Four proCanes in Spots 20-11 In NFL Top 100

Four proCanes are ranked in the NFL Top 100 poll in spots 20-11. proCane Saints TE Jimmy Graham points himself out at Number 14.

Additionally, Frank Gore was ranked at Number 28, Devin Hester 48, Jon Vilma 58, Vince Wilfork 81, Willis McGahee 98.


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Jimmy Graham #14 in NFL Network Top 100

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Ryan Moore IFL Highlights

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Judge Sapp: Hair Weave Mix-Up - Episode 1

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Judge Sapp: Sex for Rent - Episode 2

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Chris Rutledge Signed

A well-timed week off hopefully will pay dividends for the Tri-Cities Fever tonight when it opens the Indoor Football League playoffs against the Colorado Ice at Toyota Center.

With injuries to key personnel like guard Ryan Tolar (staph infection), running back Dennis Kennedy (knee) defensive lineman Jake Killeen (knee) and defensive back Lionell Singleton (back), the Fever would not have been at full strength had there been a game on the schedule.

If Tolar is unable to play, Shackleford has a backup plan. The Fever signed lineman Chris Rutledge (6-5, 311) on Tuesday. Rutledge played at the University of Miami and spent time with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Fever finished the regular season with a 12-2 record and won the Intense Conference. The Ice (8-6), which comes into the matchup on a two-game slide, has given Tri-Cities fits both times they played this season.

Tri-Cities beat Colorado 64-50 in Kennewick, and 52-49 in overtime on the road.

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NBC analyst impressed with Leonard Hankerson

Evan Silva, works for Pro Football Talk as a writer and for as a writer/analyst (both of those fine sites are corporate cousins of ours). Last night, he put on his analyst hat and bored in on Leonard Hankerson during the two starts he had in 2011 before a hip injury cut his season short.

Silva put out his impressions this morning in a series of tweets. Here is what @EvanSilva had to say about the then-rookie wide receiver:

Watched & charted every snap from #Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson's two 2011 starts. Good-looking, smooth wideout. Fearless across middle.

Hank caught 13 balls (incl. 2-pt conversion on fade). 9-of-13 over middle. Two big-time leaping grabs over mid late in Wk 10 Dolphins game.

Hankerson played Z vs SF (Wk 9). Moved to featured X spot in Wk 10. Worked Vontae Davis -- one of NFL's top young CBs. Finished with 8/106

More Hank: Big body, knows how to use. Long, lean, athletic. Really moves well. Explodes into routes. HUGE hands. Bigger than Hakeem Nicks'.

All of this looks good but it needs to come with the warning that the sample size is very small. Over the course of 16 games defenses have a chance to adjust and try to take away what a receiver does well. 

But if Hank can perform like this all year, Robert Griffin III will have a go-to receiver on third down and the Redskins offense will have the sort of weapon it has been missing for quite some time.

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Warren Sapp On Shockey ‘Haven’t Had A Problem With Him’

Seven time Pro Bowler and 2002 Super Bowl champion, Warren Sapp joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich to discuss his new show on YouTube, Jeremy Shockey and Jon Gruden.

Sapp is in a new show that features him as a judge. It’s a series for The NOC, a YouTube channel.

The guys went on to discuss a disagreement between Sapp and former New Orleans Saint tight end Jeremy Shockey. Sapp got some information from a source that Shockey was the guy in the Saints’ lockerroom the blew the whistle about the bounty system.

Sapp feels sorry for how he went about releasing the information, but believes in his source. Sapp told the guys that Shockey and him have talked and that he believes there is no bad blood between the two, but if there were he could deal with it.

“The two times I’ve seen him I haven’t had a problem with him, but if he does we can go out in the grass and get it over with,” Sapp joked.

They also discussed his former coach Jon Gruden and whether he is the guy we see on television and the Gruden Bus.

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Ed Reed Destrehan Football Camp teaches lessons in sports, life

Again this year, Baltimore Ravens defensive back Ed Reed returned to Destrehan High School to present a three-day football camp for young athletes between the ages of 7 and 17.

Local and national sponsors help keep the camp affordable.

Besides having fun, the goal of the camp is to teach football fundamentals, with each camper learning about the techniques used in every position on the field.

Among the NFL players who joined Reed during the camp were Bernard Pollard, a Baltimore Ravens defensive back, and Ray Bellamy, who was inducted this year into the Sports Hall of Fame at the University of Miami, where in 1967 he became the university's first African-American student-athlete.

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Where would Leonard Hankerson play?

The reason I like actually going to see my teams in person is that I learn so much. Being around and talking to the players and coaches involved is the best way of transforming perception into information, and there's almost always at least one thing I believed or thought before the visit that turns out to have been wrong.

One example from my visit to Washington Redskins minicamp last week is the case of receiver Santana Moss. Before I went to Ashburn, I thought Moss was a guy whose spot on the team still wasn't 100 percent secure and who, if he did make the team, would have to play the slot receiver position in order to get reps. After a couple of days around the team and talking to coaches, I came away believing they have the slimmed-down Moss projected as the starting wide receiver opposite Pierre Garcon, and that while they might use him in the slot, he retains a chance to be the Redskins' No. 1 wide receiver in 2012.

Which leads me to the question of 2011 third-round pick Leonard Hankerson, who looked as though he was being groomed as the future No. 1 wide receiver in Washington before last year's hip injury and this spring's signings of Garcon and Josh Morgan. Hankerson is feeling good and believes he'll be a full-go come training camp, but with Moss and Garcon slated to start and the team having invested in Morgan, there remains the issue of where Hankerson could make his impact. He's been working some in the slot, which he says he enjoys.

"In the slot you have more mismatches, get matched up on linebackers and safeties and stuff like that," Hankerson said after last Wednesday's practice. "So I like playing in the slot, but I'll play anywhere they want me to play."

Mike Shanahan said Hankerson has "a big upside, knock on wood he can come back healthy." And that's where the Redskins are with Hankerson right now. They need to see him healthy, and if they do, they believe they'll find a place to play him. In the meantime, they feel that Moss' rejuvenation and the additions they made in free agency allow them to give Hankerson all the time he needs to get back to full health.

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Andre Johnson Comes In No. 15 On's 2012 Top 100

AndreJohnsonWallpaper continues to reveal their Top 100 players for the 2012 season. Wednesday night, Andre Johnson was tabbed at the No. 15 spot, joining Arian Foster (No. 25), Brian Cushing (No. 54) and Johnathan Joseph (No. 73) among the Houston Texans' representatives.

Johnson is the highest ranked wide receiver on the list so far, with only the Top 10 players in the league remaining to be revealed. The Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson and the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald have yet to be named, so unless has made an egregious oversight, Johnson won't take home top wideout honors. Still, Top 15 isn't bad for a veteran who has had rotten luck with injuries lately.

Johnson edged out Wes Welker (No. 23), Steve Smith (No. 35) and Victor Cruz (No. 39) among receivers. He was just beat out by tight end Jimmy Graham at No. 14 overall.

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Damien Berry Vying For Number 2 Runningback Spot

The Ravens didn’t expect to have to worry about finding a backup for running back Ray Rice in 2012.

They signed Ricky Williams to a two-year deal less than a year ago, and after he rushed for more than 400 yards in 2011, he said in late January that he was excited to come back for another year.

But within days, he reversed field and announced his retirement.

Rice, of course, hasn’t practiced with the team this spring as he seeks a longterm contract, but there are $7.7 million reasons why he eventually will rejoin his teammates and play in 2012. And likewise, the Ravens will settle on a replacement for Williams.

Here are the candidates:

+ Bernard Pierce – The rookie from Temple became the presumptive favorite when the Ravens made him their third-round pick in the 2012 draft. They expect players drafted that high to contribute if possible, and a backup role could be a nice fit. He didn’t stand out in the OTAs or minicamps, and missed a little time with a tweaked hamstring. Whether he can contribute immediately remains to be seen.

+ Anthony Allen – The team’s 2011 seventh-round pick had some nice moments in the spring practices open to the media. He is big and strong and everyone from the coaches to Joe Flacco have done nothing but praise him. But what can he do with a chance?

+ Damien Berry – After spending 2011 on the Ravens’ practice squad, the former undrafted free agent from Miami did as much as any player to improve himself, getting noticeably stronger to go along with his quickness. But he is going to have to perform really well to vault past a pair of draft picks.

+ Free agent – If the Ravens don’t like what they see from any of the above youngsters, they could sign a veteran with a track record such as Cedric Benson, who gained a thousand yards for Cincinnati last year but remains unsigned.

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Sinorice Moss anxious to play for the Roughriders

Former New York Giants receiver Sinorice Moss is to make his pre-season debut with the Roughriders on Friday against the visiting Calgary Stampeders. Moss missed the Riders’ pre-season opener in B.C. with a groin injury. Here is what he had to say about suiting up for the Riders on Friday:

How itchy are you to finally get a chance to play in one of these CFL games that you’ve heard so much about? “I’m very excited — very, very anxious and very excited. I’ve been preparing myself for a couple of weeks now. To finally have an opportunity to come out here and be special for the team is great excitement for myself. Playing football up here is amazing and an adrenalin rush, and something that I’m anxious to be a part of.’’

What has piqued your curiosity in particular? “Just being out in the atmosphere. I heard the city of Regina and Saskatchewan and the fans are amazing, so I just want to be out here in the atmosphere and feel the energy of the fans and come out here and have a great game.’’

Has it been a little frustrating not getting the opportunity until now and having one pre-season game pass? “I won’t say it made me upset at all or anything. I’ve been preparing myself in practice and making a lot of plays in practice and doing what I have to do to learn the system. Now I finally have a game to come out here and play and showcase my talents. That’s what it’s all about.’’

What do you want people to see? What do you want people to be saying about you after tomorrow’s game? “I really don’t listen to what people have to say. I just want to come up here and be a key acquisition for this team, come out here and make some plays and, when given the opportunity, go out and make the best of it.’’

When the Riders played in B.C., you were resting a minor groin injury, right? “Yes. They thought it was best for me not to participate in that game. It was the coaches’ decision. Now it’s my time to come out here and have some fun.’’

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Judge dismisses D.J. Williams' suit over suspension

DENVER—A federal judge has dismissed a complaint Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams filed against the NFL in a bid to overturn his drug suspension.

Williams' attorney Peter Ginsberg said Thursday that Williams would appeal, with training camp right around the corner.

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Despite new additions, Santana Moss might still be the man

The amazing part about the Redskins offseason splurge at wide receiver could be that they only bought one starter, not two.

Despite handing out a pair of quick free agent contracts to Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, there’s a chance Santana Moss is still a starter this year, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

He wrote that after visiting Redskins minicamp, he “came away believing they have the slimmed-down Moss projected as the starting wide receiver opposite Pierre Garcon” and that “he retains a chance to be the Redskins’ No. 1 wide receiver in 2012.”

As surprising as that seems given the outlay for a pair of weapons in March, it’s worth pointing out it’s still the Redskins.

No amount of wasteful free agent spending should be considered a surprise anymore, no matter what Clinton Portis says.

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Lauryn Williams seeks return to form

EUGENE, Ore. -- For the past year, as Lauryn Williams trained for these U.S. Olympic track and field trials, she held close the belief that the sprinter who led her country's efforts in the 100-meter dash in Athens and Beijing was still somewhere inside of her.

That belief was necessary because the results weren't coming for Williams, a Rochester native who won silver in the 2004 Games and finished fourth in '08. She had taken a year off from competition in '10 to do some soul searching, hoping to experience the normal life of a 20-something, figuring that she would return to the track and soon pick up where she left off.

It has been a humbling couple of years. But Williams, 28, finally may have had a breakthrough.

Her coach, Amy Deem, wanted Williams to run under 11 seconds before the trials, which begin today at University of Oregon's historic Hayward Field. Williams entered the Pure Athletics and NTC Last Chance Meet June 2 with a year-best time of 11.17 but fired off an 11.01 in the preliminaries, followed up by a 10.96 in the final.

The breakthrough wasn't so much in the time, which approached her personal-best 10.88, set in 2005 at the top of her game. It was that she felt good before the race and her performance matched that intuition.

So maybe, when she races tonight in the qualifying round and potentially Saturday in the semifinals and final, she can find the same chemistry between preparation and execution.

"The main thing was the feeling that I had," Williams said. "It's a matter of getting fit and getting race sharp. The feeling starts to come with time. I've never had it the first race of the season. The feeling is one of those indescribable things ... 'hey, everything is clicking.' "

This is likely to be Williams' final push at Olympic glory, and, if she is to make trip to London, it could be seen as her greatest accomplishment. She always has fashioned herself as a runner who rises to the occasion, and it appears as if this would be the ultimate test. Judging by the qualifying marks of runners such as Carmelita Jeter (10.70) and Allyson Felix (10.92), Williams likely would have to run one of the fastest races of her life seven years after she previously set a personal record.

"I'm excited about getting out there and going with what I got," Williams said. "At this point, there's no point whining or crying about soreness and stuff like that. I feel like I'm in just as good of shape as anybody else, and anyone can do it, and it might as well be me."

Williams will still have hope if she doesn't make the team in the 100. She will be competing in the 200 as well and says she has put more of an emphasis on that event than she did in her two previous trips to the trials.

The 200 will take place June 28-30.

Williams will be joined in the 100 and 200 by former Penn State sprinter Connie Moore, who won the 2010 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 200. Moore, 30, was 0.01 away from making the '04 Olympic team in the 200.

"I'm going to the trials with the mindset of having fun," said Moore, a native of Chicago. "I've come to learn, when I look at my great races, my outlook was, I'm back on the playground playing with friends again, racing on the streets with no shoes and no socks on."

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James Jones contemplating retirement after season

MIAMI — Heat swingman James Jones is a “calculated” person.

In his words, he never backtracks once he makes a decision. Jones will have a big one to make once the season ends. Winning an NBA title this season could potentially push him toward retirement. After nine seasons, Jones, 31, is at a point where he is thinking post-basketball.

“Most definitely,” Jones said of possibly retiring after this season. “I’ve been going for the last two years. I didn’t have a summer off coming off an injury. Then with the NBA lockout and the collective bargaining stuff, it’s been a 24-month grind for me.”

Jones, the secretary-treasurer of the NBA players’ union, spent a great deal of time last offseason negotiating during the lockout. He then jumped into a 66-game regular season crammed into four months, being called upon sparingly in a limited role. Through Thursday, he was averaging just 8.8 minutes during the playoffs.

He said it may be time to walk away. Jones, who played at the University of Miami, won the league’s 3-point Shootout during All-Star Weekend in 2011. That year, he also made a career-high 123 3-pointers.

His best overall season came when he averaged 9.3 points for the Phoenix Suns in 2005-06.

“Mentally and physically, it’s taken a toll on not just on me, but for my family,” Jones said. “At some point, you know the game comes to an end. You see the writing on the wall. You try to prolong it as long as possible. Like anything I’ve ever done, I want to walk away from my challenges rather than my challenges push me aside.”

Jones said he was thinking retirement before the season began. As a free agent, he had interest from five teams that were offering more money. He instead chose to return to the Heat for a lower salary by signing a three-year contract because the lure of winning a championship.

Now, he said he will wait to see how he feels in the offseason before deciding if he continues his playing career.

 “I know once it’s [the season] over and done with, I don’t know how the competitor in me will feel,” Jones said. “I don’t know what kind of emotions I’ll experience, but more importantly I don’t know which direction the team will go. You know championship teams try to get better. All I can control is me. This is a great place to play. They have a real opportunity to win championships. From a personnel standpoint, you just never know.”

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Yasmani Grandal headed to Futures Game

SAN DIEGO -- Liriano, who turned 21 on Wednesday, and Triple-A Tucson catcher Yasmani Grandal, will be a part of the World Team at the upcoming Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City next month.

The 14th annual Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game can be seen live on MLB.TV, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on's Gameday on Sunday, July 8, at 2 p.m. PT.

Liriano is hitting .304 with five home runs, 38 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and a .363 on-base percentage for the Storm.

"But I like how he's using all parts of the field. He's lying off breaking balls. He's doing everything we've asked," Smith said.

As for Grandal, one of four players the Padres landed from the Reds in the December Mat Latos trade, he has been a pillar of consistency for Tucson.

The 23-year-old Grandal, a switch-hitter, is hitting .308 with six home runs and 30 RBIs to go with a .411 on-base percentage in 49 games for Tucson, where he's managed by former Major League catcher Terry Kennedy. Most of his success has come hitting left-handed where he has a .339/.430/.575 slash line.

Smith said the organization has been most pleased with his improvements behind the plate.

"He's just refining his catching skills and his game-calling has improved a lot," Smith said. "TK [Terry Kenned] is very pleased with how far he's come. And offensively, he's using the whole field and has been very consistent."

In addition to television coverage and's Gameday, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89. will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World team dugouts during the game by following @USDugout and @WorldDugout.

Major League Baseball, along with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau,, Baseball America and the 30 Major League baseball clubs, selected the 25-man rosters.

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Aubrey Huff progressing well from sprained knee

ANAHEIM -- Giants outfielder Aubrey Huff, who has been on the disabled list since June 15 with a right knee sprain, is up and walking around well, manager Bruce Bochy said.

"He's doing better. We'll see him Friday, but he's walking around well," Bochy said. "I can't say when we're going to activate him, but he's making the type of progress we thought."

Huff incurred his injury after jumping over the dugout railing while celebrating Matt Cain's perfect game. It's his second stint on the DL this season, as he missed 13 games in April and May with an anxiety disorder.

In 58 at-bats this season, the 35-year-old has a .155 average with one home run and five RBIs. He has started just 14 games in 2012.

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Olivier Vernon Involved In Dolphins Minicamp Fight

DAVIE — There's a reason why quarterbacks wear the red jerseys. Just like on a street light or stop sign, red means you are supposed to stop. But Reshad Jones ran the light and put David Garrard on the ground during a safety blitz.

Jake Long was so angered by what he saw during the 11-on-11 portion of practice the Dolphins' Pro Bowl left tackle walked from the sidelines and yelled out Jones' name. He then fired off an expletive-filled tirade that would sound like "don't [bleeping] touch the quarterback [bleep hole]" if it were cleaned up.

Jones responded with an expletive of his own..

And that snapshot of Wednesday's spirited practice was one of the tame moments during the Dolphins' second day of minicamp. The real action took place during the two skirmishes between the offensive and defensive linemen.

The first featured Richie Incognito, the team's resident tough guy, taking on Ryan Baker. The second was a ticked-off Long going after rookie pass rusher Olivier Vernon, or vice versa.

"These are the dog days of summer. It's us against the defense till we start playing preseason games. It gets testy out here," Incognito said. "It's like two brothers scrapping. We're out here pushing and shoving and having a good time.

"Defense things let's hunt the quarterback, but at the end of the day we're all fighting the same fight," Incognito said. "It's like when brothers fight. Mom and dad sit you down and you talk about it and it's done, till next time."

Coach Joe Philbin didn't mind the competitive spirit his players were exhibiting. However, he was concerned by the loss of composure. He plans to review the practice film to see which players escalated the situation to the point blows got thrown.

Philbin acknowledged he's concerned about the penalties and ejections altercations like what happened on Wednesday would draw.
"It happens," Philbin said. "You have to play hard and be smart."

Philbin plans to lecture his players on using "good judgment," but admits tempers' flaring is part of the minicamp process considering players are competing for jobs and roles.

"This time of year after you keep going against guys day in and day out you develop a dislike for each other," said offensive lineman Artis Hicks. "But once we leave this field we're all on the same team, brothers in the locker room."

-- I also have Olivier Vernon sacking Matt Moore. The rookie from UM has a productive day on Wednesday.

-- The very next play for Ryan Tannehill he was sacked by Olivier Vernon. Rookie on rookie crime.

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Sam Shields could be on shaky ground in Green Bay

After taking a pretty big step back in his second season at nickel back, we hear Sam Shields is far from being assured of a roster spot this coming season. The way we hear it, unless Shields greatly improves his tackling skills, which were feeble for the most part last season, and sheds his knack for peeking into the backfield, he could be in trouble with a host of challengers, led by newly re-signed Jarrett Bush, breathing down his neck at the nickel spot. In addition, both second-round rookie Casey Hayward and second-year pro Davon House, who has gotten noticeably bigger and stronger, could put added pressure on Shields, who has excellent natural tools and displayed the potential to be a solid starter two seasons ago on the road to the Super Bowl. We hear one factor in Shields’ favor is the likelihood that the defense will be featuring a lot more CB-heavy dime formations.

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Bryant McKinnie wants to “shut everybody up” about his weight

There might be eyebrows raised in Baltimore over Bryant McKinnie’s conditioning, but the veteran offensive tackle said he wanted to make sure everyone knows he’ll be ready by the time training camp starts.

“I’m going to show up at the weight I’m supposed to be and handle my business and get everybody off my back,” McKinnie told Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times. “I want to get this work done, come in at the right weight and shut everybody up. I’m only nine pounds away.

“I’m getting in shape. I’m lower now in my weight than any time last year. I think people got the wrong idea about why I wasn’t out there last week.”
Weight’s been an issue in recent years with the talented blocker, who ate his way out of Minnesota last summer, getting up to a reported 387 pounds.

But the Ravens paid him a $500,000 roster bonus in March when he pledged to general manager Ozzie Newsome that he’d participate in the offseason program and get in shape. Since then, he’s down to 354 pounds, and they want him at 345. That’s why he was held out of last week’s minicamp.

According to Wilson, McKinnie blamed late-night meals while “supervising recording sessions for his music label” for the weight gain.

“For people to say I had a weight issue my whole career, that’s just wrong,” McKinnie said. “That happened one year and that was after the lockout. I’ve still got bitter Vikings fans tweeting me. I feel like that’s uncalled for. It’s not like I’ve struggled with my weight every year. When I was with the Vikings, I didn’t let anybody beat me out.

“They just awarded it to somebody and then you saw they went and drafted somebody this year in the first round, [USC All-American offensive tackle Matt Kalil]. I feel like the Vikings fans are just bitter. They obviously follow me on Twitter, so I’m starting to believe that.”

McKinnie will spend the next six weeks in South Florida working out, in hpoes of dropping those nine remaining pounds.

He’s obviously motivated to prove some people wrong, and if he can get himself conditioned, the Ravens could benefit from him being the right kind of hungry.

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Spencer Adkins Practicing With First Team

Right now, incumbent starting strong side linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, Stephen Nicholas has not participated in OTAs or mini-camp because of an ankle injury he suffered at the end of last season. Smith said he expects Nicholas to be ready for camp. Spencer Adkins has practiced with the first team in Nicholas' spot.

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Clinton Portis makes foray into politics with VP Biden

Clinton Portis marches to the beat of his own drum, has for many years.

The former Washington Redskins back was "heartbroken" when the team released him in 2011, but he hasn't officially called it quits from the NFL. He'd like another chance, but says he's "cool" with never playing another football game.

"Being away for so long, who knows?" Portis told WJFK-FM this week, via “I feel great, man. We’ll see what happens. … Being away for so long, who knows? I think I’m cool with the idea of either — if I get another opportunity or if not — to move on in life. I already moved on in life, really, and it’s kind of like, if things happen then cool, if not, that’s cool too. I think I’m enjoying where I’m at right now.”

With a gaping hole in his schedule where football used to be, Portis has jumped into politics. He recently attended a fundraiser for Vice President Joe Biden, joking that he and the VP were "in a dice game together." The way Portis sees it, Biden and President Barack Obama have been unrightfully bashed for our nation's woes.

"I think so many people want to point the finger and blame them for where we're at within the economy and I don't think that's fair. ... You look at where we are in the economy and you see reporters talking back to the President and arguing with the President. You never would've seen that in life, and I think for them to be able to put up with it and continue to fight in trying to get this country back -- it took longer than four years to mess the country up, so it's not gonna be put back together and everybody's not gonna get a job in four years."

Portis continues to speak what's on his mind -- and did we mentioned the costumes? The man likes to dress up. A lot.

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Lions coach Jim Schwartz hints OT Jason Fox's roster spot could be in danger

Lions coach Jim Schwartz hints OT Jason Fox's roster spot could be in danger.

Foot and knee injuries have limited Fox to four games in two seasons, and he sat out last week's minicamp with knee soreness. "It's not just ability, it's availability," Schwartz said. "He needs to put some time together where he's injury-free, from an evaluation standpoint, and prove that he can stay healthy over the long term." Fox will be the Lions' fifth tackle if he keeps his roster spot.

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Ryan Braun takes over NL home run lead

Ryan Braun has, temporarily at least, lost his hold on a starting spot for the National League All-Star team. He does, however, possess the league lead in homers after hitting his 20th today.

He overtook Carlos Beltran, who has been stuck on 19 for a week now.

Braun went 3-for-4 in leading the Brewers to an 8-3 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The homer, off Luis Perez, was his fifth in seven games, and he’s currently riding a 15-game hitting streak.

It seems pretty obvious that Braun’s positive steroid test last winter, even though it was later overturned on appeal, has hurt his popularity. Last year, he was the NL’s leading vote-getter in the All-Star balloting, and he actually has better numbers now than he did at his point in 2011 (though it’s worth noting that his awesome April last year might have stuck better in the voters’ minds then than his down May and June).

Of course, Braun seems awfully likely to start the All-Star Game anyway. First, he’s the obvious choice to DH for the NL if he doesn’t get the lineup spot. Second, he could easily pass Melky Cabrera to reclaim a starting spot in the balloting. Third, he’d likely be moved into the lineup if Matt Kemp, the NL’s current leading vote-getter, isn’t ready to play in the All-Star Game as he recovers from his strained hamstring.

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Jon Jay (shoulder) homers, triples in rehab game

Jon Jay (shoulder) went 2-for-4 with a home run, a triple, a walk, three RBI and three runs scored Wednesday in his latest rehab game with Triple-A Memphis.

Nice to see. Jay, who is currently rehabbing a shoulder sprain, shouldn't need many more rehab games. He'll be worth using in deeper mixed leagues upon his return.

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Chris Perez doing his part to boost Indians' attendance

It wasn't that long ago that Tribe closer Chris Perez cut loose on some of his team's fans. 

Perez, if you'll recall, was angered by the boo-birds at Progressive Field when he allowed two runners to reach base….not score, but just reach base. Following the game, he lashed out about booing, and it led into resentment about attendance for the Indians' home games.

To their credit, the fans heard what Perez said and took it to heart, rather than lash back. They started showing up in bigger numbers, and the roar of approval that he gets every time he enters a game is testament to their belief in him.

If you pay attention, the booing has even decreased dramatically at the games now, even when things aren't going well for Cleveland.

But the outcries on the internet (which is usually where people go to whine) were all-out attacks on Perez, coming up with every excuse possible for not going to the games and supporting the home team. One of the more popular excuses was that "if he wants us to go to the games, he should buy us tickets."

Consider it done.

Perez has been using his Twitter account to give away tickets to each home game. He asks a trivia question, and the first three fans that answer correctly are treated to a Tribe game that night.

Tix Trivia: What are the only MLB teams never to play in a World Series?

That's the question that allowed six fans to see last night's 3-2 victory in ten innings over the Reds.

Fans of the opposition hate Chris Perez because he's very emotional and vocal on the mound. That, and the fact that he's very, very good at getting the other team out.

These are the reasons that Tribe fans love him, and they're starting to show up more and more at Progressive Field. Guys like Perez deserve to be praised for their dedication and their genuine desire to bring more fans to the ballpark.

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Jonathan Vilma questions why NFL should be trusted

The plot thickens in the increasingly twisted road of the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" scandal.

NFL outside counsel Mary Jo White said during Monday's meeting with reporters that marketing agent Mike Ornstein backed the claim that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma put up $10,000 to knock Brett Favre out of the NFC championship in January 2010, along with another $10,000 to take out Kurt Warner in the divisional round.

Ornstein now denies that ever happened.

"I never corroborated $10,000," Ornstein told on Tuesday. "The only thing that I told them was that we had the (pregame) meeting, we jumped around, we screamed around, and I never saw (Vilma) offer one dime. And I never heard him say it."

Ornstein told PFT the team administered a pay-for-performance program in 2009, but he denies telling the league Vilma offered money for knocking opponents out of games: "Did I say to the league that I saw Jonathan Vilma offer $10,000? Absolutely not."

When asked for comment on the PFT story, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told on Tuesday, "We stand by the findings of our investigation."
Vilma maintains that "information" doesn't pass as proof: “Why is it so hard to believe the nfl just may be lying??? Ornstein denies telling NFL that Vilma offered money”

Ornstein possesses a colorful past, but the league chose to lean on his side of the story to build its case against the Saints. Someone here, in this forest of information, isn't telling the truth. That, in itself, is growing less surprising by the day.

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Clinton Portis defends Dan Snyder, Talks RGIII

Clinton Portis (who else?) called in to chat with Holden and Danny on 106.7 The Fan this morning and had some kind words for “Mr. Snyder” during the course of the conversation.

Portis on RGIII and the Redskins: "Well I think RGIII gonna' be excellent. He's gonna' play lights out, it's just a matter of [if] the pieces around him play lights out. They got a great receiving corps, of course with tight ends they could be set with Fred [Davis] and [Chris] Cooley. Running backs...I'm not sure whose going to be the running back, but I like Helu...if he finally gets to be the main guy."

"You still always have to have the worry of having a healthy offensive line. So that's going to be the major part, having a healthy offensive line, that's going to be together for an entire season."

Portis on how he was a guest at Vice President Joe Biden's fundraiser: "I can't tell you everything...but we was in a dice game together (laughs)."

On LaDanian Tomlinson: "Probably one of the best players in football. The way he played the game was the right way. He was always one of my favorite backs. Coming up at the same time, being in Denver, and competing against him week-to-week -- myself, him and Priest [Holmes] -- having the opportunities to compete in the same conference was amazing for me."

"I think it jump-started my career...gave me a different edge and a different outlook. Hats off to LaDanian to his accomplishments on and off the field because he was amazing at both. He was really a human highlight reel."

On his top five modern running backs in no particular order: "Of course Barry Sanders, Robert Smith, Fred Taylor -- the Jacksonville Fred Taylor -- Edgerrin James and LaDanian. I just think what they did in for the game in the time that they did it, was amazing. You really won't see that again. I think the backs today are great. But to come out and carry organizations the way those guys kind of change the running back position -- along with Marshall Faulk...I don't think you'll see many backs be the face of the organization again."

On if he is a top five running back: "In my eyes I will always be one of the top five, but that's up for you guys to judge."

 “You know, I think so many people got the wrong idea about Mr. Snyder,” Portis said. “I think he’s a guy that is so dedicated to that Redskins organization and wants so badly to bring a championship to town and give the town what they want, like, give Redskin nation what they want, that a lot of people get aggravated with the change. You know, I think he’s willing to go out and do anything and everything that needs to be done to make that organization better and so many people criticize that.”

Portis on Dan Snyder: “You know, there’s a lot of owners that won’t go out and put a dime into the organization, won’t bring players in, won’t pay players they got and their fans are upset. I think Mr. Snyder do all that he can and it’s really just a man that have the desire to win and he want to win at any cost, and you know, I think he do everything he could to make that organization better and the people within the organization, as far as the players, love him.

“I think he’s a great guy. How you get all the negativity out of any move that he makes and anything that he attempt just because things hasn’t worked out. But he’s still trying to find the pieces to the puzzle to get it on the positive side and you gotta applaud him.”

Applaud him, or write a diatribe that includes the phrase “rapturous canonization fit for atom-smashing scientists and Danish monarchs?” You decide.

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Kayne Farquharson Honored

The second season for the Nebraska Danger is history.

The Danger finished the year 5-9 overall. That’s not as good as the organization had hoped, but it is a definite improvement over its 3-11 record in its first season.

“The main thing that sticks out are the five wins,” general manager Mike McCoy said. “We were 4-3 at home this year. Last year we were 2-5 so we drastically improved our home won-loss record. We were 1-6 on the road both seasons.”

Receiver Kayne Farquharson, a player head coach Mike Davis said was the MVP of the team in his mind, had 67 catches for 840 yards and 25 touchdowns for a team-record 154 points. Farquharson was named to the second team All-IFL on Tuesday.

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NFL's best tight end: Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham?

The proliferation of the passing game in the NFL has led to a renaissance of the tight end position. Teams are building passing games around the talents of big, athletic pass catchers over the middle of the field. The results have been spectacular.

Last season, seven tight ends ranked among the top 21 in catches. Two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham -- topped the 1,300-yard mark, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, in receiving yards. In addition, Gronkowski led the league in receiving touchdowns (17), while Graham finished tied for fourth with 11 scores.

Given the impressive impact and production of Gronkowski and Graham, I thought it'd be interesting to compare them in five critical areas and determine who reigns supreme as an overall player.

Here are my findings:
Graham is the latest former college basketball player to storm the football field. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Graham towers over defenders on the perimeter and routinely utilizes post-up skills acquired from his previous sport to create space over the middle. Graham's exceptional body control, agility and movement skills are complemented by an impressive vertical leap and wingspan that makes him nearly indefensible in isolated matchups. Throw in his 4.56 speed -- the second-fastest time recorded by a tight end at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine -- and it's easy to see why opponents are having difficult time finding a defender (or two) capable of slowing down the third-year pro. Just take a look at the video to your right from the NFC divisional game against the San Francisco 49ers to see his remarkable athleticism on full display.
Gronkowski doesn't boast the multi-sport résumé of Graham, but he is an impressive athlete of his own accord. He dwarfs defenders on the perimeter with similarly imposing physical dimensions (6-foot-6, 260 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands), but also displays the agility to run past linebackers in space. Although Gronkowski's movement skills aren't as fluid as many smaller NFL players, his ability to stop and start with quickness is uncommon for a man of his size and build.
Advantage: Graham

Route running
Graham entered the NFL with only one year of major college football experience, but he has quickly become one of the most polished players at the position. As a route runner, in particular, Graham has become a masterful technician with the savvy and skill to set up defenders with clever head fakes and route stems (weaving to get a defender into a head-up position to create a two-way go for himself). In addition, he has displayed the awareness to break his routes at angles that prevent defenders from stepping in front of the intended throws. Although this is a coaching point that is stressed to pass catchers from the first day of minicamp, the fact that Graham has already mastered some of the nuances of the position at this stage of his career suggests he will remain one of the top playmakers at tight end for years to come.
Gronkowski is a little awkward and unorthodox as a technician, but he has developed into an effective route runner in space. He excels at utilizing his size, strength and athleticism to create separation from defenders. His ability to consistently work free over the middle has made him Tom Brady's favorite target in the red zone. As a result, Gronkowski set a single-season record in receiving touchdowns (17) by a tight end in 2011 and became the first tight end to lead the league in touchdown receptions.
Advantage: Graham

Graham is an outstanding pass catcher with exceptional hands and ball skills. He tracks and adjusts well to errant passes, particularly high balls thrown over the top of defenders. This not only makes Graham difficult to defend in isolated matchups, but also makes him indefensible in the red zone on fades and posts thrown to the back of the end zone. Graham's ability to come down with difficult grabs in the end zone -- like this one -- makes him a coveted commodity for any offense.

Gronkowski displays extraordinary hands and ball skills as the Patriots' top playmaker. He excels at coming down with contested balls in traffic, which encourages Brady to target him on third-down and red-zone situations. He has an uncanny knack for making the difficult grab appear routine, and his consistency hauling in seemingly uncatchable balls is remarkable, considering his size and skill. In looking back at Gronkowski's three-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round, it was his outstanding concentration on the 10-yard touchdown (video to your right) that stood out in my mind. Gronkowski's ability to extend and maintain control of the ball with his fingertips would be astounding for any receiver, but it's particularly jarring for a tight end with his size and build.
Advantage: Gronkowski

Run blocking
In today's NFL, tight ends are not expected to block with the physicality and ferocity of their predecessors. Graham certainly falls into that category, based on the way the Saints have employed him over his first two seasons. He is routinely deployed in a wide alignment, away from the end of the line, or put in motion to allow him to utilize his athleticism to position block (using his body as a shield to keep defenders from getting into the play) on the edge. While he enjoys some success in that capacity, Graham is certainly not a trained killer in the running game.

Gronkowski is the most quintessential throwback tight end. He not only gives you outstanding production in the passing game, but he is a rugged blocker adept at moving defenders off the ball. Gronkowski's combination of size, strength and tenacity overwhelms linebackers at the point of attack, and allows the Patriots to routinely direct their running game to his side. With Gronkowski also showing a willingness to finish in a physical and aggressive manner, it is hard to find another tight end that rivals his effectiveness in the run game.
Advantage: Gronkowski

Graham quietly put up one of the best statistical seasons of any tight end in NFL history. He nearly topped the 100-catch mark and posted a 1,300-yard season, which is a remarkable feat for a tight end. Graham's 18 receptions of 20-plus yards ranked second among NFL tight ends (behind Gronkowski), and his 11 touchdowns placed him fourth in the league in receiving scores. While his statistical production stands out, it is his ability to make timely plays in the clutch that makes him one of the most explosive playmakers to enter the league in some time.

Gronkowski now owns the NFL's single-season records in receiving yardage (1,327) and touchdowns receptions (17) by a tight end, but those numbers don't fully demonstrate his overall impact on the field. He is a game changer at the position, with the size and skill to make impact plays from anywhere on the field. He has shown the ability to stretch the field on vertical routes down the seam, but is most effective as the big target in the red zone. He routinely overwhelms defenders in isolated matchups, and his spectacular production is a testament to his big-play ability. Gronkowski's ability to make catch-and-run plays in the open field sets him apart from others at the position. Watch the video to your right, and take note of Gronkowski's speed and acceleration as he pulls away from defenders on this 52-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Advantage: Gronkowski

It's hard to go wrong with either Graham or Gronkowski as the choice in this debate because both bring exceptional playmaking abilities to the table. Graham is a matchup nightmare with the athleticism of a receiver in a tight end's body. He is just scratching the surface of his immense talent and potential as a developmental player, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Gronkowski is equally as imposing with his size, strength and skill. He overwhelms defenders with his ability to take over games as both a pass catcher and a devastating blocker on the edge. With a game that is nearly flawless in every aspect, I have to give Gronkowski the nod over Graham in a debate that is as close as you'll find in the NFL.

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What is Ray Lewis' Secret?

Last week, he watched a former teammate and fellow late-thirtysomething, Derrick Mason, call it a career after 15 seasons of pro football.

Monday, he watched LaDainian Tomlinson, a running back four years his junior, walk away from the NFL.

But Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis isn’t seriously contemplating the end of his career. Even though he turned 37 last month, he is preparing for his 17th season in the NFL in 2012.

What has enabled him to outlast not only so many players of his generation but also those who are younger?

His maniacal devotion to fitness and sheer love of football certainly have contributed to his longevity, but Lewis mentioned another factor when he spoke to reporters at the Ravens’ minicamp last week.

The fact that he has played his entire career with one team has helped him keep going, he said.

Asked about Mason, who played in Tennessee for eight years before spending six with the Ravens, Lewis said, “He’s one of the best receivers I’ve been around, but he had a couple of different homes. And that kind of drains you. Being here in Baltimore for 17 years (is) a different energy. You never really think about, ‘Oh, when’s it going to come? I’ve been traded to this team. I’ve moved on.’”

Mason was cut by the Ravens in a salary cap purge a year ago and played briefly for the New York Jets and Houston Texans in 2011, but neither valued his services and he saw the writing on the wall. Similarly, Tomlinson parted ways with the San Diego Chargers after nine seasons and spent two lesser years with the New York Jets before retiring Monday.

Lewis, meanwhile, has continued to start for the Ravens and earn Pro Bowl selections. Although he has played through a handful of contracts and shopped his services on the open market several times, including as recently as two years ago, he has never worn another uniform.

“For a lot of guys, that’s kind of a sign for them. If I’m trading teams here and there, OK, my window could be closing,” Lewis said. “For me, the relationship that (GM) Ozzie (Newsome) and (owner) Steve (Bisciotti) and I have, and the relationship I have with my body is ‘go as long as you want to go.’ And so that thought process (of walking away) never comes up. Whenever it happens, it happens. But it’s definitely nothing that I think about.”

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UM Sports Hall of Fame Dolphin Tournament

Several former Hurricanes football players, including Brett Romberg, Bubba Franks, Gary Dunn, Damione Lewis, Jeremy Shockey and Daniel Stubbs, are slated to fish in the second annual University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Tournament June 30 in Islamorada.

Hosted by Warren Sapp, the event provides anglers with the opportunity to fish alongside former UM sports stars while raising money for the UM Sports Hall of Fame, Shake-a-Leg Miami and Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys.

Visit, send e-mail to or call K.C. Jones at 305-925-3660.

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Keeping Andre Johnson healthy is the key to a happy ending

When the Texans report for training camp in late July, they will have three areas of concern, and none is a surprise.

We know the Texans lack experience at backup wide receiver. We know they have new starters on the right side of their offensive line. And we know they’ll have a new kicker, punter, kickoff returner and punt returner.

If you ask me, though, the most important thing they can accomplish in camp and preseason, as well as the regular season, will be keeping Andre Johnson healthy.

Collectively, the Texans have put on a happy face about Johnson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and missed organized team activities and the minicamp. Everyone insisted Johnson will be 100 percent and raring to go when the Texans report for camp.

But the sight of Johnson watching practice with a towel over his head – a sight the Texans saw too much last season when he missed nine games – has to worry the coaches and players.

Johnson, who turns 31 in July, is vital to what the Texans hope will be their most successful season, a season that would lead to the Super Bowl.
Johnson suffered hamstring injuries in both legs and missed nine starts last season, when the Texans finished 10-6 and won the AFC South for the first time. He was limited to 33 catches for 492 yards.

But Johnson was healthy in the playoffs. He had 13 catches for 201 yards in the victory over Cincinnati and the loss at Baltimore. If he did that with rookie T.J. Yates at quarterback, imagine what he could have done if Matt Schaub had been healthy.

Since Gary Kubiak became the Texans’ coach in 2006, Johnson has started 16 games three times (2006, 2008, 2009). He had at least 101 catches in each of those seasons, amassing career highs of 115 receptions and 1,575 yards in 2008.

If his knee hadn’t forced him to miss the last three games of the 2010 season, Johnson was almost guaranteed of a third consecutive season with at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards. In 13 starts that season, he had 86 receptions for 1,216 yards.

The Texans are hoping last season was an aberration for Johnson and not a sign his career is starting to decline. In 2003, his rookie season, he was a hit from day one, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on his wheels.

This is a time for Johnson to make his run for Canton. For several years now, he’s been acknowledged as one of the two best receivers in the NFL with Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. With the Texans playing five nationally televised games this season, including four in prime time, Johnson has an opportunity to regain his spot at the head of the receiver class.

If Johnson can stay healthy, the inexperience of Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin won’t be as troubling.

If Johnson stays healthy, new starters on the offensive line and the rebuilt special teams won’t be as worrisome.

If I’m Kubiak, I’m telling Johnson to work on his conditioning but to take off in the preseason. I wouldn’t let him go full speed in practice until two weeks before the regular- season opener vs. Miami.

But Kubiak won’t do it. And Johnson wouldn’t accept that strategy, anyway, because that’s not the kind of player he is. He’s a competitor, and he knows he’s better on Sunday when he practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Since they became teammates in 2007, Schaub and Johnson have been as productive as any twosome in the league. Their health is paramount for the Texans to be a genuine Super Bowl contender for the first time.

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Tyler Horn Part of A Solid Falcons Rookie Group

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons assistant offensive line coach Paul Dunn, a 29-year coaching veteran, is back for his fifth season with the team.

After this morning’s walkthrough, Dunn spoke on several topics concerning the offensive line.

Q: How’s the young group looking?
A: Without question, over the five years, this is the best rookie group that we’ve had all together. The three free agents, Phillip Manley, Bryce Harris and Tyler Horn, all come from very, very good programs. They were very well coached. They are without question the best rookie group as a whole that we’ve picked up so far in free agency.

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No Schiano fan, Winslow says Bucs 'fired the wrong dude'

Kellen Winslow is no fan of new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano's no-nonsense approach to offseason workouts and practice.

He made that clear on a video recently posted on "The Real Robinson Report," a blog by Seattle Seahawks running back Michael Robinson ( Winslow, who was traded to Seattle in May, seems to prefer having some fun during offseason workouts to Schiano's detail-oriented and disciplined style.

"Real s--t, real s--t, Schiano came over there (yelling) 'Toes on the line! toes on the line!' Blowin' the whistle," Winslow said. "You can't laugh, you can't joke around, so I decided not to go to OTAs. And they got my man 'Rah' up and out of there, and I was loyal to him. I would've taken a bullet for that dude, so I had to roll, man."

Winslow also said he thought the Bucs made a mistake when they fired Raheem Morris after Tampa Bay went 4-12 last season and lost its last 10 games. Robinson asked him what it was about Morris that was so cool.

"Man, the cool thing about Rah is, Rah could be right here talking with us right now, and he wasn't a company coach, he was a players' coach," Winslow said. "I mean, just everything about him, man. He was real. You could talk to him face to face, real man to man. They fired the wrong dude up there."

Winslow was traded to the Seahawks for a sixth- or seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft on May 21, after he missed Tampa Bay's first week of organized team activies, or OTAs.

Winslow was the Bucs' leading receiver in 2011 with 75 catches for 763 yards and two touchdowns, but rarely practiced because of chronic trouble with his surgically repaired knees.

Winslow skipped the first week of OTAs and said he was working out at home in California. He said he was planning to join the team the following Monday, but got a call from Schiano that Saturday telling him the team was working on a trade.

"He was kind of upset that I wasn't there working out with the team in the offseason and for the first week of OTAs," Winslow said during an interview with SiriusXM at the time. "That's kind of shocking, but that's what it is. You don't just get rid of one of your best players because of that."

An eight-year veteran, Winslow has 437 catches for 4,836 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career, including 258 catches for 2,377 yards and 12 scores in three seasons with the Bucs.

Winslow started his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns. The Bucs acquired him in a trade for a second- and a fifth-round draft pick in 2009 and signed him to a six-year, $36.1 million contract in April 2009 that was the biggest contract ever given to a tight end at the time.

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Jason Geathers Will Be Activated

The AFL Arizona Rattlers likely will activate receiver Jason Geathers to play against Milwaukee. It will be his first game of the season.

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Time running out for Jason Fox to get healthy, show his stuff

There's an old saying in professional sports, and it certainly applies to offensive tackle Jason Fox.

"It's not just ability, it's availability," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's an old cliché, but it's true in situations like that."

Fox, a fourth-round pick out of Miami (Fla.) in 2010, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and doesn't have much to show for his first two years with the Lions.

Fox's time in Detroit has amounted to four games. He missed most of his rookie season while recovering from knee surgery in college. He suffered a foot injury early in training camp last year and then had season-ending knee surgery in November. Recovering from that surgery forced Fox to miss the Lions' three-day minicamp last week.

"It's all about reps for him because when he's been healthy he's played well, he's done well in practice," Schwartz said. "But he hasn't had consistent streaks of being healthy.

"This off-season was good for him. Up until last week, when he started getting sore, he was doing very well. ... Maybe if we shut him down (in minicamp) we don't have this issue come up in training camp. He needs to put some time together where he's injury-free, from an evaluation standpoint, and proven that he can stay healthy over the long term."

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Eric Winston: Players regret giving Roger Goodell “absolute power”

In nearly every critique of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s punishment of the Saints players involved in an alleged bounty system, you’re apt to hear the phrase “judge, jury and executioner.”

Another player’s now saying it’s their own fault Goodell has all those titles. Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston told Jim Corbett of USA Today he regretted the fact the NFLPA didn’t push harder against it during CBA negotiations.

“Obviously we don’t want Roger Goodell having absolute power,” Winston said. “In a lot of this process, it seems like he does. It’s unfortunate. It seems like he’s running amok with it and deciding to do what he wants and it really doesn’t matter what the evidence says. Unfortunately, we don’t have an alternative option to appeal to.

“In that CBA bargaining process, you’re not going to get everything you want. That’s not to say we weren’t trying to curb some of that (power). To say we weren’t trying to do something about that is false. Just from what’s been told to me, there were attempts made. And there’s a tradeoff. To do that, we probably looked at sacrificing playing less games, so you always look at the risk and reward. And try to juggle that.”

So Winston thinks taking away some power from Goodell would have resulted in more regular season games? Linking those two directly seems like a stretch, but there is the fact that the players had the opportunity to curb some of that authority and chose not to push it.

Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, the team’s union rep, said in a text to Corbett the issue wasn’t considered a deal-breaker at the time.

“Yes, the players wish he didn’t have that power, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing CBA [over],” Feely said.

Roddy White might have been among the first to complain about the failure to negotiate some of that power away, but he apparently won’t be the last.

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Jemile Weeks dealing with leg soreness amid slump

OAKLAND -- When second baseman Jemile Weeks struck out to end the game on Sunday with the tying run on base, it only symbolized the 25-year-old's larger struggles recently.

While most of Oakland's lineup has been hotter than ever in recent games -- the team averaged 8.4 runs during its five-game winning steak, which was snapped with Sunday's loss to San Diego -- Weeks has been mired in a slump. He's 10-for-51 over his last 13 games, lowering his season batting average to .222.

A's manager Bob Melvin revealed on Tuesday that Weeks has been dealing with soreness in his legs, which is one of the reasons Melvin decided to switch him and outfielder Coco Crisp in the lineup, moving Weeks to the second spot. But that hasn't done much to help, with the second baseman just 2-for-11 in the three games since the swap.

Still, Melvin said thinks Weeks will be able to snap out of his funk soon.

"There were a lot of expectations put on him coming into the season," Melvin said. "To this point, he's had a little bit of a down season based on what we saw from him last year, but sometimes that makes you a little tougher when you do come out of it, knowing how to get through these difficult times."

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Jon Jay on road back

CF Jon Jay, out more than a month with a right shoulder strain, has been hitting for the last couple of days. He should be ready for a rehabilitation assignment this week for Class AAA Memphis.

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Ryan Braun to serve as honorary chair of AIDS Walk Wisconsin 2012

Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers’ all-star left fielder and the National League’s reigning most valuable player, will serve as honorary chair of AIDS Walk Wisconsin 2012, the organization announced today.

Last year’s honorary chair was Packers star CClay Matthews.

“I am honored to be a part of AIDS Walk Wisconsin 2012,” Braun said in a statement.  “AIDS is still impacting too many of our friends, family members and neighbors. I am proud to do whatever I can to help raise awareness and generate support to strengthen the fight against AIDS.”

The state’s largest AIDS fundraiser, AIDS Walk Wisconsin has raised more than $10.5 million over the past 22 years.  Proceeds support HIV prevention, care and treatment services in the state.

“In 2011, reported new HIV infections in Wisconsin were up 18 percent over the previous year,” said ARCW president and CEO Michael J. Gifford. “With Ryan’s strong support, we know we can raise the funds needed to help curb new infections while making sure everyone with HIV gets the health care and medications they need to live a long, healthy life.”

Gifford said there are 6,584 people confirmed to be living with HIV in Wisconsin. Additionally, there are approximately 1,700 people in Wisconsin who have HIV but do not know it because they have not been tested.

ARCW also announced that MillerCoors will be the event’s presenting sponsor and the Brewers Community Foundation will serve as grand sponsor.

AIDS Walk Wisconsin will take place Sat., Oct. 6, 2012, at the Summerfest Grounds in Milwaukee. For more information about AIDS Walk Wisconsin, to register, or to inquire about additional corporate sponsorship opportunities, please go to or call 800-334-WALK (8255).

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Brickell's Brother Jimmy's BBQ: a brawny bromance between ex 'Canes players, grads & NFL stars

By now you've heard that NYC-based Brother Jimmy's BBQ is opening in Mary Brickell Village. Expect a big block party for July 4 with an official opening the week of July 10. Signature dishes include Brother Jimmy's Dry Rub Ribs made with 21 spices; Chopped Brisket with burnt ends served in their original BBQ sauce; fried, grilled or blackened catfish; and North Carolina pulled pork. Signature drinks include "Swamp Water," which is their version of moonshine of sorts served in a 64-ounce fishbowl, yikes. Appetizers average $8 and entrees $14. Open until 4 a.m. nightly (!), BJ's will also serve Saturday and Sunday brunch, too.

As you may or may not know, Miami's very first Brother Jimmy's is a collaboration between four former Miami Hurricanes---three players: Denver Broncos linebacker DJ Williams, Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason, New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and one player in his own right, ex sports reporter turned PR maven Ron Berkowitz. We had a round table of sorts with Berkowitz, Vilma and Williams to discuss a few details.

What took you so long?
Ron Berkowitz: Good things come to those who wait, building and design take some time and we wanted everything to be perfect and that just takes time, a little longer than expected but we are ready to go.

What will separate Brother Jimmy's from, say, Shorty's?
Berkowitz: Brother Jimmy’s is just something different. We have built a great following over the past 23 years in NYC. We are a place to get BBQ, watch sports and of course grab a beer or drink while listening to your favorite music. We are a party and restaurant all wrapped up in one. We just hope we can help build BBQ in Miami. This is hopefully the first of a few stores in South Florida. Our goal is to come to Broward and Palm Beach County, too.

NYC's Brother Jimmy's has a certain reputation as a meat market in both literal and figurative senses. Will the same be the case for Miami's outpost? What will be different in Miami vs. NY if anything?
Berkowitz: I don’t know if I would say meat market in the sense you are saying it. As a matter of fact, the Zagat's nightlife guide came out last week for NYC and we rank at or near the top in several categories. #1 men
#2 women
#2. 20's
#2. 30's
#3. 40's
#8. 50's.

How will you convince rabid, diehard Florida sports fans that Brother Jimmy's is an equal opportunity sports bar for all?
Jon Vilma: Brother Jimmy's is going to be the premiere place in Brickell to watch all sports throughout the year. We are proud that 3 of the owners have graduated from the University of Miami, but we are not limited to that. Brother Jimmy's is open for everyone to come eat some great BBQ, and enjoy the game/sport of their choice.

DJ Williams: Just cause the bar is affiliated with Hurricanes doesn't mean you can come in and root for you team--that will just add to the atmosphere. Canes love good, fun, clean competition and actually welcome it.

Berkowitz: As a matter of fact, UF and Alabama along with UM will all be hosting Alumni events at Brother Jimmy's in Brickell for football games this fall, should be fun.

Will we see you guys working up a sweat behind the bar, a smoker, in the kitchen or just sitting in a VIP corner taking it all in?
Vilma: I work up a sweat in my day job, no need to overdo it. I enjoyed Brother Jimmy's during my playing days with the Jets, I want to have the same experience when I'm in Miami.

Williams: You'll definitely see me behind the bar, I love a good time.. shot! shot! shot! shot!!

Your favorite style of BBQ? Vinegar based or tomato based?
Vilma: Vinegar based. Can't go wrong.
Williams: BJB (Brother Jimmy's based).

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Jon Vilma walks from hearing after NFL asks for adjournment

After the NFL asked the players for an adjournment of the appeals hearing, an angry Jonathan Vilma and his lawyer Peter Ginsberg walked out of the appeals hearing today. "It's really a shame," Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell.

Vilma isn't hopeful of getting his year-long suspension thrown out or reduced. "Roger Goodell has taken three months to tear down what I built over eight years. It's tough to swallow. I have been linked to a bounty and it simply is not true," Vilma told the Associated Press. "I don't know how I can get a fair process when he is the judge, jury and executioner. You're assuming it will be fair, but it's not."

The NFL wants to reconvene the hearing at 1:45 p.m. ET. The adjournment was proposed when the sides bickered over whether the league had turned over the evidence three days prior to the hearing as the CBA requires. Ginsberg complained the NFL didn't meet the 72-hour deadline since the league didn't send the evidence packet until Friday afternoon and not 10 a.m. The NFL apparently interpreted the deadline as three calendar days, which would have meant anytime on Friday.

The NFL proposed the adjournment to give the players the additional time to review the evidence, but that didn't satisfy Ginsberg.

It's unclear whether the three other players being represented by the NFLPA, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, will return to meet with the commissioner this afternoon.

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Ray Lewis aims to change kids' lives


HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. — It was a hot and humid Monday morning. Just the way Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis prefers it.

Approximately 130 high school football players, mostly from Broward and Miami-Dade counties, sweated their way through an intense 21/2-hour workout during the first of two days at the Ray Lewis Football Camp at St. Thomas University.

“You always see something different,” Lewis said. “All the kids have different backgrounds. When we finally started to train them, the thing they don't understand is it's all about endurance. It's all about going past the level of fatigue.

“When they start to get it, their effort starts to change. It's not about seeing how much you got left, it's about how fast you can push yourself to that point, and once you get to that point you can go past that.”

Lewis, 37, will give you a first impression that he is fearless, engulfed with intensity once he steps on the football field.

Yet there is more to the former Miami star.

He is an educator of the game, distributing the knowledge and commitment of what it takes to make it to the next level. Lewis will be the first to say it's just not how the athlete performs on the field, but how he prepares off it.

“The difference in this camp is we train for lifestyle,” Lewis said. “Football is the last thing we go over. The bottom line is physical fitness and the things that will keep them healthy.”

During his 16-year career, all with the Ravens, Lewis has 2,586 combined tackles, 40.5 sacks and 31 interceptions in 222 regular-season games. He's also been named to the Pro Bowl 13 times.

“What really brings these kids down to earth is the type of camp we run,” said Lewis. “The world offers too many things that can keep them from being a better person.”

The camp is a combination of football instruction, film breakdown by Lewis and sports performance training, product knowledge and health awareness.

“The goal at the end of the day is to change someone's life,” Lewis said. “That's what my first message is all about: making the right choices, eating the right food.”

The first choice was making the commitment to attend the camp and surviving the hard workout Lewis promised they would endure through two days.

“I know Ray Lewis is a hardworking man, so I wanted to see what the camp was all about,” defensive tackle Maquedius Bain said. “This will help me become more focused on the next mind set.

“This is harder than high school, but he's getting us ready for the next level.”

It was clear Monday that a number of the participants weren't prepared for the intense workout Lewis had in store. Heat took its toll on some, while others dealt with leg cramps.

Lewis pressed hard on a message that was loud and clear.

“Let's grab what that pain feels like and let's go past that,” he said. “That's what these young kids got to start to get.

“My camp is about living a long time. You do see someone walking up and saying little things like, ‘I got it, I get it.' That is the reward.”

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Why Chicago Needs to Stop the Hester Experiment

It's hard to remember how this happened, but someone once suggested Devin Hester would make a good wide receiver.

Now, entering his seventh season, will he get around to that?

Don't hold your breath.

Hester believes he's due "because of (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice. When a guy comes up to you and says, ‘If I can’t get the ball in your hands I don’t deserve to be a head coach.’ For a guy to say that and know what I’m capable of and honestly says he has a lot of faith in me, (that’s encouraging),” Hester said.

But Mike Tice isn't a head coach. He's an offensive coordinator. He was a head coach. He put up an astounding record of 32-33 when he was a head coach.

Perhaps he's become afflicted with Mike Martz syndrome, where you think you're still the head coach of your old team, so you start calling plays that don't work with your personnel.

Roll the clock back and you'll remember Devin Hester was once a defensive back. When he started returning kicks, everyone salivated at the opportunity of using him on offense. But it hasn't worked. And it won't.

Gather 'round and heed the story of Deion Sanders. He was a defensive back and a return man extraordinaire. In 1996, someone with the Cowboys thought he'd make an awesome wide receiver. One season, 36 receptions, 475 yards and one touchdown later, the experiment was over. (And he still played DB during that stretch.)

In five seasons as a receiver, Hester's only topped Sanders' yardage twice. And he's been a full-time receiver. So if Hester can't put up better numbers than a part-time wide receiver who played the position for just one year, what's the point?

Last year, Hester grabbed a terrible 26 receptions for 369 yards and one touchdown. Again, worse than the one-year Sanders experiment.

Hester isn't much of a route runner. He doesn't even have great hands. At 5-foot-11, he's not an effective end zone target. What he does best is find holes and blow through them at full speed. So why not use him as a running back in some kind of wildcat formation? Put him 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and let him pick his spots. Or not. That's probably a dumb idea, too.

It's wonderful that Hester is possibly the greatest return man in NFL history. But you didn't see teams bending over backward to accommodate Eric Metcalf or Vai Sikahema or Mel Gray. Sometimes you have a Steve Tasker on your team. And you just wait for special teams to let him be special.

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Jason Fox expected to sit out minicamp

ALLEN PARK -- Detroit Lions tackle Jason Fox's biggest obstacle has been staying healthy since he was drafted in 2010.

He is battling injuries once again.

Fox missed the Lions' first day of mandatory minicamp practice due to a knee injury. Lions coach Jim Schwartz does not expect Fox to practice at all this week.

"Anybody that didn't practice today was injury related," Schwartz said. "Everybody's in town and here. We got a lot of things we're trying to sort of make sure they don't sort of roll up on us. Jason's had a good offseason, but his knee was getting a little bit sore, and we decided to shut him down. You won't see him for the minicamp. Other guys you'll see back.

"Today was a light day. The next two days are going to be almost training camp length to practice, number of reps, things like that, and we didn't want to go three days in a row that way, but we wanted to build toward it."

Fox, a former fourth-round pick, was sidelined all of last season due to a broken foot suffered in training camp, and then a knee injury that required surgery. He currently is battling Lions rookie Riley Reiff for playing time, but general manager Martin Mayhew previously said it was a critical year for Fox because of his consistent health problems.

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Bryant McKinnie held out by Ravens to prevent injury

Last week, the Baltimore Ravens held 6-foot-8, 360-pound offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie out of their final minicamp practices for conditioning purposes. The report hardly came as a surprise considering McKinnie has battled weight issues throughout his career, including prompting his release by the Minnesota Vikings following last year's lockout.

According to a Monday report by Sarah Ellison of, McKinnie appeared on WSNT-AM radio last Friday and revealed that he is less than 10 pounds over his target weight for the start of training camp. McKinnie explained that part of the reason he was held out was to guard against injury.

"They just told me when I had the meeting, just for precautionary (reasons), not to go out there and get injured during minicamp and just do the running and the lifting and stuff," McKinnie said. "So I was just in there, lifting and running for the whole two and half hours...We're just trying to work to get there without anything slipping up or going wrong."

The Ravens, who picked up his $500,000 roster bonus in March, are counting on McKinnie in 2012. But they were able to use this minicamp to get a look at the future. With McKinnie held out of last week's training camp, the Ravens moved Michael Oher from right to left tackle and inserted Jah Reid at right tackle with the first-team offense. Reid gave the team a bit of a scare when he was carted off the field with a calf injury, but the ailment is considered minor and he should be ready for training camp.

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Scott Maine Recalled

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster is going to the 15-day disabled list with right lat muscle tightness, the Cubs announced Monday.

Dempster has been pitching through the soreness, with 22 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three starts. It's his second DL stint of the season, after he missed two starts in April with a quad injury.

The Cubs are calling it a precautionary move and said the injury is not serious. Dempster is expected to be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline. This will at least delay the inevitable.

"Oh, then I should've pitched through it," Dempster cracked. "I'm not really worried about that. I'm more worried about trying to get healthy."

Dempster said he felt the muscle pull in a start against Milwaukee on June 5 and "it got harder and harder to get loose and maintain. I felt I was going south in the way I was feeling."

"I was little shocked because I didn't feel very good," he said. "I was able to get the outs."

Dempster joked he would have to "stay off the skates" while he recovers.  

Scott Maine has been called up from Triple-A Iowa to take Dempster's roster spot, and Randy Wells moves into the rotation, pitching Wednesday against the White Sox.

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Jon Jay set to begin rehab assignment this week

Refreshing news here for the scuffling Cardinals.

According to beat reporter Brian Stull of 101 ESPN in St. Louis, center fielder Jon Jay has been cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday afternoon with Triple-A Memphis.

Jay was placed on the disabled list in mid-May with a right shoulder sprain, suffered on the play pictured in this post — a Drew Stubbs home run. He finally began making progress early last week, first with games of long-toss and then with batting practice.

The 27-year-old was hitting .343/.395/.438 in 27 games before the injury, serving as an important table-setter at the top of the St. Louis lineup. The Cards will hope he can pick up right where he left off upon returning.

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Ryan Braun Off To Better Start Than MVP Season

For those wondering if Ryan Braun can keep the same pace he had in 2011 en route to the National League MVP award, he is doing so nicely.

Through 61 games last season, Braun was batting .302 with 12 home runs, 43 RBI, a .396 OBP and .554 slugging percentage. Through 61 games in 2012 entering Sunday, he was batting .322 with 19 homers, 47 RBI, a .399 on-base percentage and .635 slugging percentage.

Because Braun's failed drug test last October became public, even though he beat the rap on appeal, and because Prince Fielder no longer is around to bat behind him, many figured the star leftfielder would scuffle this season. At the very least, the thought was that opponents would not pitch to him as much.

"I think the guys hitting behind him have been good," said manager Ron Roenicke, who has mostly used third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the cleanup spot behind Braun.

"There's no way I'm going to pitch around Ryan all the time to get to Ramirez. No way. You can use that argument last year with Prince. Casey (McGehee) had an off year last year (batting behind Fielder) and they still pitched to Prince.

"I know everybody thinks it's easy to pitch around people but it's not that easy to pitch around people. Every time you do it, you worry about that next guy coming up there. And every time you put people on base, we've got a chance to score. And you turn the lineup over faster. So, it's not an automatic.

"If Barry Bonds is up there, OK. That's definitely a guy you pitch around. You don't pitch around him; you just walk him."Braun was hobbled a few weeks ago by an ailing Achilles' tendon and hip but recovered enough to get red-hot at the plate. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games Sunday.

"Ryan is like anybody else," said Roenicke. "They go through their stretches where they get hot. He certainly doesn't get as cold as most people. When he's got his swing going, it doesn't matter too much who's pitching against him. He can hit the best pitchers."

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Ultimate Sam Shields Highlights

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Reggie Wayne #31 Top 100 NFL Players of 2011

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Travis Benjamin is exactly what the Cleveland Browns needed at wide receiver

Much is expected of the Cleveland Browns 2012 draft class. Especially near the top such as running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz. But one rookie who may have a big impact on the Browns success could be wide receiver Travis Benjamin, and he’s got the right attitude.

“I just come out here every day to get better,” Benjamin said to the media in Berea on Tuesday. “Knowing my speed, I know I can run past most anybody. I just work on the little things, coming in and out of my breaks and focusing more on the ball. In practice, as long as it’s competitive, that means you can get ready.”

Benjamin is right about his speed. He ran a 4:26 40-yard-dash time at the University of Miami’s pro day prior to the draft. But seeing a young man such as Benjamin recognizing that it’s “the little things” that make the difference is a breath of fresh air. This is especially in comparison to another wide receiver rookie Justin Blackmon who has already demonstrated immaturity and has already begun giving the Jaguars front office and coaching staff headaches.

Not only is Benjamin willing to learn and absorb as much as he can, but he wants to do the things it takes to become a complete player and not just a speedster. “I learned that every day, I can come out here and get better, either catching the ball, running routes, even being on special teams. I’m learning new things every day. Each and every day, you can wake up and say, ‘I’ve got to get better on the small things.”

Benjamin could very well be the fastest player that the Browns have. He demonstrated in college that he can create separation. He has the skill-set which makes him a possible deep threat. If there is any question about how Benjamin will perform it is his ability to handle press coverage which he did not see much of at Miami. “We’ve seen where he can catch the ball in the deep part of the field,”  Coach Pat Shurmur said. “It’s nice to be able to run fast, but as you’re far away from the quarterback, being able to track the ball is something you need to be able to do and I think he can do that. He is a good route-runner. We can’t bump-and-run in these camps, so I can’t see him against press coverage, but from what I can tell, he has the ability to separate and we’ll know more about that when we get into training camp.”

As of right now Benjamin is competing hard and his role in the Browns offense is not yet determined. But he is demonstrating the right attitude and work ethic which will give him the edge he needs to compete with his fellow teammates for playing time. If only every rookie coming into the league had Benjamin’s type of character, then the league would be a much better place.

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Jon Beason back from injury and looking impressive

The Panthers still haven't decided exactly where all their linebackers will line up.

But it was good to see another one return to the field this week.

Incumbent middle linebacker Jon Beason returned to team drills Tuesday (June 12), his first full work after Achilles surgery, and promptly picked off a Cam Newton pass in 11-on-11-drills.

Beason had been limited to individual work through OTAs, but was back in his familiar spot when minicamp opened. And it didn't take long for him to look like himself again.

"A natural play," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Somebody else might not make that play. But I think guys with his kind of his experience and his kind of ability make that. And that's what he saw. He made a nice move on the ball and a nice play."

Those instincts have served Beason well inside, and Rivera has said that as they experiment with combinations, that Beason will begin in the middle. That leaves first-round pick Luke Keuchly on the weak side, though some within the organization think that will ultimately change.

Beason started his Panthers career on the weak side when they were hoping Dan Morgan could stay healthy, but that lasted four games into Beason's rookie season.

Either way, the Panthers hope that having Beason back lends a little more stability to a defense that was rudderless without him last year.

He's still working his way back to 100 percent, but Rivera said he could tell the veteran linebacker was on the right track, even if his conditioning wasn't all the way back.

"It was good to see him moving around," Rivera said. "Really, the biggest thing was just his conditioning. He was winded. He's done all the installation stuff. But he was out there. And you could see he had a little adrenaline rush going. He was all fired up to get that last extra set of reps. He (asked) out just because he was gassed."

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Santana Moss' spot on Redskins looks secure

We entered the offseason wondering if Santana Moss still had a role on the Washington Redskins. We leave OTA/minicamp season with that question answered.

Moss isn't going anywhere. With Josh Morgan still hurt and second-year Leonard Hankerson also slow to recover from surgery, Moss has stood out all offseason. He's responded to the challenge after the Redskins added Morgan and Pierre Garcon. Moss has found a defined role.

"I see [Moss] as one of the premier guys in the NFL at (the slot) position," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said via the Washington Post.

The Redskins will line up with three receivers on most snaps. Moss will be in the slot. Pierre Garcon will be outside. That leaves Hankerson and Morgan to battle it out. It sounds like Moss has already earned his role.

"Santana's entire offseason ... to me he came in possessed. He was ready to go," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "You saw it physically, and then to see him in the meeting rooms, he's been great. He's been so attentive and it's shown over to the field."

The coaches asked Moss to drop weight this year. He's down 15 pounds. Moss is one of the most consummate pros at his position, and he's been that way for a decade.

We should have known it wouldn't be so easy to get rid of him.

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Jonathan Vilma's lawyer: Evidence shows no 'bounty' link to LB

The evidence the NFL provided to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on Friday in no way links the player to any "bounty" program, according to his lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.

The league, per rule, had to provide evidence for the basis of its discipline toward four suspended current and former Saints players by Friday since they have appeal hearings before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Monday.

"We have followed the procedures set forth in the CBA on appeals of commissioner discipline," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press.

Ginsberg said the majority of the evidence centers on a PowerPoint slide show of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' directives and speeches to players. Ginsberg said there is other evidence besides the slide show, but none of it links Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita or Anthony Hargrove -- all suspended for part or all of the 2012 season by Goodell -- to putting bounties on opposing players.

"The NFL provided a slide show of Gregg Williams' most outrageous comments," Ginsberg said. "It is evidence that reflects an assistant coach in the NFL has a style that might rightfully be distasteful but that has been tolerated for years by several NFL teams. It in no way supports any of the accusations that Commissioner Goodell has so publicly made against Jonathan.

"There is nothing that evidences opposing players were targeted. There is nothing that evidences any of the players were involved in putting money on the heads of opposing players the way the Commissioner has suggested."

The evidence provided by the league to players Friday is the meat of what it will provide against the players in their appeal hearings in explaining why they have been suspended. The league has said for months that it has enough evidence that the players violated the "Conduct Detrimental" rules of the collective bargaining agreement by having a pay-for-performance program in place from 2009 to 2011.

The NFL Players Association and the players who have been suspended -- and some who have not -- said the league has yet to provide evidence linking players to a "bounty" program. The players have denied the existence of a program, at least as it pertains to injuring opponents. The league has said the players funded and actively participated in such a program for years, including last season.

Saints coach Sean Payton has been suspended for a year; Williams, who took over as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator in 2012, indefinitely; Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games; and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games for their roles in the "bounty" program. In statements or public remarks, they took responsibility for the alleged wrongdoing.

"I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, (Saints owner Tom Benson) and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the 'pay-for-performance' program while I was with the Saints," stated Williams, the only suspended non-player not to appeal. "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again."

Vilma, Fujita, Smith and Hargrove are appealing to have their discipline reduced or completely rescinded. They have lost two grievances before neutral arbitrators challenging Goodell's jurisdiction to rule on this case -- one is under appeal. Vilma also is suing Goodell for defamation. No court date for that case has been set.

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Rocky McIntosh and the Rams' new LB outlook

In a perfect world, the St. Louis Rams would address all their needs through the draft.

The team might yet pull it off over the next couple offseasons, thanks to the bounty of picks the Rams collected from trading the second overall choice in 2012.

Needs outnumbered resources in the immediate term, however, leading the Rams to patch their linebacker problem with shorter-term solutions.

Rocky McIntosh recently joined Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan as veteran additions at the position. Haggan, 32, is the oldest player on the team, but as the chart shows, the Rams remain young overall at every position. They have the NFL's youngest roster on average.

The Rams need McIntosh, Dunbar and Haggan to outperform some of the veteran linebackers subtracted from the roster: Ben Leber, Brady Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Chris Chamberlain.

That seems like a reasonable expectation.

McIntosh, 29, was in his fifth season as a starter for the Washington Redskins when the team decided Perry Riley, then 23, provided a more athletic alternative. The Redskins, with McIntosh and the now-37-year-old London Fletcher at inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, already had plenty of veteran moxie at the position. They needed speed. McIntosh probably fit better in the 4-3 defense Washington ran previously.

Scouts Inc. liked McIntosh more than the Redskins did, calling him an "active playmaker" with "great range inside out to the ball."

Dunbar, signed from New Orleans, figures to start at one outside linebacker spot. McIntosh is an early favorite to start at the other one. James Laurinaitis is entrenched in the middle.

The position remains a bit unsettled. The Rams do have a couple of younger options, but with no hitting allowed till training camp, it's tough to know how those players project. The Rams' veteran additions give them insurance, and probably more than that. I'd expect the team to start two veterans on the outside.

McIntosh played for would-be Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington. Williams is suspended indefinitely, but the Rams are installing what is essentially the same system Williams ran with the Redskins. That puts McIntosh at a significant advantage over younger players less familiar with the scheme and unproven in the NFL.

Rams' New Veteran LBs
Rams LB
2011 Team
2011 Starts
2011 Pct. Snaps
Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Rocky McIntosh
Mario Haggan

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Jimmy Graham's bargain status not likely to change soon

While the Drew Brees contract negotiations and fallout from the findings of the league’s investigation into the Saints’ alleged bounty program have dominated NFL headlines this offseason, New Orleans’ breakout star of 2011, TE Jimmy Graham, quietly has gone about the business of preparing to build on his stellar second season.

Graham, who had 99 catches (third in the league) for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has critiqued his performance — he recently said he left 30 catches “on the table” in ’11 — and is looking for ways to improve.

The Saints’ focus is on signing Brees to a long-term deal, but Graham is well on his way to earning a big payday. Graham is signed through the 2013 season and is due to make $540,000 in ’12 and $575,000 in ’13, making him one of the league’s top bargains. While rewarding Graham, even with two years left on his deal, might be something the Saints would consider in an average year, it's difficult to envision Graham signing a new deal anytime soon with the team so strapped for cap space.

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Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu

The long-standing argument for the AFC North blog is this: Who will be remembered as the better safety, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu?

We're going to try to settle this debate by allowing three readers to present the cases for Reed and Polamalu. In the comments section below, let me know who you think gave the most persuasive argument.

Ed Reed is the best
• Milan from the Ville: Team accomplishments aside, Ed Reed is the best safety of the generation. He changed the league-wide desire from big, in-the-box hitters (like the late Sean Taylor) to a more athletic, secondary-patrolling ball hawk. Both were playmakers and feared by offenses, but Ed is/was the best pass-defending safety in a passing league. The biggest tipping point for me, though, is Reed is still a threat when playing injured. Polamalu becomes a liability in the passing game when not at 100 percent like the last two playoff runs.

• William from Baltimore: This is not a knock to Polamalu, who is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats at safety. The difference is in how they make offenses play. Against Polamalu, offenses accept that their gains will be small, even nonexistent. That doesn't mean they will avoid his area of the field, just that they accept that if it goes there, not much will probably come of it. Reed, on the other hand, is regularly avoided, even now after a noticeable decline. Most passes that even go near him are tipped down or away, and for most of his career, he was a constant threat to take any interception he made -- and he has far more than Polamalu -- straight to the proverbial house. In terms of all-around-player, the Steeler might have the edge. But as a game-changer, in both the score and the alteration of any plan put into action, Ed Reed is almost unique in NFL history.

• Lee from Washington, D.C.: While I may be biased as a Ravens fan, Ed Reed is the better player because he is the better playmaker. Both are astounding, but Reed has more interceptions. He has played one more season, and yet has a vast amount more. Reed has double the interceptions (he has 57, Polamalu has 29). That alone should give him the best safety title. Not to mention, for every time an announcer praises Polamalu's instinct, there is another where he makes a poor assumption and gives up a big play. You just don't see that with Reed; he doesn't make many mistakes. Polamalu supporters say he's a better tackler, but if you watch Reed, he has better form and misses fewer tackles. He doesn't "launch," hit high, or expose himself to injury the way Troy does. In fact, Reed has hardly ever been injured enough to miss games (10 career) to Troy, who has missed 18. In fact, in most interviews with current or former QBs, they say if they have to throw the ball, the last person they want to see is Ed Reed.

No, Troy Polamalu is the best
• Troy from Atlanta: While I have much respect for Reed, I'd have to say Polamalu. What other player in this era can jump the center for a sack, beat Chris Johnson wide in the backfield, and cover the whole secondary sideline to sideline? His most memorable play has to be the his one handed interception in the snow (an inch off the ground). In the end, both players will be in the Hall of Fame, but Polamalu is all-time NFL highlight worthy.

• Matthew from Pittsburgh: While I have to respect the career that Ed Reed has put together and acknowledge that he is certainly one of the best to play the position in NFL history, Troy Polamalu will be remembered more for his contributions. My argument for this is not based on statistics and numbers as both players have comparable and impressive résumés. It is because Troy has revolutionized the way that the position is played where Ed has played the position exceedingly well but in the traditional style of the position. Nobody can argue that Troy is an ordinary safety. He is all over the place and that is what makes him more memorable than Ed Reed or any other safety currently in the game.

• Tom from Middle River, Md.: A lot of folks around here would probably be upset to hear me say this being that I'm a die-hard Ravens fan, but I would have to give the nod to Polamalu as the better safety if their careers ended today. In terms of pure ability, Polamalu is a much better run-stopper, blitzer and tackler than Reed is, plus he has a similar knack for getting interceptions. Reed only gets a slight edge as a better 'pick' artist and cover player. Polamalu has also made more game-changing plays over his career and has done so in more meaningful playoff games and Super Bowls than Ed has as well. Troy just has a better résumé when you stack the two side-by-side, so he gets the nod in my opinion.

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Willis McGahee Says He Has a Lot Left In the Tank and Is Looking to Prove People Wrong Again

Willis McGahee has had an up and down career in the NFL and it’s fair to say that he’s never really lived up to the expectations that come with being a first round pick. He has had to deal with injuries at times and has even had to share the backfield on a few different occasions. However, last year, at the age of 30, McGahee looked as good as he has ever looked in his career.

The leading ball-carrier for the Broncos a season ago may have see his role in the offense get reduced this season because of the arrival of Peyton Manning, but he showed he still has some tread left on his tires and can be a reliable option in the backfield as Manning makes the transition to a new offense.

Willis McGahee joined WQAM in Miami with Dan Sileo to talk about how different things are in Denver with the arrival of Peyton Manning, whether it bothered him that Tim Tebow got so much credit for the Broncos success last year, what he expects his role to be in the offense this year, how he feels as a 30-year-old running back and how nice it will be to have a guy like Peyton Manning to take pressure off the running game.

How different things are in Denver with the arrival of Peyton Manning:
“You’re right to say it’s a different feeling and a whole different situation from last year. It’s a totally different era right now with Peyton Manning. I think the guys are happy with what Peyton brings to the table and we know what he can do. It’s just a fact of having us go out there and perform to his level.”

Whether it bothered him that Tim Tebow got so much credit for the Broncos success last year:
“As a player just sitting back and watching you have to expect that to happen. The quarterback is going to get all the praise if we win and he’s going to get the blame if we lose. You really can’t argue about that but we know as a team what we did on the football field and me personally, I think the defense deserved basically all the credit because they were playing lights out football.”

On his role with the Broncos:
“I look at it like this man, I go out there and perform every day to prove people wrong because like you said there’s always someone saying ‘he’s old, he can’t do this, he can’t do that’ and my goal is to go out there and prove them wrong. Just be Willis McGahee.”

How he feels at 30-years-old coming off a great season:
“I feel like I’m better than ever because I really didn’t play all those years and didn’t get all those carries so I have a lot in the tank that I can still put out on the football field and surprise a lot of people.”

On the impact Manning can have on the offense:
“I think it’s a really big impact because he’s one of those guys that the defense is going to have to respect as far as throwing the ball. You already know he’s a gunslinger and they’re not going to load eight or nine in the box when he is under the center.”

Listen to Willis McGahee on WQAM in Miami here

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Kellen Winslow put off by Greg Schiano's militaristic ways

New Seattle Seahawks tight end Kellen Winslow admitted that he chafed under the exacting style of rookie Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, and that unhappiness over the departure of former Bucs coach Raheem Morris led Tampa Bay to trade him last month.

Winslow, who was traded to Seattle for a sixth- or seventh-round draft choice in 2013, was interviewed on teammate Michael Robinson's website ( this week, and he opened up about Schiano for the first time.

"Schiano came over there and he (yelled), ‘Toes on the line! Toes on the line!’ Blowing the whistle. You can’t laugh. You can’t joke around. So, I decided not to go to OTAs," Winslow said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "They got my man Rah (Raheem Morris) up out of there, and I was loyal to him. I would take a bullet for that dude. So, I had to roll, man."

The former Miami Hurricane and Cleveland Brown said he remained loyal to Morris, who was fired after last year's Bucs went 4-12.

"He wasn't a company coach; he was a players' coach. He was real; you could talk to him face-to-face, man-to-man. They fired the wrong dude up there."

“He could provide the offense with a huge lift,” one daily team observer said of the former first-round pick of the Browns (sixth overall in 2004) who has caught at least 66 passes in five of his last six seasons in Cleveland and Tampa Bay. “When the team signed (former Raiders TE Zach) Miller last year, the big talk was that (John) Carlson was on the way out, but that was never the case. They really looked forward to using both Miller and Carlson, but then Carlson went down (with a torn labrum). Winslow is both a better athlete and receiver than Carlson, and they’re planning on playing him all over the field.”

Despite the continued aftereffects of a serious knee injury suffered in 2005 while playing for the Browns, Winslow has been passing the eyeball test in his new surroundings, showing a consistent ability to get open. He also is showing genuine confidence, having no qualms suggesting that the combination of himself and Miller, who caught at least 60 passes in each of his last two seasons in Oakland before being forced into more of a blocking role in his first season in Seattle, has the potential to be as effective as the highly regarded Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez TE duo in New England.

“I think (Winslow) feels like he’s been given a breath of fresh air (in Seattle),” the observer said. “He lives in San Diego, and he seems to like it here. Another factor with him is that he just happened to have three monster games against the Seahawks (including a 7-98 receiving day with two TDs in his most recent game vs. Seattle in Week 16 of the 2010 season). When you consider all he cost was a seventh-round pick (that could be upgraded to a sixth-rounder), all you can say is, ‘wow!’ "

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Ravens keep issue with McKinnie 'in-house'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie was held out of this week’s mandatory minicamp “for conditioning purposes," coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday.

So, I asked Harbaugh on Thursday what McKinnie needs to show the Ravens to be on the field for the start of training camp in late July. His answer: You're not getting an answer.

“We will leave that between us," Harbaugh said. "That’s something that is an in-house type of thing right now."

Let's recap the happenings with McKinnie:

• About 10 months ago, the Ravens signed McKinnie after he was released by the Minnesota Vikings for reportedly weighing 400 pounds.
• Three months ago, Baltimore gave him a $500,000 roster bonus after team officials met with him about getting in better shape.
• Two months ago, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said "all things are positive" with McKinnie after he attended some of the voluntary workouts.
• One month ago, McKinnie said he's down to 358 pounds with a target goal of getting down to 345 pounds.
• This week, he was held out for all three days of the team's final minicamp this offseason.

"Bryant has done a good job, he’s worked hard," Harbaugh said Thursday. "It’s not as simple as some of you guys want to make it. It’s just a situation where we are going to do what is best for the team, what is best for Bryant. We want him here; there’s no reason he wouldn’t be here. He has worked hard, so you try to do what’s most beneficial for every guy in every situation, and it’s always individualized.”

The key words to remember are: "We want him here." There has been speculation that the Ravens could go to Plan B on the offensive line, which means moving Michael Oher from right to left tackle and starting Jah Reid (who had an injury scare Thursday) at right tackle.

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Vilma’s lawyer says possibility of fair hearing is “pure fantasy”

The players suspended for their roles in the alleged Saints bounty program believe the proof against them is roughly as real as the chances they have at getting a fair appeal hearing on Monday.

“After what Jonathan [Vilma] and the other players have been put through, to suggest the players are being presented with any kind of fair hearing based on what has been presented today is pure fantasy,” lawyer Peter Ginsberg told Jim Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  ”The thin production today doesn’t link any of the players to a bounty system, and that’s consistent with what we know to be true — there was no bounty system.”

Varney’s report regarding the contents of the evidence confirm everything reported by PFT on Friday.  The league produced fewer than 200 pages of evidence that will be used at Monday’s quartet of appeal hearings, along with no list of witnesses to be called to provide raw evidence of bounties that could then be tested by the NFLPA and lawyers representing the individual players.

Also, the evidence to be presented by the NFL includes two items that didn’t even exist when the suspensions were implemented:  a June 6 article written by Mike Triplett of the Times-Picayune and filmmaker Sean Pamphilon’s rambling 10,000-plus-word diary regarding the events leading up to and following his decision to release audio of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ comments recorded the day before a January 2012 playoff loss to the 49ers.

While it’s possible that, given Vilma’s pending defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league has opted to keep in its back pocket for now any “smoking gun” evidence that would establish conclusively that Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre or Kurt Warner out of playoff games in January 2010, Ginsberg believes the league has chosen not to use any raw evidence of guilt at the Monday appeal hearings because it has no raw evidence of guilt.

“That’s because there are no credible witnesses who could substantiate the Commissioner’s allegations,” Ginsberg said.

And that’s ultimately what Goodell and the NFL need.  If Vilma truly offered to pay $10,000 to anyone for injuries to be inflicted on Favre, Warner, or any other opponent, someone presumably heard Vilma say it.  If the NFL doesn’t produce that person to testify at Monday’s hearing, how can Vilma ever obtain anything remotely resembling a fair opportunity to prove his innocence?  Coupled with the league’s likely refusal to make available coaches who would have been in the room when Vilma said what he said — coaches who possibly would say “I never heard Vilma said that” — the process becomes a sham.

Instead of giving the players a chance to get to the truth, the league seems to be relying on the same “take our word for it” approach that has characterized its entire handling of the pay-for-performance/bounty scandal.  It’s an approach that was launched the moment the league duped the media on March 2 into thinking there had to be conclusive proof of a bounty system, and that has lasted through each subsequent effort not to share evidence but to characterize and/or summarize it in a way that was skewed toward the league’s desire to hammer the Saints for using bounties, presumably to serve as the ultimate warning for any other players or coaches who may be tempted to use bounties in the future.

Though a truncated appeal hearing makes plenty of sense when there’s no dispute about what a player did and the only issue is the extent of his punishment, something far more detailed is necessary where, as in this case, the suspended players sharply disagree with the serious allegations made against them.  For a league that is so concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the game, the NFL should at least be a little concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the league.

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Riquna Williams excels as Shock down Mercury

Tulsa, OK, United States (AHN Sports) – Temeka Johnson scored 22 points and Riquna Williams added 19 points off the bench and the Tulsa Shock raced past the Phoenix Mercury 87-75 to salvage their first victory of the season Sunday at BOK Center.

Losers of their first 9 games, the Shock finally overcame their woes as they came up with a collective effort to defeat the equally struggling Mercury.
Glory Johnson and Ivory Latta scored 12 points each for the Shock, who used a 31-point outburst in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Mercury.

DeWanna Bonner tallied 24 points and 9 rebounds while Charde Houston added 22 points for the Mercury, who are minus former MVP Diana Taurasi, out with a strained left hip flexor.

The Shock just shot .385 percent from the field but their defense forced the Mercury to commit 25 turnovers, most of them in the pivotal fourth quarter.

The Shock improved to 1-9, while the Mercury fell to a 2-6 slate.

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Shenise Johnson Scores 8 In Overtime Win

Throughout her WNBA career, Silver Stars forward Sophia Young has always made it a point to improve on some aspect of her game during the offseason.

If she struggles with her free-throw shooting during the season, it's a safe bet that she'll spend countless time in a gym somewhere working to fix the flaw. If she wants to extend her shooting range, the hours of working on her shot after practices pile up.

But the biggest impact that Young had on the Silver Stars' 98-85 overtime victory Saturday over Los Angeles had little to do with shooting range or shooting technique.

It was the former Baylor standout's focus and hustle before 8,234 at the AT&T Center that helped the Silver Stars (4-4) earn back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

“Sophia, I thought, played with an intensity that was infectious for us,” Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said. “I've benefited from watching a lot of Sophia's games, but that one really showed not only her offensive end, but her defensive end. She was incredibly active, and really led us in this situation.”

Young, who finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, had plenty of help.

Becky Hammon, who hadn't scored in double figures in the previous three games, also tallied 24. Danielle Adams added 18, Jia Perkins had 10 and rookie Shenise Johnson chipped in eight.

Perkins scored four of her points in overtime, helping the Silver Stars outscore Los Angeles 15-2 in the extra session.

“I knew they were going to be on Becky hard, so I wanted to look for my shot, be aggressive,” Perkins said.

The Silver Stars' dominance in overtime helped them bounce back from squandering a 78-70 lead with 31/2 minutes remaining.

The shorthanded Sparks (7-3), who were playing their third road game in four days, and second in as many nights, closed regulation with a 13-5 run, forcing overtime. They were without Ebony Hoffman and Nicky Anosike, who both are injured, and Nneka Ogwumike, the No. 1 pick in April's draft, who was attending her graduation from Stanford.

“I was incredibly proud of our team,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “I thought we had to overcome a lot of obstacles.”

Los Angeles' final hurdle — overtime — was one it couldn't navigate.

In defeating the Sparks for the sixth time in seven meetings, and the fifth in the last six games played at the AT&T Center, the Silver Stars scored the first 13 points in overtime.

A basket by Candace Parker, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, snapped Los Angeles' scoreless drought.

Alana Beard led the Sparks with 23 points. Kristi Toliver added 16 before fouling out, and Jantel Lavender totaled 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“I didn't think we closed the fourth quarter particularly well,” Hammon said. “We regrouped for the overtime. We came out and gave them another punch. It was a good all-around win for us.”

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Ryan Braun: 'It's never going to go away, I know

The booing has calmed down, most of the taunts have subsided, and, judging from his All-Star vote total, perhaps fans are starting to believe Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun or are indifferent to circumstances of his failed drug test.

Braun, the National League MVP and first player to have a positive drug test overturned, told USA TODAY Sports he didn't win his appeal on a technicality and insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's never going to go away, I know that," Braun said of a positive drug test, the results of which were overturned in February by an arbitrator. "But we didn't win because of a technicality. We won because we deserved to win. We won because we proved I didn't do it. Right now, it wouldn't do me … or the game any good to talk about why."

Amid what Braun calls "without a doubt, my most challenging year yet," he is on pace for a career season. He's riding a 12-game hitting streak, a stretch that includes four homers in three games ending Saturday. He is hitting .316 and is tied for the NL lead with 19 homers. His projected 47 homers, 115 RBI and 1.015 on-base-plus-slugging percentage would be career bests.

He is poised to start his fifth consecutive All-Star Game, as his 1.5 million votes place him third among NL outfielders, but he understands there will be a stigma attached to his name. Major League Baseball fired the arbitrator, Shyam Das, who ruled in favor of Braun and made sweeping changes in drug testing protocol after it claimed Braun won his appeal because of the handling of his test sample.

"I think I'm a better player now than I've ever been," Braun said. "I don't think I'm necessarily a better player now because of that, but in light of all the off-season drama, it certainly has been motivating, to come out with the expectation that this is going to be my best season.''

Braun's image may be forever tainted, and the vociferous boos he heard in Atlanta and Los Angeles this season may never go away, but with all eyes on him this year, he has not ducked the pressure.

"Whether I like it or dislike it,'' Braun said, "you might as well embrace it. It's going to be there. It's inevitable. It's certainly nothing I am going to shy away from, or be afraid of.''

Says Brewers teammate Nyjer Morgan: "Fans have been wearing him out, they've been nasty. If he didn't put up the numbers he's doing, a firestorm would probably start up. But the numbers he's putting up, he's basically proving everybody wrong. He's proving to all of the haters, "I didn't do that.'

"The numbers don't lie.''

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Aubrey Huff goes on disabled list with knee injury

Aubrey Huff was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Giants on Friday after he sprained his right knee during the celebration for Matt Cain's perfect game against Houston.

The Giants also purchased the contract of Justin Christian from Triple-A Fresno.

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Jemile Weeks Frustrated At Ended Game on Strikeout

OAKLAND – Trailing 2-0 in the ninth inning, the A’s mounted a rally off former Oakland closer Huston Street and got one of their best young hitters to the plate in Jemile Weeks with the tying run just 90 feet away.

But on a 1-2 pitch, Street blew one past Weeks to help San Diego avoid a sweep and end the A’s season-high five-game win streak.

“Fastball inside,” Weeks said of the pitch that ended the game. “I don’t usually swing through fastballs I can hit.”

A day after the A’s celebrated a comeback win in a raucous clubhouse, Weeks stood at his locker in a much quieter setting.

“Disappointing,” he said. “As a player, I feel like I’m one of the best out there on the field. So to not come through or at least put the ball in play, it’s frustrating.”

Padres starter Clayton Richard frustrated the A’s all afternoon, setting Street up for the save in the ninth. San Diego’s southpaw worked 7.2 innings before giving way to Street and allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out six.

“He just mixed his pitches,” Weeks said. “They made some good plays on defense. We just didn’t capitalize.”

The A’s did have some chances against Richard, but they were few and far between. Heading into the ninth, the A’s had advanced a runner to third base just once.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said that he thought his team was going to pull out the win after Coco Crisp’s single cut the Padres’ lead to 2-1 in the ninth.

Instead, the A’s fell just short, missing the chance to complete their second series sweep of the season.

“Obviously we weren’t as good,” Melvin said. “Going into the game we certainly had a lot of confidence going and early on it was tough to even see too many good swings.”

Richard was working ugly swings out of the A’s into the eight inning, and A’s starter Bartolo Colon was long gone by then.

Colon’s outing was cut short by a right oblique strain he sustained when fielding a sacrifice bunt in the third inning. After his errant throw to first base, Colon received a visit from Melvin and the training staff and hit the showers.

After the game, Colon said he dealt with a similar oblique injury on the opposite side in 1999 that forced him to miss 28 games.

The A’s won’t know how long they’ll be without Colon until they receive the results of Monday’s MRI, but Melvin acknowledged that Saturday’s starter Tyson Ross could be a candidate to re-join the team if Colon is out for an extended period of time.

Another injury-plagued starter, Brandon McCarthy, is set to return to the bump when the A’s open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. Interleague games against N.L. West opponents have been kind to the A’s, Sunday’s loss notwithstanding, and Weeks will be anxiously waiting for a chance to atone for his most recent at-bat.

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Yasmani Grandal might return soon

The San Diego Padres might promote C Yasmani Grandal from Triple-A Tucson. He is hitting .317 with five homers and 27 RBIs in 139 at-bats and there is speculation he might return after spending just two days with the big club earlier this season. Under baseball rules, Grandal must spend a minimum of 10 days in the minors after an option, so the earliest he could be promoted would be Wednesday, June 13.

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