Schiano was active in Wilfork's recruitment to Miami

While he never actually played for the man, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork got to know Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers’ rookie head coach, while being recruited to the University of Miami.

 In fact, Schiano played a major role in Wilfork’s recruitment.

 “(He’s a) very intense guy and he loves doing what he’s doing and that’s coaching football. It wasn’t a surprise to see him at this level someday,” said Wilfork, who played for the Hurricanes from 2001-2003. “It was just a matter of time. He went to Rutgers (taking over as head coach after serving as Miami’s defensive coordinator in 1999-2000) and had a very successful reign up there and turned that program around and got guys to buy into his program because he’s all about winning and I’ve seen it first hand.

 “Having some guys from Rutgers on our team, Devin (McCourty, cornerback) and Justin (Francis, defensive end) and guys like that, they say the same thing. He’s a great, great guy. He’s a hell of a coach and I think he’s going to be around for a while.”

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Lamar Miller trying to find his place with Dolphins

DAVIE, Fla. — Four weeks into Dolphins training camp, this much has been learned about Lamar Miller: He’s not a very good singer, but he does a great job fetching snacks for the veterans.

As for what kind of NFL running back Miller might be, the jury is still out.

At 21, the rookie is the Dolphins’ youngest player. He left the University of Miami with two years of eligibility remaining (he redshirted one season and played two) and was taken in the fourth round of April’s draft. Many believe Miller should have stuck around with the Hurricanes at least one more year.

So far, Miller hasn’t torn it up. In two Miami preseason games, he’s carried eight times for 15 yards, and coach Joe Philbin hardly has been impressed with his pass blocking.

“There’s no regrets at all,’’ Miller said of leaving school early. “I felt that I made the right decision for me, myself and my family. So I just got to make the most of it and take advantage of my opportunity. But there’s no regrets at all.’’

As for the singing part, during the Dolphins’ recent Rookie Talent Show, Miller and a pair of rookie fullbacks, Jorvorskie Lane and Jerome Messam, performed a rendition of The Isley Brothers’ 2001 hit “Contagious.’’ What apparently wasn’t contagious was anybody wanting to hear Miller sing again.

“Singing is not his forte,’’ said Dolphins veteran running back Steve Slaton. “I’ll leave it at that.’’

But Slaton said Miller is doing a good job with some of his rookie chores. They include fetching snacks for veteran running backs to eat during meetings.

Slaton and star runner Reggie Bush are the two taskmasters when it comes to Miller’s duties. Bush also has found time to take Miller under wing.

“He’s eager to learn,’’ said Bush, a seven-year veteran. “Obviously, as a rookie you get all different types of guys. You never know what you can get. He’s eager to learn. He obviously loves the game of football. He’s passionate about it. That’s the most you can ask for, especially from a guy who’s been in the league for a while and feels like you can offer advice here and there. Sometimes, you get the rookies that don’t want to listen and they don’t really care.’’

Not Miller. The Miami native has displayed a willingness to get better.

It remains to be seen how that might translate into helping the Dolphins this season. With Bush, Daniel Thomas and Slaton all ahead of him on the depth chart, Miller could be relegated to kickoff return and other special teams duties.

“I’m just taking it game by game, just trying to do my best,’’ Miller said. “The speed of the game is just something I have to adjust to.’’

Philbin said Miller needs to “have a level of competency in pass protection’’ before there is confidence in lining him up in the backfield. Overall, though, Philbin is seeing some good signs.

“He’s making progress there as a pass protector,’’ Philbin said. “He has good athletic ability, he can bend his knees, and he hasn’t been bashful in terms of going to his blitz responsibility …. He certainly hasn’t been perfect in pass protection, but his awareness has been good and his willingness has been good. He has very good feet and he has good speed and he catches the ball extremely well. He has a lot of skill.”

Miller had enough to rush for 1,272 yards last season with the Hurricanes, becoming their first 1,000-year back since Willis McGahee in 2002.

When Miller was considering leaving school early, he said he was projected as a second-round pick. But that didn’t happen, as Miller slipped to the No. 97 overall pick in the fourth round.

“It just made me more hungry,’’ said Miller, who played at Miami’s Killian High School. “It just made me want to go out every day and just compete and just be better as a player …. But it’s a blessing just playing for the Miami Dolphins and playing in my own backyard.”

In his first Dolphins game at Sun Life Stadium, the field where he had five of his seven 100-yard games last season with the Hurricanes, Miller had a forgettable five carries for four yards in an Aug. 10 preseason loss to Tampa Bay (he did catch two passes for 16 yards). He ran better in last Friday's loss at Carolina, getting 11 yards on three carries.

But the Dolphins are looking at Miller, who is more than six months younger than the team’s second-youngest player, as a project. If he indeed should have been drafted higher, he could end up being a steal.

“I could definitely say that,’’ said Slaton, referring to a draft in which seven running backs were taken ahead of Miller. “If he could have gone in a different (draft class), he would have gone a lot earlier.’’

But one thing Slaton definitely is not saying is that Miller is much of a singer.

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Outtakes from Clinton Portis’s retirement speech

As was the case for most of his time as a Washington Redskin, Clinton Portis’s honest, colorful comments Thursday during his retirement ceremony at Redskins Park could not all fit into one story.

What follows are the highlights from the 25-plus minutes Portis spent at the podium. Enjoy …

Portis, who is from Gainesville, Fla., played at the University of Miami from 1999-2001. But were it not for Portis’s mother, he might have ended up playing for Ron Vanderlinden at Maryland:
“Going to Miami at the time that I went, I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Portis said. “I just remember telling my mom that, you know, ‘I’m going to college, and I’m going to the University of Maryland,’ and from that point on she didn’t answer a University of Maryland football phone call. She threw away all the mail, and I walked in the house and said, ‘Did any of the coaches call?’ And she said, ‘Yeah. Miami.’ And I said, ‘That’s it? That’s the only team that called?’ She said, ‘That’s the only one that I can remember.’ ”

The Denver Broncos selected Portis midway through the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. But when Portis met with various teams in Indianapolis at the pre-draft combine weeks earlier, he’d suggested they take him considerably earlier than that:
“I remember sitting in Indianapolis at the draft meeting, and everybody saying, ‘Well, what you bringing to the table, and where do you feel like you should be drafted?’ ” Portis said. “I told them I should be the third pick in the draft. I told them, ‘I understand David Carr to the Houston Texans. I understand Julius Peppers to the Carolina Panthers. But at No. 3, you got to trade with Detroit to get Clinton Portis, and then I will be rookie of the year.’

“And everybody looked at me like I was on drugs, which I’ve never even done before. Everybody looked at me like I was crazy, like, ‘Seriously, where do you think you should be drafted?’ I said, ‘Seriously, you should trade with the Detroit Lions and pick me No. 3.’ That didn’t happen. But the best thing that did happen was I went to the Denver Broncos.”

For those of you who were curious, no team ended up trading with the Lions for the third overall pick in that draft. Instead, the Lions selected quarterback Joey Harrington out of Oregon. In the seasons that followed, the Lions may have regretted that decision.

Portis, as you may have noticed, never lacked for confidence. Or a sense of humor. One thing he may occasionally have lacked was a sense of appropriateness. His first day of practice as a rookie with the Broncos didn’t start off so well:
“I remember the first day of practice getting in trouble because I had a feather in my” helmet, Portis said. “I got in trouble for lining up and having a bird’s feather in my helmet while I carried the ball. And I remember [former Broncos tight end] Shannon Sharpe taking the rap for it. And I clear-as-day did it. Shannon wasn’t even beside me at the moment that it happened. I remember Shannon taking the rap for it and telling coach that he had [done it]. I always appreciated that. I was 20. All I did was talk trash. That was it. They called first team backs, and I got up. [Former Broncos running back] Terrell [Davis] said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘That’s where I’m going to be at.’”

Portis was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 after rushing for more than 1,500 yards. Following that season, Portis attended an ESPN awards banquet, where he had an amusing encounter with a man that gave him some ironic advice:
“A guy walked up and started a conversation with me about how I liked Denver,” Portis said. “And I was like, ‘It’s cool. It’s a cool place. I love playing for the organization, but I don’t feel like they want to pay me.’ And he said, ‘You don’t feel like they want to pay you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think they’re going to pay me.’

“And he said, ‘Well don’t worry about money. Play the game the way you play it and have fun and enjoy it, and they’re going to take care of you.’ And I didn’t know who it was. He just vanished into the sunset. I just knew it was a little short man, who was cocky and had a stance like this . . .”

At that point, Portis stood with a staggered stance and stuck his chest out as far as it would go.

“. . . and lo and behold . . . ”

Portis pointed his right thumb towards Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who was sitting next to the podium.

“. . . it turns out to be Mr. Snyder.”

In 2004, the Broncos traded Portis to Washington for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round pick in that year’s NFL Draft. It took a while for Portis to warm up to some of his new teammates, but they eventually won him over:
“I remember I used to be so scared when Chris Cooley lined up in front of me, and I would look, and his legs would be shaking, and his hand wouldn’t be in the dirt,” Portis said. “And I was like, ‘Man, they got to get this H-back out of the game.’ I used to be so afraid.

“But every play I realized he gave his best, and the guys around me gave all they had. That’s all that you can ask those guys for. You can’t ask them to do anymore than they can do. And I never looked at one of my teammates as if he was taking a play off, as if he wasn’t prepared, as if he wasn’t trying to spring me, which allowed me the opportunity to go when they had the ball in their hands to try and spring them. It built a bond, and I think it was so special.”

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Warren Sapp Gave Bill Belichick An 'Erection'

We never thought in a million years that we would ever see the names Bill Belichick and Warren Sapp in the same sentence with the word "erection." Yet, here we are. Let's try to explain...

Apparently current New England Patriots head coach, and former Cleveland Browns head coach, Bill Belichick was a huge fan of Warren Sapp's when the former Miami Hurricane was entering the 1995 NFL draft. Sapp spoke of Belichick's excitement while being a guest on the Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN radio.
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"He said, 'I want to draft you so bad that I have an erection right now,'" Sapp explained. "I'm like, 'Are you kidding me?' He said, 'But Mike Lombardi will not let me draft you.'I'm like, 'Come onnn.' He's like, 'I just wanna let you know, it's not on me. I want you in Cleveland.'"

So there you have it, folks! That is how Warren Sapp and Bill Belichick teamed up to form a sentence with the word "erection."

As the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Bill Belichick compiled a losing record of 36 wins and 44 losses before being fired with the team. At that time, it was widely believed that Belichick was just a product of Bill Parcell's coaching genius and not a good standalone coach of his own. However, as we learned today, it is quite possible that Belichick always had a great eye for talent. Maybe Belichick wasn't the problem in Cleveland after all, maybe the problem was with team ownership and management.

No word on if Belichick has received any "erections" from other former or current NFL players but if we had to guess, we are assuming Tom Brady gives him one at nearly every single practice.

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Clinton Portis officially retires to become 'soccer dad'

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- There was no "Southeast Jerome" or "Bro Sweets." Clinton Portis has a new title for himself: "soccer dad."

Portis formally announced his retirement Thursday, frequently shedding tears as he spoke uninterrupted for some 25 minutes about his life and nine-year NFL career with the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins.

The 30-year-old Portis last played for the Redskins in 2010, and his announcement was timed to coincide with his induction into a list of the franchise's all-time greats.

He set Washington's single-season rushing record in 2005, the same year he wore costumes on a near-weekly basis during the team's playoff drive.
Portis said the costumes were "fun to do" and helped his teammates get through a special season.

Portis issued a thank you letter to his fans Wednesday,. It follows in its entirety :

I entered this city wide-eyed and excited. I was a 22-year old kid who didn’t know the storied history or the timeless legacy that is The Redskin Nation. What I did know was that I was called upon to deliver more than just touchdowns. I was brought here to work alongside a great group of teammates to uplift the spirits of an organization, a community, and the best fans in the world.

Today, I hang up my jersey and untie my cleats. I reflect on my time here as some of the best times I can remember and hope that it is as memorable for you as it is for me. I want to thank my teammates, my family, and my fans for all the love and support and for allowing me to grow from a boy into a man in a city that I will forever love.

A special thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Snyder for everything they have done for me and my family, Coach Shannahan for giving me the chance of a lifetime, and Coach Gibbs for making me a man. LOVE YOU ALL!

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DeMarcus Van Dyke struggling to find consistency

NAPA -- DeMarcus Van Dyke has gone from phenom to flame out in the course of 18 practice sessions.

As the Raiders concluded their training camp Thursday, the realization is that the true worth of the second-year cornerback out of Miami lies somewhere in between.

Van Dyke's recent struggles suggest he isn't yet the playmaker who wowed teammates and coaches by breaking up numerous passes while subbing for injured starter Ron Bartell during the early days of training camp.

"I've just got to go out there and play ball,"Van Dyke said. "I'm doing too much thinking, I think. Coach (Jason) Tarver gave me a lot of advice, telling me to go out and play ball. Don't worry about making mistakes, just play like I was the first two weeks of camp.''

As July turned to August, Van Dyke looked to be pushing for a starting job, perhaps at Shawntae Spencer's spot, once Bartell returned.

Van Dyke had put on weight -- he was up to 187 pounds after playing at a spindly 175 as a rookie -- and was playing with confidence.

But Van Dyke is prone to being too hard on himself, sometimes lacking the short-term memory necessary to the position.

"I'm doing too much thinking about trying to make a play, just pressing too much,"Van Dyke said.

Tarver, the Raiders defensive coordinator, is hoping Van Dyke rises to the occasion against the Detroit Lions Saturday at 4 p.m. The opposition includes wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the freakishly gifted wide receiver.

"I would really like to see him play like he plays out here and just play with what we know he can do," Tarver said. "He's heard that from me this week. Play like he plays at practice. Because he plays pretty good at practice.''

Spencer said he thought the change in Van Dyke came when Bartell returned and Van Dyke rejoined the second team.

"He was playing so well, and then Ron came back and everything changed,"Spencer said. "He wasn't as aggressive. He was like, 'All right, Ron's the starter.' I told him, 'No matter where you are on the depth chart, always look at yourself as a starter. Practice like a starter, prepare like a starter.''

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Warren Sapp still “sticks by [his] source” on Shockey

The NFL still won’t say who provided anonymous information to the league office in connection with the bounty investigation.  Not long after the story first landed, the network owned by the NFL had analyst Warren Sapp repeat on the air his Twitter speculation/report that former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey was the “snitch.”

The incident resulted in Sapp being yanked off the air, along with concerns that he’d never return.  Commissioner Roger Goodell also said publicly that Sapp was incorrect, and the powers-that-be reminded Sapp he’s not a reporter, but an analyst.

Appearing on Mike Francesa’s radio show on WFAN, Sapp reiterated his belief that Shockey spoke to the league about the Saints’ alleged bounty system.
“Stick by my source,” Sapp said, adding that he was suspended 30 days by NFLN.  “In some of the information that was given to them he’s one of them.”

That’s much different than Shockey being the snitch.  Answering questions from the league once the investigation begins is a far cry from affirmatively blowing the whistle.

Sapp already has apologized to Shockey for the initial comment, but Sapp also said at the time that he stands by his source.

Some would say the most prudent move would be to drop it, especially since Sapp ended up getting a second chance with NFLN.

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Jonathan Vilma Was 'Definitely' Offered Eight-Game Reduction in Suspension by NFL

Jonathan Vilma's yearlong suspension still stands, but talks of a reduction won't go away. According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, a source indicates that the NFL "definitely" offered an eight-game reduction to Vilma's suspension. This comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that indicated the league had offered Vilma a reduction. Those reports were denied by the NFL. Vilma, of course, is slated to miss the entire 2012 season as a result of his involvement in the Saints' bounty program. Three other players -- Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- were also slapped with suspensions as part of the team's punishment, as were former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt. Florio reports that it's unclear whether the NFL's reduction offer to Vilma was a formal offer or an implied indication that an eight-game reduction was available if he would accept it.

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Chris Myers explains how rotating right tackles in season can work

The battle between Rashad Butler and Derek Newton at right tackle is so close that coach Gary Kubiak is considering playing both during the regular season.
With chemistry so crucial on the offensive line, my big question was how rotating right tackles might impact both the in-season chemistry and how the line is gelling now. Who better to ask than center Chris Myers, who has seen this process a couple times?

“You get into a game, especially hard-fought games and loud games, knowing what the guy next to you is going to do without talking to him is a key component,” Myers said. “We’ve been spoiled over the last four years or so pretty much having the same starting line and this is going to be a new transition to have that new right side and they’re going to have to build their own chemistry at right guard/right tackle to the point of being able to know what each other are going to do without having to say it.”

So what if both Butler and Newton wind up playing in the regular season?

“You know, if that ends up being the case, it ends up being the case,” Myers said. “They’re both in there, they’re both very high quality right tackles. I remember back to when Duane Brown was a first-round draft pick in 2008, we had Ephraim Salaam who was a long-time vet. He kind of took Duane under his wing and the first two games of that year they were going back and forth. Every other series or two series one series so Duane could slowly get implemented into that starting role.”

Brown and I spoke about Salaam last week as part of this story about left tackles. I didn’t include much of it in the story, but Brown really stressed the impact Salaam had on him not just on the field but in developing good habits in the classroom as well.

Paramount for the line as they sort this out, though, is for the right guard and right tackle to know each other well, no matter who that is. Both positions are in flux right now with Antoine Caldwell and third-round draft pick Brandon Brooks competing at right guard.

“There’s little speed bumps here and there like when Brandon Brooks comes in, he’s learning the offense for the first time,” Myers said. “So you can’t expect him to know everything right off the bat. So he’s going to have his hiccups and stuff like that and Derek Newton is still kind of a first-time guy getting a lot of action with the starters. Last year he was running with the twos but that’s the speed of the game.

“That’s the natural process of the league is that when you get your opportunities if you take full advantage of them and impress the coaches, that’s where you make your niche.”

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Vince Wilfork is pleased with how the New England Patriots defense is coming together

Unfortunately, we were unable to make the journey down to Tampa Bay for this week's joint practices. However, the team has sent out several transcripts so we can keep up with some of the things that are going.

Here's what we know: Wes Welker didn't participate in today's practice, and Patrick Chung remains sidelined with a shoulder injury. There are no injury reports this time of year, but it seems safe to assume that both players are "Questionable" for Friday's game against the Bucs.

Here are some choice comments that were made today:
Vince Wilfork on the defense coming together: “I’m happy with where we're at, but we can get better. We definitely can get better. That’s what we strive for every week: to get better. But it's starting to come together, guys are starting to understand how we need to rush. Now that we're way deep into camp, we should have a good, good idea of what we have, the moves that we like, some things we don't like, what we need to work on and what we're pretty good at. So we should have a good sense of where we're at with that, but I’m pretty happy with where we're at.”

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Alex Cora: 'Very surprised' Sox Skipped Funeral

Former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora joined Kirk Minihane and Rob Bradford Thursday to express his surprise that only four Red Sox attended the funeral of Johnny Pesky on Monday. 

"I was very surprised," Cora said. "I think what Johnny means and meant to the players and the people in Boston, he was more than just a people person. Just walking into that clubhouse and seeing Johnny smile and greeting you in there and talking about baseball and life in general, he meant a lot, especially to a lot of people in there. I was very surprised to hear that only four players showed up to the funeral." 

The Red Sox had rented buses to take players and staff from Fenway to the church in Swampscott on Monday -- an off-day -- but the player turnout was limited to just David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Vicente Padilla and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Cora said that if he were on the team, he wouldn't have needed someone to tell him to attend the funeral because it would be obvious that he needed to go. 

"I don't think somebody has to say it," he said. "I think everybody understands what he means to the organization. There are certain things that go beyond an off day. This is a situation that nobody wanted, but it happened. As a person, you've got to put yourself not as a baseball player, but as a person. Your family understands that there's something big going on. … I understand that it's been a tough season, a lot of things have happened, but just a few hours of your day off to pay respects to Johnny, I don't think it's going to hurt anybody. 

"For me personally, if I was in that situation, there's a pretty good chance that nobody would have had to tell me, 'You have to go,'" Cora said. "You take matters into your own hands and do what is right, and that was the right thing to do."

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Ryan Jackson gets first major league hit

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.COM) -- Newly-promoted infielder Ryan Jackson picked up his first major league hit Thursday against the Astros.

Jackson was pinch hitting for pitcher Jake Westbrook in the fifth inning when he singled to right.

The 24-year-old Jackson was picked up August 10th from the Cardinal's AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds.  He had played in 113 games for Memphis. 

Jackson was drafted in the 5th round of the MLB Draft in 2008 from the University of Miami.

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Goodell isn’t welcome at restaurant owned by Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down suspensions that will cost Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams some money this year, but they aren’t interested in getting any of it back as a result of Goodell visiting a restaurant they own in Miami.

A window at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, the restaurant the two linebackers opened earlier this month along with fellow University of Miami linebacking product Jon Beason, features a sign with Goodell’s picture taped to the window. As you can see in the picture at right, which comes via Twitter users @ALLIN1 and @JeremyIvans13, the sign is also adorned with the message “DO NOT SERVE THIS MAN.”

USA TODAY spoke to an employee of the restaurant who confirmed that the signs are in all of the restaurant’s windows as well as on the walls inside the eatery. The paper wasn’t able to confirm if Vilma or Williams issued an order to post the signs, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Vilma’s scorched earth approach to fighting his suspension has carried over to decorating choices at his side project.

Regardless of who was the driving force behind the signs, it seems Goodell will have to look elsewhere to fill cravings for 16 ounce margaritas and country fried steak when he’s in South Florida.

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Travis Benjamin has hair-raising day at Cleveland Browns training camp


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Andre Johnson being sued by ex-girlfriend

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- One of the Houston Texans' most popular players is dealing with domestic and legal trouble.

We're hearing from attorneys for the mother of Andre Johnson's child, and they're telling her side of the story. She's asking for more child support and wants to move out of state with their daughter. The Texans spokesperson says they haven't seen a lawsuit and aren't commenting right now.

The lawsuit was filed in Harris County court on Tuesday but attorneys for the Texans star wide receiver's longtime girlfriend say the two have been separated since January.

"This case is really about accountability. Accountability both with respect to doing the right thing as a father, as a parent, financially and addressing the many promises that were broken to her," attorney Robert Hoffman said.

Dionne Reese hired high-profile attorneys Robert Hoffman and Earle Lilly, who also represented Cynthia Rodriguez in her divorce against NY Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

"I don't think you're going to find any physical violence. No one's claiming it and I don't think it's an issue in the case but you're going to find a lot of emotional issues," Lilly said.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Reese asks for custody of their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Reese also claims she's been the subject of "intentional infliction of emotional distress." She's also suing Johnson for "breach of fiduciary duty" resulting in "damages exceeding millions of dollars."

"I think there is no question celebrity status will be a part of this case because that's who Mr. Johnson is," Hoffman said.

Attorneys for Reese say this isn't the first filing, that an earlier document was filed by Johnson's attorney in a parent/child case but the filing used only the initials of the parties involved, leading Reese's attorneys to say in the court documents, "There are no secret lawsuits."

"We have now brought the names out and we have filed an amended petition," Hoffman said.

Reese also claims Johnson recanted "reasonable child support" and has "earned millions of dollars in income as a professional football player," suggesting "$1,500 per month is sufficient" for his young daughter.

"We're trying to keep this down to a mild roar for the benefit of this child. If they want peace, they can get peace," Lilly said.

We made calls after the end of the business day but have not heard back yet from his attorney or his agent.

Again the Texans say they have no knowledge of the legal documents so do not have a comment at this time.

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Texans may play Butler and Newton

Rashad Butler and Derek Newton, battling for the right tackle job vacated when Eric Winston was whacked in a cap purge, could both play some early in the year, Kubiak told me. But look for Butler to start.

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Travis Benjamin getting 1st-team reps with Browns

Cleveland Browns 4th-round pick Travis Benjamin has reportedly been getting some first-team reps in three-receivers sets. Benjamin is vastly undersized (5’10″, 175 pounds) but may be the faster receiver on the Browns roster. So while he probably won’t be taking many balls away from Greg Little or Mohamed Massaquoi, he could be used as a deep threat (and as a decoy). The Browns were lacking any sort of downfield passing attack in 2011, so the addition of Benjamin could add a new dimension to the offense.

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James Bryant goes from pro boxer to fullback

James Bryant is throwing haymakers and roundhouses. It's lunch, and he's only talking, but Bryant is delivering some hard-hitting statements without reservation or apology.

He has dressed up like a mass murderer. He has enjoyed knocking people out. He has taken people's souls from them.

It's ghoulish. It's dark. It's the rarely discussed honest, visceral side of athletes who have products to sell.

Bryant, 26, is a rookie fullback in training camp with the Lions, but in another life not long ago, he was a professional heavyweight boxer. A good one. He could hit. Hard. And he learned how to listen.

Mostly, though, Bryant's true talent in the ring was devastation, in all its forms: physical, psychological and just for fun.

Bryant dressed in a Hannibal Lecter mask and a straightjacket for one weigh-in. He wore a Michael Myers mask from the "Halloween" horror flicks to another. Bryant went 4-1 with four knockouts in his brief boxing career that ended nearly two years ago.

Knockout is like big hit
Bryant fiddles with his salad during a lunchtime interview. Then he stops. The man who has been a boxer and a swimwear model and has played on both sides
of the ball and in almost every pro football league, suddenly stops.

He is considering a simple question: What is it like to knock someone out?

"Oh, man," he said.

A smile breaks across Bryant's face. He pauses for 12 seconds before he continues. He chooses a football analogy and says, "It felt like a big hit over the middle."

But it was so much more.

"It's just rage," Bryant said calmly. "You just turn into another person, another animal. And that's what happened when I first cleanly knocked somebody out. It was something special."

Bryant was recruited in 2009 to box for the Heavyweight Factory. The now-defunct Florida training facility specialized in reprogramming former football players into boxers. It enlisted giants of the sport such as Michael Moorer, Oliver McCall and Shannon Briggs as coaches.

Boxing paid off early
Bryant had a troubled two-year career at the University of Miami. He was suspended three times and later accused by booster Nevin Shapiro of accepting money and gifts.

"Never knew him," Bryant said of Shapiro. "Seen him one time. Didn't even shake his hand because I knew who he was and what he was about, and I never associated myself with him, never affiliated myself with him."

Bryant transferred to Louisville. He had a brief tryout in 2009 with the Washington Redskins. But he needed money and a way to stay in shape to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

"What job can I go and be working out 6-7 hours a day and get paid really good money for it and have them take care of my housing, get paid weekly?" he said. "There's no job out there, except for boxing, except for maybe MMA fighting."

A friend put Bryant in touch with the Heavyweight Factory, and his first fight was Feb. 16, 2010, against Roy Boykins, a small heavyweight. It was a scheduled for four rounds. Bryant knocked down Boykins twice and KO'd him 2 minutes into the first round.

Bryant's first fight was intoxicating. The light glared off the canvas and faded the crowd into darkness.

"And it's just you and him," Bryant said. "And your main objective is to basically dominate an individual.

"Now, what does that mean? Reach into his soul and take it from him. That's what dominating an individual means, making him quit because he's mentally not prepared to endure what you're mentally prepared to endure."

Two months later, Bryant knocked out his next opponent, Andrew Maxwell, at 2:19 of the first round.

"James had a hell of a right hand and a left hook," Moorer said. "He had a good, strong jab. Everything was just solid. He was just a solid guy."
Bryant trained 8 hours a day, five days a week. In his third fight, Bryant knocked out Lujan Henderson in 45 seconds. Bryant was turning the sweet science into an art form.

"Jab, left hook, right hand," he said. "That was my best combination.

"I remember I knocked (Henderson) out. I came out knowing that's what I was going to run. Took a couple jabs to see what he was going to do. After the jab came out, I knew where his head was going to go, and I immediately executed that combination. He went down, and he didn't get back up."

For the Henderson fight, Bryant also brought something special. He dressed as Michael Myers and carried a sledgehammer to the weigh-in. Bryant is 6-feet-3, and Henderson stood 6-7, but Bryant swore he saw Henderson shrink.

"And if you're mentally not ready for that, that could drive somebody literally back home to their mom, because you don't know me from a grain of salt or a whole in the wall," Bryant said. "All you know is the next day you've got to get in the ring with somebody who showed up as a masked killer from all of our childhood scary movies with a sledgehammer staring at you."

Bryant has shown video of his fights to coaches and fellow running backs.

"I was pretty impressed, man," Kevin Smith said. "I like boxing myself, so it's good to see. You can see he's a warrior, but it'd be good if it could translate to the field."

"Oh, yeah," Joique Bell said. "He's a heavy hitter. And I think he uses the same mentality on the field. I think that's why it's good to have him here."

After three fights, Bryant was finding his talent in the ring -- even while he was trying to escape it. Boxing always had been a means to an end. The ring didn't scare Bryant, but its effects did.

"I've been in positions before where I've gotten in the ring with Oliver McCall, who's been boxing just as long as I've been alive, and I took a lot of damage," Bryant said. "I remember trying to have a simple conversation with a couple friends of mine and knowing what I wanted to say in my head but not being able to speak it clearly."

Bryant lost his next fight by a split decision. Then he KO'd Dieuly Aristilde in the fourth round in what would be his final fight on Oct. 19, 2010.

"I knew that I wasn't going to be in boxing forever," he said. "But when I left, I also knew that I could have been a great champion.

"But at the same time, at what cost? I'm very intelligent. I consider myself to be very handsome. At what cost would I be the heavyweight champ of the world? At a cost I wasn't really willing to pay."

Ring savvy clinched it
Bryant played in the Arena League in 2010, then landed in the Canadian Football League as a 280-pound defensive end in 2011. This year, he began his road back to the NFL when the Lions signed him in March. It was Bryant's boxing background that caught the eye of running backs coach Sam Gash at Miami's pro day.

"His size, his athleticism and the fact that he was a boxer kind of showed me that he does not have fear versus a one-on-one," Gash said. "And that is evident. We were in full pads (recently), and it was evident. He's going to run in there as hard as he can."

Bryant's boxing license doesn't expire until 2014, but he says he won't fight again. He's saving his battles for the football field, where he has turned his whole body into a fist that moves inexorably forward, pummeling anyone in its path.

"I'm going to dominate this individual until the game is over," he said. "Literally, chip away at him. What's the average per play, 5 to 8 seconds? So 5 to 8 seconds of your life, you're giving it all you got to mentally and physically defeat one individual.

"That's what boxing brings to the table when I step on the football field. And that's what football has brought to the table when I step in the boxing ring."

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Healthy Jason Fox finally able to showcase talent

ALLEN PARK -- Injuries have plagued offensive lineman Jason Fox from the moment he arrived in the NFL. As a senior at the University of Miami, he skipped the team's bowl game to have surgery on his injured knee, hoping to be healthy for his first NFL training camp. Unfortunately, the injury lingered his entire rookie campaign.

Coming into last season, Fox expected to compete for a starting job, but a broken foot in training camp quickly derailed those plans. A couple months later, another knee surgery landed him on injured reserve, washing away his second professional season.

When Fox missed the team's mandatory minicamp with a knee injury this June, coach Jim Schwartz seemed to imply the window for the young tackle to make an impression might be closing.

"He needs to put some time together where he's injury free from an evaluation standpoint, proving that he can stay healthy over a long term," Schwartz said.
Fox has cleared the first hurdle in the process, escaping training camp without a significant injury. Not only has he remained healthy, he's displaying the talent that encouraged the Lions to spend a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2010.

"He's still a very young player, so he has to progress, learn, go through it, and get better every day," offensive line coach George Yarno said. "He's done that. He's quietly put together a really good camp because he's getting better every day."

In practice, Fox has seen as many reps as any player on the team, getting work with all three units, including snaps at starting left tackle when Jeff Backus sat out with various injuries. 

In the team's two preseason games, Fox has effectively demonstrated the ability to get push as a run blocker and swing out wide and stay in front of his man in one-on-one pass rush situations.

"I think I've done a good job. I feel like I have a good grasp of this offense," Fox said. "I've been around for a few years now, but there's always room for improvement."

Despite being on shaky ground when camp opened, Fox has all but locked down a roster spot with his performance the past three weeks. He'll likely be one of five tackles left standing, along with Backus, Gosder Cherilus, first-round draft pick Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard.

That would mean the Lions won't carry a third guard on the 53-man roster, but Fox, along with the two other backup tackles, are all cross-trained to play inside if starters Stephen Peterman or Rob Sims were to suffer an injury.

"They've told all of us at tackle that we need to be able to play both sides and inside if need be," Fox said. "That's what I'm here for. I want to be able to play wherever they need me."

While there is plenty of depth at tackle this season, Fox could still develop into a starter for the Lions. Cherilus and Hilliard will both be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and Backus, who turns 35 in September, is nearing the end of his career.  

Fox will be a restricted free agent in 2013. As a former fourth-round selection, the Lions would be able to retain his services next season for approximately $1.3 million.

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Ryan Braun surpasses his 2011 home run total

While the baseball world fixates on Bartolo Colon's suspension for his positive testosterone test, a bit of old business from the world of baseball doping:
Ryan Braun has already exceeded his home run total for 2011.

Braun smacked his 34th home run Wednesday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs, continuing a stellar season that nearly matches - and may ultimately surpass - his National League MVP effort from a year ago.

He's on pace for 45 home runs, which would obliterate his career high of 37.

At the end of 2011, of course, Braun tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, but he avoided a 50-game suspension in 2012 when his appeal was upheld by an independent arbitrator.

Braun faced much skepticism that he was actually clean, facing far more doubt nationwide than he did, naturally, in Milwaukee.

Now, he's put up another MVP-caliber season, which he will surely point to as further evidence that exonerates him.

The segment of the baseball world that only grows more skeptical might beg to differ.

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Jon Jay turns game Cards' way

Center fielder Jon Jay almost single-handedly turned the Cardinals' 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in Wednesday's fifth inning.

The Cardinals' leadoff hitter built on consecutive three-hit games by scoring Rafael Furcal with a one-out single, taking second on a wayward throw home, advancing to third base on Matt Carpenter's right-side grounder, then scoring on Astros pitcher Bud Norris' short-hop pitch.

Jay singled in the third and fifth inning and stole his way into scoring position after the first hit. He exited the fifth inning 10-for-30 on the current home stand. He has 28 hits this month and now leads the club with 14 steals. Jay entered the sixth inning 8-for-17 in his last three games.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse has settled after allowing two early solo home runs. However, Jay bailed him out of a potential sixth-inning jam with a running basket catch against the outfield wall to rob Brett Wallace of extra bases. Jay received a standing ovation from the Busch Stadium crowd and  widespread acknowledgement inside the home dugout.

The Cardinals out-hit the Astros 7-3 through 5 1/2 innings. The Cardinals have put six runnners into scoring position. Except for the two home runs, the Astros have pushed only one runner to second base against Lohse.

First baseman Allen Craig extended his hit streak to 11 games with a second-inning single that eventually led to the Cardinals' first run.

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Clinton Portis retiring as a Redskin

The Washington Redskins have announced they will host a retirement news conference Thursday for former Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who has not played in the NFL since 2010 and had hinted a few times over the past year that he'd like a chance to play again. Apparently, Portis has foregone that hope and will officially hang 'em up later this week in Ashburn, Va.

It's likely not a coincidence that the Redskins are unveiling their "10 for 80" the very next day -- the list of the next 10 players added to their list of all-time great Redskins. That list is expanding this year from 70 to 80 in honor of the team's 80th anniversary season, and Portis is likely to be one of the 10 new names.

Portis is a worthy addition to the list of all-time Redskins. He's the second-leading rusher in team history and rolled up 26 100-yard games during his seven seasons in Washington. More than that, though, Portis as a Redskin was the kind of player fans love to love. He was the definition of a workhorse back. In four of his first five seasons with the team, he carried the ball more than 340 times for more than 1,250 yards. (In 2006, he only played in eight games due to injury.) He scored 49 touchdowns in his seven seasons as a Redskin. He was a willing and devastating blocker and among the best running backs of the modern era at picking up the blitz.

The years Portis played for the Redskins (2004-10) are certainly not part of any golden age of Redskins history. But amid the mediocrity, Portis stood out as a great player, a hard worker and a colorful character off the field and in the locker room. Redskins fans may not remember the teams he played on as fondly as they'll remember him.

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PHOTOS: Adewale Ojomo Sacks Tim Tebow

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is sacked by New York Giants defensive end Adewale Ojomo during the second half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J.

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PHOTO: Javarris James versus Oakland Raiders


Running back Javarris James #45 of the Arizona Cardinals carries the football against defensive back Matt Giordano #27 of the Oakland Raiders during the NFL preseason game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.

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Paul Rudd taunts Ray Lewis over a friendly game of Madden

Madden '13 will be in stores Tuesday, Aug. 28, to the delight of video gamers and football fans everywhere. You probably won't have as much fun with it as Paul Rudd, though, who gets to taunt Ray Lewis and walk away unharmed.

If you aren't familiar, Rudd is referencing Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow," the Pittsburgh-centric jam that swept Pittsburgh and annoyed Baltimore around the time the Pittsburgh Steelers were heading into the playoffs last season. Ray Lewis, dominating linebacker for the rival Baltimore Ravens, likely did not love the song.

As for the game itself, anticipation remains as high as ever, and early indications look good. Calvin Johnson is on the cover, of course, and there will be Tebowing aplenty.

EA Sports made a handful of the Paul Rudd/Ray Lewis commercials. You can see the rest of them here at Thunder Treats.

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LaRon Byrd Imitates Larry Fitzgerald

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Another year in Flagstaff over. The Cardinals closed out with a lengthy morning session – going about 30 minutes over the scheduled end time prepping for the Titans. As usual, the team had their annual rookie show the last night. In what could have been predicted, receiver LaRon Byrd imitated Larry Fitzgerald in a skit, an impersonation Fitz insisted “it was not an accurate depiction of me at all.”

No one went after coach Ken Whisenhunt this year – Whiz surmised with a smile it was because after pushing the team so hard last week the rookies might have been a little gun shy to take him on – but then he added, “if you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t have fun.”

“It was a good way to end.”

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Ed Reed displays his FG kicking skills

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Gulliver Prep still draws on legacy of Sean Taylor

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Miami Gulliver begins every practice commemorating the late Sean Taylor, the former two-way star with the Raiders and safety with the University of Miami and Washington Redskins who was fatally gunned down in his own home in November 2007.

Coach Earl Sims has his players come together in a moment of silence while facing the scoreboard that bears Taylor’s name. The players then put a lone index finger in the air to honor Taylor as their No. 1 and begin a thunderous rally of claps before practice begins.

The ritual, while also paying homage to the man so iconic in football circles around Miami-Dade County, also reminds current Raiders that what they’re playing for transcends themselves.

“It means something to put on this uniform, and it’s a family of guys who wore this uniform before them, and Sean Taylor, of course we tell [our players] about him,” said Sims, who is going into his seventh year with the program. “Periodically throughout the year, we show some of his highlights, and we speak about the legacy that he has left behind on this field.”

Gulliver will try to translate Taylor’s greatness that it commemorates every day into greatness of its own on the gridiron in 2012.

The Raiders, who reached the 4A regional finals and lost to district foe Booker T. Washington last season, understand that although they may have improved, so have Monsignor Pace and Miami Edison in this district that only allows two teams to qualify for the postseason.

“We can’t live off what we did last year because what we did last year allowed us to have what we had last year,” Sims says. “If we live off our reputation, we’re nothing. We have to put forth a product this year to ensure success.”

Making matters even more challenging for Gulliver is the fact that it doesn’t stack up with most of its opponents numbers-wise.

According to Sims, the Raiders currently have “55 to 60” players on both the varsity and junior varsity squads, with the rosters yet to be divided.

“It’s pretty much like that every year, though,” senior running back Bo Ellis said. “Coach Sims knows that, and that’s why he has us out here conditioning. We condition more than, I would say, any other school in Dade County, and probably anywhere else.”

Ellis, a 5-8, 185-pounder ranked the No. 25 senior in Dade going into the season, wants to be the featured back, but he believes the team doesn’t lose a beat whenever another back enters the game.

“I would say I bring a toughness to the team in the backfield, and that’s just something that all our running backs have really,” Ellis said.

At quarterback, Gulliver has brought in two transfers to compete for the starting job — Alonzo Fanakos and Jowan Watson. Fanakos is a junior, who came from Booker T, and Watson is a sophomore. They both bring a threat of the run that was absent in Gulliver’s quarterback play a year ago.

“They’re eager to learn and work hard, and basically that’s all we need,” Sims says. “We have leadership among the other guys, and we’re just going to help them with the adjustment, the transition into our offense.”

Sims is not ready to announce a leader in the quarterback battle and says both will receive equal reps in the Preseason Classic Friday at Tarpon Springs as he hopes to find his starter after that game.

Whoever wins the competition knows he’ll have some solid targets to throw the ball to, in the form of a couple of Gulliver’s trademark two-way athletes.

Wide receiver/defensive end Stacy Thomas comes in as the No. 9 senior in the Dade Top 25, and wide receiver/defensive back Cornelius Floyd is ranked 19th among Dade juniors.

Thomas takes pride in his ability to draw attention from opponents in hopes of facilitating the game for his teammates

“A lot of teams already know what I’m capable of doing, so a lot of teams will be prowling on me and that’ll free up chances for other people that we have to make plays,” Thomas said.

The versatile Thomas is listed as a four-star outside linebacker on and is ranked 11th in the nation at that position. He’s also being recruited by Florida to play tight end.

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Brandon Washington cleared to practice

Philadelphia Eagles OG Brandon Washington has been cleared to practice after missing a week because of a concussion.

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Travis Benjamin returns to practice

BEREA, Ohio -- Help is on the way for the Browns receiving corps.

Receiver Travis Benjamin and tight end Jordan Cameron returned to practice Friday after sitting out the Green Bay game and the week of practice leading up to it.

"I was kind of nicked up,'' said Benjamin. "It wasn't really as sore. I had a few minor problems, but it’s OK now.''

He said he didn't feel he missed much in his week out. "Actually I was here the whole time,'' he said. "I watched film, watched practice, made sure I stayed on top of everything so I could be still in the game.''

Benjamin said he could've played in Green Bay if he had to. "Coach Shurmur knew my intentions,'' said Benjamin. "He just didn't want me to play.''
Cameron, who was having a strong camp before the injury, was glad to be back out there.

"Sitting behind the last week, you kind of lose something, obviously,'' he said. "You’re not getting the reps I’ve been getting. But it kind of gives you a chance to get the mental aspect going. You kind of sit back and watch things, sit back and watch each play, watch the technique of the guys going ahead of you. I've kind of been doing that. But definitely losing the reps doesn’t help.''

He said he was bugged when he had to come out off the game in the second quarter in Detroit.

"I wanted to be out there and keep playing and kind of showcase what I’ve been doing during camp. But it happens, it’s part of the game, you bounce back and I’ll be good.''

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Warren Sapp Opens Up In The Allstate Studio

Since retiring from the NFL back in 2007, after a 13-year career which included a Super Bowl win back in 2002 with the Bucs, Warren Sapp has remained relevant working as an analyst and making news.

Sapp joined Boomer & Craig in the Allstate Studio this morning to talk about and promote his new book, ‘Sapp Attack’, talk about his playing days and what has been going-on since his playing days have concluded, including his well-documented financial problems.

Sapp said he is doing just fine personally, explaining that he chose bankruptcy and that he lost – not sold – his Super Bowl ring and taht he has no plans to go into the porn business to pay the bills.

Sapp talked about what it would have been like if he had played in New York, what Keyshawn Johnson once said that made him realize that he was not a good guy, he offered his take on the Sanchez-Tebow ‘experiment’ the Jets are toying with, bounties and snitches were discussed, as well as the ‘brotherhood’ that apparently exists among NFL players, his own Hall of Fame candidacy as well as that of his former teammate John Lynch.

Keeping it local, Sapp imagined what he would have done if he had ever found himself matched-up opposite Jets offensive lineman Wayne Hunter and said he is not at all surprised by the success of Eli Manning.

Before saying goodbye, the guys discussed the erotic best seller ’50 Shades of Grey’, talked about their shared love for ‘motor boatin’, Warren Sapp ‘the judge’ and of course we learned what Mr. Sapp is benching these days…

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Marcus Forston playing well in Pats camp

Anyone who saw the Patriots’ first preseason game saw what observers have noticed at training camp — first-round DE Chandler Jones is the real deal. Jones has ascended up the depth chart since the spring and he pushed around Saints OLT Jermon Bushrod in the preseason opener.

Jones is not the only young D-lineman showing flashes in camp. Two undrafted rookies, we hear, have earned notice — Justin Francis and Marcus Forston.
Francis was a college teammate of Bill Belichick’s son, Stephen, at Rutgers, and the two are friends. On the field, Francis has long arms and is versatile. He had 6½ sacks last season.

Forston’s final season at Miami (Fla.) ended prematurely because of a knee injury, and is a big reason why the early entry was undrafted. Forston had been a mid-round talent.

Both players are fighting for roster spots. Francis sits behind fellow youngsters Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott and Jake Bequette on the DE depth chart and Forston is behind a group of veterans at defensive tackle. However, the Patriots are no strangers to keeping undrafted rookies on the 53-man roster and often rotate D-linemen, which gives Francis and Forston a chance to crack the squad.

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Colin McCarthy Having A Great Camp

The Titans don’t keep official practice stats, but if they did, it’s a good bet that middle linebacker Colin McCarthy would rank near the top of the charts — if not lead the team — in training camp interceptions.

He was at it again a couple of days ago, picking off a Matt Hasselbeck pass over the middle near the start of practice.

McCarthy usually does his interception damage on opposition slant patterns, using his anticipation skills to surprise quarterbacks. That’s the technique he used in the preseason opener, when he intercepted a pass thrown by Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn.

“He’s one of those guys that just has a feel for the game,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He’s got natural, good instincts. It’s something you can’t coach. … He just finds a way to get himself in the right spot without people realizing he’s in that spot, especially quarterbacks. He reaches for balls they don’t think he can get.”

McCarthy, who had three interceptions during his college career at Miami, Fla., had one interception as a rookie last season, when he played in 13 games and emerged as a late-season leader for the defense thanks in large part to his prowess as a tackler.

The second-year pro said preparation has played a role in his penchant for pickoffs this preseason.

“One important thing is understanding the defense, understanding the coverage and getting an idea where the quarterback wants to go with the ball in certain situations — whether it’s down and distance or whether it’s personnel-wise, who they want to get the ball to,” McCarthy said. “So just studying further into offenses, understanding what they are trying to do so I can make more plays.”

Is it also possible that quarterbacks underestimate the range and leaping ability of the 6-foot-1, 238-pound McCarthy, who can dunk a basketball?

“I hope they do because then I’ll keep making plays,” McCarthy said. “As long as they keep doing that, then I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. With the coverages, there’s an opportunity to make plays, and given the opportunity, I’m going to try to make them.”

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Micanor Regis Involved in Fight in Falcons Camp

FLOWERY BRANCH — There were two fights during practice on Monday after the team went all of training camp with only one minor scuffle.

On consecutive plays wide receiver Tim Toone and cornerback Peyton Thompson came to blows followed by a fight between offensive tackle Tyson Clabo and defensive tackle Micanor Regis. Toone lost his helmet in the tussle.

“We broke camp yesterday and I don’t know but everyone went home and came back in a bad mood,” Smith joked about the incidents.

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Rashad Butler embracing competition with Derek Newton

Rashad Butler is locked in to a battle for the Texans’ starting right tackle job with Derek Newton.

They have split first-team reps in practice. They have split reps in games. Butler started the Texans’ preseason opener at Carolina. Newton started the second game against San Francisco.

Butler, a seventh-year veteran who has been with the Texans since 2007, embraces the competition.

“It’s great,” Butler said on Monday. “I love competition. Competition definitely lights a fire under my rear end, so to say.”

When the Texans released Eric Winston, their starting right tackle since 2006, back in March, Butler was the heir apparent. He was the Texans’ backup at left and right tackle for the last three seasons, and he started four games at left tackle for a suspended Duane Brown in 2010.

Newton is in the picture after playing well in limited action as a rookie last season. A seventh-round draft pick out of Arkansas State, he became the Texans’ backup swing tackle after Butler suffered a season-ending triceps injury in September.

“I understand what they’re doing because I missed damn near the whole entire season last year with a severe triceps tendon injury, so I know they wanted to see the things that I could do,” Butler said. “I know if I was able to not get injured and if I was there throughout the whole entire season, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be having this battle that I’m having now, but I have no problems with the battle whatsoever, no issues.”

Even though he’s competing with Newton, Butler has not shied away from giving advice to the young tackle.

“You know, whatever is going to happen, happens,” Butler said. “I don’t ever want to be the type of guy that’s going to sell the guy that I’m battling short, so I try to help him out as much I can, because if he does become the starter, I want him to help this team to try to win. I don’t ever look at it as, ‘Let me hold something back that can help make him better’ and things of that nature. He asks me a lot of questions, too, so I’m all for helping him, and I’m all for competition.”

The competition is on and will continue this week.

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Jimmy Graham Not Thinking About The Big Money…Yet

After coming off of a terrific season like Jimmy Graham’s 2011/12 campaign, many athletes would be thinking about getting a little bit of a raise.

You won’t find New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the group however.

At least, not yet.

Graham, despite only one season of college football, and four seasons of basketball at the University of Miami, flourished in his second year with the Saints in 2011. Catching 99 passes, for 1,310 yards, and 11 touchdowns, Graham was second only to Rob Gronkowski in stats by a tight end in a single season, and those statistics were more than good enough to send Graham to the Pro Bowl last year.

What’s scary is that Graham could get even better. He’ll only turn 26-years old this football season,  and with only one year of college football experience, and two years of NFL experience under his belt, it’s reasonable to think he will improve.

After being drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Saints, Graham caught 31 passes, for 356 yards, and five touchdowns  in his rookie year, before his breakout season a year ago.

Graham signed a four-year, $2.445 contract with the Saints prior to his rookie campaign.

It’s good to see that Graham has an intelligent approach about his contract right now. Sure, there’s always the possibility of him getting hurt, or just simply regressing, thereby costing himself from future dollars, but he also knows that if he puts up numbers even remotely similar to what he put up last season, this season, then he’s going to be one wealthy man at this time next year, or down the road.

You hate to get overly excited about a guy that has had only one big year, but I think if Graham stays healthy, and stays grounded, he can be one of the all-time greats at his position.

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Reggie Wayne Remains Key Part of Indy Offense

Update: Wayne had six receptions (nine targets) for 74 yards in Sunday's preseason loss to Pittsburgh.

Recommendation: It looks like Andrew Luck will target Wayne, who looked in regular season form, very frequently in Indy's new offensive scheme. Wayne is being used in multiple positions on the line this season as opposed to always lining up outside on the left, including the slot, in an effort to create mismatches. The new scheme shows that the Colts plan to heavily target Wayne in the game plan.

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Andre Johnson looks recovered

Though Texans WR Andre Johnson played just a couple of series, he looked great, hauling in two catches for 49 yards, 43 of which came on a play where he beat double coverage. Good news for Johnson, who is recovering from a groin injury.

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Drew Rosenhaus and Damien Berry interview on Class Act Sports


Sam Shields gets back, ready to compete

The competition for spots in the defensive backfield has been ongoing throughout training camp, and one of the key competitors who had been missing for a couple of weeks was back in there Sunday.

Third-year CB Sam Shields returned from his elbow injury, and immediately got plenty of work. He got a fair number of snaps on Sunday in the No. 1 dime defense. Shields hasn’t played in either of the first two preseason games and saw fellow corners Davon House, Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush continue to battle. House is now out with a shoulder injury, while Bush was back with the starters in the base defense Sunday.

“That’s part of the game,” Shields said. “You’re hurt, you have to watch the other dudes, and that’s when you have to do your mental reps. I’m back on the field now, so I just have to keep grinding.”

The Packers’ nickel corner the past two seasons, Shields knows his playing time in 2012 will come down in part to how he does in these final two preseason games. It’s his turn to make a splash in the competition, and there’s one part of his game he’s focusing on specifically.

“Just showing I can tackle, getting that trust back with the coaches,” he said. “That’s one of the big spots I have to keep working on, tackling, and I think I’m ready for it.”

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Panthers counting on big season from TE Greg Olsen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Greg Olsen is hoping he can be as productive as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Olsen could be poised for a breakout season not having to share catches with Jeremy Shockey, now a free agent, and with the arrival of new fullback Mike Tolbert, who should lighten Olsen’s load as a blocker.

In fact, Rivera believes “it’s possible” Olsen could put up numbers similar to what Gronkowski and Graham did last season.

And that’s saying something.

Gronkowski turned in a great season a year ago catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns for the AFC champion New England Patriots [team stats]. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards receiving and 11 scores for the division rival New Orleans Saints.

You’d have to scan a bit further down the list of league leaders — OK, way down — to find Olsen’s name.

He finished his first season in Carolina (No. 20 in the AP Pro 32) with 45 catches for 540 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

However, when you begin to factor in Shockey’s numbers — 37 receptions for 455 yards receiving and four touchdowns — it begins to put the Panthers in the same ballpark with the Patriots and Saints when it comes to overall tight end production.

With Shockey not likely to return, Rivera expects more balls will be thrown Olsen’s way.

“This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy,” Rivera said. “You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.”

Good enough to challenge Gronkowski and Graham?

“It’s possible,” Rivera said. “We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it’s possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers.”

Rivera said Olsen has a tremendous rapport with quarterback Cam Newton and works extremely hard.

“I think he’s a tremendous target,” Rivera said. “I think the chance of him stepping up and being right in the elite group of players at his position I think that’s possible. I really do.”

Olsen also has something else working to his advantage — offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, a former tight ends coach who loves utilizing that position in the passing game.

Just look at what he did for Antonio Gates in San Diego and Kellen Winslow Jr. in Cleveland.

As you might expect all of this talk of more passes thrown his way is music to Olsen’s ears.

He is, after all, a receiver by nature.

Catching the football is what he does best.

And he feels if given the chance he can finish among the league leaders in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

“In terms of physically running, catching and doing all of things, I don’t think there’s a lot of guys in the league who do those things better than I do,” Olsen said. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of different circumstances dictate different results.”

At the same time Olsen isn’t a selfish player.

He doesn’t measure his success by personal statistics.

“I’ve had some seasons where I caught a lot of balls and I looked back and realized I didn’t play all that well overall, and I’ve had others where I caught 40 balls and felt like I played well around,” Olsen said. “I’ve never been one to try to let stats dictate what I bring to the team. But obviously production is what you’re judged on.”

Olsen’s most productive season came in 2009 when he had 612 yards receiving on 60 receptions and eight touchdowns for the Chicago Bears.

While it looked as if he was on the verge of becoming a breakout player in the league, the arrival of offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2010 changed how the Bears utilized the tight end position.

Olsen spent the majority of his final two seasons with the Bears used more in blocking situations. The Bears traded him away for a third-round draft pick last summer.

Carolina’s plan is to play to Olsen’s strengths.

Olsen said based on the plays the team is running in practice and in preseason games he’ll have an opportunity to put up quality numbers.
“I think so and that’s always been my strength is catching the ball,” Olsen said.

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Danny Valencia sent down

BOSTON -- In addition to activating outfielder Daniel Nava from the disabled list on Tuesday, the Red Sox also reinstated pitcher Vicente Padilla from the DL. The Red Sox optioned third baseman Danny Valencia to Triple-A Pawtucket and placed Carl Crawford (Tommy John surgery) on the DL to make room on the roster.

The Red Sox acquired Valencia from the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 5 and optioned him to the PawSox. He was recalled on Aug. 11 after Will Middlebrooks broke a bone in his wrist when he was hit by a pitch and played in four games for Boston, posting a .125 average (1-for-8) with one RBI.

“Danny was in as bad, as unfair of a situation I think I have ever seen anyone,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He played a couple of games in 10 days, was thrown into the fire, then went to the bench. I’m hoping he can get some consistent at-bats in Triple-A and still help us this year.”

Padilla was placed on the DL on Aug. 6 with right-arm tightness. The reliever is 4-1 with a 4.62 ERA and one save in 41 appearances this season.

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Transcript of Chris Perez's Argument With A's Fan

Making fun of pitchers in the bullpen is an age-old baseball tradition. Now in the YouTube era we get to record such interactions for posterity. Case in point: Chris Perez of the Cleveland Indians. The relief pitcher was getting heckled by an Oakland A's fan and he didn't take kindly to it.

Normally, pitchers ignore such fan trolling, but Chris Perez decided to fight back with some trash talk, eventually telling the guy to "get your dick out of your mouth."

Here is a transcript of the Chris Perez incident:

Perez: "I got more saves than your whole fucking team does, so why don't you go look at those stats, you fucker."

Fan: "Oh, what's the standings? Oh, we're ahead of you."

Perez: "I don't give a fuck. I don't give a fuck."

Fan (to security guard): "He's swearing. I'm not."

Perez: "What's my salary this year?"

Fan: "What's your salary? Who gives a shit? How many blown saves you got?"

Perez: "Four. Was I an All-Star again? Was I an All-Star again?"

Fan (to some other Indians player): "Hey, who the hell are you? Who the hell are you? I don't even know who you are."

Perez: "Was I an All-Star again, you piece of shit? Go back to your fucking ----."

Fan (to someone else): "Go back to whatever Triple-A team you are. You're all scrubs. You play for the Indians."

The conversation continues after Perez asks security to eject the fan;

Fan: "Oh, get me out of here?"

Perez: "Have a nice day."

Fan: "Have I said a swear word?"

Perez: "Get your dick out of your mouth."

Fan: "I haven't ... Oh. Really? Really? Hey. Did you hear that?

Other fan: "I did."

Fan: Did you hear that? You're classless, bro. Get a haircut. You're garbage. You are garbage. You're garbage. Way to come over here and show yourself. Way to prove yourself, garbage man."

Other fan: "Hey, gimme a high-five. They gave each other high-fives."

Fan: Yeah, keep walking away. Garbage. Fucking cunt

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Yasmani Grandal comes off DL, gets right to work

Joe Bell represents Heat free-agent forward James Jones and said there have been no overseas explorations with the 3-point specialist.

Jones is secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association and has been named as a defendant in a motion brought by the NBA against the union.

"He's neck-deep in the union stuff, how can he go overseas?" Bell said. "James isn't going anywhere."

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Chris Perez has no regrets about argument with Oakland A's fan

SEATTLE, Wash. — At least this time closer Chris Perez didn't go head-to-head with Indians fans.

Before Saturday night's game against Oakland at Coliseum, Perez argued with a heckler dressed in Athletics gear at the grandstand near the Indians' bullpen. One of the heckler's friends videotaped the confrontation and put it on the Internet. It can still be seen on, but took it down.
Perez had no qualms about the profanity-laced exchange, with Perez using most of the foul language, being captured on video.

"I don't regret it," he said before Monday night's game in Seattle. "I wouldn't have done it (if I regretted it). Looking back, it's not the best thing to be on the Internet and stuff. I had no idea they were videotaping it. I wouldn't have done it if I knew that.

"Looking back, that's what he was planning. So he got me."

Perez said the same fan has been heckling him for four years.

"Let me give you some history," said Perez. "He's been there for four years. I always shag in left field and he's been wearing me out for four years. On Saturday, I was in right center to get away from him. He came around to right center and got on me again.

"I ignored it for 1 1/2 groups (of Indians hitters during batting practice). Then I just said, 'What's your problem? If you got something to say, come down to my face and say it down in the bullpen.' That's what happened."

The video shows his ulterior motives. It's unfortunate. It's out there and I've just got to live and learn from it."

Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti talked to Perez on Monday after viewing the video.

"While there is more to the situation than the video depicts, Chris understands that he should have handled the situation differently," said Antonetti. "In my conversation with him, Chris assured me that he would deal with any future incidents more appropriately."

The video shows an A's security guard standing next to Perez during the exchange.

Bob Rose, director of public relations for the A's, said: "The A’s security guard on the field stepped in and then monitored the verbal exchange to make sure it did not escalate. The exchange ended and that was the extent of it."

In the video it appeared the Perez asked the security guard to eject the fan, but it's not clear if he was ejected or not.

"You have to live and learn," said Perez. "Luckily, I didn't say too much bad stuff. It was pretty bad, but it could have been worse.

"It's one of those things ... four years and I'd had enough. I'm not even playing the game. I'm shagging. I understand during the game it's all part of the game. It wasn't just a random guy that I just pointed out. It was the same guy for four years who has just been on me and on me."

Perez did not think he should be disciplined by the Indians or MLB.

"For what, talking?" asked Perez. "No, I think I'm all right."

As Perez walked away from the argument, the fan yelled: "Get your hair cut. You're garbage."

Perez complimented Oakland fans.

"We've had really good experiences with their fans," said Perez. "We're right there in that little wood box (bullpen dugout) and all those people are nice. He's an isolated incident.l I've never had any problems warming up there. Usually they're complimentary."

Twice this season Perez has criticized Cleveland fans, once for not coming to Progressive Field and watching the Indians when they were in first place in the AL Central, and again when he questioned their blind loyalty to the Browns and wondered why they couldn't forgive former Cavalier LeBron James.

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Jemile Weeks’ reaction to being optioned by the A’s

Jemile Weeks took the high road. No excuses. No complaints. Manager Bob Melvin told him he was being optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, and the second baseman packed his belongings with his head up and vowed to be back.

As a star.

Here’s his answer to being asked about possibly returning in September when rosters expand:

 “I didn’t get any word, but I would hope. Even going down there, I would hope I’m still something the team feels they can still use and needs. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be a star in this game, man. You’ve got to have your ups and downs. It just makes the story so much sweeter when you come back. I don’t want to expound too much on it, but you’re looking at a star, period.”

Weeks was hitting .220 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 113 games. His .302 on-base percentage is second lowest in the league. It was a big comedown from his rookie season. On the other hand, he made strides defensively.

“For some reason, I feel like I was prepared for the news,” Weeks said. “It’s disappointing because I know I could have done more as a player, but I’m still happy with the way I took the decline in my average. I still feel like I did a lot of things I wanted to do, and I worked hard. The vision I had before the season, I’ve improved on what I wanted to improve from last year. I felt like I did that. The hitting part just wasn’t there, and that’s probably more of the reason why I’m going down.”

Adam Rosales is tonight’s second baseman, and Bob Melvin said Cliff Pennington will play second on Wednesday.

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