20 May 2012

Jon Beason rips 49ers' Alex Smith

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jon Beason may not play offensive tackle, but he's certainly not afraid to protect his quarterback.

Beason, the Panthers' three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, fired back Friday at San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith via Twitter after comments he perceived were a slam on Carolina teammate Cam Newton.

Beason wrote, "Alex smith, don't hate on Cam (because) your stats would've gotten u cut if Peyton decided to come 2 San Fran. Truth b told. That's after a 13-3 yr."

Smith used Newton as an example earlier this week that big stats don't always equate to wins.

When Smith was asked Wednesday about the 49ers finishing 29th in NFL in passing yards per game last year, he defended the offense by pointing out the team's record. The 49ers went 13-3 and won their division before losing to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship.

"I could absolutely care less on yards per game," Smith told a group of reporters. "I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you're losing games in the second half, guess what, you're like the Carolina Panthers and you're going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That's great. You're not winning, though."

Although Newton had a record-setting season and finished with more yards, touchdowns and 300-yard games than Smith -- and went to the Pro Bowl while Smith stayed home -- the Panthers finished 6-10.

That was Smith's point.

Beason's comments about Smith were in reference to the 49ers' initial interest in signing Peyton Manning, who became a hot free-agent prospect after being released by the Indianapolis Colts. When it became clear Manning was going to sign with the Denver Broncos, the 49ers decided to re-sign Smith.

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Santana Moss aims to return to form for Redskins

When he looked back on one of the most disappointing seasons of his 11-year career, Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss knew something had to change.

A year after recording a career-high 93 catches for 1,115 yards and six touchdowns, Moss in 2011 missed four games with a broken hand, lacked his usual effectiveness when he returned midway through the season and never got back on track. He ended the year with only 46 catches for 585 yards and four touchdowns -- his lowest output in nine seasons.

So Moss spent the offseason getting back to the physical form he had during some of his best seasons. The 5-foot-10-inch Moss has spent much of his career in the 185 to 190-pound range, but in recent years, has tipped the scales at 205 pounds. When the Redskins began their offseason conditioning program in mid-April, Moss showed up 15 pounds lighter than he did last season.

“I just wanted to get back to what I do,” said Moss, who prior to last season had averaged 73.6 catches for 1,023 yards in six seasons as a Redskin. “The last four years, I’ve probably played a little heavy and yeah, I still played at a high level, but I can tell there are certain things I wasn’t doing. I just want to get back to that.”

In his first three seasons as Washington’s leading wide receiver, Moss averaged 15.1 yards a reception. In the four years since, he has averaged 12.7. From 2008 to 2010, Moss averaged 5.4 yards after the catch, but last season saw his numbers decrease to 4.1 in that category.

Entering the second season of a three-year, $15 million contract that he signed last July, Moss wants to ensure that he continues making an impact for the Redskins.

“When it comes down to you being who you are, those are decisions you have to make as a player, as an athlete, as a pro. ‘What do you want to get out of this?’” Moss said. “I’ve just seen myself, watched myself, critiqued myself for the last three or four years, and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do a little extra to do what I need to do.’”

The Redskins signed receivers Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan in free agency during the offseason, and coaches are high on second-year wideout Leonard Hankerson. Earlier this month, coach Mike Shanahan named that trio as his potential starters at receiver. That would make Moss a backup for the first time since his second season in the league in 2002.

Moss said he views this year as no different than previous years, however.

“Not really. Every year’s a threat to me,” said Moss, who turns 33 on June 1. “I just go out there and do what I know I can control. I don’t play worried about something. I just handle what I can, handle what there is to handle, and as long as I handle my business, that’s all I can do.”

Regardless of whether his playing time decreases or not, Moss believes that the addition of Garçon and Morgan, and the emergence of Hankerson, will only help the Redskins.

“It’s just talent. This league is filled with it,” Moss said. “At this position, you’re going to get guys coming in year after year from college, from other teams, and when you have guys that played on the level those two guys played on, teams are going to want them. All that can do for you is motivate you to be on that same level.”

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Olivier Vernon has lots of promise

DE Olivier Vernon (Univ. of Miami), the fourth-round pick, only had nine sacks in three years in college. Some question the pick, but coach Joe Philbin said he could be a hidden gem. “We liked his physical toughness coming out, we liked his energy, we liked his motor that he played with.”

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Sean Spence finding his way

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Sean Spence walked toward his locker during his first day as a Pittsburgh Steeler last month, saw the number hanging from the hook and couldn't quite believe it.

Did the Steelers really give him No. 51, the same number worn by longtime defensive captain James Farrior?


"I didn't have a choice,'' Spence said.

Don't get him wrong. The rookie inside linebacker out of Miami (Fla.) is hardly complaining.

It's just he knows what No. 51 meant to the franchise over the last decade. All Farrior did in his 10 years with the Steelers was make a couple of Pro Bowls, help the franchise to a pair of Super Bowl victories while leading a unit annually among the best in the league.

No pressure or anything kid.

Spence is only too aware of Farrior's legacy and happily embraces it, though he also thinks trying to draw some kind of meaning out of being assigned Farrior's number is a stretch.

"I'm happy to have it but I think if they would have drafted another linebacker they would have got the same number,'' Spence said. "Luckily they drafted me.''

Besides, the number is the only thing Spence and Farrior have in common at the moment.

First off, there's the hair.

Farrior, released by the team as part of a salary cap purge in the offseason, regularly shaved his head. Spence's helmet sits atop bushy dreadlocks.

Then, there's the body. At 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Spence is three inches and 15 pounds lighter than Farrior.

"Hey, I've never been the biggest guy in the room,'' Spence said with a shrug. "I never let that bother me and I'm not going to let it happen now.''
Lastly, there's the resume. Spence doesn't even turn 22 until next month and while he was an All-ACC selection during his senior season with the Hurricanes, he knows that hardly compares to the remarkable 15-year run put together by Farrior.

It's why Spence saves the comparisons for others. Besides, he's got time. Spence will spend this season learning behind veterans Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote while making contributions on special teams.

He doesn't view himself as an heir apparent. At this point he's just trying to absorb defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's complex 3-4 defense while trying to absorb all he can in meetings.

Asked if he speaks up when he's got a question, and Spence just laughs.

"I don't,'' he said with a shake of his head. "I'm just listening right now. Just listening to those guys and laughing at them.''

While doing whatever he can during organized team activities to prove the Steelers made the right call when they took him with the 86th overall selection in the draft. Spence is small for a linebacker and downright tiny by Pittsburgh standards.

That's fine by Spence, who models his play after former Hurricanes star and current New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Like Vilma, Spence is a little undersized. Like Vilma, Spence hopes it doesn't matter.

"I know my speed is what helps me the most when I'm out there,'' Spence said. "If you get yourself in the right position, it doesn't matter how big you are. You've just got to make the play.''

Spence is already turning heads. Foote took notice when he saw Spence wearing Farrior's old number but made a point to praise the way Spence has approached the job.

Foote knows it's difficult to replace a franchise fixture. It happens all the time in Pittsburgh and yet the Steelers continue to roll. Foote knows the Steelers don't draft linebackers without thinking they can thrive. This is the same team that selected LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons in back-to-back years and helped turn James Harrison from a practice squad player into a perennial All-Pro.

"A couple big shoes have been left yeah,'' Foote said. "But I remember when Kimo (von Oelhoffen) left, when Joey Porter left, guys like that and you've got to give credit upstairs.''

Linebackers coach Keith Butler believes Spence's instincts should allow him to pick things up quickly. Maybe, but Spence isn't taking any chances. He has spent his first full week in Pittsburgh shuttling between the team's facility and his hotel room.

Besides, there's a big difference between the Southside and South Beach.

"It's not (Miami),'' Spence said.

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Jonathan Vilma voted 58th-best NFL player by peers

Jonathan Vilma has endured his share of criticism and scrutiny in recent months for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal, but he's still commanding respect from his NFL peers.

In Wednesday night's installment of NFL Network's The Top 100 Players of 2012, a 10-part series determined by the votes of active players, Vilma was voted the 58th-best player in the league. It represented a bit of a fall -- he was No. 37 a year ago -- but Vilma also missed five games last season while battling a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.

Now facing a season-long suspension, Vilma is a good bet to drop out of the Top 100 entirely in 2013.

The list also unveiled two more rookies -- Arizona Cardinals CB/PR Patrick Peterson and Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller -- who join already revealed Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green. One more rook has yet to be announced, though it will almost surely be 2011 offensive rookie of the year Cam Newton.

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Calais Campbell won't rest on his laurels now that he has cashed in

Bumping his head while walking through the doorway. Trying to get comfortable in a coach seat on an airplane. Crouching lower, (lower, lower) to get his face in the picture frame.

Oh, the thrall of being tall. Calais Campbell, the Cardinals' nouveau riche defensive end, has experienced it ever since he was 15 and his growth spurt finally maxed out at 80 inches.

"I've learned the hard way to duck," said Campbell, who has painful memories about the times he has forgotten to drop his noggin. "I enjoyed being big (growing up). I wasn't very good at hide-and-seek, but beside that I liked being big."

The 6-foot-8 Campbell certainly can't conceal himself on a football field -- not just because he's a human skyscraper, but because of all that he does. Campbell had a career season in 2011, his fourth in the NFL, when he led the Cardinals with eight sacks, had 73 tackles, broke up 10 passes, intercepted one, and forced two fumbles.

We should also mention that Campbell blocked three field goal attempts (giving him five for his career), including his stuff of a game-winning attempt by Rams kicker Josh Brown on the final snap of regulation in Week 9. The Cardinals won moments later in overtime when rookie Patrick Peterson returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown.

The Cardinals know that Campbell is one of their core players, and they acknowledged it on March 2 by putting a franchise tag on him. That status lasted until earlier this month, when Campbell signed a new, five-year contract that is estimated to be worth $55 million, including a $31 million guarantee. The yearly average of $11 million reportedly puts Campbell No. 3 on the Cardinals player payroll behind wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million) and quarterback Kevin Kolb ($12.4 million).

Removing the franchise tag lifted a big weight from Campbell's lofty shoulders.

"That was huge," he said. "Having the uncertainty about my future and just everybody asking questions ... really does take away from the game. Now that that's behind me, I can just relax and focus on football."

Don't misinterpret that comment. If you think that Campbell believes he is now living on Easy St. and can shift into cruise control for the rest of his career, you're mistaken. He has played only four NFL seasons. In September he will turn 26. This big cat is just starting to scratch the surface in terms of his potential.

"I've got a lot more in the tank," Campbell said. "I don't feel like I've really played as well as I can play. I feel like I can be a better player in the years to come.

"I want to get better in all aspects of my game, as far as being consistent and making big plays. I really want to concentrate on creating turnovers. I think that's one of the biggest things you can do to give your team a chance to win -- cause turnovers. So that's what I really want to do. Recover fumbles, force fumbles, intercept passes myself or tip balls, giving linebackers and DBs a chance to intercept them."

Campbell plays in a 3-4 defense, where even a 6-8 end sometimes gets obscured. Often, his role is to tie up a blocker, sometimes two, so one of his teammates can get to the hole and make the tackle. The dirty work frequently goes unnoticed by the average fan, but not by Campbell's teammates and coaches.

"He does a number of different things really well," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "A lot of guys play with effort, and he does that, but his finish and his unselfishness are outstanding. If he's asked to go inside and eat up two guys on a stunt, he does that. He does it just so the other guy can come around from the inside, looping on a stunt, to get free on the outside. The unselfish effort that he puts in is what being part of a great defense is all about."

Campbell's unselfishness likely was an acquired virtue. Growing up in Denver, he was one of eight children (two girls, six boys) raised by Charles and Nateal Campbell. Having five brothers who were close in age, Calais never lacked for companions or competitors in sports. Like each of his brothers, Calais played football -- first at South High School, where he rang up a state-record 58 sacks in his career, and then at the University of Miami, where he was a two-time, All-ACC selection before the Cardinals drafted him in the second round in 2008 after his junior season.

Some of Campbell's athletic talent may have been inherited. Charles Campbell stood 6-3 and was a pole vaulter at the University of Colorado. Nateal Campbell claims to be an accomplished basketball player in her day. "She always tells me I got my athleticism from her," Campbell said, "but I think it came from both sides."

Speaking of both sides, it was at Miami where Campbell realized that being able to rush the passer wasn't enough. To be a complete end, he also needed to stop the run.

"My coach (defensive line coach Randy Shannon, who eventually became Miami's head coach) was nervous to put me in the game when I was a redshirt freshman because he wasn't sure I could play against the run," Campbell recalled. "Ever since then, I've made a commitment to be good against the run in order to be on the field. I worked extra hard at being a run stopper. I take pride in being a run stopper now."

Said Whisenhunt: "One of the things you like -- I like -- about him is not only is he strong at the point of attack, he's (also) good at getting off blocks, which 3-4 ends have to be. He's very good on the back side as far as pursuing plays and finishing plays. One of the things that jumps out at me is the number of tackles he's involved in as an athletic 3-4 end that can hold the point."

Campbell had to be mentally strong during a childhood that wasn't always easy. "We didn't grow up with a lot of money but we always had a lot of fun," he said. At one point when Calais was in sixth grade, the family had to spend six months living in a homeless shelter until Charles could recover financially.

"It was a tough situation to be in," Campbell said, "but we always had that sense of as long as we were together, we'd be OK. My dad would figure it out. So we just had to hold tight."

Overall, Campbell called his experience growing up "awesome," one that convinced him to "want to have a lot of kids one day."

"It was a family atmosphere," he said. "My dad was big on us eating together. We always prayed together before we sat down as a family and ate every meal."

The Campbells eventually moved into a five-bedroom house, but tragedy struck two days before Thanksgiving in Calais' senior year of high school when Charles, in need of a new liver, died before he could get a transplant. Charles once started a youth center for kids to come to after school, and his spirit lives on in Calais, who in 2010 established the "CRC Foundation" in his father's name. The foundation's purpose is to help youth develop by teaching them vocational and financial skills, quality health and nutrition, and sports. The goal is to have a facility built in the Phoenix area within a couple of years.

"As we get more advanced, there will be a lot more things that we can help them with," Campbell said. "It's still a work in progress."

In a sense, Campbell's NFL career still is a work in progress. He may be financially comfortable now, but he has a lot left to accomplish with the Cardinals.

Still, in those quiet, private moments away from the chaos and contact on the football field, when he allows himself to indulge in self-reflection, Campbell marvels at how far he has come.

"When you think about all I've been through, my family, and what we've accomplished, it's amazing," he said. "My father would be very proud of me right now. All I've been through really is the reason I'm in the situation where I'm at right now. Sitting back at this moment and knowing that I've accomplished so much is a dream come true."

Calais Campbell: a big man with big dreams who has come up big. Now that's a tall tale.

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Leave Devin Hester alone

It’s a theme that has been put out by the Bears on too many occasions in the past several years.

Devin Hester is going to be a top wide receiver.

Devin Hester is a unique talent.

Devin Hester is having one of the best camps of any Bear.

All of that meant precisely zero in the past, means precisely that now, and it might be the worst thing for Hester.

Maybe it’s time he was just left alone to be ... Devin Hester, whatever that is going to be.

Jay Cutler started it on Wednesday:

“Devin Hester I think is probably having the best camp of all the receivers.”

The camp is two days old. Cutler is certainly eminently qualified to assess performances. But hyping Hester after two days?

It got worse with Brandon Marshall, who one-upped Cutler by stating that Hester will have the best season of any Bears receiver (assuming that only one receiver from a team is likely to earn All-Pro honors):

“I honestly think he’s going to have an All-Pro year this year at wide receiver.”

If Hester does make All-Pro, it will be with a lot of passes that Marshall probably thought would be coming his direction.

There is nothing remotely wrong with pumping or pubbing up a teammate, believing in him and saying so.

But Hester has gotten so built up at various times -- Mike Martz had exotic plans for him; now Mike Tice and the Bears have a “Hester package” planned -- when the guy simply has a nice season, he’s a disappointment.

Maybe the best thing for Hester, a sensitive young man who knows what people say about him, good and bad, would be to just be allowed to be Hester. No “best of camp” honoree. No All-Pro-in-waiting.

Just ... Hester.

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Jon Beason says Panthers are protecting him from himself at OTAs

Carolina linebacker Jon Beason is most of the way back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Week One of last season, but he’s not all the way back. And because of that, the Panthers are forcing him to take it easy at Organized Team Activities.

Beason says he showed up to OTAs expecting to do everything, but the medical staff has restricted what he can do.

“I think they’re just protecting me from myself,” Beason told the Charlotte Observer. “Practice is practice. But to me you come out and compete. You try to win every down and you play the game a certain way. I think that had a lot to do with it, too.”

Ideally, the Panthers would like to have Thomas Davis starting at strong side linebacker, Beason in the middle and first-round rookie Luke Kuechly starting on the weak side. But Beason isn’t all the way back just yet, and Davis still has a ways to go in recovery from his third ACL injury. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Beason is further along than Davis.

“I’d like to believe when we get to training camp, we can put Jon in full-go at that point, and Thomas, we’ll ease him back in,” Rivera said.

Easing injured players back in is the wise course of action, even if it’s not always what the players themselves want.

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Why dealing for Kellen Winslow makes sense for Seahawks

RENTON — Two years ago, when John Schneider and Pete Carroll were beginning the task of rebuilding what Tim Ruskell had torn down, they couldn't have afforded a risk like Kellen Winslow.

The Seahawks needed to get younger. They weren't in a position to gamble on a tight end like Winslow, whose practice time is limited because of the wear and tear on his knees. They needed guys who were all-in, all day, every day.

Two years ago, their focus was broader. They didn't have room on the roster for specialists.

But it is a sign of the maturity of the 2012 Seahawks that they can go after specific needs. They can make a trade, as they did this week with Tampa Bay for a player like Winslow, whose skills perfectly fit the Seahawks' offense.

"This falls under the category of a team need," general manager Schneider said as the sun finally broke through the clouds Thursday. "He's a guy that brings that energy and passion that fits our group and our locker room right now.

"Kellen is so passionate about the game. He really is all ball. And those are the kind of guys you feel like it's worth bringing into your program. He's the type of guy who wants to be great."

This was a trade worth making. It is the kind of trade that a team that thinks it can win a division this season makes. Winslow, 6 feet 4, 240 pounds, is another necessary puzzle piece.

"He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body," coach Carroll said.

Winslow can be the field-stretching receiver the Seahawks needed but didn't get in the April draft. He can be a big-play guy. He can be dangerous in the red zone. With a salary this season of $3.3 million, he is cap friendly. And the Hawks surrendered only a conditional seventh-round choice.

"I'm a little surprised," Winslow, 28, said of the trade. "But whenever a new regime comes in it's a little tough because everybody has a clean slate. I just wasn't part of their (Bucs') vision and I'm here and I'm happy. It's good to have a job."

The Seahawks want to make their tight ends more a part of their passing game. Last year, because of injuries to the offensive line, they were forced to use tight end Zach Miller more as a blocker.

Now they envision a versatile Winslow, who can line up in many different places, teaming with Miller like the New England tight-end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

"We kind of fit that mold," Winslow said. "You want to create mismatches, so I'm kind of a knight in the chess game. You can move me around and control the middle of the field."

Winslow is coming off a 75-catch season for the Bucs, but new coach Greg Schiano installed a new offense that didn't fit Winslow. They signed former Colts tight end Dallas Clark.

"Kellen is a unique football player," Carroll said. "He's got special talents. He's got a tremendous record of consistency to his play. We added a guy we know can make things happen. We like guys with special dimensions, and he's got them. He's a real route runner and a great, great catcher. He loves to play the game, and we can't have enough of that around here."

Since his motorcycle accident, when he suffered a torn right ACL and lost the entire 2005 season, Winslow has had to be cautious with his knee.

Still, Winslow has played in all 16 games in five of his past six NFL seasons and has averaged 78 catches in those five seasons.

The team will closely monitor Winslow's practice time, but Carroll said the tight end needs to practice to gain familiarity with quarterbacks Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson.

When Schneider worked in Green Bay, the Packers had a similar situation with Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson.

"You have to, at some point, recognize where they are in their careers and be able to take care of them and get them ready for the games," Schneider said.

"So they're getting the mental reps and then they're also getting the reps that are specific to their skill set. We're going to sit down and come up with a great plan. It's not like he's not going to practice. It's how to handle it appropriately."

Winslow brings some baggage. Recently he and his wife were accused of doing $133,000 worth of damage to their apartment.

But Schneider, who is friendly with Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, talked frankly with Dominik about Winslow and said they were able to make the deal in a matter of days.

Winslow's history says it should work in Seattle.

Even he admitted that the trade felt like a breath of fresh air — literally.

"I can breathe out here," Winslow said. "My allergies were kicking up in Tampa."

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Rocky McIntosh Visits Jets

Washington Redskins free agent linebacker Rocky McIntosh visited the New York Jets, according to a league source.

He previously worked out for the Minnesota Vikings and visited the Miami Dolphins.

McIntosh is a 6-foot-2, 242-pound former University of Miami played drafted in the second round by the Redskins six years ago.

McIntosh, 29, recorded 110 tackles two seasons ago and has eight career sacks.

Last season, McIntosh lost his starting job to Perry Riley late in the season. He registered 65 tackles and one sack.

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Steelers' Harrison Praises Jon Vilma Lawsuit

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison says that regardless of the outcome, all NFL players stand to benefit from Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell.

"It is really a win-win. Whether he wins the case or if he loses it," Harrison told a group of reporters at a team-organized event. "If he loses it, it shows that Goodell does have too much power and if he wins it, it opens up the floodgates."

Vilma's suit claims Goodell made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hurt his chances to make a living playing football. Vilma received a one-year suspension as a result of the Saints' bounty program, which the NFL alleges it ran from 2009-11.

Harrison has often criticized Goodell and has been fined more than $100,000 for hits that were determined to be illegal. Last season, he became the first player to be suspended under stricter guidelines for player safety after a hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.

Harrison questioned the severity of penalties given to Vilma and coach Sean Payton versus that handed to the franchise.

"He only gave the team a half-million-dollar fine and two second-round draft picks, and that's a billion-dollar organization," Harrison said. "But yet you take a whole year's pay away from the guy that is below him and you take a whole year's pay away from the head coach. But the actual team themselves, you slap them on the wrist."

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John Harbaugh confident Ed Reed will play

Ravens safety Ed Reed has been sending mixed signals about whether he’s going to play this year, but head coach John Harbaugh isn’t worried.

Harbaugh told reporters today that he’s not worried about Reed sitting out voluntary Organized Team Activities, and Harbaugh is confident that Reed will be there when the time for mandatory work comes.

“Ed is a guy that I really trust and really care about. I believe in him. There’s been no indication that he’s not going to play this year as far as I’m concerned,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t worry about Ed. Ed is a mature guy. He’s a superstar. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and he’ll be here. We’re counting on Ed being here.”

Harbaugh said he thinks that when Reed said he isn’t completely committed to playing, he was talking more about how he feels right now, during the offseason, than about how he views the regular season.

“I think he’s talking about the offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a lot of things going on, that’s what he said. He’s working on personal things. I guarantee you he’s training, I guarantee you that he’s getting ready for the season. That’s just Ed.”

And Harbaugh is confident that he’ll have Ed on the field when the season starts.

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Jason Fox is a fan-friendly guy, but terrible at H-O-R-S-E

Jason Fox got incredibly lucky Wednesday.

It was the type of luck that’s almost unheard of, honestly. The Detroit Lions offensive tackle may be a great football player, but he narrowly — and I mean narrowly — escaped defeat in a game of H-O-R-S-E prior to a Lions charity basketball game at Flint Southwestern Academy in Flint.

Prior to the event, Fox, a third-year player of out Miami (Fla.), challenged yours truly to the classic playground game. I agreed, thinking, ‘Hey, it’s pretty cool he wants me to play.’ Although I’m more of a baseball player, and much, much less a basketball player, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

And actually, let me take back that “narrowly” part. Because Fox, a towering 6-foot-7 compared to my modest 5-8, came pretty close to mopping the floor with me. If it weren’t for a lucky behind-the-back layup that he said I “obviously traveled on,” or a couple lucky, comfortable shots from the elbow, I would have been in a world of trouble.

I forgot the shot he won on, some long distance bull, but I ended up with H-O-R-S-E, while he was stuck on H-O-R — despite me knocking down some nice shots from the perimeter. He’s a good sport, though. I can see him being a player that fans will like — no ego, and a very honest, genuine and accessible type of personality.

Part of the Lions/F.O.P charity game’s fun is the fan participation. Players will pick youngsters from the crowd, give them their jersey along with a high-five, take a seat on the bench and watch the little ones go to work. The Lions even help the children with their shots.

Fox, who loves the kids, assisted the youngsters in making free throws, holding them up closer to the rim so they could get an advantage. He signed autographs for all the fans, and even took photos with anyone who asked. He isn’t a bad guy.

Well, actually, he is, kind of.

A young girl was elated after being picked to run the floor with the Lions (Cory Schlesinger, Rob Rubick, Nate Hughes, Kevin Smith and Herman Moore). Who wouldn’t be at that age? She tried her best to get near the basket, weaving through a forest of world-class athletes. She stopped, picked up her dribble, living in the moment that was to be great, and shot. It was on its way, easily a nothing-but-net make… until Fox came charging toward her, slapping the ball down with a vengeance.

It was funny, because as soon as he did that, I looked at him, making a writing motion with my hand, and let him know it didn’t go unnoticed. It was all fun and games. No one was hurt. The girl got another chance to score.

Fox was one of the Lions’ stars in their duel with the Flint F.O.P All-Stars on Wednesday. I told him I’d pad his stat line and maybe even compare him to Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. He asked, instead, to be compared to Dallas Mavericks standout Dirk Nowitzki. OK. But let’s be real here, Fox. Nowitzki makes his 3-pointers. I’m kidding, big guy. The game ended in a 69-69 tie, with Fox netting a double-double on the night — maybe. I told him I’d say it was a double-double. It may have been more like 11 points, six rebounds and four assists — but who keeps track of stats at a charity game?

Fox, who played basketball in high school (obviously a post guy), actually had a decent stroke for a football player. I encouraged him to dunk like Cliff Avril did last year during the same game. But he didn’t want to. Smith did, though. It wasn’t bad, but I still give the edge to Avril, who hammered down a one-hander like he was in the NBA. Smith’s dunk was off the backboard, a two-handed flush that was pretty nice.

It was great seeing the Lions in Flint. Being from the area, it’s always a treat when pros come out and entertain local residents. Wednesday was my second year attending the event. Last year, because I was at The Flint Journal, I didn’t really get involved or talk much to the players about anything other than football. I was more interested in meeting my deadline.

But Wednesday, since I freelance and have no real deadlines, I saw nothing wrong with mixing a little business with pleasure. It was a charity game, everyone, including myself, was there for a good time.

Fox and I talked about important Lions-related topics, which I’ll write an article about, of course. Here’s a little sneak peak: Fox thinks the Lions will be good. And when I get my rematch, I’ll write about that, too

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Damien Berry Battling For Reserve RB Role

With Ray Rice sitting out camp, the candidates for the No. 2 running back spot all had a chance to run with the first team. Anthony Allen, the team’s seventh-round pick in 2011, seemed to get more reps with the starters than Damien Berry and rookie Bernard Pierce.

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Bryant McKinnie discovering the benefits of OTAs

Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, whose weight and conditioning were scrutinized during his first season in Baltimore, attended this week’s organized team activities and has been a regular participant in the team’s offseason program for most of the past few weeks.

“He’s been working really hard,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s been out here most of the time and conditioning has been a fair amount of a priority. He’s done a good job. We’ll just have to see how he does.”

McKinnie, who is listed at 360 pounds, doesn’t appear to have packed on additional pounds since last season. The voluntary workouts have helped and McKinnie, who rotated with Michael Oher and Jah Reid at tackle on Wednesday, is using the workouts to refine his technique, too.

“Just being here for the workouts and the running and the lifting, and getting a little extra film study in, allows me to be a little more comfortable and know the offense a lot better,” McKinnie said. “I’m here for the OTAs just so I can get a chance to get my technique down. Last year we didn’t have any and I didn’t have a chance to really go through training camp, so this is my chance to get my technique back.”

The Ravens signed him during training camp last season after the Minnesota Vikings released him -- reportedly because he weighed nearly 400 pounds. He started every game at left tackle for the Ravens in 2011. The Ravens picked up a $500,000 roster bonus on McKinnie in March, but team officials wanted him to be in better shape than he was a year ago. He looks to be heading in the right direction.

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How Kevin Everett Recovered

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Darius Rice Seals The Victory

REIGNING champions Manama last night defeated fierce rivals Muharraq by 110-109 to send the Bahrain Basketball Cup Final to a third and deciding game.

Played out in an electric atmosphere in front of a partisan crowd of several hundred at the Zain Bahrain Basketball Arena in Umm Al Hassam, the two powerhouses went almost score-for-score for the duration of what was simply an epic battle but it was Manama who gained revenge for their defeat in the opening game on Sunday.

That win, by a margin of 76-71, meant Muharraq went into last night's match looking to seal the title but Manama were never going to give up on their crown without a monumental fight and they duly set their stall out from the opening exchanges.

After Mohammed Hassan opened the scoring with a well-taken three-pointer, Manama held the lead for much of the first period but Muharraq gradually clawed their way back into the equation.

Locked at 22-22 approaching the hooter, the final second of play in that opening 10-minute spell remarkably produced a further three points for both sides.

Play continued in much the same vein in the second quarter, with the class and sheer intensity on show only further reflecting the gap that exists between these two sides and the rest of the league.

Manama again opened up a valuable lead , that at one stage stretched out to 10 points, during that period but as in the first, Muharraq did enough to keep in touch and by the half-time break trailed by only 48-49.

Unlike in some of the more recent meetings between the two sides, in which Muharraq's discipline at times let them down, last night they looked a lot calmer and in control and that went a long way to ensuring they held a 79-78 lead heading into the final quarter.

Respective coaches Charlie Parker (Muharraq) and Ricardo Daniel (Manama) could only look on as the match pushed towards an energy-sapping conclusion.

That the match maintained its shape, pace and discipline is a credit to both sides and this was a result that was always going to be a heart-breaker for the team on the wrong end of the scoreline.

In the end it was a free-throw from Darius Rice that moved Manama into a three-point lead with only one second left on the clock and, despite a couple of points from the free-throw line from Ahmed Hassan and then a last-ditch long-range effort from Bader Abdulla that came agonisingly close, Manama held on for victory.

The free-flowing game saw top scores of 33 points for Muharraq's CJ Giles and 28 for Manama's Hassan Nourooz and means the two teams will return to the same venue to battle it out all over again on Sunday evening.

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Chris Perez becomes fan favorite after blasting fans

CLEVELAND: The fans are in love with Chris Perez. All he has to do is trot in from the bullpen in the ninth inning, and the crowd at Progressive Field goes wild.

The next time he blows a save — if he ever does — maybe things will be different. But ever since he ratted out the fans for not showing up in sufficient numbers, Perez has been the chosen one — by the fans he scolded. Go figure.

He delivered his 16th save of the season Thursday, giving up a hit but otherwise handling the Detroit Tigers with aplomb, as the Indians eked out a 2-1 win.

Ever since his first rant on Saturday, Perez has been getting standing ovations for merely showing his face.

“If I had blown that save [on Saturday], I still would be going out and doing my job the next day,” he said. “But I don’t think I’d have gotten the same recognition.

“Who doesn’t want to get cheered? That’s why we play. We want to interact with the fans. We’re like actors in a Broadway play. They get energy from the crowd.”

When Perez walked to the players parking lot after Saturday’s game, 20 fans were waiting for him outside the gate. That’s when he decided to give something back. He is awarding six tickets per game to fans who answer a trivia question on his Twitter account.

Thursday’s question: Who was the opposing manager when Perez earned his first save for the Tribe? The answer: Joe Torre of the New York Yankees.

Perez can’t understand why ESPN and other national media outlets haven’t paid much attention to the Indians, who have been in first place most of the season.

“They [ESPN] do their thing; they cover the Yankees and the Red Sox, and they tell people how bad the Angels are,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of star power. We just have a good team.”

Perez insists there was no more to his rant about the fans than a desire to express his feelings, but there have been some unintended consequences.

“I had no ulterior motive,” he said. “I just wanted to get something off my chest. Could it be a unifying factor for the team? That could be. I think we have some swagger now.”

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Chris Perez puts exclamation point on amazing week

CLEVELAND, Ohio — When Chris Perez stood on the mound in the ninth inning, he felt it.

The Tribe closer knew he was three outs away from something special, three outs away from his team sweeping three games from the Detroit Tigers.

"I thought about how we were so close to beating Verlander," said Perez after he saved the Tribe's 2-1 victory over Detroit.

Verlander is Justin Verlander, both the American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner last year. Verlander is a guy who entered the day 9-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Tribe.

In the eighth inning, Verlander was throwing pitches that went from 98 to 102 mph – and those were pitches 110 and above for the game – yet Perez was in position to wrap up this game in Wahoo red, white and blue with three more outs.

Perez also thought about how Justin Masterson had held the Tigers to one run in seven innings. And how Shin-Soo Choo said hello to Verlander's third pitch of the game with an outrageous 457-foot homer into the second deck in right field.

"I'm a guy with one pitch," said Masterson. "He [Verlander] has four Hall of Fame pitches."

Perez so wanted this game for Masterson, who matched Verlander pitch-for-pitch, if not mile-for-mile on the radar gun.

Perez also thought about Michael Brantley slapping a single, stealing second base. He scored on a superb single to right field by Jose Lopez, who found a way not to be overpowered by Verlander.

There also was Lopez bobbling a grounder at third base, yet recovering in time to throw out a Tiger runner at home plate. There was a superb 6-4-3 double play pulled off by the Tribe, and there was Vinnie Pestano pitching a scoreless eighth inning for the third time in three days.

"I was sitting in the bullpen, just watching us playing a great game," said Perez.

And he didn't want to blow it.

Not on this day, against this team and in front of this crowd of 23,622 – which was standing and stomping and screaming and clapping as Perez entered the game in the top of the ninth.

"You can feel something special happening here," said Perez. "These fans have been great to me. I'll never forget this week."

It was last weekend when Perez ripped the fans for a lack of support and a general negative attitude. He feared a severe backlash, but discovered more support than slams from fans. At the ballpark, he was greeted with standing ovations in all three games against Detroit.

With the ball in his hands and the game on his broad shoulders, he didn't want to let anyone down. Not teammates, not the fans, not himself. He knew the impact of his two days of comments about the Tribe having baseball's lowest attendance, and that some critics would be hoping he'd fail.

"There was some extra pressure," he admitted. "But I also think what happened brought extra energy. I knew I had to do my job in these games."

And he did it, 1-2-3.

Not 1-2-3 innings, but 1-2-3 saves in three games against the defending Central champions.

Suddenly, the Indians are 15-9 in May, and were 6-2 on this homestand. They lead the Tigers by six games and are 26-18.

They are playing beautiful baseball – what Manny Acta and others call "Wahoo Baseball." They don't make errors, they are 10-2 in one-run games. They get solid starting pitching and reliable relief work. Perez and Pestano have been so dominating in the eighth and ninth innings, that the Tribe is 20-1 when it has a lead after seven.

"It's building here," said Perez. "ESPN can talk about the Yankees and Red Sox, we'll do our thing."

And they are doing it very, very well.

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PHOTO: Tommy Streeter At Ravens OTA


Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tommy Streeter runs a drill during NFL football practice in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

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PHOTO: Willis McGahee At Broncos OTA


Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, right, hands the ball of to Broncos running back Willis McGahee (23) during minicamp at the NFL team's football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Monday, May 21, 2012.

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JoJo Nicolas Impressing Giants' Coaches

Secondary coach Peter GiuntaGiunta and safeties coach David Merritt liked what they saw from undrafted free agent S Jojo Nicolas on one play when he stayed on top of a deep pass from QB David Carr to WR David Douglas that fell incomplete, thanks in part to Nicolas’ coverage. On the next play, Nicolas came from down low in the box to cover the deep half of the field, as the Giants are wont to do with their safeties. Nicolas, who signed with the Giants in part because of fellow former Miami Hurricanes Phillips and Antrel Rolle, will have to fend off Will Hill and Janzen Jackson for a roster spot. That figures to be a very interesting competition.

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Damien Berry In Heated RB Battle, Looking Good

With RB Ray Rice not participating in OTAs, backup RBs Damien Berry, Anthony Allen and Bernard Pierce rotated with the first team Wednesday. The trio will compete for the backup and ran well when given opportunities, although Berry looked swift and agile.

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Devin Hester having 'best camp' of all receivers

Quarterback Jay Cutler was all smiles after the Chicago Bears’ organized team activity session Wednesday at Halas Hall.

“We’re knocking off the rust a little bit. We got better from yesterday,” Cutler said.

With the addition of big receivers Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery, Cutler loves his options. But he has not forgotten veteran receiver Devin Hester.

“It changes things, where you can throw the ball, when you can throw the ball,” he said. “Those guys are getting better and better each day. Devin Hester is having the best camp of all the receivers. So we have a lot of weapons.

Under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, the Bears figure to have a different look this season.

“We’re doing a little bit different stuff, carrying over some stuff from last year,” Cutler said without being specific. “It’s kind of a mix between last year. Trying to put our heads together and find the best answer.”

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Kellen Winslow sued for $133,000 after allegedly trashing house

Kellen Winslow II is making news in nearly every corner of the country this week.

The new Seattle Seahawks tight end is being sued for $133,000 after being accused of trashing a luxurious San Diego-area house he and his wife had rented for $9,000 per month.

"Every corner of the home was damaged," according to the claim, which was obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The house was adorned with Persian rugs that were allegedly "stained with dog urine and also littered with dog feces. ... The house was overpowered with a putrid stench of animal waste."

Winslow's camp is denying the story.

"It's a shakedown of a professional athlete," said his attorney, Brian Watkins, who also offered explanations for holes drilled in the walls (to hang TVs), unpaid utilities (an honest mix-up) and the dog waste (an accident that Watkins says was cleaned).

The Winslows lived in the home during the first six months of 2011.

"They want to portray it as though Kellen Winslow had a fraternity of football friends partying," Watkins said. "But the house was rented for his wife, who was pregnant. She was living there with her mother and a housekeeper. There was no partying going on. Kellen was rarely even there. "

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Winslow to the Seahawks on Monday. Winslow suggested that new Bucs coach Greg Schiano was upset he wasn't training with his former team in Tampa this offseason.

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Kubiak: Darryl Sharpton likely out until training camp

Third-year inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton has not practiced through two days of organized team activities (OTAs), and it sounds like he won’t practice until training camp.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak compared Sharpton’s health situation to that of quarterback Matt Schaub, who is expected to return from a Lisfranc injury in camp. Sharpton tore his quadriceps tendon last season in Week 8 against Jacksonville and has been limited to rehab work so far in OTAs.

“He’s doing really well,” Kubiak said on Tuesday. “I would put him in Matt’s category. There’s a lot of things he could be doing right now, individual-wise and stuff, but (if a) guy can’t pass a physical right now, we’re not going to put him on the football field. But he is heading in the right direction; should be ready for camp. I hate to see him miss it, but we’re going to be smart with him.”

A fourth-round draft pick out of Miami (Fla.) in 2010, Sharpton could compete with Bradie James and Tim Dobbins for a starting inside linebacker role this season. Before getting injured last year, he played well while sharing snaps with DeMeco Ryans, who was traded to the Eagles in March.
Sharpton, 24, started six games as a rookie and has 30 tackles, one sack and 16 special teams tackles in two NFL seasons.

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Mistrial means DJ Williams could miss some of Broncos camp

A mistrial in the DUI case against Broncos LB D.J. Williams means the veteran defender could miss training camp because of the new trial date.

Williams, who is facing a suspension for his violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy, will begin his DUI trial on Aug. 15. The Broncos are set to open camp in late July.

Harvey Steinberg, Williams' lawyer, asked for the mistrial before opening arguments began Monday. He says he was told prior to jury selection he would be able to excuse three jurors but ended up being allowed to excuse only two.

Williams was arrested in November 2010 after police found him driving at night without headlights on. Because it was his second arrest since entering the league, he was subject to suspension from the NFL.

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Ed Reed Translated

Ravens safety Ed Reed stirred up a kerfuffle last week when he told a radio interviewer he wasn’t sure he was 100 percent committed to playing in 2012.

That was immediately interpreted as a hint that he might retire, but Reed quickly quashed that possibility in other interviews, saying he wanted to play several more years.

What’s the bottom line?

There’s no doubt Reed will play this year. Regardless of what he says from time to time, he is due to make $7.2 million in 2012 in the last year of the six-year, $44 million deal he signed in 2006. He not only wants that cash, but also wants a new contract that honors his status as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. He won’t get that by walking off into the sunset.

With that in mind, some wonder why he continually sounds hesitant about his future, having mentioned the r-word (retirement) as far back as 2009.

Allow me to interpret.

He’s a smart, introspective guy with a stream-of-consciousness speech pattern, and his innermost thoughts tend to slip out before he can stop himself. That can get him in trouble, as it did when he criticized his teammate Joe Flacco before the AFC title game in January. The Ravens were furious, but that was “Ed being Ed,” honest to a fault.

He turns 34 in September. He deals daily with chronic hip and neck injuries resulting from his long career. I’m sure he hurts in other places, too. For Reed, the NFL season is an especially withering physical and mental crucible, a grueling and painful test of stamina.

When he told that interviewer he wasn’t 100 percent committed last week, I’m sure he was envisioning the long test ahead, yet another go-round, and he was thinking how “not fun” that sounded. That tends to happen in the spring and summer, when there are no games to stir his juices. Preparation and competition make him tick, and there’s none of that now.

As the season draws nearer and comes into focus, Reed will get himself ready to play. He always does.

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Blake Tekotte gets first hit of '12

Blake Tekotte got his first hit of the season last night in the San Diego Padres' 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

On Saturday, Tekotte, an outfielder, was called up from Triple-A to the major leagues for the second time this season. He went 0 for 4 Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels before last night's pinch-hitting appearance.

He was first recalled April 28 and played in five games before being optioned back to Tucson on May 8. He is now 1 for 8 on the season.

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Aubrey Huff Gets First Start Since April 21

Aubrey Huff started for the first time since April 21 tonight. Though he went 0-for-3, he also drew a walk that preceded Joaquin Arias’ first big-league homer and hit two long flyballs to right, one of which was smoked. He also hit a dribbler to the pitcher in his final at-bat. Three of his four at-bats were very good.

I talked to Huff before the game, asking if he had a little rookie-type nervousness starting for the first time since his anxiety leave. To the contrary, Huff was more calm than usual, even serene. He said that therapy has helped him realize he’s playing a game and he can’t worry about the results.

After the game, when asked to assess his performance, he said, “I felt great, man. My whole goal was to go out and not be so results-oriented. Just go out and have good at-bats. I did except for one at-bat. I drew a good walk. The two balls I hit I just missed (home runs). I looked at balls and swung at strikes. It was a good, positive start.

“I felt like I could actually do some damage. It’s been a long time since I felt that way. I took some pitches I’ve been swinging at for the last year and a half.”

Manager Bruce Bochy made it clear Brandon Belt and Brett Pill will still get starts at first. Bochy is not handing the job back to Huff. In fact, Huff will probably sit today. But he is going to remain a viable alternative because of his ability to drive the ball to right field, and here’s where I’m revving up that mower. In two at-bats tonight Huff did what the Giants are desperate for Belt to do, which he isn’t doing. He jumped on hitable pitches and pulled them.

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PHOTO: Graig Cooper at Eagles OTA


Philadelphia Eagles running back Graig Cooper runs after taking the handoff from quarterback Trent Edwards during an NFL football practice at their training facility Tuesday, May 22, 2012 in Philadelphia.

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PHOTO: Sean Spence At His First Steelers OTA


Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, watches as linebackers LaMarr Woodley (56), Sean Spence, center and Larry Foote, left, do some running drills during the first day of NFL football practice at the team's training facility on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh.

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Travis Benjamin's speed no concern, but route running is

Rookie WR Travis Benjamin showed off his speed in passing drills. He began an identical route at the same time as Josh Cribbs and caught the ball five yards further downfield. The fourth-round pick is easily the fastest WR on the team, but must show skills as a route-runner to earn playing time.

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Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon turning heads with Miami Dolphins

There’s an appropriate quality to the jersey numbers selected for rookie camp by the Dolphins’ 2012 draft picks from the University of Miami.

Running back Lamar Miller wears No. 44 on his jersey, double the No. 22 worn by Reggie Bush.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon wears jersey No. 50, 0.5 off of half of No. 99, retired Dolphin Jason Taylor’s number.

What Bush and Taylor share is what the Dolphins want from Miller and Vernon: a propensity for obvious, pivotal, huge plays.

“They have some natural snaps and some natural pop in their bodies, some natural quickness or twitch, whatever word you want to use to describe their movement,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “I think they have that acceleration, that quickness off the football.”

When coaches talk about “fast-twitch” players, they’re not talking about guys who move the chains. They’re talking about guys who move the scoreboard.

Miller certainly looks like that when he is hitting the edge or sprinting downfield in practice. Of course, there’s the caveat: it’s shorts in spring. Nobody has run a play at NFL speed or taken an NFL hit. Remember Lorenzo Booker, 2007 third-round pick out of Florida State? He looked like Reggie Bush in the spring, yet might as well have been a rose bush come the autumn.

Expect Miller to be used everywhere the Dolphins can find a place to get him the ball in space, including punt returns.

“Lamar is a very fluid player,” Philbin said. “I think he has multiple skills, I don’t think that he is just a runner, I think he is a guy that can catch the football, and [we will] move him around.”

Said Bush of Miller: “He seems like he’s eager to get out there and learn. He’s listened to some of the guys, he’s getting the plays down pretty well at a fast rate. He’s obviously a smart kid.”

Smart enough to know the first improvement he needed to make in his game was to be “more physical in my pass protection, just knowing where I’m supposed to be at all times. Not making little mistakes, holding onto the ball, catching the ball.”

With a new offense that takes small, quick bites at the pace of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, two full tiers of skill position players easily could see significant playing time.

“No huddle. Up-tempo, fast-paced offense,” Bush said. “That means our conditioning will have to be high. We’ll run a lot of plays in real games. That’s something we’ve got to prepare for.”

As for Vernon, “[Olivier], we liked his physical toughness coming out, we liked his energy, we liked his motor that he played with, and he is a young guy that we think is going to get better,” Philbin said.

Vernon’s rawness isn’t as much physical as mental.

“I’ve got to learn football,” Vernon said. “I’m still in the learning process. I don’t know that much about football. I’m still fresh and new at it.

“I started playing football when I got to high school,” he explained. “And all I was playing was defensive end. So when I got over here, learning formations and personnel [groupings] like that, I never had to learn that before. Now, it’s getting a little easier.”

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Sam Shields Has Play of The Day At Packers' 1st OTA

Sam Shields turned in the play of the practice, an impressive interception of a deep pass intended for Jordy Nelsonicon-article-link. Shields made the interception at the goal line while matching Nelson step for step.

“We have nine (OTA) practices and three mini-camp practices, 12 opportunities to learn your job. Frankly, if you don’t know what’s expected of you by June 14, your chances to make our football team drop drastically,” McCarthy said.

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Leonard Hankerson misses OTA

Washington Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (hip) did not participate in the organized team activities Monday, May 21, but did work with trainers on the sidelines.

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Lamar Miller could see time in slot

The Miami Herald believes RB Lamar Miller could see time in the slot this season.

Coach Joe Philbin has already hinted Miller could see time at receiver, and with 4.4 speed to go along with his 5-foot-11, 212 frame, he'd be an intriguing option in the slot. The Dolphins already have a log-jam of slot-type receivers, however, so it's doubtful Miller will be in for any sort of meaningful role as a wideout.

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Frank Gore not concerned about losing reps in crowded backfield

The addition of RBs LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs have created a crowded backfield for the 49ers, who have Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon. Gore isn't concerned about his role. “As long as I'm healthy and in great shape and ready to play, I'm going to be the Frank Gore I've always been,” he said.

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Kellen Winslow seen as 'rotational player' for Seahawks

Let's cycle back to Monday's trade that sent Kellen Winslow to the Seattle Seahawks.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shipped the tight end to the Pacific Northwest for a conditional pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the move came as no surprise. Bucs coach Greg Schiano made it crystal clear Winslow was no longer a fit on the team's rebuilt roster.

We have yet to learn how Winslow will be used in Pete Carroll's vertical-power offense, but one league personnel executive, who spoke with Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio, painted a less-than-hopeful picture of the tight end's playing future:

"We talked to the Bucs before the draft and talked about (Winslow) further internally," the source said. "We just didn't think he could be more than a rotational player at this point (in his career) after examining his tape and performance."

During his best days with the Cleveland Browns, Winslow was an unusual pass-catching threat who caused regular headaches for defensive coordinators. Even in Cleveland's often punchless offense, Winslow could hurt you. He was productive in Tampa, catching 77, 66 and 75 passes in three seasons there from 2009 to 2011. Schiano ruled that Winslow was no longer a difference-maker, and at least one scout agrees.

This comes down to what Seattle plans to do with Winslow. With Zach Miller on the roster, Winslow isn't the only tight end with hands, but expecting the KW2 of old to emerge unhindered might be unrealistic.

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Darryl Sharpton still not ready

ILB Darryl Sharpton has not worked out in OTAs thus far as he continues to recover from a quadriceps injury that cost him the latter half of the 2011 season. Coach Gary Kubiak said that Sharpton will be ready in time for training camp, where he is expected to replace the departed DeMeco Ryans (Eagles) opposite Brian Cushing in the middle of the defense.

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Jon Beason limited at Panthers OTAs

Panthers LBs Jon Beason (Achilles surgery) and Thomas Davis (ACL surgery) will be limited participants in OTAs.
As will DT Ron Edwards (triceps). The only player officially listed as out is RE Charles Johnson, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Although Beason and Davis are "limited," they should unofficially be expected to do extremely little. Neither player is guaranteed of being ready for Week 1.

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Legal expert: Injunction to stop Vilma suspension not likely

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane sports law program, said he doesn't anticipate a possible attempt for LB Jonathan Vilma to have a court place an injunction against the league to stop his suspension similar to the StarCaps case to work. Feldman said Minnesota had a law that a judge thought might conflict with NFL rules in StarCaps. Vilma has no law to help him. Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's lawyer, represented players during the StarCaps case.

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Frank Gore changes offseason routine, says results will be same

SANTA CLARA -- Running back Frank Gore switched coasts for his offseason training routine.

In his first seven NFL seasons, Gore spent most of his time in Miami to prepare for his job as the featured back in the 49ers' offense.

But after rushing for 1,211 yards -- second-most in his career -- Gore decided it was time to spend more time in the offseason with his teammates.
"Change is good sometimes," Gore said Tuesday after the first 49ers practice during organized team activities. "Coach Uye (49ers head strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama) has a good workout plan going.

"(We're) trying to get back on pace, where we left off last year, and try to get better. Just try to get that work in with the O-line, quarterbacks, receivers, and probably go even farther."

Gore said he took six weeks after the season to let his body rest. As part of the contract extension he signed last summer, Gore receives a $400,000 annual bonus for taking part in the 49ers' offseason program. He reported to the Bay Area to join his teammates three weeks ago.

Gore's health was in question at the end of last season as his workload seemed to decrease. Gore carried just 29 times in the playoffs against New Orleans and the New York Giants for 163 yards (5.6 average). He also caught 13 passes for 83 yards.

Gore, who turned 29 last month, said there was no physical reason he saw a reduction in his rushing attempts late in the season.

With added depth in the 49ers' backfield, Gore might share carries more than ever this season. After all, the 49ers added veteran Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James to go along with reserve Kendall Hunter. But Gore said he is working this spring as if his role will not change.

"I feel I still can do everything pretty good: catch, run and block. I'm going to do what I've always been doing," Gore said. "As long as I'm healthy and in great shape and ready to play, I'm going to be the Frank Gore I've always been."

Worse than the physical pounding Gore took last season, he said, was the emotional anguish of losing in the NFC championship game in overtime to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

"Oh, man, it was tough," Gore said. "That's one of the reasons I didn't want to go to the Pro Bowl. It broke me down for a while. How close we were and looking back at all the tough times we had here and to be that close to going to the big dance, that was very tough."

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Reasons to fear Andre Johnson on Your Fantasy Team

Happy Tuesday, everybody. Out here in Southern California the car flags are changing colors from Los Angeles Lakers Yellow, to Los Angeles Kings Black. But let’s take a look at some of the latest fantasy news.

And in news as shocking as a Kim Kardashian publicity stunt, our man, Dre Johnson is out for the Texans’ OTAs because of knee surgery. If you’ve followed me at all in recent years, you know I love Dre. But it’s come to the point where you can’t trust him in fantasy football. Michael Fabiano had a great column on Monday about guys to be afraid of this year (based on reader’s responses). Dre would be near the top of my list (though he didn’t crack the reader’s top 10).

So let’s mix it up today, as I give you three reasons to fear Dre Day.

The injuries. I’ve had Dre in each of the past two seasons, and I’ve been mighty excited to have him on my squad each year. And each year, he’s been somewhat of a disappointment. Last year in particular was a true punch in the throat. Johnson played in only seven games and scored a career-low two touchdowns. I would be willing to blame his hamstring problems from last year on the lockout (because it’s convenient), but a knee scope combined with his history of injury would make me lean towards a guy like Hakeem Nicks instead.
And yes smarty, Nicks has injury concerns, too. But at least he’s six years younger.

The running game. I can deal with Arian Foster, who rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. Seriously, that’s no big deal. But then you realize Ben Tate nearly rushed for 1,000 yards, too. The Texans have gone the opposite direction in an era of unprecedented passing totals in the NFL. The Texans’ offense is as hip as a Zack Morris mobile phone (though it is kind of cool in an ironic way). But simply put, in a digital world, the Texans’ offense is a telegraph. There is no reason for them to change this year, either. The AFC South could again be a bad division, which means big leads and some late grinding of the clock.

Matt Schaub. The Texans quarterback has his own injury concerns. If there are any problems in his return from Lisfranc surgery, we’re looking T.J. Yates 2.0 (which means I’m mixing my metaphors from above). Not that Yates can’t be a good quarterback — wait, he can’t be a good fantasy quarterback. The Texans would run the ball even more with Yates under center.

And here’s a bonus reason; there are some equal or better options out there. Ask yourself this question, would you rather have Johnson or Greg Jennings? The answer isn’t so simple when you consider one of them plays in the most pass-happy offense in the NFL and his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers.

When you factor in ADP, there is absolutely no question you would be better off waiting for Nicks, Jennings, or even my new favorite guy, Brandon Marshall (who has more receptions and yards over the last three seasons to go along with being reunited with Jay Cutler). I have Dre as my No. 7 receiver currently and you’d be wise to consider other options.

For the record, you can submit your fantasy questions to NFL Fantasy Live, Michael Fabiano or me on Twitter. But realize, NFL Fantasy Live has 40,000 followers, and Fabiano has 50,000. Me? Just 13. See, the odds are better that I will answer your question, so hit me up both via Twitter or via Facebook. Also be sure to catch the latest “Dave Dameshek Football Program.”

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Eric Winston: OTAs help build strong line

RT Eric Winston said this week's OTAs are a good way to start the important process of installing a new offense and building a cohesive unit. “There are going to be some tough days ahead and I think you have to prepare for that,” Winston said. “I think we have the right personnel, we have the right coaches and we have the right scheme to be successful.”

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Goodell has little to say on Vilma suit

At the owners meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell briefly addressed the defamation lawsuit filed against him by New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma after he suspended the Saints linebacker for the 2012 season.

Goodell said that he has "not spent a lot of time" on the lawsuit, in which Vilma contends the commissioner made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hindered his ability to earn a living playing football.

I've been around this league for 30 years, and you are going to make decisions that will not be unanimous - it just doesn't happen, particularly in a game where there is a lot of emotion, a lot of passion," Goodell said. "What I have to do is what is in the best interests of the game, long term. . . . You don't worry about a popularity contest."

Goodell is not popular in New Orleans these days, nor with the NFL Players Association, which has challenged many of his recent decisions with grievances, appeals and through Vilma's suit.

On Tuesday, the union said the league making mandatory the use of thigh and knee pads in 2013 was improper and should be negotiated.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said that because it is a playing rule, the league can apply the pads requirement unilaterally.

"We have some work to do with the union," he said.

The rule would not go into effect on the field until next year so equipment makers can work on safety and comfort.

The players also have asked arbitrators to rule just how much power, if any, Goodell has to punish the Saints for what the league found was a three-year cash-for-pain program that targeted specific players.

After appeals are heard and a final decision is rendered - if the arbitrator finds that Goodell has the authority to do so - the commissioner expects some evidence in the bounties scandal will be made public.

One of the suspended players, linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, believes that information should be disclosed now. Fujita said the claims against him have hurt him personally and that he's now pitted in a battle of his word against the league's.

"We're on public trial and that's unfortunate," said Fujita, who was given a three-game suspension.

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Yonder Alonso riding hot streak in May

ST. LOUIS - Like any new kid on the block, San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso tried hard to fit in.

Maybe a little too hard.

On April 24, after an 0-for-3 performance against Washington, the highly-touted Alonso was hitting .196 in his first season for the Padres.

"I was probably trying to do too much up there," Alonso said. "I was having good at bats, but things weren't falling for me."

Rather than panic, Alonso simply stayed the course. The former University of Miami standout stuck with his original game plan and did not change a thing.

That attitude has paid big dividends.

Alonso is currently one of the hottest players in the National League. He is 32-for-87 (.368) since the dismal start and has hit safely in 20 of his last 23 games. He leads all NL rookies in batting average (.301), hits (43), and doubles (14).

A native of Havana, Cuba, Alonso has raised his average .105 points in the last 28 days.

"He was trying to impress too early," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "In the last few weeks, he's become the hitter we all knew he could be."

The 25-year-old says he knew things would eventually fall into place after the rough start.

"You're going to have days like that, you're going to have weeks like that," Alonso said. "You can't over-think or go crazy over it. You have to keep grinding and come to the park every day thinking things are going to change."

Alonso has developed into a doubles hitter with five two-double games already this season. He is tied for second with David Wright of the Mets for most doubles behind Joey Votto (17).

"My game plan is to keep studying and just try and learn from the past and the mistakes I've made," Alinso said. "Watch and pick up things."

Alonso was acquired from the Reds along Edinson Volquez and two others players in exchange for Mat Latos on Dec. 17.

Now, after overcoming a few early-season obstacles, Alonso feels good about his future in San Diego.

"I'm fitting in with the guys and I've got a normal routine going," Alonso said.

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Chris Perez wants to stay

CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez wants to stay in Cleveland, even if he is at odds with some Indians fans.

"I'm unhappy, but don't want out," the All-Star closer said Tuesday before the start of a three-game series against Detroit.

After several days of chastising local fans for not attending games, Perez said he is not looking to play anywhere else, emphasizing that he believes the Indians are in playoff contention.

"There's a saying in baseball: If you don't like it play better," he said. "I want to stay here. My friends are here. I like it here. I'm not out, I'm in."

Perez said that he wouldn't be doing everything he can to help the Indians if he didn't believe they could start capturing the city's interest.

"I wouldn't be signing the autographs, taking the time to bother," the 26-year-old said. "I wouldn't be pitching my butt off, I'd tank to get out. I'm never going to do something like that."

Perez is 0-1 with 13 consecutive saves after blowing a lead on Opening Day, when the booing started. He said he is more upset at the lack of attendance -- Cleveland is last in the majors -- and overall apathy than home fans getting on him.

After striking out the side on 10 pitches Saturday to save a win over Miami, the usually jovial reliever reacted angrily. He joked that his performance was spurred on by being booed in previous games, then got a bit more terse and pointed out that to him, Cleveland's low attendance was an embarrassment and kept the organization from attracting free agents.

The following day, he met with team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti, but did not back off his remarks.

"The shame is it takes my comments to get national attention for our team," Perez said.

He then took a backhanded swipe at the town's infatuation with the NFL's Browns during spring activities, rather than the Indians.

"I could care less who is taking snaps at Browns quarterback," Perez said.

Asked if he didn't like football, he replied, "I would if I played football or if my team made the playoffs."

The Browns have been to the postseason once since returning to the NFL in 1999.

Perez said feedback was "overall positive" to his comments. He produced two cards written to him by season-ticket holders thanking him for "saying what we've been saying for years."

He said he wasn't worried about getting booed the next time he enters a game at Progressive Field.

"If I go 1-2-3, they'll cheer me," he said. "If I don't, they will boo. So what? I'm booed on the road. I'll treat it like a road game."

Perez has saved all eight road games he has appeared in this season, not allowing an earned run.

The right-hander now wants to wrap up the discussion.

"It's off my chest," Perez said. "Now it is back to work and playing baseball."

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Bucs trade Kellen Winslow

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded tight end Kellen Winslow to the Seattle Seahawks for a draft pick on Monday night and signed former Colts star Dallas Clark to replace him.

Earlier in the day, Winslow told SiriusXM radio that first-year coach Greg Schiano was "kind of upset" that Winslow has not been working out with the team during the offseason.

"That's kind of shocking, but that's what it is," Winslow said, adding that Schiano told him the coach "would help me out with a trade."

Winslow has been one of Tampa Bay's best offensive players since being acquired from Cleveland in a trade three years ago. He had 77 receptions for 884 yards and five touchdowns in 2009, 66 catches for 730 yards and five TDs in 2010 and 75 receptions for 763 yards and two TDs in 2011.

Tampa Bay received a conditional 2013 draft pick in the deal, which a source told ESPN.com's Mike Sando is a seventh-rounder that can elevate to sixth-round choice.

Winslow will join a tight end unit that already includes Zach Miller, who Seattle gave a big contract last offseason, and promising young prospect Cameron Morrah, who has struggled with injuries early in his career. The Seahawks lost tight end John Carlson in the offseason after he signed with Minnesota.

Tampa Bay gets a player who was one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets.

Clark, who turns 33 next month, spent nine seasons with Indianapolis and had 427 career receptions for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns. Last season, without Manning and limited by injuries to 11 games, Clark had 34 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns. He worked out for the Bucs last week.

"Dallas Clark is a consummate pro and proven playmaker," Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. "He will be another asset, on and off the field, for our team. In addition to Luke Stocker's continued improvement in his ability as an every-down tight end, we feel we have both talent and depth at the tight end position."

Winslow, despite a history of injuries and undergoing several knee surgeries during his career, appeared in every game over the past three seasons for Tampa Bay.

The 28-year-old was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Browns, who sent him to Tampa Bay in exchange for second- and fifth-round draft choices. Winslow has 437 career receptions for 4,836 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Winslow said he has been working out near his home in San Diego and missed last week's initial set of organized team activities in Tampa. He said he was planning to join the team on Monday, but that he got a call from Schiano on Saturday.

"He was kind of upset that I wasn't there working out with the team in the offseason and for the first week of OTAs," Winslow said during the interview with SiriusXM.

"But I've been there the last three years and I've had a successful career so far," he added. "You don't just get rid of one of your best players because of that. ... I don't have nothing bad to say about coach Schiano. It was just a disagreement on why I'm not there yet."

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Jacory Harris out in Philly

The Jacory Harris era has ended in Philly.

The Eagles, who signed the former University of Miami quarterback 10 days ago, have parted ways with him.  The team announced the move this afternoon.

The transaction occurs on the same day rookie quarterback Nick Foles agreed to terms.  Both would have been available for Organized Team Activities, however, since unsigned rookies routinely participate in offseason workouts even without a contract in place.

Harris participated in the Dolphins’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis before signing with the Eagles.

Philly is now back to only four quarterbacks on the roster:  Mike Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles, and Trent Edwards.

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Andre Johnson out 3-4 weeks after knee scope

HOUSTON -- Texans star receiver Andre Johnson said Monday that he will be out for three to four weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
The 30-year-old Johnson sat out Houston's first organized team practice, two weeks after the procedure.

"Right now, everything is just focusing on making sure everything is right before I get back out here," Johnson said. "Nothing to panic about."

The five-time Pro Bowl selection was inactive for nine regular-season games last year with injuries to both hamstrings. He says he hyperextended the knee against Jacksonville on Nov. 27, his first game back after he missed the previous six. He finished that game and also played the following week against Atlanta before going out with a second hamstring injury.

Johnson returned for Houston's playoff opener against Cincinnati, catching five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. The Texans were eliminated a week later by Baltimore, and Johnson returned home to Miami to resume rehabilitating his hamstring injuries.

During that process, Johnson said fluid continued to develop around the knee, and he and the team decided to treat it with surgery.

"We thought it had kind of calmed down," Johnson said. "I was back out doing offseason workouts, just running around and stuff, and it just kind of swelled back up. We felt like that was the best thing to do, get the knee scoped, get it fixed."

Johnson said the knee injury won't delay his preparations for training camp later this summer.

"Right now, I'm feeling fine, the swelling's gone down a whole lot," he said.

Johnson also hurt the same knee in 2007, underwent arthroscopic surgery and missed spring workouts. He returned in time for training camp, then had his most productive season in 2008, making 115 catches for 1,575 yards and eight touchdowns.

He played through a badly sprained right ankle for most of 2010, sat out the final two games and had surgery after the season. Johnson is now entering his 10th season, but says he's not worried about his durability.

"The past two seasons have been pretty rough for me," Johnson said. "I just don't want to be back in that situation again, where I have to miss seven, eight, nine games. I want to get back to that '1,500-yard Andre.' Hopefully, that can happen this year."

As the practice began, Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub tossed short passes to one another on a separate field from the team. Schaub also sat out Monday's workout as he recovers from surgery on his right foot, but coach Gary Kubiak said he was just being overly cautious with him.

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Ray Lewis is on a motivational hot streak

If you're a college team in need of some inspiration, don't call Tony Robbins or waste your time with Deepak Chopra.

The guy you need is Ray Lewis. Yes, the Ravens' middle linebacker/motivational speaker/good luck charm.

Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl player, spoke to the Loyola men's lacrosse game three days before their NCAA quarterfinal game against Denver and encouraged them to play with passion. The result: Loyola won, 10-9, to advance to its first Final Four in 14 years. (you can view the video on YouTube).

"The most important thing anytime you're dealing with big games is team," Lewis told the players. "That's where champions are developed -- through unselfishness to figuring out nothing else matters but the man that's beside me."

By my count, teams are undefeated in tournament play after listening to Lewis. It was nearly two months ago when he spoke to the Stanford basketball team before the NIT semifinals. Stanford went on to beat Massachusetts in the Final Four and Minnesota in the championship game.

Some might discount Lewis' influence. But players in all sports and at every level respect Lewis. That's why colleges call on Lewis and NFL players do the same. Lewis has been the "godfather of the NFL" for years because players from around the league call and text him for advice. The contact list on his cell phone is a who's who in the NFL. Maybe Lewis should give Ed Reed a buzz since the Pro Bowl safety is struggling with is commitment to football.

"Winning on Saturday doesn’t start on Saturday," Lewis told the Loyola lacrosse team last week. "It starts right now."

A lot of colleges have their good luck traditions. Auburn has the War Eagle, and Clemson has Howard's Rock. But if you're a team needing to get pumped up before a big game, your best bet these days is Lewis. My guess is his pre-game dance will cost you extra.

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Mistrial declared in DJ Williams' DUI case

DENVER (AP) - Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams' trial on driving under the influence and traffic charges ended in a mistrial just hours after it began Monday after his lawyer objected to how jurors were selected.

Williams' lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, asked for the mistrial Monday just before opening statements were about to begin. He said he was only able to excuse two jurors instead of the three he was entitled to during jury selection.

Judge Andre L. Rudolph granted the request and scheduled another trial on the misdemeanor charges for Aug. 15.

Afterward, Rudolph declined requests to comment on what went wrong.

Steinberg told Rudolph about the problem after jurors were selected.

"It's a mistake in the math,'' Steinberg said. "We're entitled to excuse three jurors.''

Prosecutor Brian Dunn objected to a mistrial being called but left without commenting.

Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said attorneys do not have to use all their rights to excuse jurors, called preemptory challenges. During the process, each side has an opportunity to excuse a potential juror and not give a reason. The process leaves a jury that prosecutors and attorneys believe is impartial.

Kimbrough said Steinberg passed on one of his opportunities to excuse a juror, prompting a warning from Rudolph that Steinberg would not be able to use that turn. Rudolph then changed his mind and ruled that Steinberg should have been allowed to use his turn.

"Based on that misunderstanding he granted a mistrial,'' Kimbrough said.

Misdemeanor cases in Denver County Court are heard by six jurors, not 12, said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor with the DA's office who's now a defense attorney.

A jury of three men and three women, ranging in age from 20 to 61, were seated after questioning in the morning. Steinberg raised his objection to having lost a turn after Rudolph excused the jury for lunch.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin after the break.

Williams' trial has already been delayed several times, including last fall after he suffered a dislocated right elbow during a game.

The Broncos stripped him of his captain's title shortly after his arrest on Nov. 12, 2010, his second such arrest in his seven seasons in Denver. He could face a multi-game suspension from the league if convicted.

Police say he was pulled over a little before 3 a.m., when he was spotted driving his car without headlights. He was cited with DUI and taken to a detox facility.

He was fined an undisclosed amount by the team.

Williams, the team's top tackler in 2010, dislocated his right elbow in a preseason game but came back to start in 13 regular season games and again lead the Broncos in tackles.

Williams has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn his NFL drug suspension without pay for Denver's first six games of the 2012 season that starts in September. The lawsuit contends that the league violated protocol in collecting urine samples and that the specimen provided for testing by the collector were non-human.

Williams' lawyer, Peter R. Ginsberg, said that case is pending.

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Legal expert: Vilma's case 'incredibly difficult' to win

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane sports law program, told CBSSports.com it will be “incredibly difficult” for LB Jonathan Vilma to win his lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Feldman said the real victory for the Vilma camp would be to get its hands on the evidence that the league hasn't provided.

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Willis McGahee believes Peyton Manning provides relief

Willis McGahee led a Denver Broncos rushing attack that ranked first in rushing attempts and yards in 2011. The 30-year-old was a yard short of the third 1,200-yard season of his career, a mark thinks he can reach in 2012 with Peyton Manning replacing Tim Tebow at quarterback, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

"My goal is to do better than I did last year. And that means I've got to get past 1,200 yards," McGahee said. "With Peyton coming to Denver, I don't have to worry about nine defenders in the box."

"When Tebow replaced Kyle Orton at quarterback in Week 6, the Broncos went from a team that passed the ball 60 percent of the time over the first five weeks of the season to one that ran the ball 60 percent of the time. Opposing defenses did not think Tebow could beat them with his arm, so they stacked the box to defend the Broncos. McGahee also suggested that the decision-making on those read-option plays could have been better.
"It had its good days, and it had its bad days," McGahee said of playing with Tebow. "Sometimes it was good. And sometimes, you just had to take the situation you were in and make the best of it.

"There were times when Tebow could've given the ball to me, but he kept it. And there were times when he was supposed to keep it, but he gave it. When you're running the option, there can't be any hesitation. I call it running on blind faith."

The 36-year-old Manning will not be running the read-option, so McGahee's biggest hurdles to 1,200 yards will be fending off age (he turns 31 in October), the offense becoming pass-heavy and competition for carries from Knowshon Moreno and 2012 third round pick Ronnie Hillman.

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Bernard Pollard says team supports Ed Reed no matter what

On Thursday afternoon, Ravens safety Ed Reed told Sirius/XM NFL Radio that he wasn’t 100 percent committed to the 2012 season and that he has considered retirement this offseason and the two previous. He quickly backtracked, releasing a statement later in the day that said he wasn’t referring to retirement.

Throughout this offseason, Reed has made conflicting statements about his playing status -- heck, he has made conflicting statements in some individual interviews -- but team officials expect him to play in 2012.

And no matter what Reed decides to do, fellow safety Bernard Pollard said his teammates support him.

“This is a business and Ed and I have had these talks before, but whatever he decides to do we back him 100 percent,” Pollard told Houston radio station 100.3 KILT on Friday. “The guy is a heck of a football player, he’s been a heck of a football player his whole career and for me it’s exciting playing with him. I guess I will put this out there, he better not leave me hanging so we’ll be alright.”

Reed said Thursday that his health and long-term future were weighing on his mind. Asked about players leaving football because of the fear of getting injured, Pollard said too much is being made of the violence.

“I mean when it’s all said and done, we as players, we know what we signed up for,” the hard-hitting safety said. “This is a violent game, it’s a fun game, it pays well. I have never seen a player give his check back.”

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Lauryn Williams Places 3rd

In a pair of individual performances at the Athletics Brazil Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, Sheniqua Ferguson clocked 11.30 for second as she edged out American Lauryn Williams, who did 11.32. Brazil's Rosângela Santos won the race in 11.21.

Ferguson's time was well off her season's best of 11.07, the fastest posted so far by any other Bahamian.

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Ryan Braun leaves game with groin injury

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was forced to leave Monday night's game against the Giants in the 11th inning because of tightness in his right groin.

During spring training, Braun was limited by the same condition, and back in 2008 he was day-to-day with groin soreness at one point.

Earlier Monday night, Braun had hit a clutch, eighth-inning homer to tie the game at 3-3. He was 2-for-5 with two RBI at the time of his injury.

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Chris Perez follows rant against Cleveland fans with even better rant against Cleveland fans

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez was in a chatty mood over the weekend. He first made headlines on Saturday by ripping the Tribe fans who booed him earlier in the week and by saying no free agents want to come and play in front of an empty ballpark.

Then, lest any of his pointed comments get lost in the weekend media cycle, Perez came right back on Sunday by putting on another rant for any media member who might not have been around for the first one. In five passion-filled minutes that reminded me a little of Lee Elia in its spirit (minus the intensity and profanity), the 26-year-old stood by his initial comments.

For one, Perez finds it "embarrassing" that the first-place Indians rank dead last in attendance (with an average of 15,872 fans per game, they're nowhere close to 29th-place Oakland, which averages 19,573 per game).

For another, he can't understand why the prevailing mood in Cleveland isn't one of  hope or at least enjoyment considering the Indians hold a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Chicago. (Perez isn't the only one in town who feels this way as Paul Cousineau of The DiaTribe just wrote a great post about fellow fans who are only focusing on the time when the other shoe will drop.)

Here are some of the comments that Perez made on Sunday. As you can tell, he held absolutely nothing back (and remember that this is just a sampling of what he said):

• "I expected the (backlash from Saturday's comments), but I really don't care any more. I'm here to do my job and play for this team. If the fans come, they'll come. If they don't, it'll be just like it was in April. So who cares?"

• "It's not a good atmosphere (at Progressive Field). It's not fun to be here ... Baseball's still supposed to be fun. At the end of the day, this is a game. It's a child's game, I understand that. But if you have a choice to go to some place like Philadelphia, where every day it's fun just to go there. That helps you get through some seasons some times."

• "I was in Florida in '97 when (Cleveland) lost the World Series to the Marlins. I saw the atmosphere here. It's great. It's a good baseball town. I don't know how to get back to that. Everyone says, 'winning, winning.' Well, we were in first place for three months last year. We come out strong this year, so obviously it's not a fluke ... This year is a different year. If, at the end, you don't want to get your heart broken, then we don't want you."

• "I'm not stupid, I understand the economy's bad around here. I understand that people can't afford to come to the game. But there doesn't need to be the negativity. I don't understand the negativity, why? Like, enjoy what we have. You have a first place team. How many third-place towns in the country would want that right now?"

• "We could be in last place. We could be the Royals, we could be the Pirates. Haven't won anything in 20 years. We're not. Enjoy it. I don't understand the negativity."

• "(My teammates) feel the same way. They just won't say it."

• "It's just a slap in the face when you're last in attendance. Last. It's not like we're 25th or 26th. We're last. Oakland's outdrawing us. That's embarrassing."

As someone who watched last Thursday's extra-innings win over the Seattle Mariners and wondered where all the fans were, I'm glad that Perez is speaking up so passionately about this subject. It really has to galvanize the loyal Indians fans who are showing up to Progressive Field and remain hopeful the team can win its first division title since 2007. As any fan knows, it's nice to see that a player cares as much as you do. And who knows? Maybe estranged fans will see that Perez cares so much and will be willing to come out to the park now.

Perez is also right in another regard: What has he got to lose? Either the Indians are a young team playing exciting baseball in front of a full house or they're a young team playing exciting baseball in front of an empty one. If Cleveland fans can't get over past disappointments or the fact that the Dolans own the team, it's going to be their own loss — not a defeat for Perez or his teammates.

Finally, here's the best part: As Perez noted on Twitter, he's putting his money where his mouth is and will give away three sets of tickets to each remaining home game to make sure he's doing his part. With a guy like that on the roster and the team in first place, how could Cleveland fans not want to give the team a little longer leash than usual?

Here's the press conference in its entirety (starting around the 1:30 mark):

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Jeremy Shockey Got Married Last Night In Miami

Jeremy Shockey, a man of bachelorhood until he was 31, married Daniela Cortazar in an official ceremony at the 5 Star pool on the infamous 5 Star Island.

The couple was married in the evening of May 19th, 2012, and we hear that the party following the ceremony was historic. You can see their wedding video below.

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Sean Spence Rookie Minicamp Press Conference

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Tommy Streeter Rookie Minicamp Press Conference

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Coach Rivera Wants To Keep Jon Beason in the Middle

I think Panther coach Ron Rivera just about had to let Jon Beason play where he wants -- which is obviously middle linebacker, based on his past statements -- after drafting Luke Kuechly in the first round.

Beason has played in multiple Pro Bowls. Kuechly, for all his gaudy tackle stats at Boston College, is a rookie. So you have to put Beason in the middle to start and Kuechly at weakside linebacker. That's not only the right football move, it's the right move in terms of team chemistry.

Will it stay that way? No way to tell. Kuechly is learning the middle spot, too, and Beason already knows the weakside spot. Who's to know where it goes as the season progresses and injuries factor in. But you can't just tell Beason -- coming off a long injury rehab and a prideful man, just as most every successful NFL player is -- to move outside for the rookie. Rivera, a former NFL linebacker himself, knows that.

With Thomas Davis, it's trickier. The odds are ultimately against Davis coming back from a third ACL surgery on the same knee, and both the Panthers and Davis know that. So do you start Davis over Kuechly automatically (I'm assuming here Beason and James Anderson will both start)?

That's a decision you have to take the Fifth on for now if you're Rivera -- just let it play out. It will be obvious by late August, if not earlier, what to do there.

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Ed Reed: 'Goal is to play football'

Hours after Ed Reed said he was "not 100 percent committed right now to playing this year" in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, the Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl safety changed his tune.

In a statement obtained by the Carroll County (Md.) Times, Reed said he is, indeed, planning to play this season, and possibly beyond.

"It's not about retirement. It's about my focus in the offseason, health, family and football," Reed said. "This is the time of year where players think through things. My goal is to play football in the years to come."

Reed, who turns 34 in September, has contemplated retirement since the end of the 2008 season because of concerns over a nerve impingement between his neck and shoulder. He told coach John Harbaugh in February he was planning to play in 2012 and indicated he could play four to five more seasons when he was inducted into the University of Miami Hall of Fame in late March.

"It's still May," Reed said in the SiriusXM NFL Radio, according to a transcript provided by the Baltimore Sun. "I know that time is kind of inching away at me. We do have a mandatory camp coming up (June 12-14) that I'm still in deep thought about because other things are important to me now. I still know I can play at a high level. I can still go for another couple years physically. But other things is kind of taking place in my life right now and making me think about things differently."

"It has nothing to do with negotiating and all that, man," Reed said. "It's deeper than negotiating, man."

Losing Reed would be a major blow to the Ravens considering linebacker Terrell Suggs' season is uncertain after the NFL Defensive Player of the Year tore his Achilles tendon this month.

Reed's future has become a hot topic recently. He previously said he feels disrespected by his current salary. Reed is scheduled to make $7.2 million in the final year of a six-year, $44.4 million contract.

"For what I offer on the football field, for what I give on the football field, and for what they know they're going to get, it's much more than these young guys out here today and what they're getting," Reed said a month ago. "And I'm talking about at any defensive back position right now."

Health and durability are also concerns with Reed. He has missed 10 games over the past three seasons. And while he played a full season last year, it was one of Reed's most disappointing. He finished with three interceptions, his fewest in a 16-game season, and he acknowledged that he missed tackles in four straight games at the end of the season because of a shoulder injury.

The Ravens, who are in contract talks with quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, have not expressed an interest in signing Reed to an extension.

When asked about Reed's future in March, owner Steve Bisciotti told the Baltimore Sun: "We'll either have to get him signed to an extension, he has to say that he's done or we have to face the possibility of seeing him play in another uniform. That's the reality of this."

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Jonathan Vilma's suit gets respect from players

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's decision to sue NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation was an unprecedented and unexpected step in the aftermath following the Saints' "bounty" scandal.

It feels like a legal Hail Mary. Vilma will have a difficult time proving Goodell lied or demonstrated "actual malice" in regards to Vilma, which is the legal standard for proving defamation. If nothing else, Vilma's bold move won some respect from his fellow players.

We present a collection of quotes from players to our insane friend Michael Silver:

"What a badass," one NFC player said. "He's the man. I think it's nuts, but I love it. He's going after Goodell. He should, too."

"It's aggressive, and I love it. I'm excited to see what happens. I love the sound of 'Vilma v. Goodell.' This is gonna cement Vilma's name forever," another player remarked.

"If Vilma wins? Oh, then he's God. They should just put him as commissioner if that happens."

Vilma getting a corner office at 345 Park Avenue sounds somewhat unlikely. (Heck, it's unlikely I'll get an office. Although I am excited to announce DirectTV was installed at my desk yesterday.) Vilma getting far in his defamation suit also sounds like a long shot to this non-lawyer.

This lawsuit seems more about making a statement, and a potentially expensive one. Vilma feels wronged, and he's not going to take his suspension lying down. He's taking the aggressive attitude he carries on the field to his fight with the NFL.

Successful or not, that's an attitude fellow players can respect.

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Antonio Dixon To Be Instrumental In Eagles' D Next Season

Antonio Dixon: All the talk on the defensive line has centered on draft picks Fletcher Cox (first round) and Vinny Curry (second round). Dixon, the big defensive tackle who spent last year on injured reserve with a torn tricep, still has 20-25 pounds on any of his linemates and remains the team’s best run-stopper in the middle of the line.

Cox is likely to rotate with Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins at the defensive tackle position, but coordinator Juan Castillo will find room for Dixon even if it is just in the all-important short-yardage and goal-line packages.

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Jimmy Graham No. 2 on Clayton's TE list

John Clayton has his list of the NFL’s top 10 tight ends and the NFC South has some pretty strong representation.

New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham is No. 2 and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez is No. 7.

Gonzalez is getting near the end of his career, but still put up decent numbers last season with 80 catches for 875 yards and seven touchdowns. The Falcons have yet to find an heir apparent, so I think you can expect similar numbers from Gonzalez in 2012. Clayton’s list is based on the present, but I think you could make a case from the past that Gonzalez is the best tight end ever. He holds virtually every career receiving record for tight ends.

Graham’s got a long way to go to catch Gonzalez. But Graham at least has the potential to become one of the best tight ends in NFL history.

The former college basketball player has played only two seasons in the NFL. But Graham had one of the most productive seasons in NFL history last year, when he had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. That came in Graham’s first full season as a starter, so he should continue to improve.

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Santana Moss could stick around

CSN Washington's Rich Tandler expects both Santana Moss and Chris Cooley to make the Redskins' 53-man roster.

Tandler lists both on the bubble, but thinks their veteran presence will be key in Robert Griffin III's development. Moss is owed $2.65 million and is fourth on the receiver depth chart. Cooley is due $3.8 million and has lost his starting job to Fred Davis. Moss is the best bet to stick, but Washington's cap situation is very tight, so it wouldn't be shocking to see both players move on.

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Greg Olsen's brother commits to 'Canes

CORAL GABLES— The Miami Hurricanes landed one of the nation's best high school quarterbacks on Friday as Wayne Hills (N.J.) High's Kevin Olsen, the younger brother of former 'Canes tight end Greg Olsen, orally committed to join the 2013 signing class.

Olsen (6-3, 196) is the nation's seventh-ranked quarterback prospect according to Rivals.com, the 77th best prospect according to ESPN.com and the fifth-best pro style quarterback and 51st overall prospect according to 247Sports.

His other finalists were Auburn and Wisconsin.

"It was a combination of things. It was a combination of liking the coaches a lot and liking the offense they run," Olsen told MSGVarsity.com. "And I think Miami is going to be back. I think they can get to where they were years ago. I think I can help them get back there."

Olsen said his brother's ties to UM didn't determine his decision.

"Contrary to what many people think, he didn't push me here. That wasn't the case," Olsen said. "He told me that at the end of the day, it's up to you and it's your decision."

Olsen has a 22-2 record in two years as a starter, and as a junior last season led Wayne Hills to its second straight state championship. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,686 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw six interceptions.

The Hurricanes now have seven commitments for the 2013 class, including Palm Beach Central athlete Angelo Jean-Louis, who signed with the 'Canes in February, but for academic reasons will attend Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy this fall.

Should Olsen sign in February and two-sport star David Thompson, one of three quarterbacks in UM's 2012 signing class, choose not to pursue a pro baseball career after the MLB Draft next month, the 'Canes are set to have six quarterbacks for 2013. They had just two under scholarship when Al Golden took over as head coach in December 2010.

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Was penalty against Jon Vilma too severe?

The suspension of Jonathan Vilma was not too severe if in fact he offered $10,000 bounties to any teammate who took out Kurt Warner or Brett Favre. That's clearly crossing the line. But the thing is, did he actually do that? That's what the NFL needs to prove, or risk suspicion that the league rushed to judgment.

It's time for the league to lay its cards on the table, reveal what specific evidence it has against the Saints, and put the matter to rest. The league was emphatic from the start that it had the Saints dead to rights, and the audiotape of Gregg Williams only bolstered that, but the NFL's reluctance to provide further evidence only makes it look like it has something to hide.

It's time for the NFL to prove that it indeed has the goods.

Tough call minus all facts
Dan Pompei
Chicago Tribune
Jonathan Vilma's punishment is severe all right. Very severe. Whether it's too severe is difficult to judge because the NFL has not gone public with the evidence it has against Vilma.

Given what the public knows, it seems a yearlong suspension for following your bosses' orders is pretty harsh. Unless Vilma truly was a ringleader in the Saints' bounty program, and not just a stooge who was doing what he was told, he should not have been suspended for a year. Vilma is adamant he never paid a teammate to try to injure an opponent.

The NFL is likely to have a different version of what happened in New Orleans. It is worth noting Vilma's suspension is longer than the suspensions of three teammates who also were accused of taking part in the bounty program.

Show us the evidence
Ron Fritz
Baltimore Sun
If the evidence says Jonathan Vilma was putting up money for bounties, then the penalty is not too severe. We can't really say for certain he did because we haven't seen the evidence. All we have is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's word. I find it hard to believe that Goodell would take away a whole season from a player if he didn't have the goods to back it up.

But until Goodell lets the world see the evidence, there is doubt. It will be interesting to see what happens with Vilma's defamation suit against Goodell. Maybe Vilma's attorneys will have some actual evidence to back up the Saints linebacker's claim that he was defamed.

But I believe the NFL is too careful and too calculating to hand down these suspensions without corroboration.

1 year is too harsh
Omar Kelly
Sun Sentinel
Jonathan Vilma is one of the most intelligent and well-spoken athletes I've covered.

He has always been a stand-up person, which made the NFL's accusations that he's the ring leader of the Saints' bounty program a head-scratcher.

What wasn't a head-scratcher was Vilma's decision to file a defamation of character lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended him for the entire season.

No matter the outcome of the unprecedented lawsuit against Goodell, it is clear Vilma is not sitting out this season without a fight. And if that's the case, he's taking the right approach. His suspension is harsh, and the claims made against him by the NFL —without showing substantial evidence —is troubling.

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Dallas Cowboys Undrafted Free Agents: Harland Gunn Profile

Now that's the name of a Dallas Cowboy. Harland Gunn received a $5,000 signing bonus from the club to participate in the rookie mini-camp and he made it past the first round of cuts. Now the guard out of the University of Miami will have to navigate through the remainder of the offseason to try and work his way to the 53 man roster or practice squad.

Gunn was the second best guard prospect the Hurricane's had to offer this draft season; behind Brandon Washington who was a sixth-round draft pick of the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Gunn would seem to be another body that Dallas is throwing at the interior line. He stands at 6'2" and weighs 320 lbs, but he did not participate in the scouting combine.

Gunn started in 30 games during his career at "The U" at the guard position, and there was some discussion that he could get the opportunity to play some center with the team.

The intriguing thing about Gunn is that he was offered a scholarship by the University of Nebraska; whose head coach at the time happened to be Bill Callahan, the Cowboys current Offensive Coordinator and Line Coach. Instead, he chose to attend the U and had to fight through four different head coaches and plenty of turmoil. Despite this, he didn't allow a sack in his final two years. Amazingly, he didn't have any penalties called on him either. His athleticism is a bit of a question, but he is an extremely strong player and that should serve him well on the interior.

His coaches at The U speak highly of Gunn.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He's a solid, strong, high character, high work ethic, lunch pail guy. He's a true blue collar approach to offensive line play. He'll fit in great for the rest of his life playing offensive line. They love those type guys in the NFL." - Miami Herald
Well the Cowboys sure seem high on him for now. Let's see if he earns the right to have these types of accolades given to him at the professional level.

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Chris Perez blasts Tribe fans

CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez is throwing some heat at Cleveland fans.

The All-Star closer didn't back down Sunday from comments made Saturday questioning why fans are not turning out to see the first-place Indians and why some in the sparse crowds boo the home team.

"The fans are going to come, I know that," Perez said. "It's just a slap in the face when you're in first place and last in attendance. Last. Not 25th or 26th. Last."

The right-hander said he has been frustrated by small crowds for a long time and that it came to a head Thursday when he was booed because two men reached base while he eventually saved a win over Seattle.

"That was the last straw," said Perez, an outspoken, gregarious team leader who regularly uses social media to interact with fans.

"I got a lot of messages and some of it was funny," Perez said of overnight reaction by fans.

While the Indians encourage Perez's aggressive style of challenging opposing hitters, the confrontational comments did not sit well.

Team president Mark Shapiro said the organization differs with the way Perez spoke, adding that the Indians do get fan support. Shapiro said the reliever's words come from a desire to win and get more fans to come to the ballpark.

"We clearly disagree with him about our fans," Shapiro said. "We appreciate our fans. We respect our fans."

Shapiro said the 26-year-old's comments were likely borne from frustration combined with a desire to succeed.

"He's been one of the more dominant closers," Shapiro said. "What drives him to succeed in that role are emotion and competitiveness and passion, and I think a lot of that was behind what he said.

"It's clear that what's behind the emotion is how great he feels our situation is -- how incredible he feels the team is, the ballpark is, and his desire for more people to experience it.

"He's saying, 'Pay attention. Look what we've got here.'"

After earning his 13th save Saturday by striking out the side on 10 pitches to clinch a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins, Perez criticized fans who boo the home team and said negative vibes are a reason big-name free agents such as Carlos Beltran don't sign with Cleveland.

It came after the season's second-largest crowd, 29,799. Including a sellout of 43,190 for the April 5 opener, the Indians' 15,188 average through 22 home dates is a far cry from the team-record 455 consecutive sellouts in the late 1990s.

"Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans," said Perez on Saturday. "We know the weather stinks, but people see that (low attendance). Other players know that.

"You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000 like Beltran chose to do, or you can come to Cleveland."

Perez said Sunday he hadn't spoken to Beltran or others who signed elsewhere, adding that in conversation with teammates, opponents and a few former Indians, he drew the consensus that Cleveland is not now a popular place to play.

"Baseball is supposed to be fun," Perez said. "It is like that in Philadelphia every day. It helps you. You draw energy from the fans."

Shapiro countered by pointing out that several current Indians enjoy the city and have signed long-term contracts to stay. He thinks the current controversy will blow over and hopefully not impact Perez or the ballclub.

"I really feel like it's a moment in time, a story for right now," Shapiro said. "If you polled our players, by and large, what you'd see is a largely universal appreciation for our fans."

Perez said he had no ulterior motive for his comments and he isn't trying to draw attention to himself.

"It's just so frustrating," Perez said. "I've been here since 2009, was one of the first guys in the (rebuilding) trades. If this was 2010, I wouldn't say anything. We deserved to be booed, we were bad."

Cleveland went 65-97 in 2009 and 69-93 the next year, then spent much of last season in first place until fading to finish 80-82. They entered play Sunday 23-17.

Perez has done his part to boost sagging attendance. He has bought six season tickets to give away, understanding how the area has been hit hard by the economy and that some fans can't buy tickets. He doesn't, however, comprehend the overall apathy.

"I don't understand the negativity, in general," Perez said. "Why? We have a first-place team. How many teams in the country would want that right now?

"You think the Tigers are happy? The Tigers are in third place. We're in first place. Enjoy it."

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Pat Burrell emotional as he officially retires a Phillie

PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Burrell always prided himself on being prepared. He thought he was ready this time, too, all set to take one last curtain call at Citizens Bank Park. Then the Phillies threw him with a changeup.

The tribute video had been shown and the accolades had been said Saturday night. He'd thrown out the ceremonial first pitch to close friend and former teammate Chase Utley. There had been the standing ovation and the signs:

Thank You, Pat. We Love You Always

Pat Burrell Is My Favorite Phillie

Earlier, Burrell had signed a one-day contract so that he could formally retire with the team that made him the first overall Draft pick in June 1998.
And just when he thought he was home free, three little girls walked onto the field. Anna, Lena and Stella, the granddaughters of late Phillies coach John Vukovich. And, with that, Burrell lost it.

"Other than crying in front of 45,000 people, I'm fine," he said ruefully a few minutes later. "When the granddaughters came out, I wasn't ready for that."

Vukovich passed away in March 2007 at the age of 59. The Phillies wore commemorative patches on their uniforms that year. Burrell, now a scout for the Giants, carries one in his binder as a constant reminder of a man who had such a profound influence on so many players.

"I was lucky. Guys that I keep in touch with that came through the system when I was. All the guys who had a chance to be around him," Burrell said. "He affected a lot of people in a very positive way. And it wasn't always hugs and pats on the back, either. It was both ways. We had a couple rumbles here and there. But in the end, all he wanted was for you to be the best you can be. It takes effort and it takes preparation, and those are the things he taught all of us."

This is the sort of open emotion that Burrell rarely displayed as a player. At work, he was the strong silent type. Whether he was booed or cheered, he remained stoic. He didn't complain, didn't make excuses. Off the field, he developed a reputation for enjoying a good time. Neither of those one-dimensional images, however, fully depicts the player his teammates saw behind closed clubhouse doors.

"One thing people don't really talk about is the fact that he rubbed off on guys in a positive way. He had an unbelievable work ethic, which helped me adopt my routine here at the park," Utley said. "He came to the park every day to win and to try to improve. And not many guys can say they've done that for 10 years.

"Everybody knows how important a role he played on our winning teams. Or I hope people realize how much of a role he played. In the clubhouse he was a guy who guys fed off his energy. He kept it loose. But he would also speak his mind when he felt it was needed."

Added manager Charlie Manuel: "Pat Burrell has a tremendous personality. He was always early at the ballpark and he wanted to win. And it was probably 2007 when he got more involved in our team. When we changed our team [by trading Bobby Abreu], he got into it more. He was one of our guys as far as the team coming together. He was definitely a leader.

"He was a player who was determined that we were going to win and he was going to help us."

The lasting snapshot will be of Burrell hitting the leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. He was replaced by a pinch-runner, Eric Bruntlett, who came around to score what proved to be the winning run. It turned out to be Burrell's last official appearance in a Phillies uniform.

Two days later, he led the victory parade down Broad Street. That remains his fondest Phillies memory. The following January, he signed as a free agent with the Rays. He won another World Series with the Giants in 2010 but, by then, was beginning to experience the foot problems that would end his playing career at age 34. Now he's moved on to the next phase.

"Chapter Two. I work for the Giants. I'm going to stay involved in the game and see where it takes me," he said. "It's different. Seeing things from a different perspective. When you're a player, you look at the game, for example, as a hitter. From an evaluator's standpoint, it's different. I'm learning. I enjoy it. I'm not sure where I'm going to end up with this whole thing, but as long as they still think I can help, I'll be there."

Baseball is a game of numbers, and Burrell's are easy enough to see. He hit 251 home runs for the Phillies; only Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard and Del Ennis have more. He's in the franchise's Top 10 in walks and RBIs. You could look it up.

More than statistics, though, he was a transformative figure for a franchise that has now won five straight division titles. He learned from Vukovich. He put that knowledge into practice and passed it on to Utley. This is how it works. This, in the end, is what makes Burrell a significant figure in franchise history.

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Marlins option Gaby Sanchez to Triple-A

MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Marlins have optioned Gaby Sanchez to Triple-A New Orleans.

The 28-year-old first baseman went 0-for-3 in Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Indians, dropping his already-hideous slash line to .197/.244/.295.
The Fish will hope that he can get his timing back against a lower level of competition at Triple-A.

Sanchez is a .263/.337/.427 career hitter in over 1,450 major-league plate appearances. He was named an All-Star in 2011 and finished the season with 19 home runs and 75 RBI.

Logan Morrison seems likely to move to first base while the Marlins wait for Sanchez to get himself right.

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Ryan Braun, Aaron Rodgers tweak restaurant name

Out with the asterisk, in with the hyphen.

You'd have to look closely, but a slight tweak was made to Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun's restaurant name last week.

8-twelve, a joint dining venture between the dual MVP's set to open in Brookfield this summer, now has a hyphen in its name and logo as opposed to a star. The star had been interpreted as an asterisk by some members of the media and public — a potentially sensitive topic for Braun, who was recently embroiled in controversy over an overturned Major League Baseball drug suspension. An asterisk has a negative sports connotation because of its placement next to tainted records.

Regarding the change, SURG Restaurant Group co-owner Omar Shaikh told Milwaukee Magazine that he "just wanted to avoid the negativity." SURG also works with Braun at his downtown Milwaukee restaurant, Graffito.

Oh, and in case you were wondering why Braun gets top billing on the restaurant marquee, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger told OnMilwaukee .com that, "I came up with the idea, so eight had to come first."

"We actually went both ways but I think eight-12 sounds better than 12-eight. So, I think it just sounded better, so we went with it that way."

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Padres recall Blake Tekotte

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The San Diego Padres have placed outfielder Mark Kotsay on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain and recalled outfielder Blake Tekotte from Triple-A Tucson.

Kotsay's move is retroactive to last Sunday. The 36-year-old is hitting .294 with one homer and six RBIs in 18 games, and is 3 for 10 as a pinch-hitter, with a double, homer and four RBIs.

Tekotte is up for the second time this season. He was first recalled April 28 and played in five games before being optioned back to Tucson on May 8.

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Aubrey Huff soon to get a start or 2

Manager Bruce Bochy said he'll find a start or two for Aubrey Huff on the Giants' seven-game road trip through Milwaukee and Miami, and nothing happened to change his mind in Sunday's 6-2 loss to the A's.

Huff most likely will start at first base for Brandon Belt, who struck out three times Sunday. His last two strikeouts were of the looking variety, including one that came with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

"We're striking out too much with runners in scoring position," Bochy said. "You've got to battle and find a way to put it in play. It's always been my theory: 'If you're going to go down, go down swinging.' "

Huff hasn't had many swinging chances since he was activated May 7, going 1-for-6 with a walk and a run scored since seeking help for an anxiety disorder. Bochy doesn't want Huff to get stale and has told him to concentrate on first base because Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan have been productive in the three outfield spots.

"He's ready," Bochy said of Huff. "I've been watching him, and he's feeling just fine. Now, it's just a matter of throwing him out there and letting him get three or four at-bats."

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