26 February 2012

Zach Railey, Post-Racing, Day One


All Canes Radio With Chad Wilson

Every Thursday Night proCanes.com joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes live from the All Canes in Coral Gables. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interview with former Hurricane and proCane Chad Wilson.Wilson talks about his flourishing website www.GridIronStuds.com which caters to HS football players being recruited, where they can post their own profile and video highlights for everyone to see. Willson also talks about how he got to the University of Miami as well as what it’s like to be a defensive coordinator at the University School where he coaches with former Canes Kevin Beard and Ryan Collins!

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Miami Hurricanes Are Hoping Lamar Miller Starts Another String Of 1st Round Picks

Not too long ago the Miami Hurricanes had an un-godly streak where they had a player picked in the first round. in fact, The Miami Hurricanes have been one of the most successful colleges in the history of the draft.

The Hurricanes hold the record for most players selected in the first round in a single draft (6, in 2004), most first-round draft picks in a two-year period (11, from 2003 to 2004), most first-round draft picks in a three-year period (15, from 2002 through 2004), and most first-round picks in a four-year period (19, from 2001 through 2004). For a 14-year period, from 1994 through 2008, Miami had at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Hurricanes once had a streak of 149 consecutive regular season weeks where a former Hurricane scored a touchdown in an NFL game; the streak started in Week 15 of the 2002 NFL regular season and ended in Week 11 of the 2011 season. During the streak, 33 different former Hurricanes scored touchdowns and a total of 661 touchdowns were scored. The Miami Hurricanes are also 10th overall on the NFL’s all-time number of draft picks with 307.[1]

Since 1999, Miami Hurricanes has had 67 players selected, 2nd-most in the nation, behind only The Ohio State University (77). In the same time-span, Hurricanes players were picked 33 times in the first-round, the most of any Division I university.[2] From the 2001 Miami Hurricanes football team alone, 17 players went on to compete in the NFL.

However, lately the Hurricanes have struggled getting players drafted early. Last year their best player on our  board, CB Brandon Harris had a chance to go in the first round but fell to the Houston Texans in the second round.  The first player drafted for the Hurricanes was OL Orlando Franklin by the Denver Broncos at 46th overall.

In 2010, they didn’t have a player drafted until the third round when some relatively unknown Tight End named Jimmy Graham was selected by the New Orleans Saints. Little did we know that he should have been a first rounder.

In 2009 their first pick was in the sixth round when Spencer Adkins was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.

This year though Miami could get back in the game with speedy running back Lamar Miller who proved to be one of the fastest players in College football with his official 4.40 forty yard dash. Miller combines speed with good size and power. Miller has terrific potential as a receiver as well.
There are a few teams that make sense for Miller in the first round. The first would be the New York Jets who are looking to improve their run game, but that seems like a long shot. The first place where he seems likely to be drafted is the Cincinnati Bengals at either 17 or 21st overall. They have a pretty good OL and a good passing game, but need to improve their stable of running backs. After the Bengals the next likely landing spot for this dynamic running back would be the Denver Broncos at 25. The Broncos are moving forward with Tim Tebow and their coach is John Fox which means the running game will be a focus of their offense for the foreseeable future. A player with Miller’s talents could be very valuable in Denver.

The last likely landing spot for Lamar Miller is the New York Giants. The Defending Superbowl Champs. The Giants had the worst running game in the league last year and are asking Brandon Jacobs to take a huge pay cut to stay with the team, which he seems unlikely to do. If (when) Jacobs is cut they may wishd to reinforce their group of running backs.

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Lamar Miller Holding Steady on Draft Boards

Miami running back Lamar Miller entered at No. 31 on McShay's board following a strong showing at the combine in Indianapolis.

Miller's 4.40-second 40-yard dash was the best for a running back at the combine, and his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery seems to be right on schedule. He lacks ideal power and strength as an inside runner, but Miller's speed and acceleration are impressive.

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Pats on WR Reggie Wayne’s radar

INDIANAPOLIS — To this point, the most we knew about Reggie Wayne’s interest in playing for the Patriots [team stats] came from his response to Willie McGinest when the NFL Network analyst recently asked if he would like to play in New England.

“Who wouldn’t want to play there?” Wayne answered to the former Patriots great during Super Bowl week. That’s a nice sentiment, of course, but it really provided nothing more than a tease.

As we’ve learned in recent weeks, there are quite a few wide receiver options available when the free agent window opens on March 13. Should Wayne be considered any more legitimate than the rest?

Well, we have it on good authority, if things don’t work out with the Colts, which is the most likely scenario, the Patriots are definitely on the radar of the five-time Pro Bowl player. In fact, Peyton Manning’s landing spot notwithstanding, the Pats could be at or near the top of Wayne’s list.

The reasons are simple. The Pats are perennially in the hunt, they have quarterback Tom Brady [stats] and coach Bill Belichick. Wayne doesn’t believe Belichick was just blowing smoke in his ear last year when he went out of his way to personally praise the receiver when they were together at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Three years ago, Belichick even told the media Wayne was the best receiver he had coached against.

But does he fit the needs of the Pats?

If the Pats are seeking a burner on the outside, he’s not your man. He does not run a 4.3 in the 40. But if you’re looking for an intelligent receiver, who runs precise routes, and doesn’t figure to get flummoxed by the Patriots offense, given he prospered with Manning in the Colts offense, he’ll work just fine. He’ll also get open deep using his smarts.

What’s interesting is Wayne is represented by Athletes First, the outfit that also represents Wes Welker. It’s hard to say if that factors in, but it shouldn’t, given they’re two different types of receivers.

Former Colts executive Bill Polian, meanwhile, provided an interesting take on Wayne yesterday. While the 33-year-old veteran receiver doesn’t have the speed he used to have, he still has what Polian described as a “brilliant football mind.” One, of course, that would work particularly well with Brady. After all, he made great music with Manning for the past decade.

“He’s a guy with incredible hands, and he understands the game tremendously well,” Polian said yesterday before his Sirius XM radio show at the NFL scouting combine. “Over the years, he’s worked with Peyton, and they have this signal and communication system only they know. But, he understands exactly what he’s supposed to do on every route. He understands coverage. He understands what the defense is doing to him. He studies tape religiously. He’s a very hard worker in practice. He’s put together a phenomenal career. Thank God he hasn’t been bothered by injury too much. I would expect he’s got a few good ones left in him.”

Basically, Wayne can provide all the things Chad Ochocinco was supposed to give the Pats, but failed to do this past season. While Belichick loved Ocho, too, and sung his praises, Wayne is a much different animal. His game is built on precise route-running, a prerequisite of Manning and the Colts offense. It’s the same deal with the Patriots. Ochocinco never had to be so precise in Cincinnati.

While Wayne isn’t fast, as Polian says, he knows how to get open. He knows how to separate. That’s really what the Pats need.

“He can fit anywhere,” Polian said. “He doesn’t have top-end speed. He’s always been a 4.5, 4.49, 4.51 guy, and he’s still that. If you’re talking about Randy Moss-type speed, that’s not what he has. That’s his only drawback. But he’ll fit with anybody, anywhere. What he’s got, are great separation skills. He can set people up. He can separate with other than purely physical ability because of the way he runs routes, and the way he studies DBs.”

Now for the million dollar question: Can a Colt be a Patriot?

“I don’t know,” Polian said. “It’s kind of like the Yankees and the Red Sox [team stats]. We’ll have to see, won’t we.”

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Chris Myers wants to re-sign with Texans

Amid rumors of the Packers' interest in him, free agent C Chris Myers told 610 Sports Radio in Houston that he wants to re-sign with the Texans.

"I want to be here," he emphasized. "I want to see things through, and that’s the way it is. So that’s kind of the bottom line of my thinking." Myers has been a Texan since 2008. He has 80 straight starts and was a Pro Bowler in 2011.

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Would Reggie Wayne wait on Manning?

Reggie Wayne is one of the most accomplished receivers of his era.

Certainly, Peyton Manning has helped him be so. Certainly, Wayne has helped Manning, a four-time MVP and all-time great, as well.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports Manning and Wayne could wind up a free-agent combo deal. I’m sure they’d love to play together more, to be able to pick up where they left off after Wayne’s 111 catches for 1,355 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.

But the suggestion strikes me as somewhat insulting to Wayne.

Barring a franchise tag or a deal with the Colts, both of which seem unlikely, Wayne will become a free agent on March 13. Indications are Manning’s not going to start auditioning for new teams right out of the gate. If his post-neck surgery right arm was going to be ready for throwing sessions so soon, I think we’d be hearing about it.

I don’t picture Wayne reaching free agency, fielding calls from teams and tell them he’s waiting on Manning.

Perhaps a team that needs a receiver and a quarterback courts Wayne heavily right at the start and lands him while telling him its intention is to also get Manning. Even in that scenario, that team can hardly guarantee Wayne it gets Manning.

Wayne stands on his own merits. He can run great routes and catch passes in the clutch from another quarterback, and I expect plenty of teams will be happy to have him for a few years to do so.

He’s not going to be a big downfield threat. His average per catch has been less than 13 yards for the past three seasons. But he knows coverages and how to find spaces in them, whether he’s with Manning or not.

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Danny Valencia pushing himself to improve

FORT MYERS, Fla. - When Danny Valencia assesses his 2011 season, he reveals a perfect distillation of what makes him Danny Valencia.

"I'm better than that," he said.

While an acknowledgment of a sophomore slump, it's also a bold declaration of his strength and skill as a baseball player. It's part humility but mostly hubris - and all Danny Valencia.

Say what you will about the kid who played college ball and majored in confidence at Miami (Fla.), he has made himself a major league baseball player. Entering just his second full major league season, Valencia is hardly surrounded by predators ready to swoop in and take his job at spring training.

"There are plenty of people that could play third base," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, "but not as good as Danny should be able to; that's the key."

The Twins brought in Sean Burroughs but mostly to fill in defensively and give the lineup some good at-bats. Luke Hughes has been a steady fielder and has shown some pop, but his batting average - .223 last season - hasn't inspired management to project him beyond a utility role. Valencia, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of major league longevity.

"He's got a lot of talent. I think that's the apparent visual of him," general manager Terry Ryan said. "He can do everything most third basemen that make all-star teams can do. He can hit it a long way, he can really throw and he's a better runner than you'd think."

As a rookie in 2010, he turned a June all-up into a full-time job by hitting .311 with 40 runs batted in in 85 games and fielding his position. He had a down year all around last season, earning public scrutiny from Gardenhire for his defensive shortcomings while watching his average (.246) and on-base percentage (.294) drop precipitously. Still, he led the Twins in games (154) and RBIs (72).

Valencia, 27, went home for the offseason knowing he can be better in 2012. Rather than work out in Miami with a group that included major leaguers such as Alex Rodriguez, he stayed home in Boca Raton and worked with a trainer.

The results are evident. Valencia is noticeably bigger, almost 220 pounds, yet still lean, and his defense already is receiving positive notices from the manager.

Last year, Valencia threw away a lot of at-bats - he walked only 40 times in 608 plate appearances - and became less steady at third; after six errors in 80 starts as a rookie, he was charged with 18 in 146 starts in 2011.

"I hold myself to high standards," he said. "Obviously, I feel a little disappointed with last year, mainly my on-base percentage - that really bothers me, looking back at it. It's really unacceptable. I've got to take my walks when I can and swing at better pitches and do a better job of controlling the strike zone."

Though he finished with a .246 batting average, he hit well in the clutch, .471 with the bases loaded (8 for 17) and .444 with runners on second and third (4 for 9).

"He should hit for a higher average, but I thought he was pretty good," Gardenhire said. "I don't have all the numbers to prove it, but as far as driving in big runs for us, he was one of our better ones last year. He came up with a lot of big hits for us that I remember. Those things stick in your mind."

They also help smooth over personality clashes. Notably confident - cocky, to some - Valencia has irritated a few teammates. As a rookie, he led the team in kangaroo court fines, joking last offseason that he financed the team party by himself. A common complaint was that he didn't know his place in the hierarchy of a major league clubhouse.

For that, he is unapologetic.

"I have a personality," Valencia said. "They can't take that away from me."

But he also had a tendency to take his at-bats onto the field, which is a nice way to say he cared more about hitting than defense, a no-no in Minnesota. Gardenhire, in fact, accused him of simply not paying attention at times at third base.

"Danny had things that he knew he needed to improve on, and as I told you at the end of last year, Danny made a lot of improvement toward the end of last year," Gardenhire said. "I thought he was handling himself a lot better; a lot of guys would make the same statement. He wasn't trying to be out there all the time; he wasn't trying to be in Danny World. He was fitting in really nicely. I thought he made a great effort toward the end of last year. He worked hard on his defense. He was working hard.

"Do we all have opportunities to be better people? Every one of us in here can all be better at something, and Danny's been working at it."

If Valencia has changed the way he behaves behind closed doors, it's not evident in public. He's still smiling and chatting with fans, teammates and coaches - and swinging for the fences in batting practice. When he was hit by a Francisco Liriano fastball in BP on Tuesday, he ran out of the cage and yelled at the pitcher, "It'll take more than that to destroy this body!"

"I'm a guy who likes to be loose, but I work hard," Valencia said. "I feel like I get along with everybody. I like to keep it fun in here. We don't have too many guys here who have big personalities. I think it's a good thing; it changes things up. You don't want to get too dull and boring."

Then Valencia smiles with more than a hint of mischief and says, "It's nice to brighten people's days, you know?"

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Jemile Weeks making best of chance to learn from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin

PHOENIX -- Jemile Weeks' rookie season ended last September, but his baseball education continued into the winter.

The A's second baseman found a valuable tutor in Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. They live near each other in Central Florida, and Larkin dishes out whatever wisdom he can offer.

He has found Weeks to be an eager pupil.

"He's like a sponge," Larkin said in a phone interview. "He takes any kind of information, and you can see him applying it. I think the world of him as a person, but I think he has a tremendously high ceiling because of his ability to make adjustments and add things to his game."

Weeks made quite a first impression in 2011, batting .303 with 26 doubles, eight triples and 22 stolen bases in 97 games following his June call-up.

His batting average led major league rookies with 350 or more plate appearances. But more than anything, Weeks' speed and exciting play provided a shot in the arm for a team -- and fan base -- that suffered through a 74-88 record.

A's general manager Billy Beane proceeded to trade away several high-profile players during the offseason, but he labeled the switch-hitting Weeks as the one untouchable player on his major league roster.

"He's a great talent, a unique talent," Beane said. "And he's only got a half-year in the major leagues. He's a guy who is very much part of our long-term future."

Now the key is whether Weeks, 25, can build on his breakout season, which was hardly flawless.

His 13 errors led American League second basemen even though he spent roughly the first two months of the season in the minors. Weeks' glove work has been his weak spot since the A's drafted him 12th overall in 2008 out of the University of Miami.

He worked extensively with A's infield coach Mike Gallego after his promotion last June. And despite the errors, A's manager Bob Melvin said he thought Weeks actually made more progress defensively in 2011 than offensively.

So far this spring, Weeks has impressed Melvin in turning the double play.

"His mechanics are so much better," Melvin said. "I think a lot has to do with his confidence, coming into camp confident based on what he did last year."

Credit an assist to Larkin, who will be inducted into Cooperstown in July.

He began working several years ago with Weeks' older brother Rickie, who plays second base for the Brewers.

Jemile said he has benefited greatly from Larkin's tutelage over the past two winters.

"He's given me a number of drills that I can stick with," Weeks said. "He's talked to me about different aspects of the game, how to handle myself. Everything that comes out of his mouth is important."

While breaking into the majors with the Reds in the mid-1980s, Larkin said he tapped into the wisdom of veterans such as Buddy Bell, Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez. Now he's happy to take on the mentor role, and he said many of the techniques that served him well as a shortstop can help Weeks as a second baseman.

He has worked with Weeks to get the most out of his athleticism defensively.

"He's a young exciting player," Larkin said. "I wish I had a chance to play with him, to be honest. I love his makeup and love the way he plays the game."

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Lamar Miller an NFL Combine Winner

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami: Miller probably solidified himself as the second best back in the draft behind Trent Richardson. Miller looked great in drills and ran a 4.40 40-yard dash. He’s going to sneak into the first round; “The U” has a good track-record with tailbacks.

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3 Hurricanes on College Football Hall of Fame Ballot

Vinny Testaverde, who played at Miami, was named one of 76 players on the ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, announced Tuesday by the hall. Testaverde is joined by fellow Miami Hurricanes Quarterback Goerge Mira Jr. and former University of Miami Head Coach, Jimmy Johnson.

Vinny Testaverde, Miami (Fla.)-Quarterback- Winner of 1986 Heisman, Walter Camp, Maxwell Award, and Davey O'Brien. . . Led Canes to three bowl berths, including 1987 Fiesta Bowl to determine national championship. . . Finished career with 6,058 passing yards and 48 TD passes.

Jimmy Johnson-Oklahoma State (1979-83), Miami, Fla. (1984-88)- Led Miami to 1987 National Championship and perfect 12-0 record. . . Recorded four 10-win seasons and five consecutive January bowl games with the Hurricanes. . . Miami finished in the top two in 3-of-5 seasons under Johnson. . . Named 1979 Big Eight Coach of the Year at Oklahoma State.

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Could Reggie Wayne be on Chargers' radar?

INDIANAPOLIS -- There has been a lot of speculation that the San Diego Chargers could potentially be in play for Indianapolis Colts’ pass-rusher Robert Mathis in free agency.

I can see it, but I can also see the Chargers looking at another Colts’ star in free agency.

If Vincent Jackson leaves in free agency, I could see the Colts considering Colts’ receiver Reggie Wayne as a short-term solution. Jackson likely will not be given the franchise tag. I expect him to go to free agency. I think the Chargers have a solid chance of keeping him, but if he leaves, the team will have to look at another option.

I think Wayne is the type of player that would be right up the Chargers’ alley. He could be fairly inexpensive compared to other receivers and I think he still has something left in the tank.

Wayne, 33, had 75 catches for 960 yards last season playing without the injured Peyton Manning. Going to a team with a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers and going to a team with playoff hopes, could energize Wayne.

I don’t think he’d be an answer for the long-term, but for a couple of years, I could see a Wayne-Chargers’ combination work if the Chargers have to suddenly replace Jackson.

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Have a beer with Jarrett Payton

Jarrett Payton is coming out with an All-American Wheat Ale from Argus Brewery and it’s referred to as a “craft beer.”

“My dad was always a craft beer admirer and he would always talk to me about what a craft beer means,” Jarrett said in a statement announcing that the inaugural pour will be at Public House on Mar. 8, doors opening at 5:30 and glasses opening at 6.

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Calais Campbell To Be Franchised

ESPN's Adam Schefter confirms that the Cardinals will franchise tag free agent DE Calais Campbell if no long-term deal is reached. The sides are trying to hammer out an extension, but the franchise tag is the most likely outcome.

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John Salmons quiet in return from hip injury

John Salmons returned from a hip injury but had just four points, five rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes on Tuesday.

With Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans getting most of the guard and small forward minutes, Salmons is going to struggle to play well consistently. He has no fantasy value.

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Q&A: Yasmani Grandal

Yasmani Grandal is used to change.

After spending the first 10 years of his life in Cuba, Grandal's family won a national lottery that allowed them to immigrate to the United States. Despite coming over with little knowledge of his new home, Grandal eventually learned the country's language and history.

Grandal already knew of the national pastime, as he enjoyed success in the game in Cuba. He made a junior national team as a shortstop and third baseman, but he grew into one of baseball's top prospects at Miami Springs High School. He continued his growth at the University of Miami, playing internationally for Team USA in 2009 and finishing second in the voting for the Golden Spikes Award in '10. Later that year, he was selected 12th overall by the Reds in the Draft.

Grandal posted a .901 OPS in his first full professional season, solidifying his status as one of best young catchers in the game, but change again came for him during the offseason. Grandal was sent to the Padres along with three other players in exchange for right-hander Mat Latos -- a trade that he, like many, didn't see coming.

Though pitchers and catchers only reported last week, Grandal has already been with the Padres for nearly a month getting ready for the season. MiLB.com recently caught up with the young backstop to talk about what it was like coming over from Cuba, his experience at the University of Miami and what he thinks about his new organization.

MiLB.com: It's your first Spring Training with the Padres. What have you done so far in camp?
Yasmani Grandal: Just doing some catching, a little bit of hitting, learning the pitchers. There's a bunch of guys here I've never caught before, which is one of the reasons I got here a couple weeks early. So far, so good. There are a lot of young guys, a lot of good guys, so I'm excited.

MiLB.com: You're with the Padres now after coming over in the Mat Latos trade in December. What was your reaction to that deal?
Grandal: I was in shock. I really didn't know what to say. I thought it was a practical joke by one of my friends, but then I knew it wasn't my friend talking on the phone. I was just in shock. [The Reds] explained to me why they had to do it, and I was fine with it. As long as I'm playing ball anywhere else, it doesn't matter.

MiLB.com: With the Reds, you were behind another young catcher, Devin Mesoraco. Was it a relief to go to a team without another prospect looming right above you?
Grandal: Not really. I like the competition. I set goals. I don't mind having somebody on top of me. My ultimate goal is to beat him out and get that job. Whether it's in Cincinnati or any other organization, I want to do the same thing.

MiLB.com: The Padres play at Petco, a notorious pitchers' park. As a catcher, that must excite you, but as a hitter, maybe not. Are you more excited or anxious about the prospect of playing there?
Grandal: I don't really consider myself as a power hitter, so it's a perfect ballpark for me. It's a pitchers' ballpark, so I'm really excited about that, especially catching all these guys that have a lot of potential. Hopefully in the future, if I ever get to play there, we'll throw a couple no-hitters. I'm definitely excited. It's not like Cincinnati, where you hit the ball in the air and it's a home run.

MiLB.com: When you were 10 years old, you and your family emigrated from Cuba to America after winning a national lottery (which has since been discontinued). What do you remember about that experience?
Grandal: It was great. You always hear these stories about coming here, and that's one thing you want to do. There's opportunity here, all these other things, but being a kid, it wasn't really a big change for me. I think it was a big change for my parents, because they'd already lived [in Cuba for so long]. I think I adjusted really well. It was a good opportunity and my mom took it. Lucky for us, we were able to bring the whole family over here, and we're a big family. We stayed together.

MiLB.com: Obviously, you were young, but what was the biggest change that came with that move?
Grandal: Just the language barrier. Getting to a new country, not knowing the language. Lucky for me, I got to Miami where 75 percent of people speak Spanish, so it wasn't a big difference.

MiLB.com: You got your U.S. citizenship when you were a senior in high school. If you didn't, you likely would have been able to sign a professional contract without being drafted. Did that cross your mind?
Grandal: One thing I wouldn't have been able to do is play for Team USA, and that was one of my goals. That was one of the main reasons why I had to do it -- I wanted to play for the USA. Luckily, I was able to do it my sophomore year at Miami.

MiLB.com: As it played out, you were drafted by the Red Sox in the 27th round out of high school. What made you choose college over the pros?
Grandal: I was really clear with the Red Sox about what I wanted. I told them if they didn't meet what I wanted, then I was going to go to the University of Miami. Same thing I told to [Miami] coach [Jim] Morris -- If they don't give me the money I want, I'm coming [to Miami]. Once the Sox called me, I said 'Don't waste a pick on me.' They said, 'No, we'll work something out.' They offered me I think half of what I wanted, so it was an easy choice.

MiLB.com: Miami has a great baseball program but still might be known to some as more of a football school. What made you decide to go there?
Grandal: Nationwide, I think it's a little bit about both. I think both programs have had success, and they're known around the country. When I got to Miami, I always heard about the University of Miami and the Hurricanes. I always wanted to play there. I had other schools I could've gone to, but my first choice was always Miami.

MiLB.com: You were taken 12th overall by the Reds in 2010. I imagine that was an emotional moment for you and your family.
Grandal: Oh, it was -- it definitely was. One thing I remember is being out on the field, about to start warming up and a little kid told me I had been drafted by the Reds. I have a couple pictures of my parents once they heard the news. Everybody was happy and crying. I had to stay focused. I really didn't think about it until the end of the game -- it was the last game of Regionals and we had to move on.

MiLB.com: You were college teammates with Yonder Alonso, another player in the Reds organization who came to the Padres in the Latos deal. What kind of relationship do you two have?
Grandal: Once you play for the University of Miami, every guy that plays there is like family. No matter whether you play with them or not, you're always Hurricanes. We have a good relationship, but I still have [Padres teammates and Miami alums] Blake [Tekotte] and [Jason] Hagerty and Eddie Rodriguez. I'm looking forward to getting Spring Training rolling around and having a good time with them and all the guys here.

MiLB.com: You're a switch-hitting catcher, which is a pretty rare commodity. How long have you been catching, and when did you start switch-hitting?
Grandal: I started switch-hitting full-time when I was about 15. Around the same time, I started catching. I was always a third baseman and one day my stepdad ... he made me a catcher. I had to do the job, started liking it and I just stayed there. Right then, I figured I didn't like hitting against lefties, I started hitting righty and it stuck.

MiLB.com: I know it's early on in spring, but have you had time to think about goals for the season?
Grandal: I always have my goals set. My goal is still the same. My main goal is not only to make it to the Major Leagues but to have a career in the Major Leagues. I don't really think about stats. I think if I do my job in the Minor Leagues, hopefully I'll have a shot at the Major Leagues.

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Gaby Sanchez is happy to be back after Albert Pujols drama

JUPITER — Gaby Sanchez became so annoyed with the reaction to the Marlins' pursuit of free agent Albert Pujols this winter that he insulated himself from the chatter.

Sanchez, Miami's All-Star first baseman, began ignoring the phone calls and text messages and then started preparing to start another chapter in his career if a deal was struck.

"I had to stop paying attention to it because people were like, 'I can't believe they're doing this' (and) 'What are you going to do now?' ' Sanchez said.

Sanchez, the Miami native who spent his college career at the University of Miami, knew that adding Pujols meant he would be traded to make room for the game's most dominant player of the last decade.

But finally, after more than a week of rumors and reports, Pujols agreed to leave the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels.
"I was like, 'Thank you,' ' Sanchez said.

Sanchez, 28, is coming off his second consecutive season in which he played more than 150 games, had more than 570 at-bats, hit better than .265 and belted 19 home runs. He represented the Marlins in the All-Star Game, his first appearance.

Still, with the Marlins deciding to open the vault preceding their move into their new stadium, their ambitions included trying to sign a player who eventually received a 10-year deal worth $254 million.

"I'm OK with that," Sanchez said. "If was a GM, if I was running the Marlins, I would have done the same thing.

"I was pretty sure I was going to be playing somewhere. Hopefully it was going to be with the Marlins. If it wasn't, if that wasn't my path, I would go somewhere else."

But Sanchez's path his entire career has been through South Florida. His family and friends watched him at UM. His parents, Remberto and Iliana, and his wife, Judy, sat behind home plate at Sun Life Stadium and now will do so at Marlins Park in Little Havana.

How different it would have been had Sanchez been preparing to take the field this spring in St. Louis or Chicago or Baltimore or any other major league city.

"It's part of the business," Remberto Sanchez said. "We were all wanting for Gaby to stay here but you never know what's best."

Still, Dad was glad that Pujols went elsewhere.

"I didn't think the Marlins needed a first baseman," Remberto said with a laugh.

Sanchez won't have to get to know a whole new team, but he will need to become familiar with a new shortstop, Jose Reyes, and a novice third baseman.

The signing of Reyes forced Hanley Ramirez to move from shortstop to third base, a position he has played in three games (all in the minors) in his 10 years as a professional.

"That's what spring training is for," Sanchez said. "Most of it is going to be the angle of their arm and the way they throw. See what kind of movement they have on the ball.

"That's all going to be learned during spring training. Once the season starts it's going to be like we played together our whole lives."

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Ryan Braun's sample collector denies tampering

(CBS/AP)  NEW YORK - The person who collected Ryan Braun's urine samples that tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone says he followed the collection program's protocol.

Dino Laurenzi Jr. issued a statement Tuesday confirming he handled the sample submitted following a playoff game on Oct. 1. He says he has been a collector for Comprehensive Drug Testing since 2005 and has taken more than 600 samples for Major League Baseball's drug-testing program.

Braun's 50-game suspension was overturned last week.

Laurenzi says he stored Braun's sample in his basement in accordance with drug-collecting procedure because there was "no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday."

Braun, however, contends at least five FedEx locations within 5 miles were open until 9 p.m. and there also was a 24-hour location.

Laurenzi says protocol is to "safeguard" the samples at home until FedEx can ship the sample to the lab and that he didn't tamper with the package.

Laurenzi's full statement is below:

On February 24th, Ryan Braun stated during his press conference that "there were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened." Shortly thereafter, someone who had intimate knowledge of the facts of this case released my name to the media. I am issuing this statement to set the record straight.

I am a 1983 graduate of the University of Wisconsin and have received Master Degrees from the University of North Carolina and Loyola University of Chicago. My full-time job is the director of rehabilitation services at a health care facility. In the past, I have worked as a teacher and an athletic trainer, including performing volunteer work with Olympic athletes. I am a member of both the National Athletic Trainers' Association and the Wisconsin Athletic Trainers' Association.

I have been a drug collector for Comprehensive Drug Testing since 2005 and have been performing collections for Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program since that time. I have performed over 600 collections for MLB and also have performed collections for other professional sports leagues. I have performed post-season collections for MLB in four separate seasons involving five different clubs.

On October 1, 2011, I collected samples from Mr. Braun and two other players. The CDT collection team for that day, in addition to me, included three chaperones and a CDT coordinator. One of the chaperones was my son, Anthony. Chaperones do not have any role in the actual collection process, but rather escort the player to the collection area.

I followed the same procedure in collecting Mr. Braun's sample as I did in the hundreds of other samples I collected under the Program. I sealed the bottles containing Mr. Braun's A and B samples with specially-numbered, tamper-resistant seals, and Mr. Braun signed a form certifying, among other things, that the specimens were capped and sealed in his presence and that the specimen identification numbers on the top of the form matched those on the seals.

I placed the two bottles containing Mr. Braun's samples in a plastic bag and sealed the bag. I then placed the sealed bag in a standard cardboard Specimen Box which I also sealed with a tamper-resistant, correspondingly-numbered seal placed over the box opening. I then placed Mr. Braun's Specimen Box, and the Specimen Boxes containing the samples of the two other players, in a Federal Express Clinic Pack. None of the sealed Specimen Boxes identified the players. I completed my collections at Miller Park at approximately 5:00 p.m. Given the lateness of the hour that I completed my collections, there was no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday.

Therefore, the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3. In that circumstance, CDT has instructed collectors since I began in 2005 that they should safeguard the samples in their homes until FedEx is able to immediately ship the sample to the laboratory, rather than having the samples sit for one day or more at a local FedEx office. The protocol has been in place since 2005 when I started with CDT and there have been other occasions when I have had to store samples in my home for at least one day, all without incident.

The FedEx Clinic Pack containing Mr. Braun's samples never left my custody. Consistent with CDT's instructions, I brought the FedEx Clinic Pack containing the samples to my home. Immediately upon arriving home, I placed the FedEx Clinic Pack in a Rubbermaid container in my office which is located in my basement. My basement office is sufficiently cool to store urine samples. No one other than my wife was in my home during the period in which the samples were stored. The sealed Specimen Boxes were not removed from the FedEx Clinic Pack during the entire period in which they were in my home. On Monday, October 3, I delivered the FedEx Clinic Pack containing Mr. Braun's Specimen Box to a FedEx office for delivery to the laboratory on Tuesday, October 4. At no point did I tamper in any way with the samples. It is my understanding that the samples were received at the laboratory with all tamper-resistant seals intact.

This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family. I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism, and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated. Neither I nor members of my family will make any further public comments on this matter. I request that members of the media, and baseball fans, whatever their views on this matter, respect our privacy. And I would like to sincerely thank my family and friends for their overwhelming support through this difficult time. Any future inquiries should be directed to my attorney Boyd Johnson of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

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Sean Spence raises eyebrows with weak bench

The list of the weakest players on the bench press at this year’s Scouting Combine starts with seven wide receivers, and then a player who sticks out like a sore thumb: Miami linebacker Sean Spence.

Spence managed to put up just 12 repetitions at 225 pounds, which is perfectly good for a typical guy working out at a local gym, but not good at all for an NFL linebacker. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Spence’s performance was troubling.

“This one bothers me because I loved this kid as a player,” Mayock said. “A 231-pound linebacker with instincts and speed. Come on. Have you been in the weight room? I don’t get that.”

In his session with the media, Spence acknowledged that his biggest problem on the field is getting off blocks, but he said teams that watch him on tape will see that he has elite speed.

“I think I’m a three down linebacker, very fast, I can go sideline to sideline,” Spence said. “I’m a smart, very instinctive player. I’m going to play hard. I’m a leader. I lead by example, and most of all I make plays.”

The good thing about a weak upper body is it’s something that can be improved with hard work in the weight room. But NFL teams will wonder why Spence hasn’t already done that hard work in the weight room.

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PHOTOS: University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Bowling Tournament

On February 27th the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame hosted its 1st Annual Celebrity Bowling Tournament at Splitsville in South Miami featuring former Miami Hurricanes and many proCanes including: Reggie Wayne, Brett Romberg, Duane Starks, Bubba Franks, Gino Torretta, Earl Little and many more! Each bowler had at least one former Miami Hurricane athlete on their team and not only got to interact with the former players but also got to take part in a Silent Auction full of Hurricane Memorabilia. It was a great time had by all who participated and if you missed out this year, make sure to sign up for next year's event! Check out the photos below: 

Reggie Wayne, Duane Starks
Brett Romberg
Daniel “Bubba” Franks
Darrin Smith, Gerard Loisel, Reggie Wayne
Gino Torretta
KC Jones
Randall “Thrill” Hill
Darrin Smith and Son
Click here to see more photos ----->>>>

Jacory Harris Expects To Be Drafted

Though he cut down on interceptions last season (at least until the season finale), Kiper said Jacory Harris will not be drafted. Harris believes otherwise.

“I expect to be drafted,” he said. “But I won’t be down if I don’t.”

Besides being invited to the Combine to audition, Harris also was asked to be a “throwing quarterback” – in other words, throwing to other skill position players during their auditions. T.J. Yates handled those duties at last year’s Combine and ended up starting in Houston last season after injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.

“T.J. Yates gives me inspiration,” Harris said. “It’s an extra opportunity to showcase myself.”

Harris has been working with Carolina Panthers and former Canes tight end Greg Olsen and former Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton.

Asked what he needs to improve to make an NFL roster, Harris said, “Most people say decision-making, but a lot of football people say don’t worry about it. Those things will take care of themselves.”

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Tommy Streeter Could Rise To the 2nd Round

Receiver Tommy Streeter could rise to the second round; he ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash Sunday. But Mayock told Irvin that Streeter, 6-5 and 219 pounds, “rarely makes a catch on an in-breaking route. He doesn’t block anybody, doesn’t know how to run routes.

“He might go in the second or third round, but he’s not a second- or third-round talent. He’s just an athletic, tall, fast guy right now. If he had stayed another year to develop his skills, he might [have been] a first-round pick.”

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"Someone is going to get a hell of a player" in Sean Spence

Spence is UM’s top-rated senior and a projected second- or third-round pick. “I love Sean Spence,” Mayock said. “Someone is going to get a hell of a player.”

But Mayock was troubled by Spence's poor performance in the bench press on Monday.

Spence measured at 5-11 and 222 pounds but said teams shouldn’t be concerned about his size. “I can cover or run with any tight end or back,” he said. “Teams are telling me I’m very instinctive and get to the ball. A lot of people say Jonathan Vilma and I are alike in some ways.”

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Travis Benjamin Now A Mid-Round Pick

Travis Benjamin, a potential mid-round pick, showed off his speed Sunday, running the 40 in 4.36, which tied for first among receivers.

But he’s hurt by his lack of size (5-10, 172), marginal strength and difficulty getting off the line, at times, when pressed. “If you get him the ball in space, he’s gone,” Mayock said. But “there’s no physicality to his game.”

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Marcus Forston Ready for NFL

“Forston’s motor is wildly inconsistent,” Sporting News draft analyst and former Browns scout Russ Lande said. “At times, he plays like a top 10 kid. At times, he plays like he shouldn’t be drafted.”

But Forston said Sunday he believes he’s ready for the NFL and is fully recovered from his torn meniscus in October.

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Packers pursuing Texans center Chris Myers

In public, Packers G.M. Ted Thompson won’t reveal much about his plans for 2012, or any year.  Behind closed doors, he reportedly has begun pursuing at least one player who is under contract with another team.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, with efforts to re-sign center Scott Wells going nowhere, the Packers have turned their attention to Texans center Chris Myers.  Specifically, McGinn reports that the Packers met with Myers’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to discuss Myers.
Wells is 31, but Myers isn’t far behind.  He’ll be 31 on September 15.  (That’s also Florio Jr.’s birthday.  Who is now nearly large enough to play center for the Packers.  Or the Texans.  Or any other team.)

It’s a clear and direct violation of the rules for the Packers to talk to Myers, but the Packers aren’t the only team doing it.  Indeed, if the famously rules-conscious Thompson is tampering, everyone is tampering.

“Almost every re-signing, waiver and UFA signing upcoming germinate from supposedly illegal club-agent meetings in Indy,” McGinn writes.  “All happens here.”

McGinn uses “supposedly” because the rules prohibit meetings with free agents who won’t be free until March 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  But no one follows the rules.  Indeed, as the Packers negotiate with Myers, Wells undoubtedly is negotiating with some other team, or teams.

Sometimes, this gauging of the market helps lay the foundation for a player to stay put.  The bigger issue is that tampering remains rampant, and the NFL will continue to look foolish until the rules are revised to reflect the reality.

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Brandon Washington on NY Giants Radar?

Brandon Washington OL, Miami: The talent is there for this guy to mature into a guard you can win with consistently inside at the next level. He needs to improve his pad level in the in-line game and tighten up his footwork in all areas. However, with a year of seasoning he certainly should mature into an above-average guard in the NFL with the talent to start at right.

Washington, a possible second- or third-rounder, said he turned pro without waiting for his advisory board report because “I felt I was mature and ready.”

He was “upset” when Golden criticized his play at tackle last season, but that’s not why he left. He feels more comfortable at guard and believes that’s his likely NFL spot.

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Warren Sapp Denies He Owes Child Support

According to TMZ, Warren Sapp is being sued by his ex wife for lack of child support.

According to the article, “sources close to Sapp tell TMZ he’s current on his child support and that to Warren, his kids “always come first.”

This sounds like a pretty simple case of an ex wife trying to milk Sapp for all he’s worth. What, is 25,000 a month not enough? I mean- Sapp is no longer playing so he shouldn’t be expected to pay the same amount when his own paycheck amount goes down.

A judge has yet to make a decision on the lowering of a payment, but this kind of case is getting quite annoying to read about. The former Mrs. Sapp should probably try and find herself a job.

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Sibling sailors from Clearwater set course for the Olympics

CLEARWATER When Zach Railey won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in China, his elation was tempered because his sister Paige, also a world class sailor, had narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team.

But this time around, the seafaring siblings from Clearwater have both scored a berth at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in England. They qualified in December during the International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia.

"We both understand how fortunate we are to have this opportunity — and this responsibility," said Zach, 27.

He'll be sailing a Finn, a men's single-handed heavyweight dinghy, and she'll be competing in the lighter-weight Laser Radial class during the games, which will run from July 27 to Aug. 12. The 10 Olympic sailing events — six for men, four for women — feature a variety of craft from windsurfing boards to keelboats.

Although this is billed as the London Olympics, the sailing races will take place in Weymouth and Portland, England, a venue where the conditions could be blustery, rainy and cold.

"There are huge weather systems that come through there," Zach said.

Whatever challenges the elements and the competition invoke, the pair say they're well prepared, both mentally and physically.

A typical day may include a morning and afternoon workout in a gym, several more hours of training on the water, sponsor obligations, interviews, fundraising activities and, often, travel.

It will cost Zach about $170,000 to get to the Olympics. Paige will require just over $100,000 — less because her boat and equipment aren't as expensive. The U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics contributes about a third of their costs, and the sailors have to raise the balance on their own.
It's all not quite as glamorous as some might imagine, they say.

"This is a job with little time for anything else," said Paige, 24. "It consumes your entire life. People think we travel all over, but in reality, no matter what country you're in, you see the same scenery all the time: the gym and the yacht club."

"I've been to France 15 times, but I've never toured the Eiffel Tower," said Zach. "Wherever we go, we're there to race and compete."

At age 8, Zach learned to sail on tiny Optimist Prams at the Clearwater Yacht Club and the Clearwater Community Sailing Center. He loved horsing around out there, picking up crab pots and feeling free out on the sparkling Florida waters.

Paige and her twin sister, Brooke, soon followed suit.

By age 10, Zach had qualified for the Optimist World Championships in Finland. At 16, he made the U.S. Sailing Team.

Likewise, Paige experienced a meteoric rise to the top and joined the U.S. team at 17. She's been a formidable competitor in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Series and was ranked No. 1 when she graduated from high school in 2005.

One of her biggest motivations for racing success?

"I didn't want to be known as 'Zach's little sister,' " she said. "And, I wanted to beat the boys."

Considering their accomplishments, one might assume the duo grew up in a family of salts. But parents Ann and Dan Railey never learned how to sail.

During Zach and Paige's years at Clearwater High School, there was no time for proms and parties. Competitive schedules meant hitting the gym before the crack of dawn, sailing in the afternoon, and homework late at night.

Paige's sister, Brooke, on the other hand, followed the more traditional path, branching out with softball, cheerleading and sorority life.
Then there were choices about which college trajectory to take.

"There comes a time when every serious sailor has to decide whether they want to take the collegiate track or the Olympic track," Paige said, "and we chose the Olympics, which meant lots and lots of training and picking a college that will work with you."

Paige selected the University of South Florida and Zach went to the University of Miami, where the U.S. Sailing Center Miami has an official Olympic training center.

Paige lost her Olympic bid in 2007 when her life jacket caught the boom, capsizing her boat during the qualifying medal race. It was sailor Anna Tunnicliffe who would go on to win the gold medal for the UnitedStates in the Laser Radial class. Now Paige says she's older, wiser, more experienced and up for the challenge.

"When I was younger, I couldn't handle the pressure. Now I really enjoy it," she said. To de-stress, she says she takes three deep meditative breaths and tells herself to get on with the win.

Then there's the other trick.

"It's motivating, too, to think that your competitors are more nervous than you," Paige said.

Zach has his own rituals.

"I always wear my University of Miami hat. I have a secret song I listen to. I don't shave during the regatta until the night before the medal race."

And should they win the gold and be invited to appear on ABC's Dancing with the Stars like some previous Olympians, they're always up for new challenges.

"It would be awesome," said Zach.

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Chris Perez expects to be ready for Opening Day

Chris Perez (oblique) said his goal is to make it back by March 15 and he should be good to go for Opening Day.
Since he's been given a 4-6 week timetable, the closer is being optimistic here. Perez injured his left oblique during a bullpen session when he went full-out a little too soon rather than easing himself into things. The smart money would probably be on him starting the season on the DL, with Vinnie Pestano the likeliest candidate to handle the ninth inning work.

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Jason Hagerty wins friendly catchers competition

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In an effort to break up the monotony of early camp drills -- and as a way to get in a little extra work -- the seven catchers in Padres camp took to a back field Friday morning.

The catchers participated in a competition to see who rated best in four categories -- blocking balls in the dirt, throwing to the bases, catching popups and then, as a finale, sprints with their full equipment on.

Catching instructor Brad Ausmus calls it the "Catching Olympics."

The winner was Jason Hagerty, who "nipped [Nick] Hundley," manager Bud Black said. John Baker was third in what was deemed a fun competition by Hagerty.

"We had a good time," Hagerty said. "It was a little competitive, but it was fun to be around the group. It was a fun thing to do."

Hagerty, who was the Padres' fifth-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Miami, hit .284 with nine home runs and 65 RBIs in 104 games between Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio last season.

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5 proCanes on the San Diego Padres

Five of the 60 Padres in the major league camp have common roots in the University of Miami.

And the common link between the five is first baseman Yonder Alonso, who played with the other four University of Miami products in the Padres camp.

Alonso played for the Hurricanes from 2006 to 2008 and has a “U” tattoo in the appropriate colors.

Eddy Rodriguez was the first of three current Padres catchers to play at Miami from 2004 to 2006. Jason Hagerty caught for Miami from 2007 to 2009. And Yasmani Grandal caught for Miami from 2008 to 2010.

Blake Tekotte was Miami’s center fielder from 2006 to 2008.

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Where does Jon Jay fit into this year’s Cardinals outfield?

QUESTION: With the addition of Carlos Beltran, and Allen Craig expected to eat up outfield time once his knee is healed, where does Jon Jay fit into this year’s Cardinals team?

He’s the starting center fielder until his production doesn’t merit the playing time. At that point, Beltran in center (legs permitting) and Craig in right (health permitting) becomes a more essential option for the Cardinals, and Schumaker and Jay emerge as alternatives, backups or fourth outfielders off the bench. It will be interesting to watch the second base competition unfold and how much it leaves Schumaker to appear in center this spring.

Jon Jay is the Cardinals’ regular center fielder, until further notice. It isn’t likely that Beltran will play a lot in center inasmuch as he hasn’t played there in a couple of years and Busch Stadium is a big park in the outfield.

Jay projects as the regular CF but will receive occasional breaks when Skip Schumaker or Carlos Beltran man the position. Jay led the team in games played last season and was considered no worse than average defensively. True, his postseason performance did not mirror his regular season, but Jay's offensive numbers during the regular season (.297/.344/.424) were almost a carbon of his 2011. Beltran, Craig and Lance Berkman will likely be found in right field and at first base with Craig usually seen against LH pitching.

Jay will play a LOT of center field. He played virtually every game last season and will play a lot this season.  The Cards need to keep Beltran’s bat in the lineup, so I would expect Mike Matheny to use him in center field judiciously. Jay is a solid fielder and an established .290 to .300 hitter, so he will stay busy. He may double-switch into games and do some defensive subbing, but he will play a big role. I would not be surprised if he approached 500 plate appearances again.

LARRY BOROWSKY (Founder of Viva El Birdos and editor of “Maple Street Press Cardinals Annual&rdquoWinking
He’s their best defensive CF by far. Combine that with Beltran’s stated reluctance to tax his knees in center, and Jay appears to be in line for 130 to 140 starts. Of course, that assumes he continues to hit at the levels of 2010-11. I think he’ll do that and more. If Jay should wash out, then Skip Schumaker likely gets the bulk of the playing time in CF.

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Lamar Miller Has Fastest 40-Yard Dash Among RBs

Miami RB Lamar Miller ran an official forty-yard dash time of 4.40 to lead all running backs at the Scouting Combine.

His "unofficial" forties were hand-clocked at 4.38 and 4.41. While the times weren't quite as fast as hoped, speed certainly remains a strength for perhaps this year's best running back prospect behind Trent Richardson. Only scatback types Chris Rainey (4.45 at 180 pounds) and LaMichael James (4.45 at 194 pounds) came within five tenths of a second of Miller's forty time in Indianapolis. Miller packs a solid 212 pounds onto his nearly 5-foot-11 frame.

Miller’s “burst and acceleration are rare,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. But Mayock has questions about how Miller would do in short-yardage situations. Miller is projected as a second-round pick, though he could move into the first.

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Travis Benjamin Has Fastest 40-Yard Dash Among WRs

Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Stanford's Chris Owusu and Miami's Travis Benjamin all clocked in with the fastest 40-time at 4.36.

“I can take the top off coverage anytime,” Benjamin said.

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Jacory Harris Has A Top 5 40-Yard Dash Among QBs

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading 40-yard dash results for quarterbacks who worked out Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Top 5 Robert Griffin III, Baylor: 4.41 seconds Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: 4.55 Jordan Jefferson, LSU: 4.65 Andrew Luck, Stanford: 4.67 Aaron Corp, Richmond: 4.72 Jacory Harris, Miami: 4.72

Griffin’s time was the fastest at the combine since 2006, when Reggie McNeal ran it in 4.35.

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Tommy Streeter runs 4.4-flat at Combine

Miami (FL) WR Tommy Streeter ran an official forty-yard dash of 4.40 at the Scouting Combine, and was "unofficially" clocked as fast as 4.34.

At 6-foot-5, 219, he's a freak of nature. Streeter will particularly appeal to NFL teams that upgrade prospects for workout numbers. (And there are plenty of them, even in the post-Al Davis era.) In terms of production, Streeter was less impressive in college. His only big year came as a junior (2011), when Streeter caught 46 balls for 811 yards. He's a project.

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Billick thinks Ray Lewis, Ed Reed will be smart enough to know when it's time to move on

Former Ravens head coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick just exited the podium at the NFl Scouting Combine. He was his engaging and interesting self, calling Stanford's Andrew Luck the best quarterback prospect since John Elway and relaying a story where he once asked an NFL prospect with character questions, "Are you a thug or are you stupid?"

He also discussed the difficult decisions former players - Ray Lewis and Ed Reed - will face in deciding when it's time to hang it up and call it quits on expected Hall of Fame careers. Lewis and Reed have both said that they will play next season.

"It’s eventually going to happen for everyone," Billick said. "Ed Reed is a little bit different because of the injuries. ... Ed, as you know, is very in tune to that. The demands on his body and the hits that he takes, at some point. Ed will be prudent that way. It may take for the entire offseason. When we had Jonathan Ogden, Jonathan could have continued to play but Jonathan knew because the toe injury at the end, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do what I know how I have to do in the offseason to come back and play. Yeah, I’m going to keep playing but I know what that offseason has to be.’

"Ed Reed, I think, has the intelligence obviously to [say], 'You know what, I just know that I can’t and won’t do the things that I have to do in the offseason in order to play.' Ray, gosh, it amazes me. I thought a couple of years ago he was a bit of a liability on third down and he seemed to bounce back in only the way Ray Lewis can, and needed to be on the field every snap. Amazing. But even for Ray Lewis, at some point. Ray has such a high expectation for himself and again, it’s hard for a player sometimes to truly recognize where are you. I’ve had a number of my former players – typically the smart ones – that will call outside sources and say, ‘Coach, look at my film, tell me if it’s time for me to go.’ It’s a tough question."

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Leonard Hankerson underwent surgery

Washington Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson on Tuesday had surgery to repair his ailing right hip, he announced on his Twitter account Saturday. He expects to be ready for the start of training camp.

Hankerson tore the labrum in his right hip on Nov. 13 when he was tackled by a Miami Dolphins defender. He had hoped surgery would not be required.

After Hankerson announced the surgery on Twitter, someone asked him if his hip wasn’t improving.

“felt like it was, but jus wanted to be safe n b ready,” he replied.

Hankerson confirmed via text message Saturday afternoon that the surgery was to repair his hip.

He is expected to be a prominent member of the offense next season, perhaps even the Redskins‘ starting flanker receiver. He caught 13 passes for 163 yards in four games as a rookie last season.

“I’ll be ready to go, jus gota keep working hard with Rehab everyday,” Hankerson tweeted.

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Bill Polian talks up Reggie Wayne

Peyton Manning won’t be the only guy waving to Indy in the rear-view mirror this year.  Receiver Reggie Wayne likely will be doing the same.

The man who drafted Manning and Wayne thinks Wayne should find a high demand for his services.  Former Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian made the case for Wayne earlier today on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“[Wayne] has a brilliant football mind,” Polian said Thursday, while co-hosting with Alex Marvez.  “He understands the games, the nuances of coverage, how to get open, the people he’s playing against and he has an incredible relationship with Peyton Manning in terms of a symbiosis between the two.”

Polian also believes Manning would be interested in bringing Wayne to Manning’s next team, assuming Manning has a next team.

“Reggie doesn’t run with as much speed and explosion as he once did but he has phenomenal hands,” Polian said.  “He really can set up defensive backs.  When you talk about a team, for example, like the Jets that have plenty of speed but not enough people who can really get open and make plays in clutch situations, particularly from a hands standpoint, Reggie would be a perfect fit there.”

Polian believes that, even if the Colts want to keep Wayne, the cap situation will make it difficult, if not impossible.  So look for Wayne to hit the open market.  And don’t be surprised if he’s reunited with Peyton Manning.

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Reggie Wayne could end up with Jets or Patriots

Former Colts president Bill Polian believes free agent Reggie Wayne could end up with the Jets if he doesn't opt for a package deal with Peyton Manning.
The Jets, says Polian, have speed to spare "but not enough people who can really get open and make plays in clutch situations." Polian calls Wayne a "brilliant football mind," who has outstanding hands and "understands the games, the nuances of coverage, how to get open, and the people he's playing against." Turning 34 in November, Wayne could struggle to land big money in a crowded receiver market.

We have it on good authority, if things don't work out with the Colts, which is the most likely scenario, the Patriots are definitely on the radar of five-time Pro Bowl player Wayne. In fact, Peyton Manning's landing spot notwithstanding, the Pats could be at or near the top of Wayne's list

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Glenn Sharpe Arrested on Murder Charge

Former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Glenn Sharpe was being held without bond Friday on charges he fatally shot a man in DeKalb County.

Sharpe, 28, is accused of killing Christopher Galloway on Monday at his home near Stone Mountain, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Adrion Bell said.

The ex-Falcon was arrested Thursday afternoon at his Lawrenceville home without incident by members of the sheriff’s fugitive squad.

Sharpe made his first court appearance Friday evening, where he formally heard the charges against him. Clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, he said nothing in court and as he was marched out of the courtroom to a police van waiting to take him to DeKalb County Jail.

Sharpe is being held pending a bond hearing in DeKalb County Superior Court. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 28.

Sharpe played college football at the University of Miami before starting his professional career in 2008 with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent. He was also signed by the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, where he was on the practice squad when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010.

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Should Ravens Go After Reggie Wayne?

The Ravens figure to be in the market for a free agent wide receiver, and ESPN’s Jamison Hensley has just the person.

“The Baltimore Ravens need to pursue the Colts' Reggie Wayne,” Hensley writes. “He's the most accomplished wide receiver in this free-agent class but there will be less competition for him than the younger and more explosive pass-catchers.”

Plus, as Hensley notes, Wayne is 33, and is probably looking to join a team that can give him an immediate shot at the Super Bowl. One other factor: Wayne and Ed Reed were roommates at the University of Miami.

Some observers think Wayne will go wherever Peyton Manning ends up. And why wouldn’t he? Thanks in large part to Manning, Wayne went to the Pro Bowl five straight years from 2006-10. He had seven straight seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards, a streak that ended this year when he finished with 960 yards for the horrendous, Manning-less Colts.

Wayne is also durable; he hasn’t missed a start in nine seasons. Wayne, the Colts’ first-round pick in the 2001 draft, has averaged 1,064 receiving yards over 11 NFL seasons and has caught 73 touchdown passes.

Former Colts executive Bill Polian, speaking at the NFL Combine, said that Wayne might have lost a step, but he has “a brilliant football mind,” according to the Boston Herald.

“He’s a guy with incredible hands, and he understands the game tremendously well,” Polian said.

There isn't much doubt the Ravens need some help at receiver. Other than Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, no Ravens wide receiver caught more than four passes all season.

Should the Ravens make a play for Wayne, though, they can expect some competition.

The Herald reported that the Patriots are “definitely on the radar” of Wayne. Regardless of where Manning ends up, “the Pats could be at or near the top of Wayne’s list,” the Herald said.

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Ravens say Ed Reed will return in 2012

Despite how last season ended for Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens have no intention to part ways with him, ESPN.com is reporting.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome confirmed that Reed will return for another season with the team. Reed, 34, had three interceptions last season, the fewest in his career. He admitted a shoulder injury hampered his play in the last four games of the season, including the loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.

Despite that, Newsome expects Reed, who has 57 career interceptions, to return for another season.

"He told (Ravens coach) John (Harbaugh) that he's going to get himself prepared to come back and play in 2012," Newsome said at the NFL combine.

Reed is an eight-time Pro Bowler and was named the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2004.

"Ed is so far along in his career that you've got to respect what he's done and you leave that in his hands," Harbaugh told reporters at the combine.

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Rashad Butler apologizes for Twitter slur

HOUSTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Houston Texans reserve tackle Rashad Butler says he's sorry for using a homophobic slur Thursday night on Twitter.
The Houston Chronicle said Butler was watching a basketball game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. He tweeted a comment about Kobe Bryant, referring to the Lakers' star as No. 8 and was quickly corrected by Twitter critics because Bryant has changed to No. 24. The tweet, a response to a friendly discussion with Lakers fans about Kobe Bryant, contained a gay slur that some followers found offensive.

Butler shot back with what is considered a gay slur. "Like I said, Y'all (expletive) knew wat I meant," he tweeted. The newspaper speculated that Butler intended to call his critics "jerks."

Butler quickly deleted the tweet and eventually issued an apology, "I Apologize ONCE AGAIN for the tweet I sent earlier. Didn't mean to offend anybody." He later tweeted, "ppl getting killed everyday but ppl want to worry about a word I used to get some ignorant .. ppl on twitter off my back."

Human Rights Campaign said Butler and other athletes, including the American Hockey League's Justin Fontaine who got in trouble for a Twitter slur earlier this month, "don't seem to grasp the idea that spreading this hateful message can perpetuate hate and discrimination toward the LGBT community."

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Kareem Brown Signs

The Calgary Stampeders on Friday announced the signings of four defensive linemen — non-import Prince Baffoh and imports K.C. Asiodu, Demonte Bolden and Kareem Brown.

Brown was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots in the fourth round (127th overall) in 2007. He signed with the New York Jets and spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the club. He later spent time with the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans.

Brown Told proCanes.com: “I’ve got to show the league I'm back from my shoulder surgery.”

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Harbaugh high on Damien Berry as Rice's backups

Coach John Harbaugh, on radio station 105.7 The Fan, expressed confidence in RBs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as backups to Ray Rice with Ricky Williams now retired. “We’ve seen them practice all year," Harbaugh said. "Those two guys, they can do it."

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Lamar Miller wants to be first-round pick

Q: How much does it help that so many of your Hurricanes teammates are here?
A: “It will be a good experience. It’s a lot of us and we’re just trying to make each other better. We’re going to go out here and compete and show the scouts what we’ve got.”

Q: What went into your decision to declare early for the NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore?
“My family and I felt it was the best decision. I just want to take my talents to the next level and live a dream…I felt like I played good enough to put myself in a good [position].”

Q: Do you pay attention to where you’re projected?
A: “I don’t pay attention to it. Some of my friends tell me about it, but I’m just trying to stay focused, stay humble throughout this whole process, show the teams what I’ve got.”

Q: If you’re taken in the second round instead of the first, how disappointing would that be?
A: “It would be a dream come true just to get to the next level. I want to show the scouts what I’ve got.”

Q: Any former ‘Canes give you guidance about this process?
A: “I talked to Frank Gore before I left. He was telling me how the process was, and to stay focused and do what I do best.”

Q: What is your relationship like with Gore?
A: “We have a great relationship. I use to hang out with his little cousin so we have a great relationship. I talked to him before we came up here and he was telling me positive things. I watch some of his games when I have a chance to. He’s a great runner. He’s physical, runs hard, and he has the mentality that he’s the best player on the field.”

Q: Do you like it when you’re compared to any of the former UM tailbacks?
A: “Not really. A lot of people compare me to Clinton Portis but I try to play my own game and leave this game legendary.”

Q: How would you describe your running style?
A: “I’m a fast running back. I’m a playmaker, a game changer. I’ll do anything to win games.”

Q: Do you feel your body is strong enough and you have the power you need to play in the goal line?
A: “Going to the next level I’m going to be facing bigger and faster opponents so I’m going to have to work on getting stronger and faster.”

Q: How do you rate your blocking and receiving skills?
A: “I have great hands out of the backfield. My blocking, I feel like that’s something I have to work on, being more aggressive and physical on pass pro.”

Q: What you think about the NFL’s perception that running backs are interchangeable, and often expendable?
A: “I understand that running backs don’t have a long time in the NFL because they get banged up a lot. I feel that I have the talent and the ability to be a first round running back and be one of the running backs who has the ability to make it to the Hall of Fame.”

Q: How important is it to keep the legacy of ‘The U’ going?
A: “That’s our main goal, keep the legacy going. We haven’t had a first round pick in a long time and we’re trying to break that streak.”

Q: Was it tough to leave UM with the program seemingly going in the right direction?
A: “They are going to have a great team coming back next year. They have a lot of veterans and just got a great recruiting class. Coach [Al] Golden is doing a great job with that.”

Q: How good can Eduardo Clements be?
A: “He’s a smart player. He runs tough and will do a good job.”

Click here to read more from Steve Gorten’s Blog.

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Jeremy Shockey isn’t retiring, yet

On Thursday, mixed signals came from Panthers coach Ron Rivera and G.M. Marty Hurney on the question of whether tight end Jeremy Shockey will be retiring.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Shockey isn’t calling it quits.  The source specifically said Shockey will be playing next year, and that there’s “no chance” he’ll retire.

Shockey, a 10-year veteran, has played for the Giants, Saints, and Panthers.  He’ll be a free agent on March 13.

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Frank Gore to lose carries in 2012?

During a press conference Thursday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that RB Kendall Hunter should see more action next season. Anyone who watched the 49ers regularly in 2011 likely isn’t completely surprised by that statement. Hunter averaged 4.22 yards per carry as Frank Gore’s backup last season and performed admirably in place of the injured starter on more than one occasion. But before you hang a “by committee” tag on one more NFL running back situation, there’s nothing to indicate Gore won’t get the bulk of the carries. With the veteran approaching 29, however, and having been injury prone throughout his seven-year career, it makes sense that San Francisco will do whatever it can to preserve him for awhile longer — even if that means he sees fewer touches.

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Jacory Harris Introduced As A "Throwing Quarterback"

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jacory Harris was introduced at the media room as a throwing quarterback.

As if there were any other kind.

But while the description sounded like it was stolen from an era when the forward pass was considered revolutionary, it's not as silly as it sounds.
Harris is one of the quarterbacks brought in not just to workout with the quarterbacks, but to throw passes during the drills for other position groups. He's a combine arm for the running backs when their pass-catching skills are tested and for defensive backs as well.

"You just come in a day early and you just leave later than others," Harris said. "You have the opportunity to showcase your skills a little more than the other quarterbacks. You have the opportunity to throw to the running backs, linebackers, DBs, every position. I feel like that's just giving me an extra opportunity to showcase my skills."

It worked out OK for T.J. Yates last year. He was a throwing quarterback at the 2011 combine, who wound up drafted by the Houston in the fifth round and became the Texans starter after injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.

Harris worked out with the quarterbacks on Sunday as well, going through all the same physical tests such as the 40-yard dash and throwing workout. He'll just get some work on the other days, too.

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Not Just an Ordinary Birthday for Kevin Everett

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Coin McCarthy set to man middle for Titans

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he believes linebacker Colin McCarthy is ready to start in the middle of the team's defense in 2012. 'We thought he came on in a big way last year,' Munchak said. 'When he came in we thought he would be more of a special teamer for sure and maybe help us with some depth at the inside positions at the will and the mike linebacker. But we had some injuries and he came in and played. You saw he made plays. He found a way to knock the ball loose, create some fumbles, some interceptions, took control and didn't act like a rookie out there. He has some learning to do – he’s a young man – but we’re excited about his progression, the way he finished the season and the energy he brings to the defense.'

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Don't forget about CB Bruce Johnson

CB Bruce Johnson once had a pick-six against the Cowboys and made a start for the Giants. Now, the RFA is coming off consecutive injury-marred seasons (knee, Achilles’ tendon), but he could be re-signed if the team fails to ink FAs CB Aaron Ross and CB Terrell Thomas to new deals. Johnson knows the defense, and at 5-10 he is extremely physical.

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Cards optimistic about deal with Calais Campbell

Speaking at the NFL Combine on Thursday, GM Rod Graves expressed optimism that the Cardinals will strike a long-term agreement with free agent DE Calais Campbell.
The Cards are fully prepared to use the franchise tag on Campbell, but won't if they can help it. "I believe we will have a resolution at some point," Graves said, adding that negotiations are "ongoing" and have been "fruitful."

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Packers Interested in Chris Myers?

The Green Bay Packers met with the agent for Houston Texans C Chris Myers, an impending free agent, at the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend. A source with knowledge of the situation said the team discussed Myers with agent Drew Rosenhaus in one of the technically illegal but nonetheless widespread meetings that set the stage for what happens across the league in free agency. It appears the team is looked for an upgrade over their own impending free agent, C Scott Wells.

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Orlando Franklin attributes success to hard work - and mom

Despite being a rookie, Orlando Franklin started every regular season and playoff game this past season on the offensive line for the National Football League's Denver Broncos.

But, during a recent appearance in his hometown of Toronto, before an appreciative mostly teenage audience in the auditorium of St. Patrick Catholic High School in Toronto's east end, he came to talk not so much about his life in the NFL, arguably the world's most lucrative sports league, but to tell the story of how he got there.

It's a compelling story that included two stints in custody, homeless shelters, foster homes - and a mother who never gave up on him.

He arrived at St. Patrick's without any visible trappings of success, sipping a Tim Hortons coffee and with really only one giveaway that he was the morning's star guest speaker - his size.

As one female student asked during the Q and A, "how tall are you?" "Six-seven," he replied.

And another asked, "Where do you live now? Do you live in a big house?"

He patiently responded:

"My house in Denver is pretty big, I've got a five-bedroom house and then I have a condo in Miami and I'm trying to look into buying a condo down here (Toronto)," he told the cheering kids.

What he brought to the assembly was an almost disarming honesty and humility, in a voice that was soft spoken but direct, purposeful, even intense at times.

"I grew up here in Toronto, Canada. At a young age I was running with a bad crowd and I knew I was always gifted in sports, but I always chose to run with the wrong people so at the age of 12 I was arrested," he told the assembled high school students whose complete attention he easily gained and held.

"I was able to get off on the charges. I was arrested for robbery - a big mistake in my life, but I was able to overcome it and go back to school, doing the stuff that I needed to do.

"And then at the age of 14 I got arrested again. I was arrested on serious charges. I thought it was over. I didn't think I was going to be able to go to high school after that, but due to the grace of God I was able to get focused, and my mom always stuck behind me."

In the follow-up questions, he elaborated further. With his first run-in with the law, he said one of his friends "ended up robbing a kid and I was telling him not to, so this kid turns out to be in my class. I got arrested for it.

"And my mom is pretty much a no-nonsense person so when I got arrested when I was 12 years old, my mom left me there for about a week, she wouldn't come get me. Although I was able to get bail my mom wouldn't come get me."

His second run-in was during his first year of high school at the now closed Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute in Scarborough.

"Again I was hanging around with a couple of guys that wanted to do what they wanted to do. I was always hanging around with older kids because I've always been bigger than kids my age so although I was in the ninth grade I was hanging around with kids that were in the 11th grade, 12th grade and they got into robbing people, stealing cars and stuff, breaking into people's houses," he told the rapt audience, adding a quick aside.
"I've been there. I know what a lot of you are all going through. The peer pressure and stuff like that ..."

Needless to say, his mom was not impressed. "So that time that I got arrested my mom left me there for two and a half months, I was 14 turning 15 years old," he said as the auditorium collectively gasped.

It was also the reason why he changed schools in Scarborough. As he explained in response to another student's question on which Toronto schools he attended:

"I went to Timothy Eaton at first and then I got kicked out of the school because, like I said, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd of people and I told you guys I was in jail twice. When I got out of jail they sent me to Borden (Sir Robert L. Borden Collegiate Institute)."

So how does Franklin get from the criminal system in Toronto to the offensive line in Denver, protecting quarterback Tim Tebow, another rookie who made quite the sensation this past season?

First a quick summary of Franklin's life - in his own words:

"I was born in Jamaica. At the age of three my mom left Jamaica with me and my brother. We grew up here in Toronto, Canada," he said, in his opening remarks to St. Patrick students who had rousing cheers at the mention of both 'Jamaica' and 'Toronto'.

And then he elaborated more on his youth:

"Growing up, it's weird. I've been through it, you know. Nobody can tell me, here, that you guys can't make it because I've been through it. Me and my mom and my older brother, we were in a homeless shelter for two years. I actually was in foster care for a year and a half so you guys just got to keep pushing on."

As far as his football career, after being drafted 46th overall in the second round of the NFL draft by Denver, he started every regular season and playoff game this past season as a rookie - on the field for more than 98 per cent his team's offensive snaps.

With the University of Miami he also started every game throughout his four-year career, including his freshman year.

He started his football career in Toronto spending eight years in the Scarborough-based Toronto Thunder football organization before heading to Florida for two years of prep school - the latter decision turned out to be a key turning point in his life.

"One day my mom sits me down; she asked what do I really want to do in life. I told my mom I wanted to play football. So we sat down, she made me write this note, I'll never forget, it was like a two-page letter. She made me write it down saying that if she helped me to get to Florida to play football, that I do everything in my power to make sure that I make it to college.

"Growing up in Toronto I never imagined that I'd be able to go to college. So my mom and me we write this plan out, she ups and quits her job, she moves to Florida for me, so I get to Florida now and it's like, OK, my mom made all these sacrifices for me and I can't let her down."
But here are still challenges aplenty.

First, he missed Toronto:

"My biggest thing that I had to give up was leaving here because I missed a lot of my friends, but a lot of my friends they were really supportive of me and helped me out each and every day. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, whenever I was stressing out because of college and whatnot I was able to call back here and they were like, hey man, you're living the dream, just keep doing what you're doing."

And second, his marks were nowhere near good enough for the Florida prep school "so I wasn't eligible in my junior year. I had to go and take classes over. I was a junior (Grade 11) taking 9th grade classes over so I could become eligible so I'd be able to play football.

"At the end of the day I was able to get eligible. I finished high school with 72 division-one scholarships. I don't know if you guys know how big of a deal that is, that was a great accomplishment for me. There are 110 division-one schools in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and I finished with 72 of them offering me full scholarships to go to school."

He chose the University of Miami and was all set to play for them when he hit yet another bump in the road.

"I finish up high school now and I go to college. I actually take some college classes in the summer time and I'm thinking that everything's all good."
But again his not-so disciplined time in Toronto comes back to haunt him.

"They flagged one of my English classes from my ninth-grade year in Toronto, Canada. So they actually kicked me out of college. I have to sit for a year - it was probably the hardest year of my life. I had to retake classes. I had to go back to high school and I was walking around with ninth graders. I was walking around with 14 year olds, and if you guys see me I'm a pretty big guy so I'm towering over these kids."

But his point is he did it.

"Like I said, I made the sacrifices and always believing that I can and always knowing what I wanted to do in life. I got up every day I made sure that I was on time and I made sure that I did the work. Then fall came around again and I was able to re-enroll in the University of Miami. "I played 52 games. I played every game that I was at the University of Miami. I started as a freshman. I was all-American, all-Conference. I accomplished all of those things."

It all paid off when he was taken 46th in the NFL draft:

"I just want to let you guys know the greatest day of my life was when I was drafted. I did my draft down here in Canada (Toronto). I was able to have all my childhood friends around me. It was the proudest moment of my life."

Besides overcoming adversity, there was also hard work. A lot of it.

"At UM (University of Miami) we practice at 5:30 a.m.," he said in response to a student's question of whether there ever was a point he wanted to give up. It's no joke there. They teach you discipline so we were waking up at 4:30 a.m. and you had to have all your equipment on at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and then on top of that you had to go to class all day after that.

"I remember I called my mom one day and I said, look - it was my freshman year - I don't think I'm going to make it. I don't think I'm going to be able to do this. She's like, well, I kept my end of the bargain, so you need to man up at the end of the day and keep your end. I was able to refocus my energy into taking care of business."

As inspiring as his life story is to students, the topic of conversation did finally come around to good old fashion football, and he was asked how the NFL compares to college ball.

"It's a lot faster. In college I was able to bully people. I was able to muscle a lot of people. But in the NFL, everybody's big, everybody's strong and on top of that these guys are grown men with families so that's their way of income so they're not going to let you bully them like in college."

Another difference, he added, is "every play in the NFL, it really counts compared to college. In college, you got players that take off plays all the time, but in the NFL that's not the case."

A student in the St. Patrick's gym asks him, "of all things you've been through, going to jail, making the NCAA, going to the pros, what have you taken out of it? What's the life lesson?"

His response:

"All things are possible. I never would have imagined that I'd be in the position that I am today. Without being in the situations that I've been in, in my life, I don't ever see myself really making it where I am.

"Like I appreciate every time my mom used to get mad at me. I thank my mom all the time for leaving me in jail and stuff like that. Because if she didn't do that, if she was easy on me, I would have never been strong enough to make it.

"At the end of the day I realize that everything is possible because if I can make it growing up in a one-bedroom house here in Toronto - anybody in this world can make it, especially doing the things that I've done in my life and making the wrong decisions that I did, but be able to overcome them. Anybody can do it."

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Darius Rice Returns From Injury & Scores 27

MANAMA Club and Isa Town last night proved there is still plenty of life left in the round-robin stage of the Zain Bahrain Basketball League, as they faced off in a pulsating battle.

After an entertaining match in which momentum ebbed and flowed for much of the second half however, it was Manama who emerged with the most hard-fought of 75-71 victories.

The result means Manama keep the pressure on league leaders Muharraq, who must still register at least one win from their remaining three games to ensure top spot.

Isa Town meanwhile, although already qualified for the play-off phase, will be buoyed by their second-half showing, if not the result, heading forward to the business end of the season, which begins next month.

Darius Rice, who top-scored with 27 on his return from injury, was to the fore however, as the wily Manama outfit soaked up the pressure before ensuring the win with a couple of well-taken late scores.

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Brian Asbury Highlights

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James Jones falls short of repeating as 3-point champ

The trophy was there for the taking for James Jones.

With a chance to defend his 3-point contest championship Saturday, Jones needed just a score of 17. Instead, Jones fell just short.

He scored 12 points in the final round, eliminating him from the contest. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love then defeated Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant in the finals tiebreaker to capture the title.

It was Love's first time in the event. Durant, a late addition to the competition, finished second. Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans won the slam dunk contest, winning 29 percent of the fan votes.

"The first round I felt good, the shots were falling, the ball was feeling soft, the rim was looking nice and the shots were going down," Jones said. "In the second round, the shots just didn't want to go down."

The competition ended a week of their Heat teammates being torn between who to cheer. Many of them wavered back and forth before just deciding to root for both.

For Jones, it was a chance to become just the sixth player to win consecutive titles. The last player to do so was former Heat swingman Jason Kapono in 2007-08. Others to win the award in back-to-back years were Mark Price, Larry Bird, Jeff Hornacek, Craig Hodges and Peja Stojakovic.
For a while, it looked like Jones was well on the way to earning a second straight trophy. He won last year's event in Los Angeles, and returned to defend despite Chalmers having a breakout season at the 3-point line. They were just second pair of teammates to participate in the event together, joining Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Jones wasted little time captivating the audience at Amway Center. He found his stroke in the first round. After a slow start, he caught fire near the middle. Jones hit his final five baskets, tallying a round-high score of 22.

"That was definitely one of the best first rounds I've seen in a long time," Jones said. "It's just a testament to the quality of shooters in this league."
Jones after the round looked across the floor and yelled at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who were sitting courtside. The performance was quickly forgotten when Jones struggled in the second round. He was unable to find a good rhythm, with many of the shots coming up short.

"It's one of those competitions where at the end of the night, you're smiling," Jones said earlier in the weekend. "If you win, if you lose, you're happy, you're humbled to be a participant and you're happy for the guy who wins. At the end of the day, it doesn't determine whether or not you make it to the playoffs."

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Aaron Rodgers celebrates Braun ruling

INDIANAPOLIS -- In December, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers issued a passionate defense of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, a close friend whom Major League Baseball had suspended 50 games for violating the game's substance-abuse policy. So when Braun won his appeal of the suspension Thursday, Rodgers vented via Twitter.

A sampling:

"MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated"

"When its guilty until proven innocent, all u need are the facts. #howsthecrowmlb #exonerated"

The public portion of this story began in December when ESPN reported Braun's positive test. Rodgers implied he knew the full story during his initial defense in December, saying: "I am 100 percent supporting him and am behind him and believing everything that he says."

Responding Thursday to followers who suggested Braun was exonerated on a technicality, Rodgers tweeted: "I'll let my buddy take it from here. All u idiots talking about technicality open up for some crow too. See if Espn gets pressured not to let the people hear the truth. Should get interesting. #exonerated #shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"

I don't want to wade into this issue on a football blog other than to say that this episode is fair warning for anyone who goes after one of Aaron Rodgers' friends. Yeesh.

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Gaby Sanchez backs Ryan Braun’s denial

JUPITER -- Ryan Braun said publicly Friday what he has been privately telling Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, his friend and former University of Miami teammate, for months: that he was “wrongly accused” over a positive drug test.

“I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed,” Braun said one day after his 50-game suspension was overturned on appeal. A panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of Braun, who said he has been vindicated after it was shown that the person who collected his urine sample, which later tested positive for a high level of testosterone, took it home and kept it for two days before mailing it immediately to a drug-testing lab.

The outcome came as no surprise to Sanchez, who said he always felt certain that his friend did nothing wrong. Sanchez, who talks frequently with Braun, said the Milwaukee Brewers’ superstar has been adamant that he did not commit any infractions.

“I believed him 100 percent when he told me he didn’t do it,” Sanchez said shortly before Braun held a news conference in Arizona to tell his side of the story. “He would have told me [if had violated the drug policy]. He’s the type of person who would have come out and said, ‘Hey, I screwed up. I did wrong. I’m sorry to everybody.’

“But as soon as it happened, I got a text message from him saying that, ‘This is idiotic. This is ridiculous. I didn’t do anything.’ ’’

Braun learned Oct. 19 his sample was positive for elevated testosterone, which he said was at a ratio that was the highest ever recorded in baseball’s testing program. The positive tests, had it stood up, would have caused him be suspended for the first 50 games of the season.
ESPN reported the positive test in December.

Braun, who was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player last season, criticized the media for leaking the positive test.

“My name has been dragged through the mud as everything I’ve ever worked for in my life has been called into question,” he said.

Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun’s ban on Thursday, making it the first time that a player has successfully challenged a drug-related violation. MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.

Braun said that, because of the delay sending his sample to a lab, the testing was “fatally flawed.”

“I don’t honestly know what happened to it in that 44-hour period,” he said.

Sanchez and Marlins catcher John Buck, who also serves as the team’s union representative, said that the testing procedure needs to be reexamined.

“The procedure has to change,” Sanchez said. “No one ever thought before, are they able to do stuff with these [samples]? Is someone able to contaminate the product?

“We didn’t think about that. We didn’t know that somebody could keep it for two days, either.”

Said Buck: “As a player, I definitely want that looked into.”

Braun said he’s fully aware that, despite prevailing with his appeal, there will continue to be skeptics who think he cheated and got away with it on a technicality.

“I’m not dumb enough to pretend that this is going to go away,” he said.

But Braun said he “didn’t gain a single pound” or “get a tenth of a second faster” or “get one percent stronger” during the course of last season when he was monitored regularly. He also said he passed three drug tests over the course of the regular season.

“I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body,” he said. “We won because the truth is on my side.”

This report was supplemented with material from Miami Herald wire services.

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Chris Perez out four to six weeks

GOODYEAR, ARIZ. — Chris Perez couldn't even finish his first bullpen session without trouble.

Now he has to save opening day.

Cleveland's All-Star closer will miss at least one month and possibly six weeks with a strained left side muscle he injured throwing off the mound for the first time in spring training. Perez said Sunday he had thrown about 30 pitches Thursday when he pulled up with what he thought was a cramp.
Instead, he strained an oblique muscle.

"Just one of those fluke things," he said.

It's the second significant medical setback in camp already for the Indians, who were ravaged by injuries last season. On Friday, the club announced that center fielder Grady Sizemore will not be ready for opening day because of a strained lower back.

Trainer Lonnie Soloff said there's still a chance Perez will be ready for opening day on April 5, depending on how he does with treatments.
Asked if Perez would miss the opener against Toronto, Soloff said, "I wouldn't say that."

"We'll have to see how things go and how he responds with his throwing sessions once he gets back on a mound," he said.

Soloff said Perez will need four to six weeks to recover and the hope is the hard-throwing right-hander will be able to pitch in games "toward the end" of the exhibition season.

Perez, who had 36 saves in 40 chances and a 3.32 ERA in 64 games last season, believes he can return in time to start the season closing games for manager Manny Acta.

"Opening day is not out of the question for me," Perez said. "Four to six weeks is on the long side of when I want to be back out there. Obviously, I have to listen to my body. Now, it's just go out and bang out my rehab."

Soloff said Perez was pushing himself too hard so early in camp.

"His body was clearly not ready for the intensity of that bullpen session," said Soloff, who was asked if he meant Perez was not in shape.
"No," he said. "I'm just saying he wasn't prepared for the intensity of the bullpen session."
Perez later said he was just too aggressive.

"What he (Soloff) means by that is it was the first day, I was going 100 percent," Perez said. "He probably wanted me to go 75 or 50 percent, but that's not who I am. I get work in throwing 100 percent. I'm not going to go throw a bullpen at 50 percent and pretty much just waste a day.

"I was doing what I normally do when I throw a bullpen It wasn't because I came in out of shape or anything."

Because he's a reliever and not a starter needing to build stamina, Perez will not need as much time to get ready for the start of the season. If there's a bright side to his injury, that's it.

Definitely a positive," Soloff said.

If Perez winds up not being available for the opener, setup man Vinnie Pestano would be Acta's likely first option to close.
Acta has said there are two bullpen jobs up for grabs this spring.

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Ryan Braun wins appeal of 50-game suspension

They say there's a first for everything.

And Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has just become the first big leaguer to ever successfully win the public appeal of a suspension that was the result of a positive drug test. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was the first to report the news on Thursday afternoon.
Haudricourt reports that Braun won his appeal "not so much on contesting the result of the test but the testing process itself, some kind of technicality." The New York Daily News says Braun's team challenged the chain of custody that the urine sample from his October test went through.

UPDATE: According to the sources of Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, Braun's urine sample sat in a FedEx shop over the weekend, challenging the integrity of the sample. Passan's sources also report that the chain-of-custody loophole will be closed in an amendment to the league's drug-testing program.

As a result, the reigning NL MVP won't be suspended 50 games to start the season and he'll report to the team's camp in Maryvale, Ariz., on Friday with the prospect of an uninterrupted season before him.

"It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation," Braun said in a statement. "We were able to get through this because I am innocent."
As you might imagine after reading Haudricourt's report, Major League Baseball isn't too happy with having its drug test system questioned and exposed. In the wake of the third-party arbitrator's decision, the league issued a release saying as much.

"As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute," it read. " While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."

Of course, if the process had been respected from the start, the results of Braun's original test would have never been leaked to ESPN back in December. His appeals process would have remained confidential and we never would have had two months of Braun maintaining his innocence while others debated if he should surrender his MVP award to Matt Kemp. Braun was not afforded the same confidential process that others who have tested positive have been afforded and that remains the injustice that was at the root of this story.

But what's done is done and thankfully that third party did its job properly and ignored whatever the court of public opinion was saying or was being led to believe. That sound you heard was fantasy draft boards being rearranged across the country ...

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