27 May 2012

All Canes Radio With Olivier Vernon

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 Store in Coral Gables. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interview with former Hurricane and new proCane Olivier Vernon. Vernon talks about being drafted by the Miami Dolphins, how OTAs have gone so far, why he left early from the University of Miami and much more!

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Ray Lewis on Miami Dolphins’ Decision to do ‘Hard Knocks’ and His Son’s Commitment to University of Miami

Ray Lewis is preparing for his 17th NFL season with the same approach he’s used his entire career. In fact, when the 37-year-old joined Michael Irvin on his radio show Wednesday, you could barely hear what Lewis was trying to say because he was in the midst of a 30-mile bike ride as part of his training regimen.

Ray Lewis joined Michael Irvin and Curtis Stevenson on WQAM in Miami to discuss the Miami Dolphins’ decision to undergo the “Hard Knocks” treatment and his son’s decision to follow in his footsteps at the University of Miami.

On the Miami Dolphins agreeing to be the subject of the 2012 season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”:
“For us, we had the right group of men. We had the right group of characters, who understood. So it wasn’t as much of a distraction as people have talked about it being. And I think for us, we enjoyed every moment of it just being ourselves. And if I have any advice to the Dolphins, it’s just try to do something in the game, let the cameras be the cameras. And just remain yourself, bottom line. … All we did was maintain being ourselves, and I think that was the beauty of how it came out the way it came out.”

On how he felt when his son committed to the University of Miami (Fla, obviously.):
“There’s no greater reward, as a father, to have that. To walk into your alma mater and look at your baby — my baby — who was born on that campus. That’s what’s so special about what all happened. That boy was born on that campus my senior year, 1995. And when I walked him back there, Coach (Al) Golden looked at him and said, ‘We want you to be a Hurricane.’ Remember Michael, I didn’t have that opportunity. I got the last scholarship the University of Miami had. So for my son to be a junior and get that scholarship? C’mon, man. All my hard work, all my pain. … That thing right there, it kept motivating me all over again this offseason. I got me pissed off all over again, Mike, because I realized what I had sacrificed for my kids. And now I realized, now I keep sacrificing for my kids.”

Listen to Ray Lewis on WQAM here

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Jonathan Vilma says: “We asked for evidence and (Goodell) wouldn’t give it to us.”

I just spent the last 10 minutes talking with Saints LB Jonathan Vilma about his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with other things related to the bounty issue. For the first time, Vilma explained why he refused to participate in the NFL’s investigation against his team. And he addressed the possibility of sitting out 2012.

Here is what I wrote in this NFL.com story:

Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he would not cooperate with the NFL’s investigation into his team’s bounty system because Commissioner Roger Goodell would not show him the evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.

In an exclusive interview with NFL.com at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Vilma spoke publicly for the first time since he filed a defamation lawsuit against the league. He also addressed his year-long suspension, which he is appealing.

While Vilma has been vocal on Twitter about his innocence after the punishments came out, he refused to be interviewed during the league’s extensive investigation. He explained why.

“We asked for evidence and he wouldn’t give it to us,” Vilma told NFL.com. “How can I defend myself when I don’t know what I’m defending against? It’s just logical, things that people decided to ignore.”

Asked specifically whether the union told him not to cooperate, Vilma said he asked for evidence, Goodell would not share it, and he responded, “How can I defend myself if I don’t know what I’m defending against?”

League spokesman Greg Aiello responded: “He was invited to come in with his attorney to discuss the evidence prior to any decision on discipline. He declined. He has another opportunity to do so in his appeal. The union has been shown evidence.”

As for his defamation lawsuit, Vilma’s lawyers are arguing that by publicly punishing him, Goodell specifically is making it hard for him to work in the NFL and ruining his post-career opportunities. There is no court date yet, and it’s not clear if the case will be heard.

“There was no bounty program in place,” Vilma said. “I never paid anybody, intended to pay anybody, that’s the truth. Never sought out to injure people. That’s the truth. That’s really about it. I can’t really go into detail.”

As for the possibility of sitting out 2012, Vilma hasn’t let himself think that far.

“There was really no need,” Vilma said. “There’s a process we’re going to go through right now, hopefully it’s in my and our favor and we go from there.”

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Olivier Vernon Will Start As 3rd-Down Pass Rusher

Rookie Olivier Vernon, the third-round pick from the University of Miami, will start his career as the new third-down pass rusher, a role held by Taylor last year.

"He's definitely got a motor on him, and that's one of the things you can't teach," Wake said of Vernon.

Vernon, who started just 16 games in college and missed half of his 2011 season at UM because of the scandal involving ex-booster Nevin Shapiro, admits he has a lot to learn between now and the start of the regular season.

"I don't know that much about football. I'm still fresh," he said. "So I pretty much just learn by watching, try to observe and take it all in, because you only get one shot when you get in there."

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Jason Witten: Cowboys don't throw at Kenny Phillips

Jason Witten told Giants DBs coach Dave Merritt at the 2011 Pro Bowl that the Cowboys don't even try throwing deep when Kenny Phillips is at free safety.

"Witten said, when 21 (Phillips' number) is in the post, we don't even throw anything deep because we know he can go and get it," Merritt recalled. "(Witten) said, 'But if I see anybody else back there, Romo knows, we're going deep.'" It's probably no coincidence that Phillips played more free safety in 2011 than ever before. He finished with 82 tackles and a career-high four interceptions.

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Late selection fueling Brandon Washington

Brandon Washington was told he could be drafted as early as the second round. If not the second, surely the third. Worst case scenario, the fourth.

Washington talked it over with his family, considered his options and decided to take the plunge. He would leave the University of Miami one year early and enter the NFL draft.

You can imagine the sinking feeling in Washington’s stomach as he watched the draft unfold. He was not selected in the second round. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth round that Washington’s name finally was called. The Eagles selected him with the 200th overall pick. He was not in a mood to celebrate.

“If I knew I was going to be drafted that low, I would’ve stayed in school,” the 6-2, 320-pound lineman said. “It was disappointing. I mean, I know I’m a better player than that.”

But that was a month ago, enough time for Washington to get over the disappointment and focus on the opportunity he has in Philadelphia. He is taking part in the OTAs at the NovaCare Complex and hoping to show the Eagles that he is a keeper. He is using the draft experience as motivation.

“My goal was to get a chance to play in the NFL,” Washington said. “I’m here now. I’ve got the opportunity. Most guys never get this far. I’m looking at it like that. I’m in a great situation with a great team. Now it’s up to me.”

Washington was the next-to-last pick in the Eagles’ draft. His name is in the fine print at the bottom of the page underneath Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry. But don’t be surprised if Washington emerges as a pleasant surprise this summer.

He was a two-year starter on the offensive line at Miami. He played right guard in 2010 and moved to left tackle last season. He was an all-conference selection at guard and he adjusted well to the tackle position. He graded out highest among Miami’s linemen last season.

An explosive drive blocker, Washington had 56 pancake blocks in one season. When he was invited to play in the Astroturf NFLPA Bowl in January, he was the best offensive lineman on the field even though he split time between guard and tackle.

So why did he slip in the draft? There were several factors.

Some scouts felt he was a little raw and could have used another year in college. Also, the fact that he switched positions was problematic for some evaluators. They could not decide whether he was a guard or a tackle so he did not fit neatly into every draft board.

Some reports referred to a “lack of urgency” in his play. In other words, he appeared to loaf at times. Scouts love guys with a high motor but no one used those words to describe Washington. Once a guy like that starts falling in the draft, he can wind up falling to the bottom of the barrel, which is what happened to Washington.

But there comes a point where a team – in this case, the Eagles – looks at the tape again, sees the athletic ability and decides to take a shot. That’s what you see in Washington, a big man with power and balance. If you are looking for sheer tools, he has an impressive array.

The Eagles drafted Washington as a guard and that is probably where he is best suited to play in the NFL. He can use his strength to its fullest advantage in close quarters. He is hard to move when he drops his hips and anchors against a bull rusher. When he comes off the ball, he knocks people backwards.

“I like the physical part of the game,” Washington said. “I like to steam roll people.”

The Eagles changed their blocking scheme last season under line coach Howard Mudd. They got away from big mauling linemen and went with smaller, quicker blockers who could execute Mudd’s zone techniques. 

At a glance, Washington would not appear to fit the Mudd mold. He is built more like an old school road grader. But Washington says that’s not the case. He is not the second coming of Max Jean-Gilles, in other words.

“The man who coached me at Miami, Jeff Stoutland, studied coach Mudd,” Washington said. “We talked after the draft and he said it was a good system for me. You have to be able to move. You need quick hands and quick feet. Bend your hips. Those are all things I can do. I’ve done them.

“I’ll learn from the (players) here, I’ll learn from the coaches. I’m studying the playbook and learning the concepts. I’m trying to get better every day. I have a lot to prove.” 

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Damien Berry might have the longest hill to climb to earn the spot, but he isn’t backing down

Sooner or later, Ray Rice will return to running with the Ravens’ first-team offense. But until he does, rookie Bernard Pierce and second-year backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry have their chance to stake their claim to the No. 2 running back job.

Pierce would seemingly have the inside track based on his status as a third-round draft pick. Then again, Allen boasts NFL experience, albeit limited, with three carries for 8 yards during an injury-played rookie season in 2011. Berry spent the 2011 season on the practice squad.

All three figure to get a long look with Rice sitting out the minicamps, and all three are going through the Ravens offseason program for the first time. Allen and Berry couldn’t take part in team activities last spring and summer because of the NFL lockout.

Speaking after the team’s OTA workout on Wednesday, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said all three have impressed.

Pierce “is physical, smart and fast,” Cameron said. “Now, he just needs to keep learning the system, listen to what (running backs coach) Wilbert Montgomery is asking him to do, listen to the guys in the room.”

Allen, a seventh-round draft pick last year out of Georgia Tech who also spent two years at Louisville, was slowed much of his rookie season by a hamstring injury and appeared sparingly in five games.

At the NFL Combine in February, after Ricky Williams had abruptly announced his retirement, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said, “We like Anthony Allen. We’re going to give him every opportunity to be that guy” who would fill Williams’ former role as Rice’s primary backup.

Cameron at this week’s OTA described Allen as “a guy that we think can play all three downs. I see nothing but upside.”

Ditto for Berry, who is getting his share of reps with the first team in Rice’s absence. Berry might have the longest hill to climb to earn the spot, but he isn’t backing down.

“I'm ready to come in and compete," Berry said, according to CBSSports.com. "Competition brings the best out of all of us. If you're going to be great, you have to compete."

Cameron said Berry, listed at 5-10 and 211 pounds, has gotten bigger and stronger since last season.

“You can tell that he has done a ton of work. He has done a great in our weight room,” Cameron said.

“I think he is primed to have a great preseason, and then we’ll go from there,” he added.

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Santana Moss Celebrates His 33rd Birthday Friday But Not Begrudgingly

Santana Moss threw himself a big party three years ago when he turned 30 even though that’s a birthday that scares many athletes, especially those whose success is based on quick feet.

But as he turns 33 tomorrow, Moss has a bit of a different mindset. The only older Redskins are punter Sav Rocca, kicker Neil Rackers and inside linebacker London Fletcher. Speed is irrelevant for the first two and not as critical for the indestructible Fletcher as it is for receiver Moss.

While Fletcher and almost surely, Rocca, are cinches to keep their jobs and the newly-acquired Rackers is a challenger to incumbent Graham Gano, Moss is in a fight for his position in the wake of the signings of younger receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan as free agents. Then there’s Leonard Hankerson, a third-round draft choice in 2011 who had a 100-yard game as his rookie season was ending prematurely with a torn labrum in his right hip. So Moss could be Washington’s fourth receiver or even an ex-Redskin considering his $2.65 million base salary and the fact that he doesn’t play special teams other than returning punts, a duty he has seldom performed for the burgundy and gold.

“You’re going to get guys coming in year after year from college, from other teams, and when you have guys that played on the level those two guys played on, teams are going to want them,” Moss said of Garcon, 25, and Morgan, 26. “All that can do for you is motivate you to be on that same level.”

Coach Mike Shanahan neglected to mention Moss in discussing his receivers during his April 25 pre-draft press conference, his first session with the Washington media since the end of last year. If Moss felt dissed by Shanahan extolling Garcon, Morgan and Hankerson and leaving him out, he didn’t show it.

“I don’t play worried about something,” Moss said when asked if he’s concerned about where he stands with the Redskins. “I just handle what I can, handle what there is to handle, and as long as I handle my business, that’s all I can do.”

But after not ranking as Washington’s leading receiver for the first time since he arrived via a trade with the New York Jets in 2005 and with the young guns primed to make him obsolete, Moss decided to handle his business differently this offseason. He dropped 15 pounds from his 5-foot-10 frame, getting back to the 190 he weighed in his 20-something days.

“I just wanted to get back to what I do,” said Moss, who caught a career-high 93 balls in 2010 but for a relatively sedate 1,115 yards and six touchdowns. “The last four years, I’ve probably played a little heavy. Yeah, I still played at a high level, but I can tell there are certain things I wasn’t doing. I just want to get back to that.”

In other words, Moss is well aware that he averaged 15.1 yards per catch from 2005-07 when the Redskins made the playoffs twice in three seasons, but averaged only 12.7 over the last four years as Washington went just 23-41 and never topped .500.

That included last season when he missed four mid-season games with a broken hand. But even in the 12 games he played, Moss’ numbers were far from spectacular: 46 catches for 585 yards and four touchdowns. He also slipped to 4.1 yards after the catch, down about 25 percent from his 2008-10 average. Since-released receiver Jabar Gaffney and tight end Fred Davis, who also played in just 12 games, both outperformed Moss.
“I’ve just seen myself, watched myself, critiqued myself for the last three or four years, and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do a little extra to do what I need to do,’ ” said Moss, who looked quick during the organized team activity practice that the media was allowed to watch last Monday.

With 65 more catches, Moss will rank behind only Hall of Famers Art Monk and Charley Taylor for the most in Redskins history. Only Monk, Taylor and four-time Pro Bowl pick Gary Clark have more receiving yards. But will the “little extra” that Moss has done to prepare for this season be enough to fend off Garcon and Co. or even keep him in a Washington uniform?

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Goodell granted 21-day delay for response in Jon Vilma's Defmamation Suit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been granted a 21-day delay for responding to a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

The delay is considered routine, and Goodell's lawyers now must respond by July 5 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

The suit claims Goodell, "relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies" in making comments about Vilma while discussing the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints. Goodell has said Vilma was a leader of the team's bounty program that put up thousands of dollars for hits that targeted opposing teams' star players from 2009-11, including $10,000 each on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the playoffs in 2010.

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Trent Dilfer responds to Warren Sapp ripping him

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer responded to his former teammate Warren Sapp, who ripped him in his new book titled Sapp Attack.

Dilfer, who’s now an NFL analyst for ESPN responded:

Just heard @warrensapp rips me in his book. I have no hard feelings, he was a gr8 player and gr8 teammate. I wish I would have played better
— Trent Dilfer (@TDESPN) May 29, 2012

There really isn’t much Dilfer could say in response to Sapp’s criticism.

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Vince Wilfork: Super Bowl loss has 'no effect

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork isn’t interested in looking back as he enters his ninth NFL season.

Less than four months after falling to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, Wilfork insists the loss has no effect on him today.

“No effect on me. No effect on me. You start back to where you started at, from zero. That’s where I’m at right now. You can’t dwell over spoiled milk,” Wilfork told reporters at Gillette Stadium on Thursday afternoon. “Last year was last year. That’s how you have to look at it. You have to be a professional. When it comes down to it, you have to be a professional about everything, and that plays a big part now. We have to be able to move forward, I’ve moved forward.”

Part of the process in moving forward for Wilfork is the addition of new teammates and a new position coach for the first time in his career. As Patrick Graham takes the reins as defensive line coach (with Pepper Johnson moving back to tutor the linebackers), Wilfork doesn’t believe the switch will have a major impact.

“It really won't affect us in a different way," he said. "I think we all talk the same way and that’s one good thing that you can always count on, being talked the same way. Everybody knows each other’s job. That goes for coaches also. So that move really isn’t big for us.”

Wilfork admits he was a little surprised by the switch, but added that Johnson won’t have moved too far, as the linebackers will work closely with the defensive line.

Graham will oversee Wilfork in his new role, as well as a handful of youngsters added this offseason, notably first-round pick Chandler Jones and third-rounder Jake Bequette.

The Patriots' defensive anchor isn’t ready to offer up his impressions of the newcomers, but trusts the organization he plays for and its ability to add talent.

“You never can doubt the capability of this organization and what they do. I’m just happy to be back started, and whoever we have, we have a lot of faith in them,” Wilfork said. “If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be here. Hopefully we can get this thing started fast. I’m excited about this upcoming season.”

One area of focus for the Patriots' defense –- a young group in Wilfork’s eyes -– is re-establishing a swagger that former Patriots left tackle Matt Light recently suggested was lacking last season.

“I think he’s right, there’s a level, you have guys in this game for a long time, been in this system for a long time, they just know how to play,” he said. “When you’re around something for so long, you adapt, you can start doing different things because you know it so well. Being a young defense, I think guys with the lockout and all that, I think we struggled at certain points at some of the things that we did.

“Hopefully it can be better this year, but I think the OTAs are good for us. It’s definitely good for a younger team, especially with us being a younger defense. And not saying we’re too young, but just being able to get together and getting little things out the way that can make a big, big difference down in the season,” Wilfork continued. “I think some of those things we can get done now, and we’re trying now. With OTAs we’re trying, every day we’re putting something in, every day guys are coming to work, and we’re just going to work.

“That’s what its going to take, you have to strive to get better, and that’s where I’m at right now, striving to get better and hopefully my teammates are doing the same thing,” he said.

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Knox grateful to Hester for 'keeping me positive'

Johnny Knox realizes he has full support from all of his Chicago Bears’ teammates, but there is one guy in particular he can lean on.

Devin Hester became emotional Wednesday when talking about Knox’s laborious recovery from spinal fusion surgery. The two receivers spend much time together away from football, and Hester has joined Knox for his rehab sessions
at Halas Hall.

"Devin has been there for me on and off the field throughout my career," Knox said. "He’s someone I’ve always looked up to since the first day I got here. He is someone I truly trust as a friend."

Knox already admitted there is a chance he could miss the 2012 season. His recovery has been complicated by a slow-healing bruised nerve.

"The pinched nerve in his spine, it’s a tough process," Hester said. "It’s tough to be around a person you’re close with and see him go through that."

Knox suffered the injury after absorbing a blow from Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove in a Dec. 18 loss to Seattle. He wore a back brace for 21/2 months and loss 30 pounds. Knox has since gained 10 pounds back.

Hester noted how Knox sometimes gets frustrated with the recovery process, but Hester won’t let his close friend give up.

Knox appreciates the encouragement.

"Devin has done a great job of keeping me positive," Knox said. "He has been more worried about my health than if or when I am going to return to the field. That means a lot to me -- that he is more concerned about my health than when I am going to play again."

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Murielle Ahoure wins Women's 100m race - Diamond League Rome

Ivory Coast sprinter Murielle Ahoure sets a new personal best and national record of 11.00 seconds to win the women's 100m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome.

The 24-year-old pushed Jamaican duo Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kerron Stewart into second and third after the 60m specialist capitalised on a great start.

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San Diego Padres Call Up Yasmani Grandal

Welcome to San Diego, Yasmani Grandal. The top prospect acquired in the Mat Latos trade this past offseason has been told he's been promoted to the major leagues following today's Triple-A Tucson game, reports Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star.

Yasmani Grandal was told after the game tonight that he's being called up to San Diego. Not sure what the corresponding move is. - Daniel Berk

Grandal, 23, has absolutely torn apart the Pacific Coast League this year hitting .317/.421/.500 with 4 home runs and 10 doubles. The backstop also has walked 21 times to 27 strikeouts in 34 games (145 plate appearances). I'm assuming Grandal will takeover the starting catching role, but the Padres might take it slow with him for a few weeks since he isn't a particularly good defensive catcher. Nonetheless, he should be up here to stay.

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Ryan Braun held out due to Achilles flare-up

Los Angeles - Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun was out of the starting lineup Thursday night due to a flare-up of the right Achilles tightness that has bothered him at times this season.

After a hard slide into second base Wednesday night in the 6-3 victory over the Dodgers, Braun mentioned to manager Ron Roenicke that he felt the tightness again. The two talked earlier in the day Thursday and Roenicke posted a lineup without Braun before Braun arrived at Dodger Stadium.

While it's difficult to imagine the inflammation in the Achilles completely disappearing while Braun plays regularly, Roenicke said there have been times when it has not been an issue.

"He tells me at times that it's real good," said Roenicke. "He'll say it feels real good and he'll steal a base. I think some of the slides get him. He slid late into second base last night and said he felt it."

Asked what the approach will be with Braun going forward, Roenicke said, "You need to feel like you're making progress (with the ailment). If not, you need to change something."

So, the teams' best players were not on the field. The Dodgers announced before the game that Matt Kemp, the runner-up to Braun as 2011 NL MVP, had been placed back on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain after being activated for just one game. Kemp re-aggravated the hamstring scoring from first base in the first inning Wednesday night.

Oddly enough, had Braun not successfully appealed a pending 50-game suspension for a positive drug test over the off-season, the series finale would have been his first game back.

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