Miami open to Bryant McKinnie as RT

The National Football Post's Aaron Wilson reports the Dolphins haven't closed the door on re-signing free agent Bryant McKinnie as their right tackle.
Per Wilson, it's "most likely" McKinnie signs somewhere after the draft. Going on 35, McKinnie appeared near the end of the line last season, and has yet to take a visit in free agency. He'd almost certainly have to compete for the right-tackle job in Miami.

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Vince Wilfork, Patriots agree to three-year contract extension

Vince Wilfork and the Patriots seemingly have patched up any festering issues between them. Wilfork, who reportedly requested his release earlier this month when New England approached him about restructuring his contract, has now done just that. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Wilfork, who had one year and $7.5 million left on his existing deal, has agreed to a three-year, $22.5 million extension.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on March 13 that Wilfork had requested his release. Less than two weeks later, the Boston Herald reported that an angry Wilfork had cleaned out his locker at Gillette Stadium as the standoff between he and the Patriots continued.

“I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well,” team owner Robert Kraft told the Herald’s Jeff Howe. “We’ve been so lucky to have him. So we’ll see what happens.”

FARRAR: Bill Belichick asks a legitimate question: Why can’t we challenge everything?

Wilfork has been a mainstay on the Patriots’ defensive line since the team drafted him in 2004. However, the 32-year-old, 325-pound Wilfork missed all but four games last season after tearing his Achilles. He shot down the possibility that the injury would end his career, but the inability to reach an agreement with the Patriots left his NFL future very much up in the air.

At least for the near future, he’s not going anywhere.

“It’s been hard to remain quiet and let things take its course but it has been the best thing to do,” Wilfork tweeted Thursday. “Negotiations are never easy especially when you have a 10 year history with the team and more importantly relationships. For those who have supported me I thank you; for those who have called me every name in the book I thank you too. My intentions have never changed. [Ten] years ago my goal was to retire a Patriot and as I sit here typing this I am closer to achieving my goal. I look forward to getting back to football and helping my team compete and have a chance at winning a Super Bowl.”

Without Wilfork in the lineup last season, the Patriots were forced to mix and match up front using fill-in options like Chris Jones and undrafted free agent Joe Vellano. Returning Wilfork to his spot at nose tackle will free up the Patriots to address their other issues in the draft, including possibly finding a new starter to plant next to Wilfork at DT.

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Eric Winston: An 18 Game Season Would Be A Disservice To Players

Houston (CBS HOUSTON) - The new NFLPA President Eric Winston joined In The Loop with Nick & Lopez on SportsRadio610 on Thursday to talk about expanding the playoffs and expanding the regular season in the NFL.

Winston first addressed his comments from an interview on Wednesday with The Triple Threat, Sean Pendergast, Rich Lord and Ted Johnson on the SportsRadio 610, where he said:

“I’m a big fan of radically changing a lot of the playoffs.  Take Green Bay for example. This year hosting a 12-4 San Francisco 49ers team when I think Green Bay was 9-7 or 8-8. I don’t agree with that. I’d like them to not only add a game, I’d like to see them actually take a hard look here and say ‘what are we really doing here, what are we really rewarding?”

Winston emphasized that the Playersicon1 Association hasn’t seen any proposals from the NFL on expanding the playoffs and thus the Players Association can not say they are for or against it.

“We’d look at proposals, we’d look at ideas for it,” Winston said. “As far as being for or against it, nothing has come down on that yet.  I think it will be interesting to see what exactly their proposals are.”

“How they want to compensate. What kind of ideas they have.  How many more games is it really. Those kind of things I think need to be explored.  I think guys are open to listen to it.  I think anytime you can add some excitement in there  and your possibly seeing another team maybe have a chance to winicon1 the Super Bowl I think it’s something worth looking at.”

“We’ll have to see what [The NFL] actually have to say.  Up to now it’s just been a lot of rumors and what we think might happen.”

The expansion of playoffs is something that the NFLPA would be willing to discuss, but the addition of two games to the regular season to 18 is what Winston had described as a “non-starter” for the NFLPA.

“I don’t think that it’s a revolutionary statement by me,” Winston said of the ‘non-starter’ comment on an expanded 18 game season. “It’s been the stance of our Players Association for a long time.  I don’t think that is going to change.  It’s a healthlb_icon1 and safety issue and we’re not going to bargain on that.”

Winston believes that there really isn’t anything the league could do to make the idea of an 18 game season a viable option for the players.

“During the [CBA] negotiations there were all kinds of proposals,” Winston said. “There were proposals with 18 games in it.  There were proposals with 16 games in it.  There were proposals with everything.  And there were never any proposals that even broached the subject of use even seriously talking about it.”

Money shouldn’t even be a factor for the players when it comes to  an 18 game season, because there is no large financial gain that 18 games would bring.

“All of our benefits are tied to season long,” Winston said. “Your pension, you get your pension at three years and two games, active. You get 401Ks, for every season you play you get a match plus double.  So you know there’s formulas for everything.  The longer you play the less benefits you are going to reach.  So just saying ‘Hey, yeah I got an extra hundred grand in my pocket’ that is a very short sided view in my opinion.”

“And that’s just talking about benefits and money.  We’re not talking about health and safety. We’re not talking about the effects on guys long term and their healthcare after playing extra games.  You tie 18 games now over five years; now you’re running into almost an extra season. You can’t just look at it, to me, financially. You can’t look at it in the short term.  Oh if I get an extra couple bucks here maybe it will be worth it because,  I think in that case you’re doing yourself a disservice, I think we’re doing all the players a disservice.”

Eric Winston is currently a free agent, but has played eight seasons in the NFL with three teams, most recently with the Arizona Cardinals.

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Team is set at first base with Gaby Sanchez, Ishikawa

BRADENTON, Fla. — Gaby Sanchez wrapped up his Grapefruit League season Thursday, still standing at first base for the Pirates.

The club sought an upgrade at the position this winter, never pulled the trigger on a deal, and repeatedly stated a comfort level with Sanchez. Come Monday, they’ll stand by that.

“There’s not more drive just because I might play a little bit more,” said Sanchez. “When my name gets called and I’m in there, I’m going to give it my best go out there and try to produce and help the team win. I don’t think that because you’re starting every day you’re going to have a different drive than a guy sitting on the bench waiting for his name to get called.”

The Pirates plan to retain Travis Ishikawa to play first base, too, but still need to add him to the 40-man roster and ultimately the 25-man roster.

The position won’t be a classic platoon, with Sanchez expected to see more at-bats.

“We got a first basemen in place with Ishikawa and Sanchez. We’ll start that way. They won’t be a complementary platoon by definition,” said manager Clint Hurdle.

Sanchez hit .310 this spring until going 0 for 2 Thursday against Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, which dropped his average to .290.

What Sanchez does think — and what the Pirates hope — is that more regular playing time will get his splits closer.

Sanchez has a reputation for “crushing lefties” but hit just .204 against right-handed pitching in 2013 in 194 plate appearances, and .207 in 215 plate appearances in 2012.

“I definitely think that the more you play, like any one of us, the more comfortable you’re going to feel. The more in tune and rhythm you’re going to be,” said Sanchez. “So absolutely. This spring, I’ve been hitting against both lefties and righties feeling good, feeling fine at the plate.”

His timing at bat, Sanchez believes, can be improve by fewer days off, too.

“Fielding-wise it was different because I was in there a lot fielding,” said Sanchez. “But the hitting part, the timing of the pitching, velocity of the ball coming at you is a little different. When you’re playing everyday, a guy who’s throwing 93-94 might not seem as hard as it might to a guy who hasn’t played for three days.”

But spring is over, and he’s ready to go.

“Right now, I’m feeling good,” said Sanchez. “Worked on some small little adjustments and things like that but for the most part feeling comfortable at the plate.”

Good news on Liriano

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Francisco Liriano (groin tightness) felt good Thursday after pitching his simulated game Wednesday and is on track to start the opener. Then, he added: “He feels very good.”

Later in the afternoon Hurdle said Liriano officially is good to go Monday.

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Jim Kelly avoids cancer surgery, doctors say it is 'treatable and potentially curable'

Doctors believe that Jim Kelly’s aggressive cancer is “very treatable and potentially curable.” They just won’t be able to help him with surgery as they initially planned.

Surgery turned out to be “not the best option for Jim,” according to Jill Kelly, the wife of the Pro Football Hall of Famer, wrote in a Facebook update. Doctors told the Kellys that the oral cancer – which was diagnosed last summer and recently returned “is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate.”

The new plan, she wrote, is for the 54-year-old former NFL quarterback to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, where Kelly will be treated, added in a statement that surgery could “potentially” become an option again.

“Jim Kelly’s condition remains very treatable and potentially curable," the statement read. “Our immediate focus is on controlling his pain and beginning the process of eradicating the cancer.”

Kelly, who led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s, will be treated by Dr. Peter D. Costantino, the executive director of Lenox Hill’s New York Head & Neck Institute. Kelly had previously been treated at the Erie County Medical Center in the Buffalo area, but according to the Lenox Hill statement “His cancer returned in a location that requires specialized expertise in the treatment of skull-based tumors.”

Kelly first learned he had a form of upper-jaw cancer last June and underwent surgery to remove part of his jawbone and teeth. He appeared to beat the disease until about two weeks ago when Jill Kelly wrote on her blog that “The cancer’s back, aggressive and starting to spread.”

Jim Kelly, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002, has received an outpouring of support from former teammates and his many fans in Western New York, where they’re also reeling from the death of long-time Bills owner Ralph Wilson on Tuesday. In one of her updates on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Jill wrote “Thank you for walking along side us, lifting us up in prayer, loving us, and hoping.”

She also posted a photo of Jim Kelly hugging his father.

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Jim Harbaugh: Frank Gore capable of “three more good years”

As one of the NFL’s oldest starting running backs, and with more than 2,000 career carries to his credit, the future of 49ers tailback Frank Gore figures to be a front-burner issue as long as he continues along on his remarkable professional career.

However, Jim Harbaugh believes Gore, who turns 31 in April, has some quality football left to be played, the 49ers’ head coach said Wednesday at the NFL meetings, according to Matt Maiocco of

“I really think Frank has three more good years. I truly believe that. But we’re in a game of taking it one year at a time,” Harbaugh said, per
Gore’s contract expires at season’s end. Given his age, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 49ers took a wait-and-see approach to whether Harbaugh’s prediction holds.

Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore are among the options behind Gore on the 49ers’ depth chart. All are signed beyond 2014.

Gore needs 33 rushing yards for 10,000 in his career. He racked up 1,128 yards and nine TDs on 276 carries a season ago.

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ESPN Boston reports Patriots, Wilfork "are talking"

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A lot can change in a span of two weeks, and that is the big takeaway when it comes to the Patriots and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

It doesn't mean they'll ultimately strike a contract agreement that works for both sides, but it does clear up some confusion over the last two days at the NFL's annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton.

First, owner Robert Kraft shared his thoughts Monday that he hopes Wilfork remains a Patriot and that he believes Wilfork feels the same way. That cautious optimism indicated that perhaps there was forward momentum between the sides.

But almost immediately after Kraft said those words, a report surfaced that Wilfork was so angry, he had "ripped" his nameplate off and cleaned out his locker. In some media circles, that blunted what Kraft said and created a picture of acrimony between the sides.

Except ...

"That happened a long time ago," a source said.

That timing is key when it comes to Wilfork and the context surrounding his present situation.

Surely, he was angry two weeks ago when he requested his release and did indeed clean out his locker, as first reported by the Boston Herald. Doing so represented a symbolic showing of his discontent.

But that doesn't account for what could have happened over the last two weeks or so. Things have changed, the sides are talking.

That probably explains why Bill Belichick seemed to go out of his way Tuesday morning to dismiss the idea of a contentious situation with Wilfork. It might have been at one point, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's that way now.

There have been some steps forward, but more are needed to push it over the goal-line. As we learned last year with Wes Welker, just because things might be looking up doesn't mean an agreement is forthcoming. It can fizzle out quickly.

But one thing is clear: The Patriots and Wilfork are in a better place than they were two weeks ago.

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Dolphins Want Lamar Miller to be more consistent

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said the team wants RB Lamar Miller to play more consistently and be able to break more tackles.

Fantasy Tip: The team reportedly has been looking to add a running back in free agency, which would hurt Miller's value. Owners could consider Miller as an occasional matchup play depending on how the team uses him in 2014.

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Eric Winston staying patient during free agency

TEMPE, Ariz. -- This offseason is starting off eerily similar to the last for Eric Winston.

The former Arizona Cardinals right tackle is patiently waiting for the right team to call with a job offer, one too good for him to turn down. A few teams -- Winston wouldn't say which ones -- have already came calling, but after eight seasons, he’s being selective.

At least this year, he knows what to expect. After the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t opt to re-sign him following the 2012 season, Winston entered free agency not knowing where he’d play in 2013. The Cardinals signed him on July 25, 2013, the first day of training camp. He instantly moved into a starting role and gave up just seven sacks in 16 games.

Winston was expected to be a priority for the Cardinals after the team figured out what to do with Karlos Dansby, but as of Wednesday, the team had still not re-signed Winston.

Armed with the experience from last offseason, Winston is keeping busy with his children and wife, waiting for the phone to buzz with good news from his next team.

"I’m doing fine," Winston said. “Last year it was frustrating, going on a lot of visits and not signing until camp. Now I kinda know the situation. I know that at some point there’s going to be a team that’s going to need a tackle and at that time I’ll be available to play and ready to go.”

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Yasmani Grandal has progressed nicely

San Diego Padres C Yasmani Grandal (knee) has progressed to the point where he has been able to catch nine innings in spring games, and he could make the roster as the second catcher to C Nick Hundley. However, the team likes C Rene Rivera, who is out of minor league options and would likely be scooped up if they try to pass him through waivers.

Fantasy Tip: The Friars probably won't rush Grandal back, since he's ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery. He could be a nice second catching option for those in two-catcher leagues in the second half of the season, though.

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Yonder Alonso has a three-hit day vs. Royals

Yonder Alonso went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored as the Padres defeated the Royals 9-5 on Wednesday.

All three hits were singles. The effort boosted his average up to .426 in 47 at-bats. Alonso doesn't hit for the power typical of most first basemen, but does slightly better in the average and on-base departments, which helps him maintain value in fantasy leagues.

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Javarris James Arrested

Former NFL running back and Immokalee football star Javarris James was arrested by Collier County sheriff's deputies on Monday afternoon on a warrant out of Hillsborough County.

James, 26, was wanted for failing to appear in court for a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, according to an arrest report. He has since posted a $1,500 bond.

The case stems from an early morning arrest on Sept. 29 in Tampa, when police reported finding 1.3 grams of pot in the sunglasses holder of James' 2011 Chrysler 300, according to an arrest report. Police pulled James over for having an invalid tag, and smelled marijuana inside the car.

James told a police officer that he and two friends, who were passengers in the car, had smoked pot while on the way to the AJA Channelside nightclub, reports said. He said he was not aware the marijuana was inside the sunglasses holder, or they would have smoked it, too.

Police also found an open liquor bottle in the car.

Calls to James' cell phone and a phone number listed in the police report were not immediately returned Tuesday.

James was previously arrested in March 2013 for failure to appear in court for a hearing related to a June 2011 arrest on a marijuana possession charge. The March arrest came less than a month after the NFL announced James was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

"It disappoints me," said John Weber, who coached James in high school. "He never got in trouble in high school. He was always one of the hardest workers."

Weber said he had hoped James would learn from his first arrest in 2011. Weber was the coach in 2004 when Immokalee won a state championship led by James, then a junior. The former Indians coach said he hasn't spoken to James since seeing him at an Immokalee High School football game this past fall.
"I know he's not a bad kid," Weber said, "but when you don't see someone for a long time, things change."

James is currently a free agent. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2010 after starring at the University of Miami. He is the younger cousin of former Colts and Immokalee star Edgerrin James.

During Edgerrin James' youth football camp in Ave Maria in July, Javarris James told the Daily News he was trying to recover from his mistakes. That included trying to get back into the NFL. At the time he we was working out in Naples to make sure his knee was fully recovered from an ACL tear a year prior.

"I messed up in the past. I accept that," James said at the time. "I'm just trying to be right."

As a rookie in 2010, Javarris James scored six touchdowns in 10 games for the Colts, but was out of the league the next year following the first marijuana arrest. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals prior to the 2012 season, but tore his ACL in the final preseason game.

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Jimmy Graham not happy with enforcement of dunk rule

It sounds like Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham has no problem spending some of his money next year paying fines.

That’s because the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, told the “Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday that the league will penalize any players who dunk the ball over the crossbar of the goalposts. Graham famously made it a tradition to perform that very celebration after each of his 44 career TD grabs (including the playoffs).

Upon hearing the news, he reacted defiantly, saying via Twitter: “I guess I’ll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year! #funpolice.” He also attached a picture of himself elevating to dunk the ball over a crossbar at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — a superimposed image of a referee was positioned in front of him as if to block it.

More than 2,000 people retweeted Graham’s message and photo within 20 minutes of originally posting them. He later deleted the tweet but then re-sent it.

Banning dunks will not be a new rule, Blandino explained. Officials will just make it a point to enforce an existing regulation prohibiting the use of the ball as a prop for celebrations.

“Using the ball as a prop or any object as a prop, whether that’s the goal post, the crossbar, that ... will be a foul next season,” Blandino told the Patrick show, according to

Graham knocked the crossbar and goalposts askew and caused a slight delay during a Saints win at Atlanta on Nov. 21. Few doubted Tuesday’s revelation was a direct consequence of that celebration.

It was the second time Graham had made the crossbar in that same end zone lean to one side after a dunk. He did the same thing on a two-handed jam following a 21-yard TD in 2011.

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Saints Looking At Willis McGahee?

The New Orleans Saints have had a fairly solid offseason despite getting rid of some players and after adding Jairus Byrd, the team could be close to getting Jimmy Graham under contract and they also could look to the freelb_icon1 agent market for names like Andre Brown, Willis McGahee and Maurice Jones-Drew to make up for the Darren Sproles trade.

The Saints surprised many by getting rid of Sproles, as he has been one of the most productive players for the team over the past few years, but they had to get rid of some money to get the cap under control for Graham. The deal for the tight end is going to cost the team and on top of that they have Drew Brees's contract to deal with as well and that made for some hard decisions and now Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will be the feature backs. The team could sign one of the free agent backs mentioned to help add depth to the roster and those players like would not cost much, including Brown, who was injured last season for the Giants but came on strong in the end.  

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Joe Philbin shows some support behind RB Miller

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin threw some support behind Lamar Miller at the league meetings Tuesday, stating "He can do all three things you want a running back to do."
That would ostensibly be run, catch, and block. The Fins could show more support by declining to make a significant running back signing or using an early-round pick at tailback, but they recently hosted Knowshon Moreno for a free agent visit, and could target running backs as early as the No. 50 overall pick. Miller is very lightly penciled in as the Dolphins' current lead back.

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Jimmy Graham likely to land long-term extension before grievance deadline

There were a number of issues at play when the New Orleans Saints slapped Jimmy Graham with the franchise tag at the beginning of this month.

At issue at the time was whether or not Graham would be designated as a tight end or wide receiver as far as how his franchise tag number would be calculated. Once he was determined to be a tight end for the purposes of that process, the next important deadline was April 22nd. Graham has until that day to file a grievance about the aforementioned tight end designation.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the process will never reach that point. Florio reports that the Saints and Graham will come to an agreement on a long-term deal before Graham has a chance to file that grievance.

Per a league source, the current expectation is that the Saints and Graham will finalize a long-term contract before Graham pulls the pin on a grievance grenade.”

Though there are not many tight ends with the unique skill set of Graham, there is still an emerging trend in the NFL where teams use more and more of these hybrid type players at the position. In that sense he might not be the first player to deal with this type of situation. Luckily for him and the Saints, it sounds like there is a good chance Graham will land the long-term deal he desires before things have the chance to get ugly.

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Shane Larkin makes most of rare extended playing time with Mavericks

DALLAS — What Shane Larkin accomplished Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets wasn’t eye-popping. But in the eyes of the rookie point guard from Miami, it was a major step toward his maturation with the Dallas Mavericks.

After starting point guard Jose Calderon was out just 45 seconds into the game with a facial injury, Larkin suddenly found himself playing meaningful minutes for the first time in ages. And he didn’t disappoint.

“I like his effort that night,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought he came in the game, he was plenty geeked up and into it.

“He played aggressive in all areas, he had a couple of shots that didn’t go down, but he was in an attacking mode and he used his quickness into the game. When he came in there he knew he was in there and he was making things happen.”

Larkin scored five points, handed out one assist and was 2 of 4 from the field in 13 active minutes. At a time when the Mavs needed his production the most, Larkin answered the bell.

“Jose went down and everybody just told me to be ready and I went in there and played pretty well in the first half,” Larkin said. “Coach Carlisle called some high screen-and-rolls for me and I got some guys some shots and made a couple of layups.”

Larkin, though, knew the extra minutes would be short-lived, especially with Calderon back in the starting lineup Tuesday against Oklahoma City. But that’s life in the NBA as a rookie on a team scrambling for a playoff spot.

“It’s difficult going from playing every game in college, playing 36 minutes a game, to coming here and not playing,” Larkin said. “Before I was playing like 10 minutes, 12 minutes — and not playing — and sometimes getting thrown in for five minutes here, six minutes here.

“It’s tough, but over the year I’ve just gotten the mentality to always stay ready because you never know when your opportunity is going to come. Whenever I do get the opportunity I just want to take full advantage of it and be able to produce, so that’s just the mentally I go in with every game.”

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Darius Rice fondly recalls uncle’s remarkable NFL achievements

As much as Darius Rice has been referred to as a basketball player blessed with size and phenomenal skills, he’s probably always been known because of the name of his uncle and former NFL great: Jerry Rice.

But he doesn’t appear to be bothered by that at all. Rather, he seems happy talking about the ex-wide receiver, who’s known as one of the greatest players to ever step onto the gridiron.

“I talk to (Jerry) all the time,” said Rice, a 208-cm forward for the National Basketball League’s Hitachi Sunrockers. “I saw him last summer. He came to Mississippi and we partied, went to my grandmother’s house. Me and him are like a close uncle-nephew relationship.”

And just like a lot of other children back when Jerry was a superstar for the San Francisco 49ers, Darius, now 31, grew up rooting for the team (and of course he didn’t like the Dallas Cowboys).

“I went to three Super Bowls,” Rice said with a grin. “When (the 49ers) beat the (Cincinnati) Bengals (in 1989), I was there. I went to when they beat the (Denver) Broncos (in ’90), and when they beat the (San Diego) Chargers (in ’95).”

Rice, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, added that he’d also go to see Jerry play when the 49ers came near his home state.

“I miss those days,” he said, smiling. “I was a young guy, I was meeting all these superstar players.”

Until he enrolled at the University of Miami, Rice was a two-sport athlete in basketball and football. In basketball, he was selected as a McDonald’s All-American in 2000, along with future NBA players like Zach Randolph and Darius Miles.

But Rice claimed that he was a better football player than a basketball player.

“I was fast, I was tall,” said Rice, who played wide receiver and free safety at Lanier High in Jackson. “I was exciting just like (Jerry). I think I use my football skills to play basketball, running and jumping stuff.”

Rice said that he quit football because he grew too tall, and focused on basketball at Miami, where he averaged 18.8 and 16.9 points as junior and senior, respectively.

After the time at Miami, Rice played in leagues all over the world, such as the United Arab Emirates, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, Uruguay and Venezuela, while he also had stints for three different clubs in the NBA Developmental League.

And Rice landed in Japan this season. Hitachi has struggled, posting a 17-27 record, fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re getting better step by step as a team,” said Rice, who’s the team’s second-leading scorer (14.9 points per game) behind Jamar Smith (15.0). “I think as the season goes along, we’ve grown together. The more we stay together, the better we’ll get.”

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Yasmani Grandal moving past Biogenesis

PEORIA, Ariz. — Yasmani Grandal made mistakes. He paid his penance. He returned to the game.

As Everth Cabrera prepares for his final leg down the road to redemption, one lesson above all others can help carry the Padres’ 27-year-old shortstop through the coming months.

Grandal learned it well a year ago as he returned from his 50-game suspension. Even as he rehabbed his right knee throughout the offseason, Grandal made it a point to pass along anything he could to assist in Cabrera’s return to the game.

“You can’t take it back,” the Padres’ 25-year-old catcher said. “That’s the hardest thing to do. You keep on looking back. ‘What if? What if I had done this or what if I had done that?’ You can’t do that.

“Once you do that, you’re done. Your season is done. All you’re going to be doing is thinking about that.”

That, of course, is Cabrera’s and Grandal’s place in the sport’s largest police action since baseball banned eight players for life for throwing the 1919 World Series. The crime this time is documented evidence linking more than a dozen players – from a would-be Hall-of-Famer to an MVP to All-Stars to minor league free agents – to the purchase of banned performance enhancing drugs from a now-defunct Miami anti-aging clinic.

What followed Miami New Times’ initial report last year played out like a cable TV courtroom drama:

With the newspaper refusing to hand over its copies, Major League Baseball officials paid former employees of the Biogenesis of America clinic for documents to head off suspects’ reported efforts to keep damning evidence away from investigators.

Three names on the documents – including Grandal – had already served 50-game bans following failed tests from the 2012 season. The first to cop in this lot, Ryan Braun, was a suspected user who used technicalities to fight a failed test during his NL MVP campaign in 2011. He got 65 games.

From there, three All-Stars – Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta – were among the dozen who accepted 50-game suspensions last August as the biggest name in all of this, Alex Rodriguez, lawyered up to fight the 211-game ban thrown at the game’s highest-paid player. An independent arbiter later settled on 162 games – or all of the 2014 season – for Rodriguez, who is now reportedly refusing to pay millions in legal fees racked up in appeals and lawsuits that were ultimately dropped.


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Vince Wilfork has already cleaned out Patriots locker

ORLANDO — Following the initial discussion between the Patriots and Vince Wilfork over altering his contract, the nose tackle not only asked for his release, but also made a stop in the locker room to grab his belongings before walking out of Gillette Stadium.

According to two sources, an angry Wilfork ripped his name plate off his locker stall, and cleaned out his locker. That's how Big Vince felt about the proceedings. Naturally, time and distance can change perspective, but Wilfork seemed convinced he was done in New England.

Asked today about Wilfork's desire to be set loose, Patriots owner Robert Kraft struck a measured tone, hoping that things might eventually work out with the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

"Going back over the last 20 years, if I was to think, we've had some pretty special people come through. And he's one of my personal favorites. I'm thinking of Tedy Bruschi, and Matt Light, and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown. They made their careers with us, and I sure hope Vince will be with us next year," Kraft told reporters. "In modern day athletes, in pro sports, it's a business as well as commitment to one another. We have to work through it. I'm still not giving up hope that he'll be a part of our team next year."

Kraft didn't go into any details about any personal discussions he might have had with Wilfork.

“We’ve been very close and I’ll let Vince speak to whatever he feels is appropriate. We’re probably results-oriented and life is about execution so either we get it done or we don’t,'' Kraft said. "I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well. We’ve been so lucky to have him. So we’ll see what happens.”

Kraft and Wilfork have a tight bond, but in negotiations, the Patriots boss said you have to separate personal feelings from business.

“Unfortunately you do. You know, for him, he’s making some individual decisions. For us, we have to put a team together of over 50 people," Kraft said. "We have a salary cap. In the end, it’s about both parties feeling it’s a good transaction and it’s a win-win. I think that’s what we’re both shooting for.”

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Breaking down Devin Hester's contract

New Atlanta Falcons return man/receiver Devin Hester didn't shy away from his original asking price.

Hester sought $3 to $4 million per year once the Chicago Bears didn't re-sign him and he hit the open market. Had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached that figure, Hester probably would be preparing to return kicks for a different NFC South team this coming season.

Instead, Hester got his $3 million per year in a three-year contract with the Falcons that included a $2.5 million signing bonus. Here's how Hester's contract breaks down by year:

Here is a breakdown of Devin Hester's contract by year:

Cap value: $1.833,333
Cash value: $3.5 million
Base salary: $1 million ($1 million guaranteed)

Cap value: $3,333,333
Cash value: $2.5 million
Base salary: $2.5 million ($500,000 guaranteed)

Cap value: $3,833,334
Cash value: $3 million
Base salary: $3 million
Escalators in 2015 & 2016

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Jimmy Graham's TD celebration in danger

Orlando, Fla. - The post-touchdown stunt show by New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham may eventually become no more.

There has been discussions to ban a player from dunking the football over the goalposts during the NFL owners meetings, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Monday afternoon. McKay said there's no proposal on the table for these meetings and so no vote can occur to bar the touchdown celebration, but the committee will have further discussions later in the week.

McKay witnessed firsthand how a dunk on a goalpost could force a delay in a game.

McKay is the Falcons' president and CEO and watched as Graham's two-handed jam bent the goalpost in the Georgia Dome during the Saints' 17-13 win over Atlanta in Week 12 last season. Stadium work crew brought out a ladder to fix the goalposts forcing a small delay in the game.

Pro Football Talk first reported the possibility last weekend. Graham responded to the news via Twitter saying, "NOOOO!" after teammate Thomas Morstead referred to the potential rule change as "The Jimmy Graham rule."

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Ravens Will Unveil Ray Lewis Statue Outside M&T Bank Stadium Before 2014 Season

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti tells Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that the team plans to unveil a statue of Ray Lewis outside M&T Bank Stadium before the upcoming season. The statue will be placed in Unitas Plaza and is being done by Fred Kail, who did the Johnny Unitas statue that sits outside the stadium.

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Frank Gore Headed to the Hall of Fame?

Frank Gore had another banner season for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.

Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, gained 1,128 yards and found the end zone nine times during his team’s 12-4 campaign. He now has 9,967 career rushing yards which puts him 29th on the NFL‘s all-time list. There is no doubt that Gore is one of the best, if not the best, running back in 49ers’ history, but is he a future Hall of Famer?

The general thought is that the magic number a for running back is 10,000 plus yards rushing. While only 28 players in the history of the NFL have accomplished this feat, 10,000 alone does not carry a lot of weight in terms of the Hall of Fame. There are currently ten backs who fall between 10,000-10,999 yards rushing for their careers.  Those ten players are Warrick Dunn, Steven Jackson (still active), Ricky Watters, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Eddie George, Ottis Anderson, Adrian Peterson (still active) and Ricky Williams. Of this group, none of them are currently in the Hall of Fame and only Peterson is likely to get there.

Of the remaining 18 who have 11,000 yards or more, 13 of them (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, Franco Harris, Thurman Thomas, John Riggins and O.J. Simpson) are in the Hall of Fame. Of the remaining five, LaDainian Tomlinson is a sure bet to get in when eligible and Jerome Bettis should get there at some point. They stand at fifth and sixth all time with over 13,600 yards a piece. The other three are Edgerrin James (12,246 yards), Fred Taylor (11,695) and Corey Dillon (11,241 yards), all of whom have less of a chance.  So taking yardage into consideration, where does that leave Gore?

Barring injury, Gore is likely to reach 10,000 yards and exceed it by a considerable margin. At age 30, he has shown no signs of slowing down and is on track to be the 49ers’ lead back again in 2014. He would need 33 yards rushing to reach 10,000 and 1,033 to reach that all important 11,000 mark. To do the latter, Gore would have to average 64.5 yards a game over a 16 game season.

Another factor to look at is touchdowns. Gore has 70 total touchdowns and averages just under eight per season. Of the 13 11,000 plus yard backs in the Hall, only four of them have less than 100 total touchdowns in their careers (Dickerson, Dorsett, Thomas and Simpson). Even if Gore manages to play another two or three seasons, he’s unlikely to get to 100. Gore has also never won a rushing title, but that is not as significant as one might think. Thomas, Riggins, Harris, Faulk and Dorsett all failed to win one during their careers.

It should be noted that Gore played on some very bad teams prior to 2011. The 49ers’ record in Gore’s first six seasons (2005-2010) was 37-59 with no playoff appearances. From 2011-2013, the team improved to 36-11-1 and has appeared in three straight NFC title games as well as a Super Bowl. Through eight playoff games, Gore has 139 carries for 646 yards and five touchdowns. He was outstanding in the Super Bowl, gaining 119 yards with a score. The performance proved that when given the chance, Gore shines on the big stage.

If Gore’s career were to end right now, you’d have to say, based on the statistics mentioned, that he falls short of the Hall of Fame. Where Gore can make his case is in the twilight of his career. If he can stay healthy and play another two or three seasons, he should have the numbers to warrant legitimate consideration. It would also help his case should he get additional opportunities to excel in the playoffs and again rises to that occasion.

As it currently stands, the final chapter of Gore’s career is yet to be written. That chapter will most likely determine whether or not his legacy will take him into Canton or if he will fall short of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Regardless of the outcome, Gore has solidified himself as one of the most complete and consistent running backs of the modern era.

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Ryan Jackson among Padres' cuts

Padres optioned INF Ryan Jackson and OF Alex Castellanos to Triple-A El Paso; reassigned OF Alex Dickerson, RHPs Kevin Quackenbush and Blaine Boyer and LHP Tony Sipp to minor league camp.
The club has also informed Rule 5 pick Patrick Schuster that he will not make the team. Jackson, Castellanos and Sipp all entered camp with a shot at Opening Day roster spots, but they were ultimately unable to crack the big league squad.

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Dalton Botts signs with SoCal Coyotes

Former All-ACC University of Miami punter and Taft Union High School quarterback Dalton Botts, 6-3, 215, officially signed Wednesday with the two-time champion SoCal Coyotes, and will also compete for the number-two spot at quarterback, team officials announced.

“I’m thrilled to join the Coyote program,” Botts said today. “This is a tremendous opportunity. I’m all about faith, family and football. I’m exactly where God wants me, and I can’t wait to give Coyote fans something more to be excited about — even on fourth down.”

He will report to training camp in April when the team prepares for its first season in the Professional Spring American Football League. Botts participated in the 2013 NFL Combine and went to rookie camp with the New Orleans Saints after a stellar career at Miami, where he averaged 42.7 yards a kick.

At Taft High School, Dalton was a three-year varsity starter, where he was All-League, All-State, and put up 2,261 yards and 23 touchdowns as a read-option quarterback. He earned a full ride at Miami after becoming the nation’s number-one punter at Moorpark Community College.

Recently, Botts has worked out with Elite Kicking in preparation for his next opportunity ( During his Elite camp, he routinely hit 4.8 to 5.1 hang times. Botts gives the Coyotes one of the best kicking tandems in the nation.

Long-ball kicker Dan Kelly is the University of Hawaii’s fourth all-time leading scorer, and hit a franchise-record 59-yarder for the Coyotes last season. Botts will hold for Kelly, where he is also a threat to run or throw. He will compete for the number-two spot at quarterback behind veteran Nate Lewis, the nation’s most prolific AAA quarterback.

“I’m looking forward to working in behind Nate,” he said. “I’ve been a quarterback my whole life. It just worked out that I’m a better punter.” In 2014, the Coyotes were selected as one of four teams in the new PSAFL, which in its first season will play an intense four-game spring schedule with a championship in Tampa Bay. Combine-quality athletes will be showcased in competitive games and enjoy game film to market their skills.

Fans, meanwhile, will enjoy entertaining spring football from thirsty players fighting for jobs in the NFL, CFL and AFL. The Coyotes will also play a 10-game schedule this fall in the National Developmental Professional Football League. For more information, call 760.250.2514, or email Fans are invited to research the Coyotes at

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Adewale Ojomo arrested in sting

MIAMI -- Tennessee Titans defensive end Adewale Ojomo has been arrested in a prostitution sting.

A Miami police report stated the 25-year-old South Florida native was booked into jail Friday morning on a charge of soliciting a prostitute. He was being held on $500 bail.

According to the arrest report, an undercover detective was working in an area known for prostitution Thursday night when Ojomo pulled up in a white 2013 Lexus. After a brief conversation, police say Ojomo offered the undercover detective $100 for sex. The report says Ojomo was planning to go to a nearby store for condoms, but he was arrested before he could drive away.

He signed with Tennessee last year. The Titans say they're aware of the arrest but had no other comment.

Ojomo signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He did shorts stints with the Seattle and Buffalo practice squads last fall before joining Tennessee's practice squad in December.

While at the University of Miami, Ojomo had 79 tackles and 9.5 sacks.

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Saints' Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham: 'Be patient'

Drew Brees knows how Jimmy Graham is feeling, perhaps more than any player in the NFL. Two seasons ago, Brees and the New Orleans Saints had a protracted contract standoff after the Saints placed the franchise tag on him.

Brees didn't sign the tag, and wound up missing offseason work before the sides came to a long-term deal. Around The League sat down with Brees during his visit to NFL Network, and asked him what he's told Jimmy Graham about the process.

"I just told him be patient," Brees said. "Don't get frustrated. Don't take it personally. It's part of the deal and it's hard and ... you just want it to be over. You want certainty. That's the hardest part."

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Shane Larkin joins rotation w/ Calderon out

Shane Larkin played 13 minutes after Jose Calderon left Sunday's game with a facial injury, and Dallas' rookie PG finished with five points and one assist.
Fellow rookie Gal Mekel is still dealing with swelling and pain in his knee, so if Calderon misses any games it will be Devin Harris and Larkin sharing PG duties. Nothing about Larkin's rookie campaign or coach Rick Carlisle's rotations suggests that there's fantasy value to be found here, especially with the Mavs in the midst of a playoff chase.

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Yasmani Grandal: Opening Night Availability Unknown

The Padres are unsure if Grandal (knee) will be available for Opening Day on March 30 against the Dodgers, reports. "If I'm not ready by the beginning of the season I'll go on the [disabled list] and we'll go from there," the backstop told the Associated Press. "Carrying three catchers, I don't think that's something smart. So if I'm not 100 percent it's totally going to hurt the team."

Since making his spring debut March 10, Grandal has fared well in his limited at-bats, batting 2-for-5 with one run scored. He has yet to display an ability to catch everyday, though, which increases the likelihood that he'll land on the DL to begin the season, honing his game at extended spring training. If the preceding comes to pass, Nick Hundley will act as the primary catcher for the Padres off the bat, and his strong spring at the plate -- .310/.333/.586 line with two homers in 29 at-bats -- could keep him there, even when Grandal achieves the requisite level of health to get in the crouch daily.

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