Raiders OC Musgrave: Clive Walford's absence is 'significant'

We still don't know the exact injury holding back Raiders rookie tight end Clive Walford, but it kept him out of practice again Thursday.

Head coach Jack Del Rio recently insisted not to add any "drama" to his absence, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave admitted Thursday that it certainly hasn't been a positive for the Raiders.

"Missing Clive is significant for our team, for him personally," Musgrave said after practice Thursday. "It's given more opportunities to Brian (Leonhardt) and Gabe (Holmes), but the tight end group is doing a nice job for us."

While that's great for Leonhardt and Holmes, it's not exactly what the Raiders had in mind when they took Walford with a third-round pick back in May.

Walford did play in the Raiders' first preseason game and played well, catching two passes for 28 yards. However, according to, he's been available just four days since training camp opened at the end of July. That's a big hurdle to overcome for any player, particularly a rookie trying to learn a new offense and adjust to the NFL.

The expectation was for Walford to be a versatile tight end in Oakland right from the start. With Mychal Rivera established as a pass catcher and Lee Smith brought in as a blocking specialist, Walford was considered an athletic, physical guy who could do a little bit of both at 6-foot-4, 258 pounds.

Instead, it's been primarily Rivera and Smith, with undrafted rookie Holmes and undrafted third-year player Leonhardt receiving extra reps. Although the Raiders would like to have Walford back in the mix, the presence of Rivera and Smith gives the team some stability at an important position while they wait for their rookie to recover.

"They're the glue that holds us together," Musgrave said of the tight ends. "They've got to do it all -- pass protect, run block and catch balls. Both Mychal and Lee, we know we can count on."

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Reggie Wayne Contract Details

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Breaking down the one-year contract signed by veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne with the New England Patriots:

Signing bonus: $450,000

Base salary: $1.1 million

Roster bonus: $750,000 ($46,875 per game on 46-man active roster)

Incentives: $250,000 for 55 receptions or $500,000 for 65 receptions

Maximum value: $2.8 million

Quick-hit thoughts: On Tuesday, Wayne said, "I just want to win, point blank." Thus, financials obviously aren't a top priority for him. But at the same time, they reflect the marketplace for the savvy veteran entering his 15th season, and also how the Patriots view his potential contributions. This isn't a minimum-level deal. The pure guarantee is the $450,000 signing bonus, and if Wayne makes the roster (which is likely), his $1.1 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed. At that point, he'd be guaranteed $1.55 million, with the chance to earn the remaining $1.25 million in per-game roster bonuses and incentives for receptions. For the Patriots, they have salary-cap space to absorb this charge with little impact from a big-picture perspective.

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Frank Gore Not Sure If He Will Play Saturday Night

Frank Gore on what he would say if Chuck Pagano left the decision up to him to play this weekend:

“Then I would go to Andrew Luck and see what he wants.”

Bowen’s Analysis: Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Gore didn’t lean one way or another on whether he will play on Saturday night in St. Louis. Gore received two carries last Saturday, establishing his goal of wanting to get tackled before the real action gets here.

It might actually be a blessing if Gore doesn’t play on Saturday (Gore has 13 total carries in the last four preseasons, so more reps aren’t really needed). Without Gore, that would allow for more first-team snaps to guys like Vick Ballard and Josh Robinson. You know what you are getting out of Gore. You are unsure of what Ballard and Robinson will look like against a first-team defense.

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Reggie Wayne has plenty of incentives

In case there was any doubt, the Patriots paid wide receiver Reggie Wayne with the expectation he will be on the 53-man roster this season.

Wayne’s one-year deal officially was filed with the league, and he can earn $2.55 million if he reaches all incentives. Wayne earned a $450,000 signing bonus to go along with a $1.1 million base salary, plus $750,000 in roster bonuses ($46,875 per game on the 46-man roster) and an additional $250,000 in incentives. Wayne’s cap hit is $2,503,125.

The 14-year veteran has shown nothing but enthusiasm since coming on board, talking about how difficult the playbook is and how he’s going full-tilt to learn it. His first few days with the team have been pretty much a whirlwind.

“Like a rookie,” Wayne said. “They’re throwing a lot at me right now. I’m not getting very much sleep. I feel like a rookie all over again.”

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Frank Gore: Colts' Andrew Luck is 'a football god'

When it comes to falling in love, the stages are smitten, head-over-heels, twitterpated and the honeymoon rapture that highly decorated Colts veterans Frank Gore and Andre Johnson are currently experiencing for Andrew Luck.

After a dozen years in Houston, it took Johnson a mere three months in Indianapolis to decide that Luck is the best QB in the game.

Earlier this month, Gore told NFL Media's Nate Burleson that Luck is a "different breed" who "runs the huddle" like no other quarterback he had seen in a decade with the 49ers.

Now Gore is convinced that Luck is a gridiron deity.

"He runs meetings like a coach. Basically, I'm playing with a coordinator on the field," Gore told The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday. "He's a football god. He sees everything. He sees the big picture of everything. ... He lets me know when [there's] something I don't see. He's just different. How he's in the huddle, off the field, in the meetings, he runs it. He runs the show, even in the off-season, he ran it. One day he had running backs, the next day he has receivers. He's just different. He's a football God."

High praise indeed, but it's not just limited to Luck's teammates.

Back in May, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton pointed out that Luck's perspective and understanding is already at the level of an NFL coach after just three years in the league.

"It's well documented that he's a smart guy," Hamilton explained, "but now I think his overall football acumen, or should I say football aptitude, is at a point where his feedback and/or his suggestions, I really take heed of the advice that he gives."

We've lauded Luck's incredible pocket movement as the "eighth wonder of the world." In addition to ideal size and athleticism, his arm talent and willingness to make tough throws rank with Aaron Rodgers as the best in the league.

For all of those obvious physical gifts, though, it's Luck's football aptitude and leadership that have led Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, former Giants coach Jim Fassel and NFL Media analyst Charley Casserly to predict that the Colts' quarterback will end up joining the pantheon of all-time greats.

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Orlando Franklin is too banged up to make Chargers practice

The Chargers line is beginning to take its regular-season form -- and that's not a good thing.

Free-agent pickup Orlando Franklin is just the latest brusied-up Bolts blocker. 

Head coach Mike McCoy is in a preseason pickle. If he tells Franklin to tough it out at left guard, McCoy risks further injury. If he sits Franklin, the first-team offensive line loses valuable snaps together.

Bet on McCoy going with the latter plan. While cohesion sure helps, Franklin and his line-mates can find time to gel when the snaps actually count.

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Greg Olsen is the X-factor in Panthers' passing game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen lined up wide left on the first play of team drills on Monday. He moved into the slot on the right side on the next. He lined up tight to the line of scrimmage a few plays later.

Much has been made of the Panthers losing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season with a torn ACL.

A bigger loss would be Olsen.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, receivers and tight ends made up 87 percent of Carolina’s total targets last season. That was the third-highest rate in the NFL even though the Panthers had only six games where individual receivers and tight ends were targeted 10 times in a game in 2014.

But if you take the tight ends out of the equation, specifically Olsen, the ranking falls to 17th.

In other words, Olsen is the most valuable piece of the Carolina passing game.

That was magnified in Saturday night’s 31-30 preseason win over Miami. Newton completed four passes, with three going to Olsen for 27 yards.

“Every time he lines up, the defense has to know where he is," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “If they account for him with one guy, then we’ve got to take advantage of that. If they account for him with two guys, obviously that’s going to give other guys opportunities."

Since 2011, when Newton was the top pick of the draft, Olsen has been targeted 415 times. That’s the third-most of any tight end behind Jimmy Graham (548) and Jason Witten (457).

Olsen has led Carolina in receptions the past two seasons, including a career-high 84 catches for 1,008 yards last season.

He’s averaged 67 catches and 801 yards a year since 2011, and needs 54 catches and 696 yards to pass Wesley Walls for the most by a tight end in Carolina history. Walls had 324 catches for 3,902 yards from 1996-2002.

So as valuable as Benjamin was to Newton and the offense, Olsen is more valuable.

Does that mean Olsen is in store to break more of his personal records? Not necessarily.

“Sometimes it’s a double-edged sword," Olsen said. “Having talented guys on the outside makes life easy sometimes. Of course, they get their targets, but they make life easier."

Newton tried to spread the ball around early against Miami. Corey Brown was targeted three times deep. He dropped one.

Newton connected with Ted Ginn Jr. for a 15-yard pickup on the third series.

But the offense didn’t take off until Newton went to Olsen three times on five plays.

Still, Olsen reminds that others have to step up for him or anybody to be effective just like Benjamin did last season.

“You can’t go in with just the one-man trying to focus [mentality]," he said.

Whether that means more two tight-end sets with Olsen and Ed Dickson or the emergence of rookie Devin Funchess remains to be seen.

All Olsen knows is that the Panthers have to spread the ball around.

“You’ve got a big guy like Kelvin back there, he can do a lot of things one-one-one being so big and physical and just going for the ball," Olsen said. “It’s hard to replace guys like that, but I feel confident in a lot of the guys we have at that position."

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Antrel Rolle on preseason: 'I don't take any game lackadaisically'

Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle is in his 12th NFL season, and yet the 32-year-old veteran's not the least bit jaded by the preseason.

"I pretty much go in and I attack it the same way," Rolle said, per Kevin Fishbain of Chicago Football. "Whenever I’m on the field, I come to play. I don’t take any game lackadaisically. I come in and I play every opponent as if it’s the eighth game of the season. It doesn’t matter who it is or who the opponent is or what the magnitude of the game. I always come to play whenever I touch the green."

Rolle was signed in free agency this offseason, partially because of the intensity that shines through in his play. Another factor that makes him an alluring acquisition is his Super Bowl experience. Rolle knows what it takes to hoist the Lombardi Trophy from his time with the New York Giants (2010-2014); he also knows what it feels like to lose on the game's biggest stage from his time with the Arizona Cardinals (2005-2009).

Still adjusting to his third NFL franchise, Rolle is starting to feel a level of comfort with the Bears.

"I feel fairly comfortable. Obviously, you’re always working toward that extreme comfort zone, I don’t think that comes until you win the Super Bowl," Rolle said, via Chicago Football. "Right now, we’re gelling, we’re working together and more importantly, we’re finding ways to get W’s."

The Bears are rebuilding their defense under new coordinator Vic Fangio, and they're counting on Rolle to help smooth the transition with his veteran leadership.

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Santana Moss 'Paying for It Now' on Investment Loss

NFL free agent Santana Moss testified Wednesday that he didn't examine his own financial affairs until after more than $1.4 million in unauthorized transfers were made from a bank account in his name.

The Miami native is one of six current and former professional football players suing BB&T for negligence. The players' former financial adviser, Pro Sports Financial Inc., allegedly forged their signatures to open BB&T bank accounts and make unauthorized withdrawals to invest in a failed Alabama casino deal.

Most recently with the Washington Redskins, Moss joined retired players Fred Taylor and Lito Sheppard in a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami. A jury trial will follow for retirees Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis and Derrick Gaffney.

BB&T lawyers painted a picture of an athlete who didn't pay attention to the management of his money, signing away power of attorney to a Pro Sports employee and sending his bank statements to the company without looking over them. He claims a loss of $4.85 million.

"I heard so much growing up, 'Pay attention to this. Pay attention to that,' " Moss testified during cross-examination. "I didn't do it. I let [Pro Sports] pay attention to it. I'm paying for it now."

Moss was drafted in 2001 by the New York Jets and earned a signing bonus of about $5.4 million, he said. A few years into his NFL career, he hired Pro Sports to pay his bills and manage his money, along with other "concierge services."

"You want to go out of town, they made flight reservations," he said. "You name it."

He said he signed a document in January 2006 to open an account with BankAtlantic, whose assets were later acquired by BB&T. After a Pro Sports break-in that Moss said he was never told about, his bill-paying account was closed and a new BankAtlantic account was opened in his name.

Moss testified he didn't know who signed his name on the agreement to open the new account.

Over two months in 2009, $1.1 million in wire transfers moved money from that account to Ronnie Gilley Properties LLC, which was organized to buy the land for an Alabama casino project. Another $250,000 wire transfer and two checks paid to Pro Sports for a total of $80,000 were also made from 2008 to 2010, according to bank statements.

Moss testified he didn't authorize those transfers and received nothing in return, saying it was "lost."

He said he met with Ronnie Gilley in Alabama to discuss potential real estate investments but never visited the casino site and never agreed to invest in it. Moss acknowledged lending Gilley about $300,000 for a residential real estate project.

Moss said the NFL does not allow players to invest in casinos. When his lawyer asked him to explain the NFL policy, Moss said: "It's not something that we're allowed to do. It can cost you your career."

BB&T lead attorney David Hendrix of GrayRobinson in Tampa repeatedly asked the 36-year-old wide receiver how many BankAtlantic accounts he had during the time the transfers were made.

Moss said he didn't know.

He said he would sometimes receive financial documents from Pro Sports via FedEx and sign them without reading them. He had his bank statements sent to Pro Sports' Fort Lauderdale office and saved his paychecks—about $40,000 per game—in a drawer in his Virginia bedroom until he could send them to Pro Sports for deposit.

The former University of Miami player said he found out about the transfers around 2012 when he started hearing his teammates talking about problems brewing at Pro Sports.

"There was rumbling, and I made some calls, and that's when I got to the bottom of it," he said.

Moss said he has been handling his own financial affairs since then.

"I do all of that stuff myself now," he said. "I didn't want to trust nobody no more."

The players are represented by Matthew Brenner and Ronald Edwards Jr. of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed in Orlando and Elizabeth Kagan of the Kagan Law Firm in Fort Myers.

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Leonard Hankerson: Becoming The Falcons' 3rd Receiver

The Leonard Hankerson signing was an intriguing front office move made by Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff in the offseason.  Hank spent his entire four-year with the Washington Redskins organization as an often injured 4th receiver.

But the Atlanta Falcons needed to find a replacement for longtime slot receiver Harry Douglas now with the Tennessee Titans.  Atlanta brought in Leonard Hankerson who is familiar with new OC Kyle Shanahan’s system from their time together with the Washington Redskins.  Hank came in to compete with KR/WR Devin Hester and rookie WR Justin Hardy out of East Carolina for 3rd on the Falcons’ receiving depth chart behind Julio Jones and Roddy White.

Through the first two preseason games, I would say that Leonard Hankerson is very much in the lead for that third receiver option for QB Matt Ryan in Shanahan’s offense.  Since Hester is best known for his Hall of Fame worthy return skills, anything Shanahan gets from Devin in the receiving corps is really an added bonus.

Justin Hardy has not turned heads with his play as I had hoped for in the first two preseason games.  His route running needs some edge to it to shake off pesky defenders in the slot.  Ceasing dropped passes would help out Hardy, too.

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Chris Perez retires

Former Indians closer Chris Perez has retired from baseball. This actually happened a few days ago, but no one took notice. The only mention of it appears to be this entry on the International League’s transactions page from four days ago:

He was in the Orioles organization, but he couldn’t even pitch anyway given that he had a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse to serve that wouldn’t have ended until next month.

Maybe the retirement holds, maybe it doesn’t. Manny Ramirez retired when faced with a drug suspension but then came back and saw the suspension reduced. Precedent is set, right? Take a year or so off, get back in shape and try to latch on someplace else.

Maybe, however, Perez just wants to move on from baseball and into whatever else it is interests him in life. Which, based on his disciplinary and legal history of the past couple of years seems to be marijuana, but hey, whatever you want to do man.

When baseball was his thing he was pretty good at it for a while. He was an All-Star closer for the Indians in 2011 and 2012, saving 36 and 39 games in those years, respectively. But since then he has a 4.31 ERA with 46 walks in 100 innings. He was arrested in 2013, along with his wife, after having a package of marijuana delivered in their dog’s name. Then this suspension. He has bounced from the Indians to the Dodgers to the Brewers and now to the Orioles organization before hanging it up.

Hang loose, Chris. Go be you wherever you want to be.

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Pat O'Donnell goes undercover and no one knew who he was

For how bad the Bears were last year, one would think that fans would be pretty familiar with the team’s punter.

However, while doing a little undercover work during the preseason, Bears punter Pat O’Donnell found out first hand just how unknown he was.

The Bears sent O’Donnell out into the training camp crowd at their Bourbonnais facilities asking fans what they thought of the team’s punter. A few had no idea who he was at all. Others successfully danced around the details all together.

For one fan, O’Donnell even pushed the envelope a little further. He asked the fan what he thought of the team’s “new” return man Anthony Adams.

Of course, Anthony Adams was a defensive lineman who has been retired for a few years now. Not only did the fan say they watched Adams at practice, but apparently he looked good.

With another rough looking season ahead, it’s pretty likely Bears fans will get familiar with O’Donnell soon.

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Reggie Wayne dons new number, could add to HOF-level numbers

When new Patriots receiver Reggie Wayne met with the media on Tuesday for the first time as a non-Colt, he also did so for the first time as a guy who won’t be wearing No. 87.

“Eigthy-seven is over with,” Wayne said, after explaining he has no plans to try to get it away from tight end Rob Gronkowski.

At the time Wayne met with the media, he said he didn’t know what his number would be. According to the official roster on the team’s website, he’ll be wearing No. 15.

He’s already much higher than No. 15 on two key career receiving lists, and a solid season with the Pats could put him much higher. At seventh in receptions with 1,070, Wayne is only eight from catching Terrell Owens for No. 6, 24 from matching Tim Brown with 1,094, and 32 from equaling former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison for No. 3 all time, with 1,102.

Wayne is eighth on the all-time yardage list, with 14,345 yards. He’s only 235 yards from catching Harrison for No. 7, and he needs only 947 for the season to match Moss at No. 3.

When it comes to receiving touchdowns, Wayne sits at 22nd, with 82. Ten would vault him to No. 10, but he still needs a total of 46 to catch Harrison in that category.
Regardless, the total catches and receiving yards — along with the possibility of a second Super Bowl ring — could eventually get Wayne a spot in Canton.

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Chris Myers retires after 10-year career

After 10 years in the NFL, Chris Myers retired.

The former Texans center called it quits Tuesday on a career that saw him play in a pair of Pro Bowls as an anchor of the Houston offensive line.

A Texan from 2008 to 2014, Myers helped lead the team to a pair of AFC South titles in 2011 and 2012. He made the announcement official on Tuesday morning's SportsRadio 610 "In the Loop" radio program, and also tweeted a thank you.

Head coach Bill O'Brien began his Tuesday press conference by thanking Myers for his service to the Texans, and said the Houston media was gaining a "good teammate" as well.

"Personally, I really appreciate what Chris Myers meant to our coaching staff and team," O'Brien said.

Ben Jones, who played guard on either side of Myers over the past three years, is now the starting center for Houston. He too, had nothing but high praise for his former teammate.

"Heck of a teammate, heck of a family man," Jones said of the married father of three. "He took me under his wing."

Myers is now a radio personality with 610, and can be heard on the Crown Royal Regal Apple postgame show following all Texans contests.

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Reggie Wayne is a Patriot. Will he be any good?

Reggie Wayne is a player Patriots fans should know well.

Wayne is the Colts’ all-time leader in games played and the leader among active players in receptions (1,070) and receiving yards (14,345). And, after 14 years in Indy, he’s now a New England Patriot.

The 36-year-old (who turns 37 in November) had been on the market since his final contract with the Colts expired in March, and despite reports of interest from a handful of teams in July, Wayne remained unsigned until Monday. With veteran wideout Brandon Gibson now on IR, fourth-year undrafted free agent Brian Tyms waived with an injury and Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman still sidelined with injury, the Patriots’ hand was forced—but Wayne could be an asset this season nonetheless.

Make no mistake, Wayne’s best years are behind him: He last eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2012, when he had 1,355 yards and 5 touchdowns with a rookie Andrew Luck. He was on pace to hit the mark in 2013 had he not gone on IR with a torn ACL in Week 7, and he labored to just 779 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 15 games last season. His recent stats paint a picture of receiver in steep decline, and yet it’s somewhat a deceiving one.

While 2014 was Wayne’s worst overall statistical season in a dozen years, injury-shortened 2013 aside, he was more than adequate on a per-catch basis. At 12.2 yards per reception last year, Wayne would have slotted third among Patriots pass-catchers with more than 20 targets last year, behind just Rob Gronkowski (13.7) and LaFell (12.9) and well ahead of Danny Amendola’s 7.4 mark.

He caught just 64 of 116 targets for a 55.1 percent catch rate, far below his 62.4 career rate, but he wasn’t that far off the 56.9 percent he grabbed in his first two years with Luck. Tom Brady (64.1 cmp% in 2014) is unqestionably a more accurate quarterback than Luck (61.7) at this stage in their careers, and so could bring an improvement there.

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Jon Beason Injury Update

Coughlin said he does not have anything new on Beason's sprained knee. Beason is week-to-week, but the Giants hope he will be back by Week 1, if not earlier. 

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Reggie Wayne: Whoever the naysayers are, watch me work

Patriots wide receiver Reggie Wayne — it will take some time for that to look right — has heard the doubts about his ability to produce at a high level after his sluggish end to the 2014 season, but they haven’t shaken his confidence.

Wayne said Tuesday that he was battling injuries all of last season, but knows “what I’m capable of” when he’s healthy.

“I think I have enough to play,” Wayne said, via “Like you said, if I didn’t think I had enough, I wouldn’t be here. One thing I don’t do is worry about what people have to say. If I didn’t play at all, if I decided to retire, they still would have something to say … The only thing I can do is let my work speak for myself. I know what I can do, what I can bring to the table. Just got to get caught up and get on the same [page] as everybody and be able to show what I can do. Whoever the naysayers are, watch me work.”

Getting on the same page with the rest of the Patriots is his biggest concern right now, saying, via Mike Reiss of, that there’s “no comparison” to the offenses he’s played in during his time with the Colts. That focus means that there’s “no time” for messages to Colts fans or thinking ahead to this year’s game in Indianapolis.

Wayne also isn’t going to spend any time worrying about the fact that he won’t be wearing the familiar No. 87 that he wore with the Colts. That number belongs to Rob Gronkowski in New England, so Wayne will wear No. 15 in his 15th NFL season as he embarks on his “new journey” with the Patriots.

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Yasmani Grandal still being bothered by sore shoulder

Yasmani Grandal won't play Tuesday or Wednesday due to lingering soreness in his left shoulder.

Grandal also missed Sunday's finale in Houston and some time last week. He's considered day-to-day for now and the Dodgers don't think he'll need a DL stint. A.J. Ellis is starting at catcher and batting seventh Tuesday in the Dodgers' series opener in Cincinnati.

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Duke Johnson primed for 'real big' role?

ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi expects third-round RB Duke Johnson to have a "real big" role if he can stay healthy.

The Browns have been alluding to it all summer, but it's grown more likely as Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West have dawdled through the preseason. Johnson missed a ton of practice time with a hamstring issue, but all will be forgotten if he puts on a show in this weekend's regular season dress rehearsal. At the very least, Johnson will be Cleveland's third-down back in Week 1.

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Ladarius Gunter playing his way onto Packers' 53-man roster

The Green Bay Packers spent their first two picks in this year's draft on cornerbacks. With the 30th-overall selection the Packers took Damarious Randall out of Arizona State; a round later they picked up Miami (Ohio) product Quinten Rollins.

And yet it's an undrafted rookie who has stood out the most at the cornerback position, so far. Through two preseason games, former Miami Hurricane Ladarius Gunter has earned a higher Pro Football Focus grade than any other player on the Packers' roster (+3.3), according to Ryan Wood of Press-Gazette Media.

Gunter, 23, may have started out as a long shot to make the team, but his play has been impossible to ignore. He has defended four passes, including one he intercepted, through two preseason exhibitions.

If Gunter keeps up this level of play, he'll make the Packers' 53-man roster for the 2015 season.

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Thurston Armbrister Emerging At Linebacker For Jacksonville Jaguars

The odds have always been stacked against Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Thurston Armbrister.

As a no-star recruit, Armbrister was not heavily recruited coming out of high school. He eventually signed with the Miami Hurricanes, but not much was expected of the young linebacker. After barely seeing the field early in his collegiate career, he made his mark on special teams and eventually grew into one of Miami’s top defensive playmakers. In 38 career games with the Hurricanes, the 6-foot-3, 241-pound Armbrister recorded 129 tackles and seven sacks.

Despite his success at the collegiate level, Armbrister was not invited to the NFL combine. Doubts about his athleticism and ability in coverage led to him going undrafted. The Jaguars quickly signed him following the draft.

The Jaguars’ starters at linebacker are set with Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta. However, depth at the position remains a concern. Aside from third-year linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, the Jaguars lack quality players at the position. Second-year linebackers Jeremiah George and Khairi Fortt, as well as fellow undrafted rookie Todd Thomas, are competing with Armbrister for the final two linebacker spots.

Through two preseason games, Armbrister appears to be on the verge of locking down one of those spots. He is third on the team with eight tackles. He has played well against the run, and has greatly improved in coverage throughout training camp and the preseason. He also has the versatility to play all three linebacker spots.

With Reynolds and Fortt suffering knee injuries in Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Giants, Armbrister should have plenty of opportunity to prove his worth over the next couple of weeks. Being in this position is nothing new to Armbrister. He has played his entire career with a chip on his shoulder. If he can continue to impress in the final two preseason games, his roster spot will be all but secured.

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Duke Johnson will be used heavily in 3rd game

Browns OC John DeFilippo said he expects rookie RB Duke Johnson to have a significant role in the third preseason game.

Considering the third preseason game is often viewed as a regular season dress rehearsal, this could point to a large regular season role for the rookie. Terrance West shined in the second preseason game, but neither he nor Isaiah Crowell has impressed as receivers. Johnson was one of the best receiving backs in this year's class.

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Bill Belichick on Reggie Wayne: We’ll see how it goes

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has spent a lot of time devising plans to cover wide receiver Reggie Wayne over the years and those experiences left him with plenty of complimentary things to say about the veteran wideout.

Now he’ll get a chance to coach Wayne, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots on Monday. In past years, it wouldn’t have been a question whether Wayne would find a spot on the team’s roster but Wayne looked like he lost a step or two in 2014. That’s left Belichick to play “wait and see” before figuring out what, if any, role Wayne will play for the Patriots this year.

“We’ll find out. We’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI. “We’ve never had him in our system before. I mean I’ve coached him in the Pro Bowl and all that. We just have to see how it goes. He’s had a great career and has done a lot of things for the Colts organization, primarily playing on the left and in more recent years being moved around to playing on the right and also some slot in situations. I think he has a lot of versatility, obviously he has a lot of experience so we’ll have to see how it goes.”

We’ve seen receivers like Chad Johnson fail to flourish in New England after having productive careers with other teams, so it’s no sure thing that Wayne will wind up making an impact for the Patriots this fall. With Brandon Gibson hitting injured reserve on Monday and the Aaron Dobson/Josh Boyce duo failing to grab major roles with the team since being drafted in 2013, Wayne probably won’t be lacking chances to show he has something left in the tank.

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Ereck Flowers a cautious thumbs-up so far

A quick observation of New York Giants first-round pick Ereck Flowers and how he has played through three weeks of training camp:

The Giants drafted Flowers No. 9 overall thinking they could use him at right tackle right away and develop him as their left tackle of the future. But when left tackle Will Beatty tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights in May, the Giants shifted Flowers to the left side and accelerated his development. He's played on the left throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first two preseason games, and so far the reviews are good.

As expected, Flowers looks like a giant mauler who can eat up defenders in the run game. The Giants believed he would show that right away, and he has. The questions are about footwork and technique in pass protection, especially now that he's charged with protecting Eli Manning's blind side.

So far on that front, some good and some bad news. Flowers held up all right against the Bengals' impressive defensive front in the first preseason game. Jacksonville didn't test him much Saturday in the second, as most of his one-on-one matchups seemed to be against linebackers and not defensive ends. He looked very good on a couple of plays and was beaten on a couple of others -- basically what you'd expect from a talented rookie learning the league.

What teammates and coaches seem to like best about Flowers is that he's serious about his business and his education. Tom Coughlin said Sunday that he liked the way Flowers went after a loose ball behind the line of scrimmage even though it was an incomplete pass and not a fumble, because it shows he's been listening as the coaching staff has preached pursuit of every loose ball. Teammate Andre Williams said Flowers is "not easily frustrated," which is a fine quality for a rookie who's likely to have some struggles mixed in among the successes.

Overall so far, Flowers has given the Giants reason to believe they could be all right with him as their left tackle to start this season, which is actually more than they expected when they drafted him.

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Patriots agree to deal with Reggie Wayne

The Patriots have a new receiver, and this one has a very big reputation.

The team has agreed to a deal with former Colts wideout Reggie Wayne, according to a source.

On WEEI this afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick pretty much confirmed the transaction.

"I think we've agreed (to a contract)," Belichick said. "I've had several (conversations) with him. We'll see how it goes. We've never had him in our system before; coaching him in the Pro Bowl and all that, but we'll just have to see how it goes."

Wayne came to terms after visiting for a physical over the weekend.

The wide receiver's defection from Indianapolis is just the latest bit of gasoline on the fiery Patriots-Colts rivalry.

"He's certainy had a great career and has done a lot of things for the Colt organization, primarily playing on the left but then in more recent years being moved around to playing on the right and also in some slot situations. I think he has a lot of versatility and obviously he has a lot of experience, so we'll just have to see how it goes."

In a 14-year career with the Colts, Wayne is the franchise record-holder for games played with 211. In that time, he racked up 14,345 receiving yards and scored 82 touchdowns. As recently as 2012, Wayne had 106 catches for 1,335 yards. Both outputs were the second best of his career.

During the Colts' 2013 campaign, Wayne tore his ACL, and last season his numbers were down. He finished 2014 with 64 catches on 116 targets, and only had two touchdown receptions for Andrew Luck's prolific offense. In fact, in his last five seasons in Indy, Wayne caught just 19 TD passes in a span of 70 games.

Nonetheless, it's clear Wayne has the respect of Belichick, who spoke glowingly of the veteran before a meeting with the Colts last season.

"He's still really good at everything," Belichick said. "Obviously a real smart, experienced guy. Knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same. Does a great job releasing, and then at the top of his routes, being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw."

Wayne is getting a shot in New England because the Patriots are thin at wide receiver with the season rapidly approaching.

Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are all nursing injuries, so there's a chance that Wayne cracks the opening day roster, especially if LaFell (who has the most serious ailment of the bunch) opens the season on the PUP list.

ESPN first reported the Wayne signing.

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Phillip Dorsett a first-round thumbs-up so far

A quick observation of first-round pick Phillip Dorsett and how he has played through three weeks of training camp:

At this point, the Colts would get a thumbs-down based on the position they addressed with their first-round pick when they knew they had concerns on the offensive line. But that isn't Dorsett's fault. The wide receiver shouldn't be blamed for Indianapolis selecting him, and his performance in training camp through the first three weeks definitely deserves a thumbs-up.

I wrote about Dorsett last week, and in that piece, cornerback Greg Toler said the speedster "flat out burns down the field. You sit on his routes too much or miss on a jam and it’s a foot race.” That's how it's been from the start for Dorsett. A lot of speed. Dorsett's ability to quickly grasp multiple receiver positions in the offense has impressed the coaching staff.

Dorsett had four receptions for a team-high 51 yards in the Colts' preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. That was the good news. The bad news was that Dorsett lost a fumble after having the ball stripped from behind. He bounced back by catching all three passes thrown his way and finishing with 21 yards in the second preseason game against the Chicago Bears. Dorsett likely would have had more receptions and yards, but he left the game with a knee contusion in the second half. He's day to day.

Dorsett, who also returns punts, is currently the Colts' No. 4 receiver behind T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief.

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Patriots players excited about addition of Reggie Wayne

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots players expressed excitement late Monday with news that longtime Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the team.

"Not in a million years did I think I’d be [teammates with] a guy that I’ve been watching for a long time. Glad to have him, time to get to work," cornerback Malcolm Butler said.

Added receiver Danny Amendola, "He's played at a high level for a long time, played on some really good football teams, and we're excited to have him. He's a professional."

Veteran cornerback Tarell Brown noted that he's played against Wayne once in his career, saying that it's exciting to bring a leader like him aboard. He compared it to when he had the chance to practice against longtime Rams receiver Isaac Bruce when both were teammates in San Francisco (2008-2009) at the end of Bruce's career.

“Somebody of that caliber, you have to be very disciplined [playing against]," Brown said. "[He’s] somebody that’s really crafty that’s going to give you different looks, give you different leverages and just attack you in so many different ways. It makes you more of a patient player. It makes you trust your technique a lot more, and it also helps you prepare week in and week out to understand that guys will game plan you, guys will come out and do different things against you.”

Brown said Wayne's influence and experience will help all players -- from rookies to veterans.

Safety Tavon Wilson echoed those thoughts.

"Going up against a veteran guy like that that brings a lot of versatility and how productive he’s been as long as he’s been in this league is going to help our defense in practice," he said. "I’m looking forward to adding him to our team.”

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Chase Ford, impressive last season, now battling for job

Chase Ford had more receiving yards than any Vikings tight end last season, but he's now in jeopardy of not making the team.

Ford, who caught 23 passes for 258 yards in 2014, could be the odd man out in a crowded position group. Starter Kyle Rudolph, blocking specialist Rhett Ellison and rookie MyCole Pruitt all figure to survive the final cut.

Ford has 34 catches for 391 yards the past two seasons with the Vikings. He had some strong outings last season when Rudolph missed seven games because of injury.

Ford at least didn't hurt himself in Saturday's 20-12 preseason victory over Oakland, catching five passes for 19 yards. He had a four-yard touchdown reception in the middle of the end zone, hanging onto the ball after being hit very hard.

"Any opportunity you have a chance to catch the ball, you need to catch it," Ford said. "You don't want to miss the ball. That's how you get cut."

NFL teams must cut down from 90 to 75 by Sept. 1, then to the regular-season limit of 53 by Sept. 5. Coach Mike Zimmer didn't want to speculate Monday on Ford's chances or on whether the Vikings could keep four tight ends.

But Zimmer did speak well of Ford's Saturday performance.

"Chase does a really good job in the passing game," Zimmer said. "He catches the ball well, he runs good routes and he's got to continue to maintain consistency."

Minnesota's three tight ends last year were Rudolph, Ellison and Ford. Pruitt, a fifth-round pick from Southern Illinois, now is a cinch to make the team.

Pruitt missed Saturday's game because of a sprained left ankle and sat out practice on Monday, but Zimmer said he is doing better.

"He's got the body to be a blocker. He's willing," Zimmer said or Pruitt. "I think he's going to continue to get better. Right now, I wouldn't say he's a killer blocker, but I think he'll be better than adequate when it's all said and done."

Ford acknowledges Pruitt's presence has put him in a battle to make the team. If Ford gets cut, he thinks he's at least done enough in his three NFL seasons to get another shot.

"That's up to the other (general managers) and coaches and stuff, but I feel like somebody will try to chance on me," he said.

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Jon Beason believes he will be ready for season opener

Given his recent injury history, Jon Beason knows full well how alarming it was when the linebacker had to exit Saturday night’s preseason game with a knee injury.

But the New York Giants linebacker assured everyone that he doesn’t plan on missing the season opener on Sept. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys with the knee sprain he suffered.

“It’s minor,” Beason said in a conference call late Sunday. “Nothing too concerning in my book.”

“I totally believe that I can and I have my mind made up,” Beason added of whether he will be ready for the opener. “I’ll do everything I can humanly possible to make sure that that happens. And I don’t want just straight on Sunday. I want to get back in time for preparation for that [Dallas] game.”

Beason said he hurt his knee when he made a breakup on a pass attempt in the end zone. The linebacker felt some instability in the left knee and was kept out of the game. He underwent an MRI on Sunday which revealed nothing more than a sprain.

Head coach Tom Coughlin said he did not know how long his middle linebacker would be out. Veteran Jameel McClain should help fill the void until Beason is back.

“We do have the benefit of a guy that’s played a lot of football and is very good in the huddle,” Coughlin said of McClain. “Does all those things extremely well. So you hate to think in terms of anything that stretches your depth right at this point in time, but it’s a reality in our league.”

Beason said the most frustrating part of his injury is missing practice reps in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system.

“I felt like I was just starting to come into a zone where I felt comfortable in this scheme in terms of getting everybody lined up and trying to do my job at a high level and being active,” Beason said. “But the other thing about it is that I’ve been down this road before and I know how to prepare without necessarily being on the field.”

Beason played in four games last year due to a toe injury suffered in minicamp. And before playing in 15 games the year before for the Giants and Panthers, Beason played in a total of five games over the previous two years because of leg injuries in Carolina.

Beason and the Giants are relieved the injury isn't more serious especially after seeing the team lose two safeties –- Bennett Jackson and Justin Currie –- to injury for the season.

“People may say, ‘Hey, Beason has been accident prone the latter part of his career,’” Beason said. “But this game is unforgiving. ... For us, it’s unfortunate when starters and guys who you assume are going to be a big part of the equation for the season get hurt. But you know, that’s a part of the gig.

“So we’ve had some really bad injuries and knock on wood but we’ve had injuries that are just setbacks for guys that are probably going to come back and be fine,” he added. “You just keep your fingers crossed, but it is the nature of the beast and it’s like gambling, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Day to day, anything can happen, so hopefully the injuries for us slow down, because they’ve been coming fast and furious over the past couple weeks.”

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Andre Johnson Feeling Right At Home In Colts Culture

INDIANAPOLIS – Andre Johnsonicon-article-link heard the fan and he had to crack a smile.

“Welcome to a winning team, Andre” shouted an onlooker in Anderson, prior to the Colts first Training Camp practice of 2015.

Acquainting yourself in a new culture, after 12 seasons being the face of another franchise, especially that team’s division rival, is no simple task.

Training Camp in Anderson was the first time Johnson had ever gone “away” for camp in his NFL career.

The added uncertainty of seeing a new fan base day-in-and-day-out for Johnson was eased early on.

“When the fan said that, I just turned around and started laughing. All the fans kind of started laughing,” Johnson says with a smile.

“After practice, (I signed) autographs for fans a few times (and) they’ve been very welcoming. A lot of them are telling me they are glad that I’m here and they don’t have to go against me. That makes you appreciate it, makes you feel at home. I’m just excited about this opportunity.”

With a weapon like Johnson, the Colts are giving him several opportunities to showcase his unique range.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is moving Johnson all around the Colts offense, lining the seven-time Pro Bowler up both outside and in the slot, more frequently than he did in Houston.

Hamilton could pop in the film and see what the Colts were getting in Johnson from a pure football standpoint. The Colts offensive coordinator is also seeing the side of Johnson inside the classroom.

“One of the things that’s allowed Andre to be such a good pro for so long is his ability to focus and pay attention to the details,” Hamilton says.

“He approached joining our team as if he was a rookie. He took copious notes and he was always focused and engaged in meetings. He’s constantly asking questions and he’s working overtime to build a relationship with Andrew Luckicon-article-link and the rest of our guys.”

While Johnson has put up rare numbers in his dozen NFL seasons, the way he goes about his business is a bit unusual, too.

Unlike the “diva” stereotype that can often follow elite wide receivers, Johnson is quiet in nature…until he hits the field.

“Everybody always asks me about that. They say you are so laid back but when you are on the field, you are a different person. That’s just the way I’ve always been,” Johnson says.

“That’s how I was growing up. My mom, my little brother, we are all the same, just a quiet house. We are all competitive (though). Whenever those competitive juices get going, we kind of get revved up a little bit. That’s the way we approach things.”

Chuck Pagano has known Johnson for over a decade and a half. The Colts head coach remembers a high school aged Johnson barely saying a word when Pagano and the Miami football staff were pursuing the blue-chip recruit.

That demeanor hasn’t changed much, which should be a sign of caution for anyone having to face Johnson.

“There are a lot of quiet guys that are in the Hall of Fame,” Pagano says. “There are some guys that like to talk a lot in there and then there are probably some guys in there that didn’t say a whole lot and just went out and did their job and did it very well.

“(Johnson’s) one of those guys that, he’s so quiet, you never mess with. You don’t mess with that guy. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but what he does on the football field and how he attacks his profession, his work ethic and all those types of things, the plays that he can make, it speaks for itself.”

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Howard County judge issues no-bond bench warrant for Damien Berry

A Howard County judge has issued a no-bond bench warrant for former Baltimore Ravens reserve running back Damien Jamaar Berry.

Berry allegedly failed to appear for a settlement conference scheduled Monday afternoon in Howard County Circuit Court, according to the county's state's attorney's office.

The warrant was issued by Howard County Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. McCrone.

Last May, Berry was arrested in Florida on a Howard County warrant, charging him with $100,000-plus theft, passing a bad check and auto theft in connection with the purchase of a 2015 Land Rover Range Rover from a Clarksville auto dealership, the state's attorney's office said.

Berry was later returned to Maryland, where he requested a jury trial in circuit court and was released on $15,000 bond after agreeing to Monday afternoon's settlement date that was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Settlement conferences often establish subsequent court dates for motions hearings and trials.

Berry spent the 2012 season on injured reserve after being on the Ravens' practice squad as a rookie two years ago. He was released by the Ravens before the 2013 season.

According to prosecutors, no defense attorney entered Berry's appearance in the case.

The former NFL player sold his Super Bowl XLVII ring last year and it later was auctioned off by Goldin Auctions. He told The Baltimore Sun that he didn't sell his ring, but notarized documents told a different story.

Ken Goldin, the founder of Goldin Auctions, two years ago said Berry and witness Brian Levine went to a Wells Fargo bank in Florida to have the sales contract notarized. Goldin said Berry displayed his driver's license to an authorized, licensed notary before being given two cashier's checks that the NFL player then cashed at the bank.

A copy of one cashier's check in the amount of $10,000 from Wells Fargo made out to Berry was emailed to The Baltimore Sun. The documents show that the purchase agreement was signed and executed Aug, 30, 2013.

Goldin said the ring later was sold to an undisclosed third party, which then consigned it to Goldin Auctions.

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Thurston Armbrister Has Another Solid Showing

Thurston Armbrister looked good all night for the Jaguars. He had great burst on the field, closing in on the opposition and managing to wrap them up in the three tackles he was a part of.

It’s clear that he has become one of the better depth linebackers for the Jaguars so far this preseason. I would like to see better consistency from his play, though. I viewed him as a bit slow to diagnose and move in Week 1 of the preseason, but he really turned it on against the Giants this week.

The Jaguars are becoming thin at linebacker and will need players like Armbrister to step up if they hope to keep a strong rotation on the field. The rookie linebacker may have showed enough in Week 2 of the preseason to warrant another look from the Jacksonville Jaguars front office and coaching staff before deciding whether to cut or keep him.

I saw potential from Armbrister that I really liked in this game. I want to see him put it all out on the field the final two games as well to prove that he really can be someone on this team in 2015.

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Mike Pettine says Duke Johnson 'looks explosive' on 1st day back in pads

BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie running back Duke Johnson practiced in pads Saturday for the first time since Aug. 1, and hardly looked like he'd been nursing a sore hamstring for the past three weeks.

Johnson churned out some yards in a 9-on-9 inside running drill and then had a pass from Josh McCown glance off his hands in 7-on-7s. He later caught a post route from Johnny Manziel in 7-on-7s and then a right screen from McCown, which he turned upfield for a long gain.

"His legs looked fresh,'' said Pettine. "I am not sure who he beat on the inside post – He looks explosive."

On one play, fellow back Isaiah Crowell blocked for him.

"It's tough on a defense when you have both tailbacks out there,'' said coach Mike Pettine. "You can use Duke as a wideout. It just gives you a little more flexibility from a formation standpoint, which then lends itself to a possible mismatch when you use Duke as a wideout. You can react to what a defense puts out there and call your play accordingly. That is something I am sure we will use."

Johnson said Saturday that the long layoff wouldn't set him back for the opener, and after watching him Sunday, you have almost had to believe him.
But the Browns had him on a pitch count Sunday.

"The last stretch of practice, we didn't use him,'' said Pettine. "On the last play, Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) wanted to use him and I used executive veto power and pulled Duke out of the huddle because he had sat for a little too long. He was right at his number."

Running back Shaun Draughn, who's mentored Johnson, was glad to see the rookie back in action.

"I actually love Duke's style,'' said Draughn. "I told him he reminds me of me a little bit. Another guy that looks up to me, and I respect that. He's coming into his own, he set his self apart and what he did, he set records. We're similar but we're different."

 Draughn gave Johnson high marks for his first real practice since Aug. 1.

"Like I said, I love to see him out there making people miss,'' he said. "He's just so smooth with this routes and so quick. I just like to see him play."

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WATCH: Three Great Plays Made By Anthony Chickillo (#40) vs Jaguars

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WATCH: Lamar Miller's 35-yard catch & run leads Dolphins to first TD

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WATCH: Kick To Devin Hester... This Is What Happens

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WATCH: Andrew Luck hits Andre Johnson for a two-point conversion

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Encouraging results, reviews so far for Giants rookie Ereck Flowers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The offensive line was a big concern for the New York Giants going into Saturday's preseason game, and it held up pretty well. After a really tough outing the week before against the Bengals, the Giants' line protected its quarterbacks effectively against the Jaguars. On the left side in particular, where rookie tackle Ereck Flowers is working with guard Justin Pugh, there were a couple of very impressive blocking plays that helped out the run game.

So put Saturday in the "good" column for a unit about which the Giants have a lot of justifiable concern. And chalk it up as an encouraging night for Flowers, the 2015 first-round pick who's being asked to handle left tackle right away in the absence of the injured Will Beatty.

"I think he's doing well," said Giants running back Andre Williams, who benefited from one of Flowers' more dominating run blocks with an 11-yard first-half gain. "He's got the right attitude. He's smart. He shows great skills in certain schemes, and for a rookie, I like that he's not easily frustrated."

I thought that last part was especially interesting: "not easily frustrated." That's Williams taking a realistic look at Flowers. He's a rookie being asked to handle a very difficult position with no professional experience. The Giants didn't draft him thinking he'd have to play left tackle right away, and they acknowledge the difficulty of the task they've handed him. They don't expect it to go smoothly, and it won't.

While Saturday may have gone well for Flowers on balance, it wasn't perfect. He was one-on-one with a linebacker much of the time, as Jacksonville's defensive line is very thin right now and their top pass-rushers didn't play. And that linebacker, Dan Skuta, did beat him on a speed rush on one memorable second-quarter play. And even if Saturday had been a perfect day, that doesn't mean all the rest of the days to come will be. What's important for Flowers isn't that he doesn't make any mistakes. It's that he accepts that there will be mistakes and understands how to fix them.

That's why "he's not easily frustrated" is one of the more encouraging things you can hear about Flowers. Things are going to happen that could frustrate him. It will help speed his development if he's good at fending that off.

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Phillip Dorsett has quiet second game

After a fairly decent preseason debut last week Dorsett backed it up with a mediocre performance. He also suffered a bruised knee during the game. Dorsett was able to catch all 3 of his targets for a pedestrian 21 yards, with his longest reception only eight yards. Not what you want to see from this speedster, but for the most part the offense as a whole struggled in this one. (Mike Chappell on Twitter)

Fantasy Impact: Coach Pagano said that Dorsett is going to be "day to day" so there's nothing to worry about. What you should be worried about is that he is under two elite pass catchers on the depth chart.

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Clive Walford has missed all but two training camp practices

Oakland Raiders tight end Clive Walford has been dealing with a hamstring injury. He's missed all but two training camp practices. Prior to the injury, the feeling around Raiders camp was that the rookie out of Miami would beat out Mychal Rivera for the starting job. That may no longer be the case if he doesn't get back on the field soon.

Walford was by the far the most NFL-ready tight end in this year's draft. He left The U as their all-time receiving leader for tight ends. He made a huge impression at OTAs, however, this is a setback. Hopefully he'll be back soon enough that it doesn't impact his early season snap count. He is currently going undrafted, nevertheless, he may be worth a late-round flier as a high-upside TE2. He certainly has the talent and skillset to put up numbers as a rookie.

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Leonard Hankerson finds the end zone against Jets

Leonard Hankerson caught 3-of-3 targets for 15 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons' second preseason game.

Hankerson saw two straight red-zone targets on the second offensive drive, converting the second into a two-yard touchdown. It was somewhat concerning Devin Hester saw snaps in two-wide sets with Roddy White (elbow) sidelined, but Hankerson is the favorite to open the season as Atlanta's third receiver. He is a name to keep in mind if Julio Jones or Roddy White goes down.

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Darryl Sharpton Released

The team announced Wednesday it released inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who joined the team in May. The announcement only had that information.

There was no other corresponding move announced.

Of course, with the release of an inside linebacker and no other move announced, speculation immediately began about how Daryl Washington could be ready to be reinstated and the team was simply making room for him.

While that is possible, since the situation has taken as long as it has and there is really no information out there, until that move actually is made, it is hard for me to think it will happen.

One thing for sure is once we know something about Washington's situation, readers and fans will be advised.

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Colts add to offensive line depth with guard Harland Gunn

With offensive lineman Hugh Thornton out for the foreseeable future, the Indianapolis Colts added depth at guard with signing of Harland Gunn on Friday, the team announced.

The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Gunn appeared in 13 games over the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, including a start against the New York Giants last year. He was with the New England Patriots in training camp this summer, but was waived Aug. 6. 

An undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami, Gunn spent 2012 training camp with the Dallas Cowboys, before being waived. Gunn then spent 11 weeks on the New Orleans Saints practice squad before the Falcons signed him to the active roster in November of 2012.

Gunn becomes the latest former Hurricane to join the Colts, including running back Frank Gore, wide receivers Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett and tight end Erik Swoope. 

He'll compete with veterans Joe Reitz and David Arkin for time as a backup guard. Head coach Chuck Pagano announced Thursday that Thornton is "week-to-week" after suffering a knee injury in practice Wednesday.

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Jon Beason has sprained knee; says he believes he can play vs. Cowboys

EAST RUTHERFORD — Giants linebacker Jon Beason has a sprained knee and there is no timetable yet for his return, Tom Coughlin said on Sunday. 

Coughlin said he does not know enough about Beason's condition to try and project when he might be back. Coughlin said you have to approach such injuries as "week-to-week," but that he will know more in a few days after consulting with team doctors.

Coughlin did not, however, go as far as to say Beason would be unlikely to play in the regular season opener on Sept. 13 in Dallas. "These things are all different," Coughlin said. "I'm not going to speculate. ... But sometimes in these cases, it's longer than you think."

Beason told reporters he also expects to play against the Cowboys, if not earlier, calling the injury "minor." It is frustrating that he will miss practice time, he said, but he knows how to prepare despite being out. 

"I totally believe that I can (play in the opener)," Beason said. "I am going to do everything humanly possible to do that."

Beason left Saturday's 22-12 preseason game win over the Jaguars in the first half. He remained on the sidelines for the rest of the game, changing into street clothes for the second half, and was standing for much of the evening. 

Beason, 30, missed all but two games last season due to a toe injury. Beason appeared in 12 games for the Giants in 2013, but he only played in eight total over his final three season with the Panthers from 2010-12. 

With Beason out, veteran Jameel McClain figures to move into his spot as the starting middle linebacker. McClain is just back off a stinger injury, however.

Linebacker Uani Unga has also had a good training camp in the middle. 

Until Saturday, Beason had been healthy all training camp long for the Giants while having his reps managed with his injury history in mind. 

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Ladarius Gunter getting "real shot" with 1st-team defense thanks to CB rating system

Green Bay — The cornerback hierarchy for the Green Bay Packers is designed by coach Joe Whitt Jr. to be something of a meritocracy: Those who perform the best against tougher competition will be rewarded with increased playing time.

The concept reveals itself in a grading scale created by Whitt, the cornerbacks coach, who allows his players to view the results and see a numerical explanation for their spot on the depth chart.

The star system, as he calls it, rates each one of the Packers' offensive players based on talent, with a 5-star player sitting atop the list. From there, Whitt takes into account the star rating of 1) the quarterback throwing a pass and 2) the receiver catching it. Those two numbers are added together to form a point total for one particular play.

"Aaron (Rodgers) is a 5-star; Jordy (Nelson) is a 5-star," Whitt said. "So if you make a play on that, that’s a 10-star play. That’s how it’s all evaluated. You’ve got to make some of those 10-star plays; don’t make a lot of those 4-star plays.

"It's an accurate picture of why certain people are getting reps ahead of you or why you’re getting more reps than this person. At the end of the day, I don’t want them to say, ‘I didn’t get a shot. I didn’t get a fair shot.’ Well, here it is. Look at it. You might have had five pass breakups but they were 4-star (quality). This guy had three 8-star (plays). There’s a huge difference in that."

On Thursday, undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter earned an opportunity to work with the first-team defense, which is a clear indication that his scores on the star system are trending up. Gunter, who has two interceptions of Rodgers in practice and the team's only interception against the Patriots, played alongside veteran Sam Shields for the majority of 11-on-11 reps.

Rookies Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall followed behind.

"If I’m going to truly give Gunter a chance, well he has to get out there with the 1s," Whitt said. "Earlier this week I think I had Quinten (Rollins) out there most of the time. And (Damarious Randall), he’s just coming back (from a groin injury). Last week it was Randall (with the first-team defense).

"I’m giving those three guys an opportunity to get a look, and the best guy will win it. If I’m going to give (Gunter) a real shot, he has to go with the 1s."

Though Whitt only uses his system to grade practice — "I don't put stars on those (other) guys,” he said — the weekly totals have a major influence on playing time during the exhibition season. On Friday, Whitt will calculate each cornerback's star totals from the entire week and the players with the best scores will receive more reps against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The players can see their scores and know exactly where they stand.

"The ones that practice the best this week will enter the game," Whitt said. "I told them whoever practices the best this week, that will be the entry into the game."

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Greg Olsen's Son Adorably Writes 'Get Well' Card To Kelvin Benjamin

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Frank Gore: 'I want to let (the fans) know I'm here'

This is all you need to know about how much Frank Gore loves to play football.

After his first carry for the Indianapolis Colts, he was supposed to come out. He did not come out. He talked his way back onto the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.

For a preseason game. For the start of his 11th NFL season.

"After the first carry, I guess they wanted to take me out. 'At least one more.' You know, I was happy to be out there with my guys," Gore said. "New team, all the fans.

"I want to let them know I'm here."

Oh, everybody knew that already.

Gore carried twice for 10 yards in Saturday night's 23-11 loss to the Chicago Bears. But those aren't numbers that matter.

What matters is that Gore, 32, rushed for 1,000 or more yards in eight of the past nine seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. What matters is that he signed a three-year contract with the Colts worth $12 million. And the Colts will get their money's worth if he even approaches such productivity.

When an offensive tackle such as Anthony Castonzo says Gore is fun to have a teammate, that matters.

"He's got physical tools that allow him to be as successful as he is," Castonzo said. "But he's also very savvy. He loves the game of football, and he knows it very well."

Castonzo said Gore is a collaborator and communicator, telling linemen what he sees and what he wants. That helps the offensive linemen, who in turn help Gore.
"That's huge to be on the same page with a running back like that," Castonzo said.

Gore said he was excited to be playing at all – practice, preseason, regular season. He was withheld from the first preseason game and said he spent all week looking forward to this one.

He said if you'd seen him back playing college football at Miami (Fla.), the last thing you'd project is an 11th-year NFL running back.

"It's a blessing. I take advantage of it," he said.

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Leonard Hankerson not caught up in preseason hype

He was the talk of Atlanta Falcons' training camp, yet Leonard Hankerson would rather not even talk about it.

The fifth-year receiver doesn't walk around thinking he's accomplished anything because he really hasn't. Any whispers of Hankerson being the “X-factor” for the Falcons this season is meaningless to him right now.

“I mean, my job is to just go out there and do whatever I can, whatever is possible, to help the team out,” Hankerson said. “Whether it’s making a block, whether it’s special teams, whether it’s catching the ball or whether it’s coaching up young guys, I feel like I can bring a lot to the team. Whatever I’m called upon to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

If Hankerson can consistently play in the same fashion has has during the offseason and preseason, his number could be called often. He looks like a legitimate option behind Julio Jones. And Hankerson's role could become even more important if the swollen elbow that veteran Roddy White started experiencing the last few days turns into a significant issue.

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson gave the NFL world a glimpse of what has been going on at Falcons headquarters when he scored on 2-yard touchdown reception from Matt Ryan in Friday's 30-22 preseason loss to the New York Jets. Hankerson had three catches for 15 yards while running the same offensive system he grew accustomed to in Washington under Kyle Shanahan, now his coordinator again in Atlanta.

Ryan seems extremely comfortable targeting Hankerson.

“I think Hank is doing an awesome job,” Ryan told Falcons radio analyst Dave Archer during a postgame interview. “He's a guy that shows up every day. He works extremely hard. He's a quieter guy, but he's intense. I've been really pleased with what he's brought to our team.”

Hankerson's familiarity with the scheme has made his transition seamless. His size and speed is an asset, and he's shown a willingness to catch the ball over the middle and absorb contact. He looked nearly flawless throughout training camp.

“I feel like I had good one,” Hankerson said of camp. “It’s probably been my best so far. But there are still things I can go out and get better on – whether it’s my route-running. I feel like my job is to catch the ball. I think I probably had one drop, maybe. You always want to come out perfect, but it happens. But I feel like I had a good one. I went out and I did what I wanted to get done. I competed. And that’s all I can do.”

Moving forward, health is the biggest concern tied to Hankerson. He suffered anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament tears in his left knee back in 2013 that limited him to 11 games in the last two seasons. Hankerson said there is no lingering pain in the knee.

But watching Carolina top receiver Kelvin Benjamin go down with a season-ending ACL tear only reinforced to Hankerson how quickly things can turn for the worse.

“That’s a tough situation,” Hankerson said of Benjamin. “The NFL, it's like a band of brothers. You want everybody to come out healthy. Unfortunately, it’s a tough sport. When something like that happens, you hate to see it. At the same time, you’ve got to have each and everybody protecting each other. But it’s just the nature of the game.”

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Reggie Wayne taking physical with Patriots

When Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL this week, some wondered if the Panthers would bring in Reggie Wayne to bolster their receiving corps.

The Panthers have opted to see what they have on hand already, which has left Wayne on the market. That could be changing, however.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Wayne is in New England to take a physical with the Patriots. Wayne is no stranger to the Patriots after spending 14 years with the Colts that featured many big games against New England and Patriots coach Bill Belichick said last year that Wayne was “still a very dangerous receiver.”

“Yeah, he’s still really good at everything,” Belichick said, via the Colts website.” [He’s] obviously a real smart and experienced guy; knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same, does a great job of releasing and then at the top of his routes being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw. He’s been a key guy for them in critical situations and third down-type situations.”

Belichick made those comments before a November game between the teams and Wayne had five catches for 91 yards in that contest. That was one of the veteran’s better games last year as he looked to be on the wrong side of the hill after a 2013 ACL tear. He closed out the season with just one catch in Indy’s three postseason contests before having surgery on his triceps and knee this offseason, but he may get a chance to keep his NFL career going if the physical goes well and Belichick thinks his experience can help the Patriots this year.

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Andre Johnson makes hard catches look easy

Andre Johnson made his first catch as a member of the Indianapolis Colts — his first as a member of any team not named the Houston Texans — and it was about as routine as it gets.

The veteran receiver hopped to his feet after being tackled, handed the ball to an official, then jogged, expressionless, to the sideline.

But this was no run-of-the-mill catch by Johnson, one of the Colts’ prized free agents inspiring this team’s high hopes. Then again, Johnson making catches against airtight pass coverage does pass for garden variety for the seven-time Pro Bowl selection.

It’s what he does. He makes tough catches look easy.

“I think that’s the mark of a great wide receiver, a great athlete,” quarterback Andrew Luck said, “to make something very hard look easy and simple and smooth. He does that.”

So, that 8-yard slant Johnson caught on Sunday against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll on third-and-8 during the preseason opener was, perhaps, not as routine as it appeared. That said, prepare yourself to see that on an absolute regular basis.

Ever wonder how Johnson has managed five seasons with more than 100 catches despite average to below-average Houston quarterbacks throwing him the football? It’s simple: by catching any and every pass that comes his way, no matter how well he might be defended.

“I think it’s a skill set as well as his God-given ability to go up and jump high and have the hand-eye coordination to make some amazing catches,” Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “His catch radius is off the charts as well as the fact that Andre is a big, physical, strong man that understands how to leverage and use his body to give him an opportunity to make those plays.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that Johnson is among the best there is at using his size.

He’s certainly a big receiver, and that’s a huge reason for Johnson’s ability to make these contested catches. But even though he’s 6-3 and 230 pounds, this is about more than mere size. At work are several factors, including Johnson’s unwavering concentration and the necessary toughness to make catches in traffic, sometimes in spite of multiple defenders.

There’s just a dash of basketball in the mix, too. Johnson dabbled in hoops at Miami (Fla.) Senior High School, a perennial state power that boasts 18 state titles. Thankfully for the Colts, he’s retained a bit of what he learned on the hardwood.

“I think maybe it’s just something you get over time, practicing with the quarterback,” Johnson said of his difficult catches. “When he sees you make those plays, just knowing how to use your body and stuff like that to box guys out for the ball, it just gives him confidence that when people think you’re covered, you’re not really covered. That’s what I try to do on my end.”

Just as it’s a key factor playing in the post, position is everything in battles between receivers and defensive backs. And when the quarterback comes to expect that Johnson will find a way, Luck won’t hesitate to give him a chance.

That’s why Luck confidently stepped into that third-down throw in Philadelphia despite the lack of any perceptible daylight between Johnson and the defender.

“You understand that what may not look like a wide-open route, with Andre it really is because he’s so big, he’s so physical and does such a great job contorting his body to shield the defender away or to put that ball in a safe place,” Luck said. “So, it’s been fun to see how his body moves and see him go up and make some plays.”

The sample size in game action, so far, is small. Johnson played two offensive series Sunday and made just the one catch. Maybe he will add to the tally Saturday night against the Chicago Bears in the second game of the preseason. Regardless, he’s supplied an endless number of examples over the previous 12 seasons in Houston. Some of Johnson’s most memorable moments are catches in which he wrested a ball away from a defensive player or effortlessly snatched it out of the air.

Colts cornerback Vontae Davis has been on the wrong end of a handful of such plays during their twice-annual duels between AFC South foes Houston and Indianapolis.

There are more recent examples, too, like those displayed on the practice field during training camp. Johnson went airborne on consecutive days last week to make highlight-worthy catches down the middle of the field. They weren’t the most accurate throws by Luck, and maybe Luck wouldn’t attempt such a throw to other receivers. But Johnson’s track record demands that he be given such opportunities.

In each of those instances, when he made stunning catches in camp, Johnson reacted just as he did in Philadelphia last Sunday. He casually walked back to the huddle as if nothing phenomenal had just unfolded.

And, to Johnson, perhaps it wasn’t phenomenal. Because, remember, this is what Johnson does.

He makes tough catches look easy.

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Greg Olsen is a top-three fantasy football tight end

The announcement Wednesday that Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin will miss the entire 2015 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee sent shockwaves through the entire organization.

Not to mention those that already took Benjamin in early fantasy football drafts.

Fantasy players immediately shift their thinking to how it affects the rest of Carolina’s offense. Benjamin had an impressive rookie year with 73 catches (on a whopping 146 targets) for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.

Since that production has to go somewhere, Greg Olsen is now a top-three fantasy tight end — and worth taking after Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham come off the board.

Olsen has been targeted 100-plus times in three of Cam Newton’s four seasons, including a career-high 122 times last year. Olsen has scored at least five TDs in all but one of his eight seasons.

Just imagine how much Newton will rely on Olsen with Benjamin out, especially since the rest of the Panthers’ aerial weapons are shaky, at best. Behind rookie Devin Funchess, Newton’s options are Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery.

In point-per-reception formats especially, Olsen should be a beast, and he’s currently going in the fifth round of standard 12-team PPR leagues, per

It makes much more sense to snag Olsen, Travis Kelce (5.04 average draft position) or Jordan Cameron (7.09) in the middle rounds than to overpay for Gronkowski or Graham and leave little margin for error at the other skill positions.

Heck, there are other great value picks at tight end even later: Tyler Eifert (10.02), Zach Ertz (10.05), Kyle Rudolph (11.08). The tight end talent pool is deep in 2015. Wait for the value to come to you.

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Jon Jay to take batting practice Monday

Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay will continue rehab on his right wirst by taking on-field batting practice on Monday, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jay has been sidelined with the wrist injury since late June.

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