Should Reed boycott ESPN like he says he might?

As we see the dozen or so times Ed Reed gets his hands on the football each fall, the Ravens safety is a tough guy to track down. But my Baltimore Sun colleague Jamison Hensley was able to do it Wednesday at Reed's youth football camp at Franklin High School, and Hensley gleaned a few interesting tidbits from Reed.

Reed said he is relatively healthy, declared himself "full go" and expressed a desire to retire as a Raven.

He also clarified the recent comments he made to ESPN about how he and other Ravens players wanted Rex Ryan to be named head coach in 2008. This part in particular was of interest to me because I blogged about Reed’s comments, and Reed did a good job of defusing any potential controversy with John Harbaugh.

In June, Reed sat down with ESPN’s Ed Werder and said, “We wanted Rex as the head coach in Baltimore. We did not want him to leave. It hurt when he left. We knew he was a great coach.”

On Wednesday, Reed didn’t back away from his claim that some Ravens wanted Ryan to coach the team when Brian Billick was fired after the 2007 season. But he said that was before Harbaugh became a candidate for the job.

He also said that ESPN cut out the part on his interview where he praised Harbaugh, who has taken the Ravens to three straight postseasons, making the TV interview look like Reed was longing for a reunion Rex Ryan, who now coaches the Jets.

“It made us look like we didn’t have a good coach and I don’t like my coach and I’d rather be playing with New York,” Reed told Hensley. “Now, you’re causing situations in our family to make it look like we’re separated when it’s not the case. Show the whole interview. Show me at least saying I have a great coach in Baltimore. Don’t make it seem like I wanted Rex as a coach.”

He added that he knows Harbaugh didn’t read into the comments.

“I know he’s better than that.”

Reed said one more interesting thing at the end of one of his answers, suggesting that he may never do an interview with the World Wide Leader again because they created a controversy with a calculated edit. “ESPN is all about drama,” the All-Pro safety said. “It will be hard for me to do another interview with them after that.”

We’ll see if he holds true to that.

Do you believe that part of Reed’s interview was lost on the cutting room floor? And if so, should he pull a media embargo on ESPN? I think it would be justified if what Reed told Hensley is indeed true.

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Santana Moss hosting party Sunday in Miami


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Seahawks could bring back Kelly Jennings?

The Tacoma News Tribune predicts the Seahawks will bring back free agent CB Kelly Jennings "for continued depth at a need position."
We're not so sure on this one. Coach Pete Carroll wants bigger, more physical corners that can make quarterbacks throw into tighter windows. Neither Jennings nor last year's discard, Josh Wilson, fit that profile. Jennings is likely to get a better offer from another team.

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Nate Webster allegedly threatened to kill girl he allegedly had sex with

Former Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Nate Webster(notes) allegedly made death threats against the 15-year-old girl he's accused of repeatedly having sex with, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Webster has been indicted on seven felony sex crimes.

“It’s a disgusting thing to live under the threat of this,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said. "There is overwhelming evidence of his guilt."

Law enforcement authorities said Webster was a friend of the family who repaid that friendship by repeatedly having sex with the teenager and threatening her with a gun so as to not reveal what was going on.

The explosive accusations stem from Webster's alleged actions in 2009.

Per the report, Webster was 31 and the girl was 15 when the relationship began.

Webster was indicted by a grand jury on the following charges: sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and five counts of unlawful sex with a minor.

If convicted, the retired NFL player could go to prison for 36 1/2 years.

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Willis McGahee wonders about his future with Ravens

It's long been expected that the Ravens will cut Willis McGahee once the lockout ends, but the backup running back voiced some uncertainty.

"I wonder what the ravens are going to do wit me," McGahee posted on Twitter around 7 p.m. Wednesday.

McGahee, 29, is scheduled to make $6 million in 2011.

The Ravens will only save $2.5 million in salary-cap space, but the Ravens need all the help they can get. According to ESPN, they are $5.33 million under the proposed cap (and that doesn't take into account the tenders for the restricted free agents).

In March 2007, the Ravens traded three draft picks (two third-round ones and a seventh-rounder) to the Buffalo Bills for McGahee. He earned his first Pro Bowl in his first season with the Ravens, leading the Ravens with 1,207 yards rushing (which ranked eighth in the NFL).

But McGahee has never clicked in the offense since coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron arrived. His carries have decreased each season, dropping to a career-low 100 last season.

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Jimmy Johnson having the time of his life





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Count Warren Sapp among Cam Newton's fans

Warren Sapp is like seemingly everyone else.

He wants to see what Cam Newton can do at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers once the NFL labor issue is resolved.

"He has all the tools. You don’t score (50) touchdowns in the SEC if you don’t have skills," Sapp said Thursday after speaking to the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

"You watch what Jordan Gross said about the kid when he was just around him those couple of days (last month). He was really surprised at how respectful he was and willing to learn and be in the middle with the guys. You very rarely meet people with that kind of aptitude to go from on top of the world, winning a national championship, going through everything he went through in college...

"That in itself, going through everything he went through in college, with him performing week in and week out with everything swirling around him, this kid has got something. You just don’t survive that kind of onslaught every day for a whole football season. I want to see what this kid’s got."

Sapp, a 13-year NFL veteran with seven Pro Bowl appearances, is now an analyst for the NFL Network. He played for Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl champion team in 2002 and spent four difficult years with the Oakland Raiders at the end of his career, playing on two teams that finished 2-14, the same record the Panthers posted last season.

He expects the new Panthers coaching staff to work quickly to help Newton find a comfort zone.

"It’s not about learning. It’s about understanding what heat is in the pocket," Sapp said. "You’ve got to have a quarterback in the pocket that is fire- retardant. The key to any defense is attacking the quarterback to see if we can get him off his game, see if we can get him uncomfortable in the pocket.

"I know something about (offensive coordinator) Rob Chudzinski and (quarterbacks coach) Mike Shula. They’re not going to give him anything he’s not comfortable with. They’re going to give him a nice little comfort zone. It’s going to be on the playmakers around him to make plays. In certain instances when they send people after him, he’s going to have to handle that 10 or 12 times a game. How he can handle those situations and how fast Chud and Mike can get him up to speed on NFL reads and throws, he’ll be fine."

During his speech at the Westin Hotel, Sapp — who won the inaugural Bronko Nagurski national college defensive player of the year award in 1994 at Miami — recalled two early experiences facing the Panthers. He recalled getting left by the team bus when the Bucs played the Panthers in Clemson during the franchise’s first season and, one year later, losing two earrings in a muddy game at the team’s new stadium here.

Sapp, who also appears on Showtime’s ‘Inside The NFL’ show, sees similarities to where the Panthers are today with where the Bucs were when he arrived.

"I liken it to when Tony Dungy got to us in 1996. The first eight games he was teaching us to play. That’s what (the Panthers) are looking at," Sapp said.

"Ron Rivera knows this game. What the players have to do is buy in and buy in totally. It might not benefit you directly but it benefits you overall. That’s what’s going to be most important to them. You know if we’re all in a boat together and you row this way and I row that way, all we’re doing is going in a circle."

For Rivera, Sapp said, the challenge is simple.

"Be consistent," Sapp said. "Whenever Dungy came in, he was like a rock. Every day, the same guy. He spoke to us the same way. He explained it the same way. He asked for the answers the same way. You can’t come in one day and be high and the next be down low. You have to be constant.

"Just be consistent in what he’s doing and in his message and the ball club will follow him."

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Interview with Calais Campbell, DE Arizona Cardinals

To pass the time and stay productive during the NFL lockout, Calais Campbell interned with Will Farrell at While that’s certainly impressive, the prototypical 3-4 defensive end has also been busy improving his production on the field in each of his first three seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft.

Unfortunately, the success of the Cardinals’ defense hasn’t correlated with his individual success on the field. According to Calais, that’s going to change as soon as the defense is able to get on the field and work together to build chemistry.
I spent some time talking with Calais about the Cards’ 3-4 scheme, the linebacking group, and the current quarterback situation.

Steve Wyremski (SW): How’s the off season going? What have you been up to?

Calais Campbell (CC): I’ve just been working out, traveling a little bit, and doing charity stuff. Trying to do a little bit of the Hollywood stuff and work myself into the Hollywood industry. I hope to be in the movies one day.

SW: [Explain PFF]. We recently wrote an article called Three Years of Pass Rushing Productivity: Interior Defensive Linemen. We took sacks, hits, and hurries over the number of snaps you played. In 2010, you ranked as the 17th best interior lineman in the NFL rushing the passer and, over the past three years, we ranked you as the 14th best. What’d you think of that article when you saw it?
CC: It was interesting because I always wondered where I’d fall and where other people would fall. I didn’t know it was possible to figure out that stat. I thought it was interesting how you created a special pass rushing stat. It was kinda cool that I’m on the list … I wish I was a little higher though. It’s just more motivation to go a little harder.

SW: Based on that article, it’s clear that you’re successful in the pass rush out of the 3-4 defense. What do you attribute that pass rushing success to?
CC: Good coaching. Ron Aiken, our defensive line coach, does a good job putting us through a lot of pass rush drills so I feel comfortable on the field. I think I’m more of a pass rusher on the inside than anything else. I’m a little bit bigger D-end, but a smaller D-tackle weight wise and size wise. I’m more of a natural pass-rusher. So when I go inside, a lot of guys aren’t used to going against guys who are good with their hands.

SW: Is there a specific technique you use more often than others in rushing the passer? Whether it be the swim move, bull rush. Anything that you use that you’re more successful with?
CC: Yeah, I think my best move, because I’m already tall, is the swim move. It works for me. I try to bull rush and try to use a lot of different moves, but the swim move has always naturally been my best move. I try not to think about it and just react to what the offensive lineman gives me because that’s when I’m at my best, but when I watch myself on film it’s my swim move more than anything else.

SW: I don’t know if you’ve ever read or seen the book Take Your Eye Off the Ball by Pat Kirwan, but in that book he talks about the prototypical 3-4 DE. He names you as one. He says that between your size and your long arms, that makes you a prototypical 3-4 DE. Would you agree with that?
CC: Yeah. I feel like with my size and the weight I became, that I can do well at that position. Every team uses it a little different, though. The way we use it with the Cardinals works well. We don’t really use a 2-gap. I don’t know if I’m a great 2-gapper. I can be decent at it, but we play gap control. Sometimes we call a 2-gap when the offensive lineman controls what gap we have by the way he moves and the linebacker plays off of us. That allows me to be good at what I do.

SW: I want to talk a little bit about the Arizona scheme that you mention there. As you know, typically a 3-4 DE really sacrifices himself for the sake of the linebacker play and occupy as much of the offensive line as possible and not necessarily penetrate the backfield. Is that truly your role in the Cardinals’ scheme to just sacrifice yourself for the sake of the linebackers?
CC: It really depends on the package. We have packages where the linebackers make all the plays and all we do is use up as many of the [offensive] lineman as we can. Some packages are built for us to get up field and penetrate. It really just depends on the package we’re in. In the 3-4, our job is really to keep the offensive lineman off the linebackers so they can make the play. There are packages where they let us go free, though. Darnell Docket plays across from me and he’s a beast. He’s got a penetrator-type mentality.

SW: On the flipside, 4-3 DEs are obviously more pass rushers who need speed and power to play that position. If at some point in the future, say hypothetically despite how unlikely, the Cardinals switch to a 4-3 or you found yourself in a situation where you were playing for a team with a 4-3 scheme, could you play the 4-3 DE spot or would you move inside to play defensive tackle?
CC: Naturally, I’ve always played the true 4-3 DE. That’s what I played in college. I thought I was effective at it. It really comes down to the work ethic and getting my body back in shape to be able to go off the edge. You need that quick burst to the edge. I’m not really the fastest DE, but I have a good first step. That’s what you need to come off the edge as a true 4-3 DE.

SW: How difficult was that switching from a 4-3 DE at the University of Miami and then you come to the NFL and you’re in a 3-4 scheme? Was there much of a transition to learn how to be a 3-4 DE?
CC: Yeah, it’s a huge difference in the way you play. The way I get off the ball and use my hands changes tremendously. You have to get your hands off the offensive lineman a lot quicker. When you’re playing on the edge you have a lot of protection outside. When you play inside and go in the trenches, there are so many different blocks you can get so it’s harder against the run … and the pass. It was a big adjustment for me.

After a year and a half and working on it every day in practice, it started clicking for me and I feel like I’m doing a good job now. It’s definitely still an adjustment, especially because I’m so tall. When you’re inside, it’s easier for the guards and centers to get underneath you, so I have to make sure I stay lower. My ability to play all over the D-line makes me a better player. I can play from the 1-technique all the way to the 9-technique. If you watch Cardinal games you’ll see me in a lot of techniques, but I play more inside than I do out.

SW: [Discuss PFF in more detail]. Looking at our game-by-game breakdown of your play in 2010, your first four games of the season you seemed to struggle a little bit and your game against San Diego was your roughest of the year; we rated it a -4.6. We thought your play against the run that game was where you struggled. Do you agree with that?
CC: Yeah, I definitely struggled that game. That game and Atlanta were my two worst games.

SW: Those two games are the ones we ranked your lowest of the year. What specifically happened against the run that game against the Chargers? Was it just the O-line play and they were able to lock you up for the game?
CC: They do a lot of lateral blocking movements and they were able to use their techniques to get on the edge. They do a lot of opie-dope type stuff, so they push one way and then I’ll over penetrate, get up field a bit, and the running backs cut back. That makes the gap a little bit bigger for the running back to fill. I definitely didn’t play well at all by any means. I watched film, changed my game a bit, and the coach worked with me a lot. That was definitely my worst game.

SW: If I were to ask you what you felt your best game of the season was, what would you say? There are two in particular that we rate higher than others.
CC: In the Carolina game, I definitely felt dominant (for a lack of better term). I played a lot more true DE in that game, actually. That benefited me and I got a lot more comfortable in my position. It took me a while to get going, but that was the game mentally where I was really trying to be dominant like I was in college. I started feeling a lot more unblockable from what I did in practice. I struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season, but I just kept working harder and eventually everything started click for me and I was beginning to feel dominant.
The Cowboys’ game, I feel like I had a strong game then as well. I always do better against bigger offensive lineman. It’s the quicker [smaller] guys that are hard for me because they’re naturally so much lower than me. If a guy’s already big, I can get lower easier, so that way it gives me a stronger advantage.

SW: You were spot-on with the Carolina game, you seemed to be all over the place. You had 10 tackles and nine stops. You’re obviously a big guy at 6’8” and 300 lbs. How do you use that size to your advantage in the trenches?
CC: Every year I’ll have an exit meeting with Coach Whiz (Ken Whisenhunt) and he’ll say, “Plain and simple. When you play low with great technique you’re unblockable and when you play high, people get underneath you look like an average player.” It’s true. If I continue to work hard, stay low, and use perfect technique, that’s when I’m the best and my size creates a natural leverage. If I can stay lower than a guy that’s shorter than me, then I’ll be able to dominate him with extra leverage. It makes a big difference.

SW: As you mentioned earlier, Darnell Dockett has been across from you for the past two years you’ve been a starter. He seems to be better known in the media outlets. However, in both years you’ve been a better pass rusher and a better run stopper statistically. You also ranked 10th overall among defensive linemen in tackles in 2010. What do you think you need to do in order to get the recognition you seem to deserve?
CC: I always think recognition comes with contracts. That’s what it is in my mind. Whenever someone gets a big contract, the media’s always watching him. Darnell Dockett has been in the league a long time and he’s a great player. He deserves the recognition he gets. I was drafted in the second round and not really at a high media position. If I was a first round pick, there would probably be a little more out there. If I play well and get a big contract, I guarantee the media will be all over every situation. If I play bad, they’ll ride me and if I play well, they’ll go crazy. It really comes with the contract.

SW: At the QB position, the Cardinals have two young guys headed into 2011 — John Skelton and Max Hall. That’s obviously before you consider any free agency that may occur in the next few weeks. What are your feelings on those guys as the team’s starting QB (either guy) in 2011?
CC: They both have the personality of a quarterback. They have great poise and a lot of charisma. They’re good young talents. Skelton is the prototypical guy. He’s 6’5” / 6’6”, 220 lbs, he’s strong, and athletic. Coming from Fordham, he never really was prepared for the NFL. He got thrown in the last couple of games and went 2-2, played fairly well, but he never really played any game in high school or college as big as he played towards the end of the season. He’s going to be a great quarterback in the near future. That’s why a lot of people are speculating we’re going to bring in an older quarterback to groom some of the younger ones along.
Max Hall is definitely a pure talent, as well. He’s a little undersized, but he has a big heart and he plays with a lot of passion. That’s the kind of stuff you can’t coach and coaches look for in a guy.

SW: Any clue on which guy would beat the other out at this point?
CC: It’s a competition. It depends on who is looking good in camp. Size wise, Skelton has an advantage. They both will be competing for a job. Towards the end of [2010], Skelton finished as the starter, so I think he may have a leg up already, but it’ll be a competition. I’m sure that two or three more guys that we bring in will compete for the job, as well. The way that Coach Whiz is, the person that gives us the best chance to win will play.

SW: The Cardinals’ defense ranked in the bottom five of the NFL in yards against and points allowed per game last season. What do you think needs to change on the defense to improve that ranking and get the Cards’ defense in the top half of the league?
CC: It’s chemistry really. A lot of games we were in sync and we played well, and we were out of sync we really struggled and we got blown up. There were a bunch of games we played great and we won games with defense. You take the Saints’ game; we scored three times on defense and did a good job of taking away the offense’s weapons. There were games we got blown up like San Diego where we couldn’t stop anybody. When it comes down to it, it’s just confidence in each other and being in sync and play with chemistry. It stinks with the way the off season is this year because we miss out on a lot of opportunities to build our relationships.

SW: So is that just a function of there being a lot of new guys on the defense last year (i.e., Kerry Rhodes coming from the Jets, Daryl Washington, and Paris Lenon). Is that the main reason you say chemistry and you guys needing a few more games to play together?
CC: Yeah, I think so. I think that’s a huge reason. We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of talented guys who can be really dominant. Our core group of guys are very talented. If we can come together and play together, we really can do some great things. I’m excited for the season and hopefully get to camp on time because we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of talent and a lot of potential, so I think we’ll be good this year.

SW: Going back to last year, many people point to the linebacker play as a big weakness in the defense with Joey Porter and Clark Haggans struggling for pieces of the year on the outside. The ILB play seemed to be ok with Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon. Now Sam Acho was added to the mix at OLB through the NFL draft. What are your thoughts on the LB group headed into 2011?
CC: There’s a lot of progress that can be made at a lot of our positions on defense from the DBs all the way through the defensive line, including the linebackers. We have a lot of talented guys, especially at the outside linebacker position. [We have] young guys who were going through a lot of injuries who didn’t get a chance to play or played here and there that have the potential to be great in this league like O’Brien Schofield who would have been a first round pick if he didn’t blow his knee out in the Senior Bowl. We end up getting him the last four or five games and he showed signs of potential. He didn’t get to play that much, but when he did play, he showed potential. We have a nice cross between old and very young that complement each other.

SW: Can you give a little bit more insight into Daryl Washington at inside linebacker? He was only a rookie last season, but he was pretty solid. At PFF, we ranked him the 18th best ILB in the league.
CC: He’s a solid player. He’s a very smart guy and a hard worker. He’s a little undersized for a linebacker, but in the next two or three years he’s going to be in the Top 5 of linebackers in the NFL. His biggest [positive] is that he can cover the field sideline to sideline; he has a nose for the football, and is a sure tackler. His biggest thing is his youth. His vision is not as good as it could be just yet – that comes with time. He’s got to slow down and really learn to observe things. This year, and everyone says it, is that the difference between your rookie year and your second year is tremendous. In my opinion, he’s going to be better this season.

SW: You mentioned earlier on that you’ve been doing some charity work. You have a not-for-profit organization called the CRC Foundation. Can you tell me a little bit about your foundation?
CC: It’s a foundation trying to benefit underprivileged kids. The main goal is to try and help kids figure out what they want to do in life and to help them develop the skills to get there. My dad’s name was Charles Richard Campbell, so that’s what CRC stands for and that’s where it comes from. He had a vision to help kids figure out what they want to do in life and keep them off the streets. Football is great, but if it didn’t work out I could have done a lot of other things. My dad always made sure I was involved in different jobs. I was really into computers growing up. Anything I wanted to do, he made sure I had the resources to do it. I’d like to develop this and have kids come through and help them develop skills and get them to where they want to go.

SW: Do you focus in Arizona, back hometown in Colorado, or nationally?
CC: Right now it’s in the beginning phases and is in Arizona more than anything else. I really want it to be a national program eventually. I have a huge vision for it to be a national program. I want to start a scholarship fund and make it bigger than just Arizona. I want it to be a big deal.

SW: You mentioned your father who’s since passed. He once said to you, “Once you start something you have to finish.” What do you think your father would say and how would he apply that to your football career at this point and going forward?
CC: I think about that all the time. What it really comes down to is never be satisfied with where I’m at. I definitely appreciate where I’m at, but never get comfortable and relax, and always continue to strive to be better. That’s one of the biggest things I think about every day. My father passed when I was a senior in high school and while I was going through college and my first few years in the NFL, there’s not a day that goes by where I try not to let that go in vain. I strive to be better. That’s the one thing he taught me: if you want to be the best, you need to work harder than everyone else. Don’t settle for mediocrity; be the best. Otherwise, why do it?

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John Salmons Debuts Own Clothing Line


Debuting spring 2012, Salmons & Brown offers clean, tailored styles with a little edge. Partner John Salmons, a current member of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, has a longstanding interest in fashion, translated now into a collection that balances military and nautical influences. With Sherman Brown, a young tailor, Salmons hired designer Joe Sundlie, a graduate of Parsons School of Design and 20 year veteran of the fashion industry.

Highlights include a washed linen trench and suede biker jacket. Check these and more from Salmons & Brown’s debut collection after the jump.

Styled by Madbury Club for Selectism. Special thanks to John Salmons for joining us in the photo shoot.

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Lauryn Williams: Humble pie taste Nasty!

I have tried to post something at least 5 times since nationals but just couldn't find a way to describe my thoughts. Actually, I didn't even know what I was thinking.

I have been very fortunate to have been so successful so many years consecutively. Knowing some of the obstacles I've faced leading up to big races in the past I felt adequately prepared to face whatever might come my way as I headed into the 2001 season. Yet, this year I faced obstacles I was not equipped to deal with and never saw coming.
To finish the season so poorly without injury or some other stroke of explainable misfortune and live it all out very publicly has been very hard.
Easiest thing to do would be stay home, hide and make up some grand excuse but there are none. I had hoped to begin the season with the same stellar marks as my main competitors, have a consistent string of sub11 performances, a personal best, make the world team and win it! I am healthy, talented and just as capable of these things as anyone running right now. I just am not getting it done.

Dozens of factors and variables may have played a part so I cannot attribute it to any one thing. The truth is without balance one aspect of life is capable of smothering another. I have to get a grip, get professional and do my job or be left at home again next year.

One thing I will address is my weight as there has been much speculation about it. I did race heavier this year but have not been gaining weight all season long. I have been consistently the same weight week in and out since February. However, I could stand to loose a pound or seven from what I consider my true race weight of previous years. I remember in 2004 Coach Deem telling me no more media after a particularly aggressive interviewer grilled her with questions. When I asked what kinds of things he asked she said one was if she was worried about my weight being a problem as I aged and I laughed.
Little did I know that his crystal ball worked better than mine and in the future this wouldn't be funny.

This year I have learned that it is not until your at your lowest that you recognize and appreciate those who have been telling you they love you all along. Recently, I realized that though things could be going A LOT better, I have never in my life felt more loved than I do right now.

So thank you to those my inner circle who despite my subjecting them to poor attitude far more than anyone should have to put up with another's negativity have continued to encourage me day in and day out. I am also thankful for encouraging words of friends, family, colleagues, competitors, agents, coaches and hundreds of people on Facebook who are rooting for me to continue on because they know I have yet to reach my full potential.

I am choosing to keep working at it, not give up and know that the best is yet to come!

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Ed Reed told Hines Ward, 'You're a dirty player'

Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed has tested wits for years with Pittsburgh Steelers hard-nosed wide receiver Hines Ward, colliding with him often and forming a certain opinion.

While Reed respects Ward, whose crushing downfield blocks inspired the NFL to outlaw his crackback hits on defenseless players.

"You have those guys out there, I've talked about them before, there's certain rules out there, the Hines Ward rules, where you're hitting people with the crown of your helmet," Reed said today at his youth football camp at Franklin High. "That's the truth about it. I love Hines as a player and I told him that. But I told him also for a long time, ‘You're a dirty player because I know how you play.'

"When you're hitting people with the crown of your helmet, you're trying to hurt them. You're trying to take them out. That's when the game needs to policed a certain way."

Reed said he'll pass up huge hits to prevent injuring another player.

"I always play the game a certain way, regardless of what guys say," Reed said. "I've given some shots out there, but even those shots have been to where the guy can get up. I play a position where I know I have kill shots. I can really hurt somebody if I wanted to. I work out to put myself in shape because you just never know."

What about oft-fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison?

Reed thinks he plays the game hard and clean.

"When James Harrison is hitting somebody, he's giving them shoulder and they're getting concussions," Reed said. "That's different. When somebody is literally dropping their head in a professional league, now you have to talk about suspension and fining them high."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed feels healthy heading into training camp

A year ago at this time Ed Reed limped around his football camp and spoke with uncertainty about when he would start the season.

These days, the only question on the mind of the Ravens safety is the one fans have wondered about all summer: When will the lockout end?

A year ago at this time Ed Reed limped around his football camp and spoke with uncertainty about when he would start the season.

These days, the only question on the mind of the Ravens safety is the one fans have wondered about all summer: When will the lockout end?Enjoying a surgery-free offseason, Reed declared himself "full go" for training camp Wednesday, although he hopes the Ravens will "be smart" with his reps this summer.

"I'm feeling fine," Reed said during his second Baltimore-area football camp. "I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't do the things that training camp requires because of longevity of my career and my life. After not going through training camp with the physical abuse of last year and playing the way I played, I would hope Coach [John Harbaugh] would be smart about how they handle me. I don't think I have much to prove during training camp but it is the time to get in shape."

Reed is coming off perhaps the most rewarding season of his illustrious career. He led the NFL with eight interceptions despite missing the first six games because of offseason hip surgery.

During his camp at Franklin High School on Wednesday, Reed looked strong and smooth while running drills with the kids.

But the seven-time Pro Bowl player said he still isn't fully recovered from the injury.

"I'm still rehabbing it," he said. "It's going to be a life-long thing you deal with. I'm not going to live in the past and the things I went through last year. I feel good for right now."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Michael Irvin: "Business Gets Done When the Slipper Falls off Cinderella"

Hall of Fame wide receiver and current NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the current NFL lockout and other topics. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Irvin remains optimistic for a deal to get done to put an end to the lockout. He had an interesting analogy to describe what it takes to get a deal done.

“Very optimistic,” Irvin said. “I never really panicked through it all. I have always gone with the notion that anytime the guys, the owners, and even some of these players at the level we’re talking about, the guys that they are saying are ‘name’ guys, business gets done. Business gets done when the slipper falls off Cinderella. That is how it is, when the slipper falls off Cinderella everybody gets serious, and that is what is happening right now. Thank god the slipper is falling off.”

When the lockout ends and players return to the field after months off from team workouts, Irvin said that there will be some injuries.

“Oh yeah, you’re going to see some injuries,” he said. “I was telling some of the young guys that I mentor and talk to that are on the fringe of the NFL, trying to get in, I said, ‘Stay prepared. Being prepared and understanding the formula for success is being prepared when you’re getting the opportunity and success will follow. You will be given the opportunity.’

“Guys will not be in shape, I don’t care what you say, there are guys that are very gifted and very talented, but need the pushing. They did not get that pushing. There will be some injuries and things like that, you will see some bad football.”

Irvin also expressed his condolences on the passing of the passing of Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“Mr. Kraft is an incredible man,” Irvin said. “I have been putting my mom’s affairs in order, I know what it means. It is a difficult task of putting your mom’s affairs in orders, so I know what it means. So, my prayers go out to the Kraft family. There is nothing like a mother and a wife. She will be missed.”

Click here to order Michael Irvin’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed is open to new deal that would allow him to retire as a Raven

Ed Reed has two years left on his contract, but the Ravens safety let it be known that he is open to a deal that would allow him to retire with the Ravens.

“I always said I wanted to retire here and play for one organization,” Reed said Wednesday during his football camp.

Reed is scheduled to make $6.5 million this season and $7.2 million in 2012, the final year of his contract. The seven-time Pro Bowl player made it clear that he isn’t campaigning for a new deal. He pointed out that he doesn’t even have an agent at this time.

But …

“After the lockout is over and the collective bargaining agreement is done, I’ll go back to the table with the Ravens and see what makes sense to them and what makes sense for me,” he said. “Right now, what makes sense for me is finishing out my career with the Ravens the next two years that I have on my contract or maybe me and the Ravens do another deal, finalize things for me going into my retirement. It’s going to be what makes sense on both sides. I’m not asking them for anything right now.”

The Ravens have a long list of players who need to have their contracts addressed. They'll have to look into extensions for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice over the next couple of years.

Reed, who turns 33 on the season opener against Pittsburgh, declined to say how much longer he plans to play football. He is coming off an impressive 2010 season in which he led the NFL eight interceptions despite not playing the first six games of the season because of a hip injury.
Although Reed said he still has to rehab that injury, he declared himself “full go” for training camp. Reed, though, hopes the Ravens will be smart with him during camp.

“I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t do the things that training camp requires because of longevity of my career and my life,” he said. “After not going through training camp with the physical abuse of last year and playing the way I played, I would hope Coach [John Harbaugh] would be smart about how they handle me. Let young guys get the reps that they need and show that they’re quality safetys and get them the repetitions to showcase their talent for another team. I don’t think I have much to prove during training camp but it is the time to get in shape. I’m not trying to be a selfish individual. But it is what it is.”

Reed also continues to deal with a nerve impingement in his neck. But he won't have surgery on it until after his playing career is over. Reed backed up his decision by pointing to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is having his second neck surgery in as many years.
"You saw guys have similar surgeries, like a Peyton Manning and you saw his production drop drastically last year," Reed said. "Nobody wants to comment on it as much but I’m sure Peyton knows it. That’s why he went in and had another surgery. I’ve been dealing with this a long time and I’ve been blessed to keep it strong enough to where I didn’t have to do the surgery. When I do have the surgery, it’s going to be when I’m done playing this game."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Yonder Alonso Trade Bait?

Yonder Alonso: He's an obvious trade chip, being that the Reds have Joey Votto entrenched at first base, and his .302/.382/.498 numbers in 85 games in Triple-A demonstrate that he's ready for an extended look at the big league level. The Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Padres and Tampa Bay Rays are six possible destinations where Alonso should immediately take over.

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Ryan Braun back in lineup, feeling better

Ryan Braun made it through Tuesday's game "really good," according to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and is back in the lineup Wednesday.
"He came out of it really good," said Roenicke. "He's not sore at all. That's a good sign." Roenicke pulled Braun after five innings Tuesday, as they're trying to limit him a much as possible while he nurses his calf ailment. It's not clear how many innings Braun will play Wednesday. When asked if the outfielder would be able to play every remaining game on the trip, Roenicke said, "I hope so. We'll see how it goes."

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Danny Valencia comes through in clutch

Danny Valencia ranks 10th among the Twins' position players with more than 100 at-bats with a .232 batting average.

But Valencia has proved that batting average is not as important as runs batted in, in which he leads the team with 51. Valencia also has 13 game-winning hits and four walk-off hits over the past two seasons.

Those statistics include his two crucial hits in the final two victories of the series with Cleveland this week -- a two-run single in the ninth inning in Tuesday's 2-1 win and a tiebreaking eighth-inning single that drove in the go-ahead run Wednesday in a 7-5 victory. Valencia leads the team with walk-off hits this year at three.

Only Michael Cuddyer, with 160 total bases, has more than the 135 of the former University of Miami standout. Valencia also is second on the team in homers with 11, behind only Cuddyer's 14.

With Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Delmon Young and Jim Thome out for long stretches, it has been Valencia and Cuddyer who have carried a team that has had a hard time scoring runs.

Last season Valencia hit .311 with seven homers and 40 RBI in 291 at-bats after being called up on June 3, so he has shown he can hit for a high average as well as for power.

"I like to consider myself one of the big hitters, also," Valencia said. "But hitting behind Jim Thome, obviously you know they're going to pitch around him to get to me, so being able to come into those situations and capitalize and get the job done for our team to win is all that I care about, and I'm happy we got a win."

Does he feel pressure coming up so many times with the tying or winning runs on base?

"You can never get enough of those [at-bats], you want as many as you can get," Valencia said. "To have a lot of RBI and some homers and just have production, just helping the team win games is all I care about, really. But I would like to get my average up.

"I don't feel too much pressure; occasionally I do, more so from my mom, but I don't feel that much pressure out there because it's just easy for me to relax, really."

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Jason Michaels hits RBI single in 11th inning to lift Astros to 3-2 win over Nationals

HOUSTON - The Houston Astros aren't going to make too much out of winning two straight games for the first time in more than a month.
But for this last place team, it sure feels good to end a series on a high note.

Pinch hitter Jason Michaels hit an RBI single in the 11th inning to lift the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and give Houston consecutive victories and a series win for the first time since taking two of three from the Dodgers in June.

"It's good to see these guys rewarded for some good play," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "To have these back-to-back wins and win a series is big."

Humberto Quintero singled to right field before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt. He took third on a single by Michael Bourn to set up Michaels' game-winner to center off Todd Coffey (3-1).

Neither team got a hit in a scoreless 10th inning before Jayson Werth doubled with one out in the 11th. Wilton Lopez (2-4) retired the next two Nationals to end the scoring threat.

Houston starter Brett Myers is hopeful that the series will help the Astros get something positive going in the second half of the season.

"We need some momentum going right now," he said. "Obviously we're not playing our best baseball, but that series right there we played pretty well. It was close games. We slugged with them yesterday and we pitched with them today and ultimately we were able to come out winning."
It was the 15th extra-inning game for the Nationals this season and dropped their record in those games to 9-6.

Houston rookie Jose Altuve picked up his first major league hit with a single to right field off Tyler Clippard with two outs in the ninth. Clippard walked Hunter Pence before retiring Carlos Lee to send it to the 10th.

"Tyler was Houdini," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He came in with two men on and nobody out and got out of it. He got into trouble the next inning and got out of it."

Werth had three hits and drove in Washington's only runs with a two-run homer that tied it 2-all in the sixth inning. It was his first homer since June 16.

"It's kind of like all year — we aren't matching up," he said. "If we pitch, we don't hit. You hope that we will match up. That's how you win games ... the pitching has been good all year, and we've been picking up the hitting. We are going to have to pitch, and we are going to have to hit if we are going to play in the postseason."

Henry Rodriguez walked Pence and Lee with no outs in the eighth inning and was replaced by Clippard. Brett Wallace put down a sacrifice bunt and Clippard intentionally walked Chris Johnson to load the bases. Clippard got out of the jam when Clint Barmes popped out and Quintero struck out.

Myers yielded eight hits and two runs in seven innings but did not factor into the decision, remaining winless since June 17.

"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, but I was able to make pitches when I needed to," he said.

Livan Hernandez, who started for the Nationals, allowed seven hits and two runs with three strikeouts in six innings. He has allowed seven or more hits in five of his last six starts.

"He made quality pitches. He kept us in the ball game," Johnson said. "I hate that we couldn't win it for him, but unfortunately, we couldn't punch one across."

Hernandez retired six of the last seven he faced and was replaced by Rodriguez, who threw a 1-2-3 seventh.

Michael Morse singled in the sixth inning and Werth followed with his tying homer. The home run to the Crawford Boxes in left field was the 24th Myers has allowed this season — second-most in the majors. Rick Ankiel singled after the homer, but Myers retired the next two Nationals to end the inning.

Quintero pushed Houston's lead to 2-0 on an RBI double in the second inning.

Pence tripled in the first inning on a ball that bounced off the wall in left field and scored on a single by Lee to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
Altuve started at second base on Wednesday in his major league debut. He was called up from Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday after the team traded second baseman Jeff Keppinger to the San Francisco Giants.

"I was a little nervous in the beginning of the game," Altuve said. "And then just went out to play and it was pretty good.”

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Indians fans should not be so quick to call for closer Chris Perez's scalp

The Indians dropped a heartbreaker last night in Minnesota when closer Chris Perez surrendered two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Perez has had a problem with walks, and one of the guys to whom he issued a free pass is current Twinkie and former Indian Jim Thome.

So, the guys want to know whether you think Thome, who was a key part of the Indians' World Series runs in 1995 and 1997, is a Hall of Famer. That's today's Starting Blocks poll. Branson and Chuck both think he's not a first-ballot entrant into the shrine, but that's where they split: Branson isn't sure he's a Hall of Famer at all, and Chuck is convinced that he's earned a spot in Cooperstown.

Plain Dealer baseball writer Paul Hoynes, who covered the Tribe during the awful years before and since those Series runs, says Thome gets HIS first-round ballot.

Hoynsie also wonders why Cleveland fans are after Perez's scalp following last night's blown save. Both of the saves Perez has blown have been one-run games. Hoynsie notes that Perez isn't a 1-2-3 kind of stereotypical closer, but he pointed out that the guy is just about as lights-out as the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

The guys also discuss the beaning of Travis Buck and the odd alignment of a universe that has the Indians AND the Pirates in first place in the dwindling days of July. Also on the docket: Hoynsie's take on what the Tribe would be willing to surrender (hint: not Drew Pomeranz) to get the pitching or a right-handed bat for a run at this year's post-season.

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Jimmy Graham 2011 Highlights

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Rashad Butler To the Falcons?

The biggest priority for the Atlanta Falcons will be signing their own offensive linemen. But if the Texans' Rashad Butler and Pittsburgh's Trai Essex become available as unrestricted free agents, they fit the Falcons' style. Butler is a versatile tackle who could fit in at guard. Essex is a big, power lineman that can play both sides of the center, too.

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Ray Lewis Still Among the League's Best

Pat Kirwan from continued his player rankings with the linebackers and split the group into two categories — inside and outside backers.

The list has 20 players (10 inside and 10 outside), which is only about 18 percent of the approximately 112 starting linebackers in the league. The result is a large number of players will end up in the honorable-mention category or nowhere on the list at all.

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis enters his 16th NFL season, but many believe he still is among the best at his position. Include Kirwan in that group, because he lists Lewis first in Group A ahead of New England’s Jerod Mayo, Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons, Chicago’s Brian Urlacher and San Francisco’s Patrick Willis.

“It’s straight to the Hall of Fame for Lewis, who still plays at a high level and has the most commanding presence on an NFL field,” Kirwan writes. “He was in on 139 total tackles in 2010 and had two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. His pass-coverage skills are not what they used to be, but still good enough to get the job done.”

Jameel McClain enters his fourth season with the Ravens as an inside mate to Lewis, but he is a free agent and needs to be re-signed. He was not ranked.

The second five from Group B, in order, are Carolina’s Jon Beason, Chicago’s Lance Briggs, Washington’s London Fletcher, Minnesota’s Chad Greenway and Jonathan Vilma from the New Orleans Saints.

Pittsburgh’s James Farrior, David Harris from the New York Jets, Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny, James Laurinitis from the St. Louis Rams, Atlanta’s Curtis Lofton, Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson, Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch and Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk were on the honorable-mention list.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Rob Chudzinski brings thoughtful approach

CHARLOTTE - As a player, Rob Chudzinski had to think like a coach in order to be successful.

Yet Chudzinski never really thought about becoming a coach.

But now, 17 years after Dennis Erickson invited him to serve as a graduate assistant at the University of Miami, Chudzinski can't think of possibly doing anything else.

"I really had never thought about it before until I ran into Coach Erickson and we began talking about it," said Chudzinski, the Panthers' offensive coordinator. "I was the type of player that was always squeezing everything out of my abilities. I had to know the game and kind of think like a coach to be able to play.

"When Coach Erickson invited me to come and be a graduate assistant coach, and I thought about it and decided, ‘Yeah, I'll try it.'"

Chudzinski recently made another leap of faith that he hopes is as successful as his decision to coach in the first place. He was in a good spot as assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers, but he decided to follow Ron Rivera - then the Chargers' defensive coordinator – to Carolina.

"We had never really talked about it until everything started to happen with Ron. That's when he approached me about it, and I was flattered and excited about the opportunity," Chudzinski said. "Knowing what kind of person he is and knowing what kind of head coach I feel like he's going to be, that was certainly a big attraction. Plus, it's about the kind of organization it is and the feel I got when I interviewed here."

And Chudzinski – along with Rivera - seems to have a good feel for what the Panthers need as they try to bounce back from the least productive offensive season in franchise history. He inherits an offense that struggled to score in 2010 but one that will return the majority of the pieces from a run-first unit that had been productive in previous seasons.

Chudzinski wants to return the Panthers to a physical style of offensive football, but not necessarily a conservative style.

"I've always been involved with an attacking style of offense," said Chudzinski, who helped the Chargers lead the NFL in total offense last season. "Balance is extremely important in the things you're doing – run and pass balance – and I think having guys prepared from a technique standpoint and from a fundamental standpoint is extremely important.

"Ultimately what you're looking for is execution and efficiency from the guys running the offense, but football is an aggressive, attacking, physical game. I believe strongly that guys want to play that way."

Chudzinski developed his aggressive approach as a player in high school, when he competed at linebacker and defensive end in addition to his primary role at tight end – the position that earned him a scholarship to Miami.

He was undersized by his own admission but played big, starting for three seasons while being a part of national title teams in 1987 and 1989.
"I've always taken the approach that I need to outwork people - the same approach that I had as a player," Chudzinski said. "The only thing you can control is how hard you work."

After college, Chudzinski stayed in the Miami area and applied those principles to the business world, serving as a consultant for a few years before he ran into Erickson and a coaching career was born.

After two years as a graduate assistant, he took over the tight ends for five seasons, tutoring standouts like Jeremy Shockeyicon-article-link – a first-year Panther – Kellen Winslow and Bubba Franks. Then he ascended to offensive coordinator, helping the Hurricanes to another national title his first season in 2001 and to school records for points and total yards in 2002.

In 2004, the NFL came calling when Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis – formerly Miami's head coach – hired him.

“I was at the University of Miami for a long time, but I had always wanted at some point to have a chance to coach in the NFL," Chudzinski said. "We had been real successful at Miami, so I felt like it was time for the next challenge."

Over the next seven seasons, Chudzinski had a pair of stints with both the Browns and Chargers.

In 2007, as Cleveland's offensive coordinator, he led a lightly regarded offense headed by quarterback Derek Anderson to a 10-6 record, with Anderson and three of his offensive teammates making the Pro Bowl.

"It was a fun year in a lot of ways," Chudzinski said. "We kind of turned the whole thing around after a lot of people had counted us out."
Now, "Chud" hopes to do more of the same with the Panthers.

"I'm really anxious to get started," he said. "I'm excited about the whole thing, just champing at the bit waiting to get out there."

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Frank Gore already thinking outside box

San Francisco 49ers' offense lacked subtlety under former coach Mike Singletary. That was the point. Singletary vowed to "hit people in the mouth" with a power running game.

If opponents loaded up against the run, too bad. The 49ers were going to establish physical dominance anyway. That was the mentality.

The 49ers' new coaching staff shares similar values, with a twist: more sophisticated run-game scheming from coach Jim Harbaugh.

"It's not that my running style will change," running back Frank Gore told Jonathan Jones of "He's just going to get me catching the ball more and getting me a lot of space. He'll be doing a lot of different things instead of [running against] the eight or nine men in the box. He's just trying to get the box loosened up for me."

Questions arose upon reading that passage. How effective were the 49ers running against defenses with eight or more defenders in the box? Did Gore run against these fronts a disproportionate amount of the time? Might a shift in approach help extend his career?

Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information came through with a file showing how NFL teams and running backs have fared in these situations over the past two seasons. I'll break out some of the findings below.

1. Gore was leading the NFL in yards per carry last season against defenses showing eight or more defenders in the box.

Twenty-three players had at least 25 carries in these situations through Week 12 last season, when Gore suffered a season-ending hip injury.
ore ranked only 19th on the list with 26 such carries, but he averaged an impressive 6.4 yards per attempt on them. That was the highest average among players with at least 25 attempts against these fronts.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall led the NFL with 70 such carries. He was among eight players with at least 45.

Mendenhall faced eight or more in the box on 29.4 percent of his carries through Week 12, compared to only 12.8 percent for Gore.

Such percentages vary for backs across the league. The Houston Texans' Arian Foster, who ranked second to Mendenhall with 57 carries against defenses with at least eight defenders in the box through Week 12, was at 25.4 percent. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was at 24 percent. The St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson was at 13.8 percent.

Brandon Jacobs (5.7), Adrian Peterson (5.6) and Chris Ivory joined Gore in averaging at least five yards per carry on these runs.

The seven lowest averages: Cedric Benson (1.3), Lynch (1.7), Marion Barber (1.7), Jackson (2.1), LaDainian Tomlinson (2.1), Ray Rice (2.4) and Chris Johnson (2.5).

The stats do not take into account variables such as down, distance, game situation or personnel groups. They tell us Gore wasn't especially likely to run the ball against defenses with eight or more defenders in the box.

2. Gore's carries against defenses showing eight or more defenders in the box have declined recently.

In 2009, Gore carried 84 times for 358 yards and a 4.3-yard average against these defenses. That worked out to six such carries per game for the 14 games Gore played. The average fell to 2.4 per game last season.

What changed from 2009 to 2010?

The 49ers changed offensive coordinators early in the 2010 season. Troy Smith brought a boom-or-bust dynamic to the offense for a while. The 49ers also added about five snaps per game with more than two wide receivers on the field, inviting different looks from opposing defenses. Gore's short-yardage carries did not vary much.

The offensive line changed.

First-round draft choices Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis started as rookies, with Iupati quickly establishing himself as an emerging player. David Baas took over at center. Right guard Chilo Rachal stood out to Pro Football Focus for improved run blocking. And rookie Nate Byham showed signs of becoming one of the better blocking tight ends in the league.

No matter the reason, Gore's carries against stacked fronts were already on the decline.

3. The number of blockers available matters, but the stats are confusing.

ESPN Stats & Information charts box counts apart from whether or not boxes were "loaded" with more defenders than available blockers.

Improbably, the 49ers led the NFL in 2009 with a 5.4-yard average against loaded boxes featuring at least eight defenders. They ranked only 29th that year with a 2.2-yard average when facing eight or more in the box in "unloaded" situations that should have proven more favorable.

This makes little sense on the surface.

The stats flipped in 2010. San Francisco ranked 25th with a 2.5-yard average against loaded boxes featuring at least eight defenders. They ranked second only to Houston with a 5.4-yard average when facing eight or more in the box in unloaded (more favorable) situations.

This makes more sense.

It's possible the 49ers' reliance on heavier personnel -- formations featuring two backs and/or two tight ends -- affected their averages in unexpected ways. For now, though, I'm not drawing any conclusions from the "loaded" and "unloaded" breakdowns.

They're a load of confusion at this point.

4. These stats included information of interest for teams other than the 49ers. More on that in a separate item (or two).

For example, the Arizona Cardinals' Beanie Wells faced less favorable running situations a very high percentage of the time.

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

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Brandon Meriweather throwing weight around at Punch Gym

EAST PROVIDENCE — If the NFL’s lockout ended today and training camp opened in a day or two, Brandon Meriweather knows he’d be more than ready to play football.

 If Bill Belichick needs any proof, he can head over to the Punch Kettlebell Gym in Rumford. In a sometimes-intense 60-minute workout on Tuesday, the Pats’ All-Pro safety and a friend, James Roberts, were put through a cutting-edge set of exercises by gym owner Anthony DiLuglio.
 Instead of the traditional strong-guy drills dominated by bar bells, the Punch workouts offer a wider variety of tests that feature kettlebells, ropes, power jumping and even Strongman logs. Meriweather and a growing legion of NFL players are big boosters of the program.

 “I‘ve been ready since April 1,” said Meriweather. “Seriously, I’m ready. I’m about 207 (pounds) now. I’m running, I feel good, I’m strong. All the things I needed to work on, I did. I’m ready to go.”

 Meriweather left Punch on Tuesday morning and headed to West Warwick to appear at a camp run by ex-teammate Ellis Hobbs. Then he planned to fly home to Apopka, Fla., hopefully for the final time before the start of the 2011 preseason. But don’t ask Meriweather for any inside info on the latest lockout news. Like many fans, the four-year veteran has grown tired of the legal back-and-forth that’s dominated the football landscape for the last several months.

 “To be honest, after about two months of the lockout I didn’t pay too much attention to it,” he said. “It seems like everybody knows more about the lockout than I do because I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch (ESPN’s) SportsCenter. I don’t like to get my hopes up and get brought back down the next day. I feel like that’s what SportsCenter’s been doing. They said 100 days ago the lockout should be over and now they’re saying the same thing.”

 While the potential changes to salary structure and free agency could affect players such as Meriweather, he says he has a quick plan if he’s asked to vote on a potential new labor deal.

 “When I get an e-mail saying it’s time to vote, that’s when I’ll call (Matt) Light and Vince Wilfork and Tom (Brady) and the people who I know understand what’s going on,” he said. “That’s when I’ll put my ear to the ground and see what I can find out before I vote.”

 When the Pats do hit the field again, Meriweather will be one of the team’s most important players. Evidence of that came in a recent ESPN poll in which fans were asked to vote for the best possible starting lineup for a team that would play from 2014-16. Meriweather (at strong safety) and kick returner Brandon Tate were the only Patriots to make the cut.

 This is not news to DiLuglio, a Cranston native who’s introduced kettlebell training to not only Meriweather but also Jerod Mayo, Darius Butler and a slew of other Patriots. His first taste of the NFL came when Tennessee Titans assistant strength coach Jason Novak became a disciple and sold the theory to his boss, Newport native Steve Watterson.”

 “This is great for football because we believe in drills to build resilience, lower-injury rates and build confidence,” said DiLuglio.

 Kerry Taylor, a former Patriots lineman, is now an owner and trainer at Punch Gym and sees the gains pro players can make through the program.

 “With kettlebell, it’s your whole body moving weight, not lifting weight,” said Taylor. “It’s a whole range of motion that you’re not used to doing, adding different aspects of training into what they do.”

 While Meriweather and Roberts worked on one side of the gym with DiLuglio, other trainers put a dozen middle-aged men and women through similar drills on the opposite side of the large room that occupies prime space in the renovated Rumford Center. Meriweather seemed to get the most enjoyment out of clean-and-jerking a 210-pound log that looked like it just fell from a redwood forest.

 “We work out with a lot of different tools and weights. It’s not traditional bench press, squats,” he said. “We do different things with weight. You can’t get these things from an ordinary gym. Now I go into a regular gym and am pretty much puzzled because I don’t see that stuff as helping me as much.”

 DiLuglio met Meriweather through Mayo, another Patriot he considers a “lifer” who owns an unbending work ethic.

 “There are guys that do this for a living and guys who do this for a job. This is his life,” DiLuglio said of Meriweather. “Guys like Brandon, Mayo, Brady, it’s in their bones. I can’t teach him a better skill set for the game, but I can give him more confidence and more resilience and we can build on that.”

 DiLuglio says he has a close relationship with Harold Nash and Moses Cabrera, two Patriots’ conditioning coaches who believe in kettlebell training. Meriweather says he’s happy to keep up the drills, wherever they are offered.

 “I took like two weeks off after the season and then I started working out on my own. Then I got into the groove of it, heavy,” Meriweather said. “I feel like the stuff A.D. does you can’t find nowhere else. I feel it separates players from the pack.”

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Brian Barton leaves for Japan

Cincinnati Reds OF Brian Barton signed with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese League Monday, July 18.

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Chris Perez gives up winning hit to college buddy Valencia, Tribe loses 2-1

MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Perez dreamed of this scenario many times while living with Danny Valencia at the University of Miami.

Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Game on the line. Perez on the mound and Valencia in the box.

The outcome wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

Valencia hit a two-run single off Perez in the ninth inning, sending the Minnesota Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.

Perez’s pitch on the inside corner broke Valencia’s bat, but the third baseman had just enough on it to bloop it into left field, scoring Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer, and giving the Twins a much-needed bounceback victory.

“Of course,” said Perez, who lived with Valencia for two years in college and has known him since they were 17-year-old high schoolers in South Florida. “At least I got the bat. You can’t be too happy about that hit. He’s happy because they won, but I’ll take that swing every time. It just fell in there.”

The Indians were looking to take an eight-game lead over the fourth-place Twins in the AL Central when Perez (2-5), the All-Star closer with 22 saves in 23 chances, took the mound.

But the right-hander was a little off from the start, walking Mauer with one out and giving up a bloop hit that Cuddyer stretched into a double. Jim Thome was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Valencia came to the plate for the long-awaited showdown.

“I thought I made some good pitches to Mauer,” Perez said. “One of the four that he called balls, are strikes to 90 percent of the league. But that’s baseball, too. So, I didn’t make pitches when I needed to.”

Valencia was in Perez’s wedding, and said he was waiting for a slider.

“I’m sure he wants to throw a slider because he’s always said that’s what he’s going to strike me out with,” Valencia said. “Luckily enough he couldn’t get ahead and he gave me a pitch I could hit good enough to get to the outfield and it fell in there.”

It was huge emotional lift for Minnesota, which was swept in a day-night doubleheader to start the series on Monday.

“He’s a guy who’s been pretty much money for us since last year, especially in one-run situations,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “So, they just got to him with those couple of well-placed singles.”

Cleveland fell into a tie with Detroit for the division lead. The Tigers rallied to beat Oakland 8-3 at Comerica Park.

The Twins were dominated for most of Tuesday’s game by Justin Masterson, who allowed four hits and struck out six in 7 2-3 innings. With a fastball that hit 97 mph and a heavy sinker that routinely was clocked between 93 and 94, the right-hander with the big, looping delivery mowed through Minnesota’s struggling lineup.

He retired 13 straight hitters before running into trouble in the seventh when Mauer reached on an error and Cuddyer singled to put two on with nobody out. But the big righty fanned Thome and got Valencia to ground into an inning-ending double play to preserve the lead.

A scary moment happened in the fifth inning when a 91-mph fastball got away from Liriano and hit Travis Buck in the helmet. The ball smacked just above Buck’s ear flap and ricocheted into the stands as a sellout crowd held its breath.

A dazed Buck sat down in the dirt, but was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power a few moments later.

“I hope he’s OK,” Liriano said.

The Indians announced that Buck left with a head contusion and said there were no immediate signs or symptoms of a concussion.

Looking a little rattled, Liriano gave up a single to Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases with nobody out. But he wiggled out of the jam, only allowing a sacrifice fly to Asdrubal Cabrera.

Perez’s night didn’t figure to get any easier when he left the ballpark. He planned to spend the night at Valencia’s place in Minneapolis.

“I will be tweeting a picture of me and him,” Valencia said. “We’re just going to be watching the highlight over and over again.”

Perez figured he at least deserved something out of the deal.

“He’s buying dinner,” Perez said.

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Danny Valencia's walk-off hit pushes Twins over CLE

Danny Valencia's two-run single off Indians closer Chris Perez in the ninth inning Tuesday propelled the Twins to a 2-1 victory.
Valencia was 0-for-3 heading into the at-bat having ground into a double play and struck out twice. He made everyone forget that with one swing in a crucial game for the Twins. Perez intentionally walked Jim Thome to load the bases in order to face his former college roommate; Minnesota's third baseman roped a single to left and was mobbed by his teammates. Valencia now has 50 RBI on the season despite hitting just .232/.283/.384.

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Jon Jay To Start in Center

One of the largest ballparks in the league, complete with one of the most spacious center fields in the game, welcomes the Cardinals for a three-game midweek series against the host New York Mets.

And Jon Jay gets the first chance to cover those acres.

Jay started in center and bat second last night against the Mets, with shortstop Ryan Theriot in the lineup, at shortstop and batting first overall. Manager Tony La Russa is sticking with the pitcher batting eighth against the Mets and their scheduled starter Dillon Gee, a righty. The Mets plan to have shortstop Jose Reyes (hamstring) back from the disabled list tonight, and outfielder Carlos Beltran (flu) is considered probable for tonight's game.

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Ryan Braun returns to lead Brewers

PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun returned to the Milwaukee lineup and hit the second of the Brewers' three first-inning home runs in an 11-3 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.

Corey Hart and Yuniesky Betancourt also homered in the first inning for Milwaukee, which won for the third time in four games to remain one game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

Betancourt added a two-run homer in the ninth for his first career two-homer game and Rickie Weeks had a solo shot in the third.

Yovani Gallardo (11-6) allowed three runs - one earned - and four hits over six innings with a walk and six strikeouts.

Brandon Allen hit a towering home run into the second-deck luxury suites for the Diamondbacks, who have lost five of six.

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Aubrey Huff dealing with back tightness

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that Brandon Belt was called up because Aubrey Huff is dealing with tightness in his lower back.

Bochy said he wants to give Huff a few days off in hopes that he can put the back injury behind him. It sounds like it could be a short stay for Belt, though if he hits, he could certainly stay around. Hitting is something Huff hasn't done much of this season, as he's batting just .232/.286/.359 for the year.

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Video of Santana Moss Working Out with Ocho Cinco and Andre Johnson

Santana Moss has been low key this off-season, but here's some impressive video of Tana working out with Andre Johnson and Ocho Cinco. Some of these route runs look too fast to be real. I tried to keep an eye on people walking by in the background (similar to that awesome Simpsons episode where they edited Homer's interview and the clock hands are moving all over the place).

Regardless, Ocho Cinco has a crazy foot drill on the 3:20 mark, which Tana has trouble being able to do. Based on everything I've seen in this video, the Redskins should definitely re-sign Moss. (Sarcasm alert). But really, we do need Tana. 

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Donnell Bennett Coaches in Youth Camp


Former NFL player Donnell Bennett coaches the Falcons Friday, July 15, 2011, during the Dolphins Academy at Estero High School.

Click here to order Donnell Bennett’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Alonzo Highsmith talks about Packers, Hurricanes and entitlement syndrome

Former University of Miami running back Alonzo Highsmith was on the show on Monday morning. Highsmith is a scout for the world champion Green Bay Packers:

--Alonzo, I can't remember a team that had more injuries that won a Super Bowl championship. You guys... I don't know what the final count was of guys who went down that you lost for the season, but to be that beaten up, to have that many guys who were backups or on the practice squad make an impact on what you guys did and that run through the playoffs is just one of the best stories we have ever seen for a Super Bowl championship. Would you agree? "Oh, yeah, it was a tremendous story, but I think the thing that really had our team excited was the fact that every game we lost this year--we were 10-6--six of those games we lost we should have won. ... And the thing that helped us most probably was playing away from home, out of Lambeau Field, because our offense was more of a passing offense by the end of the year, so it allowed [quarterback] Aaron [Rodgers] to play indoors. It became like fast-break football, and that was to our advantage."

--Sam Shields, a former 'Cane, has to be one of the best stories from last year: "I think there's only a couple players on our defense who played more snaps than Sam Shields. I mean, he played six hundred and something snaps last year and he was a big part of our defense."

--Speaking of former Hurricanes, how would you rank the greatest of all time? "I'd have to put Ted Hendricks over [Ken] Dorsey."

--What are your thoughts on Al Golden and the UM program? "I'm ecstatic about Al Golden. I think he's brought the right state of mind back to the program. The thing I like about Al Golden... I call him a cross between Jimmy [Johnson] and Howard [Schnellenberger]. He's all about accountability. You're going to have to earn your keep on this football team. There's nothing given to anybody."

--One last thing, Alonzo. You're from the old school of like, 'Hey, Alonzo, just because your coming in here as a five-star linebacker/running back, we want to let you know you're going to have to earn it and you're going to have to wait your turn.' Today's guys, they want it like, 'I'm coming to your school because I heard everybody's gone and I have a chance a chance to start as a freshman.' It wasn't like that when you came in: "I've been writing a book for the last two years, and I should be finished with it in another year or so. And I've been interviewing coaches and talking to coaches and talking to people like yourself. The book will be called 'Entitled,' and it's just about today's athletes and how everybody feels like they're owed something. ... It's amazing to listen to young guys talk."

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Scout's take: Santana Moss vs. Plaxico Burress

With the NFL lockout on the verge of coming to a close and free agency on the horizon, the debate rages on about whether former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress fits the timing-based system of Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

We addressed the issue in last week’s mailbag, while also pointing out a potentially better option for the Bears in Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss (Bears receiver Devin Hester told the Chicago Tribune recently that he'd like the team to sign Moss), who will likely re-sign with his team.

My opinion is one thing. But to really dig into this, we enlisted the help of a former NFL scout, who also played receiver in the NFL and has spent some time studying Moss and Burress, to give us a break down on how they may or may not fit in Martz’s offense.

Here’s what he had to say.

On Moss: “Dynamic receiver with good speed and quickness. Although he is up in age, he’s still a legitimate vertical threat with the burst to blow the top off coverage. He has a knack for producing explosive plays (plays of 20-plus yards) due to his speed and quickness. Moss is also a polished route runner with the ability to separate on short- and intermediate routes. He is at his best when used on "in-breaking" routes such as digs or crossers because he is able to run away from coverage."

On why Moss fits: “Moss is a route runner with the speed and quickness Martz prefers. His game is ideally suited to run the precise timing routes of the system, and his run-after-catch skills will result in big plays for the Bears. When you look at the success Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce enjoyed in that system, it’s easy to predict big numbers for Moss as a player for Martz.”

On Burress: “Big, physical receiver with excellent ball skills. He’s at his best with ball in the air. Burress utilizes his superior size and athleticism to "post up" smaller defenders. His exceptional length gives the quarterback a bigger target to pinpoint. He runs well for his size, but is not a considered a burner. He lacks the burst to outrun defenders on vertical routes. His big plays are often the result of jump balls down the field or smaller throws converted into big gains after he’s broken tackles in the open field. As a route runner, he is not fluid or polished in and out of his breaks due to his size. He relies on size and strength to gain separation rather than his quickness. Given his two-year absence from the game, it is very likely that he will struggle getting free from coverage.”

On why Burress doesn’t fit: “Martz has never featured a big receiver in his system because he has a preference for route runners. Most big receivers aren't able to get in and out of their breaks quickly, and that can throw off the timing of the passing game. While Burress would give the Bears a big, red zone target, he would struggle with some of the timing routes of the system. He’d seem like a misfit in that offense.”

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Lorenzo Neal thinks Ray Lewis will play only two more years

Former Ravens fullback Lorenzo Neal said he doesn’t think Ray Lewis will play beyond the 2012 season.

“I think Ray [will retire] this year or next year,” said Neal, who attended Ray Rice’s football camp Monday. “I don’t think he’ll play after these two years. I think he’ll just bow out.”

Neal is a friend of Lewis who enjoyed a healthy rivalry when they went against each other for 13 years. When they were teammates in 2008, Neal had a locker close to Lewis and they worked out toegether almost daily.

Lewis, 36, is entering his 16th NFL season this year.

“This might be Ray’s last year,” said Neal, who retired last season. “You’re getting ready to lose an icon. What he lacks in athletic ability now – you can see it and he can see it, he’s not crazy – but he has it here [points to his head]. He anticipates. He studies enough film to get to play.”

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Shockey: Deal Will Be Done By Thursday, Mini-camp Opens Friday

A new deal between NFL players and owners will be completed by Thursday according to veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Shockey, who signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers prior to the lockout, was also told to be in Charlotte for a three-day camp beginning Friday.

“Obviously the details have to be completed, but this deal is done,” Shockey told Busted Coverage.

Shockey also stated the Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams was also given the green light. If that proves to be the case, the league would be successful in averting any lost games–preseason or otherwise–due to the labor impasse. Moreover, all games would start on time.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Gaby Sanchez tries to rediscover hot hitting

NEW YORK -- After a torrid first two months to the season, Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez has cooled off considerably.

Manager Jack McKeon said the team's hitting coach, Eduardo Perez, is working with Sanchez to get him back on track.

"He was the one guy that was really carrying us before I got here," manager Jack McKeon said. "Since I got here, the other guys have picked up. That'd be nice if he jumps in there. That would be really a plus."

During the first two months of the season, Sanchez batted .322 with a .921 on-base plus slugging percentage. In June and half of July, Sanchez is batting just .232 with a .684 OPS. Despite his recent struggles, McKeon is confident Sanchez will be able to get back to his earlier form.

"It's just a matter of time," McKeon said. "Guys go in a rut, then they figure things out."

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Ryan Braun still not DL situation

Phoenix - Manager Ron Roenicke said today that he still doesn't think left fielder Ryan Braun will end up on the DL despite his lingering left leg injury that has him out of the starting lineup for the 10th time in 13 games.

"Just talking to (trainer) Roger (Caplinger), I still don't think that's what it's going to be," Roenicke said of a possible DL stint. "But you always get concerned when an injury isn't healing up the way you want it to.

"Roger thinks it's getting better. But if it doesn't (continue), we're going to have to start talking about (a DL stint). If it's not progressing, than I would worry about it. But when Roger tells me it's getting better all the time, I feel OK. It's not coming along real fast.

"A lot of Ryan's game is his legs. He had two or three ground balls in that Colorado that he would have beat out normally. Because he can't run, they 're outs. He relies on his speed in the outfield, too. When you don't have the speed you're used to having, it changes his game.

"We're going day by day. I'm hoping he can play tomorrow."

The news was much better today on right-hander Shaun Marcum, who left the game Sunday in Colorado with a neck strain suffered making a diving play on a bunt. Marcum went to a chiropractor today and said he had "immediate" relief.

"It was a couple of things out of place. He adjusted them," said Marcum. "I should be good to go now. As soon as he did it, I said, 'That felt good.' It was immediate improvement."

Marcum said he expects to make his next start Friday in San Francisco.

"I plan on it," he said. "I don't see any reason why not." 

I know many of you are wondering why Yuniesky Betancourt is back at short today after Josh Wilson started there Saturday and Sunday and went 4-for-8. Basically, Roenicke said he's not ready to bench Betancourt despite his substandard play.

"The longer I play him, the longer 'Yuni' sits out," said Roenicke. "I don't want 'Yuni' sitting out too long. I still want him to have the opportunity to get it back together. We'll see how tonight's game goes. I may have Josh back in there tomorrow or the next day."

As for future plans at short, Roenicke said, "It's who is playing better. I don't know if it's strickly 50-50 (in splitting time).

"Right now, (Wilson) is playing better. I saw Josh a lot when he was with the Mariners. I know what Josh is. He's a really valuable player to have, and when he's swinging the bat well, I like putting him back out there. Probably if Casey (McGehee) didn't have that real good game yesterday, Josh probably would have been at third base.

"Whoever is out there doing well, I'd like them to have the opportunity to play more."

Because Wilson is a career .230 hitter, I asked Roenicke if he assumed he couldn't sustain his recent hitting surge.

"Sometimes, different atmospheres help," said Roenicke. "And because he started off well with us, sometimes your mind set changes. If you struggled the first few games, that makes it a lot more difficult to turn it around, especially when you're an extra player.

"I know he is a good defender. Offensively, I didn't know what he would do, especially coming off the bench."

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Same Shields and DeMarcus Van Dyke Get New Tattoos

Here is Super Winning proCane and Green Bay Packer Same Shield’s new tattoo.


Here is newest proCane and Oakland Raide DeMarcus Van Dyke’s newest tattoo.


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Clinton Portis blames media for perception his career dwindling

Clinton Portis turns 30 on Sept. 1 and he hopes to have a new team well before then.

He’ll be hitting the free-agent market and he’s optimistic he’ll have a chance to become the featured back for some team even if his career has seemingly stalled with the Washington Redskins after a groin injury in 2009 and a concussion in 2010 cost him time and production on the field.
Part of the issue is a matter of perception to Portis, who in an interview on ESPN 980 in Washington blamed media.

“Once you become the problem of an organization where in my eyes I kind of consider myself the mainstay,” Portis said, according to “If you look my time I was in Washington, you take away the three years I was hurt, all were 1,300 or better yard seasons. So every time I got hurt two consecutive years, I was the problem, I was keeping us from moving on. So I just think it became a bittersweet moment in D.C.

“And the fans due to the media portraying me as the problem and as the bad guy when I think I gave my heart to a city and to an organization. I think I did everything I was asked, but in some peoples’ eyes it’s not enough.”

Portis says that his body feels right now and when asked where he’d like to play he rattled off a list of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

“You’re saying I turned 30, but I had a slate of two years where I really haven’t done anything,” Portis said. “So right now, I feel good and feel better at this point than I have in a long time, just feeling like I’m completely healthy, just feeling like things are totally healed. And now that I know what I need to do and what I need to get accomplished, I’m fine with that.”

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Matt Bosher Speaks with ProPlayerInsiders

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Reggie Wayne won't hold out for more money

Earlier this month, Colts defensive end Robert Mathis took to Twitter to deny reports that he would hold out for a new contract once the lockout is resolved.

“Haven’t thought of scheming up a #PayMePlan yet for 3 reasons. (1)18 is up (2) 87 needs his (3)free agents will b addressed b4 me,” Mathis said, later adding "I have every intention on doing my job once the NFL gives us our job back. I never been a locker room cancer & wont start now. #GoColtsDammit."

We bring this up for several reasons. First, Mathis is right, once there's officially a 2011 season, one of the Colts' first priorities will be to give Peyton Manning a bunch of well-deserved money. Because without him Indianapolis is, at best, a six-win team.

Second, Reggie Wayne does "need his" too, but like Mathis, he has no intentions of holding out. Details via the Indianapolis Star

The five-time Pro Bowl selection is in the final year of a six-year, $39 million contract he signed in 2006. He's due a base salary of $5.95 million this season.

That's hardly chump change, but below market value for a player of Wayne's caliber. The average salary of the top 10 receivers in 2010 was $8.65 million. Over the past seven seasons, Wayne leads NFL receivers with 643 receptions and 8,849 yards, and ranks fifth with 58 touchdowns…. Wayne reported for the start of the 2010 training camp, and plans to do likewise later this month. Barring an unforeseen hiccup in the labor process, the Colts are expected to report to Anderson University on July 31 for the start of camp.

"I'm a Colt. What else I'm gonna be?" Wayne said, dismissing a question about a possible camp holdout. "I'm going to go to work. That's what I do.''

As PFT's Michael David Smith notes, despite the Star claiming that Wayne's salary is "below market value," the reality is that he's 33, typically the beginning of the end for NFL wide receivers. "The Colts found out the hard way with Marvin Harrison that giving a big contract to a receiver in his 30s can be a costly mistake," Smith writes.

That's not to say Wayne is over the hill; he's not. In fact, he's vital to what the Colts do offensively. It's just that he's nowhere near as important as their 35-year-old quarterback. And like Mathis, Wayne sounds like he understands that.

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

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Joe McGrath comes to the rescue . . . again

VANCOUVER - Offensive lineman Joe McGrath, synonymous with a second-half turnaround by the B.C. Lions last year, could come out of mothballs to help the team do it a second time.

Lions head coach Wally Buono said the return of McGrath is one of the options the Lions are looking at in the wake of a torn triceps injury suffered by starting left guard Jon Hameister-Ries in practice last week. Hameister-Ries is to undergo surgery and will be placed on the nine-game injured list.

“He’d be our seventh guy [offensive lineman] at this point,” Buono said of McGrath. “He’s versatile.”

The Lions released McGrath in May, a week before the start of training, a move that was anticipated when the Lions picked up left tackle Ben Archibald. The free-agent signing gave the Lions the option of moving sophomore pro Jovan Olafioye from the left side to play McGrath’s right-tackle spot.

McGrath, 30, signed with B.C. on Aug. 19 last year after being released by the Edmonton Eskimos and took some satisfaction in making his former coach, Richie Hall, eat his words. Hall deemed McGrath "too soft." But the former Miami Hurricane was a bulwark on the offensive line as the Lions went 7-3 over their final 10 games - with the Moose Jaw native starting at right tackle - to qualify for the playoffs.

McGrath said Sunday that the Lions have discussed his possible return with his agent, Tim Fleiszer. And he bears no grudge toward the club for having released him at a personally inconvenient juncture, well after most CFL teams had posted “no vacancy” signs for their 2011 training camp rosters.

“The league is so small, players get recycled, and coaches get recycled, all the time,” McGrath said from his home in Edmonton. “I don’t take it personally [his release by the Lions] because things happen under weird circumstances. You can’t go around being upset because it’s business.

“I’ll hang up the cleats one day, but I’m not quite ready to do that yet. I’m still young enough, I enjoy the game and I still want to play.”

Hameister-Ries was injured in practice last Wednesday when he tangled with defensive lineman James Bryant, a member of the scout team. However, the initial diagnosis of a strained triceps turned out to be a false hope, when an MRI revealed the tear.

Hameister-Ries flew to Edmonton for Saturday’s game against the Eskimos and was expected to dress in a backup role , with his injured arm taped, as part of the 42-man roster. When the more serious nature of his injury came to light, however, Hameister-Ries was scratched in favour of practice roster player Adam Baboulas.

Jesse Newman started in place of Hameister-Ries at left guard in the Edmonton game.

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Frank Gore looks forward to playing for Harbaugh, competition at RB

Frank Gore has been one of the most consistent backs in the league since he entered the NFL in 2005. But the closest his San Francisco 49ers have come to the playoffs was last year when they went 6-10, just a game behind NFC West champ Seattle. Now Gore has a new coach in Jim Harbaugh and is recovering from his 2010 season-ending hip injury. He spoke with's Jonathan Jones about the offensive-minded Harbaugh, his reaction to the James Harrison rant and how Terrelle Pryor looks in workouts. What are your initial impressions of new head coach Jim Harbaugh and how do you think he will benefit you?
Gore: Talking to him, you can tell that he's a very smart man. He told me that before I left to make sure that I'm in great shape after the lockout because he'll be counting on me this year. He also told me the way he's going to use me and show the whole world that I'm the best back in the league. How will he be able to do that?
Gore: It's not that my running style will change. He's just going to get me catching the ball more and getting me a lot of space. He'll be doing a lot of different things instead of the eight or nine men in the box. He's just trying to get the box loosened up for me. The writing was on the walls for Singletary's firing. What were your thoughts on your coach for the previous two seasons being shown the door?
Gore: In the league you got to win, you know? I love him and the attitude but you have to win. And I understand that. I think with our coach now, just going over little stuff on all sides of the ball, I think a lot of teams will a tough time defending us after just listening to what Harbaugh has talked about. He knows offense and I think that'll help us a lot. He played in the league. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the league at his time so he knows what he's talking about. How's your hip doing and do you think you'll be back to your 2009 form when you posted some of your best career numbers?
Gore: I feel great I've been working very hard. I've been taking one day at a time with my trainers with my therapy people. I'll be fine. I'll probably be a little nervous when I first touch the field. But being scared to move or make cuts or do anything? Nah I'll be great. The 49ers drafted Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter in the fourth round. What did that pick tell you and do you feel any pressure heading into training camp?
Gore: They let me know like they always do. I don't put nothing past no man who ever played the game of football. It let me know that I have to come in and prepare to work and I'm going to do that. I know we also need a backup if we don't bring Brian Westbrook back. And Kendall is a similar style guy and has a similar style of play (to Westbrook). But I'm not scared of any kind of competition. If I ever was, I would have never went to Miami where there are running backs everywhere. I'm not scared of any man. How much truth was there in James Harrison's most recent rant?
Gore: Hold up, what happened? I haven't heard anything about that. Well he called Roger Goodell a devil and a puppet. He said he wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire. And he called out Ben Roethlisberger to stop trying to act like Peyton Manning and said Rashard Mendenhall is a fumble machine.
Gore: I have no comments to that. He's a great defensive player but I've got no comments to that. He had his ups and downs and took his fines. How does it make you feel when defensive players call out offensive players?
Gore: Defensive guys don't really understand. It's totally different for offense. Defensive guys are convinced they know us but they just don't understand. Quarterbacks have so much that they have to read and adjust to. They have to look at everybody on the defense. It's totally different for the offense. The team has two quarterbacks in Alex Smith and Troy Smith, but in the past couple seasons neither has really shined. Do the 49ers need a Hall-of-Fame caliber QB in order to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002?
Gore: I just think that getting on the same page and everybody going out and playing ball. Alex is our quarterback and I think Alex can do it and I know he has a lot of talent. His career has had some ups and downs. Like last year, if he had never got hurt he would have had a great year. If he can just come out and play football with all the talent we have, we'll be fine. Because of the lockout, you've had more time to do...
Gore: To get better. To spend more time with my trainer in Miami who I feel very comfortable with to get me ready for the season whenever the season starts. You worked out with Terrelle Pryor recently. What did you see out of the guy and how do you think he'll fare in the NFL?
Gore: One thing I know being around him the first time working out with him, I know that every team likes a guy who's going to try their best and work very hard. He works very, very hard. I've seen him out there by himself throwing drop backs 100 yards. He wants to do everything right and if he does that, I think he'll be fine. Lil Wayne recently dropped a new mixtape, but in 2007 Lil Wayne mentioned you in his mixtape song "Get High, Screw Da World." What did that do for your street cred?
Gore: I didn't hear it at first but then a lot of people starting calling my phone saying, 'Aw Lil' Wayne talking about you on his new song.' I got the CD and I heard it. I was real surprised. It let me know that a lot of people see what I do out there. It's real big. The U is obviously known for its swag, but Al Golden doesn't really embody what some would consider that "U swag." What's your take on him taking over the Miami job?
Gore: You can't really say that. As long as he brings discipline and let them guys play ball. Don't have them up under pressure and scared to play and make mistakes. There's a lot of talent. I feel that he'll do a good job. I go back to us, some of the things on the offensive side of the ball used to be tight just because Singletary was so tough on us. He didn't know, if he just let us play ball we knew what to do and that's how we have success. As long as he let those guys at the U be themselves, we'll be back.

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

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James Jones Launches Summer Camp For Foster Kids

MIAMI (CBS4) – Giving back to the community in a big way Miami Heat forward James Jones, along with several other celeb athletes including gymnast Shannon Miller and Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard, has launched a summer camp for foster kids.

Jones, a Miami native, said his work with children has always revolved around basketball, but he often came away wondering “how can I impact the youth, the community in a way that’s beyond the game. My desire is to do something that will have a lasting impact on them.”

Jones and DCF Secretary David Wilkins announced James Jones Camp on Thursday. It’s one of six camps around the state where foster children will learn leadership skills, team building, exercise and nutrition tips and get tutoring help.

“When you get the chance to interact with leaders like this and get the inspiration and insight from them personally, it changes your life,” said Wilkins.

The agency is looking to have more camps running next year to reach more children. There are nearly 40,000 foster kids in Florida.

Camps for Champions is an expansion of health, leadership, and wellness camps held in previous years for foster children by Tennessee Titan and former Florida State football All-American Myron Rolle and by the Dwight D. Howard Foundation.

The Heat’s Udonis Haslem and former Florida State Seminole greats Corey Simon and Derrick Brooks will also participate in the camps.

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Foot injury sends Pat Burrell to DL

Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Giants will place Pat Burrell on the disabled list because of the bone spur in his right foot that’s been a problem for a while now.

Brandon Belt is healthy and crushing the ball at Triple-A, hitting .336 with a 1.026 OPS in 39 games, but rather than recall him the Giants are replacing Burrell on the roster with Hector Sanchez, a 21-year-old catcher who began this season at Single-A.

So instead of giving Belt a second chance to stick in the majors they’ll probably turn to postseason hero Cody Ross as the primary left fielder and use Sanchez to help replace Buster Posey behind the plate. Ross has predictably come back down to earth following his huge October, but his .270 batting average and .770 OPS represent upgrades over Burrell’s production and the defensive boost is substantial.

My guess is the Giants must believe Burrell’s stint on the DL will be relatively short term, because if the injury was a rest-of-the-season thing calling up Belt would seemingly be the better move.

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Jemile Weeks stays hot for Athletics

Jemile Weeks went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI in Sunday's win over the Angels.
Weeks has come out of the All-Star break sizzling. Over his last four games, he is 9-for-16 with three RBI and three stolen bases. With no competition for playing time now that Mark Ellis is gone, Weeks is going to be a fantasy asset in the steals department.

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Ryan Braun says calf 'heading in right direction'

Despite having to be removed from Saturday's game, Ryan Braun said his left calf is "making progress."

"It's definitely not easy," he said. "But we're making progress, it's heading in the right direction, and hopefully I'll be able to be full-go soon." Though Braun admitted he "can't run yet, to be honest with you," it doesn't sound like he'll be needing a trip to the disabled list, at least not at this time. That said, it's definitely a concern moving forward.

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Jemile Weeks savors time with All-Stars

OAKLAND -- Jemile Weeks has only been in the Majors since June. But when the A's rookie traveled to Arizona for All-Star Game festivities, he got an opportunity few rookies are presented with.

Weeks, the younger brother of Brewers All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks, was at the Midsummer Classic as Rickie's guest, and the younger Weeks soaked in as much as he could during the break.

"Being around those guys, with that type of celebrity status and ability to play and be the best in the world, I was among them," Weeks said. "A lot of people would have loved to have been in that situation."

Weeks was on the field while his brother participated in the Home Run Derby, and said he was "star struck" by the experience and being around All-Stars who he grew up watching play.

"Honestly, all the guys that were there, most of them were guys that I've watched -- either through my Minor League ranks or growing up, I watched them," Weeks said. "Just to see all of them -- from [Jose] Reyes to seeing guys like [Troy] Tulowitzki, who I watched play a lot, or a guy like Scott Rolen, who you grow up watching -- just different guys who you don't see yourself being on the same field as. Those are the guys you really look at and are like, 'Wow.'"

Although he was surrounded by some of his childhood idols, Weeks didn't use the opportunity to pick anyone's brain, admitting he was perfectly content just taking in the experience. However, the time at the Midsummer Classic did inspire Weeks, who hit .287 for the A's before the break and was named the Co-Rookie of the Month for June, to strive to make it back as a participant, rather than a spectator.

"When it comes to stuff like that, those are the best in the game. And if you play this game, you might as well try to be the best," he said. "Hopefully, one day I'll be able to get there."

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Ryan Braun streak ends in Brewers loss

Hitter-friendly Coors Field was anything but for the Brewers on Friday night.

Milwaukee was stifled by Rockies rookie right-hander Juan Nicasio, who was dominant in twirling seven shutout innings on the way to defeating the Brewers, 4-0, in front of 35,044.

Nicasio allowed the Brewers' only four hits, while striking out four and walking none. Nicasio pounded the strike zone with a fastball that reached 97 mph.

Ryan Braun went 0-for-3, snapping his 23-game hitting streak, the third-longest in team history. He also broke a string of 24 straight games with a hit against the Rockies.

The Brewers have lost the first two games of a season-long 11-game road trip, dropping their record away from Miller Park to 16-31.

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