Bills sign center Jared Wheeler, adding to competition

Orchard Park, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills were awarded center Jared Wheeler off waivers Thursday after he was waived by the Carolina Panthers.

To make room for Wheeler, the Bills released cornerback Brandon Smith, who has been out of practice with what coach Doug Marrone classified as a "lower body injury." Smith was designated as waived/injured.

Wheeler, an 6-foot-5, 315-pound undrafted rookie out of Miami, will add some depth at center and could potentially push Syracuse's Macky MacPherson for snaps at practice. Wheeler made six starts at center for Miami last season and played in 38 games in his career for the Hurricanes.

MacPherson played for Marrone in college and had been receiving some second- and third-team repetitions during the first few practices on training camp. Added center depth will further the already close competition at center.

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Chase Ford recovering from foot surgery

Vikings TE Chase Ford is recovering from left-foot surgery, and will miss all of training camp.

Ford had a stress fracture. It's bad news for a bubble player, though Ford will likely spend the first six weeks of the season on the reserve/PUP list, delaying his roster decision. A 2012 undrafted free agent, Ford has 11 career catches, five of which came last Week 17.

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Vince Wilfork Not Limited By Achilles During Patriots Training Camp

FOXBORO, Mass. — There were concerns that at 32 years old and 325 pounds, Vince Wilfork might never be the same player after tearing his Achilles, but it’s been smooth sailing for the big man so far this offseason.

Wilfork said he has no limitations as the New England Patriots began training camp Thursday. Wilfork tore his right Achilles tendon in Week 4 of the 2013 season.

“If I had limitations, I wouldn’t be practicing,” Wilfork said Thursday at Gillette Stadium after a full training camp session. “My job is to help my teammates the best way I can, whatever that may be. The only way for me to help my teammates is to be on the field and be healthy. Right now, I’m on the field and I’m healthy. If anything happens in the future, I can’t predict that. But right now my job is to help this team the best way I can and get better each day, and that’s what I’m going to do.” Wilfork said his Achilles feels “fine” right now, but he acknowledged “I’m pretty sure there’s going to still be some stuff that I may need to do.” “Right now, I just feel good,” Wilfork said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen further down the road, but right now I feel good. I’m happy to be out here with my teammates.” Wilfork is entering his 11th season with the Patriots. He appears to be moving well so far and looks to be on track to start the season despite what could have been a catastrophic injury last year.

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Reggie Wayne: "Today felt Pretty Doggone Good"

Nine months ago this past Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts were closing out a massive Sunday Night Football win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's return to Indy.  In the fourth quarter of that game, star wide receiver Reggie Wayne went down to get a low pass and went to the ground clutching his knee.  And just like that, Reggie had torn his ACL and was lost for the season.

As he lay on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, realizing that his season was likely over, the crowd began the famous "Reggie!" chant, but Reggie was convinced to get back to hear that chant when he was scoring touchdowns, not laying on the field injured.

Today, after nine hard months of rehab, Reggie Wayne was back on the field for the Colts, and he couldn't be happier.  "This is what I work hard for," Reggie said.  "This is all the two and three-a-days and rehabbing and stuff like that. This is what it's about. Today felt pretty doggone good."  When he ran out on the practice field for the first time today, with his jersey tucked halfway up his stomach like normal and while strapping on his gloves, the fans watching practice today gave the star receiver a pretty nice ovation.  In response, Reggie turned toward the crowd and gave a fist pump.  And throughout the practice, Reggie got back to being Reggie.  He said that, other than being limited a bit and having to do what the coaches say, he "felt like the old Reggie."

He certainly looked like it, too.  The highlight of the day with Reggie came via a perfect pass from quarterback Andrew Luck, as Reggie was running down the left sideline with Darius Butler close behind, and Luck threw the ball perfectly over Butler's head and hands and right into Reggie's hands, perfectly in stride.  What was clear was that, even though missing half of last season, the timing between Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne was still there and that Reggie will be a big factor this year.  It was hard to tell exactly how effective Reggie will be, but there was really nothing I could tell when watching practice today that would suggest that Reggie had lost a step - other than, of course, the fact that he was limited, but he'll gradually get more playing time as camp goes on.

Reggie had talked back at minicamp about how he was going to bring his boxing gloves to camp in case Chuck Pagano wouldn't let him go to start training camp, and he said the same thing yesterday.  It sounds like Reggie thinks that his coach won round one of the imaginary fight.  "We want to stay the course, even if I don't agree to it. I give Coach Pagano the first round, he won this first round."  Reggie said that he did over half the practice and wanted to do the rest, but that Pagano told him to take it easy.  Reggie's eager to get back to a full go, but that'll come with time and it's the right thing to take it slow.  From what we did see from Reggie Wayne today, however, it's clear that he will be a factor and it was great to see him back.

When asked about whether any emotions came flooding back today when reflecting on the long road back, Reggie gave a perfect answer that is totally a Reggie Wayne answer: "No, I'll leave that for retirement. I'm good."

Luckily for the Colts, that retirement is probably still a few years away.  Reggie Wayne is back.

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Olivier Vernon: D-line 'heart and soul'

The Miami Dolphins have several question marks heading into the 2014 season. Fortunately for them, the defensive line is not one of them.

Miami has steadily built a strong collection of talent on the defensive line the past few years, via the draft and free agency. The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s deepest groups of defensive ends with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, valuable backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miami also has a strong rotation of defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell.

The Dolphins must rely on this deep group for production as well as leadership this season.

“All of us defensive linemen talked to each other, and we pretty much know what we have to do, especially when it comes to game-time situations,” Vernon said recently. “When it comes down to it, the D-line is the heart and soul of the defense. If we’re not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart. So that’s one thing we’re trying to focus on now going into the season.”

Vernon was Miami’s biggest breakout star last season. The 2012 third-round pick made a significant jump in Year 2 from a rookie backup to leading the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He followed up by having a strong offseason and looks primed for another solid year.

Wake, Starks and Odrick have been consistent producers for Miami. Mitchell signed a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason after the Dolphins lost Paul Soliai in free agency. The defensive line, on paper, should be one of Miami’s strengths.

“I would say just wait for the pads to come on,” Vernon explained. “I know what kind of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. I’m not the type of person [that] I don’t want to show what we have. I think all of us on the D-line will show what we have.”

Miami’s defense faces a new challenge this year in training camp. The Dolphins are implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami aims to use an up-tempo style with a lot of motion and formations to confuse and dictate to the defense. The Dolphins’ defense will see plenty of these elements in training camp, which starts on Friday.

“They’re doing a lot of things I’ve never seen before,” Vernon said. “They’re moving fast. [Quarterback Ryan] Tannehill is taking control and he’s showing his leadership ability, and a lot of guys are impressive.”

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Santana Moss’ Mentality Still The Same

Throughout the many changes that inevitably occur in the NFL, Santana Moss has been a consistent X-factor for the Washington Redskins over the last decade.

Moss is entering his 10th season with the Redskins and 14th season overall. During his time in Washington over the past decade, Moss has excelled, as he ranks in the top-five all-time in career receptions (571) and career receiving yards (7,751).

Moss is a resilient leader who brings a significant amount of experience to a talented young group of wide receivers. After playing 187 career regular season games with 135 starts, he knows what it takes to be a serious competitor at football’s highest level.

“Every year you should come in with that hunger to try to go out there and take what everyone else wants in this league. And that’s the ultimate trophy, that title,” Moss said. “And I think every team in this league comes in with that same mentality, the same goal.”

Moss clearly has high expectations for the team this coming season and is ready to compete for a coveted spot on the final 53-man roster.

“It’s up to see who wants it more and that’s how we gotta play, how we gotta practice,” Moss said. “Regardless if you got a chip or not, we all have the same goal, every team in this league. Only two teams can get there, only one team can win it.”

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Football Was Briefly Taken Away From Reggie Wayne, Now No. 87 Wants It Back

INDIANAPOLIS –For nearly a decade and a half, Reggie Wayneicon-article-link’s vacation in sunny Florida has ended near the end of July.

This signifies the start of a grind, with humid training camp practices awaiting a player that has called Indianapolis home since 2001.

Training camp days can drag and become draining with family members away, along with the regular season seemingly still too far away.

But that’s not the case for Wayne, especially as he enters his 14th NFL Training Camp at an age where nearly every NFL player has already hung up the cleats.

“I’m a little bit more hungrier now. I hear Coach Pagano talk about all the time having something taken away from you and there’s nothing you can do about it. It was taken away from me since October. So yeah, it will be different,” Wayne said on Wednesday upon reporting for duty to Anderson University.

“It kind of feels like I’m a rookie all over again. I’m just anxious to go out there and prove what I can do. It’ll be fun. I’m excited and hopefully you can see the Reggie of the rookie times.”

Ever since Wayne began giving updates on his ACL injury rehab, he has stated that he was well ahead of schedule.

He reassured that notion on Wednesday morning, after exiting a two-seater IndyCar for his entrance to training camp.

“I’ve been cleared, yes I have. I am ready to go,” Wayne said.

“So we’ll just see from that point on. Hopefully everything stays the course and I’ll be out there (Thursday).”

Wayne is a realist.

He knows that an initial training camp practice on July 24 pales in comparison to a Sunday night matchup in Denver on September 7.

Sure, he’s packed the boxing gloves to “duke it out” with Chuck Pagano trying to keep Wayne from rushing back too quickly, but the veteran wide receiver knows the head coach has the best interest of the Colts oldest skill player in mind.

“I have to be smart, listen to my body, not try to prove any points,” Wayne says.

“The main objective is to be out there for the first game. The one thing I do understand is (the Denver game is) a little bit something more serious I need to look at and just take it day by day.”

As Wayne enters training camp at the age of 35, he reiterates how difficult it was to stand, at times hopelessly, on the sidelines for the better half of the 2013 season.

It was a place Wayne wasn’t used to spending his game days.

A racecar entrance to Anderson is an indication from Wayne that he is ready to steal a phrase from Ricky Bobby and “go fast” again.

“I’m eager to get out there and pick up where I left off,” Wayne says. “We already know what’s at stake here. It’s time to punch in and go to work.

“Fourteen years later, it’s the same intensity. It’s the same objective, and that’s to come out here and get better as a team. Let’s try to hoist that Lombardi after the season is over.”

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Vince Wilfork always a contributing factor for the Patriots

FOXBOROUGH — It seemed only fitting that the two longest-tenured Patriots walked up the stairs to the team’s perfectly lined practice fields for the first training camp practice together, Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork all smiles as they took those steps side by side.

They are the faces of their respective units, Brady the unquestioned leader of the offense, and Wilfork for the defense.

Even last season, as Wilfork missed the final 12 games after tearing his Achilles’ tendon against Atlanta, the five-time Pro Bowl selection was as involved as he could be, helping youngsters Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, and Sealver Siliga get ready to play, offering advice wherever he could.

It was a sign of the respect Wilfork has with coaches and teammates alike that he was allowed to travel with the Patriots despite his injury, a privilege Bill Belichick has afforded to very few players.

It remains to be seen if Wilfork will be restricted once the Patriots are in full pads on Saturday, but he has answered the first big question of his recovery just by being on the field Thursday. No setbacks, no physically unable to perform list, his age (32) and size seemingly nonfactors in his rehabilitation.

“I feel fine,” Wilfork said Thursday after the two-hour practice. “Throughout all season and just working hard, I’m pretty sure there’s going to still be some stuff that I may need to do so, so far so good. I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward. I’m just excited to be here.”

The 11-year veteran bristled at the idea that he would face any restrictions on the field.

“If I had limitations, I wouldn’t be practicing. My job is to help my teammates the best way I can, whatever that may be,” Wilfork said. “The only way for me to help my teammates is to be on the field and be healthy. Right now, I’m on the field and I’m healthy. If anything happens in the future, I can’t predict that.

“But right now my job is to help this team the best way I can and get better each day and that’s what I’m going to do.”

New England began last season with Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at defensive tackle, but Kelly was lost to injury in Week 5, leaving the Patriots highly inexperienced at the position. Without Wilfork and Kelly anchoring the middle, the defense gave up 134.1 rushing yards per game, the most for New England since 2002.

Wilfork helped where he could, though assistant coach Patrick Graham, who spent the last two seasons coaching the defensive line (he’s now in charge of the linebackers), said Wilfork’s biggest contribution may have come in the film room.

“I know for me, personally, as the D-line coach, ‘V’ was invaluable in terms of the input that he was able to give and to be around for those [younger] guys and just do a good job with them,” Graham said. “Vince has always been a guy that you can put on the tape and Vince’s presence is there, as far as the example.
“He’s always done a good job and I’ve always been appreciative of his help that he’s given me as a coach and how the players are able to go to him for advice as well.”

Vellano shined early, then ceded playing time to Siliga, who was signed to the practice squad in October and promoted to the 53-man roster before the 12th game, against Houston. Jones became a starter after Kelly’s injury, and his six sacks were second most among NFL rookies last season.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the injuries to Wilfork and Kelly, perhaps it was the experience the young players gained. Now New England has added first-round pick Dominique Easley and sixth-round pick Zach Moore to the defensive tackle group as well.

“Those guys grew a lot,” Wilfork said of last year’s newbies. “Every year we try to make a smooth transition and be able to do a really good job of teaching guys how we play, how we do things around here.

“It won’t be hard for [Easley and Moore] to catch on. They’ve been doing a really good job; haven’t had any problems out of anybody. Everybody is excited. If you stay excited, good things will happen.”

Expectations for the Patriots’ defense are high this year.

Wilfork gave a very simple answer for how to manage those expectations.

“Do your job each day. Do your job; you come to work every day to prepare, to get better each day, you’ll be fine,” he said. “Never get too high, never get too low, just manage expectations and put one foot in front of the other each day.

“Your goal is to get better. Help the team, help one another get better. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’re going to continue to do that. As long as we do that, we’ll be OK.”

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Greg Olsen 'getting tired' of hearing criticism of receivers

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen tweeted Tuesday that he's "getting tired" of hearing criticism of the Panthers' receiving corps.

Olsen tweeted the comment in response to discussion he heard on ESPN Radio.

The Panthers overhauled their wide receiver corps after last season, releasing veteran Steve Smith and allowing Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon to leave via free agency. The quartet combined for 156 receptions and 1,983 receiving yards last season.

To replace them, Carolina signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and drafted Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.

Olsen expanded on his tweet to the Charlotte Observer:

"Any time the Panthers have come up that’s kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it,” Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense.”

Olsen had 73 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns last season.

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Jason Pierre-Paul's advice to Jon Beason: Be 100 percent

Jon Beason is hoping to be back on the field for the Giants' regular-season opener Sept. 8. Last year, Jason Pierre-Paul was in that role of trying to reconcile an offseason injury with an artificial deadline.

"Me personally, I wasn't ready," Pierre-Paul said of returning to the field for the first game in 2013 after back surgery and missing all of training camp and most of the preseason. "I wasn't ready. But I felt like I needed to be out there because I'm one of those guys who is a factor to the team. With me being gone, it's a big difference. Which it was."

Pierre-Paul wound up having the most disappointing season of his career. He never regained his health, never looked comfortable, and hardly ever showed being the dominant defensive player he thought he should have been.

So, does Pierre-Paul have any advice for Beason, whose injury to his foot will force him to miss most of the preseason?

"Honestly all I can tell Jon, and he knows too, is don't come out there if you're not fully healthy," Pierre-Paul said. "We'd rather have you at 100 percent than 50 percent. Honestly, when you're injured, you're liable to injure something else. Which I did. When you are 100 percent and ready to go you're not worried about this, you're not holding back or nothing. He knows, I know he knows. He's not going to come out there until he's healthy."

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VIDEO: Jon Jay doesn't notice ball four, strikes out on 4-2 count

Watch baseball long enough and you’ll see pretty much everything the game has to offer. Like a guy striking out in a 4-2 count.

In the seventh inning of the Cardinals-Rays game in St. Louis on Wednesday, Jon Jay worked a full count against starter Alex Cobb. The next pitched missed the zone outside. That should have resulted in a walk, given that it was the fourth ball and all. Instead everyone -- Jay, the home plate umpire, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny -- forgot the count. Jay remained at the plate and struck out on the next pitch.

Vine courtesy of The Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan:

As you can see in the video, the only person who seemed to notice it was ball four was the graphics guy on Fox Sports Midwest. Matheny took blame for the miscue after the game.

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Peter O'Brien dislodges home plate

Trenton power prospect Peter O'Brien dislodged home plate with a slide on Wednesday in one of the more interesting stories from the Yankees minor league affiliates on Wednesday.

DOUBLE-A – Trenton Thunder

The skinny: Trenton jumped on New Hampshire starter Matt Boyd for five runs in the first three innings and never looked back in a 5-2 win.

The standouts:
Peter O’Brien, 1B: 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk
Tyler Austin, RF: 2-for-4 with a home run and a double

NOTE: When O’Brien scored in the first inning, his slide dislodged home plate, leading to a 17-minute delay as the crew and umpires worked to secure the base again. The man has a powerful bat, and apparently powerful slides, too.

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Frank Gore on RB competition: 'I’m from Miami, man'

Asked how he’ll deal with a challenge from a phalanx of young and talented running backs this year, Frank Gore today smiled and said, “I’m from Miami, man.”

He could have left it at that. Gore became the hard-nosed running back he is today by fighting for carries, espcially at the talent-laden University of Miami where he first competed with Clinton Portis for a role in the Hurricanes backfield and later did the same with Willis McGahee. Gore was leading McGahee for the starting spot in 2002 when he blew out his knee and had to sit out the season.

“I’ve been out there competing ever since I left high school,” he said. “I’ve been with top guys who have been in the league. It’s all to get each other better, and I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to have to get this role. But while I’m here, I’m going to look at it as a challenge.”

This year, Gore leads a group of upstarts, including 2013 draft pick Marcus Lattimore and this year’s second-round pick, Carlos Hyde. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Jewel Hampton round out the 49ers’ group of tailbacks in training camp. It’s easily the most talented group Gore, 31, has faced in his 10 NFL seasons.

One of the questions that’s bound to dog him this season is, will there be an 11th season? Another: If he does continue to play in 2015, will it be with the 49ers? Gore is entering the final year of his contract and could be a free agent in March.

The running back said he is focused on this season. And he didn’t seem willing to relinquish any carries to the young guns.

Last year, Gore started every game and, including the playoffs, ended with more carries, 324, than he had in any previous year. Asked if he wanted the same kind of workload this year, he said, “I’m here. I’m still here. So why not?”

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Check Out How Reggie Wayne Arrived At Colts Camp

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Greg Olsen ready to silence doubters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was zipping through channels on his way to Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday when he came upon a conversation about the NFC South on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show.

Discussing the Panthers, hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic wondered aloud who quarterback Cam Newton would throw to after the mass exodus at wide receiver during the offseason.

It was hardly new ground Greenberg and Golic were covering, but it moved Olsen to tweet that he was "getting tired of hearing 'Panthers have nobody for (Newton) to throw to.'"

When Olsen reports to the stadium Thursday morning for the official start of the Panthers' preseason activities, he'll find plenty of others in the locker room who are likewise sick of the cracks about the re-made receiving corps.

"It's kind of been the storyline of the offseason. Any time the Panthers have come up that's kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it," Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense."

The Panthers' turnover at wide receiver has been dissected, discussed and debated at length since March when all-time receiving leader Steve Smith was released and three other wideouts left via free agency.

During his first comments after the departures, Panthers coach Ron Rivera focused on replacing the 10 combined catches per game the Panthers lost, rather than trying to find a No. 1 receiver.

The three receivers charged with filling the void are veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin, the first-round pick from Florida State.

Cotchery and Avant have played a combined 18 seasons, with 126 career starts. And though they have only one 1,000-yard receiving season between them � Cotchery amassed 1,130 receiving yards in 2007 with the Jets � Olsen said the two bring a level of professionalism and experience that will be good for the young receivers.

"Those guys are productive, successful veterans in the NFL, and those guys don't just grow on trees," Olsen said. "I think people are going to be very happy with what they see out of those guys. I know the team is. ...

"Then you add a young guy like Kelvin to the mix, a little younger, bigger-body guy � I think it's going to be a mix of playing to everybody's strength."

Olsen expects the Panthers to be strong in the same areas that propelled them to a 12-win season last year, namely an efficient, balanced offense led by Newton and a dominant defense spearheaded by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Even when they had Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn at receiver, the Panthers were not a quick-strike offense in 2013. Instead, they kept drives alive with a lot of third- and fourth-down conversions, controlled the clock (the Panthers were fifth in the league in time of possession) and kept the defense well-rested.
Olsen doesn't expect that to change.

"It's not a mystery. When we're at our best, we're a balanced offense," Olsen said. "We're not going to throw the ball 60 times a game. We might not throw 50 touchdowns. But we're going to win games, we're going to control the game.

"The sum of our parts is going to be very productive."

Olsen and NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced a joint fundraising effort Wednesday to benefit the Levine Children's Hospital, where Olsen's son, T.J., was born with a congenital heart defect in 2012.

Earnhardt and Olsen are offering fans a chance to win what they're calling a "Weekend with the 88s," a play on Earnhardt's No. 88 car and Olsen's jersey number.

The raffle winner will meet both athletes and receive tours of Bank of America Stadium and JR Motorsports, as well as a round-trip helicopter ride from Charlotte to the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the Truck Series race (including garage passes and grandstand tickets) on Oct. 25.

The next day the winner will return to Charlotte for the Panthers' game against the Seattle Seahawks, and will receive sideline passes, parking passes and premium seats.

Raffle tickets cost $18.88 and are available at through Sept. 30. A maximum of 8,888 tickets will be sold.

Olsen said he met Earnhardt several months ago, and was his guest at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. He said Earnhardt was receptive to the 88s fundraising theme immediately.

"It's been awesome," Olsen said.

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Leonard Hankerson to begin camp on PUP list

RICHMOND – Defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and offensive lineman Maurice Hurt will all begin training camp with the Washington Redskins on the physically-unable-to-perform list, coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday.

Gruden said he did not want to estimate when any of the players would be able to return, though he conceded that Hatcher, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 19, should be the first one to return.

Hankerson tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in the Redskins‘ loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 17, and he wasn’t expected to be healthy for the start of training camp.

Hurt will enter training camp on the PUP list for the second consecutive season because he is out of shape. He also missed all of 2013 after he showed up to training camp out of shape last year.

“He came in a little bit out of shape and we’ll just go from there,” Gruden said. “We’ll make sure we monitor his condition moving forward.”

Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Richard Crawford have been fully cleared and will begin training camp with no restrictions. Porter, who signed a two-year, $6 million contract in March, had surgery to repair a torn the labrum in one of his shoulders before offseason workouts began, while Crawford tore the ACL and LCL in the Redskins‘ preseason victory over Buffalo on Aug. 24.

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Reggie Wayne cleared for practice

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s 2013 season ended early with an ACL injury. Wayne’s rehab has gone well and been ahead of scheduled and heading into training camp he said he has been cleared and is ready to go.


“I’m eager to get out and pick up where I left off,” Wayne said, via the team’s website.

“I’ve been cleared. I am ready to go… We will just see from that point on.”

Wayne also made a dramatic entrance to the Colts’ training camp, showing up in Indy Car, which was driven by Ed Carpenter, the Butler University product who has been the pole sitter at the last two Indy 500s.

Wayne said the big arrival had a special meaning to the team.

“It’s a sign for the Colts. We need to come out fast. We need to have a sense of urgency. We need to come out moving with some speed. This is one way of entering camp with the motto for the team,” Wayne said.

Plus it was just plain fun.

“I enjoyed every single bit of that,” Wayne. “I’m a guy that likes speed and this is one way to get that into you.”

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Michael Irvin Unleashes On Cris Carter For Drug Advice About Troubled Josh Gordon, Past Issues With Irvin's Wife

Michael Irvin is mad as hell at Cris Carter, and he has been for a long time. When former Vikings receiver and current ESPN analyst Carter publicly stated that the Browns should cut Josh Gordon for his recent troubles with drugs and alcohol, Irvin said he should mind his own business. Irvin, as well as Carter, have struggled with substance abuse in the past, and both understand the nature of being a high-profile NFL receiver. What Irvin, who was a premiere player for the Dallas Cowboys in their 90's heyday, has a problem with is Carter handing out advice on how to deal with addicts. When Irvin unleashed on Carter he also revealed that he has had issues in the past with Carter trying to convince Irvin's wife to leave him.

There's a mentality and a lifestyle that seems to accompany athletes of a certain disposition. Cris Carter seems to think he's helping Gordon out by offering tough love advice, but Michael Irvin says that Carter is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong (via CBS Sports):

"The people start thinking that you have insight on the situation or the issue or the problem so when you come out and make those kinds of comments and you're not in his sessions with his professional help, you don't know what's going on in those sessions, then you're being irresponsible. I was a bit disappointed Cris Carter made that statement."

Irvin also revealed that many years ago, Carter stuck his nose into his business (via LA Times):

"'... And all Cris is trying to do, he's just trying to share his experiences,' Irvin told ESPN's Dan Le Batard. ' [But] He said to my wife... you know, Michael would never come out of this problem until you leave him. Till you leave him. For years, I've held it. I've never shared that with anybody... I was so irked with Cris because he was out of line then. His ... is out of line now. He is out. Of. Line.'"

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Drew Brees 'excited' to have Jimmy Graham back with Saints

COMFORT, Texas - After a day as honorary mayor of this small town in his home state, Drew Brees immediately faces another long, tough campaign -- as quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.

Given what the New Orleans franchise has been through during the past decade, this season's training camp opens free of major distractions and disruptions, especially now that the money dispute over whether Jimmy Graham is a tight end or wide receiver has been resolved by a new contract.

But Brees is sticking to his game plan: stay ready for anything.

"I think our mentality, maybe like the military's, is to adapt and conquer," said Brees, whose 24-hour mayoral stint Wednesday was part of a Wrangler jeans promotion.

"It's been that way. No matter what's thrown at us, we find a way to handle and try to handle it with class and then be better for it at the end of the day.

"Tough offseason, just in regards to the whole Jimmy Graham situation. But you understand that's part of the process with free agency and contract situations. â?¦ I was in that situation two years ago."

Brees, whose own situation was resolved in 2012 by a five-year, $100-million deal, said Graham and Saints management both are now happy.

"I'm excited to have him back. â?¦ It's training camp time. It's football season. It's here. It's arrived. We're ready to roll," he said.

The eight-time Pro Bowler, who has thrown for 51,081 yards and 363 touchdowns in 13 seasons, arrived here early Wednesday via a Wrangler private jet that flew him from New Orleans to nearby San Antonio. He said the jet would take him to Lewisburg, W.Va., for the Saints' camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Players are due to report Thursday.

In nine seasons, the Saints have been through tragedy and turmoil, with a Super Bowl title in between: Amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Superdome was out of commission. The Saints went 3-13 playing home games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, San Antonio's Alamodome and LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Coach Sean Payton and Brees arrived the next year. They led New Orleans to a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.

Then the franchise was rocked by the Bountygate scandal in 2012. Payton was suspended for the season. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. The Saints went 7-9.

Last season, the Saints bounced back with an 11-5 regular season to earn a playoff wild card. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Does Brees begin this season with another Super Bowl title in his sights?

"You always feel that way. I'm not going to get ahead of ourselves because we've still got a lot of work to do. But I feel like all the pieces are in place. â?¦ If you stay healthy and things go your way, we've got as good a shot as anybody," he said.

With one Super Bowl title in hand, does that take some pressure off the 35-year-old?

"You try to avoid that mentality. Play like you don't have (a title)," said Brees. "I'm taking the approach that I'm 25 years old, I'm fresh in this league and every person who walks into the stadium to watch me play and watched my team play â?¦ we've got to prove something to them.'

There were plenty of Saints fans among the estimated 1,500 in attendance Wednesday at the Comfort High School stadium. Wrangler held the event for the national launch of its Advanced Comfort jeans.

Brees was honorary mayor by proclamation of a local judge. One local slogan of this community of about 2,300 is, "I found Comfort â?¦ in Texas." It was a fit for Wrangler. By proclamation, it also was deemed Comfort will be known as Advanced Comfort, Tex., for six months.

Free jeans and t-shirts were handed out. Wrangler estimated it gave away about 5,000 pairs of jeans. Attendees were allowed to ask for multiples pairs.

The jeans are for men. They were worn on the field by dozens of guys who took part in football drills dubbed the "Wrangler Comfort Challenge." The Comfort High football team took part and Brees supervised.

Brees also made a joking mayoral pledge.

"Well, now down to business. Now that I am the mayor, NO taxes!" he told the crowd from a platform on the field. He quickly added, "I don't think I have that authority."

Saints fan Jackie Freeman, 60, attended with several family members, including a 5-yearold grandson â?? named Drew.

"Of course, he's named after Drew Brees," said Freeman, who arrived here in the dark at 5 a.m. local time, more than two hours before Brees' scheduled arrival.

Freeman now lives about 45 minutes away in Universal City, Tex., but she grew up on the Mississippi coast and was a Saints' fan from their first season in 1967. Through the team's first two struggling decades, she never lost faith.

"I never wore a bag on my head and I never called them the 'Aints,' ''said Freeman.

Nick Alvarado, 23, of Kerrville, Tex., was a fan of Reggie Bush when he was at Southern Cal and Brees when he was with the San Diego Chargers. "When the two got together in New Orleans, that was it. I was a Saints fan," said Alvarado, wearing Brees' No. 9 jersey.

He likes the team's chances for a Super Bowl: "They lost a couple of players, but they still have Drew Brees."

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Yonder Alonso Could Be Activated The End Of The Week

Alonso (wrist) could be activated from the DL by week's end, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

After going 1-for-6 at Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday, Alonso is slashing a combined .294/.294/.471 with one homer, five RBI, and one run in 17 at-bats between the organization's top affiliate and the Arizona League Padres. He could be eased into action upon his return, but first base is his on a daily basis when completely healthy.

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Texans, Andre Johnson’s agent are communicating

On Monday, Texans receiver Andre Johnson reportedly was back in the building.  On Tuesday, agent Kennard McGuire declined to address those reports.

“I am not refuting, confirming or denying any reports or stories,” McGuire told Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston.  “Per the collective bargaining agreement there’s a period in which veteran players are not allowed to participate or be in their team’s facilities.”

As explained earlier in the day, veteran players currently may work out on their own at team facilities.  Which is all that Johnson could have been doing, under the CBA.

While not addressing whether Johnson visited the team’s facility, McGuire admitted that he has been talking to the Texans on Johnson’s behalf.

“While I am personally in contact with the Texans organization, those conversations will remain between myself, the organization and Andre Johnson,” McGuire told Berman.

Johnson reportedly was willing to report for OTAs, but the Texans refused to give him a chance to earn back a $1 million roster bonus that Johnson forfeited by missing the first two phases of the offseason workout program.  That impasse caused Johnson to skip all remaining offseason activities, including a mandatory minicamp.  The question now becomes whether Johnson will show up for training camp.

Veterans are due to report in Houston on Friday.

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ESPN says Ryan Braun's power ratings are in decline

In a blog post headlined "Ryan Braun's power outage," ESPN's Buster Olney examines how different a hitter the Milwaukee Brewers rightfielder has been this season compared to past seasons, particularly 2012 and '11.

Olney quotes an unidentified evaluator who has seen Braun a few times this season, one in which Braun has dealt with a variety of injuries.

"Takes the ball to the opposite field a lot," said the evaluator. "I think he's more of an opposite field hitter than almost anybody in baseball. He doesn't really pull the ball anymore, and I don't think he hits the ball as far as he used to."

Olney then uses data about Braun generated by senior researcher Justin Havens, who found that 46.1% of Braun's hits this season were to the opposite field, compared to 32.8% in 2013, 31.4% in '12 and 27.8% in '11. He ranks 146th out of 163 batters in percent of hits pulled (30.8%).

Braun's slugging percentage notably is down when he does pull the ball. And his batted balls simply are not traveling as far, down 17 feet on average from last season. Braun also is chasing pitches out of the strike zone more than he has in the past — 39% this season, which Havens said is one of the highest marks in baseball. With two strikes his chase rate is 55% this season compared to 41.7% last season.

"The numbers are clear: a far greater percentage of Braun's hits are going to opposite field than in previous seasons, and the balls he does pull are being pulled with noticeably less authority," Olney said. "What has caused this clear departure is for others to speculate on, but it is clear Braun is not the hitter he was in previous seasons."

Olney notes: "Braun is having a good season, without question, with a .354 on-base percentage. He's on track to accumulate a respectable 63 extra-base hits — but with 19 homers and 37 walks, very different from his 2012 totals of 41 homers and 63 walks."

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Danny Valencia Injurs Hand

The Kansas City Royals moved to within a game of .500 with a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. At 49-50, the Royals are in third place in the American League Central, seven games behind the Detroit Tigers. Mike Moustakas went 3-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI for the Royals, who played without Eric Hosmer for the second straight game with a hand injury. Moustakas started at third in place of Danny Valencia, who was hit by a pitch on Monday.

As for Valencia, he was hit in the left hand by a pitch in Monday night's game and was not in the starting lineup.   He was available to pinch hit last night but did not enter the game.  Valencia is batting .295 with two home runs and 11 RBI this season.

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Bruce Johnson Not Giving Up His Starting Spot

Before this season, Alex Suber had appeared in 65 CFL games and started 65 CFL games.

Now he can’t even get on the field.

“It’s frustrating,” the pint-sized defensive back said after today’s Bomber practice.

The Middle Tennessee State product is a man of few words, and he didn’t have too much to say about his current predicament. Despite missing just seven starts over the last four years due to injury and playing well enough to keep his job while others struggled, Suber finds himself on the outside looking in after a training camp injury led to Bruce Johnson getting his starting job.

Suber said it’s a strange situation because he believes he can still be a dominant defensive back, not because he’s been starting for the Bombers for the last four years.

“I wouldn’t say it’s weird,” Suber said. “I’m a player. I’m up here to play. So if I’m not on the field it’s going to be weird, regardless if I was starting last year or the year before.”

Suber was the starting strong-side halfback through all of training camp until pulling his hamstring in the team’s second pre-season game. He was still nursing the injury in Week 1, but he was ready to play against Ottawa in Week 2. He’s still waiting to get back on the field.

“Alex has been extremely professional,” head coach Mike O’Shea said today. “He works extremely hard every day, and he makes the people around him better. That’s the guys competing against him from the offensive side. He makes them work. He knocks balls down. He gets balls out of people’s hands. He’ll pick the ball if the quarterback throws it even off a little bit. He provides good, tight coverage. He’s been extremely professional.

“I can appreciate that it’s going to be frustrating for Alex Suber. As camp broke and Alex wasn’t ready to start the season, Bruce Johnson stepped in and hasn’t shown any reason why he shouldn’t be there.”

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Andre Johnson expected to report to training camp on time

Andre Johnson has made it quite clear that he wants out of the Houston Texans franchise for a number of different reasons, but the team has also made it painfully clear that they have no intentions of letting Johnson go elsewhere.

Reports last week suggested that the team are not interested in shopping Johnson in any potential trades. The reason why is simple: the team is much better when Andre Johnson is wearing the Texans uniform.

Regardless of Johnson’s play next season, the team will likely not make the playoffs. Dealing him to another team, however, will not benefit the Texans in any way. Instead, the Texans are forced to look for other avenues to make Johnson a happy member of the Houston franchise.

Many pundits believed that Johnson would hold out during training camp and not show up to the team’s practices. Today, reports are surfacing that Johnson will in fact report to training camp on time as scheduled:

This is of course is great news for the Texans, as they desperately need the play making and leadership ability of Johnson in their locker room throughout training camp and into the regular season.

Only time will tell if Johnson’s attitude towards the team has changed, or if it will affect his performances come time for opening kickoff.

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Antrel Rolle on the new-look Giants and what lies ahead for Eli Manning

Entering his 10th NFL season and fifth with the Giants, New York safety Antrel Rolle has emerged as one of the team's leaders and most reliable performers, with only four players pre-dating him on the roster.’s Don Banks caught up with the always quotable Rolle just before New York’s first practice of training camp at the team’s Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., and went in search of answers about the Giants’ pivotal 2014 season: 

SI: It was only 29 months ago this team won a Super Bowl, and yet the Giants are still very much a team in transition in 2014, with a new offense and offensive coordinator (Ben McAdoo) and so many familiar faces missing (Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Chris Snee, Linval Joseph, Brandon Jacobs, etc.). Does all the change that has occurred buy this team some time or simply create even more of a sense of urgency to win now?
Rolle: It’s definitely a win-now time here. There’s no room for error at this point. We know that we have the talent here. It’s up to us to go out there and put it together. We can’t make excuses for ourselves, because there’s transition on each and every team throughout the NFL, each and every season. We’re going to hold our heads high and hold each other accountable and go out there and do what we need to do for this franchise and for ourselves.

SI: The Giants haven’t missed the playoffs three consecutive years since 1994-96, but the franchise is now working on back-to-back non-playoff seasons and has failed to make the postseason in four of the past five years. Can you feel that pressure as this season begins, especially after that ugly 0-6 start to 2013?
Rolle: The attitude we have always have here is that we’re winners around here. The last two years we haven’t really displayed our best work. We understand that. We also understand that that’s the past, this is now. So we can dictate our own future right now if we just go out there and control what we can and do what we can between those white lines.

SI: From the other side of the ball, can you give me a sense of what (new offensive coordinator) Ben McAdoo’s offense looks like to you early on? It seems predicated on getting the ball out quickly, finding play-makers in space on shorter pass patterns and letting them do what they do best, without many plays that take a long time to develop?
Rolle: I see it as opportunistic offense. It allows guys to go out there and show their best tools. It allows guys to go out there and play with more of a comfort zone, relying more on their talent, and not asking them to do too much thinking or even over-thinking. It allows everyone to go out and be effective in what they’re doing, but more importantly it’s an offense where everyone’s going to be involved and everyone’s going to get their touches. It’s going to make us more versatile.

SI: As one of the Giants' team leaders, what do you make of some observers questioning whether or not we’ve already seen the best work of quarterback Eli Manning’s career and wondering if last year’s struggles were the start of his decline?
Rolle: People are always tied to their own opinions. There’s going to always be questions about all the players in the NFL. If they have a good year, they’re the best. If they have a down year, maybe they don’t have it any more and they’re done. We as players all understand that’s part of the deal. Eli didn’t have his best season last year. He’s aware of that. I can’t say anyone had their best season around here last year. Because we were 7-9. So it doesn’t matter what you do as an individual, when you’re 7-9, you’re 7-9 and it’s not a good season.

But I’m overly confident in Eli Manning. He has a look on his face when he walks around the facility as if he has something to prove. He has some ass to kick and we’re going to be right there alongside of him the whole way.

SI: The Giants signed two new cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Denver and Walter Thurmond of Seattle, and both of them played their most recent game right next door at MetLife Stadium, in the Super Bowl. How much better is the Giants secondary after adding two players with recent Super Bowl history?
Rolle: Those two guys, for one, they want to win because they’ve been part of winning organizations and they know what that’s all about. And more importantly they’re both guys who love to go out there and compete each and every down. That’s something that you need on a team, because this league is new and improved every year. There’s a lot of swagger on teams now a days, a lot of winning demeanor that helps win games. Teams are playing with more attitude than ever before, and it seems like the teams with attitude, those teams nine times out of 10 are winning the game. It’s not always the most talented teams that wins, it’s the teams that go out there and want it more and have that winning attitude. I think that’s something that the organization here realized and we went out and brought those guys here to help us out with that.

SI: As a fellow secondary member and teammate, what was your honest review of Walter Thurmond’s bright-gold shorts suit that he rocked at the ESPY’s last week in Los Angeles?
Rolle: I think he’s in a league of his own. Definitely. But I wouldn’t mind being in that league. But you have to have the legs, the Thurmond legs, to pull that look off. Skinny thighs and big calves. But he’s a trend-setter, man. I’m not going to knock him for that. A guy’s swag is a guy’s swag, you know? He’s got confidence. First guy to wear a shorts suit and he makes his gold. He did it.

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ESPN's Buster Olney: Ryan Braun 'is not the hitter he was in previous seasons'

In a blog post headlined "Ryan Braun's power outage," ESPN's Buster Olney examines how different a hitter Braun has been this season compared to past seasons, particularly 2012 and '11.

Olney quotes an unidentified evaluator who has seen Braun a few times this season, one in which Braun has dealt with a variety of injuries. 

“Takes the ball to the opposite field a lot,” said the evaluator. “I think he’s more of an opposite field hitter than almost anybody in baseball. He doesn’t really pull the ball anymore, and I don’t think he hits the ball as far as he used to.” 

Olney then uses data about Braun generated by senior researcher Justin Havens who found that 46.1% of Braun's hits this season were to the opposite field, compared to 32.8% in 2013, 31.4% in '12 and 27.8% in '11. He ranks 146th out of 163 batters in percent of hits pulled (30.8%).

Braun's slugging percentage notably is down when he does pull the ball. And his batted balls simply are not traveling as far, down 17 feet on average from last season. Braun also is chasing pitches out of the strike zone more than he has in the past -- 39% this season, which Havens said is one of the highest marks in baseball. With two strikes his chase rate is 55% this season compared to 41.7% last season.

"The numbers are clear: a far greater percentage of Braun's hits are going to opposite field than in previous seasons, and the balls he does pull are being pulled with noticeably less authority," Olney said. "What has caused this clear departure is for others to speculate on, but it is clear Braun is not the hitter he was in previous seasons."

Olney notes: "Braun is having a good season, without question, with a .354 on-base percentage. He’s on track to accumulate a respectable 63 extra-base hits -- but with 19 homers and 37 walks, very different from his 2012 totals of 41 homers and 63 walks."

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No Surprise If Allen Hurns Survives Final Cuts

Is there an undrafted rookie who could be a surprise survivor? The best candidate would be receiver Allen Hurns, who benefited from the rash of injuries at receiver during OTAs and minicamp. Hurns got a significant amount of reps -- much more than he would have gotten had the team not been without seven receivers at one point -- and he earned a training camp invite. His familiarity with Fisch's offense from their time at Miami obviously helped, too. If he is to make the team then it will mean one of the other veterans -- likely Kerry Taylor or Tandon Doss -- won't.

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Can Brandon Linder win the job at right guard?

Can Brandon Linder win the job at right guard? That's what he was drafted to do, but veteran Jacques McClendon was the leader at that spot after OTAs and minicamp. He's a fourth-year player who has played in nine career games and is entering his second season in Jedd Fisch's offense. That's an advantage that should help McClendon hold the lead early. Linder is a bulldog with a great work ethic, but he needs some refining and also needs to become more explosive off the ball. This will be one of the training camp battles to watch.

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Seantrel Henderson pushes Chris Hairston to guard

Rookie left tackle Seantrel Henderson (hip) returned to the practice field for the Buffalo Bills on Monday afternoon, and with him came some anticipated offensive line shuffling that was absent from Sunday night's training camp opener while Henderson was injured.

With Henderson reinserted as the first-team left tackle (replacing starter Cordy Glenn, who remains sidelined by an undisclosed illness), fourth-year veteran Chris Hairston, who filled in as the first-team left tackle on Sunday, returned to the right guard position that he began playing during June practices. He spent most of today's practice running with the second-team offense, but per WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia, he snuck in some first-team reps ahead of Kraig Urbik by the end of practice.

Assuming, then, that the Bills can stay healthy enough at the tackle position to free Hairston up, it's looking like he'll continue to see plenty of work inside at guard in his first training camp under Doug Marrone. Maybe the starting right guard job is up for grabs, after all.

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Texans being petty with Andre Johnson

Andre Johnson deserves special consideration, writes Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle. He calls the handling of Johnson's situation one of general manager Rick Smith's top five bungles and advocates for the Texans guaranteeing Johnson's 2015 salary to show they actually mean they want him with the team for the rest of his career. Solomon makes a good point here, and I've always felt that players can earn the right to get special consideration for their place in a franchise's history. It wouldn't set a bad precedent. Would any player dare ask for the same treatment given to the best offensive player in franchise history? After everything Johnson has given the Texans on the field, and his positive presence off it, he deserves that. I've written the Texans' perspective on this in the past -- that they aren't inclined to let go of a player in whom they've invested so much. But it's also worth considering what Johnson has invested in the Texans, the fifth most valuable franchise in the NFL.

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Immokalee's Own Edgerrin James Returns to Host Football Camp

Ave Maria - Nearly 500 kids ranging from age 6 to 18 came to Eastern Collier County for a free football camp hosted by former NFL star Edgerrin James.  James was a star at Immokalee High School and the University of Miami.  Then took his talents to the NFL where he gained over 12,000 rushing yards and scored 91 touchdowns.  The camp is a yearly tradition each summer with some of the best instructors in the NFL and NCAA helping Edgerrin develop the next generation of players from Southwest Florida.  The hands-on camp helps each athlete from the inside out, giving all in attendance the ability to realize their potential in a fun and safe environment.

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Santana Moss will have to fight to stay on Redskins’ roster

As training camp approaches, Mike Jones takes one final look at a player who finds himself competing for key roles this season, and is in a position battle this preseason.

Two offseasons ago, the Redskins made moves that knocked Santana Moss down from the No. 1 receiving target to third. Now after this past offseason, another offseason of action at wide receiver, Moss’s role looks as if it could diminish even more. At this training camp, he will have to fight just to remain on the roster.

After seven seasons as Washington’s go-to guy, Moss moved to the slot receiver role when Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan joined the team in 2012. Moss continued to contribute, ranking third in receiving that season, and even last year – despite some ups and downs – he ranked a distant second among wide receivers because of struggles by the now-departed Morgan.

The 35-year-old’s contract expired this past offseason, but Washington re-signed him to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal on the same day they inked new slot receiver Andre Roberts, but three weeks before they unexpectedly added ex-Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson.

The top three wide receiver jobs appear to belong to Pierre Garcon, Jackson and Roberts, leaving Moss with an undefined role.

Moss this training camp will battle with third-year pro Aldrick Robinson, second-year receiver Nick Williams and rookie newcomers Ryan Grant, Cody Hoffman, Rashad Ross, Jerry Rice Jr., Rashad Lawrence and Lee Doss for two to three roster spots. Once Leonard Hankerson receives clearance in his rehabilitation from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, he too will join the competition.

But the 35-year-old Moss remains unfazed by the situation.

“I’ve never not had to go work for my job,” Moss said earlier this spring. “So at the end of the day, there’s always competition. Like you say, you all will rate where somebody’s at. I never did that. I went out here and worked. That’s why I’m able to be here today is because I’ve always showed instead of talked about it. So I’m gonna continue to do that. I’m gonna go out here and practice hard and put everything on tape and at the end of the day, you can judge on the tape.”

During offseason practices, Moss’s motivation and determination were evident. His experience and versatility also shined through. He lined up at all three receiver positions at various points, and played as fast and effectively as ever. He didn’t look like a player approaching the sunset of his career.

“Santana, he’s had an excellent offseason program, man,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s fun to be around, he’s fun to watch, he knows every position, he’s making big plays out there. He looks like a young kid, he’s got energy, he’s a great leader. If he drops a pass, he holds himself accountable. If the quarterback misses him, he’s like, ‘Let’s get onto the next one, man.’ ”

“He’s a great guy to have for these young guys to learn from at the receiver position, and every position for that matter,” Gruden said following an offseason practice. “He’s working out hard. He’s the first one out there today again, I like having guys like that, veteran guys who are great examples for rookies and also can help you win in big games. You know the game’s not too big for them because they’ve been there and done that. He’s another one that’s going to help this team out.”

Garcon and Jackson will hold the two most prominent pass-catching roles, with coaches also expecting a lot from Roberts. Tight end Jordan Reed will also be heavily involved, yet Moss does offer something unique.

In his 13 seasons in the NFL, he has seen and experienced it all, which enables him to fill any role. That also allows him to serve as a leader and teacher on a young unit. But with Garcon and Jackson well-established in the league, and former long-time receiver Ike Hilliard as the position coach, it remains to be seen what kind of a value Washington places on Moss’s intangibles.

Aldrick Robinson’s history of inconsistent play and a lack of versatility, and Hankerson’s history of injury and inconsistencies would seem to help Moss’s chances because from a depth standpoint, beyond Garcon, Jackson and Roberts, Washington has no proven backups. But strong play this summer from some of the new young faces could prompt coaches to worry less about experience and focus more on the future.

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Antrel Rolle Posts Inspirational Message About Miami On Instagram, Says ‘The U’ Is Where He Learned To Grind

The University of Miami’s football program sees a lot of its former players come back to campus to train in the offseason. Antrel Rolle is one of those players. 

The former Hurricanes defensive back, now a safety in the NFL for the New York Giants, played for Miami from 2001-04. He won a national championship and a unanimous first-team All-American as a senior in 2004. Following his collegiate career, Rolle was picked by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft. 

Rolle, 31, is likely nearing the end of his football career. He wants to make the final years of his NFL career, count, though. Rolle spent much of this offseason training at Miami and he thinks his spring and summer workouts will result in the best year of his career this fall. 

“The work I have put in this offseason will determine the outcome of this season. I NEVER STOPPED GRINDIN.... This is my stomping ground. DA U is where I learned the real definition of what it means to grind. If it's not broke then why try to fix it. My goal is always to make the next year better than the last. At 31 I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. That's when u know you are doing something right. Lets go get it!! 2014 Here I come. My work here is complete and official. Many people see the outcome but they never see the work behind the closed doors. #theU #killedmyself #truetestament #boysinblue”

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Allen Hurns Flying Under Radar But Impressing

Despite setting a University of Miami single-season record for receiving yards as a senior, the 6-foot-3 Hurns never heard his name announced at the podium in New York in May. But when second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson were sidelined by injuries throughout the Jaguars' organized team activities and minicamp, Hurns often found himself working with what might be viewed as the first-string offense. Coach Gus Bradley raved about what he saw from him.

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Seantrel Henderson, once the 'next big thing,' getting another chance at Buffalo Bills training camp

Pittsford, N.Y — Seantrel Henderson was supposed to be next.

An NHL star, Heisman Trophy winner, MLB all-star and first-round NFL draft pick all put on the purple and gold at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn. There was Twins catcher Joe Mauer, all-star defenseman Ryan McDonagh, Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd.

Henderson was as promising as any athlete to come through the private, Catholic school located on the west end of Minnesota's smaller Twin City.

Henderson stood 6-feet-8-inches tall as a senior in high school and weighed just more than 300 pounds. His athleticism made him a mismatch for every player in the state, and he was so dominant that he was the first offensive lineman to ever receive USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Henderson was the best high school recruit in the entire nation. He was being compared to Hall of Fame offensive tackles and had schools around the country fighting for his services. The question was whether Henderson would be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, it was a matter of when it would happen.

And yet five years later, his most notable accomplishment is still that 2009 Offensive Player of the Year award from high school.

The Buffalo Bills' seventh-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft was the next big thing, but from the time Henderson put his name on a letter of intent to play at the University of Southern California, nothing went his way, and he did himself no favors along the way.

The struggle to find stability
Henderson never played a down for the Trojans. Less than four months after signing his letter of intent, USC was hit with sanctions from the NCAA, banning the school from postseason play for two seasons. Henderson was free to sign with another school and quickly chose Miami, where he started nine games at right tackle as a freshman. So far, so good.

Toward the tail end of Henderson's freshman season Miami coach Randy Shannon, who recruited Henderson, was fired. Rumors began to swirl about a possible transfer for the former five-star offensive tackle, and he spent the spring limited by back problems. While he stayed at Miami under new coach Al Golden, Henderson needed back surgery in August before his sophomore year. He appeared in eight games in 2011 and started only two.

But maybe even worse for Henderson and the Hurricanes was that Miami was at the center of a college football controversy after a story from Yahoo! sports detailed possible violations by the school's athletic department. Miami imposed a one-year postseason ban on itself, just the type of ban Henderson left USC to avoid.

Maybe the injuries and sanctions made it easy for Henderson to become disenchanted with college football. The bad luck continued to follow Henderson into the summer leading up to his junior season.

Henderson's childhood friend was shot and killed in July of 2012, and a week later his aunt died of cancer. While driving to his friend's funeral, Henderson was in a car accident and suffered a concussion that forced him to miss 12 practices.

With everything stacked against him, Henderson started to turn on himself. Henderson finally worked his way back into the starting lineup as a junior, but he was suspended prior to the start of the 2013 season for the third time in his career. Henderson later told the Sun-Sentinel in Florida that all three suspensions were for marijuana use.

So Henderson's career at Miami ended quietly. The biggest accomplishments the five-star recruit would leave college with were two honorable mentions on the All-ACC team. He spent three games as a backup during his senior season with the Hurricanes, and suddenly a player once thought to be a sure first-round draft pick wasn't even a lock to get drafted.

Squandering his chances
Billy Turner sat at a table at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and represented the opportunity Henderson had let slip away so many times.

Turner, who played against Henderson in high school, was passed over by most major college football programs. He wasn't as big as Henderson or as talented. Minnesota tried to recruit Turner, but only after missing out on Henderson.

"He went to Miami and they called me and I said, 'You guys missed the boat,'" Turner said.

So instead, Turner went to North Dakota State. While Henderson couldn't fend off distractions or stay on the field, Turner made the most of his opportunity, starting as a true freshman and winning three FCS national championships.

"I mean, he's what, 6-8, 340 pounds coming out of high school?" Turner said. "I was 6-5, probably 285. I didn't get the looks like a lot of other guys. There were a lot of guys coming out of Minnesota who were pegged higher than me."

But it was Turner who heard his name called on in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, while Henderson waited around deep into the third day. After failing his drug test at the NFL combine and reportedly leaving his pro day early, it was no guarantee that Henderson would even get drafted. Most thought he had used up all of his chances.

One last shot
In the NFL, a superior talent always gets another chance. That's why the Bills took a shot on Henderson in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. Despite all of the trouble that followed him throughout college, Henderson still showed flashes of dominant ability. His strength and movement skills remain special, and anyone who can tap into that potential will have a star.

"He's a talented guy," Whaley said on the John Murphy Show Friday night. "We feel that, again, if he didn't have those demons, he would have been probably in the first round."

With starting left tackle Cordy Glenn out with an illness, Henderson will open camp as the Bills' starting left tackle. After everything he went through, he is landing right where everyone expected him him to back when he was dominating at Cretin-Derham.

For the first time in a long time, Henderson is catching a break. Now the only question is whether he's willing to help himself and take advantage of this opportunity. Because if he doesn't, there may not be another one.

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Roscoe Parrish & Brett Romberg Among Former NFL PLayers Suing NFL

Dozens of former players joining a lawsuit against the NFL say teams kept handing out powerful painkillers and other drugs with few - if any- safeguards as recently as 2012. That extends by four years the time frame for similar claims made in the original complaint and could open the door to a criminal investigation.

"On flights home, the routine was the same everywhere," said Brett Romberg, who played center in Jacksonville (2003-05), St. Louis (2006-08) and Atlanta (2009 and 2011). "The trainers walked up and down the aisle and you'd hold up your hand with a number of fingers to show how many pills you wanted. No discussions, no questions. You just take what they hand you and believe me, you'll take anything to dull the pain."

With the federal Drug Enforcement Administration beginning to look into accusations contained in the lawsuit - filed in May and covering the years 1968-2008 - the new allegations could dramatically expand the investigation's scope, legal experts said. Any violation of federal drug laws after 2009 would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.

"Then it's no longer just about money. Then it's potentially about criminal conduct and that's a completely different ballpark," said Steven Feldman, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for New York's southern district.

"And all you need is one (criminal) act within the last five years to reach back and say, `The same group of doctors and trainers were there and' ... if you have enough of them doing the same thing in different locker rooms, well, it's hard to defend as a one-off," he added.

The NFL is not aware of "any DEA subpoenas or investigations into club practices," spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email Friday. "There has been a league-wide reporting system in place (to track controlled substances and prescriptions issued by team doctors) since 1973 for compliance with DEA and state law requirements."

The DEA declined comment, citing the agency's policy against discussing potential investigations. But law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed that the agency was looking into allegations in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit on behalf of 500 former players was filed in U.S. District Court in northern California and amended two weeks later to add another 250. The nine named plaintiffs include current ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley, Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and Hall of Fame defensive lineman Richard Dent.

It contends the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players' health, withholding information about injuries while routinely - and often illegally - providing them with prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Steve Silverman said this week that 500 more players have since joined the lawsuit, which is seeking class certification. The latest group includes dozens who played in the NFL between 2009 and 2012 and told lawyers in interviews that little had changed about how some teams handled the drugs. The Associated Press interviewed three of those players.

Romberg described the Jaguars as "very liberal" in doling out painkillers and called the Rams' training room a "huge free-for-all." He said there were some changes in the clubhouse between his two seasons in Atlanta.

"In 2011, you had to see the doctor first. ... You'd still get your Molotov cocktail, but they were tighter about documenting it," Romberg said.

Roscoe Parrish played wide receiver in Buffalo from 2005-11, then on the practice squads in San Diego, Oakland and Tampa Bay, in 2012.

"I had knee problems in 2010, so I started getting, I'm not sure, I think they were Vicodins, in a small white envelope. I played that game without pain, so it became routine," he said.

"I never saw a bottle. They were always in envelopes," Parrish said. "I got accustomed to (Buffalo trainer) Bud Carpenter giving me painkillers and didn't educate myself. All I cared about was playing."

The Bills declined a request to speak to Carpenter, but said in an email response: "Bud Carpenter strongly disagrees with Roscoe Parrish's accusation."

Patrick Cobbs, who joined New England in 2006 as an undrafted free agent and then caught on as running back in Miami through 2010, said he started taking painkillers to deal with hip and rib injuries in 2007-08.

"It seemed like the norm then. Now, you know what that's done to you and it seems so wrong," Cobbs said.

Six of the plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, including McMahon and Van Horne, were also parties to the concussion-related class-action lawsuit last year against the NFL. A federal judge granted preliminary approval to a settlement nearly two weeks ago

The former players in the painkillers lawsuit have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. The players contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven't been definitively linked to painkillers.

Romberg, 34, had three stints inserted during heart surgery just a year after retiring, and said his doctors asked how the team never noticed the heart problems during physicals.

"It could be an anomaly," Romberg said, "and I don't know if there's any correlation. But a lot of pills I took, I look at the warning labels now and a few of them say `if you have heart issues, don't take them."'

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Antrel Rolle ranked among NFL's best safeties, but how high?

When Antrel Rolle was inexplicably left off the original Pro Bowl roster last year, he was disappointed. Rolle thought he was better than most of the players selected ahead of him last season, particularly Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu.'s Bucky Brooks agrees. He put together a list of the 10 most dynamic safeties in the NFL today and Rolle came in third. Rolle also came in at No. 72 on the NFL's Top 100 list of players earlier this year.

Seattle's Earl Thomas and Kansas City's Eric Berry finished 1-2 in the safety rankings. Polamalu, 33, didn't make the list.

Brooks was clearly impressed by Rolle's 2013 season when he finished with career highs in tackles (98), sacks (2.0), passes defended (12) and interceptions (6). Brooks called it his "best professional campaign," and it eventually earn him a spot as a Pro Bowl replacement for Thomas, who was playing in the Super Bowl.

Here's the full explanation:

3) Antrel Rolle, New York Giants: The cagey veteran remains one of the top playmakers in the game despite entering his 10th season in the league. In fact, Rolle is fresh off his best professional campaign. As a former cornerback, he's comfortable manning up against tight ends and receivers in the slot, but he's also adept at patrolling the deep middle. His versatility allows defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to use him in a variety of roles in the Giants' sub-packages to keep quarterbacks guessing in the pocket. Rolle is a proven playmaker with a knack for picking off passes (23 career interceptions, including six in 2013) and creating disruption on the second level. He's an ideal Swiss army knife to counter the versatile offenses setting the pace in today's NFL.

It's interesting to note that Rolle even ranked one spot ahead of Jairus Byrd, who signed with the Saints this offseason for six years and $56 million. Rolle, 31, is on the last year of his contract.

Of course, Rolle won't get that kind of money. He turns 32 in December. But if he plays at anywhere near the level he did last season he'll command a pretty lucrative short-term deal, especially if he hits the open market.

That's just what happens when you're playing like one of the top safeties in the league, and everyone is noticing.

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Reggie Wayne's return could spark maturing team

Colts almost literally hit the ground running after leaving the womb, so maybe it should come as little surprise that the Indianapolis Colts' rebirth as an NFL power has taken almost no time at all.

Heading into Year 3 P.M. - post-Manning - head coach Chuck Pagano, quarterback Andrew Luck and a roster mostly devoid of thirtysomethings have helped guide this franchise to 22 regular-season wins, two playoff berths and its first postseason triumph since Peyton Manning led a come-from-behind victory in the 2009 AFC Championship Game.

But the Colts will run their next derby with the welcome return of an old warhorse, wideout Reggie Wayne, whose absence clearly impacted the offense last year after he suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 20.

Though Wayne will turn 36 in November, his coach can't stress his value to the program enough.

"When I got this job, Reggie wasn't under contract," Pagano told USA TODAY Sports, reflecting back on the 2-14 outfit he inherited after the 2011 season. "I asked Reggie to take a leap of faith because everybody was gone. This whole organization was blown up - rookie quarterback, rookie GM, rookie head coach. But he's so loyal to the (team) and to this community and this city."

Though he caught his last pass from Manning in 2010, Wayne has remained highly productive, averaging 72.3 receiving yards per game over the past three years, a figure that equates to 1,156 yards over a full season.

Perhaps more important, Wayne is the old soul of a young team, the mentor Luck and other up-and-comers lean on.

"He can still play. You know he's gonna get open, you know he's gonna make the catch," Pagano says of Wayne, whom he's known since their days together at the University of Miami (Fla.) two decades ago.

"And you know what he brings to the table as far as the locker room and your facility with the type of leader and type of man that he is. It's gonna be great to have him back in there."

Maybe not so great for opposing defenses.

Despite issues running the ball and safeguarding Luck - not to mention losing Wayne for half the year - the Colts scored nearly a field goal more per game in 2013 than they did in 2012.

Now there are new parts on offense, and Pagano says his defense is "better than ever. We're looking to wreak havoc. Going into Year 3, guys are really comfortable."

Then there's the expected progression by Luck, who's now one ring behind 2012 draftmate Russell Wilson.

"He's maturing as a leader and growing into that role," Pagano says of Luck, the No. 1 pick two years ago. "You can start to see that part of it coming out.
"We feel really great about where he is in his progress and look for him to lead us to a championship."

With the league's easiest schedule based on opponents' 2013 winning percentage (.430), expectations in Indianapolis are hitting a full gallop.

Saddle up.

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Seantrel Henderson replaces Cordy Glenn (illness) as Bills' left tackle

Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley did not take long to confirm which player will be replacing Cordy Glenn as the first-team left tackle when training camp practices begin tomorrow evening: it'll be rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson.

"He's a talented guy," Whaley said Friday night on The John Murphy Show. "We feel that, again, if he didn’t have those demons, he would have been probably in the first round. We’re excited to see him translate that to the field. With Cordy being out, he's going to be our starting left tackle right now."

Glenn, as we discussed yesterday, is currently on the Active/Non-Football Illness list. Whaley called him "day-to-day" while remaining vague about when, exactly, he might return to the lineup. Ideally, Glenn will be back in the lineup soon, but the Bills give off the vibe that they're making plans to be without him for a while.

Henderson, once a top recruit coming out of high school, fell all the way down into the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft thanks to a mediocre college career filled with off-field issues, including multiple suspensions and a failed drug test at the Combine. Still, he is a 6'7", 331-pound athlete with rare movement skills, and he has a tremendous opportunity sitting in front of him now that he'll be exposed to first-team work.

"We know his demons off the field, and we think he’s got a hold of those things," Whaley told Murphy on Friday night.

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Jon Beason won’t run in conditioning test on Monday

Giants linebacker Jon Beason is still planning to play in this year’s season opener after injuring his foot this offseason, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be practicing when the team opens training camp this week.

Beason told Tom Rock of Newsday that he won’t be running in the conditioning test that his teammates will be taking when camp opens on Monday. That suggests he’ll open up camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list that will bar him from practicing until the team feels sure his foot is ready after this spring’s ligament tear and fracture, although he told Rock he feels he could take the test and that he’s feeling great.

“We’re hitting all those benchmarks in terms of the prognosis. It’s getting better and better every day,” Beason said. “I feel fine right now. But then again I know that I’m not ready to go full speed and change direction and tackle people.”

Beason also added that he’s had seasons without any camp and hit the ground running, but the Giants would surely prefer things play out in a way that allows the veteran to get his feet wet before the games count. Beason’s arrival was a major turning point for the Giants’ defense last season and they are back in similarly undermanned straits at middle linebacker as long as he’s out of the lineup.

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Where is Ken Dorsey?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In college, Ken Dorsey was known as a winner. He posted a 38-2 record as starting quarterback at the University of Miami and won the 2001 national title game.

In the NFL, he was a perennial backup who started three games for the Browns in 2008.

Dorsey is No. 11 on our list as we look back at all the Browns' starting quarterbacks since 1999. Here is a look at his career highlights and lowlights and what he's been doing since his Cleveland days.

Ken Dorsey, 2006-2008
0-3 as a Browns starter

Before the Browns
Dorsey hailed from Orinda, Calif., and attended the University of Miami, where he won a national title and lost just two of 40 games he started. During that time, he was twice a Heisman Trophy finalist. In 2003, he was drafted in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers and played there until 2005.

How he came to the Browns
In May 2006, the Browns traded Trent Dilfer to the San Francisco 49ers for Dorsey and a seventh-round pick.

Browns highlights
Dorsey has a tough go of things with the Browns when he started the final three games of the 2008 season. The highlight was Dorsey just getting one last chance to be a starting quarterback. After his 2008 season, Dorsey never played in the NFL again.

Browns lowlights
In the three starts with the Browns, Dorsey has zero touchdowns, six interceptions and was sacked five times. The Browns lost all three games and scored a total of 19 points.

The worst of the three starts was a 30-10 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16. In that one, Dorsey completed just 11 of 28 passes and threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

How he left the Browns
In February 2009, just a few months after his brief stint as a starter, Dorsey was released by the Browns.

After the Browns
Dorsey never played in the NFL again after he was released by the Browns. He spent the 2010 season with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

What he's doing now
Dorsey is currently the Carolina Panthers quarterbacks coach. He's started in the job last year after spending two seasons as a pro scout for the team.

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Andre Johnson not a trade target for Jets, per report

Andre Johnson's continued unhappiness with the Texans—the star wide receiver has played on just two playoff teams in 11 seasons in Houston, which is in rebuilding mode again under first-year coach Bill O'Brien—had prompted renewed speculation that Johnson might force a trade.

But according to Kristian Dyer of Metro New York, the Jets can be crossed off the list as a possible trading partner (assuming the Texans want to move Johnson in the first place, of course):

Trading for Johnson “is not something we are actively pursuing,” one Jets team executive told Metro New York, adding “he isn’t a fit for where we are heading.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source said the Texans have done nothing to signal a willingness to deal Johnson. But the source also made it clear the Jets aren’t looking to add Johnson at this point.

“Clearly Andre is a special player, but special players come at a price,” the executive said. “Right now, with the direction the team wants to go, it isn’t the best fit. While he is a tremendous talent, he would hurt a lot of cap flexibility.”

That view is consistent with how the Jets have operated under second-year general manager John Idzik. Idzik's habit has been to dole out contracts with an eye on avoiding significant cap costs in future years. This is not a case of IDZIK IS CHEAP!!! either: It's true the Jets have $22.3 million in cap space for this year, per NFLPA records, but that figure can be rolled over into the future, and Johnson is due to make $10 million this year, $10.5 million next year, and $11 million in 2016, per

Would Johnson, who turned 33 last Friday, be willing to work out a new deal with a new team? Who's to say.

In late May, Jets running back Chris Johnson (no relation) openly lobbied for the Jets to trade for Andre Johnson, albeit with a subsequent acknowledgement that the Texans probably won't ship him out. Two reasons the Texans and Johnson are unlikely to part ways: The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Johnson has had seven seasons with at least 1,100 receiving yards, making him one of the league's most consistently productive receivers—a significant chip for an offensive-minded coach like O'Brien. And by trading Johnson, the Texans would have to absorb a salary-cap hit of nearly $12 million, though they could spread that hit out over the next two seasons.

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Reggie Wayne praised

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (knee) can still play, get open and make a catch, according to head coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano said it will be great to have Wayne back (from injury) not only because of his on-field ability but because of the leadership he brings to the locker room.

Fantasy Tip: The boat has sailed on the prime of Wayne's career and the Colts wide receiver corps is stacked with WRs T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Da'Rick Rogers and rookie Donte Moncrief all in the mix. Wayne should be considered a WR4 or flex option in standard leagues.

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2014 Most Important Packers No. 8: Sam Shields

GREEN BAY – If you do the math that comes with Joe Whitt’s projections about Sam Shields, it computes to this: The Green Bay Packers’ fifth-year cornerback is going to be really good for a really long time.

The way Whitt sees it, Shields, who won’t turn 27 until December and returned to the Packers in March on a four-year, $39 million deal that will pay him $15 million this year alone, is still improving at a position that he didn’t even play until his final season at the University of Miami (Fla). That’s why the Packers cornerbacks coach is confidently predicting a lengthy run of quality play – because the Packers are already getting it from Shields and he’s still not tapped out.

“Sam’s best football is still in front of him,” Whitt explained. “I honestly believe he has two more years of ascending and then he’s going to play at that level for another four years. That’s six years of just really good football ahead of him.

“He might have more. I don’t know what he’s going to have after that, but I see two more years of getting better and four more of holding that type of high quality play.

“When Sam walked into the room four years ago in 2010, he was the ninth guy (on the depth chart) and he ended up starting against [the Philadelphia Eagles] in the very first game (as the No. 3 cornerback in the nickel defense). If you work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you work hard and you show that you’re the guy that can make plays, you’ll be given an opportunity.”

And no one has seized his opportunity more than Shields, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, was a vital contributor as the third cornerback in the nickel package on the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl XLV team and now has a chance to be in the conversation with the best cover men in the league if he plays at the level his coaches believe he can.

“It’s like I tell everybody, it’s just the beginning,” Shields said. “I still sit back and think about what I went through when I first started, when I switched to D. I sit and talked to my friends and family about it. It still amazes me, like ‘Hey, I’m in this position.’ It’s all a blessing.”

Shields is now the Packers’ third-highest paid player in terms of average annual salary, as his $9.25 million average ranks only behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($18.7 million) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews ($11.6 million), who received lucrative long-term extensions in April 2013. Given his lofty status, he’ll be looked upon to be a shutdown corner, even though veteran Tramon Williams is coming off a bounceback season and appears to have plenty left in the tank, and the coaches are excited about the healthy return of Casey Hayward, who finished third in the NFL defensive rookie of the year balloting in 2012.

“Everybody knows [Shields is] a press (coverage) guy who can make plays in that area. Now, we need to show he’s a complete player – zone, two, three; understands landmarks and drops; and improve the tackling aspect of it,” Whitt said. “He needs to be a top level corner in every aspect of the game. And he has that ability.”

In 14 regular-season games last year, Shields had a team-high four interceptions and was credited in the Packers’ official stats with 64 tackles and 25 pass breakups. According to Pro Football Focus, in 900 total snaps, Shields was targeted 84 times last season and allowed 42 completions for 664 yards for an opponents’ passer rating of 72.7.

He missed two games in the middle of the season with a hamstring injury but had what turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the season, an interception that helped the Packers to an enormous come-from-behind victory at Dallas on Dec. 15. His season ended with a high-ankle sprain in the playoff loss to San Francisco that he said would have kept him out for the rest of the year, even if the Packers had won that game.

Now, he’s ready for a greater impact as he matures as a player and has a better grasp on the game.

“There’s a lot more things I’m still learning. And it’s getting better,” Shields said. “I’m getting some more years on me, some more time to learn different things. It’s getting better.

“You know, when I first got here, I didn’t know the difference. It was frustrating. ‘Man, it’s not for me.’ [But] I stuck in there, I kept working. I got it right.”

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Jon Beason recovering but will start training camp on PUP list

Jon Beason will not participate in Monday afternoon's conditioning test when he and the Giants players report for the start of training camp, but the middle linebacker said he could if he had to and he fully expects to be ready for the start of the regular season Sept. 8.

Beason, who was signing autographs at the team's Health and Fitness Expo at MetLife Stadium Sunday, already has shed the hard cast and walking boot that were the first phase of his non-surgical recovery from a sesamoid bone fracture and a torn ligament in his foot that he suffered during OTAs.

"It's feeling great," Beason said. "We're hitting all of those benchmarks in terms of the prognosis. It's getting better and better every day."

Beason most likely will be designated on the physically unable to perform list Monday. He said his focus while the team is grinding through practices for the next several weeks will be on improving his conditioning and lower-body strength, which suffered during his immobility. He is expected to begin running in about three weeks. "We're taking advantage of the time, but also being smart about it," Beason said. "No setbacks."

In the meantime, outside linebacker Jameel McClain is expected to take over the middle linebacker job. McClain likely will move back to the outside when Beason returns.

Beason said ideally, he would like to spend a little time on the field during the preseason just to get back in the flow of the defense, but he said if he doesn't see action until that Sept. 8 game in Detroit that will not be a major deterrent in his season. He missed most of training camp the last two summers with the Panthers while dealing with other injuries.

"There's a reason why we have the preseason, just to get your feet back under you," he said. "But I've had seasons where I didn't have any training camp and I went out there and I got busy right away . . . Where there's a will, there's a way."

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New book "Blood Sport" alleges Bernie Kosar's slurred speech resulted from painkillers Browns gave him

CLEVELAND Ohio –- Bernie Kosar slurs his words because:
• He has post-concussion syndrome.
• He refused to wear a mouthpiece as a Browns and Miami Dolphins quarterback and suffered severe dental injuries.
• He has a drinking problem.
• The Browns kept him on the playing field with doses of the addictive pain-killer oxycodone (trade name, oxycontin; street name, oxy, OC, O).

The latter is alleged as the cause in the new book "Blood Sport – Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era" by the Miami New  Times' Tim Elfrink and Newsday's Gus Garcia-Roberts. Excerpts of the book, detailing the doping that made the currently suspended Rodriguez baseball's No. 1 drug offender, appeared in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.

The Browns controversially removed Kosar as a television analyst for their exhibition games this off-season, citing sharp criticism he directed at a St. Louis Rams backup quarterback last season. Kosar's sometimes slurred diction has often been criticized by some viewers.

"Blood Sports" says he was steered to the Biogenesis "anti-aging" clinic by Julio Cortes, a defensive end on the 1983 Miami Hurricanes team that Kosar led to the national championship. The connection occurred after a central figure in baseball's steroid scandal moved his offices in late 2011 to Coral Gables, directly across the street from the University's Alex Rodriguez Park.

Suffering from a bad back and knees that resulted from a short, violent football career at The U and with the NFL Seattle Seahawks and teams in the Canadian Football League, Cortes visited Biogenesis because he had gone to the same Miami high school, Christopher Columbus, as its founder, Tony Bosch.

Known as "Dr. Tony," Bosch had only a two-year degree from a medical school in Belize in Central America and was unlicensed to practice medicine in the United States. He had gotten good results with a complicated regimen of steroids, amino acids, testosterone, and human growth hormone, prescribed in Florida by licensed doctors willing to be paid for doing so to patients they never examined.

The state, say the authors, became a fertile breeding ground for (the) age-conquering crusade."

In reality, "anti-aging" was a flimsy euphemism for steroid doping. "The state had always prided itself on its Wild West lack of regulation, particularly in the medical market," say the authors. "The Sunshine State encumbered (anti-aging) businesses with virtually no rules."

The book alleges that, along with A-Rod and other elite baseball players, seeking to either regain or increase an illegal performance edge, "a steady stream of ex-Hurricanes and former NFL players started creaking over to Bosch's office for treatment."

Among them was Kosar. "After a twelve-season pro career," say the authors in a sad summary of the Browns' legend, "Kosar has stumbled through a sometimes-incoherent retirement, marred by batty behavior, bankruptcy and drunk-driving arrests."

Bosch's records indicate that Kosar was a patient and that at least one shipment of drugs was made, for which Kosar paid $600.

The authors paraphrase Cortes' view this way: "Compared to the highly addictive painkillers that NFL teams shovel at players, Cortes says Bosch's treatments were a healthier alternative."

In a direct quote, Cortes said, "We can either do this or get back on the oxy. You read the papers about Kosar, and he's a mess. He's slurring his words from the medication, from the oxy that the Browns gave him."

Withdrawal from oxycodone is considered one of the most painful ordeals a drug addict faces, with body aches much worse than the flu and a sensation of pins and needles stabbing his muscles.

The authors conclude: "If he gave Kosar testosterone, Bosch broke the law. But it's hard to see immediate harm in two ailing middle-aged men snagging testosterone if it helped heal their aches. After all, they had legitimate health problems and were certainly old enough to know what they were getting into."

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Ravens players keep Ray Lewis' Oregon Ridge tradition going

During Ray Lewis' time with the Ravens, one of the staples of the legendary middle linebacker's rigorous training regimen was running the steep hill at Oregon Ridge Park.

For years, Lewis would attack the incline early in the morning, sprinting up the old ski run in Hunt Valley while carrying logs or heavy weights.

Lewis has been retired for more than a year, but the Ravens are keeping the tradition of running the hill at Oregon Ridge.

Along with several other fitness enthusiasts, offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah, A.Q. Shipley and Will Rackley ran the hill early Friday morning. Running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Torrey Smith, cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Anthony Levine and former Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, have also run the hill with Timonium-based trainer Kyle Jakobe of Sweat Performance to build up their leg strength and stamina.

"We've been working hard," said Shipley after a grueling workout at Oregon Ridge that included pushups between runs. "We've been going hard. This was kind of like our last bit of conditioning before camp starts. It was a heck of a day.

"It's tough. It's a heck of a workout. We've taken a likening to it and what Kyle's done. He's gotten us ready to roll."

This has been an important offseason for Shipley, who started nine games last season at left offensive guard after starter Kelechi Osemele suffered a season-ending back injury.

The converted center, acquired last year during an offseason trade from the Indianapolis Colts, has been concentrating on guard play.

"It's different," said Shipley, a 6-foot-1, 307-pound former Penn State player. "I've always kind of had a ball in my hand being a center. This offseason, I haven't really played much center at all. Obviously, I can still play it if they need me to. I've been focusing on both guard spots this offseason, and hopefully I'll have a chance to compete for one of them."

Osemele has made a sound return from back surgery to repair a herniated disk. Pro Bowl lineman Marshal Yanda is entrenched at right guard. So Shipley has been working with the second-team offense.

Last season, Shipley built his confidence while getting acclimated to a new position. He was thrown into the lineup against the Miami Dolphins after Osemele had back spasms.

"Absolutely, I got better each game," Shipley said. "Last year when I went in against Miami, that was really my first time playing a full game at guard. I got better each game. My technique got better and my confidence got a lot better each game."

Running the hill has paid dividends for Shipley, who has lost weight since last season.

"A.Q. is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," Jaboke said. "He shows up early every day. He's a beast with the way he goes about his work. He's very blue-collar. He's had to earn his stripes every place he's been. It's never easy. He's always had to fight for his playing time.

"He's leaned up. He's lost about 15, 16 pounds since he came back. He's added a lot of strength. He's super excited. He's zoned in."

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VIDEO: Shane Larkin D- League Highlights

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Yonder Alonso moved up to Triple-A

Yonder Alonso has been sent to Triple-A El Paso to continue his rehab assignment.

Alonso, who went 3-for-8 with a homer in two games for the Rookie AZL Padres, has been on the shelf since mid-June due to right wrist tendinitis. He should return before the end of the month if all goes well.

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Yankees prospect Peter O'Brien tearing up the minors

BINGHAMTON – Scoring is down all around baseball, but New York Yankees prospect Peter O'Brien has certainly done his part to generate runs.

O'Brien, a right-handed hitter who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 225 pounds, led all Yankees minor-league players in home runs (22) and runs batted in (96) while batting .291 and scoring 78 runs last season.

For an encore, O'Brien belted 29 home runs through his first 88 games this season to solidify himself as one of if not the top power-hitting prospect in the minors. And there is still a month a half left in the minor-league season.

O'Brien hit 19 of those home runs for the Trenton Thunder, who wrap up their only series at NYSEG Stadium against the Binghamton Mets on Sunday afternoon.

"Pete has a tool that you can't teach, and that's power," said Thunder hitting coach Marcus Thames, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues. "Last year, he hit (22) and that was his first full season. His power is going to play. The thing is going to be consistency."

O'Brien, who turned 24 on Tuesday, entered the four-game series against the B-Mets having just played in the Eastern League's All-Star Game on Wednesday night in Altoona, Pa., as well as the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday.

O'Brien may have flown under some radars after last year, but that certainly appears to be a thing of the past. In just 30 games in the Florida State League this season, he crushed 10 home runs and got promoted to Double-A Trenton.

A second-round pick of the Yankees in 2012 out of the University of Miami, O'Brien has already reached Double-A in an organization criticized for struggling to produce all-star caliber talent in recent years.

"I think he's just beginning," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said of O'Brien. "I think he's just finding out exactly what this power surge is all about himself. He is still young in his career. I think it's just the beginning of what we hope to see or what might be."

O'Brien is the son of a former Cuban ballerina, Mercedes O'Brien, and a former college baseball player, Terry O'Brien. Terry, a pitcher, led Western Michigan in earned-run average (3.51) in 1977.

O'Brien grew up with baseball in his blood and says it is the only sport he played growing up. A native of Miami, O'Brien was actually a top of the lineup hitter until his junior year in high school.

"I was probably 5-foot-4 125 pounds my freshman year in high school," O'Brien said while wrapping tape around the end of new shiny black bat, his latest weapon of choice.

A growth spurt jumped O'Brien up to 6-foot-2 195 going into his junior year, and he started making weightlifting a part of his daily routine, sometimes two or three workouts a day between the gym, the pool, and running.

He went on to play three seasons at Bethune-Cookman University in Dayton Beach where he was an All-American catcher and earned Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore.

The Colorado Rockies drafted O'Brien in 2011, but he did not sign and played his final college season at Miami where he was a co-captain, a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, and led the team in batting average (.340), home runs (10), RBIs (40), on-base percentage (.441) and slugging percentage (.626) despite missing the last 17 games of the season with a broken wrist.

O'Brien spent time in both the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League in the summer of 2012, and last season he split time between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa.

"I think the biggest thing is in pro ball you get so many reps, and you get to know yourself better as a hitter," O'Brien said. "You get to work on those strengths and make those weaknesses stronger."

The most-important thing O'Brien learned about himself was that the long meat-grinder of a season in professional baseball required him to guard against getting too intense.

"I think that's something I've learned over the last couple of years is sometimes less is more," O'Brien said. "I don't have to swing at 100 percent or hit the ball perfect to hit it out. I've just got to put a good swing on a good pitch.

"I think that's the biggest thing I tell myself now is just not to try to do too much. That's something guys have always told me growing up. Especially in my later years in college, kind of have fun and let myself play more. I think I never understood that until I started getting these reps in pro ball."

Thames says O'Brien is constantly asking questions, always thinking about and talking about baseball, trying to get to the next level.

O'Brien isn't a finished product yet. His average has dropped since he started facing Double-A pitching. He batted .321 in the Florida State League, and he went into Saturday night's game batting .229 against Eastern League pitchers.

"Hopefully he can become a better hitter as well, and put that hitting ability with that power ability and then you're talking about major-league all-star," Franklin said.

O'Brien has always been an aggressive hitter, and that has led to 62 strikeouts through his first 60 games with Trenton. He has walked just 12 times, but that last thing Thames wants to do is make O'Brien hesitant in the batter's box.

"You can't go up there being timid," Thames said. "I saw an article that Jim Thome wrote. He never went up there looking to walk. I played with Gary Sheffield. He never went up there looking to walk. They went up there to swing the bat, but they swung at pitches they could hit."

The Yankees still have not settled on a position for O'Brien. He played catcher throughout his college career, but he has caught and also logged time at third base, first base, and the outfield in the minors.

Franklin says O'Brien, who caught Friday night's win against the B-Mets, works well with the pitching staff and would probably get the chance to catch four days per week if not for the presence of one of baseball's top catching prospects, Gary Sanchez, on the same roster.

O'Brien's offense and that powerful swing will be what opens the doors to the big leagues. The way the way the ball jumps off O'Brien's bat is noticeable. It gets up so fast and with what seems like minimal movement from O'Brien. It sounds as if a small explosion took place.

"His bats just make a different sound," Thames said. "For me and my experience playing at the major-league level, he's up there with the big guys that have the raw power. He has really true raw power that can play in the game.

"He doesn't try to hit for power. He doesn't try to go out in (batting practice) and try to launch every single ball. He's still learning how to hit. It's going to even get better once he figures everything out, figures out what the pitchers are trying to do to him."

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Yasmani Grandal seeing results with altered batting stance

SAN DIEGO -- Padres manager Bud Black usually doesn't like his players changing their batting stances in the middle of the season -- when hitters are struggling, starting from square one in the middle of a 162-game grind could just as easily compound their problems rather than fix them.

"It's hard enough to hit when you're trying to change things all the time," Black said.

But he's made an exception for Yasmani Grandal, who has seen positive results in July after adopting more of an upright stance last month to alleviate discomfort in his surgically repaired right knee.

"We worked a ton, changing my whole batting stance and trying to get in a good spot so the knee doesn't get any stress on it," Grandal said. "Just standing up a little bit more, making sure my foot is down in a good spot and trying to stay on my back leg a little bit more. Usually those are things you do in the offseason, but we had to make the changes for health reasons."

The switch-hitting catcher was batting .293/.383/.488 in 12 July contests entering Sunday with two home runs, including a mammoth 440-foot moonshot on Saturday, the longest homer hit at Petco Park this season. It's a small sample size, but those numbers are nearly identical to the .297/.394/.469 line Grandal put up in his promising rookie campaign, when he posted a 2.7 WAR despite playing just 60 games.

Even though Grandal has been in the Majors since 2012, he hasn't accumulated 500 at-bats in his career due to injuries and a suspension for testosterone use that caused him to miss 50 games last season. So three seasons into his big league career, the Padres still don't know for sure what they have in Grandal.

Do they have a switch-hitter with power who can be their catcher of the future? Or will his balky knee and struggles from the right side, where he's hitting just .125 with 11 strikeouts in 32 at-bats entering Sunday, derail his potential?

"You never know when [the pain] is gonna come back," Grandal said. "You just take the new stance and make it your own."

His power stroke hasn't disappeared over the past couple of years -- in 2012 he clubbed eight homers in 192 at-bats, and this season he has eight homers in 202 at-bats. But he needs to hit for average, too -- he's batting at a .213 clip entering Sunday despite his recent surge.

Regardless, Grandal's overarching goal for 2014 is still within reach.

"The first day of Spring Training I said I wanted to be healthy throughout the season," Grandal said. "So far, so good."

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