outside linebackers Houston and Tamba Hali.

Bailey is on pace for nearly eight sacks this season, which would be the most for a Chiefs defensive lineman since Jared Allen had 15 1/2 sacks during the 2007 season.

e also forms a formidable front with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

''The arrow's up,'' Sutton said. ''Got really good athleticism. One thing that's really great for us is those two inside guys, they can make a lot of plays chasing things down and that doesn't happen a lot.

''A lot of times you're not fortunate enough to have that kind of player. You might have a big sturdy guy in there that maybe can't make the plays outside. These two guys can chase screen plays down, wide plays and they really help your defense.''

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Andre Johnson steady in Sunday victory

Texans standout wideout Andre Johnson proved steady and productive in the Week 11 defeat of the host Browns.

Johnson finished with a season-high seven catches for 68 yards going mostly head-to-head against Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Included was a 16-yarder on the team's second possession to earn a first down.

His next game is set for Week 12 against the visiting Bengals.

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Greg Olsen registers another game of 60-plus yards

After cracking the century mark for the second time his last time out, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen took a step back Sunday against the Falcons in Week 11.

Olsen finished the game as the team's second-leading receiver, behind Kelvin Benjamin. He caught five of the 11 passes thrown his way for 62 yards in a 19-17 defeat. He has 60-plus yards in eight of Carolina's first 11 games this season. He has 720 receiving yards on the year.

The Panthers will get a bye week before facing the Vikings in Week 13.

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Devin Hester departs with wrist injury

Falcons wide receivers Devin Hester was forced out of Sunday's game against the Panthers with a wrist injury. Hester sustained the injury after absorbing a brutal hit, which caused him to lose the ball in the third quarter. He was escorted back to the locker room for further testing. The Falcons have ruled him questionable to return to the game.

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Calais Campbell is named Arizona Cardinals/Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2nd time

The Arizona Cardinals Football Club announced on Thursday that defensive end Calais Campbell was named the "Arizona Cardinals/Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year."

The NFL will grant $1,000 to the charity of Campbell's choice for receiving this honor and he will be recognized by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill for his accomplishment following practice tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. This is the second time Campbell has been selected as the Cardinals "Man of the Year" after previously being honored in 2011.

Campbell is one of 32 NFL "Man of the Year" winners to qualify for the league's national 2014 "Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year" award. The award recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well his playing excellence. The overall winner will be announced prior to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. Finalists for the award receive $5,000 for their charity of choice from NFL Charities and the winner receives a $25,000 donation.

Campbell created the CRC Foundation in 2010 to honor his late father, Charles Richard Campbell. The foundation is committed to the enhancement of the community by teaching quality life skills to assist with the development of young people. Through the foundation, Campbell hosts a variety of events including providing meals to the less fortunate during Thanksgiving the past three years. This year, Campbell is supporting 300 families for dinner during the Thanksgiving holiday.

His "Christmas with Calais" event is an annual tradition where Campbell and his Cardinals teammates take 100 underprivileged children on a holiday gift shopping spree to Target and provide them with dinner and an opportunity to meet Santa. This past April he hosted his second annual golf tournament and in September, he hosted his fourth annual CRC Foundation Fundraiser Dinner event at Eddie V's in Scottsdale.

In 2013, Campbell launched "Right Track," a daily after school program serving students from the Roosevelt School District in Phoenix with tutoring and mentoring. He also created the "Cheer for a Cause" program last year that encourages fans to not only cheer at Cardinals games, but also help others while doing so. The program is an initiative where a fan wearing a Campbell jersey is randomly selected at every game and has the opportunity to win money for a charity of their choice. So far, Campbell and the CRC Foundation have given out more than $15,000 to 12 non-profit organizations.

Campbell has also partnered with United Way and the NFL as the Cardinals spokesperson to promote reading and the importance of education. In addition to helping to recruit volunteer readers, tutors and mentors, Campbell has taken part in the United Way's Great Phoenix Literacy Fair the past two years.

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The Mariners need Yasmani Grandal

There probably hasn’t been a trade in the history of the Mariners that I’ve hated more than the trade that sent John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics, netting the Mariners one crappy year of Michael Morse. I am a huge fan of Jaso’s, and the Mariners losing him for an older, slower version of Morse that couldn’t play anywhere but first base was aggravating.

Fortunately, or maybe not important at all, a younger, better version of Jaso may have recently come available. Per MLB Trade Rumors:

“The Padres will listen to trade offers for their top three pitchers (Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross) as well as catchers, Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, Jon Heyman of reported yesterday. Presumably it would take quite an offer to part with Cashner or Ross, and Kennedy could be held and reassessed at the trade deadline. Behind the plate, the 26-year-old, former top prospect Grandal has yet to establish himself fully. Though he posted a solid 112 wRC+ last year, he also rated as one of the league’s worst defensive catchers. Rivera, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to post by far his most extensive and productive MLB season in 2014, slashing .252/.319/.432 over 329 plate appearances while grading out as one of the game’s best-fielding backstops.”

If you’re a Mariners fan you probably remember Rene Rivera’s name. He was a Mariners farmhand and spent some time with the big club. If you’re a prospect nerd or transaction nerd, you may know Grandal. He was once a top prospect, and was part of the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. Grandal was considered an advanced hitting prospect as a switch hitter, and a guy that could stick at catcher for quite a while.

Then Biogenesis happened, and Grandal’s star has faded some. The same PED scandal that caused Jesus Montero’s suspension also hit Grandal, and then Grandal tore up his knee, ending his 2013 season.

Grandal is now 26 years old, and he’s never had an incredible offsensive season, and at least some people consider him a defensive liability.

Baseball Prospectus, the source from which MLBTR go their defensive valuation, had Grandal among the best defensive catchers in baseball in his shortened 2013 (and notably and for context had Yadier Molina as one of the worst), and Statcorner has Grandal as one of the league’s better pitch framers.

He’s had some issues keeping balls in front of him and throwing out base stealers, but his glove is completely passable behind the plate, and while the Mariners have Mike Zunino, Grandal’s bat is good enough to play at first base or designated hitter on the days he’s not catching and a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.

Against righties, Grandal has posted a career 125 wRC+, which is better than what Victor Martinez has done against righties. A league average left-handed first baseman posted a 111 wRC+ against righties. A league average left-handed DH posted a 112 wRC+ against righties. A league average catcher posted a 93 wRC+ overall.

Grandal’s 119 career wRC+ would have been the fourth best on the 2014 Mariners behind Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and the soon-departed Michael Saunders. He’d make sense as a starting first baseman, he’d make sense as a starting designated hitter.

Grandal can fill three roles on the Mariners potentially. He’d be a marginal gain for the team if he only filled one of those roles, but his ability to fill three, to some degree, increases his value by whatever the additional player or two the Mariners are able to carry bring to the table. Maybe Yasmani Grandal means they can have a fifth outfielder. Maybe he means they can have a twelfth or thirteenth pitcher. Either way, he’d make this roster a lot better, and is still young enough that he may be able to reclaim some of the promise that has left him in the eyes of some analysts.

What it would take to get Grandal is something I’m not sure of. Maybe it costs a young arm. Maybe it costs a young position player. It probably wouldn’t cost a guy from the top of the Mariners farm system, and if the Mariners can trade from a strength to get him, Yasmani Grandal would make a perfect addition to the Mariners.

The post The Mariners need Yasmani Grandal appeared first on North and South of Royal Brougham.

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