28 April 2013

Bryant McKinnie re-signs with the Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens announced that they agreed to terms on a two-year contract with free agent offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.

McKinnie earned $2.7 million during the 2012 season.

The deal, which carries a maximum value of $7 million, also includes a signing bonus, incentive clauses and workout bonuses, according to the Baltimore Sun.

McKinnie, 33, spent the last two seasons with the Ravens after spending the first nine seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings. After starting 16 games in 2011, McKinnie was a reserve throughout the 2012 season, playing just 128 (11.73 percent) of the Ravens' 1,091 snaps.

The Ravens inserted McKinnie into the starting lineup at the start of the post-season and the unit would come together to run for 125 yards per game and allow just six sacks in four games as the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Despite McKinnie's success in the post-season, he remained a free agent throughout March and April, but interest in the 33-year-old picked up after the 2013 NFL draft. McKinnie dined with the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday night as part of a two-day visit and had drawn interest from the tackle-needy Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys.

By re-signing McKinnie, the Ravens have greatly improved their depth and created several options at the tackle position. Michael Oher will start at one of the two spots, while McKinnie, Jah Reid and 2013 fifth-round pick Ricky Wagner compete for the starting and "swing" tackle roles. In recent weeks, reports have 2012 second-round pick Kelechi Osomele, a 16-game starter at guard as a rookie, as a possibility at left tackle, as well.

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Bucs to retire Warren Sapp's No. 99

TAMPA, Fla. -- Warren Sapp is the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.

The team formally announced Thursday that the four-time All-Pro defensive tackle will be honored on Nov. 11 at Raymond James Stadium, a little more than three months after Sapp is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Sapp will join Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber in having his name displayed in the club's Ring of Honor, which was created in 2009. The club also said Sapp's No. 99 jersey will be retired during halftime of that night's nationally televised game against the Miami Dolphins.

"His days on the field were headlined by incredible passion, overwhelming talent and, of course, his larger-than-life personality," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said. "His accolades and accomplishments peak for themselves."

The 40-year-old played nine seasons of a 13-year career with Tampa Bay, redefining what's known as the under tackle position and helping transform the Bucs from a laughingstock of the NFL into a Super Bowl winner.

Sapp was the 12th overall pick of the 1995 draft, part of a class that also brought linebacker Derrick Brooks to a franchise once jokingly referred to as the "Yucs."

"It's unbelievable. I couldn't dream of anything like this," Sapp told a packed auditorium that included his mother, aunt, ex-teammates and former coach Tony Dungy, who arrived in 1996 -- Sapp's second as a pro -- and challenged him and Brooks to "chase Joe Greene and Jack Ham" and become the best players they could be.

Together with safety John Lynch, Sapp and Brooks formed the heart of a defense that not only reshaped the image of the Bucs but ranked among the best in the NFL for nearly a decade.

"I want to thank anybody that had anything to do with," Sapp said. "Anybody who put up with my wildness, that overlarge personality and this big ol' mouth of mine."

Tampa Bay ended a stretch of 12 consecutive seasons with double-digit losses by going 7-9 in Sapp's rookie year, made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years under Dungy in 1997, then reached the NFC championship game two years later, with Sapp posting 12 1-2 sacks and being selected the NFL defensive player of the year.

Sapp had a franchise-record 16 1-2 sacks the following season and helped Tampa Bay win it's only Super Bowl title during the 2002 season. The Bucs have not won a playoff game since.

He holds the franchise record for sacks with 77 in nine seasons with Tampa Bay from 1995 to 2003. He played four seasons with the Oakland Raiders before retiring with 96 1-2 career sacks.

A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Sapp was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and on Aug. 3 he will join Selmon as the only player who spent the majority of his career with the Buccaneers enshrined in Canton.

"They said Tampa was a place where careers came to die," Sapp said. "That's a lie. Tampa's a destination. Tampa's a place where champions live. And we all did it together. I wouldn't trade it for a day in any other uniform, any other place in the world."

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Reggie Wayne plans 1,000-yard season at age 35

Colts receiver Reggie Wayne will turn 35 this season, and he’s hoping to add his name to the short list of players who have had 1,000 receiving yards while old enough to be president.

Wayne told the Indianapolis Star that he has the list of all players who have managed that feat — 12 players have topped 1,000 yards at age 35 or older, a total of 16 times — and he plans to join that select group in 2013.

“I’m going to put that list in my locker,” he said. “I strive off that. That’s what fuels me, motivates me. Not everybody can do that.”

Last year Wayne had 1,355 receiving yards, which was the second-best total ever for a 34-year-old — second only to his old teammate Marvin Harrison, who had 1,366 receiving yards the year he was 34. If Wayne were to equal last year’s total this year, it would be the best season ever for a 35-year-old receiver, topping Irving Fryar’s total of 1,316 yards in 1997, when he was 35.

Wayne needs several good years to top Jerry Rice for the crown of the best receiver ever after the age of 35, but we already know Rice was a freak of nature: Rice tore his ACL in Week One of the season when he turned 35, and not only did he return the next year to go over 1,000 yards at age 36, but he also had 1,000-yard seasons in the years when he turned 39 and 40, and 800-yard seasons in the years when he was 37, 38 and 41.

We’ll probably never see another receiver do what Rice did and gain 6,480 yards after his 35th birthday. But Wayne doesn’t look like he’s slowing down as he closes in on 35.

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Brandon McGee to see time on special teams

Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, the University of Miami held a streak of 37 consecutive years of having a player selected.

The Hurricanes record of having players drafted and going on to find success in the NFL is as good or better than every college program in history. For most of that streak, Miami hasn’t had many close calls with players waiting little time to hear their names called in the first round and keeping the streak alive.

In 2009, there was a close call when only one Hurricane went in the draft (Spencer Adkins) and he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round.

This year, there wasn’t much doubt that the streak would continue but it would likely have to wait until day three for it to happen.

As it turned out, it was the Rams who ensured the streak would continue when, in the fifth round using the 149th overall pick, they selected Miami cornerback Brandon McGee.

In landing McGee, the Rams got a speedy, athletic corner with good size to eventually help out on defense and the versatility to contribute on special teams right away.

“He was a gunner and covered very well,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “(He’s got a) track background, but is a good football player, good size. He is 5’11, 192-93 pounds. He’s under 4.4 (40 time) and he’s got cover skills and understands the game.”

While McGee didn’t post any eye-popping statistics in his time at Miami, signs point to a size, athleticism, speed and skill package that is only now starting to be developed.

After losing fourth cornerback Bradley Fletcher to Philadelphia in free agency, the Rams entered the draft needing someone to help supplement the depth behind Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Considering the other, more pressing needs the Rams had entering the draft, they knew they’d likely have to find a corner later on in the draft and that’s exactly what they did with a little help from new defensive coordinator Tim Walton.

Walton spent four seasons at Miami where he coached the likes of future NFL defensive backs like Kelly Jennings and Kenny Phillips. While Walton never coached McGee or even had contact with him in the run up to the draft, there were a few connections Walton tapped into for more information on McGee.

Having worked out with Phillips in Coral Gables, McGee said he heard good things about his new defensive coordinator from Phillips.

“First of all, he’s a great coach,” McGee said. “He’s just a real players’ coach, smart guy as well, easy to talk to. Phillips told me he had a great relationship with Walton while he was there, so I’m looking forward to establishing the same.”

The connections to Miami didn’t end there as Fisher and general manager did their homework on McGee. Former Hurricanes linebacker Mike Barrow is a shared connection on the current Miami staff and offered congratulations on the pick soon after it was made, noting that McGee is a hard worker.

“We’re looking for him to having an opportunity to come in and fill in at the corner spot, the fourth corner spot,” Fisher said. “(He can) also pick up where ‘Fletch’ left off last year. He’s an outstanding special teams player.”

While McGee had a little bit of a wait to hear his name called, he did his best to remain calm as the rounds went by.

Remaining confident in his pre-draft showings, McGee had confidence that eventually he’d get an opportunity.

In January, McGee performed well at the East-West Shrine game in an all star game format that helped him get on the Rams’ radar a bit more. That came on the heels of a solid senior season in which McGee posted 54 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended.

When McGee went to the Scouting Combine in February, McGee had high hopes that his performance in the 40-yard dash would turn some heads. While he blazed through the 40-yard dash in a cornerback best 4.4 seconds, he was actually a bit disenchanted in his showing.

“It was, but I was actually kind of disappointed with the time,” McGee said. “I definitely wanted to run faster simply because I had been timed at 4.2’s all throughout college and all throughout training for the combine. I just didn’t have my best performance on that day. I’ll take a 4.3 but I was definitely shooting for a 4.2.”

In terms of intangibles, McGee brings his share to the table as well as he was also a team captain in 2012. That was an honor he took great pride in.

“It’s just a blessing to be in that position to be voted captain and to really be empowered by the coaching staff to lead the team in a sense,” McGee said. “I’m definitely looking to take the same leadership characteristics to St. Louis, go in and learn as much as I can, No. 1, and just compete.”

Now that he’s part of the Rams, McGee actually has other connections to the franchise that go beyond the coaching staff. He was high school rivals with fellow rookie class member Stedman Bailey when he played at Plantation (Fla.) High.

McGee also maintains a friendship with current Rams offensive lineman Brandon Washington. Coincidentally, it was Washington who first tipped off McGee to the fact that the Rams were looking to add him to this year’s draft haul.

“We spoke (last Friday night) through text message and the crazy thing he said was, ‘If we draft corner, we’re going to take you,’” McGee said. “I didn’t know how he knew that. I don’t know how he guessed that, but he guessed it right on the head.”

McGee will report to the Rams with the rest of his rookie brethren a week from Thursday and begin the process of getting acclimated to the Rams defense. That’s one area he has no worries about entering the NFL for he believes that is one of his greatest strengths.

“I think the football intelligence aspect of it, understanding the game, being able to learn the game, being able to draft a game plan, and also just being athletic,” McGee said. “Using my speed to my advantage, being able to adjust during the game, also being able to run with just about anybody, just about any receiver, being able to play inside in the slot position, I think those are really my biggest assets.”

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Reggie Wayne plans to finish out contract

Reggie Wayne fully expects to play through the duration of his contract, which expires after the 2014 season.

This season, Wayne is aiming to become the 13th receiver to ever record 1,000 yards or more at age 35-plus. It shouldn't be a problem. Although he hasn't topped 12.8 YPC in any of the last four campaigns, Wayne's precise route-running led to 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns last year. The apple of Andrew Luck's eye, he tied for second in the entire league with 194 targets. Wayne isn't a sexy pick, but he's on the WR2 radar.

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Kenard Lang On Ideal Post NFL Career Path

The Redskins’ first-round draft choices during the first three seasons of the salary cap era were disasters.

Quarterback Heath Shuler (third overall, 1994) was better at passing bills as a member of Congress than he was at passing footballs. Receiver Michael Westbrook (fourth overall, 1995) was most famous for beating up teammate Stephen Davis during a 1997 practice. And offensive tackle Andre Johnson (30th overall, 1996) was so bad that he never played a snap for Washington.

But with top defensive lineman Sean Gilbert threatening to hold out – which he would do all season — general manager Charley Casserly was smart with the 17th pick in the 1997 draft, choosing Miami defensive end Kenard Lang.

“A lean, mean sacking machine,” Lang said the other day with a chuckle from Orlando where he coaches the football team at Wekiva High.

While Lang was no Hall of Fame cinch like Casserly’s last first-rounder, cornerback Champ Bailey (seventh overall, 1999), he did record 50 sacks during his 10 NFL seasons, the first five of which were in Washington. The Redskins, who had been 31-49 during the five years before Lang’s arrival, were 40-39-1 during his tenure and 33-47 during the five years after his departure for Cleveland as a free agent following the 2001 season.

A reliable performer at tackle and end, upon signing with the Browns, Lang was described by ESPN.com’s Len Pasquarelli as “one of the most sought-after players” on the market. And although he played at “The U” which had some less than sterling characters, Lang was always a solid citizen, which foreshadowed his move from wearing cleats to leading young men.

“Coaching was in my blood because my dad [Calvin] coached [high school] basketball and football, but I didn’t really think about it until near the end of my career,” said Lang, whose brother, uncle and cousin have also coached in Florida high schools and colleges. “If we had a young guy come in, my [position] coaches Andre Patterson and Jacob Burney [now with Washington] would put him in my hands. For my coaches to trust me like that to do the right thing, that was the ultimate respect. And I always loved kids so I knew I could be a coach.”

Lang began his coaching career as an assistant at Edgewater High in his native Orlando in 2007, the same year that he finished his sociology degree. He became the head coach across town at Jones High the next year. The Tigers, who had been 1-9 in 2007, were 30-25 under Lang with four playoff appearances. And now he takes on another major challenge at Wekiva, which was 1-9 last season and is 18-43 during its six-year history.

“I like teaching kids the fundamentals of football, the joy of making your parents proud of you for doing the right thing and what life is really about,” said Lang, who has also worked in vocational education and as an adviser to troubled students.

Like tight end Jordan Reed, whom Washington selected in the third round last week, Lang didn’t expect to be selected by the Redskins 16 years ago, but he’s glad that he was. And he has some advice for cornerback David Amerson, Washington’s top choice.

“If I recall right, the teams that had talked to me the most were the Jets, the Giants, Cincinnati and Baltimore so when the Redskins picked me, I was kinda surprised, but I was happy,” Lang said. “I expected to go in the first round, but I didn’t worry about being a first-round pick. I could have been a free agent or a first-rounder, I still would’ve put the same amount of pressure on myself to do the right thing.”

The first major right thing that Lang did on the field for the Redskins was when he teamed with linebacker Marvcus Patton to force a fumble in overtime in the 1997 home opener.

“My favorite memory in Washington is when we won our first home game in the new stadium against Arizona,” said Lang, who keeps in touch with ex-teammates Shawn Barber, Marco Coleman and N.D. Kalu. “We went to overtime, they fumbled and Gus [Frerotte] threw a touchdown to Michael Westbrook. I liked playing in Washington. I just wish I could’ve finished my career there. I guess ownership didn’t want me. What they offered me [as a free agent] was nowhere close to what other teams offered me.”

But if Lang hadn’t gone to Cleveland, he wouldn’t have met his wife Meredith, a boot camp instructor, nor had their daughters Aubrey, 4, and Mia, 2.
And for all he has accomplished on the field including starting all 16 games during his final NFL season in Denver under current Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, Lang is more proud of having gone back to school to earn his degree 10 years after he left.

“It was kind of difficult getting back in the swing of things for the first month, but after that, it was like riding a bicycle,” said the 38-year-old Lang, who hasn’t worn a uniform in more than six years although he’s just four months older than current Redskins captain London Fletcher. “Physically, I can’t play football any more, but the degree I’ll have for life.”

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VIDEO: Reggie Wayne feels there is always room for improvement in his game

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Murielle Ahoure Looking Forward To Jamaican Energy

Murielle Ahoure has given Ivorians something else to care about besides football; her meteoric rise in the 100m and 200m and her national record breaking performances at the 2012 London Olympic Games, where she made both finals, catapulting her to national and international recognition.

"It's just mind-blowing, everyone has been telling me that they have never seen anything like this and for the first time ever, the world didn't revolve around football and it was all about track in my country. It was the first time that everyone stopped and watched track and field. It's unbelievable and (has) changed my life," Ahoure recounted.

Ahoure, who will line up beside local girl Veronica Campbell-Brown, American Allyson Felix and Trinidad and Tobago's Kelly-Ann Baptiste in the 100m at tomorrow's Jamaica International Invitational inside the National Stadium, seems intent on disrupting the female sprinting hierarchy - starting with her first outing on Jamaican soil.

"I am very excited and I am just thrilled to be here. I am training hard and I want to see what I have in store for the 100m this year, but I feel great and I am happy to be here," Ahoure told The Gleaner yesterday. "I can't wait to feel the energy inside the stadium. I have always heard the horns and screams when I watch the meet on YouTube and it's gonna be cool and I'm hoping to feel some of that energy."

She and her mother will both be looking forward to some of that energy as 'Mommy Murielle' Chantal Doue will also be in the stands cheering on her daughter - or will she?

"She is very supportive, but she normally covers her eyes when I race and pray a lot. That's how she experiences my races, but she will do all the screaming afterwards," Ahoure laughed.

The 25-year-old is certainly in bright spirits these days and why shouldn't she be, with her 6.99 seconds 60m clocking being the fastest time on the indoor circuit this year.

"I am really excited, everything is happening so fast," she beamed.

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Chargers, Bryant McKinnie in 'ongoing' contract talks

Bryant McKinnie had seemed to be enjoying this.

On Tuesday, he was all over Twitter, sending updates to 80,000-plus followers that he was flying out of Miami, that he was at his Dallas layover, that he landed in San Diego. There were posts about finished meetings with the Chargers, about going to dinner with them, about getting back from dinner.

On Wednesday, at 8:32 a.m., he snapped a photo of the entrance to Chargers Park. “In the building early,” he wrote.

Then, it turned silent from the left tackle. Totally silent.

The rest of McKinnie’s Wednesday was, however, busy, as he took a physical and weighed a contract offer from the Chargers, a source said about 3 p.m. The source described negotiations as “ongoing” and speculated McKinnie could be arriving at the airport at anytime, heading back home to Miami.

Whether or not negotiations progressed enough to diffuse those plans is unclear.

But the Dolphins and Ravens are among those also believed to have interest in McKinnie. Earlier this week, the 33-year-old visited and took a physical with Miami.

If he signs in San Diego, he’d figure to be a stop-gap starting left tackle — and an exception to a youth movement. McKinnie turns 34 in November. Tight end Antonio Gates and punter Mike Scifres are the oldest players on the roster at 32.

Last year, McKinnie started all four postseason games for the champion Ravens. The 6-foot-8. 354-pound lineman was a reserve in the regular season.

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Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Terrell Owens ... Reggie Wayne? Colts receiver looking to join select company at 35

Reggie Wayne relaxed in front of his locker room cubicle, occasionally dabbing at perspiration on his face from the Indianapolis Colts’ latest offseason work.
He held a couple of sheets of paper in his hand. His eyes scanned the list of names, and he pointed to this one (Jerry Rice), that one (Joey Galloway) and yet another (Jimmy Smith).

Motivation comes in different forms.

At least a portion of Wayne’s motivation heading into his 13th season is the exclusive list of NFL receivers who have compiled at least 1,000 yards at age 35. It will be within arm’s length the rest of the year.

“I’m going to put that list in my locker,” he said. “I strive off that.

“That’s what fuels me, motivates me. Not everybody can do that.”

The 1,000-yard mark has been breached only 16 times by 12 players 35 years or older. The trailblazing list includes Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (on three occasions), Cris Carter and James Lofton.

Wayne turns 35 in November. He’s on the downside of a career teeming with Pro Bowl selections (six), receptions (968), yards (13,063) and touchdowns (78).
But at a time when many begin showing signs of the aging process, Wayne refuses to yield. He fully intends to play at his established high level through the duration of his contract, which expires after the 2014 season.

Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been around Wayne for only a few days this offseason, but he has a firm understanding of Wayne’s pedigree.
“Around the league there is a real healthy respect for what he has done and the level he’s still at,” Hasselbeck said.

“It said a lot when he decided to come back.”

Wayne became a free agent after the Colts’ 2-14 season in 2011. After exploring his options and considering at least one offer that was more lucrative than what the Colts had on the table, Wayne accepted the Colts’ three-year, $17.5 million deal.

“It surprised everyone around the league,” Hasselbeck said. “He had a lot of pride in what he had already helped build here and he wanted to see that through even though it was a new regime.”

To do so, though, required Wayne to remain committed and motivated.

As it did when the Colts selected him with the 30th overall pick in the 2001 draft, the end result can be traced to how Wayne attacks the offseason.

“I still train the same way I did as a rookie,” he said.

It began in Miami in mid-March. Up at 6:30 in the morning, four days a week, for two hours of pushing his body.

Wayne is in town this week for the start of the team’s on-field work but plans to return to south Florida and follow his own agenda. At some point, quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver T.Y. Hilton and a few others are expected to join Wayne in Miami for a few days of concentrated passing drills.

Wayne has been one of the Colts’ most durable players. He has missed only three of a possible 192 regular-season games, all during his rookie season. He leads active receivers with 182 consecutive games played and consecutive 161 starts.

Preparation has been key. So have been lessons gleaned from watching former teammate Marvin Harrison.

“The name of this game is longevity,” Wayne said. “There were times I would see Marvin catch a pass and take a nose dive. I was like, ‘What are you doing? You’ve got 3 more yards (to get).’

“But if you sit back and think about it, that’s a lot less hits he’s taking. You’ve got to pick your battles.”

So, Wayne has. He’s aiming to join that short list of aging receivers who’ve defied Father Time and put up big numbers.

“There are some special guys on that list,” he said. “That’s why I want to keep that list in my locker.

“I want to compare myself to those guys.”

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Antrel Rolle on the Departure of Kenny Phillips: “It Hurts Me Everyday”

The New York Giants selected Kenny Phillips in the first-round of the 2008 NFL Draft after the departure of Gibril WIlson left the team with a void in the defensive backfield. It took Phillips over half of a season to emerge as a starter, but he eventually made the most of the Giants' investment in him, as his eight interceptions and 263 tackles over five seasons established him as one of the best over-the-top safeties in the NFL. In fact, it was Phillips who knocked down Tom Brady's final Hail Mary to the end zone in Super Bowl XLVII, sealing the Giants second Super Bowl victory in five seasons.

However, Phillips' time as a member of the Giants was marred by a series of serious knee injuries. In 2009, Phillips was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee, a condition the forced him to receive microfracture knee surgery and miss the final 14 games of the season. Last year, Phillips sprained his MCL against the Philadelphia Eagles and was never able to return to form. After rejecting an offer from the Giants as an unrestricted free-agent this offseason, Phillips signed with the Eagles.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle says that while he's disappointed to see Phillips in another uniform, he respects his former teammates decision to seek a fresh start in a new city.

"It hurts me everyday," Rolle said. "It's a business, and we all understand that it's a business. I just want Kenny to go out and make the best of the opportunity and get a huge pay day. That's all I've ever wanted for him. That's all I've wanted for any of my teammates."

The Giants did make Phillips a "modest" offer to return in 2013, but Phillips elected to sign a one-year, $2 million contract with the Eagles. It was a deal that raised suspicions regarding Phillips desire to return to the Giants, as it's unlikely the team was not offering a contract of a similar wage. Phillips had previously expressed his disdain with how the Giants medical staff handled his knee injury last season, which could have played a role in his decision to leave in the offseason.

With the emergence os Stevie Brown, Will Hill and the acquisition of Ryan Mundy, the Giants will be able to use multiple safety sets once again this season. Additionally, the team drafted Richmond safety Cooper Taylor in the fifth-round, whose combination of size and speed will allow the Giants to develop and slowly integrate him into the defense. Taylor's arrival may not have an impact on the defense in 2013, but given Rolle's $7 million salary cap hit next season, it's possible Rolle follows in the foot steps of Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley in being kicked to the curb in favor of cheaper talent.

"Whether or not I'm next [to get cut], that's not my call to make," Rolle said. "I'm here to wear a Giants uniform and whenever I put it on, I just try to give 120 percent when I'm on the field. I don't make the decisions."

Without Kenny Phillips on the roster, the Giants will look to Rolle to lead the group of young and inexperienced safeties and transform them into a strength of the defense. However, the better job Rolle does at helping the talent behind him on the depth chart improve, the greater his chances are of being asked to take a significant pay cut before next season, or possibly even released. As general manager Jerry Reese made abundantly clear with his moves this offseason, nearly every player on the roster is expandable, regardless of past contributions to the team.

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Reggie Wayne Says Locker Room Would Have No Problem With Gay Teammate

Regardless of how you may personally feel about homosexuality and homosexuals in general, the reality is we are living in very transformative times.
The right to be openly and proudly gay has always been inalienable. The greater U.S. population accepting that right is a different story. In recent years however, more and more people have grown to accept openly gay individuals as colleagues, friends, and family members.

With the historic news released on Monday that current NBA player Jason Collins is gay, having openly admitted his sexual orientation to Sports Illustrated, a firestorm of debate has erupted across all media. In general, most people working in media, or working as high-level executives in leagues like the NFL and the NHL, have come out in support of Collins. Several professional athletes have also expressed their support as well.

One of those pro athletes that's in Collins' corner: Colts veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne. When asked about Collins' decision to come out by an ESPN producer, Wayne responded (via Tom James' Twitter handle):

Wayne was asked about Jason Collins. Says that doesn't know him but supports his decision. Says it wouldnt be a problem in Colts locker room

On a personal note, it's outstanding to see a veteran NFL star like Wayne come out in support of Collin's decision. It's also great to hear him say that if one of his teammates were gay, the team would have no issue.

Leadership, folks.

Open-minded, all-inclusive leadership.

Also, it just makes good common sense.

I mean, forget how you feel personally for a moment: Do we fans honestly care if someone on the Colts roster is gay? As long as the guy can tackle, sack, punt, kick, catch, run, and/or throw, who cares who he likes to sleep with in his spare time?

None of my business. None of anyone's.

Also, if someone like Wayne is saying that a gay teammate wouldn't be a problem in the Colts locker room, that's a not-so-subtle message to anyone who would have a problem with it to basically STFU.

If you want me to explain why it's such a big deal for an active player like Collins to openly come out, I can only offer this: For years, I've watched close friends and family members privately express fear to me that if their loved ones or employers found out they were gay, they'd be retaliated against. For someone of my upbringing, I always found it disgusting that anyone would attack someone else simply for being gay, or black, or a woman, or a gay black woman.

With Collins admitting his sexual orientation, and with professional athletes like Wayne publicly supporting that decision, it makes it that much harder for bigots and homophobes to retaliate against people simply for being what they are.

In my mind, I call that progress.

Reggie Wayne was always high on my "Greatest Colts Of All Time" list. He just went up another notch.

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Aaron Hester, Devin's cousin, ready to make his own name in the NFL

Aaron Hester, a cornerback from UCLA, has never met his famous cousin, Bears kick returner Devin Hester. But he'd love to. And he'd also like to cover and tackle him.

"I can probably guard him," a laughing Aaron Hester told the Sun-Times. "Yeah, I can guard him."

Hester may get his chance soon enough. Hester, a 6-2, 198-pound corner, said teams are telling him he can go in "the middle rounds" in this year's draft. He's had a private workout with the Jacksonville Jaguars and has heard from the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans and others.

"There's a pretty good number of teams, but I'm just waiting until I hear my name called," said Hester, who participated in the NFL combine and had a solid pro day. "I'm just chilling and relaxing with family. I'm not throwing a big party or anything. I might have something after I get drafted. But right now, the plan is just to chill and hope for the best."

This is considered a very deep class for cornerbacks with Alabama's Dee Milliner and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes at the top of most rankings. Bears general manager Phil Emery has lauded this year's depth at corner more than once. The Bears could use a young corner behind Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, who are both in the final years of their contracts.

"I feel like I'm just as good as any corner in this draft class," Hester said. "People might be rated higher and stuff like that. But I feel like when I actually get to the NFL I can be in the upper echelon of corners in this class, even though I might not get drafted as high as some of the corners in this draft. But it's not about how high you get drafted. It's about what you do when you get there. People get drafted high and only get one contract in the league. That's not my plan. I want to have longevity. I think I have the size, the tools and everything to play a long time."

One advantage Hester has over other corners is that he's had the chance to work with two of best corners currently in the NFL -- Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis. Hester was a high school teammate of Sherman's in California.

"I feel like this year he was the best corner in football," Hester said. "[Sherman] had one of the best seasons I've ever seen from a corner. I look up to him. We text back and forth and talk on the phone and everything. We play the same exact press technique at the line of scrimmage. It's effective for him in the NFL, so I'm going to try to master that press technique.

"Press coverage is my forte, but I can play anything. It's just mastering my skills, and getting good at what I'm good at. People always say to work on your weakness, but [Sherman] told me, 'Why don't you just master your strengths?' That kind of stuck with me."

Hester had a chance to work with Revis in Arizona, while Revis was rehabilitating a torn ACL. He also had some different advice for Hester, telling him not too focus too much on "basic drills."

"[Revis] said think about how many times in the game that you are really doing something that standard," Hester said. "He told me to work on getting myself out of bad positions. So I'll back pedal, turn and reverse flip and then back pedal, turn and then inside flip. I'm just doing stuff to get my change of direction better and to get myself out of bad positions and allow myself to make plays on the ball in the NFL. Because these receivers are good, they can get you going one way, but it's about how you recover and the end result of the play."

Hester, a three-year starter at UCLA with five career interceptions, doesn't have any character concerns.

"I don't have any problems with authority or getting coached up or anything like that," he said. "I'm a good guy. I go hard. I go hard for my team. My motivation comes from within. I try to go hard every single day."

As for his more famous cousin, Hester has nothing but praise.

"It's pretty cool [to be Devin Hester's cousin]," Aaron Hester said. "I want to meet the guy real bad. I'm anxious to meet him, chop it up with him, see what he's like and everything like that.

"But he's an awesome player, one of the most dynamic players that we've ever seen in this football league. Definitely, he's the greatest returner and definitely in the top 5 of the most dynamic players ever."

Hester, though, wants to make his own name in the NFL.

"Hopefully, I'll be on the field playing with him," he said. "I feel like my best football is ahead of me."

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Bryant McKinnie meets, dines with Chargers

They wined him. They dined him.

All that's left now is to sign him.

The Chargers hosted veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie in what a source characterized as a “very good” Tuesday visit. The evening was capped off by a dinner, and as of about 7 p.m., the two sides had not yet discussed contract numbers, the source added.

If McKinnie wants to go to a city he feels wanted, he's still here.

San Diego could certainly use the 33-year-old, likely as its starting left tackle. He was a reserve last season before helping stabilize the Ravens' line during its Super Bowl run.

The 6-foot-8, 348-pounder allowed two sacks in four playoff games.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco is overseeing changes to an offensive line expected to carry a different starter at four different spots.

Center Nick Hardwick is the lone veteran returning to his original position.

Last month, left tackle Jared Gaither was released. and left guard Tyronne Green and right guard Louis Vasquez became unrestricted free agents. Right tackle Jeromey Clary is beginning a transition to guard after the Chargers selected right tackle D.J. Fluker in last week's first round.

“I'm excited about the opportunity to play a new position, and we'll go from there,” Clary said in a Tuesday statement.

As things stand, King Dunlap, a March free agency signing, tops the depth chart at left tackle. The 6-foot-9 veteran's versatility to play on either tackle side and also slide to guard makes him well suited for a reserve role.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012, second most in the NFL. The team also rushed for 3.6 yards per carry, tied for second lowest.

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Eric Winston scheduled to work out for Miami Dolphins Today

With a trade for Kansas City Chiefs franchise player Branden Albert on the backburner -- perhaps permanently -- the Miami Dolphins continue to explore their options at offensive tackle.

NFL.com's Albert Breer reported Tuesday that free-agent offensive tackle Eric Winston will work out for the Dolphins on Wednesday, according to a source.

Winston is just one of several possible options for the Dolphins, who have been searching for an offensive tackle since Jake Long signed with the St. Louis Rams in March.

Bryant McKinnie visited with Miami on Monday. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that former Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Tyson Clabo is scheduled to meet with the Dolphins Tuesday night. Winston Justice also is reportedly scheduled for a visit.

Given the options, Albert still is the most logical fit, especially if the Dolphins don't feel comfortable permanently moving second-year right tackle Jonathan Martin to Ryan Tannehill's blindside.

Are the Dolphins legitimately interested in outside options, or are they simply posturing in a continued dance with the Chiefs? We'll find out soon enough.

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Warren Sapp to be inducted into Bucs Ring of Honor

Raymond James Stadium is the house that Warren Sapp built. Now he will be a permanent fixture inside of it.

Sapp, 40, the Bucs Pro Bowl defensive tackle and only the second Tampa Bay player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, confirmed he will become the fifth inductee into the team's Ring of Honor in 2013.

"I used to go to other stadiums and I would always look to see who was up there,'' Sapp said Tuesday. "It's a great honor and I was almost speechless when the Glazers told me.

"Everyone always said it was the house that Sapp built. Whenever we played, there was always a sign that said this is Sapp's house.''

The official announcement will be made during a Thursday, 1:30 p.m. news conference at One Buc Place and Sapp is expected to attend. Sapp’s name and No. 99 will be unveiled during a Ring of Honor ceremony at halftime of an undisclosed regular-season game this year.

It will be the second induction ceremony of the year for Sapp. He is part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 that will be enshrined during a ceremony in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 3.

Sapp, along with players such as Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, helped transform a Buccaneers franchise from unlovable losers to Super Bowl XXXVII champions during the prime of his 13 NFL seasons that also included the final four years with the Oakland Raiders. He was a member of the league's All-Decade team for the 1990s and 2000s; defensive player of the year in '99; Super Bowl champion; seven-time Pro Bowl selection; and his 96 1/2 sacks are the second-highest career total for a defensive tackle.

On Tuesday, Sapp told the story of going up against seven-time Pro Bowl guard Chris Hinton when he played the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie. Randall McDaniel was the Vikings other guard, so Sapp thought he'd try his luck with Hinton. "(Hinton) grabbed me, head butted me and called me names,'' Sapp said. "I went back to Randall McDaniel because I felt I might get my (butt) kicked but at least I won't get chastised.

"Years later, I was in Indianapolis covering the combine and I looked up and saw Hinton's name up on the stadium. I told Mooch (Steve Mariucci) I didn't know he had played for the Colts. He said, "Yeah, they traded Elway for him.' That's what the Ring of Honor means to me. That's what it means when they put your name on the building and you know it will never come down.''

Sapp became only the second Bucs player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Feb., joining defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who was enshrined in 1995 after six years of eligibility. Selmon was the first member of the Bucs' Ring of Honor at RJS and has been joined by former head coach John McKay, tight end Jimmie Giles and left tackle Paul Gruber.

All those names are adorned to the east side of the stadium. Sapp said he would love for his to be the first name on the west side of RJS.

"You're going to get me to stir things up, but I'd love to be at the 50 yard and the first one the west side (of the stadium),'' Sapp said. "That's where my mom always sat. And the teams that come into play us will be staring right at it. They'll be looking dead at it and they'll know the Bucs are coming right at you.''

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Orlando Franklin expected to be ready for camp

Denver Broncos OT Orlando Franklin (toe) underwent toe injury this offseason but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. He is not expected to participate in offseason workouts.

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Jon Jay's extra work pays off

Since Mike Matheny gave Jon Jay two days off — three when you add in a scheduled off day — the Cardinals center fielder has broken out of the 0-for-21 slump he was in. He reached base safely in six games since then, with a .600 on-base percentage in those games, before going 0 for 3 Tuesday.

“It definitely helps when you can go in the cage and you know you’re not playing,” Jay said. “You always want to be able to work through it, but when you get a day off like that, you go in the cage and spend as much time as you can.

“I feel better at the plate and I’m remaining positive. I know I can bring a lot to the table. It’s just a matter of doing it.”

While Jay’s swing was the issue in his drought, he’s been getting on in ways that don’t even involve taking the bat off his shoulder. Jay walked three times in two games, matching his walk total for the first 21 games of the season, and was hit by pitch twice.

“I’m just trying to have good at-bats,” he said. “If I can go out there and have good at-bats, you never know what’s going to happen. Swing at strikes, take the balls and hopefully good things happen.”

“We gave him a little time,” Matheny said before Tuesday’s game, “and the last two games certainly he’s looked different. He’s going up there with confidence.”

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Ryan Braun supports NBA player Collins coming out

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers would welcome a gay player in the clubhouse, Ryan Braun said Monday on the day that NBA center Jason Collins became the first active professional athlete to come out.

"Absolutely, I would hope so," Braun said. "I know I would be. I think everybody else would be, as well."

Braun said it was great that Collins decided to be open about his sexual orientation.

"For all of us as athletes, we should all be tolerant," he said. "Not only tolerant but accepting. I think it's a great thing. I think everybody should be encouraged to be comfortable and confident in who they are, and I think hopefully it's the first step in the right direction for anybody that's going through some of the same things that he went through.

"It's definitely a step in a positive direction I think for all athletes and hopefully for society in general."

Braun said he was surprised it took until 2013 for an active player to announce he was gay.

"I understand the challenges associated with being the first person to come out who is actively playing," he said. "I'm sure the numbers would suggest there have been plenty of professional athletes who have been gay who hadn't come out.

"So I guess I'm a little surprised it's taken this long, but at the same time, it's obviously a complicated situation, a complicated issue," he said. "The timing needed to be right for somebody to be confident enough to come out and be the first one to make that statement."

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PHOTO: Bryant McKinnie Works Out For Dolphins


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Bucs GM Mark Dominik compares James to Earnest Graham

Bucs GM Mark Dominik is comparing sixth-round pick Mike James to former longtime Buccaneer FB/RB Earnest Graham.

James won't be a candidate for rookie-year carries behind Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, and Michael Smith. He's being viewed as a hybrid tailback/fullback with special teams value. "[It's] just who he is, a selfless player," said Dominik of James, describing him as a "four down" contributor. "The personality, the traits, the toughness, all of those things that Earnest [had]."

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Bryant McKinnie visits Dolphins, Chargers next; Ravens still option

Bryant McKinnie visited the Dolphins on Monday, remains in contact with the Ravens and has a visit with the Chargers scheduled, according to sources.

The veteran left tackle, who emerged from the doghouse to help lead Baltimore's charge to the playoffs and then a Super Bowl title, did not get much interest in the early stages of free agency. But with several teams now still in need of tackles with the draft completed, and few options available, McKinnie is getting interest.

His relationship with the Ravens' staff and brass has always been rocky. And despite weight and attitude concerns, he has been a vital pass protector for Joe Flacco at critical times. Baltimore has remained in contact with him and, at the right price, he could still be back there. The Miami native made the short trip to the Dolphins' facility on Monday and will visit the Chargers soon.

Miami is considering moving Jonathan Martin to left tackle and signing a right tackle like free-agent Eric Winston but are at least exploring McKinnie as well. And the Chargers signed tackle King Dunlap, who held up well with the Eagles last season under trying circumstances, but are also open to exploring options for depth at tackle.

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Dalton Botts to try out with Saints, Buccaneers

Dalton Botts didn't get drafted, but he's still getting his shot at signing with an NFL team.

After the annual draft wrapped up on Saturday, teams start looking for players they might sign as free agents.

Botts, a former Taft High quarterback who just completed his collegiate career at the University of Miami, has at least two teams interested in him – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints.

He'll be in Tampa Bay Thursday for what appears to be a four-day tryout camp, and the former Wildcat valley champion is scheduled to be at the Saints' training facility the following week.

"If Tampa Bay likes him and signs him then he probably won't go to New Orleans," his mother, Andrea, said Sunday evening.

Seven NFL teams had called Botts prior to the draft, asking him to stay by the phone during the two-day draft period.

He didn't get a call then, but the phone rang twice on Sunday.

His mom said he's thrilled to have an opportunity to achieve his dream.

Andrea Botts said she recently discovered an "I have a dream" paper Dalton wrote when he was in the third grade.

"It was around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday and his teacher assigned the class to write about their own dream," she said.

Dalton's dream that day in his third grade class was to play professional football.

It still is.

He's scheduled to receive his bachelor's degree in criminal justice on May 10, but if things work out the way he hopes a career in law enforcement might have to wait a while.

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Titans visit with Eric Winston

The Titans started the process of filling in some post-draft gaps by bringing in three veteran free agents.

In addition to visiting with former Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, former Bengals cornerback Jason Allen visited with the team Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Adam Schefter of ESPN followed shortly thereafter with word that former Chiefs an Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston was there also.

The Titans have moved aggressively all offseason, and adding Winston would be another big step toward fortifying their offensive line, after signing guard Andy Levitre and drafting Chance Warmack.

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Testaverde: Tebow has improved mechanics

Vinny Testaverde, a part-time quarterback instructor at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., held clandestine workouts earlier this month with another former Jets quarterback -- Tim Tebow.

The two former Heisman Trophy winners worked out for a week at a Tampa-area high school, where Testaverde focused on improving Tebow's footwork. He felt Tebow had made significant strides, so he was bummed Monday to learn the Jets had released the famous backup.

"I was kind of disappointed because I was hoping he'd get a chance to show the coaches what we worked on," Testaverde told ESPNNewYork.com. "I think they would've been impressed if they had compared this year to last year."

Testaverde and former NFL QB Chris Weinke, one of the top instructors at IMG, evaluated Tebow last month. Testaverde and Weinke "speak the same quarterback language," as Testaverde put it, because they both played under Dan Henning, a former Jets and Panthers coordinator.

"Chris and I looked at Tim careful and we were both amazed," Testaverde said. "Everybody has been focusing on his throwing motion, trying to fix that, but nobody had picked up his footwork. His footwork was all screwed up. Chris and I looked at each other after about four or five throws, and we saw the same thing. We got his footwork fixed. His throwing motion is now a non-issue.

"He throws with what we call 'effortless power.' He doesn't have that elongated motion anymore and his head isn't moving 2 1/2 feet when he throws it."

Asked to explain Tebow's footwork flaws in layman's terms, Testaverde said "he was stepping in the wrong direction when he was throwing the football."

Two weeks after the initial session at IMG, Testaverde and Tebow met every day for a week at Jesuit High School, where Testaverde is an assistant coach. They held the sessions during school hours to avoid a scene. They worked alone on the field, enjoying the privacy. One day, they were recognized by a student looking out a lunch-room window. The student tweeted it and it was picked up by a local sports network, creating headlines.

Testaverde said he enjoyed his time with Tebow. They actually worked together briefly a couple of years ago. This time, Tebow's brother, Robby, reached out to him, asking if he could tutor Tim again.

Even though everyone in the football world knew Tebow's days with the Jets were numbered, he was "excited" to report to the offseason program two weeks ago, according to Testaverde.

"He's a positive and confident individual, and he was feeling good about learning the new stuff," Testaverde said. "He was hoping for the opportunity to showcase his abilities. So was I. Hopefully, he gets that chance somewhere else."

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Chris Perez has X-rays

Cleveland Indians RP Chris Perez (thumb) said X-rays on his right thumb came back negative, and he'll be good to go Monday, April 29. Perez was hit by a comebacker Sunday, April 28.

Fantasy Tip: It probably wouldn't hurt to grab Vinnie Pestano, if you have the room, in case Perez suffers a setback or reinjures his thu

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Ryan Braun's claim that Anthony Bosch was only a consultant is backed up by the Miami clinic owner

Ryan Braun has another supporter in his quest to prove he did not buy performance-enhancing drugs from the scandal-ridden Biogenesis clinic —owner Anthony Bosch himself.

In his first public comments since reports surfaced in January that Major League Baseball was looking into whether Bosch had provided PEDs to players, including Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and other stars, Bosch backed up Braun’s claim that his name appeared on a Biogenesis ledger only because his lawyers used Bosch as an expert witness in Braun’s successful 2012 appeal of a 50-game drug suspension handed down by MLB in 2011.

“I just answered a few questions from his legal team, not from Braun or any other ballplayer,” Bosch said in an interview reported by ESPN Monday night.

Braun adamantly denied having gotten drugs from Bosch after Yahoo! Sports reported that Braun’s name had appeared on a Biogenesis document indicating that the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder owed $20,000-$30,000 to Bosch, saying that during the course of his appeal, his attorneys, who were previously familiar with Bosch, used him as a consultant.

“More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples,” Braun said. “There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch’s work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under ‘moneys owed’ and not on any other list. I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.”

ESPN also reported that Braun’s name had appeared on a list, but described it as a list of players who received PEDs from the clinic or Bosch, a report strongly refuted by Braun’s lawyers.

Bosch also told ESPN that he knows nothing about performance-enhancing drugs and disputed media accounts of his alleged dealings.

“I have been accused, tried and convicted in the media. And so I think have been falsely accused throughout the media,” Bosch said. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The Daily News first reported on Jan. 26 that MLB was investigating Bosch’s possible dealings with PEDS and his links to A-Rod. The Miami New Times and other media outlets then began reporting on documents that listed the names of players alongside drug notations and amounts owed.

Bosch is the subject of a lawsuit by MLB for tortious interference with its contracts with players, but said he had not been contacted by baseball officials, a claim MLB strongly disputes, saying it has repeatedly tried to contact Bosch to interview him and, most recently, to serve him with legal papers.

MLB has scheduled a deposition next month for a doctor whose name investigators believe Bosch may have forged on prescription forms.

Coral Gables anti-aging specialist Daniel Carpman told the Daily News last week that he is scheduled to be deposed on May 17 by MLB lawyers.

That deposition might be much more helpful to MLB’s investigators than Bosch himself appears to be.

“If you are going to ask me about baseball players,” he told ESPN, “I have no comment on any baseball players or anybody else associated with baseball players.”

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proCane 2013 NFL Draft Roundup

Brandon McGee (Senior) was the first proCane drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft going to the St. Louis Rams with the 149th pick of the Draft in the 5th Round.

Mike James (Senior) followed Brandon McGee by getting picked with in the 6th Round, 189th pick overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Below are the free agent signing which will be constantly updated:

Kendal Thompkins WR (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent - Will Attend Chiefs Camp May 10-12
Vaughn Telamaque S (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent -
Ray Ray Armstrong S (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent - St. Louis Rams
Ramon Buchanon LB
(Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent - Seattle Seahawks
Dalton Botts P (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent - Will Attend Buccaneers Camp May 2-5 and Saints Camp May 9-11
Jake Wieclaw K (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent -
Jeremy Lewis OL (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Darius Smith DL (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent -
Andrew Swasey DB (Senior) - Undrafted Free Agent -

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Sean Spence's Career In Doubt

Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler delivered some real bad news on Saturday about linebacker Sean Spence, the teams third round draft pick from last year, when asked if he would be back this year.

"I don’t think he is going to be. It will be miraculous if he does come back. It will be miraculous if he comes back next year. We are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. To me, he is worth every bit of that."

Butler was asked if it would be gravy if Spence every does return and his response was not surprising.

"I hope he’s gravy, said Butler. "I really do, because this kid is a great kid. He’s not only a very intelligent football player but he is going to provide some intangibles in our locker room that we desperately need, I think. We’re going to ride with him for another year I think. Hopefully his knee will respond and he can play again."

Spence shredded his left knee last preseason against the Carolina Panthers and it is believed that he did damage to the peroneal nerve, which could cause a condition known as drop foot.

Butler really sounded down about Spence, who he believes is a very solid kid and a good football player.

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Bucs trade up in sixth round to pick Miami RB Mike James

The Bucs, having just traded running back LeGarrette Blount, added some depth in their backfield by trading up in the sixth round to pick Miami running back Mike James.

Tampa Bay shipped their 196th overall pick in the sixth round -- plus the seventh-rounder they netted in the Blount deal with New England - to get James.

James, a 5-foot-11, 222-pound senior, is a versatile back, rushing for 1,340 career yards while also racking up 585 yards receiving. 

A Haines City, native, James also won the 2012 Community Service Man of the Year Award and Captain's Award at the team's end-of-the-season banquet.

“I like Mike James,’’ ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper told the Miami Herald. “He was one of the guys you can get probably a little later in the draft. It’s a kid over 220 pounds [who] has better quickness than he does 40 time. He runs inside very effectively” but “can bounce it to the perimeter. He’s got some skills.

“You saw what Alfred Morris [of FAU] did last year as a sixth-round pick.”

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Rams select proCane CB McGee in 5th round of NFL draft

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams addressed an area of need in the fifth round of the NFL draft, taking Miami cornerback Brandon McGee.

McGee was timed in 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He was a captain his senior season and started his last two years with the Hurricanes, totaling three interceptions, 11 pass deflections and 109 tackles in 44 games.

McGee tied for sixth on the team in tackles his senior season and figures to provide depth for a team that entered Saturday with just four cornerbacks on the roster. He was the 149th overall selection.

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Eric Winston reportedly in talks with Miami Dolphins

A Miami Dolphins trade for Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert never materialized, so the organization might have moved on to another tackle listed on the 2012 Chiefs roster. A source told the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley that the Dolphins have had consistent conversations with Eric Winston, and action might be taken soon.

The Dolphins still are in the market for a tackle after 2008 No. 1 overall pick Jake Long signed with the St. Louis Rams. They're happy with 2012 second-rounder Jonathan Martin, but they still need another starter. The Dolphins drafted Tennessee offensive tackle Dallas Thomas in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock called him a better prospect at guard, where he played in 2012. Thomas was the lone lineman the Dolphins picked in the draft.

The Chiefs released Winston in March and saved $3.5 million in salary cap space. The Chiefs drafted Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick this year, and they plan to plug him in at left tackle. Winston signed a four-year, $22 million free-agent contract with the Chiefs before the 2012 season.

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Marcus Lattimore received inspiration from Frank Gore

The 49ers nabbed South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore with their second pick of the fourth round. The beastly running back sustained a horrific torn ACL, LCL and the PCL while blocking downfield against Tennessee and missed the rest of the season. The injury resulted in a knee dislocation. He also tore an ACL a year earlier against Mississippi State.
He shares similarities with Frank Gore, who also dropped in the draft because of repeated knee-ligament tears. Lattitmore also has the same determination, both in his running style and attitude for the game. He even wears Gore’s number (21) and as you will see in the clip has the same jump cut ability. He could be the heir apparent.

Lattimore is likely to open the season on the non-football injury list and may need a year to completely rehabilitate the injury. The non-football list is for players coming to teams with preexisting injuries. He said he is already sprinting and jumping on boxes. Part of his inspiration for his extensive rehabilitation came from Gore, who called him a few days after the injury.

“He told me to keep my positive attitude,” Lattimore said. “I doubted myself, I did do that and I lost hope. But now it’s just a great, great situation to be in.”

At 5-11, 221 pounds, Lattimore was highly productive in college, scoring 41 touchdowns in 29 games. Like Gore, he’s considered a complete back with receiving (74 catches at South Carolina) and pass protections abilities. Considered quick, but not fast, the issue will be overcoming his significant injury history.

Lattimore’s injury was seen often on television and around the internet. We have a clip of it here, not to be sensational but to show what Lattimore is now up against in his rehabilitation. Lattimore spent some time Pensacola, Florida rehabbing the injury at a clinic and is now back in Columbia, South Carolina to continue that work.

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Shane Larkin To Become the Next NBA proCane

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Shane Larkin was told he was too short to be an elite college guard, a theory he debunked with ease.

So now he's taking on a new challenge.

After leading Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament championships this past season, Larkin announced Sunday that he's forgoing his final two years of eligibility with the Hurricanes and entering the NBA draft, where he's projected to be chosen possibly as high as a mid-to-late first-rounder.

"I can honestly sit here and say this is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make in my life," Larkin said. "I've probably gone back and forth on this 100 times, just because I love the university so much."

After all that, he's going forth, as are so many others who played big roles for the Hurricanes in their 29-win season that saw them climb as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. Despite rarely looking for his own shot, Larkin led the Hurricanes in scoring at 14.5 points per game -- and the next five names on that list are all departing seniors.

Still, Miami coach Jim Larranaga was beaming after Larkin broke the news that had been expected for some time.

"This is another first for us," Larranaga said. "We've had a lot of firsts this year. You know, a lot of things went really, really well. And this is another milestone. If someone we're recruiting in the future says 'Hey, have you ever had somebody go one-and-done or two-and-done?' we can now say, 'Yes, Shane Larkin did.' Before that, we couldn't. Shane's going to be the first."

Larkin, who lists his height at 5-foot-11, is the son of Baseball Hall of Fame player Barry Larkin, who said Friday that his son was turning pro unless there was some sort of epiphany over the weekend.

That didn't happen. Larkin said he finished his decision-making process on Saturday, then texted Miami teammates around 2 p.m. Sunday so they could hear the word from him.

"It really just came down to what was in my heart and what was in my gut," Larkin said.

It also came down to what he saw.

When Miami lost to Marquette in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament, Larkin -- who spent the day before that game fighting through an illness -- thought he would absolutely return to school because he didn't want his college career to end on such a bad note.

He then saw the devastating leg injury that ended the season for Louisville guard Kevin Ware, and Larkin's mind began to waver.

"I just thought to myself, if I did come back to school and something horrific happened -- even though it's a one-in-a-million chance -- if something horrific happened to me like that, would I be able to live with myself, seeing that my dream was right here for me to take," Larkin said. "That was just one of the main things I was thinking about."

"All of the information he has received is that this is the time for him to come out," Barry Larkin told The Associated Press on Friday.

NBA advisers have told the 5-foot-10½ Larkin they project him to be drafted somewhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second, Barry Larkin said.

"It's a business decision at this point," the elder Larkin said.

The Hurricanes were 48-20 with Larkin in their lineup.

Larkin was selected as the ACC's player of the year in balloting by the league's coaches, and picked up no fewer than 24 individual awards during the season and postseason. He's now going to have a hectic few days while interviewing agents -- the first step in figuring out pre-draft-workout plans -- and trying to finish his academic requirements to close the semester at Miami.

Larkin said he will get his degree, which would fulfill a promise he made to his mother, and even after making the announcement on Sunday he was huddled with Larranaga to discuss his future academic options.

"I'm missing him already," Larranaga said. "I told him, I just want him to be happy and I want him to come back here a lot."

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Gaby Sanchez continues mashing lefties

Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez continues to thrive as the right-handed half of the club's first base platoon. He went 2 for 3 with his second home run Tuesday against left-hander Cole Hamels and Philadelphia.

Sanchez is hitting a robust 6 for 17 with two doubles and two home runs (1.274 OPS) against lefties, but righties have held him to just 2 for 14 without an extra-base hit (.421 OPS). As such, expect him to continue splitting time with Garrett Jones in a platoon at first base even if Sanchez's overall .885 seems to demand more at-bats.

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Danny Valencia's 3-run blast propels Tides to victory

Danny Valencia belted a three-run shot in the seventh inning and the Norfolk Tides rolled to an 11-4 win on Friday, completing a four-game series with host Charlotte on the last leg of an 11-game road trip.

Valencia's homer put the Tides (13-9) up 9-0 in the top of the seventh before Charlotte (7-16) got two runs on a Jim Gallagher single in the bottom half.

Valencia also hit an RBI single in the eighth and finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs.

The Knights' Steve Tolleson, a former Tide, added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Jake Arrieta (1-0) got the win, striking out eight while giving up no runs on three hits in six innings.

The Tides will open an eight-game homestand at 7:05 tonight against Toledo.

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White Sox option Blake Tekotte to Class AAA Charlotte

Following today's game vs. Tampa Bay, the Chicago White Sox optioned outfielder Blake Tekotte to Class AAA Charlotte.

Tekotte, 25, appeared in three games (one start) with the White Sox this season after being recalled from Charlotte on April 20, going 0-2 with a walk.

The White Sox will make a corresponding roster move prior to Tuesday night's game at Texas.

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Chris Perez is on short list of trade candidates

In his latest blog post, ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates as to a number of young players that could become part of the trade market. Among the names on the list are Philadelphia’s Chase Utley, New York’s John Buck, Chicago’s Matt Garza and Cleveland’s Chris Perez-

“Chris Perez | RHP, Cleveland Indians. He’s making $7.3 million this season, and the Indians were open to trading him during the winter but got little traction. The 27-year-old Perez is off to a good start, and it’s worth remembering that the trade market for relievers appears as if it’s going to be absolutely terrible — an extremely thin group.

Perez does have a lot of experience as a closer for a team looking to fill that spot (St. Louis, for example, knows Perez well, having drafted and developed him). Even if the Indians stay in the AL Central race, they might be open to moving Perez because they have Vinnie Pestano and because Cleveland would seem to be very unlikely to pay Perez the $10 million or so he could get next winter as an arbitration-eligible player.”

This is certainly not the first time we’ve heard rumors about Perez being available for trade. Our own Jon Steiner has advocated a Perez trade for some time, most recently here.

Generally speaking, it is way too early to know which teams will be sellers and which will be buyers at the deadline. If the Indians become buyers, perhaps Garza could be a target for the Indians to consider.

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Yonder Alonso scores game-winner for Padres

Yonder Alonso scored the winning run on a Marco Scutaro error as the Padres beat the Giants 8-7 in 12 innings Saturday.

Alonso doubled for the third time to reach base in the 12th. He came around to score when Scutaro failed to handle Nick Hundley's grounder. The three doubles matches Alonso's season total for his previous 79 at-bats. He went eight straight games without collecting an extra-base hit or scoring a run before coming through tonight.

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