Browns don't envision Duke Johnson as starter

Beat writer Nate Ulrich says the Browns would like Johnson "to eventually develop into the (lead-back) role," but he won't open the season as Cleveland's first-team back. (Akron Beacon Journal)

Fantasy Impact: While Johnson may not be a starter this year there will still be plenty of opportunity for him to see the field due to his receiving skills. The team has repeatedly likened Johnson to Giovani Bernard, who had 226 touches as a rookie in 2013. Duke Johnson remains valuable in late rounds of ppr leagues.

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Ladarius Gunter continues to impress at Green Bay Packers camp

There was a lot of attention on the Green Bay Packers first two draft picks from this past spring. Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall were, and still are, expected to play major roles in the defense but if they’re not careful they could see a portion of their snaps being given to an undrafted free agent. LaDarius Gunter followed up his strong work in the off-season during mini-camps and OTA’s with another strong practice on the first day of an NFL training camp.

Early in the team portion of practice, Gunter mirrored second year wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a fade route and came down with an interception off of the reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers throws interceptions in practice just as often as he does in games (rarely) so it’s fairly notable that the undrafted cornerback out of Miami (FL) was able to make a play at the expense of one of the best players in the league.

It’s just one play on the first day of camp so excitement has to be tempered a bit. In fact, Gunter got a lesson from Rodgers later in practice when he threw a dime past Gunter on a seam route to 3rd year wide receiver Myles White. Head coach Mike McCarthy also noted that it’s only day 1 but likes what he’s seen from Gunter and said “He’s done some good things. I think he’s gone in there and competed well. Like a lot of our young guys, he’s flashed. But we’re in day 1.”

LaDarius Gunter was well thought of for his skills as a corner but many questioned whether or not he would be able to transition to the NFL due to his lack of athleticism. Out of all cornerbacks at the NFL Combine last February, Gunter ran the slowest with a 4.64. He certainly has the size at 6’2″ that a lot of teams are looking for and his ability to play press-man coverage was among the best in last year’s class.

Fellow cornerback and Hurricane alum Sam Shields made the team as an undrafted free agent for Green Bay in 2010. He did so by making plays nearly every day in training camp. It’s very early but the body of work between the off-season and after the first day of training camp are promising for Gunter and he’s going to be hard to keep off the field if he continues his level of play.

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Clive Walford Looking Forward To The Opportunity Raiders Training Camp Brings

Rookie tight end Clive Walfordicon-article-link spoke to the media Thursday at the team’s Napa Valley Training Complex.

Walford was impressive throughout the Raiders offseason program and spoke about the weight of expectations entering training camp, as well as the leadership ability of second-year quarterback Derek Carricon-article-link.

Walford and the rest of the Raiders rookies, in addition to select players, were back on the field earlier this week taking part in pre-camp workouts.

The several days of work were important for Walford to prepare for the start of his first NFL training camp.

“It’s good to get out here and get our feet up under us, get the blood flowing and get the feel for it before the veterans get out here. It feels great.”

Walford performed impressively during the team’s offseason program, and many are hopeful that he can turn into the dual-threat tight end that the Raiders have been searching for.

However, the rookie tight end isn’t letting outside expectations hinder his personal goals.

“I do have my personal goals and my personal expectations, but I’m just trying to get better. I won’t look too far ahead. That’s what training camp is for, to try to earn a spot on the roster and a starting job, and that’s what I’m aiming for.”

Since he was drafted, Walford has been busy both in the playbook and working on his craft on the field.

He’s also realizing the importance of every snap and repetition that he gets.

“You have to know your plays, and when your number is called you have to make plays and be able to be there and be available.”

Walford has only spent a few months with the Raiders quarterback, but during their brief time together, Carr has made an impression on the former Miami Hurricane.

“A great leader. He reaches out to everybody. He tries to make sure everybody is doing the right thing and feeling good about themselves. He’s a great leader to me.”

Although only half the roster was eligible to participate in the team’s pre-camp workouts, Walford insists that the energy of the coaching staff was unwavering.

“I’d say it’s great energy because you know everybody is able to be themselves. The coaches are not so uptight. They’re really happy to be out here and excited. It’s good energy.”

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Sean Spence hopes for more playing time at crowded linebacker spot

LATROBE -- At times, it’s still hard to believe that linebacker Sean Spence could make a career in the NFL after what he went through early in his career. Anyone familiar with Spence remembers the gruesome knee injury he suffered in the final preseason game of 2012, his rookie season, against Carolina.

The injury caused Spence to miss all of 2012 and 2013, and many believed he would never make it back on the field. But the Steelers held out hope that their former third-round pick would play again, and Spence worked tirelessly to make that happen.

Spence would not only return to the field in 2014, he played in all 16 games at inside linebacker and started eight of them, including the last four of the regular season and the playoff game against Baltimore. He finished the season with 52 tackles and a sack.

Now, with his first year of game experience behind him, Spence has an added comfort level heading into 2015. Spence said that getting a chance to have that extended playing time helped the game slow down for him as the season went on.

“I’m just a lot more comfortable,” Spence said. “The game slowed down a lot for me. Having those game experiences under my belt, I feel more comfortable in what I’m doing. I feel better physically and mentally.”

Spence is just one of several inside linebackers competing for playing time opposite Lawrence Timmons. Last year’s first-round pick, Ryan Shazier, is slated to be the starter, with Spence and Vince Williams behind him. Both Spence and Williams have shown that they are capable of starting at that position. Williams has started 13 games in his two-year career, including 11 in his rookie season of 2013.

The first few days of camp, including Wednesday’s first practice in pads, has shown just how much competition there is at that position. Both Shazier and Williams stood out in Wednesday’s backs-on-backers drill,  Williams in particular.

Spence knows that playing time could be hard to come by with all the talent the team has on the inside, but the competition helps make everybody better.

“I feel like we’re all competing to get better each and every day,” Spence said. “We have a great group of inside linebackers and we’re just going to compete and push each other each and every day.”

Though Spence has only played one season with the Steelers, this will be his fourth year in the league. The Steelers ultimately made the decision to keep him around after his injury because they believed in the potential that Spence showed his rookie year, and Spence rewarded them with his solid play in 2014.

Now, Spence knows that he has more to offer coming into the new season. Whether it’s on defense or special teams, Spence will try and make the most of what’s given to him.

“There’s not too much too much to talk about," Spence said. "You just got to make sure you do it on the field."

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Devin Hester uncertain of his role in the offense

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons returner Devin Hester, unsure of his role in the new offense, reported for training camp on Thursday.

Hester was used as a wide receiver last season and had a role as the fourth wide receiver.

“It’s still up in the air,” Hester said. “I really don’t know as of right now.”

The Falcons released third wide receiver Harry Douglas over the offseason, but they signed two free agent receivers in Leonard Hankerson and Carlton Mitchell. They also drafted Justin Hardy in the fourth round of the draft.

“The new coaches want us to compete right now and may the best man win,” Hester said.

Hester, Miami, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, caught 38 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns last season.

He’s one of the most prolific return men in NFL history, holds NFL records for punt return touchdowns (14) and combined career return touchdowns (20).

Over his career, he’s totaled 3,481 yards on 282 punt returns. He has also added 6,632 yards and five touchdowns on 267 career kickoff returns.

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Greg Olsen on Deflategate: 'Huge mess over something relatively minor'

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The initial reaction of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen about the league’s decision to uphold the four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady for his role in Deflategate wasn’t complimentary to anyone.

“My initial reaction is it seems to be a huge mess over something relatively minor," Olsen said Thursday as Carolina players reported to training camp at Wofford College. “We’re not privy to all the details. I didn’t read the Wells report. I didn’t read yesterday’s ruling. I don’t really care that much.

“It seems no one knows which direction we’re headed. Unfortunately, now the whole thing has to go to court, which is probably the last thing anybody wanted when this thing started."

Olsen added that the whole matter “could have been handled in a lot better fashion, probably, on all sides."

But he wasn’t underplaying the significance of deflating footballs, as the Patriots were accused of in the AFC Championship Game.

"Listen, there is no insignificance to cheating," Olsen said. “Cheating is cheating. Whether or not [Brady] did or not, I still think there is a little gray area. I don’t think it was inconclusive or conclusive. It’s hard to say whether it happened.

"They [NFL] seemed to think it did. They seem to think they have enough evidence to kind of tip the decision in that direction."

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Dolphins, Lamar Miller have had 'no in-depth negotiations'

The 2015 season is an important one for Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller. He's entering his fourth year in the league and the final year of his rookie contract, and is looking for a long-term deal following this season. According to reports, however, it doesn't sound like Miller and the Dolphins will come to an agreement before the season kicks off.

As Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald noted, the two sides have had negotiations, but none that were "in-depth." This doesn't come as much of a surprise since there haven't been any reports of the two sides being close to an agreement. It's looking like Miller will play out this season and look for a big deal in free agency.
For Miller, an increased workload should help his case for signing a lucrative contract in the offseason. Philbin said earlier this week that Miller could see more carries this season, after failing to carry the ball more than 19 times in 2014.

"I would tell you I've never been in a meeting where I've said to [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] or [running backs coach] Jeff Nixon or the offensive line coaches have said 'Lamar can't carry the ball 20 times a game, he can't do it,'" Philbin said. "I would tell you, if he's cranking and he got it 24 times a game and he's healthy and he's fast and he's explosive, it doesn't bother me one bit."

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Antrel Rolle likes playing Aaron Rodgers but why?

It’s always good to say the right things for any player or coach coming into a new situation.

For example, when you come to the Bears, it’s good to say things like “love the city,” “hard-nosed football” and show your disdain for the Packers.

That must have been what new safety Antrel Rolle was aiming at when he rolled into training camp and spoke with the media.

When Bears fans saw this, it had to fire them up. Rah, rah! Yeah, let’s get them Packers!! Finally, a Chicago safety who’s not afraid to strap it on against noted Bears slayer Aaron Rodgers.

It got me wondering, though, why does Rolle, a 10-year veteran with the Cardinals and Giants, like playing so much against Rodgers and the Packers. The guy’s had pretty good success in the NFL, you know, not just against the Bears.

Let’s take a look.

Rolle must be thinking of the Giants’ 27-13 victory over the Packers in 2013 where he had one interception. Er, wait, Scott Tolzien started at QB for the Packers that day.

Ah, here it is. In 2012, Rolle had five tackles in a 38-10 win over the Packers. Rodgers was 14-of-25 for a paltry 219 yards, but almost half of that yardage came on deep balls.

In 2011, the Giants came up just short to the Packers, losing 38-35 in a shootout. Rodgers blistered the Giants’ secondary for 369 yards and four touchdowns.
How about that 2010 game against the Pack?

Nope. Rodgers threw for 404 yards—113 to deep middle—and four TDs in a 37-25 victory over the Giants.

Rolle has no other appearances against Aaron Rodgers in his career.

Be careful what you wish for.

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proCane Training Camp 2015 NFL Rosters

 photo NFL U Rosters 15 -7.29.15_zpssoorvqur.jpg

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Travis Benjamin may be odd man out for Browns

The Chronicle-Telegram's Scott Petrak considers Travis Benjamin the early odd man out in the Browns receiving corps.

Benjamin is a seldom-used deep threat who must show he can return kicks to make the team. Last season, Benjamin disappointed as a return man, averaging just 21 yards on kick returns and 2.4 yards per punt return while grading out as PFF's worst returner. Benjamin is pint-sized at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

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Lamar Miller may have bigger role in Dolphins' offense

Lamar Miller played the best football of his life in 2014, setting career highs in rushing yards, yards per carry and touchdowns. The biggest question that came out of this breakout performance was why he didn't see the ball more.

Miller never had more than 19 carries in a game last season. He had nine games where he had 14 carries or less. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he's comfortable with giving Miller more a workhorse role in 2015.

"I would tell you I've never been in a meeting where I've said to (offensive coordinator) Bill (Lazor) or (running backs coach) Jeff Nixon or the offensive line coaches have said 'Lamar can't carry the ball 20 times a game. He can't do it,'" Philbin told "I've never heard that. That's never come out of my mouth."

"I would tell you, if he's cranking and he got it 24 times a game and he's healthy and he's fast and he's explosive, it doesn't bother me one bit," Philbin said. "But I think sometimes it's not taken into account what our run game is all about.

Philbin explained that a lot of Miami's play calls are options. There are called running plays for Miller, but it's not the typical nature of the offense.
"I think that cuts into the carries a little bit," the coach said.

Miller is entering the final year of his contract and a bigger role could set him up well in free agency. He spent the offseason building his body for a bigger workload -- putting on 15 pounds of muscle. He's a player to watch on a compelling Miami team.

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Ed Reed says Ray Lewis is best Raven ever

Lewis or Reed, Reed or Lewis? Picking the best Raven of all time isn't an easy task, but former safety Ed Reed says Ray Lewis has his vote, and the voting public agrees.

The folks over at CSN Baltimore have been hosting a bracket tournament to let fans determine the best Ravens player in franchise history. With Lewis and Reed as the last two players standing, Reed offered up his opinion on who should win, although he didn't partake in the voting.

"If I did I would vote for [Lewis]," Reed said. "I would vote for my big brother. He was there before me."

The fans apparently concurred with Reed, as Lewis ended up the victor with 69 percent of the vote.

There's no doubt that when people think of the Ravens franchise, Ray Lewis is the first player that comes to mind. He was the backbone of one of the best defenses ever in 2000 and a two-time Super Bowl champion. Lewis already had six years under his belt in Baltimore when Reed was drafted in 2002.

Both players came from the University of Miami, and both players finished their time in Baltimore after Super Bowl XLVII. 

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Could Bengals be interested in Reggie Wayne?

ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey thinks free agent Reggie Wayne "might make for a nice addition" in Cincinnati.

Following the loss of WR James Wright (knee) to injured reserve on Tuesday, the Bengals are in the market for some depth at the position. Wayne could bring a veteran presence to a receiving corps whose oldest player is Brandon Tate at 27. Wayne could then slide in as the No. 3/4 receiver and play for a contender.

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Andrew Luck's arm gives Frank Gore a chance for rushing success

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the reasons running back Frank Gore decided to sign with the Indianapolis Colts -- outside of being on title-contending team -- is because of quarterback Andrew Luck.

Luck's arm -- and the playmakers he has to throw to -- will force defenses to be honest and not load the box to try to stop Gore.

I went back and looked at Gore's rushing numbers from last season and it turns out that 69 percent of his rushing attempts were made against a defense that had seven or fewer players in the box.

Gore rushed for 833 yards and three touchdowns on 179 attempts when there were seven men in the box. When it came to facing at least eight men in the box, Gore rushed 76 times for 273 yards and a touchdown last season. Gore's 833 yards against seven or fewer defenders in the box would have been enough to lead the Colts in total rushing in each of the past seven seasons.

As far as the Colts go, Trent Richardson was their leading rusher when facing seven or fewer defenders in the box. He had 134 attempts for 445 yards and a touchdown last season.

The Colts didn't have much success rushing the ball when teams loaded the box against them. Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andrew Luck, Zurlon Tipton and Daniel “Boom” Herron combined to rush for 153 yards on 59 attempts, which is more than 100 yards less than what Gore rushed for.

The numbers don't lie.

Gore should have plenty of success running the ball this season if the offensive line does its job because the Colts have too many weapons on offense for defenses to load the box to try to slow Gore down.

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Duane Starks Hired As Scouting Interns

Jarret Johnson retired a Raven in May. It’s now late-July and he’s already come out of retirement – kinda.

The former outside linebacker will be a Ravens scouting intern for two weeks during training camp.

Johnson is joined by former Ravens cornerback Duane Starks and former Ravens wide receiver Patrick Williams as part of the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, which was created by the NFL in January 2015 to educate former players interested in a career in professional scouting.

Starks is a former first-round pick who played in Baltimore from 1998 to 2001 and was a key member of the team’s Super Bowl XXXV-winning defense. He scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV. Williams spent some time on the Ravens’ practice squad in 2011.

The three new interns will be doing a bit of everything. That includes watching practice on the sideline, studying practice tape, giving their evaluations on Ravens and other players around the league, looking at college prospects and all the day-to-day duties of a scouting intern such as meal checks and player weigh-ins.

“We want to immerse these guys because it’s about teaching them the business of scouting to see if this is something they want to pursue, career-wise, moving forward,” DeCosta said.

“We’re proud of these guys. It’s great to give them an opportunity to see what we do and see if this is something they want to do the rest of their lives. They have the experience as a player and they know our organization. … They’ve earned it.”

Starks has also been around the game since retiring. In May 2014, he participated in the NFL sports journalism boot camp. That summer, he was a part of the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship program with the Cincinnati Bengals, working for his former defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis.  

Starks has been looking for a way back to Baltimore. This was his third year applying for a scouting position with the Ravens.

“I’ve always wanted to be a scout,” Starks said. “I think Ozzie’s been testing me to see if I’m serious or not.”

Starks said he’s had teams call him to get his evaluation on different players over the years. He feels he has a knack for spotting talent.

“Me being a smaller player, I’ve always had to study guys and understand their weaknesses and strengths,” Starks said. “Despite my disadvantages, I was able to have success against guys because I was able to know what they do.”

Williams is also an offensive graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Colorado. He first worked for them as the assistant director of recruiting before moving into coaching in his second year.

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Clinton Portis offers possible solution for Redskins name issue

Clinton Portis joined Ric Bucher and Nicole Zaloumis on SiriusXM’s Bleacher Report Radio channel Tuesday and was asked for his thoughts on the Redskins name controversy.

[Clinton Portis will work as a Redskins analyst for ESPN 980]

“I think for myself, I’m biased, because all you know as a player when you’re giving your heart, when you’re giving your soul to an organization, it’s ‘Redskin Nation,'” Portis said. “I grew to love ‘Redskin Nation,’ and I think ‘Redskin Nation’ grew to love me. But on the flip side, you have to understand the people who don’t appreciate the name and who the name is offensive to. So, you have to look at it from both sides. Fortunately for me, I had some opportunities to go out and visit some reservations and see people, and talk to people firsthand. A lot of people it really didn’t offend, but a lot of people it [does] offend. Those are the voices that you hear, the people that it does offend.”

Portis said he was recently on vacation and saw a school with the Redskins’ logo and colors.

“I was thinking, ‘Wow, this school is still in existence,'” Portis said. “Because the Redskins is such a prominent team and all of the attention made on that organization, and being in D.C. where it’s the hottest topic next to politics every day, you really get the negative attention. And of course, when there’s nothing to talk about, that’s going to dominate the headlines, and it does.”

On Monday, the school board in Goshen, Ind. voted to retire the nearly 90-year-old Redskins nickname for the athletic teams at Goshen High. Portis was asked how he would feel if his former team’s name  changed.

“I think for myself I would have to take the emotions out and see both sides,” Portis said of the name controversy. “… Knowing how huge ‘Redskins Nation’ is and knowing how much Mr. Snyder loves that team, and really acquiring that team, it was acquired for the name, the tradition, the history, the excellence of that organization. And all of a sudden to not have that, and you go from the Redskins to another name, whatever that would be, I think it would take a lot away from the history of that organization.

“But that’s not a call I’m suited to make. For myself and for the lovers of ‘Redskins Nation,’ we will always remember that. It’s like losing a key part of history, which, we see that throughout TV. When you look at the flags being removed, when you look at what society is arguing about and going through, it comes to a time, a decision has to be made, and we have to be able to live with it. So, for myself, I was a part of ‘Redskins Nation,’ it was great. If it lasts, you love it. If it don’t, you understand. … I would hate to see it change, but again, you have to understand everyone else’s point of view, and the people it’s negative and derogative to, you have to understand that.”

Portis was then asked what he would rename the team if it had to change.

“I’m not sure if they could just go to the Skins,” he said. “I’m not sure if that would be as offensive, just dropping the ‘red’ part. The Washington Skins. I think that would kind of preserve the history and the name, but again, my expertise is not on that subject. I understand both sides of it. I understand both arguments.”

On the subject of the Redskins’ quarterback situation, something Portis will be covering in his new role as an analyst for ESPN 980, the former running back suggested the pressure will be on Robert Griffin III to lock down the No. 1 job in training camp.

[Colt McCoy is confident he’s a starting NFL QB]

“I’m going to be looking forward to seeing this in training camp just as you are,” Portis said. “I think we all know RGIII is kind of on the hot seat. Kirk Cousins has his opportunity to come in and play, and he just has to capitalize. … You have a two-headed monster in Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, the kid out of Florida who I think will be great. You’ve got the receivers in [Pierre] Garcon, they go out and get Jamison Crowder. Just having those guys to be able to stretch the field and get open, there’s no excuses. The o-line is intact. The tight end position might be the question mark, whether Jordan Reed and Niles Paul can perform at a high level, but I think they have the pieces on offense that every Redskins fan has wished for, forever and ever, is getting an o-line. … You have everything in place. Now it’s just a competition. You have Colt McCoy, he’s trying to battle. You have three quarterbacks trying to battle for this position, so I think it’s going to be really competitive throughout the preseason.”

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James Jones Gives Back At Summer Camp

Former Miami Heat player James Jones is now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but that’s just where he works.

For Jones, Miami will always be home.

On Tuesday morning he kicked off his annual Crew 22 Summer Camp, now in its fifth year. The camp is organized through the James Jones Legacy Foundation and it’s a family affair.

Jones’ parents were on hand to help coach students in kickball and basketball skirmishes.

And Jones himself actively participated with the kids teaching them how to hold  a basketball and schooling them on the court in impromptu pickup games where he showed no mercy.

The four-day camp draws 75 students from across  Miami-Dade and Broward counties from mostly underserved communities.

Jones, who grew up in Carol City, said he wants to be a role model for young people who aspire to dream big. Whether it’s making it into the NBA or becoming a doctor some day.

“It’s a chance to expose the kids because a lot of these kids have never really thought of how far they can go if they focus on their dreams,” Jones said.

Campers play basketball, kickball and tennis, but Jones said that’s just a way to get in, an icebreaker to teach bigger lessons.

Gianna Sotomayor, one of the campers, said having an NBA celebrity like Jones give back to his community showed her that she too can be philanthropic.

Sotomayor, a sixth-grader, said next summer she’s going to miss camp because she wants to go to her father’s native Nicaragua to volunteer working with kids.
“I can give back like he [Jones] did,” she said.

Amari McDuffy,12, said he’s learning about building character and good sportsman-like conduct from Jones.

“He teaches us morals and respect,” he said. “I think it’s cool to learn from an NBA player.”

Jones said he loves Miami and will always find a way to give back, even when he’s playing in Cleveland.

“I’m Miami through and through,” he said.

And in a nod to Jones' love for the 305, all the teams at Crew 22 Summer Camp are named after Miami sports franchises. Among them are Team Panthers, Team Dolphins and Team Heat. 

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Jemile Weeks making most of his chance with Boston Red Sox

Back in 2011, Jemile Weeks was one of the most promising young players in baseball.

As a 24-year old second baseman for the Oakland Athletics, Weeks played in 96 games in 2011, hitting for a .303 batting average (.340 on-base percentage), with 26 doubles, eight triples, and two home runs, while stealing 22 bases.

However, 2012 was a different story for Weeks.

Following his amazing rookie season, Weeks hit just .221 (.305 OBP), with 15 doubles and 16 steals in 118 games.

Flash forward to 2015, Weeks has played just 25 games in the Majors since 2012, and is hitting a meager .207 for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

On July 26, the Boston Red Sox 40-man roster included Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, Sean Coyle, and Travis Shaw.

To put it simply, Weeks’ chances of getting back to the Majors looked bleak.

However, an injury to Pedroia landed him on the disabled list and Red Sox manager, John Farrell, elected to recall a struggling Weeks from Triple-A.

Despite being called-up, there was no reason for fans to expect to see much of Weeks in Boston. The Pedroia injury meant that super-utility man, Holt, would assume the second base role until Pedroia came back.

However, during Sunday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers, Holt injured his left knee after a first-inning single. Holt ended up leaving the game in the sixth.
The same day that Weeks was called-up, he was called into action. Weeks took advantage, putting together two solid at-bats and collecting a single, going 1-for-2 in the Red Sox 11-1 dismantling of the Tigers.

As a precautionary measure, Holt was kept out of the Red Sox lineup against the Chicago White Sox on Monday night as well.

Weeks was getting his first Major League start of 2015.

Despite the Red Sox 10-8 defeat, the blame cannot be put on Weeks.

Weeks went 2-for-4 and drove in a run at the plate while playing spectacular defense at second base, even making a sparkling play to steal a base hit away from Melky Cabrera in the top of the eighth inning.

Will Weeks hit .500 all year long?


Will Weeks see a majority of the second base duties for Boston for the remainder of 2015?

Most likely not.

However, Weeks should get some playing time with Pedroia on the DL and Holt nursing a sore left knee.

Look at this as Weeks’ audition. Not only for the Red Sox, but for the entire MLB.

Weeks is still only 28-years old, and the speed that made him such a threat to steal bases in 2011 hasn’t left him.

A solid showing during his stint in the Majors, however long it may be, could help turn Weeks’ career around.

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Could Seahawks sign Reggie Wayne?

Despite no contract extension for Russell Wilson - or Bobby Wagner - yet, Seattle could be in pursuit of two veteran free agents, according to ESPN's Jim Trotter.

Those potential options include Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne. Should the Seahawks fail to strike a deal with Wilson by Friday, that would allow them to use the money that was set aside to pursue others and fill out the roster. 

The Seahawks already upgraded their offense with Jimmy Graham in the offseason, but adding Wayne could bolster their young wide receiving corps. Wayne had spent his entire 14-year career with the Colts before becoming a free agent this year, but posted just 779 receiving yards and two scores in 2014. 

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Jon Beason: I feel the best I have in four years

The 2014 season was a lost year for New York Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason. After helping to turn a potentially league-worst defensive unit in to a respectable group in 2013, Beason entered 2014 with high expectations.

An early offseason toe injury lingered and Beason was only able to grind his way through four incomplete games before being placed on injured reserve. After an extensive rehab, Beason feels like he's in better health now than he has been in a long time.

"I feel great. I can tell you I feel the best I’ve felt in four years," Beason said to Steve Serby of the New York Post. "I feel young. I feel like a kid again — but then I have to eat those words (chuckle) if something happens."

After coming over from the Panthers in 2013, Beason was a revelation for the Giants' defense. He immediately took over the leadership and play-calling duties at the MIKE linebacker spot.

The Giants' defense will benefit from getting a leader back, and Beason will likely have a similar role in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. Beason described what it will be like to play in the middle of Spagnuolo's defense:

"Spags (Spagnuolo) is not afraid to put more onus on the players. Everyone has the opportunity to step up and say something and orchestrate the defense, and personally, I’m not used to that. I’m used to it all be on me, but at the same time, I like the freedom of it. It’s a lot of pressure on guys who have not been a Mike linebacker per se in this league, but that’s the beauty of it. If we can get it down, look out, because we could be really scary."

If Beason can get back to his 2013 form, the Giants could boast their best linebacker corps since the last time Spagnuolo was coordinating the Giants' defense. Second year linebacker Devon Kennard is expected to breakout and the Giants really like what they've seen from free agent acquisition J.T. Thomas. Beason will be the leader of the group, and potentially of the entire defense now that Antrel Rolle has moved on from the team.

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Frank Gore set up for smashing success with Colts

Cardinals Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell recently asserted on NFL Total Access that Frank Gore was the biggest loss among the mass exodus of 49ers stars this past offseason.

"He was the heart and soul of that offense -- and really that team," Campbell explained. "... Playing against him, he is the guy. He's really the one we had to stop."
Now that Gore is 32 years old and playing outside the comfortable confines of San Francisco for the first time in his 11-year career, can the Colts expect their new backfield savior to keep stiff-arming Father Time?

The answer is a resounding yes, for several reasons.

Still the 'Inconvenient Truth'?
Will Gore's NFL swan song play out like Corey Dillon in New England (1,635 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) and Stephen Davis in Carolina (1,444 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns) or more closely resemble the late-career flops of Steven Jackson in Atlanta (543 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns) and Emmitt Smith in Arizona (256 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns)?

If his 2014 season had ended in Week 15, we might assume the latter.

Gore was coming off the least effective stretch of his career, failing to top the 100-yard mark in nine consecutive games while averaging a scant 3.46 yards per carry over that span. The five-time Pro Bowler was being phased out of game plans with the offensive line severely backsliding from its 2012-2013 dominance.

Once rookie Carlos Hyde came down with a late-season ankle sprain, though, the 49ers saddled up their workhorse for the final two games of the season.

What followed was one of the most impressive two-game stretches of Gore's career. He responded with 302 yards on 61 carries, marking the first time he had rushed for at least 140 yards in back-to-back games since November of 2006.

Although Gore may be the NFL's slowest starting running back at this stage of his career -- he finished near the bottom in Pro Football Focus' Elusive Rating and Breakaway Percentage metrics -- he remains effective via uncanny patience, vision and toughness.

Gore has actually averaged more rushing yards per season (1,165) since age 28 than he did in his first six years (1,069) in the league.

His 158-yard performance versus the Chargers in a 38-35 Week 16 loss was one of the most impressive all-around games by any tailback in 2014.

What does he offer the Colts after two years of watching Trent Richardson run up the back of his offensive linemen?

"Sustainability. He's a chain mover," NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell recently explained. "I don't think there's been a back in the last five, six, seven years who has been able to get through small cracks at the point of attack better than Frank Gore. Frank Gore is your classic four-, five-, six-yard runner.

"He's probably past the point where he's going to break a 40-yarder. That wasn't really his game anyway. ... He would get so skinny going through the point of attack and come out the other end, I'd have to watch the play four or five times on film and try to figure out how did he get through there. And that's what he gives this offense. He gives them a sustaining element, so they'll be in more favorable down-and-distance situations."

Pep Hamilton's scheme
Gore didn't land in Indianapolis simply because of his University of Miami connections to coach Chuck Pagano, associate head coach Rob Chudzinski and star wideout Andre Johnson.

The big draw, Gore told NFL Media analyst LaDainian Tomlinson, was the presence of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who learned under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

Ever since the ill-fated Richardson move in September of 2013, Hamilton has been crafting a power-running scheme featuring inside runs designed to soften the interior of opposing defenses.

It's the same scheme under which Gore thrived for the past half-decade in one of the NFL's most consistently successful power attacks.

Entering his twilight years, Gore wouldn't succeed in just any offense. Fortunately, Hamilton's is the one best suited to emphasize his unparalleled patience and vision.

Lighter boxes
"If you want to try and stop him and slow him down," Pagano said in early June, "I'd recommend you being in an eight-man spacing."

Pagano was referring to loading eight defenders in the box -- a tactic defensive coaches habitually used versus the 49ers.

According to Football Outsiders, Gore faced eight- or nine-man fronts on a league-high 30 percent of his carries last season, compared to the league average of 14.4 percent. In fact, Gore has had the highest percentage of carries against eight- or nine-man fronts for three consecutive seasons.

He can rest assured that won't be a problem with Andrew Luck's coach-like powers of perception and unique arm talent directing the Colts' offense.

Going back to college, as NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks explained in an informative 2013 feature, Luck pummeled opponents with a power running game that featured "check with me" calls based on defensive alignment.

If the presence of Gore leads to more loaded boxes, Luck will pick secondaries apart with high-percentage opportunities on the outside in early downs.

Worried about the Colts' much-beleaguered offensive line? Don't be.

As is often the case, a poor pass-protection unit is perfectly adequate in paving lanes for the ground game.

Indianapolis running backs not named "Richardson" have averaged 4.7 yards on 350 carries over the past two years.

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Ed Reed on Ray Rice getting a second chance: 'I think he deserves it'

Ed Reed may have just left the Ravens when Ray Rice's domestic violence scandal broke out, but the two were teammates from 2008-2012, and it's evident that Reed feels a certain bond with Rice. So when Reed was asked whether Rice deserves a second chance in the NFL, he answered it from a different perspective than most who've given their opinion on the matter.

"Oh, man," Reed said at his foundation's golf tournament. "I'm not just an analyst looking at it, I'm his brother, too. And it's a tough situation on either side."

With that being said, Reed does in fact think Rice should get another shot in the league.

"I think he deserves it. I know teams that need him. But, at the same time, how we are as a society, how things are -- I'm not going to say 'blown up' because it is a very sensitive thing that's going on in our country and around the world -- but we're a compassionate, forgiving people. And people make mistakes."

Reed, who recently retired from the NFL after 12 illustrious seasons, says that Rice is another example of an NFL player being scrutinized more because of the sport he plays.

"We gotta really look at -- and I'll say the NFL gotta look at -- how they punish the players versus other folks," he said. "We make an example out of the football players, and specifically we make an example out of NFL football players, more than any other sport or any thing. It's like we're the example. Why is that? Why do NFL players have to be the example?"

The Rice debate is one that's been heating up in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen whether a franchise actually signs the 28-year-old running back. If no one does give Rice a call, however, Reed believes Rice would still be content.

"Like I told Ray, 'Keep working man. You deserve it.' But at the end of the day you gotta be all right with yourself. And I know he is. And if he never played another down, I know at the end of the day his family is more important, and he'll be okay."

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Antrel Rolle on Chicago Bears defense: 'We're going to click'

Veteran safety Antrel Rolle hasn't been with the Chicago Bears very long, but he's already confident that his new defensive unit will come together.

"I think it's going to work great," Rolle told John Mullin of CSN Chicago. "We've got the young guys pushing us and the veteran leadership there, too. We're all flying around. The veterans just have to lead by example. We want to be a force.

"We're going to grow, but this is a good group to grow with.

"The chemistry of this group is excellent. It's going to take some time, but I feel like we're going to click."

The Bears do have an enviable mix of youth and experience on the defensive side of the ball. Up-and-coming draft picks, such as cornerback Kyle Fuller and nose tackle Eddie Goldman, are complemented nicely by seasoned veterans like Rolle, Jared Allen and Jay Ratliff.

Rolle, who appeared in a Super Bowl with the Cardinals and later won one with the Giants, has 10 seasons of NFL experience under his belt. At 32 years of age, he's still playing some of his best football, too, with nine of his 26 career interceptions coming the past two seasons.

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Shane Larkin gives diplomatic response to Phil Jackson’s criticism that he ‘hasn’t grown since the start of the season’

Shane Larkin took the high road in response to criticism by Phil Jackson that he failed to grow last season with the Knicks.

And the Zen Master wasn't talking about Larkin's 5-11 stature.

In a story written by good buddy Charley Rosen as part of his series on Monday, Jackson continued to dish on his former players, saying of Larkin back in February: "Unfortunately, Shane hasn't grown since the start of the season."

Larkin made no secret he wasn't a good fit for the triangle, saying as much in a tweet in response to Jackson's comments on Monday.

"Couldn't grow in an offense I wasn't comfortable in," Larkin tweeted. "All good. No shade. Glad I'm across the river now. Wish them luck."

The Nets were apparently higher on Larkin than Jackson, contacting Larkin as soon as he became a free agent on July 1 and quickly scooping him up, hoping he can return to the form he showed that enabled him to be a first-round pick with a more faced paced, pick-and-roll style of play.

Jackson was a bit more complementary with Andrea Bargnani, another Nets acquisition in free agency while also observing his history of injuries. He also noted that Bargnani had interest in remaining in New York for next season, which proved prophetic.

"Bargnani will be an unrestricted free agent and would be a great fit in the triangle," Jackson told Rosen. "He's 7-foot-1 with long arms, high shoulders, loads of talent and is an intriguing player. One thing working against him is his history of injuries. Because of a variety of injuries, at this time he's still in a training-camp mode -- and he hasn't really played full-time in over a year. Another concern is whether he wants to continue his NBA career or go back home and play in Italy. I had a sitdown with him last December and got the impression that he'd rather stay here. I know that he likes living in New York, and I've heard through the grapevine that he'd be happy returning to the Knicks. He's a very intelligent guy who's made some very profitable business investments in Italy, so money might not be a big issue. Anyway, if we can agree on a payday that meets both of our needs, this is something that will be worth investigating."

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Meet Raiders Rookie Jon Feliciano

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Clive Walford expected to start

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson expects rookie Clive Walford to win the starting tight end job.

Walford reportedly outplayed Mychal Rivera in OTAs. He has a chance for heavy snaps as a rookie, but will be mostly asked to block as the inline starter. Walford isn't on the re-draft fantasy radar.

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Jon Beason is Nearing Full Health: “I Feel Like a Kid Again”

It's been a long, long time since linebacker Jon Beason last considered himself fully healthy. In fact, the New York Giants defensive captain has played in only 22 out of a possible 64 games over the past four seasons, and only once over that span did he play in more than four games in a season (2013).

Needless to say, that reality has bothered him just as much as it's bothered the team and their fans.

"I don’t think fans realize how much of an impact having your dream, or something you thought you were born to do, taken from you has on you as a person. Nothing would make me happier personally than to go out and play ball at a high, consistent level, 1, for myself, for my family … but also for the fans," Beason told the New York Post. "(It's) like, “When is enough enough?” You find that there’s some benefit to having something that’s very valuable to you taken away from you because you realize how much it means to you."

Over the last four years, Beason has dealt with a multitude of injury issues, ranging anywhere from his knee to his back to his toe. His toe, of course, being the most recent and most concerning issue, twice landing him on sidelines a season ago — the first was considered more precautionary, while the second was of the season-ending variety.

Earlier this week, Beason admitted the toe would require "constant maintenance" for the remainder of his NFL career.

"I'm sure the Giants will force me into being smart about reps and the workload, I'll do what I can to listen them, but at the same time, do what I have to do to prepare and get ready for the season," Beason said.

Despite the long-term requirements of dealing with his toe and the likelihood that the Giants will proceed with caution at the start of training camp, Beason insists that he's almost fully healthy and feeling as good as he has in many years.

"I feel great. I can tell you I feel the best I’ve felt in four years. I feel young. I feel like a kid again — but then I have to eat those words if something happens," Beason said.

And as it relates to the 2015 season and the expectations within the Giants organization. Well… Beason summed them up nicely.

"From top to bottom, it’s a sense of urgency, the house is burning, the time is now. It’s unacceptable, and that’s been echoed extremely loud — from ownership, management, coaching and obviously all the way down to the players. It’s just unacceptable," Beason said. "I expect to win the whole thing. If you’re not in it to win championships, what are you in it for? I expect to make the playoffs, yes."

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Ereck Flowers could be the key to Giants' offensive line

With five days left until the New York Giants report to training camp, our position-by-position breakdown looks at the offensive line, where much has changed from 2014.

Projected starters: LT Ereck Flowers, LG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Marshall Newhouse
Likely to make roster: G John Jerry, G/C Dallas Reynolds, G/T Brandon Mosley, T Bobby Hart
Injured (likely to start season on PUP): LT Will Beatty
On the bubble: C Brett Jones, G Adam Gettis, G Eric Herman, T Michael Bamiro, T Emmett Cleary, T Sean Donnelly

This is all in flux: The projected starters here are based on where they lined up in OTAs and minicamp. There's no guarantee this will be the alignment in Week 1. There's no guarantee this will be the alignment next weekend, after a month of thinking and evaluating what the coaching staff saw in spring. They could decide Flowers isn't ready for left tackle but is ready for right tackle, in which case they could swap him and Newhouse or move Pugh from guard back to one of the tackle spots. Schwartz is likely to be limited at the start of camp, which could mean right guard reps for Jerry and a chance for more playing time if he shows well. Mosley intrigues them and was getting right tackle snaps in minicamp. Tom Coughlin will undoubtedly tell us the Giants are tinkering with different combinations to try and figure out the best five starters, and he'll be telling the truth.

Tackle is where the questions lie: The projected guards and centers are as originally planned. The Giants decided before the draft that they wanted to move Pugh from right tackle, where he started the first two years of his career, to left guard. They moved Richburg to center, his true position, and released 2014 starter J.D. Walton. And they want Schwartz back from last year's toe and ankle problems to start at right guard, where he's comfortable. The Giants believe the interior of their line will be strong. But when Beatty tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights in May and had surgery that will keep him out until at least November, the plan at tackle had to change. Flowers' ability to handle left tackle will determine how well the Giants can stick to their original plan.

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Is Sam Shields an elite corner? Packers want Pro Bowl DB to evolve

Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract last offseason, made his first Pro Bowl in 2014. (He was chosen as an alternate to replace the Super Bowl bound Darrelle Revis). To hear cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt tell it, Shields was indeed one of the NFL's top corners, but not quite elite.

“Last year, I thought the top four corners in the league were, not in any order, (Richard) Sherman, (Darrelle) Revis, Brent Grimes and Vontae (Davis). I think, if he does the things that we were working on, he (Shields) can be in that conversation," Whitt said, per

“Those four were clearly better and then there was a group of around 12 — he's in that group of 12 to 14, in my opinion. How do you get in that top four with Brent Grimes, Revis and Sherman and Vontae Davis? How do you do that? That's the question.”

The answer to that question, apparently, is having Shields occasionally shadow No. 1 receivers all over the field rather than strictly sticking to the right side, which the Packers plan on experimenting with next season. “I'm going to give him an opportunity over there. I just know he's made most of his impact from the right. He's going to have to match, so he's going to have to play left and right this year, anyway," Whitt said. "We're going to put him where he need him … and where I feel he's going to be most productive.”

With Shields as the primary defender there, the Packers led the NFL in defensive DVOA on passes to the right side of the field last season, according to Football Outsiders. Given that they were 23rd on passes to the left side and 29th on passes to the middle of the field, it does make some degree of sense to give Shields a chance at shadowing.

The Packers lost Tramon Williams and Davon House from last year's team and Casey Hayward is coming off an injury, so Shields is the only healthy cornerback on the roster with much experience. Green Bay took Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the draft and hopes are obviously high for the pair, but it's not often that rookie corners make a huge, immediate impact. Shields, then, is going to have a whole lot of responsibility in Dom Capers' defense. We'll see if he's up for it.

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Shane Larkin hopes Brooklyn suits him better than triangle

Shane Larkin was hoping for a fresh start and a chance to show what he can do in New York. But the speedy point guard and the Knicks’ triangle offense fit about as well as Phil Jackson trying to cram himself into a smart car.

So when Larkin became a free agent at midnight on July 1, the Nets came calling with a pitch the point guard was thrilled to hear.

“We just said we want to get back to how you played in Miami,” Nets general manager Billy King said recently about the former Hurricane. “Allowing you to be a leader on the floor, run the pick-and-roll, get up and down the court. That was the pitch to him.”

Brooklyn is hoping that the 5-foot-11 Larkin can show why he was the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Miami.

Larkin’s rookie season got off to a bad start when he broke his ankle during a summer league practice. He would end up playing in just 48 games, averaging 10.2 minutes and 2.8 points.

Dallas sent Larkin to the Knicks in a package deal centered around Tyson Chandler last summer. On a woeful, stripped down team that lost 65 games, Larkin averaged 6.2 points in 24.5 minutes while starting 22 games. In April, he averaged 8.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 31.8 minutes a game.

The Nets saw enough to believe that he can still realize his first-round potential in the right system.

“I talked to Billy and Lionel (Hollins) as soon as free agency started, and they told me they wanted me to come in and just play my game,” Larkin said at a recent Nets press conference to introduce the team’s free agent signings. “I’m more of a pick-and-roll guy, up and down. “And that’s the thing they told me they wanted me to come in and do. For them to tell me they wanted me to come in push the tempo, bring some energy to the team, that was everything I wanted to hear.”

At the moment, the Nets’ point guard position has much to prove. Brooklyn bought out Deron Williams and traded Steve Blake away. Jarrett Jack, as of now, is set to be the starter going into camp with Larkin poised to be his backup.

Brooklyn also may see what Ryan Boatright can do. The former UConn point guard averaged 14.1 points during summer league action. Larkin is looking forward to playing in a similar fashion as he did while at Miami, where he averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists and won ACC Player of the Year honors before leaving as a sophomore.

“I mean the triangle is a good offense if you have the type of players that fit within that offense,” Larkin said. “And I don’t feel like it was the best offense for me. I’m more of a pick-and-roll guy, and there’s not as many pick and rolls in that offense. I’m not talking bad about it. It’s a great offense. I wish them nothing but the best.”

“Last year was definitely a roller coaster ride,” Larkin added of the Knicks. “… We had great aspirations last year to make the playoffs and prove everybody wrong and then just a lot of stuff happened. People were hurt, we never were healthy, we were trying to learn a new system… I think Fish (Derek Fisher) did a really good job of keeping everybody together. Nobody really lost themselves last year, but it was definitely a difficult time, and I wish them luck.”

Now Larkin is looking for another new start in another area of New York. The Nets hope Larkin discovers his first-round talent on the other side of the river.

“He’s still young,” King said of Larkin, 22. “He came out (of school) early. I said the same thing to (free agent addition) Thomas Robinson -– we want to get you back to being what got you drafted, to where you were.” “We’re going to let you be who you are.”

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Red Sox Recall Infielder Jemile Weeks

BOSTON — The Red Sox bolstered their infield depth Sunday, recalling second baseman Jemile Weeks from Triple-A Pawtucket. Weeks, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles last August, played in 14 games for the Red Sox last season.

The 28-year-old has spent the bulk of this season with the PawSox, posting a .207/.307/.310 slash line with one home run and five RBIs in 51 games at Triple-A. To make room for Weeks on the 25-man roster, reliever Noe Ramirez was optioned to Pawtucket. “(Weeks can play) all over the infield, as well as, he’s played a couple of games in the outfield,” manager John Farrell said before Sunday’s matchup with the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. “Kind of a super-utility that gives us some flexibility all around the diamond.”

That flexibility will be necessary for the Red Sox, who on Saturday learned they’d be without second baseman Dustin Pedroia for at least the next two weeks. Pedroia was placed on the 15-day disabled list after reaggravating his injured hamstring.

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Q&A: Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso held his Celebrity Basebowl Tournament on Wednesday as a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego.

Question: As someone who was raised in the Boys & Girls Club, what does it mean to give back in a big way with your tournament?
Answer: Giving back to the Boys & Girls Club is such a huge deal. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to raise awareness for the club and the inner-city kids. I’m a huge believer in always giving back to the next upcoming (generation) and the future. It’s always an excellent tribute to them and obviously to us. It was just an opportunity to have something (for the kids).

Q: Playing for the Padres, it’s probably really exciting for the kids to see you out there putting on the event. Did professional athletes help out at events you attended as a kid?
A: Growing up in the Boys & Girls Club, you had guys like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter helping out. So many guys would come and give back to the Boys & Girls Club that I was a part of and it was a learning experience and I dream of mine to be able to reach their level and do the same for the kids today. Once they see guys like us helping out, maybe some of today’s kids will want to go that route and reach that big league potential. Those are just little things I try to help the kids out with.

Q: You talked about Jeter and Rodriguez helping out at some of the events you attended when you were younger. Is there a specific story of meeting or interacting with them that stands out to you?
A: One of the first times I met Jeter and Rodriguez, they had a Boys & Girls Club event to raise money during Christmas time. We were able to hang out with them all day and raise a lot of money for us. That was the first time where I saw those guys giving back and it was something that I wanted to be part of as well. It was a day I’ll always remember and I was only about 10 or 11 years old. I feel like if I can do that for even just one or two kids, it would make my day.

Q: When did you truly get serious about hosting a fundraiser for the kids of the Boys & Girls Club?
A: The minute I was a professional. That’s just what I wanted to do — I wanted to give back and do something like that.

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