More proCanes Cut, But Some Getting Signed

NFL teams are cutting their rosters down to the final 53 but also adding to their rosters.

OL Tyler Horn was released by the Texans.

TE Chase Ford who was cut by the Minnesota Vikings was SIGNED to the Vikings practice squad. WR Tommy Streeter who was cut by the Ravens has been signed to the Buffalo Bills practice squad. DL Marcus Forston was signed to the Patriots practice squad. DE Adewale Ojomo who was previously cut by the NY Giants was signed to the Giants’ practice squad.

LB Rocky McIntosh was released by the Lions. LB/DE Baraka Atkins was cut by the New Orleans Saints. DB DeMarcus Van Dyke who was cut by the Steelers and then placed on IR, was waived off of IR with a Settlement. TE Richard Gordon was cut by the Raiders. DL Antonio Dixon was cut by the Eagles. DL Micanor Regis was cut by the Falcons.

Previously, after the third NFL Pre Season game, four proCanes were cut. Ravens WR and RB Tommy Streeter and Damien Berry were waived respectively. Eagles Safety Kenny Phillips was waived. Raiders DB Cory Nelms was also waived.

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#NFLRank: Jimmy Graham at No. 11

The latest installment of #NFLRank is out and the list includes players ranked from No. 11 through No. 20 on both offense and defense.

As you might expect, there are no New Orleans defensive players on the list. But the Saints are represented by one offensive player.

That’s tight end Jimmy Graham, who came in at No. 11.

ESPN Stats & Information: Graham has been targeted 286 times over the past two seasons, tops among tight ends. Graham leads tight ends with 2,292 receiving yards over that span and has 20 touchdowns, second at his position behind Rob Gronkowski.

Yasinskas comment: Gronkowski’s been dealing with some health issues. Graham is healthy after playing most of last year with a wrist injury. That’s why I think this is the year Graham emerges as the NFL’s best tight end.

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Clinton Portis Calls Concussion Settlement ‘Win-Win for Both Sides'

The NFL reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries Thursday, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research for 18,000 retired players, including the 4,500 former athletes named as plaintiffs in the separate lawsuits against the league.

One of those players, former Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who recently revealed he had “a lot of concussions” in his career, which have since led to memory loss, blurry vision and headaches, called the landmark agreement a “win-win for both sides.”

“For those families to be able to go out and still provide for themselves, I think it’s going to give money to families,” Portis told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes Thursday. “There’s so many categories that this money will be broken up to, so it’s not like players are just going to go in and pick up a lump sum check and you’re done. I think it’s for preparation down the line, and that’s what a lot of people needed.”

Part of that money has been allotted for future testing, because as Portis put it, “we still don’t know the repercussions of the concussions.”

“There’s so many categories that this money will be broken up to, so it’s not like players are just going to go in and pick up a lump sum check and you’re done,” he said. “I think it’s for preparation down the line, and that’s what a lot of people needed.”

Portis stressed the importance of players educating themselves, which he insists will be easier now that the NFL and it’s players are on the same page with concussions.

“I don’t think the league or the union wants to turn this into ‘Let’s sue for everything. Let’s sue the NFL for everything that happens on the field to someone,’” Clinton said. “I think when we sign up for football, we’re really aware of what we’re signing up for and knowing that we can go out and get hurt, and get banged up.”

“It’s not going to solve everything,” Portis clarified. “You can’t find an answer to solve everything that’s going on in life, and you can’t blame the NFL for everything that’s happening.”

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Brett Romberg supports proposed NFL deal

Tecumseh's Brett Romberg joined former Detroit Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown and other former football players who hope a proposed $765 million settlement with the National Football League can make a difference in the lives of thousands of ex-players who are suffering from dementia and other concussion-related brain injuries.

"The NFL took a step in the right direction," said Romberg, a Belle River high school grad who retired from the NFL in 2012 after a nine-year career.

"They messed up in the past but the $765 million will be a much-needed Band-Aid, especially for those who suffered injuries 20 and 30 years ago."

Romberg, who said he suffered head trauma while playing football in high school, college and the pros, was one of 84 former players who started the lawsuit against the NFL in 2010.

He withdrew his name from the lawsuit to sign a $1-million contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2012.

"I don't regret not being part of this settlement," Romberg said.

"I was aware of the consequences of my injuries but I wanted to leave the game on my own terms.

"I had another career to fall back on. I'm just glad to see the NFL acknowledge the direct correlation between head injuries and the pain and suffering of former players."

Romberg, 33, is now a sales manager of Tire Group International in Miami. His wife, Emily, is a corporate real estate lawyer.

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler with Detroit, Arizona, Cleveland, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay, and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon were among the more than 4,500 former athletes - some suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer's - who have sued the NFL since the first case was filed in Philadelphia in 2011.

They accused the league of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field, while glorifying and profiting from the kind of bonejarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage. "I'm curious how they came up with the figure and I've got a lot of questions, but I am happy that it's done," Brown told The Associated Press. "Any time the NFL acknowledges they are ready to settle something, it shows they knew they had some sort of negligence."

The settlement would mean immediate compensation for ailing former players and their families, as well as medical exams and treatment for all other retirees - a group that could total more than 20,000. It also would set aside $10 million for research that the plaintiffs hope will protect future generations from the devastating effects of repeated blows to the head.

The settlement still has to be approved by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia.

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Dequan Jones takes shot at NCAA after Manziel ruling

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel got a half's worth of a suspension handed down to him Wednesday, an agreement Texas A&M and the NCAA reached because the star quarterback violated NCAA bylaw by signing autographs.

Manziel will sit out the first half of the Aggies' opener against Rice Saturday, a mere slap on the wrist even though Manziel is accused of actually selling his signature to memorabilia dealers.

Not everyone seemed happy for Manziel -- including former Hurricanes basketball star Dequan Jones.

Jones was forced to sit out 11 games his senior year as part of the Nevin Shapiro booster investigation. Shapiro claimed that former UM assistant Jake Morton asked Shapiro for $10,000 to secure Jones, then a recruit. Jones was allowed to return to action after the NCAA couldn’t find evidence against him.

Jones, now in his second year with the Orlando Magic, took to Twitter to express his thoughts on how how quickly the Manziel mess was worked out.


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End of the road for Vilma?

These are words that no fan of the New Orleans Saints wants to hear. But Jeff Duncan simply might be pointing out a harsh reality when he writes that this may be the end of the road for linebackers Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma.

Smith is out for the season with a torn ACL. Vilma recently had knee surgery, his fourth (that we know of) in the past couple of years. It remains to be seen if Vilma will be back on the field this season -- or ever.

Smith and Vilma have been important cogs on this defense for a long time. They also are revered in New Orleans. Their status only grew last year when they avoided the suspensions NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to give them during the bounty scandal.

Vilma and Smith appealed at every juncture and that strategy worked.

But there’s no appealing their current situations. Vilma and Smith each took pay cuts to remain with the Saints this year. But age and injuries are catching up to them.

Smith has a ridiculous salary-cap figure for 2014. Vilma hasn’t been an elite player for several years.

The Saints need to start getting younger on defense. They’re already working on that with Smith out for the season and Vilma’s status uncertain for this year.

But, no matter how you look at it, it seems highly unlikely Vilma and Smith will be with the Saints in 2014.

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Santana Moss willing to return punts if asked

The Washington Redskins need a punt returner, and 13th-year wide receiver Santana Moss said Monday that he would be willing to do the job if asked to do so by the team’s coaches.

“I don’t care,” Moss said. “I don’t mind if I’m asked. It’s nothing that I’m putting a sign on saying I’m the punt returner. If Coach lets me do it and they want me to do it, it’s not new to me. I feel like it’s something I still can do. Dealing with the circumstances, if we need me back there, I’ll go.”

Moss has made 112 punt returns in his 12 NFL seasons, averaging 11.3 yards per return. He has three career touchdowns on punt returns, two for the New York Jets in 2002 and one for the Redskins in 2008. He last was credited with a punt return in the 2009 season.

“You always enjoy it,” Moss said. “It’s something that got me here. I shied away from it a lot because I was a starter and when you’re out there more and more, you want to give yourself a chance on the offense and not take away what you can do offensively. Now that I have my share of time off from being a starter, I wouldn’t mind being back there.”

Moss became the Redskins’ third receiver last season and is penciled in for the same role this season.

The Redskins lost their punt returner when reserve cornerback Richard Crawford suffered a season-ending knee injury during Saturday’s preseason triumph over the Buffalo Bills. Coach Mike Shanahan said after the game that the team would consider its options at the spot.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has made 16 career punt returns, including one last season.

Rookie running back Chris Thompson took over for Crawford against the Bills and totaled 48 yards on three punt returns Saturday, including a 31-yarder.

“I felt pretty comfortable doing it,” Thompson said Monday. “I felt even more comfortable when I got in the game. I was real calm. I wasn’t stressing at all. I felt good…. I’m just glad he trusted me enough to let me go back there and try to make some plays for the team.”

The problem for the Redskins is whether they can afford to keep a player on the season-opening roster just to serve as the punt returner. Thompson appears to have fallen behind Roy Helu Jr. and Keiland Williams in the race for roster spots as reserve running backs behind starter Alfred Morris. Thompson said he hopes his punt-return skills make him more valuable to the team.

“I hope so,” Thompson said. “I’m gonna just continue working every single day and whatever decision Coach makes for this upcoming game and for the season, I know they’ll make the right decision.”

The Redskins also listed rookie wide receivers Skye Dawson and Nick Williams on their depth chart at punt returner for the Bills game. Washington concludes the preseason Thursday night at Tampa.

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Player Watch - Danny Valecia Orioles

DH Danny Valencia is hitting against one of his old teams. He went 2-for-3 Tuesday night and is 6-for-12 with a double, homer and an RBI against the Red Sox this season.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Placed on IR

The Pittsburgh Steelers waived cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and guard Justin Cheadle injured on Sunday, and now both have cleared waivers Tuesday and reverted back to the injured reserve list.

Strangely enough, both players suffered serious hamstring injuries that led to them being waived injured.

Van Dyke never got a chance to show what he could do on defense after being signed just prior to the start of the 2012 season following his release from the Oakland Raiders. In addition, he didn’t do himself any favors last year when he was flagged fives times on special teams in a matter of four games.

Just when it looked like he might actually see some playing time on defense late last year in the game against the Dallas Cowboys, Van Dyke injured his shoulder early in the game on special teams and was lost for the remainder of the year.

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Richard Gordon on Bubble?

Tight end Richard Gordon: It would be a surprise if he were waived, because he is a fine blocker. But Oakland is pretty wide open at tight end. If the Raiders feel like their other young tight ends offer more potential than Gordon, he could be sent packing.

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Ed Reed named to defensive list

Two Texans made appearances in the top 50 for our NFL defensive player rankings, which resumed Monday: cornerback Johnathan Joseph at 43 and safety Ed Reed at 42.

Monday ESPN revealed players ranked between 41 and 50 on both offense and defense. Expect more Texans ahead, but so far Joseph, Reed and center Chris Myers have appeared on the lists.

Joseph enters this season feeling healthier than he did last season, during which he played through two sports hernias.

Reed, of course, is on the list for his play as a Baltimore Raven. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Reed has 16 interceptions since 2008 on passes of at least 15 yards -- the most in the league during that span.

The lists are the result of votes from 63 experts from ESPN TV,, ESPN radio, insider, Stats and Info and the city cites. AFC South blogger emeritus Paul Kuharsky was among the voters.

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Antrel Rolle Would “Absolutely” Want Kenny Phillips Back with New York Giants

Shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles released safety Kenny Phillips on Sunday, he was on the phone with his former New York Giants teammate, Antrel Rolle. And although he stresses that the decision is not his to make, Rolle said, emphatically, that he would "absolutely" want Phillips back with Big Blue.

"Would I like to see him? Absolutely. But it’s not my call, it’s not my call to make and you have to leave that up to personnel, the owners and GM," Rolle said on Monday. "They’ll do the right job, I’m more than confident they’ll make the right choice as far as who they want to bring in or what they want to do as far as our defensive personnel in its entirety."

It's no surprise that Rolle — who displays an incredible amount of respect for every current and former teammate — would want his friend back with the Giants. And given that they've recently lost Stevie Brown (knee) for the season, there's no denying that depth at the position is now not only a concern, but a need.

Still, the Giants allowed Phillips to walk largely due to chronic injuries — the same reason he currently finds himself without a team. And given his inability to practice most of the offseason, it would appear as if he's not yet ready to return to the field. And when asked if his friend is healthy, Rolle passed on the question, saying "I don't know."

General Manager Jerry Reese maintains that the team will always "investigate everything," but unless Phillips' medical records check out, a return to the Giants seems unlikely.

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Passing On Ed Reed Looking Like A Big Mistake For the New England Patriots

After the Baltimore Ravens‘ recent Super Bowl victory, it was inevitable that the team would lose a majority of their superstars to free agency.  On that list of casualties was future Hall-of-Famer Ed Reed.   The New England Patriots knew that he would be available and Bill Belichick and Reed have always expressed admiration for one another. It seemed like the perfect fit for a team that had been searching for reliable safety play since losing Rodney Harrison to retirement. 

Then, free agency came along and the Patriots ultimately passed on Reed in favor of Adrian Wilson. Back when he was in his prime, Wilson was a phenomenal player.  He used his size, speed and hard-hitting ability to terrorize opposing pass catchers. He even was able to accumulate 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career. 

He is one of only ten players to have accomplished this milestone, and he is probably a good candidate for Hall-of-Fame induction himself because of this. With all of that said, watching Wilson in practice and in preseason games, it has become clear that he has more than lost a step.  He looks slow and has lacked the playmaking ability that he has had throughout his career. Given that he is about to turn 34 in October, it is fair to ask whether he has played his last professional football game.  

Judging by how he looks and the fact that he played into the fourth quarter in the third preseason game, it is possible that he could be cut from the team in the coming days. As for Reed, he is arguably the best safety of all-time.  He has showed no signs of slowing down, putting up solid numbers consistently throughout his career. 

Even though Reed is roughly a month older than Wilson, he is still one of the best safeties in the league right now. The Patriots could have used him to anchor the defense while taking some of the young guys like Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon under his wing, teaching them the nuances of the game.

Tom Brady himself knows how dangerous Reed is in the secondary, as some of his worst games have resulted from Reed’s menacing playmaking ability.

The Patriots had the opportunity to play with him instead of against him.  Instead, they let him go to an AFC contender in the Houston Texans who the Patriots will probably have to face this year in the playoffs, assuming that both teams will make it. The Patriots will be left to wonder what might have been, passing on arguably the greatest safety of all-time.

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Jason Fox closing in on starting right tackle job

Jason Fox spent the final two months of the 2011 season on injured reserve, and while he was rehabbing from his second knee surgery Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn kept him busy with weekly homework assignments.

Fox’s task at the time was to watch film of offensive tackles across the league, analyze their strengths and weaknesses and see if he could glean any tips.
In his second NFL season at the time, Fox found the exercise eye-opening.

“It was always a continual development,” Fox said. “(I’d) look for stuff in their game I can apply to mine as far as how they set different people, the different schemes they use, different techniques they use, whether it’s how they reach an end or where they keep their hands in pass protection, whether they short set guys, just everything. Just watching and seeing what’s got them to where they are.”

Two years later, Fox is close to being in the position he once studied — a starting tackle in the NFL.

Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday position battles at right tackle and right guard have “come into focusicon1” a month into the preseason.

Schwartz declined to name favorites for the jobs, but Fox has quietly drawn praise for his play while competing with Corey Hilliard at tackle.

Fox and Hilliard shared first-team reps in practice Monday, as they have most of the preseason, while rookie Larry Warford and veterans Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott continue to get most of the work at guard.

“I think there’s still possibilities there, but it’s come into focus over the courseicon1 of training camp,” Schwartz said. “There could still be something that could change our minds. It’s important to finish strong and finish the way we started. But it’s starting to come in. All our positions are starting to come into focus, but none of them are cemented yet.”

Fox has started the last two weeks at right tackle and hasn’t allowed a sack in 80 snaps this preseason.

He said he feels like he’s “played well overall,” and considering how rocky his first two NFL seasons were — he fell to the fourth round of the 2010 draft because of a college knee injury that limited him most of his rookie year — starting Week 1 against the Vikings would be special.

“The injuries are in the past, which is a great thing, and sometimes it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fox said. “But they’ve stuck with me and I’m very appreciative of that and yeah, it’d be great to come out on the other side of it where I’m healthy and playing.”

While he doesn’t studyicon1 opposing offensive tackles like he did in 2011, Fox remains an avid film watcher. He regularly charts the pass rushers he’ll go against, and he’s found a new way to get an edge.

Several times this preseason, Fox has reached out to former teammate Jeff Backus for tips on the defensive ends he’ll play.

Before his preseason start against the Browns, for instance, Fox inquired about outside linebacker Paul Kruger, how quick he is, his pass-rush moves and the Browns’ new defensive scheme coordinated by Ray Horton, who the Lions played in Arizona last year.

Backus dropped in on Lions practice Monday, and Fox said he’s “a great resource” to have.

“It’s been helpful,” Fox said. “It’s something I’m probably going to carry throughout the rest of the season.”

Perhaps as starter.

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5 proCanes Waived After 3rd Pre Season Game

After the third NFL Pre Season game, five proCanes have been waived. Ravens WR and RB Tommy Streeter and Damien Berry were waived respectively. Eagles Safety Kenny Phillips was waived as was Steelers DB DeMarcus Van Dyke. Raiders DB Cory Nelms was also waived.

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Lamar Miller: I feel I won Miami Dolphins' starting job

In the world of hoaxes, the Miami Dolphins' running back "competition" and the Cleveland Browns' quarterback "battle" pale in comparison to England's Piltdown Man and Cottingley Fairies.

They are football farces nonetheless.

The Browns have ceased with their charade, but the Dolphins have yet to reach the foregone conclusion that Lamar Miller is in control of their backfield.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said "not necessarily" Monday, via the Palm Beach Post, when asked if he's made a decison.

As far as Miller is concerned, the job is his after outplaying an underwhelming Daniel Thomas in Saturday's 17-16 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I do feel like I won the job," Miller said, via The Miami Herald.

The Dolphins can insist the two backs remain "neck-and-neck" due to equal performances in practices, but Thomas never has come through once the lights go on.

We don't begrudge general manager Jeff Ireland's reluctance to concede Thomas isn't the player the Dolphins thought they were getting when the team traded up to select him at No. 62 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. The evidence is overwhelming, however.

Thomas has averaged a damning 3.5 yards on 256 career carries. If the play is blocked for three yards, Thomas will get three, whereas Miller has a chance at 40 or 50. No matter what Thomas shows in practice, the game tape reveals a tentative, soft runner with ball security issues.

Miller isn't without his own weaknesses, but it's only a matter of time before his obvious talent edge leads to the starting job he believes is already his.


Ed Reed injury: Texans safety gets injections for ailing hip

Houston Texans safety Ed Reed received an injection in his hip in an effort to help his recovery process as he continues to work his way back from offseason surgery. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said the team will know more about Reed's status following the latest procedure, via Mark Berman of Fox 26.

Reed's status has been one of the biggest question marks for the Texans this offseason. The team and the 34-year old safety have said they were hopeful he would be able to return to the field in time for Week 1, but there hasn't been a timetable for his return.

Reed flew to Vail, Colo. to meet with the doctor who performed the procedure. Kubiak said the meeting was the last step before Reed could return to the field. The injections don't necessarily mean Reed won't be ready for the season opener, but for now he remains on the physically unable to perform list. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle said he does not expect Reed to be ready for Week 1.

With so much uncertainty, it's difficult to project when Reed may return to the field. He could still be active for the season opener, or he could remain on the PUP list to open the season and miss at least the first six games of the year. At this point, not even the Texans are sure when he'll play. If Reed is unable to play in Week 1, Shiloh Keo or rookie D.J. Swearinger will likely start in his place.

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Colin McCarthy excited for 'audition'

In some ways, Colin McCarthy feels like he’s starting from scratch.

So the final preseason game, at Minnesota on Thursday, is huge for the Titans linebacker. He missed the first three games because of a hamstring injury.

“I am hoping to play a lot. This is an opportunity to audition for all 32 teams,” McCarthy said. “I haven’t played since Jacksonville (Nov. 26, 2012) so I have to prove to all 32 teams that I am back and ready to play.’’

McCarthy, a fourth-round pick in 2011, is in no danger of being released even though he lost his starting job for the regular season opener to Moise Fokou.

Still, he feels he has something to prove after missing nine games last season with an ankle injury and a concussion. He returned to practice from the hamstring injury last week.

“I want respect throughout the league,” he said. “I am excited about the opportunity. I feel great, like I haven’t missed a beat. I feel fresh and light on my feet, which is nice, and am ready to go out there and play.”

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Andrew Luck: 'Reggie Wayne is still our leader'

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck still believes that veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne is the leader of his side's offense.

Luck replaced Peyton Manning at the Colts last season and put in an impressive rookie season as he guided the team to the playoffs before they were eliminated in the Wild Card round to the Baltimore Ravens.

"I still defer to Reggie Wayne as the leader of our offense," Luck told ESPN. "But I think as a quarterback there's a natural progression of leadership, the older you get.

"I definitely feel more inclined this year to share my opinion if I feel like it's necessary, or to talk in front of the guys, or what have you. As a quarterback you assume a natural leadership role."

Indianapolis open their regular season against the Cleveland Browns on September 8.


After successful stint at Jones, Kenard Lang looks to change Wekiva's luck

APOPKA — As a group of freshmen walked by new Wekiva footballicon1 coach Kenard Lang during orientation, Lang noticed a tall, muscular student.

"Why aren't you out for football?" Lang said.

Lang told the student to have a physical taken and come out to practice. Wekiva athletic director Lamarr Glenn calls Lang's process of roaming the school searching for prospective players "cleaning the halls."

Mustangs fans will be overjoyed if Lang does for them what he did for Jones — take a team down on its luck and transform it into a perennial playoff contender. Entering its seventh season, Wekiva has won less than 30 percent (17-43) of its gamesicon1.

"We are really lucky this year to have coach Lang," junior quarterbackicon1 Bart Bell said. "To be coached by someone with all his experience, you know you are getting good coaching.

"We are more into it this year. He is inspiring us."

Lang, 38, has been synonymous with success since shining as a player at Evans. He was part of a state championship team with the Trojans, then became a standout defensive end at the University of Miami before a 10-year NFL career with the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Brownsicon1 and Denver Broncos.

He was 30-25 in five seasons at Jones, leading the Tigers to the playoffs four times.

"I remember a couple of years before my playing career was over and thinking [Wekiva] would be a great place to coach," Lang said. "But they opened and had to hire someone else.

"I consider myself lucky that when the position became open this time that everything went smoothly during the hiring process between the administration and myself."

Wekiva finished 2-8 last season, and since the school on North Hiawassee Road opened, its best record was 6-5 in 2011.

Lang is more concerned with where the Mustangs are headed, though, and he would like to get there in a gallop. To do that, he brought Charlie Frye, his offensive coordinator at Jones, with him. Frye, a former NFLicon1 quarterback, broke 54 school records at Akron.

Max Purcell, a longtime offensive line coach at Evans, also was added to Wekiva's staff.

The Mustangs are expected to receive a big boost from fullback Deondre Fair, who rushed for 885 yards and 13 touchdowns at Lake Brantley in 2012. Other potential starters include Apopka transfers Jermaine Grace and Richard Hanks, both defensive backs, and former Agape Christian linebacker-running back Anthony Honor.

"I see this as the start of something new," said Kaevon McCray, president of Wekiva's athletic boosters. "Everything starts somewhere. I can see us winning more games. We are very fortunate to get Kenard.

"The attitude of the boys is different. It is like they are really cool playing for Wekiva, and that wasn't the way it always was."


Brewers embrace Ryan Braun's admission

CINCINNATI (AP) - Ryan Braun's acknowledgement that he used performance-enhancing drugs was welcomed in the Milwaukee Brewers' clubhouse, where players hope it helps to heal some of the pain caused by his actions and a resulting 65-game suspension.

"I thought it was a good first step on the road to redemption, I guess you could say," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said Friday before the start of a series against the Cincinnati Reds. Braun released a statement Thursday night acknowledging for the first time that he used a cream and a lozenge containing banned substances while recovering from an injury in 2011, when he won the National League's MVP award. Several Brewers, including Lucroy, have stayed in touch with Braun by phone since he agreed to Major League Baseball's suspension on July 22. Lucroy expects Braun to have a news conference at some point to answer questions. F

or now, the statement sufficed. "It certainly was enough for me," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think it's enough for his teammates. He's made some calls to his teammates.

"I think no matter what he says, there's going to be some negative from a lot of people still: 'He didn't say enough (or) he didn't explain himself enough.' I think he did. And I also think there are some things he probably still can't say. As I read into how he said it, I think there are some things that probably he can't bring up. That's OK with me."

Reliever John Axford said the statement should bring some closure. "Knowing Ryan and understanding Ryan, I'm going to be able to move forward and I hope other people will be able too," Axford said. Braun's statement didn't provide any detail about exactly what substances he used or who provided them. Roenicke said Braun's probably limited in what he can say for now because of the legal ramifications.

His suspension resulted from Major League Baseball's investigation of Biogenesis of America, a clinic that was accused of providing banned substances to major leaguers. The clinic is now closed. Braun took full responsibility in his statement and apologized to numerous people. Lucroy said Braun will be welcomed back quicker by his teammates than he will be by others outside the team, even though he had misled his teammates as well. "I don't think it's going to be that difficult in here," Lucroy said.

"I think the outside, of course, is going to be harder to deal with. Within the clubhouse, I don't think so. If he comes back and is a good teammate and performs and contributes to the team winning, I don't see why he won't be welcomed back with open arms. "I'm sure he will because he's very talented." Axford said he's already moved beyond the matter.

"You can be upset, you can be angry, but in the clubhouse here we're close," Axford said. "We're friends. We're family. And you have to have faith and belief and trust in your family. "If you want to move past it, you have to be able to forgive, and that's where I'm at," Axford added. "I'm in the position where I want to be able to forgive and move past this and talk to Ryan like our friends and family." Roenicke agreed that Braun will have a tougher time being forgiven by those outside the club.

"This is a nice man," Roenicke said, sitting on the bench in the visitors' dugout at Great American Ball Park during batting practice. "He is. This is a nice young man that messed up. That's what it is. "And he's got a long road ahead of him. I'm sure he'll be yelled at at all of the stadiums he'll go to next year," Roenicke added.

"He's going to have things continually written about him. But it's a first step, I think, in trying to get through this, probably trying to heal up some relationships, whether it's the fans, whether it's his good friends, whether it's his teammates. "I think this is a nice step toward that," he said.


Sean Spence Placed On Reserve/PUP

Linebacker Sean Spence, who suffered a severe knee injury during the 2012 preseason, has been placed on the team’s reserve/physically unable to perform list.   He’ll be eligible to return to practice after Week 6 and through Week 11.

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Andre Johnson made it clear: he's ready

Andre Johnson doesn't talk much on the field and he speaks quietly off it.

Often, the wide receiver lets his play speak for him, as was the case Sunday afternoon in the Houston Texans' third preseason game.

"You definitely try to send a message that you're ready to go," the receiver said. "I think by going out and showing guys that you're ready to go, that makes them step their game up. That's what I try to do. I'm not a big rah-rah guy. I just try to lead by example. When I'm out on the field, whether it's 10 plays or 70 plays I'm going to give everything I got. So that's what I did."

Things went about as well as they could have for Johnson in Sunday's preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. He was a beacon of consistency on an offense that stalled at times during the Texans' 31-23 loss. Johnson caught seven passes for 131 yards in one half of play.

Johnson sometimes offhandedly mentions that people thought he was washed up last season, a season in which he caught a career high 1,598 yards. He didn't after Sunday's game, but he brought it up last week when asked about outsiders' opinions about the Texans.

So was he trying to send message to his teammates or the rest of the league?

"It don't matter," Johnson said, smiling.

Message sent (to whomever).

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Lamar Miller continues to outplay D. Thomas

Lamar Miller rushed eight times for 35 yards and caught a two-yard pass in the Dolphins' Saturday night preseason game against the Bucs.
We keyed on Miller (and Daniel Thomas) in the game, and Miller was not only impressive on his rushing attempts, he excelled in blitz pickups and made a difficult reception on a throw behind him made by Ryan Tannehill. Based on preseason usage, it appears the Fins will open the year with a possession-by-possession rotation of Miller and Thomas that probably won't last because Miller is the clear-cut superior player. Through four preseason games, Miller has 17 carries for 72 yards (4.24 YPC) and one touchdown. He's caught four passes. Miller has also received more deep red-zone carries than Thomas, and was Miami's go-to back in the two-minute offense Saturday night.

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Eagles release injury-plagued safety Kenny Phillips

The Philadelphia Eagles have released safety Kenny Phillips, ProFootballTalk is reporting.

The team signed the 26-year-old former Giant to a one-year deal in the offseason after Phillips played just seven games in 2012 due to knee injuries.

He also missed all but two games of the 2009 season — after being selected in the first round in 2008 — with arthritis in his knee that required microfracture surgery.

With the Eagles, he competed for a starting safety spot, but has been out of action for the past two weeks with a quad injury.

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Reggie Wayne has big preseason game

Reggie Wayne caught seven balls for 79 yards in the Colts' third preseason game Saturday night.
Wayne told reporters in June he was "still trying to figure out" new OC Pep Hamilton's offense. He's got a good grip, alright. Through three preseason affairs, 34-year-old Wayne has 11 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown, continuing to be Andrew Luck's clear-cut No. 1 receiver. Wayne is worth fantasy-draft consideration beginning in the fourth round of standard leagues. He's likely to have a better PPR year due to declining big-play ability.

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Tommy Streeter’s tenure in Baltimore ends without a catch

Tommy Streeter, a wide receiver whom the Ravens selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft, will exit Baltimore with zero career catches.

A league source tells PFT that the Ravens have cut Streeter.

Last year Streeter suffered a foot injury before the season and spent the year on injured reserve. This year Streeter was healthy enough to get on the field in the preseason, but he wasn’t able to do enough to convince the Ravens he belonged.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Streeter was the Miami Hurricanes’ leading receiver as a junior in 2011 and has enough potential that some other team may pick him up.

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Mike James has slow 3rd preseason game

Rookie RB Mike James rushed seven times for 17 yards in the Bucs' third preseason game Saturday night.
He's at 28 preseason carries for 113 yards (4.04 YPC) and four catches. James looked like the favorite for backup duties behind Doug Martin after the second preseason game, but FB/RB Brian Leonard played tailback ahead of him Saturday night and was arguably better. While James has intriguing potential, we wouldn't waste a fantasy pick trying to handcuff Martin at this point.

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Jimmy Graham donates cleats to Fifth Ward Junior High School’s football team

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham donated new cleats to the entire Fifth Ward Junior High School’s football team this week.

Graham established a relationship with the school last January, when he participated in a NFL Play 60 Super Bowl Challenge event at the school.

“When I was at the Play 60 event, I talked to the students about the importance of team,” said Graham. “I talked to them about how you always have to put the team first and hopefully with these new cleats they can win some games.”

Fifth Ward Junior High School Principal Christopher Oufnac was honored by the gesture from the New Orleans Saints tight end.

“It’s an unbelievable gift he gave to these kids,” Oufnac said. “The kids like them so much they don’t want to get them dirty. They jokingly said they are too nice of cleats to play in.”

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Travis Benjamin wants, expects to return kickoffs in addition to punts

BEREA – The broken fibula of running back Dion Lewis created a hole at kickoff returner. Travis Benjamin is ready to fill it. Benjamin, already slotted to return punts and be the fourth receiver, said Thursday he wants and expects to return kickoffs when the season opens Sept. 8 against Miami. “Yes, I’m very excited,” he said. Benjamin is only 5-foot-10, 175 pounds but said he’s not worried about wearing himself thin or the extra punishment possible on kickoff returns.

“Not at all,” he said. “It’s extra plays for me.” Benjamin returned three kickoffs as a rookie in 2012, averaging 25.3. He averaged 49.7 yards with a touchdown on three punt returns. He already has a punt return for a touchdown and another called back by penalty in two preseason games. The other candidates to return kickoffs are safety Johnson Bademosi and cornerback Buster Skrine.

“I feel comfortable that we have Travis,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I would really like to see the other guys, including Bademosi. Buster Skrine has done it before and has been effective, as well.” Chudzinski admits Benjamin would be susceptible to bigger hits on kickoffs, but isn’t afraid to use him there. “We are going to try to put the best guys out on the field in those situations to go win the game,” he said.

“If Travis happens to be the best guy in that situation, we will do it at that time.” “You can get hit harder on offense,” Benjamin said. Bademosi said he has a little experience returning kicks and is trying to emulate the vision, catching and explosion through gaps of Joshua Cribbs, who left in free agency. “I’m getting better every day,” Bademosi said.

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Devin Hester will be 'fresh'

It has almost occurred on cue. Now that the Chicago Bears have made Devin Hester solely a returner, rather than try to double him up on offense, the truth comes out. Speaking with Jon Greenberg of this week, Hester said he expects to be "fresh" now for all of his returns.

Hester: "I'm not going to be tired when I'm out there. My legs are going to be fresh. That's the key thing, me being fresh. Returners have to be fresh. It's impossible to go 50-60 snaps on offense and try to return the whole game. I'm in the stage where I'm in a good mood to do what I love doing."

I can't tell you how many times we exchanged that sentiment on the blog over the past few years. Expecting Hester, or anyone else, to be an elite returner while also playing regularly on offense didn't seem realistic. In fact, Hester estimates he'll touch the ball more on a per-game basis now than he did in multiple roles before.

"I know during the season I'm going to touch the ball five or six times a game," Hester said. "I mean, when I was playing offense I was only touching the ball once or twice on offense. If you add it up, I'll probably be touching the ball a little more and be fresher to do what I love doing."

Makes sense to me.

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Tour de France inspires NY Jets tight end Kellen Winslow to try cycling

The Jets convoy was on the move. The team was headed from its residential end of the SUNY Cortland campus back to the football fields across the road for its walk through on its last Sunday in upstate New York. First came Gang Green’s police escort, then a school bus filled with players, followed by another and another. Finally, the fifth and final vehicle made its way in through the gates, carrying a piece of luggage the team would prefer to be handled with care: Kellen Winslow. That trailer car was the tight end's Venge bicycle, with Winslow peddling in the buses' wake.

Winslow on his bike became part of the routine in Cortland. When other players drove, Winslow biked. When other players walked, Winslow biked. And roughly every other day, when other players practiced, Winslow biked.

"Well it just helps keeps my muscles activated," Winslow, 30, said. "Through all the surgeries and stuff, the staph infection (in 2008), your muscles shut off. So I just have to keep them activated, that's why I ride the bike all the time."

The Tour de France becomes something of a tired joke around football training camps: it's a term used to describe the group of injured players rehabbing on the bikes during practices. It's not an enviable position to be in: stationary cycling off to the side while other players try to take their jobs.

For Winslow, the Tour de France was his inspiration. It was watching riders make their way up and down French hills that made him want to try cycling. That's what legs on an athlete ought to look like, he thought when he first watched the race on TV.

"It takes a while, for you to get any definition in your legs like those guys," he said. "It just made sense to me, when I saw them cycling. Something popped in my head -- 'oh yeah, it's just like running...but just without the impact.'"

And so roughly five years ago, Winslow decided to drop his offseason strength training regimen and opt for a cycling plan instead. An hour-and-a-half to two-hour ride per day in San Diego where he lives, coupled with 55 pushups per day and some sit-ups, were the best way to stay in shape, he found. When he's done playing football, Winslow wants to try his hand at racing. Nothing too serious, he said quickly, but he wants to give it a shot.

He took part in the lifting sessions in Cortland, but at a lighter pace than most of his teammates. It doesn't look like the lack of a bench press is hurting him much, and Winslow thinks that at his position, strength is overrated. Other tight ends have more of a hybrid role of blocking and pass-catching, but Winslow sees himself essentially as a pure receiver, so he values quickness and flexibility above muscle mass.

Winslow, a minicamp tryout, has quickly vaulted himself into a valuable skill position player on a team that is starved for receiving talent.

It's because of his talent and age that the Jets have put Winslow on what Ryan terms the "pitch count." He practices only some days, following a similar plan that worked successfully with LaRon Landry last season. But instead of riding the stationary bikes, Winslow grabs his own bicycle and clips it in next to his teammates. The tight end explained that stationary bikes coast when the peddle is on its way back up; his clipped in bike has resistance throughout the full revolution of the peddle, so that it better simulates one of his long rides from the offseason.

"(I) fell in love with it," Winslow said of his cycling. "It challenged me in ways I never knew."

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Shenise Johnson has 17 points, 10 rebounds to lead Silver Stars to 70-64 win over Storm

SAN ANTONIO — Without another All-Star in an injury-filled season, the San Antonio Silver Stars had a young player make big plays when needed.

Davellyn Whyte had 13 points and seven assists — both career highs — in her second career start in place of injured All-Star Danielle Robinson and the San Antonio Silver Stars held on for a 70-64 victory over Seattle on Sunday.

Shenise Johnson added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Silver Stars, who snapped the Storm’s three-game winning streak.

“Knowing that D-Rob hasn’t played a couple games, I know I have to step up,” said Whyte, in her second season.

“I have been watching her this whole year and filling in whenever she needs a sub. I have to go in there, keep my composure and run the team.”

Whyte had three points, going 3 for 4 on free throws while playing the entire fourth quarter for San Antonio, which is going for its seventh straight postseason berth.

Seattle (13-14) holds a three-game lead over San Antonio (10-17) for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth. They have split the regular-season series at 2-all entering their finale Tuesday night.

The Storm are without All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, but the Silver Stars are also missing a pair of All-Stars in Becky Hammon and Sophia Young.
Robinson, who played in her first All-Star game this season, has missed the team’s two previous games — both losses.

“Survival of the fittest, definitely,” Johnson said. “We are fighting, they are fighting. They are ahead of us in the standings and we are trying to get that tiebreaker against them.”

Danielle Adams and Jia Perkins each had 14 points for San Antonio, which snapped a two-game skid.

Reserve forward Noelle Quinn had 14 points to lead Seattle. Tina Thompson and Camille Little each had 11 points and Temeka Wright added 10 for the Storm.

“The better team won tonight,” Seattle guard Temeka Johnson said. “They came out with their business. They came out ready, and we weren’t.”

The Storm shot 36 percent from the field and were outrebounded by the smaller, but more aggressive Silver Stars.

After struggling to get their shots off in the first half, Seattle rallied in the second half behind a more aggressive approach.

The Storm pulled within 56-50 with 5 minutes left in the game behind an 8-0 run fueled by a turnover and a steal against the Silver Stars.

“I think that even when we made a couple of runs, they answered with either getting to the free throw line, hitting a couple of big shots, or getting an offensive board,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “They hurt us on the offensive glass quite a bit. That was the big difference.”

Whyte, Perkins and Johnson closed out the victory, going 7 for 8 on free throws in the final 3 minutes while scoring 11 points. Whyte had an assist on both field goals in that run.

“(Whyte has) got a presence about her, I felt that from the first day she was here,” San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said.

“I don’t think in any of our wildest dreams we thought she would be playing 32 minutes in a key game down the stretch. The girl has got something that says, ‘I’m here to play coach.’ I like that about her. Now we are leaning on her awfully heavy. Today was a good opportunity to watch her growth a little bit.”

With Quinn, Thompson and Shekinna Stricklen attacking San Antonio’s interior defense, Seattle went on an 11-2 run to pull within 48-42 with a minute left in the third quarter. The trio combined for 14 points in the quarter.

Whyte had an assist on each of the Silver Stars’ first three baskets as they raced to an 8-0 lead. She added a 3-pointer that gave San Antonio an 11-2 lead.
Robinson missed her second game after straining her right knee at Indiana on Aug. 21.

Seattle only attempted two shots on its first four possessions while committing a shot-clock violation and a turnover.

The Storm struggled to get a shot off against the Silver Stars’ aggressive defensive switches, finishing the first quarter 2 for 8. They also failed to get a single offensive rebound in the opening quarter.

“I thought the way we started out in the first quarter dug us a hole a little too big for ourselves,” Temeka Johnson said. “It came back to bite us. We need to take that from the game and look forward to Tuesday.”

The Storm’s shooting didn’t improve greatly in the second quarter, but they did have six offensive rebounds, including four on their third possession.

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Office politics win-win for James Jones, LeBron James

Officially, the title remains the same as it has been for years, "Secretary-Treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association."

But for weeks, Miami Heat forward James Jones found himself acting as a political operative, of sorts, as well.

Could he deliver teammate LeBron James as president of the NBPA? Could he get LeBron to ease off his criticism of the union? Would a faction of the union's leadership create unease between James and Jones in the Heat locker room?

Then the call came from James to Jones, that LeBron would not seek the union's highest office, his schedule already stretched too thin. Shortly thereafter, Jones boarded a flight for this past week's union meeting in Las Vegas, carrying hope that the union could coalesce in the wake of former union president Derek Fisher stepping aside and with former union executive director Billy Hunter being dismissed earlier in the year.

LeBron's name never got put up to vote Wednesday. Instead, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, already a union vice president, was elected president by the 30 team representatives.

The initial reaction was one of "Wait, what?," that a player with his own championship aspirations and considerable endorsement portfolio could find the time that LeBron could not.

To Jones, the election of Paul made plenty of sense, especially amid this period of turmoil.

"LeBron had interest in having a more vocal presence within the union, being more involved,"

Jones said of their conversations. "But, at the same time, he understood that it's a transition. It's not something where overnight you get into the meat and the details of the business and how it operates and functions. And C.P. is like LeBron, the face of our game. He's an international star, an international presence, but he's been exposed to the board. So he understands the commitment. He was just more comfortable working with our existing board."

Depending on the perspective, LeBron's dalliance either raised awareness of the need for a strong union or raised greater question, particularly when claimed the union had been "going backwards."

That comment drew a harsh rebuke from executive-board member Jerry Stackhouse, the journeyman guard and former LeBron Heat teammate, who called James "misinformed."

Caught in the middle was Jones, who had to deal with fellow executive-board members on Wednesday but also has to deal with LeBron in coming months.

"LeBron's points were valid," Jones said upon his South Florida return. "He said the union had been in turmoil, had taken steps backward. The first step moving forward was reclaiming the union, which we did."

To a degree, Jones said James accomplished plenty just by speaking up.

"Make no mistake about it, our union has been a mess," Jones said. "It has been in turmoil. The general consensus of the players, not individual bodies, but the overall body, was that the union has lost touch with what its goal and mission was, and that the players weren't engaged. And we wanted to reactivate their enthusiasm."

Jones doesn't expect James to step back now when it comes to remaining engaged with the union.

"I don't need to prod LeBron," he said. "He's proven on the court, off the court, that he's self-motivated. So he'll be as involved as he wants to and we'll welcome that."

As for his own aspirations, Jones believes he has found a calling that puts his finance degree from the University of Miami to its best use.

"I've been treasurer for a while," he said. "I'm comfortable in that role. I enjoy it. It's continuity that we're looking for. It's not reshuffling the board every year."

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Man in Ohio trial scammed James Jones

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A witness who testified against a man accused of operating a multimillion-dollar real-estate fraud told a federal judge the man also ripped off Miami Heat basketball players.

The testimony came Thursday in federal court in Columbus, where U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus denied bond to Haider Zafar. The judge determined Zafar is a flight risk and a danger to the community.

"The longer the potential sentence, the greater the risk of flight," the judge said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Zafar, who used to live in Ohio but now lives in southern Florida, is awaiting trial on wire fraud and other charges. His 135-count indictment describes a scheme it says he used to swindle Washington, D.C., businessman Patwinder Sidhu out of $10 million between 2008 and 2010.

Zafar pleaded not guilty last month to all charges. His attorney, Samuel Shamansky, on Friday said they will continue to challenge the accusations.

A criminal complaint says Zafar, a Pakistan native and U.S. legal resident, used questionable documents to solicit the funds from Sidhu for real-estate ventures in Pakistan.

The complaint accuses Zafar of telling Sidhu that his uncle was Pakistan's defense minister and was responsible for buying property for that country's government. It says Zafar told Sidhu they could buy land in Pakistan and later sell it to the government for a profit.

The basketball players aren't mentioned in the criminal complaint.

The witness who testified during Thursday's hearing, international-investment attorney Andrew Fine, said some Heat players, including former forward Mike Miller, and other Florida residents invested $8 million with Zafar. The other players are forward Rashard Lewis and guard James Jones, a person with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because it is an active investigation.

The Heat, in a statement Friday, said the team remains in "constant contact" with the authorities handling the investigation.

Prosecutors allege Zafar used his investor's money to fuel an opulent life. The indictment mentions purchases of several luxury cars, including a 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom convertible, diamonds and watches, among other items.

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Chris Perez fires scoreless ninth for 21st save

Chris Perez threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 21st save against the Twins on Sunday.

This was a nice performance to see in light of Perez' struggles earlier this month. Entering the game, the veteran closer had posted a 6.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 10 August innings. Despite the occasional rocky outing, Perez has no job-security issues and owns a 3.22 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 44 games. The Indians are 3-1 in Perez' four blown saves this year.

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