PHOTO: proCane Olympian Zach Railey Competes at the London 2012 Olympics


proCane Zach Railey of the United States on the downwind leg in the Finn Class race at Weymouth & Portland. Notice Zach is wearing his Miami Hurricanes cap as always.

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PHOTO: Roscoe Parrish Snags a Pass At Chargers Training Camp


San Diego Chargers wide receiver Roscoe Parrish gets finger tip control while catching a pass during practice at the Chargers' training camp Tuesday, July 31, 2012 in San Diego.

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Travis Benjamin Thinks He Can Handle Physical Play

Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin is proving in training camp that, just because he is undersized, he isn't afraid of contact.

The 5-10 Miami (Fla.) product has been answering questions about his height and skinny frame his whole life, via Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer:

"Even though I might be small in size, I've been playing football ever since I've been young and mostly all of the guys are bigger than me," Benjamin said. "I've got to keep that mindset that I've got to play big."

"That's all a part of football -- being physical," he said. "There's not one player on the field that's not physical. Every time, every play has contact. I'm used to it."

Head coach Pat Shurmur said that Benjamin and Josh Gordon both are on pace to become "major contributors" with the way they have performed in camp thus far.

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Willis McGahee still going strong after 1,000-yard season in '11

There's conventional wisdom. And then there's Willis McGahee.

Take a poll of personnel people around the NFL about players who may have aged somewhat gracefully in a league that usually punishes its 30-something crowd with the threat of unemployment, and McGahee's name will inevitably come up.

After all, he led the league's No. 1 rushing team in rushing in 2011 at age 30. He also went to the Pro Bowl — as an injury replacement — to close out his ninth year in the league. And he has done all this having started his career as a Buffalo Bills rookie in 2003, one who had torn three ligaments in his left knee in his final college game.

Some in the league wondered at that point if McGahee would simply rebound enough to play, let alone play into the next decade.

And while much of the skepticism around the Broncos offensive fortunes have usually centered around the age (36) and the relative condition of the neck/arm of quarterback Peyton Manning, an offense with a primary runner who will also check in at 31 in mid-October will give the Broncos what may be the most senior quarterback-running back tandem in the league.

"I don't worry about all that," McGahee said. "I mean last year some people said I was slow. I've been saying I don't think I'm slow. I think I can beat half the guys on this team.

"Maybe this year people think I'm (too old). I always say you have to keep your calm. Don't worry about what people think. That's always my fuel. I use what people say against them. You tell me I can't do it; I will show you I can."

One of the larger questions in this training camp for the Broncos — they get back on the practice field at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday — is how an offense with a player like Manning throwing the ball will divvy up its rushing attempts with McGahee as the team's No. 1 option.

The depth chart still remains murky behind McGahee too, with Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and rookie Ronnie Hillman among others looking to carve out their spots. Hillman's draft status — a fourth-round pick by the Broncos last April — his explosiveness and his ability to catch the ball will likely make Hillman far more than a bit player when the games count.

But the Broncos have placed a significant bet on McGahee at an age when many running backs in the league's history have seen their performance take a steep dip. Broncos coach John Fox said throughout the offseason he hoped McGahee would have some help in the backfield.

There is some feeling in the Broncos' Dove Valley complex, as well as with some other personnel executives around the league, that the veteran's effectiveness may only increase if the Broncos can dial back his workload to somewhere in the 15-20, carries-per-game range rather than 25 or more.

"I think you want as many good (backs) as you can have," Fox said. "Willis has shown what kind of back he is; we love what Willis brings to our offense. In the end we want to be able to a lot of things that make it hard on a defense."

The Broncos will show their hand at least some in the backfield over the next two weeks. They will have a scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High that will offer some full-contact work up and down the depth chart. And in the team's preseason opener Aug. 9 in Chicago, the starters, like McGahee, are expected to get only limited work in the opening quarter.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke taking more physical approach

Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer lofted a tight spiral deep down the right sideline and appeared to have an easy completion to Darrius Heyward-Bey before cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke came in to break up the pass and knock the receiver to the ground.

A day earlier, Van Dyke spent much of the morning jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.

It's all part of Van Dyke's plan to become a more physical defender with the Raiders after he struggled at times as a part-time starter during his rookie season.
"He still makes some young player mistakes that we've got to get coached out of him, but he continues to make a little bit of progress every day," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday. "He's not where he needs to be yet, but he's got to continue to work, continue to keep getting better and learn the little nuances of the game."

One of two third-round draft picks a year ago, Van Dyke has been getting plenty of work with Oakland's first-team defense while projected starter Ron Bartell rests his sore hamstring.

Bartell and veteran Shawntae Spencer were signed in the offseason to replace released starting corners Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson after Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie targeted the secondary for a makeover.

Both are expected to start when the Raiders open the season at home Sept. 10 against San Diego, but Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver are keeping their options open.

That includes Van Dyke, a 6-foot-1, 183-pound cornerback who played in 14 games with four starts as a rookie. He didn't put up big numbers (13 tackles, one interception) and often allowed himself to get pushed out of plays by bigger receivers.

But Oakland's entire pass defense took a beating in 2011. The Raiders were 29th in total defense a year ago, and 27th against the pass.

This year Van Dyke worked out with receivers such as Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh, Chad Johnson from Miami and Cleveland's Greg Little in an attempt to refine his techniques.

He also got a little scolding from his mother when he went home in the offseason.

"I went home and my momma told me, `DeMarcus, I'm your No. 1 fan, but you dropped too many interceptions last year,'" Van Dyke said. "I'm trying to work on catching the ball and turning my head when the ball is in the air. I did one-on-one workouts with guys. I tried to go up against big receivers, small receivers and the shifty ones."

Though the Raiders have been in training camp less than a week, Van Dyke has managed to stand out.

In addition to the play he made on Heyward-Bey during Oakland's first practice in full pads, Van Dyke broke up a pair of passes during a team scrimmage drill on Monday and followed it up with another solid workout on Tuesday.

"I'm taking everything (the coaches) tell me and putting it on the field," Van Dyke said. "I'm just going out there and trying to get better at my craft and trying to make plays."

About the only goal Van Dyke failed to reach this offseason was gaining more weight.

"I tried to aim for 190 (pounds) but I came in at 185," he said. "So I’m pretty cool with that."

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Big Plans for Former Cane Sean Spence in Pittsburgh?

As an NFL prospect, scouts were in love with Sean Spence’s instincts, football IQ, and aggressiveness. He put these invaluable traits on display during a successful career at The U, but Spence’s size, or lack thereof, was difficult to ignore as a prospect. At 5’11″ 231 lbs, he was sure to be among the smallest at his position in a league populated by behemoths. Interestingly enough, Spence was drafted early by a team that’s been home to large, physical linebacking corps for decades. This makes Spence, and his mysterious role in the “Steel Curtain,” a very interesting scenario.

Immediately after selecting the former Hurricane, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler stated that Spence would begin his career at “Mack” ILB behind current starter Lawrence Timmons. At “Mack”, he would predominately be responsible for the outside edge and take wider angles in pursuit, acting more like a 4-3 WILL than a MIKE “downhill thumper.” However, the Steelers fan base is no longer buying into Butler’s “simple plan.” The coaching staff’s continuous high praise of the rookie and suspiciously noncommittal answers about his true position aren’t adding up, and it’s becoming hard to believe that Spence’s future simply consists of waiting in Timmons’ shadow.

Reports out of Pittsburgh lauding Spence as a “true student of the game” and “extremely fast and versatile player” are being interpreted as evidence that Spence may be poised for a specialty role. A hybrid linebacker that is spry enough to cover the NFL’s new breed of tight end, yet aggressive and instinctive enough to overcome his limited size in run support. This player must also posses the intelligence required to line up anywhere on the field and refer to his mental play book accordingly. For an example of such a player, look no further than Troy Polamalu. In fact, a theory exists that Spence is only Timmons’ back-up on paper. These “conspiracy theorists” believe that Spence is actually being groomed to replace Mr. Polamalu himself. I do not personally subscribe to this school of thought, but I won’t dismiss it entirely either.

Troy Polamalu has been an integral piece of the Steelers’ defense for a decade. Over the years, Dick Lebeau has expanded Polamalu’s job description tremendously (I’ve even spotted him lining up at DE) and I assume the Steelers will need to, at the very minimum, delegate his responsibilities once he is gone. At this point, it is unreasonable to suggest Spence will replace the future Hall of Famer, but with Polamalu’s impending retirement on the horizon, you cannot deny that the similarities in their skill sets are thought provoking. As Polamalu ages, I envision Spence gradually inheriting aspects of his role or, as unlikely as it may seem now, fully assuming Polamalu’s hybrid position. Simply stated, Sean Spence isn’t a traditional NFL linebacker, and I’m confident defensive mastermind Dick LeBeau did not draft him with the intention of utilizing him like one.

Regardless of the Steelers’ plans for Spence, it will certainly yield historical results should he succeed. Whether it be as a feisty, undersized ILB, the pioneer of an innovative LB position, or the heir to Polamalu’s throne, any three of those destinies will provide Spence with a unique opportunity to carry the University of Miami deeper into NFL lore. I am glad it’s Spence that has been given this chance. He is one of the few Canes that hasn’t let us down lately.

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Travis Benjamin certain he'll come up big at wide receiver

BEREA, Ohio -- Let it be known here and now that Travis Benjamin is more than just a speedy athlete.

The pint-sized, slight-framed, 5-10 Benjamin isn't exactly out to prove that he's more than a slippery rookie receiver for the Browns. Still, when called to play in a physical manner, Benjamin hasn't yet backed down from anyone in training camp.

He showed some grit again Wednesday as he battled cornerbacks and safeties to come up with any pass thrown his way -- including an end zone bullet from Colt McCoy that required him to fight rookie defensive back Emanuel Davis to catch the ball.

"Even though I might be small in size, I've been playing football ever since I've been young and mostly all of the guys are bigger than me," Benjamin said. "I've got to keep that mindset that I've got to play big."

So far, it's working. Benjamin has been playing well enough that coach Pat Shurmur has noticed him, saying the first-year player is earning field time by his performance.

"We knew he had the skill to be able to play in this league," Shurmur said. "I think if both [Benjamin and rookie receiver Josh Gordon] progress like they're doing, at the pace they're going now, they'll be major contributors."

Benjamin was the only receiver drafted by the team in April, before it picked up Gordon in the supplemental draft, and there were questions about whether he could compete at the NFL level. But the Miami product has been holding his own in training camp.

Part of that comes from off-season practice he had in Miami with fellow Hurricane products Andre Johnson and Santana Moss. Benjamin worked on sharpening his route running and preparing to catch the ball before he's even turned to face it.

But the physical part of the game, the part everyone worries about when glancing at Benjamin's skinny frame, is the part that has come naturally.

"That's all a part of football -- being physical," he said. "There's not one player on the field that's not physical. Every time, every play has contact. I'm used to it."
So don't worry about Benjamin. He's fine with the physical part of the game, and feels as if he and Gordon are ready contribute to a receiving corps searching for sure hands.

"It's very exciting knowing we can help Josh [Cribbs], knowing we can help Mohamed [Massaquoi], knowing we can help Greg Little," Benjamin said. "And with Trent [Richardson] back there running the ball, it's going to be a blast for us on offense this year."

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James Bryant: "I'd run into a truck."

Lions rookie fullback James Bryant was sitting in front of his locker, peeling off his socks when he looked me in the eye and said, “I’d run into a truck. You know me.”

In fact, I do know Bryant.  I first met James when he was a 14 year-old freshman at Reading High School in Pennsylvania.  Over the course of the next four years, I watched him mature into an affable and intelligent young man off the football field and an absolute beast between the stripes.  

Bryant was to Reading as Ray Lewis is to Baltimore – not only the soul of the team but in many ways the soul of the city. He would deliver classic quotes in the days leading up to a game and back up his boisterous rhetoric by laying down the hammer with hits that echoed in the bleachers on game night.   

He left Reading a USA Today All-American linebacker, vowing to make it big.

Eight years later, much has changed, including a position switch to fullback, but the fire that defines him hasn’t.  That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Bryant, signed by the Lions this March, left such a lasting impression on those watching Tuesday’s practice in Allen Park.  

As the team worked out in full pads for the first time this season, Bryant was powerful, he was loud and he let it all hang out, delivering some of the most vicious shots of the morning while pounding his chest, hooting and hollering.

“It’s what I’ve been missing most,” said Bryant when talking about wearing his emotion on his sleeve.  “Coaches have been trying to control my rage and my chaos, keep it to a minimum.  But here, (running backs coach) Sam Gash and Jim Schwartz have allowed me to be me. It’s crazy for me to sit there and not be me.  It has to be at a professional level, but I have to play with the energy, emotion and passion I’ve always played with.”

In high school, Bryant played four grudge matches against Reading’s archrival, Wilson High School.  Wilson's quarterback, Chad Henne, would later star at the University of Michigan and currently plays with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Over four years, with Bryant and Henne playing in each of the rivalry matchups, Reading won twice and Wilson won twice. The games were fierce battles staged in front of more than 10,000 fans.

When Bryant arrived in Detroit, I dug up some old video of a hit he delivered against Henne during one of those games.  Shivers go up your spine when you watch it.  I forwarded the video to Bryant via twitter.

“I watched that video and said, ‘I need to get back to that,’” said Bryant.  “I need a little of that again.”

If it weren’t for a twist of fate, Bryant may not be in Detroit with the opportunity to recapture that rage.

He most recently played in the Canadian Football League for the British Columbia Lions, as a defensive tackle.  He weighed 275 pounds and on a play-to-play basis, the contact was different.

“You’re only a yard away from the guy you’re hitting,” said Bryant.  “When you play fullback or linebacker, you’re working up a head of steam before you slam into somebody.”

So Bryant, eager to finally catch on with an NFL team, slimmed down to 252 pounds and approached the University of Miami coaching staff about working out for pro scouts and coaches during Miami’s pro day in March. 

Bryant began his college career at Miami in 2004, but ultimately transferred to Louisville, where he played through the 2008 season.

The Miami coaching staff allowed Bryant to be a part of the pro day, and Sam Gash attended the workout. 

Presumably, Gash was on hand to scout Lamar Miller, Miami’s running back who was ultimately drafted in the fourth round by the Dolphins this April.

“He found me,” said Bryant.  “If I hadn’t hooked up with the new coaching staff at Miami and Coach Gash hadn’t been at that workout, I’d still be in Miami trying to figure it out. Nobody else called.”

The Lions offered Bryant a deal and he signed with Detroit on March 16.  The man who had played with the Reading Express in the Indoor Football League, the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League finally was given a chance to prove himself in the NFL at a position where he can do what he does best – hit people.

“It made me a believer,” said Bryant.  “I believe in myself. I believe in my faith. I believe in the football gods, because this is a crazy opportunity. Four leagues in three years.”

The boisterous sparkplug who was once the soul of Reading still understands how important his journey is to those in his hometown.

“There are young men who have watched me grow up from that fall in 2000,” said Bryant.  “They’ve read the things I’ve said, watched my ups and downs.  I’d be a hypocrite to throw this opportunity away.  I’m a visual ambassador of Reading.  We’re just on the surface.  That dream is getting closer as the days and weeks go on.”

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Anthony Reddick Fined By CFL

TORONTO -- The Canadian Football League says it has assessed fines against two players for incidents during for Week 5 of the 2012 regular season.

Montreal Alouettes linebacker Shea Emry was fined for an illegal block below the waist on a special-teams play during last Friday's game against the Toronto Argonauts.

And BC Lions linebacker Anthony Reddick was penalized for a late hit on Calgary Stampeders quarterback Kevin Glenn during last Saturday's game.

The league does not disclose player fine amounts.

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Jimmy Graham still improving his connection with Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was asked a simple, straightforward question: What defensive back on the team gives him the most trouble when Drew Brees arches a fade route pass to the 6-foot-7 Graham in the back of the end zone?

Graham gave a quiet smile as the wheels turned in his head. He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn't quite know how to put it. As safety Malcolm Jenkins said, Graham is trying to be a little more reserved this season.

"You know what, he's a little more humble this year, I think," Jenkins said. "He exploded on the scene last year and did a lot of good things. He knows what he's capable of, and he's hungry to continue to get better. You're still going to see Jimmy get fired up. That's not going to change. That's just who he is, and we love it."

Finally, Graham answered the question, unable to hold back any longer.

"I don't know," he said. "For the most part, I'm about a foot taller than most of those guys, so there aren't a lot of defensive backs that give me a lot of trouble. It's a route that I'm very good at. Drew has very good touch, so it's very hard to defend ... and I don't know how Malcolm Jenkins is going to cover it."

Graham, however, said there are several facets of his game that he hopes to improve, including run and pass blocking and gaining more yards after the catch.
"I know I have to block better," Graham said. "I think that's going to help me with my routes, and I think that's going to help guys when I stay in and double team, when I'm showing I can push guys off the ball and be an every down tight end and play 65 snaps a game."

Graham said that Brees also pushes him to get better, on and off the field.

"This offseason, he called me a few times to see if I was working," Graham said. "He definitely is always challenging me at every moment. Sometimes, I'll be sitting in the film room with the tight ends and Drew will send another quarterback to peek his head in and tell me what I should have done on this route."
Brees said he thinks the two can improve their connection and better the 99-reception season Graham enjoyed in 2011.

"It's funny because when we're watching film, there are times when we're watching film all together, and there's times when we're separate with our coaches," Brees said. "I'll see something and it's one of those coaching points when I immediately want to run down to the tight end room and be like, 'Hey Jimmy, on this play, I'm looking for this or that.' It's progress. We're trying to take this thing to the next level."

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Rashad Butler Moves To LT

Texans left tackle Duane Brown left practice Wednesday with a lower leg injury.

"He got rolled up, kind of got hit on the outside of his leg," said coach Gary Kubiak. "It's part of football, unfortunately. We'll hold our breath. Hopefully, he's OK."

Brown walked off the field and applied ice to his ankle but was taken to the locker room on a cart and then for tests on what the team believes is an ankle injury. Rashad Butler, who was competing for the starting right tackle job in light of the offseason departure of Eric Winston, moved to left tackle after Brown's injury on Wednesday.

"In my opinion, Duane molded himself into the best left tackle in the game," quarterback Matt Schaub told the Houston Chronicle. "... I never have to worry about Duane because I know he's going to get the job done."

Brown gave up 2.5 sacks last season and is arguably the team's top blocker.

Butler started four games at left tackle in 2010, when Brown was suspended for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Brown was a first-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2008. He's in the final year of his original $9.1 million rookie contract.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke shows he's learned from trying 2011 rookie season

NAPA -- No matter how many passes DeMarcus Van Dyke breaks up during training camp, he realizes that every time the ball hits the ground, there's someone in Florida looking for him to do just a little bit more.

"I went home and my mama told me, 'DeMarcus, I'm your No. 1 fan, but you dropped way too many interceptions last year,' " Van Dyke said.

Following a rookie season where he learned about life as an NFL cornerback the hard way, Van Dyke has been one of the Raiders' most impressive defenders through three days in training camp.

During Wednesday's first padded practice, Van Dyke went stride-for-stride with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey some 40 yards downfield and broke up a Carson Palmer pass at the top of his leap.

It's one of at least a half-dozen pass breakups Van Dyke has had through three practices during drill work and team sessions. He's slapped away long sideline passes, sideline routes and slants.

Working with the first unit as free agent signee Ron Bartell rests a tender hamstring, Van Dyke looks like a budding football player rather than another combine flash taken by the late Al Davis.

Although he didn't start much of his senior year at Miami, Van Dyke torched the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine with a time of 4.28. The Raiders took him in the third round with the 81st overall pick.

Van Dyke appeared to have little going for him other than all that speed and an affable manner. Reed-thin at 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds, he was thrown into the mix in the exhibition season and promptly gave up a 43-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the 2011 exhibition opener.

He worked his way onto the field because of injuries to Chris Johnson and fellow rookie Chimdi Chekwa, but then struggled. Van Dyke took a shot to the ribs on Nov. 6 against Denver, surrendering his starting spot to veteran Lito Sheppard, who was signed only a week earlier. He rarely saw the field the rest of the season.

Free safety Michael Huff thinks Van Dyke's confidence may have taken an early hit last season. Van Dyke conceded losing playing time the second half of the season was discouraging, but said, "I tried to stay positive, because positive thoughts create positive outcomes."

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, signed as a free agent and in line ´╗┐to be the other starting cornerback, has been impressed.

"He's made some very, very good plays," Spencer said. "He's a very quick corner, a very fast corner, and a very long corner as well. He has great instincts. I'm very impressed with the young man's game."

Raiders coach Dennis Allen likes what he's seen, but wants more.

"He's been consistent. He still makes some young-player mistakes that we've got to get coached out of him, but he makes a little bit of progress every day," Allen said. "He's not where he needs to be yet, but he's got to continue to work and continue to keep getting better and learn the little nuances of the game."

For Van Dyke, the next step is satisfying his mother.

"Pass breakups are nice, interceptions are better," Van Dyke said.

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Antrel Rolle ready to serve as nickel corner this time, if needed

ALBANY, N.Y. – Last year, when the Giants’ defensive coaches needed to replace Terrell Thomas, they had Antrel Rolle playing down low instead of at a natural safety spot. Rolle found it difficult to accept and at one point even talked about wanting out of the organization.

Eventually, Rolle came to accept and embrace his job as a nickel cornerback. The rest is Super Bowl history.

Well, the Giants and Rolle are right back in the same spot now that Thomas, whom secondary coach Peter Giunta said was ticketed to play the nickel corner spot, is likely lost for the season again. Rolle is the easiest, quickest solution to the problem right now.

So must the process of getting him to come around commence once again?

“That’s a good question because … two days ago, I went up to him and had a conversation with him and said, ‘Antrel, we’re going to put you down in the slot just like your position last year. Not saying it’s going to be permanent but we need you to get some reps there.’ He said, ‘No problem, Coach,’” safeties coach David Merritt told reporters today. “And of course, after the Terrell Thomas situation, I went back to him again and said, ‘Okay, Antrel, you need to think of yourself as a starter at that position,’ and he said, ‘Whatever it takes.’”

Obviously, seeing the results of buying into being a nickel cornerback – which allows much fewer chances to intercept a pass or deliver a big hit than safety – has helped Rolle realize the greater good.

“No question,” Merritt said. “That’s the one thing we did last year. All of the guys started trusting and believing the guy that’s next to them. And when they started to understand and believe the guy that’s next to them is going to be where he’s supposed to be, the guys started playing well, they started playing faster.”

Make no mistake here, the Giants want Rolle to play the nickel spot as little as Rolle does. Putting him down low means they’d have to bring another safety onto the field to fill his spot at the top of the secondary. That player was Deon Grant last year, but he remains unsigned as of now.

So the hope is one of the veteran candidates (Giunta mentioned Antwaun Molden or Dante Hughes by name for that spot) or perhaps rookie Jayron Hosley can step up and win the nickel job, allowing the team to keep Rolle deep.

All of this, of course, is assuming Prince Amukamara plays well on the outside.

“He did a great job the other day in his 1-on-1s and he’s making progress and doing a great job,” Giunta said of Amukamara. “He did get all the meeting time and all of that (while sidelined this spring), so he understands the defense. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the techniques down, getting the calls and playing with each other.

“He flashes the talent. There’s no issues with the foot, no issues with the back. That’s what was holding him back, not lack of confidence, not lack of knowing what to do. It was just lack of being physically fit and able to do it. Now, he’s in football shape and ready to play.”

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Ed Reed wants to stay long-term with Baltimore Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed delivered a much different message Wednesday than his cryptic offseason comments where he hinted at a potential holdout and contemplated retirement.

Now, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year says he wants to remain with the Ravens on a long-term basis and has communicated that desire to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

The 33-year-old Reed is entering the final year of a six-year, $40 million contract and is due a $7.2 million base salary this season.

"Talks have already been there," Reed said. "I know Ozzie and them know I want to be here. We will get that done when it's time to cross that bridge. I'm good with football right now. I know the Ravens know I want to be here. I wouldn't give myself to the football team like I do if I didn't want to be here."

Reed skipped a mandatory minicamp in June and remained away from the team for the entire offseason.

However, the eight-time Pro Bowl selection reported on time for training camp last week.

"I'm here, man," Reed said. "What transpired months back transpired. What happened because of what I had to deal with family-wise and what I've been going through for the last 11 years now in the league you know it's always a time when you have to assess yourself."

Reed has intercepted 57 career passes since being drafted in the first round by the Ravens out of the University of Miami in 2002.

He'd like to conclude his career with the defending AFC North champions.

"I have a lot of respect for this organization, obviously, "Reed said. "They know I'm assessing myself year to year. Would I like to play more? Of course, but the body tells you something different... There is a business side to it. Not every story plays out the way you want it to be. When we cross that bridge, you guys will know."

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With pads on, FB James Bryant brings the pain

ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions put on the pads at training camp for the first time on Tuesday. Here are some notes and observations from the team's fifth day of practice.

-- Fullback James Bryant was clearly excited to start delivering hits. In an early portion of practice, the Lions worked on some short-yardage runs. Bryant delivered punishing blocks on back-to-back snaps, opening up some nice running lanes for the backs. After each of those collisions, Bryant let out a scream and pounded his chest as teammates whooped and hollered.

-- On one of the snaps where Bryant provided a big block, running back Joique Bell was able to reverse field after his interior running lane closed and bust a long run around the right edge.

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Kellen Winslow appears more durable than Carlson

The Seattle Seahawks hoped to re-sign tight end John Carlson this offseason.

They had envisioned pairing Carlson with Zach Miller to create a dynamic combination at the position, expanding the possibilities for a coaching staff that had been looking for a player versatile enough to serve a range of roles, including H-back.

In retrospect, losing Carlson to the Minnesota Vikings might not have been such a bad thing for the Seahawks. The team rebounded by acquiring Kellen Winslow from Tampa Bay. Carlson, who missed the 2010 season with a shoulder injury suffered in camp, landed on the Vikings' injured list Tuesday. He's got a sprained MCL that will keep him off the field for several weeks, most likely.

There is no way to know whether Carlson would have been injured had he remained with Seattle, but a clear pattern is emerging for the player Mike Holmgren once thought would end the Seahawks' search for stability at the position. As Kevin Seifert notes, Carlson has suffered a serious concussion during a playoff game against Chicago, the shoulder injury in camp last year and now the knee injury -- all since January 2011.

Winslow has his own injury concerns. He's practicing every other day to protect a chronic knee problem. But he hasn't missed a game over the past three seasons. Winslow has played all 16 games in five of the past six seasons.

Carlson's latest injury might wind up being a temporary setback. For now, though, it feels like more than that.

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Willis McGahee doesn’t want to disappoint Peyton Manning

We’ve heard younger Broncos like Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas say that they are hoping to raise their level of play now that Peyton Manning is the quarterback in Denver.

It’s not just guys who are still wet behind the ears who feel that way. Running back Willis McGahee is heading into his 10th season, but he’s also talking about kicking his game up a notch so that the move for Manning winds up being a successful one in Denver.

“It’s just the fact that we need to do our job. I don’t care who we play he can’t win by himself. It’s going to be a team effort starting from the o-line to the running backs to the receivers to the tight ends,” McGahee said on 102.3 ESPN in Denver, via “Our job is to get up to speed with him. He’s one of those quarterbacks that you don’t want to disappoint. Not only that you don’t want to disappoint him. You don’t want to disappoint the Broncos organization. So as a man we all have to take our game to another level each day because he challenges us.”

Manning says that he isn’t quite up to speed at this point, but his presence seems to be enough for the rest of the Broncos to feel like they need to be better versions of themselves this season. If they all succeed at doing that and Manning is close to his old form, the results should be pretty good for the Denver offense.

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Vince Wilfork is trying to get used to all the newcomers on the defensive line

Vince Wilfork has taken in several different views while anchoring the New England Patriots defensive line over the last nine years.

When he first came into the league, he could look to either side and see Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green and Ty Warren. Over the years various faces have cycled in and out of the group, but there was usually enough carryover for things to feel familiar.

Now, though, it seems like every time Wilfork glances down the line he’s seeing someone new.

“It’s tough because you get attached to people and you get a chance to know people off the field – not just on the field – their families and stuff like that,” Wilfork said. “So for people to move on, it can be heartbreaking at times, but at the same time, things always happen at this level. You have to get used to it real quick.”

With Jonathan Fanene, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette and Rob Ninkovich all joining the line this year, Wilfork isn’t just experiencing turnover this season. The line is going through a complete overhaul.

While it’s going to take some time getting used to those guys, Wilfork said he has no issue playing alongside the newcomers and has made himself available to lend a helping hand wherever he can.

“I can play with anybody. That's just the trust I have in those guys to learn what they have to learn,” Wilfork said. “And like I said, if they have questions, they can always ask, because I’ve been around this for a little bit. I'm not saying I know everything, but I’ve been around for a while and kind of know what to expect. So I think we all do a really good job of helping one another.”

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Tim George Jr. makes first Pocono truck start

This weekend's 50-lap affair will mark Tim George Jr.'s first Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Although the New York City native has yet to make any competitive laps at the 2.5-mile tri-oval in the Truck Series, he has made six ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards starts, garnering one victory, two top-five and three top-10 finishes. George has completed 98.8 percent of the contested laps (396 of 401) and holds a 9.7 average starting position combined with an average finish position of 11.5.-Richard Childress Racing

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Taking precaution, Padres place Grandal on DL

CINCINNATI -- A day after he suffered a strained right oblique muscle, Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal landed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

He's hopeful that he won't need any more time than the allotted 15 days on the DL before he can start playing again.

"It feels much better," Grandal said on Tuesday. "They were expecting me to feel sore today and I don't feel sore at all."

Grandal suffered the injury in the second inning taking a swing in his second plate appearance of a five-run inning of what became an 11-5 victory over the Reds.

The Padres recalled catcher Eddy Rodriguez from Class A Lake Elsinore. With Grandal out, John Baker becomes San Diego's primary catcher.

"These things are tricky," Padres manager Bud Black said of oblique injuries. "A lot of times ... players might not feel discomfort, but the injury is still there. We wanted to nip this in the bud, give it rest and give it treatment."

Grandal is hitting .312 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in his first month in the big leagues. And while he understands the team wants to take it slow with his injury, he's already itching to return.

"We've got something going on here, our lineup seems like it's going real well," Grandal said. "But they are [the team] trying to take care of my career. They want me to get strong now."

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Eddy's ready: Padres call up catcher to fill in

CINCINNATI -- The Class A Lake Elsinore Storm, the Padres' affiliate in the California League, had the day off on Monday, which afforded catcher Eddy Rodriguez some down time.

Rodriguez spent part of the night watching the Padres' game against the Reds on television and saw the play in the second inning when San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal strained his right oblique muscle on a swing.

A few hours later, Rodriguez's phone rang with the word that he was to fly to Cincinnati on Tuesday to join the team.

"It was an interesting call, but probably one of the best of my life," Rodriguez said. "Since then, it's been a crazy ride."

Rodriguez, 26, arrived before Tuesday's game as a replacement on the roster for Grandal, who he said is a good friend and like him, a former catcher for the University of Miami.

Rodriguez was beaming as he stood in front of his locker. It's been a long climb for a player who was first drafted by the Reds in 2005 and began his professional career in '06 -- a career that included stops with independent league teams before he signed with the Padres as a Minor League free agent prior to 2011.

"Baseball has its way of working things out," Rodriguez said, smiling.

Rodriguez was hitting .223 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs with the Storm. Nick Hundley, who is on the disabled list with Triple-A Tucson nursing a hamstring injury, would have likely been the choice to join the Padres on Tuesday, but he's not quite game-ready.

When Hundley is ready, he'll likely rejoin the team. The Padres could have promoted Jason Hagerty from Double-A San Antonio and put him on the 40-man roster, but then when Hundley is ready to join the team, the Padres would have had to expose him to a waiver claim.

"Eddy's a guy who can catch and throw, and he showed well in Major League camp [in Spring Training]," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He was exposed to our coaches and to our pitching staff."

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Gaby Sanchez gets settled in with Pirates

CHICAGO -- The head of Gaby Sanchez, possibly the first Major League player ever traded while on paternity leave, finally stopped spinning when he arrived in the Pirates' clubhouse Wednesday morning.

"It's been a crazy couple of days. But one of those good things -- becoming a father and at the same time getting traded to a team playing really well in the hunt," said Sanchez, whose first child, Sky, was born on Friday. "I was in the hospital with the baby when everything was going on with the phone calls and all the other crazy stuff."

Sanchez served as Miami manager Ozzie Guillen's cleanup batter only twice this season, but had primarily swung in the four-hole during his 4 1/2 seasons with the Marlins.

"This team's been playing really well," Sanchez said. "Its great to be a part of it now."

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Ryan Braun hits 29th home run to lead Brewers past Astros

MILWAUKEE -- Don't tell Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers that time is running out to get back in the playoff race.

Braun hit his NL-leading 29th homer and the Brewers connected four times Wednesday, beating the sloppy Houston Astros 13-4 to complete a three-game sweep.

The defending NL Central champions began the day 15 games behind first-place Cincinnati and 12 out in the wild-card standings.

"There's no reason to give up," Braun said. "Why are you going to give up, ever? I think until you're mathematically eliminated, you're going to continue to believe you have a chance. There's a lot of crazy things that have happened throughout the course of the history of this game."

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Aubrey Huff: (Knee) Third DL Stint of 2012

Update: Huff (knee) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, the Giants' official Twitter page reports.

Recommendation: Huff will land on the disabled list for the third time this year, four days after being activated from it. The 35-year-old has been battling knee tendinitis, and appeared to aggravate his injury during Monday's game. Hunter Pence, who was acquired from Philadelphia on Tuesday, will take Huff's spot on the 25-man roster.

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Danny Valencia Homers & Walks

Danny Valencia homered and walked in Wednesday's loss to the White Sox.

Valencia is 5-for-18 with five RBI in five games since being called up to fill in for Trevor Plouffe at third base. If he keeps it up, then the Twins will figure out a way to keep getting him at-bats once Plouffe returns.

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VIDEO: Peter O'Brien - C - Staten Island Yankees

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Lamar Miller & Olivier Vernon Make Strong Early Impressions


Former Hurricanes Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon have made strong early impressions on Dolphins teammates. “Lamar’s burst is unreal,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “Every day he’s had at least one 15, 20 yard-run. The guy has great vision.”

Vernon has had at least two sacks in training camp, and Cam Wake said there’s no dropoff when he replaces a veteran: “I’m really excited [about him]. He has a lot of spunk.”

Said defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers (father of the UM safety): “Oliver has a long way to go technique-wise, but he plays with the right temperament.”

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PHOTO: OL Harland Gunn at Cowboys Training Camp


Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa (67), left, and guard Harland Gunn (63) go through blocking drills during their first afternoon practice at training camp in Oxnard, CA, on Monday, July 30, 2012. 

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PHOTO: Greg Olsen at Panthers Training Camp


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Dolphins Work Out Joel Figueroa

The Dolphins auditioned former UM guard Joel Figueroa on Monday but opted not to sign him.

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Kellen Winslow receiving hype as pass-catcher

ESPN 710 Seattle said Kellen Winslow "will be" the Seahawks starting tight end and feels there is a "good chance" he leads the team in receptions.

Winslow is 29 and continues to struggle with a surgically-repaired right knee, so take the predictions with a big grain of salt. It's plausible Winslow could unseat Zach Miller as the team's top tight end, especially on passing downs, but the cards are significantly stacked against him leading the team in receptions. He's a back-end TE2 at best.

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Roscoe Parrish practices in full

San Diego Chargers WR Roscoe Parrish (undisclosed) returned to practice Tuesday, July 31, after missing time due to an undisclosed injury.

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Sam Shields Returning Kicks

One surprise was seeing cornerback Sam Shields back returning kicks. Shields is probably the fastest player on the team, but he's never been clean fielding kickoffs. With his cornerback job in jeopardy, though, Shields would be wise to exploit any and all special teams chances.

Shields, a key cog in the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl run, struggled in coverage and with his tackling last season. Shields seemed like the odd man out early in camp, but was back working in dime packages Monday.

"I think they are all in the picture," coach Mike McCarthy said of the cornerbacks. ""But these guys need to play in games. That's where the playing time will come."

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Richard Gordon Suffers Injury

NAPA, Calif. -- Some impressions from Day 2 of the Raiders’ training camp:

A couple players were nicked up on a hot day. Backup running back Mike Goodson hurt his hamstring and tight end Richard Gordon suffered a hip flexor. Both are expected to be key role players and are day-to-day. There weren’t any indications that the injuries are serious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Goodson is given a few days to heal since hamstrings can be tricky.

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Andre Johnson could return Monday, Kubiak says

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that he hopes injured wide receiver Andre Johnson could return to the field next Monday.

Johnson pulled his groin while making a catch during Sunday morning’s training camp practice at the Methodist Training Center. An MRI revealed it to be a minor injury. The All-Pro receiver has been able to jog lightly at practice as he moves with the team from period to period.

“I would say next week,” Kubiak said of Johnson’s targeted return date. “I’d love to tell you that’s Monday. I hope it’s Monday, but I would say next week.”

With Johnson out, second-year receiver Lestar Jean has been practicing as a starter along with veteran Kevin Walter. Rookie third-round draft pick DeVier Posey has stood out in practice with several nice catches over the last two days.

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Jon Beason: “For The Most Part, I Feel Good. I’m Not Feeling Any Pain.”


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Rocky McIntosh looks for fresh start with Rams

For a guy with 68 career starts and four 100-plus tackle seasons, veteran linebacker Rocky McIntosh arrived in St. Louis about as under the radar as you can get. McIntosh, who played his six previous seasons with the Washington Redskins, was signed by the Rams on June 14 — or the last day of the spring practice period before the team scattered for the next month and a half.

So these first practices of training camp mark his first practices as a Ram. (He did do some work with the team on a tryout basis in June.) McIntosh has some catching up to do, but eventually could figure into the mix for a starting job at outside linebacker — either on the weak side or the strong side.

"Right now, we're asking him to learn both the outside positions," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We want some depth, and we want to improve the competition at the outside linebacker spot. Rocky has some familiarity with the system in Washington.

"He's a talented player. He's athletic and he's got very good strength. He's a smart player, and we felt like he would have a chance to fit into this system. He also has been a very productive special teams guy. ... So it felt like a perfect fit for us."

Picking up the system shouldn't be a problem for McIntosh, who played for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington in 2006 and '07. Williams was hired as Rams defensive coordinator this offseason but is out for at least 2012 as he serves an indefinite suspension.

Williams may be in exile, but the Rams are still running his defense.

"The terminology's changed a little bit, but the scheme is the same," McIntosh said.

Like many players drafted in 2005 and '06, McIntosh was trapped in the uncapped year (2010), followed by the lockout. All of which made it tougher to test the market in free agency. He played on one-year deals for a couple of years, and when he finally reached the market this year, McIntosh was coming off a season in which he lost his starting job in midseason (to second-year pro Perry Riley, a draft choice of coach Mike Shanahan).

"There's a lot of stuff that happened CBA-wise," McIntosh said. "Being restricted, then tendered. Trying to hit the market when I was doing very well. But it is what it is. I can't complain. I just want to come out here, put my best foot forward and try to help this team."

McIntosh, who was drafted under Joe Gibbs and also played for Jim Zorn in Washington, averaged 109 tackles his first three years as a starter (2007 through '09), playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

"When I was playing outside it was a little bit more fun, a little bit more reckless, aggressive," McIntosh said.

When Shanahan took over in 2010 and brought in Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, the Redskins switched to a 3-4 and McIntosh moved inside playing alongside former Ram London Fletcher.

"Once we switched over to the other system, I was just like, 'Oh, man, I'm getting more tackles,' " McIntosh said.

McIntosh established a career high by far with 155 tackles in 2010, his first year playing inside in the 3-4. That topped his previous career best (119) by three dozen. But things didn't go so well in 2011, particularly after Riley took over eight games into the season.

McIntosh, whose given name is Roger, was given the nickname Rocky by his grandmother as a youngster.

"She said I was going to be hard-headed," he said. "I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what she said."

Perhaps that hard-headedness was on display the second half of last season, because some Redskins observers felt McIntosh didn't take his benching well. Things degenerated to the point where he missed the team curfew for the Redskins' regular-season finale and subsequently was placed on the pregame inactive list the next day by Shanahan.

So a change of scenery was needed by McIntosh, and what better place than St. Louis, since his initials are R.A.M. for Roger A. McIntosh.

"Hey, it's a fresh new start," McIntosh said. "New face. New team."

And new jersey number. Justin Cole already has McIntosh's old Redskins number (52) here in St. Louis, so McIntosh has switched to No. 59, which has a great pedigree in St. Louis since it belonged to Fletcher here more than a decade ago.

"He's the man," said McIntosh, who was Fletcher's teammate for five seasons in Washington. "I hope I can uphold the standards here. He won't tell you, but that's a superstar. It was a great pleasure to play besides that guy. He did wonderful things and still doesn't get the respect that he deserves."

As for McIntosh, he's trying to get his career back on track after the inauspicious ending in Washington. Not to mention a 3½-month wait in free agency before finding a job in St. Louis — on a one-year deal that pays him a base salary of $700,000.

He had visits with Minnesota and Miami before signing with the Rams, in what was a sluggish linebacker market. McIntosh said his career was "just at a standstill" for a while as the offseason progressed. During his period of unemployment, McIntosh ran drills in his backyard to stay in shape.

"Threw some cones out there and stuff like that," he said. "Had some of my teammates who were out of work come out there and practice with me."

Now his backyard is needed only for barbecuing. He's practicing with linebackers he has gotten to know through the business in James Laurinaitis, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan. And is trying to settle in at Rams Park.

"It just feels comfortable," McIntosh said.

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Kenny Phillips wants to roam more

ALBANY -- There were times last season when Kenny Phillips felt so far away from the action that he was bored.

"For the most part, I was back deep, I felt like I was catching punts," the safety said Monday at Giants training camp. "It was tough. I mean, you never want to go through a game and be like 'What happened?' To hope that someone breaks [through] just so you can make a tackle, that's pretty bad."

That was supposed to change this season. With Terrell Thomas back from injury and Prince Amukamara stepping up, Phillips and fellow safety Antrel Rolle were anticipating a return to their more traditional roles.

Of course, Thomas' knee injury has put everything on hold for a while. Thomas suffered a partial tear to his surgically repaired ACL on Sunday and his future -- both long and short term -- is in doubt as he awaits a final diagnosis. Thomas Tuesday flew to California to consult with Dr. Arthur Ting, the surgeon who performed his allograft reconstruction last September. The Giants tried to sort out how to adjust to the possibility of another season without Thomas.

"When [Thomas] went down [last preseason], it threw everything into a tizzy for a while," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said earlier this week. That tizzy might be back, especially after the Giants learned Tuesday that safety Tyler Sash will be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance- enhancing drugs.

(Sash, in a statement, said he took the prescription drug Adderall under a doctor's care and was unaware it was on the league's list of banned substances.)
It wasn't just the loss of Thomas that created the shift in responsibilities among the safeties last season. The Giants also had four other cornerbacks go on injured reserve and spent most of the year without Amukamara. Of the top six cornerbacks on the Giants' depth chart heading into this training camp, only Corey Webster played a full season for the 2011 team.

Many of those have returned healthy, though, so even if Thomas is lost for the year again, it won't necessarily mean a realignment for Phillips -- who is in the last year of his contract -- and Rolle. At least the Giants hope it doesn't.

"We're both, I believe, playmakers, especially with the ball in the air," Phillips said. "It's just that half the time we don't get that opportunity because of the positions we were playing in. But him coming back to safety and coach Perry wanting to draw some defenses to get us more involved, I think our interceptions will go up this year."

Phillips might not have been satisfied sitting back deep in centerfield for most of the season, but he was in the right place when he needed to be on the season's final play. He was one of the Giants jumping in the end zone to knock Tom Brady's potential Hail Mary pass away from Rob Gronkowski as the clock ran out on Super Bowl XLVI.

Even after that play, Phillips said he was looking forward to getting closer to the line to make some more plays. Asked what he and Rolle can accomplish if both are allowed to roam free in the secondary, Phillips shook his head.

"Oh man," he said. "The sky's the limit."

Now he just has to wait and see how the Giants adjust to Thomas' injury and Sash's suspension to learn if he can reach that limit.

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Frank Gore still wants to be star of 49ers' running back show

SANTA CLARA -- Frank Gore hasn't been surrounded by this many talented running backs since, perhaps, his freshman year at the University of Miami.
"I'm cool with it," Gore said Monday at 49ers training camp.

Yes, the 49ers' all-time leading NFL rusher has welcomed in such newcomers as Brandon Jacobs, fresh from his second Super Bowl win with the New York Giants, and LaMichael James, the 49ers' second-round draft pick out of offensive-powerhouse Oregon.

So how will the 49ers divide carries among that trio, as well as Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Rock Cartwright and starting fullback Bruce Miller?

"Everybody wants to play. I know I want to play," Gore said. "The type of player I am, I've got to get in a rhythm. I feel the more I'm in, the better I get."
Don't interpret that as Gore being selfish, however.

"It's not a matter of being a ball hog. Frank likes to work," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He likes as much work as he can get."

Starting at 6:15 each morning, Gore is among the first players to arrive at the 49ers facility. He works out 30 minutes on an elliptical machine before lifting weights to "get his sweat in."

In training-camp parlance, Gore is putting himself through double days. Last year's labor deal prevents teams from practicing twice a day with pads. Thus, Gore considers his morning workout the first of what would have been two daily practices.

"I've seen a laserlike focus from Frank," Harbaugh said. "On the practice field, it's the same Frank. Same demanding, intense, enthusiastic guy on the field."

Gore showed all those traits on one of many carries Monday, taking Alex Smith's handoff and dashing 50 yards down field before exchanging a high-five with general manager Trent Baalke.

Last season, Gore's longest run was for 55 yards at Detroit. It came after he was stopped for a 3-yard loss on the previous play. The following week against Cleveland, Gore's longest run was for 26 yards, also after a 3-yard loss.

Those bursts, and an ability to split time with Hunter, have convinced offensive coordinator Greg Roman that Gore doesn't need a slew of carries to find a successful rhythm.

"Shoot, I've seen Frank come in after not carrying the ball for a while and pop a pretty good looking run," Roman said. "So, I think Frank might be selling himself short a little bit there."

Gore now finds himself part of what he agreed is the "most talented" backfield since he joined the 49ers in 2005.

Not only is he "cool with it," he's also seen it play out before. He encountered a crowded backfield before, though it was a decade ago in Miami. Also on the Hurricanes were Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport and Jarrett Payton, the son of NFL legend Walter Payton.

Said Gore: "I'm competitive. I could have gone to any school in the country coming out of high school, but I went to Miami, and they already had three good backs."

Last season, Gore eclipsed Joe "The Jet" Perry's franchise record for most NFL rushing yards, and Gore finished with 1,211 yards. That's the second-highest output of his career, trailing only his 1,695-yard season in 2006 when he became the starter.

Sure to cut into Gore's workload this season are, as he describes them, the "very big and strong" Jacobs and the "very quick and fast" James.

Like so many others returnees from last year's NFC runner-up squad, Gore yearns for more success.

"We're still working like we didn't make it, like we still have stuff to prove," Gore said. "We have a bunch of great guys."

Entering his eighth season, Gore remains the leader of that increasingly talented bunch at running back.

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Kellen Winslow: 'I won't let the Seahawks down'

Kellen Winslow got a scheduled day off from Seahawks training camp on Tuesday, a measure he and the team are taking in order to manage a chronic knee injury the tight end has dealt with for most of his career.

Winslow hasn't missed a game in three seasons despite the knee issue. He averaged 72 catches and 792 yards from 2009-2011 with Tampa Bay. The Seahawks, as little production as they got from their tight ends last season, will certainly take anything close to that -- even if it means giving Winslow some special treatment.

"The key is to get to Sundays," he told "Bob and Groz" on Tuesday. "... My job is to make plays. And I won't let the city down, I won't let the Seahawks down, I won't let my players down."

In the video below, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss their impressions of Winslow and expectations for his production this season.

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Willis McGahee clear No. 1 back

Broncos running back Willis McGahee is the team's unquestioned starter, but Moreno said there is a role for him in the Broncos' new offense led by Manning. As a third-down back, Moreno would be responsible for pass protection and also a receiving option on screen passes.

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Packers Want To See Sam Shields Improve

Green Bay Packers tea coach Mike McCarthy on cornerback Sam Shields: “We want to see improvement, he is a very talented player with great speed but he is learning speed isn’t everything, technique is very important at that position, it’s improving.”

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Zach Railey Back On Form In Olympics

Zach Railey was back on form today in the men’s one person dinghy heavy event (Finn). The first two days of racing, July 29-30, did not produce the results he wanted. Today’s races 5 and 6 produced a second and eighth. This brings Railey up to 12th overall. 'The decisions I made in the first couple of races in this regatta, I still feel like they were good decisions based on our training,' said Railey. 'The wind didn’t go my way and that’s part of sailboat racing.'

For today’s racing, held in similar conditions but on Weymouth Bay, Railey explained he stuck with the plan he and his coach Kenneth Andreasen put together. 'I was very confident the left hand was going to pay on the upwind in the first race,' he said. 'I had a great start at the pin, went out left with Jonas and rounded in third at the top mark. I was able to pass a boat and get a second. I feel very good about that race.'

The Finn takes a reserve day on Aug. 1 and resumes on Aug. 2 with two scheduled races. The series continues through Aug. 3 with the medal race scheduled for Aug. 5.

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Pirates get Gaby Sanchez from Marlins

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pirates acquired former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the Miami Marlins in a deal announced right before Tuesday's trade deadline.

Pittsburgh also got minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the extra draft pick for 2013 that the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery for financially weaker teams.

General manager Neal Huntington said the price to acquire a high-profile player for the rest of the season was too steep.

''We feel like overall we've improved our rotation, we've improved our lineup, we've improved our bench, and we'll work to put our bullpen in the same spot it was,'' Huntington said. ''The acquisition cost on every quote-unquote sure thing - which I will remind you, there is no sure thing - was prohibitive for us.''

''Short term rentals more often than not don't work out for the team that gives up the prospects,'' he added.

Pittsburgh, chasing Cincinnati for the NL Central title and doing well in the wild-card race, also obtained right-handed reliever Chad Qualls from the New York Yankees for infielder Casey McGehee on Tuesday, just before the 4 p.m. deadline for trades without waivers.

The Pirates also recently traded for left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez and added outfielder Travis Snider in a deal with Toronto on Monday night.

The 28-year-old Sanchez was having a disappointing year. He was batting only .202 with three home runs and 17 RBIs, and had been demoted to Triple-A in May for nearly a month.

''We liked him the past two years,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''We've inquired about him the past two winters and couldn't get close to him. You don't get players when they're going well.''

Sanchez hit 19 home runs in each of the previous two seasons and was an NL All-Star last year.

''Our scouts have seen the bat speed and the impact that we saw a year ago,'' Huntington said on a conference call. ''We've seen him start to use the middle of the field with authority. ... He is showing that he's performing well, and we see the elements behind it to justify the performance.''

Huntington said Snider would ''get the primary work load'' in right field, and that Qualls was added to fill the hole in the bullpen created when Brad Lincoln was sent to the Blue Jays in the deal.

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Padres put Yasmani Grandal on DL, Call Up Eddy Rodriguez

CINCINNATI -- The San Diego Padres have placed catcher Yasmani Grandal on the 15-day disabled list, a day after he strained muscles in his right side on a big swing.

San Diego called up catcher Eddy Rodriguez from Class A Lake Elsinore. The 26-year-old Rodriguez hit .223 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs this season. Rodriguez originally was drafted by the Reds in the 20th round in June 2006.

Grandal left an 11-5 win over the Reds on Monday night after a swing-and-miss and was treated for a strained oblique muscle. The rookie batted .312 with five doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs in 24 games over two stints with San Diego.

San Diego also moved right-hander Anthony Bass to the 60-day DL. He's been sidelined since June 24 with a sore shoulder.

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Big opportunity for DeMarcus Van Dyke

NAPA, Calif. -- A player who has a great chance to ascend in the Oakland Raiders’ training camp is cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke.

He has a chance to show he belongs in the starting mix.

Van Dyke, a third-round pick in 2011, took an important step in establishing himself Monday when he was working with the first-team defense with projected starter Ronald Bartell out with a hamstring injury. Bartell should be back at some point, but this will give Van Dyke time to impress the new coaching staff.

So far, so good.

New Oakland coach Dennis Allen lauded Van Dyke for his effort Monday. If he continues to make strides, I think Van Dyke could push Bartell or, more likely, Shawntae Spencer, in the coming weeks.

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Olivier Vernon has injury scare at Dolphins practice

DAVIE— Olivier Vernon suffered an apparent ankle injury Monday during an 11-on-11 drill at Miami Dolphins training camp. 

Vernon was trying to strip the football from former Miami Hurricanes teammate Lamar Miller during the play. 

Once the play stopped, Vernon stayed on the ground noticeably in pain. 

Vernon, who is competing to start at defensive end, was a fourth-round draft pick in April by the Dolphins.

Vernon was able to return to the field later in practice after 20 minutes on the sidelines.

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Sean Spence Limited In Practice

According to the Steelers Depot, Sean Spence has been limited in training camp do to a shoulder injury. It is unclear as to whether this is the same shoulder injury that was bothering Spence during the combine.

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Blazer Travis Benjamin snaring passes in Browns camp

BEREA — The thrill of drafting a blazer met with the reality of why Travis Benjamin was available to the Browns in Round 4 of the April draft.

It seemed clear the day Benjamin set foot in Berea. He could run with anyone in the NFL — and brother did his new team need speed.

But as spring practice moved along, a regular theme developed.

Every time Benjamin dropped a ball, he would howl in dismay. This made him all the more conspicuous, because when one turned to see who was howling, it would be the man with the longest hair on the team — he says he hasn’t had a real haircut since seventh grade.

He howled a lot.

Flash forward to summer. Six days into training camp, the howling has stopped. The ball is sticking to Benjamin’s hands.

His speed hasn’t gone anywhere, aside from straight into plans for the 2012 season.

Somebody asked head coach Pat Shurmur after practice how fired up he is about plugging those legs into game plans.

“I’m very eager, of course,” Shurmur said. “I think he has really established himself.”

Benjamin is listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. He might weigh 175 after drinking two large milk shakes.

“When you look at him you say, ‘Well, OK, how is he going to be in traffic?’ ” Shurmur said. “But he’s distinguished himself these last couple days catching the ball in traffic.

“On a couple of pivot-in routes, he’s working back to the ball where the corner was hanging on his back, and he reached out in a physical way and caught the football with his hands.

“He shows some things that you need to see. I hope his development continues.”

Benjamin is a former track star who has run sub-4.3 40s. He wasn’t a high draft pick partly because he isn’t very big, partly because his stats at Miami Hurricanes wideout were, to use a term often applied by former Hurricanes coach Butch Davis, “just OK.”

He was a four-year letterman who left Coral Gables with 131 catches for 2,146 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Benjamin grew up in Belle Glade, Fla., located on one of the biggest freshwater lakes in the country, surrounded by muck plains in which boom crops of sugarcane are king in the local economy.

His role model was his mother, Cynthia Stewart.

“She worked two or three jobs at a time,” he says, “while taking care of me and my brother.”

He was never very big. His sport was always football.

“Everybody in Belle Glade played football,” he says. “I started when I was 6 or 7 ... backyard football ... tackle football.”

He didn’t regard himself as blazing fast until high school, but then, his town has always been rich in athletes, some of whom could outrun him until he got older.
Glades Central High School has churned out pro football players. Fred Taylor had a career that will get him Hall of Fame consideration. One of Butch Davis’ draft picks with the Browns, James Jackson, is a Glades Central guy. So is Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes.

“I was in junior high when Santonio was a senior in high school,” Benjamin said, “but I know him. I’ve followed his career. Everybody was excited when he made that catch to win a Super Bowl. I remember watching the game at home.”

Benjamin hasn’t heard of the famed Canton-Massillon game, but he has been part of arguably Florida’s biggest high school rivalry — Glades Central vs. Pahokee (alma mater of Ravens wideout Anquan Boldin). The game is known as the Muck Bowl. It has drawn as many as 25,000.

The Glades Central Raiders have won six Florida state championships. Benjamin and Damien Berry — now in his second training camp as a Baltimore Ravens running back — were teammates at Glades Central and then Miami.

One of the peculiar amusements known to Belle Glade youths is chasing wild rabbits.

“Yeah, I chased rabbits,” Benjamin says after a practice on the Browns’ sprawling, four-field complex. “We did it on a field that was probably the size of these fields.

“Yeah, the rabbits are really fast. Yeah, I’ve caught a rabbit.”

It’s a long way from Belle Glade to Berea, but Benjamin is starting to make himself at home. One of the regular sights in training camp has been rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden working on deep throws to the slender burner.

Benjamin says he was not demoralized by the dropped passes of spring ball.

“By the end of OTAs,” he said, using the code name for spring ball, “I thought it went good.

“I spent the break in Coral Gables, just training. There were a lot of players training there. (Miami alum and NFL All-Pro) André Johnson was there.
“I wanted to come back here in shape and ready to do a good job in camp.”

Ask him to name the fastest player on the team. He smiles.

“Travis Benjamin.”

Who are the fastest cornerbacks he is practicing against?

“Buster (Skrine) and Joe Haden,” he says.

Skrine, a Round 5 draft pick last year, is a another former track star. They have become friends.

“We never talk track,” Benjamin said. “Speed is important, but in football, it’s all about technique.”

For his new team, it’s all about hope ... finding something and someone who can help change a bad run.

Watching Benjamin run by defensive backs and make tough catches makes this clear enough: He is definitely someone to watch.

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Embarrassment motivates Packers Sam Shields to improve his tackling

Green Bay - Back home in South Florida, there are a lot of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Too many. Pulling no punches, friends made sure Sam Shields didn't forget his sorry attempt at contact.

You know the play. Tampa Bay running back LaGarrette Blount ripping through eight Green Bay defenders was the ultimate lowlight for the unit last season. Only, Blount didn't need to steamroll Shields. On the touchdown run, Shields approached the 247-pound back, had a point-blank chance at tackling him and ... barely laid a finger on him.

Friends didn't let Shields off the hook. Ten people? Twenty?

"A lot of cats were talking," Shields said. He lost count.

"It's motivation. You hear guys talking, 'Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that?' he said. "I just listen to it. I know what I have to do. They're not playing. I'm playing."

Shields had no comeback for them. The film spoke for itself. In 2011, the Packers cornerback played too soft, missed too many tackles. So now in training camp, he has been demoted. Veteran Jarrett Bush - not Shields - is lining up with the No. 1 defense at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams.

Considering Bush's limitations in man coverage, it's tough to see him winning the job. Still, it's a blaring wake-up call for Shields.

He is motivated by the coaches' decision.

"Most definitely," he said. "There's competition with everything. You could be up one time, down another time. You never know."

Possibly no player regressed more on defense than Shields in 2011. Two years ago, the undrafted Shields was a playoff hero - his two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game lifted Green Bay to the Super Bowl. Last season, he finished with 36 tackles, four interceptions, 14 pass breakups and many headaches. His speed is unquestioned. Beat in coverage at times, Shields was able to close fast to make plays.

But sloppy fundamentals and shoddy tackling plagued Shields throughout the season. By the postseason, he was benched.

This summer, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. told Shields he must play with more physicality. Above all, his tackling must improve.

"When running backs or receivers break out, you just need to come in and tackle," Shields said. "It's just getting into that routine so when the game time comes, you're used to it. So that's the thing Coach Whitt told me to keep doing."

Sitting on a table in the Packers locker room Friday, Shields jolts up to demonstrate. "Tagging off," he calls it. This is how he must tackle in 2012. He lifts his arms out and pretends to wrap up at someone's ankles. Too often last season, Shields threw a shoulder at a running back or receiver. Before his senior year at Miami (Fla.), he never played defense, period.

Shields has replayed the string of missed tackles - including that Blount run - in the film room. The embarrassment soaked in.

"Yeah, I've seen them," he said. "I go back and watch them. And most of the tackles that I did miss, it was me not bringing my arms around. Wrapping up. I just tried to go in like that with my shoulder - not wrapping up."

That's something Bush can do. The seventh-year cornerback has endeared himself to coaches and management alike with his all-out practice habits, gritty playing style and value on special teams.

When push comes to shove, there's no ignoring Bush's obvious deficiencies. Leaving Bush isolated on any receiver remains a hold-your-breath proposition. On Thursday, James Jones caught one lob over Bush's head with the cornerback's back turned. Bush will be pushed by Shields, second-year cornerback Davon House and rookie Casey Hayward.

He says he's "up for a good challenge." Bush and Shields have different, distinctive skill sets.

"Sam is very talented, very fast. Speed is his forte," Bush said. "And I have other strengths also. Obviously I'm here for a reason. I stuck around for a reason. That's what makes us unique, that's what makes us good."

Further, Shields admits teams probably studied him on film. He realizes now his eyes gave too much away. In 2011, Shields was caught peeking into the backfield. This year, he hopes to eliminate this bad habit.

He believes he's still the track-speed playmaker of 2010. When asked if the Shields of that conference title game will resurface, the 24-year-old appears irritated.

"I mean, that never went anywhere," he said. "I don't think it went anywhere. There are certain things I just have to work on. . . . It hasn't went anywhere. I'm telling you."

Contrary to what that Blount highlight may say, Shields vows he's not "scared" to tackle. The pads come on Saturday. If Shields pushes the limit, if he starts crossing the line, that's probably a good thing.

And one month from now, Shields hopes to earn his spot back.

"I want to be that guy," Shields said. "I just have to keep working and keep doing my job each day."

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Leonard Hankerson returns with confidence

Leonard Hankerson had about as frustrating a rookie season as he could have had. During the preseason, the University of Miami product never seemed to have trouble getting open. Passes would come his way, but Hankerson rarely could hang on.

And aside from the drops, Hankerson struggled to pick up all aspects of the offense. Because of this, the Redskins’ third-round pick didn’t play in his first official game until seven weeks into the regular season.

Hankerson finally broke out in his fourth game, making eight catches for 106 yards, but in the same game, he tore the labrum in his hip and was lost for the season.

After an offseason that featured a setback in rehab and surgery in February, Hankerson finally has returned, and is competing for a key role in Washington’s offense.

Held out of organized training activities and minicamp to ensure he had fully healed, the past three days of training camp practices have represented Hankerson’s first full-speed football activity in eight months.

After a slow start on Thursday, Hankerson had a strong practice on Friday, making four impressive catches from quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson says this training camp is “totally different from last year. I know what [coaches] are expecting now. … I know what I need to do. I’m more confident in the playbook.”

And in turn, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that his confidence in Hankerson — both mentally and physically — is high.

“I feel really good about Hankerson,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been with those hips before, and you just don’t know about the hips. It really didn’t look like there were any setbacks today whatsoever. He’s been going full speed for the last couple weeks, and knock on wood, he can stay healthy and keep on getting better.”

The Redskins have Hankerson competing for one of the starting wide receiver positions opposite free agent pickup, Pierre Garçon. In the early days of camp, he has alternated with Josh Morgan as the starter. Other times, he has lined up in the slot while competing for that spot with Santana Moss.

Hankerson is Washington’s biggest wide receiver. Boasting great leaping ability and hands that measure 10-5/8 inches across, he has all the tools to be an impact player.

But Hankerson said he doesn’t allow concerns over whether or not he will start to consume him. He just wants to do his best and let the rest fall into place.

“It’s not about if I should be a starter. It’s about coming here and putting in work,” he said. “If I come in here and put in work, bust my tail every day and win the competition, then that’s why. We’re all out here having fun. We all compete with each other. It’s an open competition, and whoever comes out on top, comes out on top.”

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Rough start for Sam Shields

A day after third-year cornerback Sam Shields talked about how he’s in a fight for his job, he did little to help himself.

In the first padded practice of training camp, Shields gave up a long touchdown to James Jones and another deep completion against the third-string offense, when rookie QB B.J. Coleman threw over the top of Shields and found rookie receiver Dale Moss.

Shields has held down the No. 3 cornerback job for most of the last two seasons, but he opened this training camp well down the depth chart. He hasn’t been part of the No. 1 nickel package and also isn’t getting the first shot to replace Charles Woodson when he goes to safety in the base. Jarrett Bush has that role for the time being.

“I think every year you have to fight for your job,” Shields said. “They’re bringing in new guys, that’s part of it. Each year you’ve got to grind no matter what.”
To make matters worse for Shields, by the end of practice he was replaced in the dime package by second-year pro Davon House.

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Kenny Phillips campaigns for more aggressive role

He made 86 tackles, picked off four passes, and helped knock away that oh-so-critical Hail Mary game-ending Hail Mary pass to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in Super Bowl XLVI.

But fifth-year safety Kenny Phillips thinks he can do even better this season, if only the Giants would let him finally play a more aggressive role.

“I had four interceptions last year,” Phillips said Monday. “I feel like this year, if I’m more involved in the defense, that number can go up. That’s really my goal.
“For the most part, I’m usually always back deep, it looks like I’m catching punts. I would like for that to change, to be more involved in the defense, in the box, just around the ball more.”

No, this has nothing to do with the fact that Phillips is entering a contract year. He’s hardly worried about money, said “money’s not an issue to me right now.” If the Giants approached him about a new deal, he’d simply tell them to “talk to the agent.”

“I don’t want nothing to do with that,” he said. “I just want to play football.”

And he’s hoping to be more than the “security blanket” he says he felt like in 2011. Last year’s camp opened with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell asking Phillips to take a “quantum leap” forward and the safety talked excitedly of being a more ball-hawking presence.

But then preseason injuries to star corner Terrell Thomas and 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara decimated the cornerback pool. Suddenly, a less aggressive approach in the secondary called for Phillips to play deep centerfield, protecting against long passes.

Phillips played the role willingly, and his presence and good positioning deep routinely dissuaded quarterbacks from stretching the Giants ‘D’. But Phillips’ absence in the box hurt the run defense, and it bored the former first-round pick.

At times last season, Phillips was visibly frustrated in the locker room, desperately wanting to get closer to the action.

“It was tough,” he said. “I mean, you never want to go through a game and (be) like ‘What happened?’ Just hoping someone breaks, just so you can make a tackle. That’s pretty bad.”

Phillips stressed that he’s a team player, and by season’s end he had “just accepted the role” and “I just bought into it.” The Giants saw little reason to move him out of the slot, too, because, as safeties coach Dave Merritt said, Phillips is “really good, we all know, back in the back end.”

“How many balls do you see thrown back there?” Merritt asked. “Because 21 is that good. At the same time, would you like to have Kenny down low? Yes, because he’s a big man, and he understands run-fits. But you also like to have him in that post.”

Phillips could finally get his wish this season. The Giants are largely healthy in the secondary – although Thomas still seems to be working his way back from last year’s ACL injury – and fellow safety Antrel Rolle is no longer doubling as a nickel corner thanks to the added depth.

That’s allowing Fewell to give Phillips more freedom to roam. Phillips says that in defensive meetings, neither he nor Rolle has a “strong” or “free” safety designation; both players have the latitude to blitz or drop back at any time.

“We’re both, I believe, playmakers,” Phillips said of himself and Rolle. “Especially when the ball’s in the air. Just half the time, we don’t get that opportunity, just because of the position we’re playing in. I think him going back to safety, and coach Perry’s gonna draw some defenses to get us more involved. I think our interceptions will go up.”

“No doubt about that,” Fewell added. “Kenny’s a guy with excellent athletic ability.”

And Phillips can’t wait.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “Just having (Rolle), another playmaker, out there, it’s gonna put me in a better position to make plays and not always be the deep safety and try to play hero.”

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Devin Hester earns more praise from WR coach Darryl Drake

BOURBONNAIS — It’s that time of year.

‘‘Devin Hester [has improved] in every possible way,’’ Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said, calling Hester the Bears’ most improved receiver. ‘‘Route running, everything. You just see it in everything he does right now. He understands it totally.

‘‘If you watched him in practice today, I mean, how many times did he get covered? You know what I’m saying? There’s just a difference.’’

The notion that Devin Hester is ready for a breakout season as a wide receiver has become as much a rite of Bears training camp as the rookie sensation or the high-profile position battle.

‘‘This is an offense that fits me,’’ Hester said. ‘‘My biggest thing is when I catch the ball, to accelerate and make guys miss. That’s my biggest goal this year: When I get my hands on the ball, I want to just explode out and make two or three guys miss before I go down. If it’s only two out there, I want to score.’’

All he has to do is do it. Hester has proved his harshest critics wrong by becoming a productive NFL wide receiver since making the transition to offense at the end of the 2007 season. He had 51, 57 and 40 receptions from 2008 to ’10, with 10 total touchdowns. But he has yet to become the No. 1 pass-catching threat worthy of the four-year, $40 million contract extension ($15 million guaranteed) he held out of camp for in 2008.

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Jason Fox needs the injuries to finally be behind him

Lions offensive tackle Jason Foxicon-article-link is hoping there will come a time when he conducts an interview that doesn’t inevitably shift to the subject of injuries and his ability to stay healthy.

That day wasn't today, though.

Fox has battled knee and foot problems that have kept him off the field for the better part of his first two seasons in the NFL. Now entering his third season, the biggest question most people have is whether he can stay healthy or not.

“When I’m out there I’m just playing football and not worrying about it,” Fox said after practice Monday. “It’s been on my mind a lot in the offseason. It’s just something that has to be in the past now. It’s no secret I’ve been hurt and now it’s just time to get out there and stay healthy and perform. That’s the bottom line.”

When healthy, Fox has shown that he can play. He continues to share first-team reps with Corey Hilliardicon-article-link in the absence of Jeff Backusicon-article-link at left tackle in training camp. Backus injured his thumb in one-on-one drills Saturday and was spotted with a hard cast on his hand in the locker room Monday. It's unknown when Backus will return to practice.

A fourth-round pick in 2010 (128th overall), Fox was limited to four games during his rookie season because of a knee injury he suffered in college that lingered into his rookie season. He was placed on injured reserve last season with a broken foot.

As long as he can stay healthy, the Lions will give Fox every opportunity to compete for playing time.

“Well, he’s been able to practice and that’s really been his issue for the previous couple years,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Fox. “His availability has been limited. Last year we saw Jeff Backus go down early in camp because he was coming back from that pectoral injury, so it gave a guy like Fox a great opportunity to get reps and was doing well and he got hurt. He ended up missing the season for us.”

Fox knows that can’t happen again or there isn't likely to be a roster spot for him when the team gets to it's final 53.

“Obviously if you’re taking first-team reps there’s pressure to perform,” Fox said.

Schwartz said there’s never been a question about Fox’s talent, just his availability, and this is a big training camp for him.

“How well he’s doing is really a reflection of how available he is because when he’s been available he’s always done a good job in there going back to his rookie year," Schwartz said. He got thrown in at the end of (his rookie year) against Minnesota. He had a rough first series against some really good defensive ends. He came back the rest of the game, played really well. It’s just a matter of him being healthy and if he can do that then he can help us.”

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Bryant McKinnie’s back in Baltimore, with a bad back

Bryant McKinnie’s back in Baltimore, with an apparently bad back.

McKinnie told Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times he’s been missing from Ravens camp because he slipped and fell outside his South Florida home and twisted his lower back.

“I had an accident. I’m over it. I’m here to play football,” McKinnie said.

McKinnie’s been MIA since camp opened and was placed on the reserve/did not report list, incurring fines of $30,000 per day.

“Of course, I’m glad to be back,” McKinnie said. “I’m kind of disappointed, though. “I’ve been training hard, I’ve been boxing and doing all this stuff. To have a setback like this is disappointing.

“Why isn’t anybody saying I got hurt? I don’t know what people thought was going on. How I got hurt is running out of the house. It was slippery and I fell and hurt my lower back. You can’t be playing football when your back is hurting. When I fell, I said, ‘I know I ain’t going out like this.’”

McKinnie’s bewilderment at anyone wondering where he was ignores one significant point: With him, it’s always something.

The Vikings ran him off for being overweight, and he’s worked to get that under control with the Ravens. But they’ve moved Michael Oher to left tackle for the moment, and may be inclined to leave him there, if McKinnie can’t get on the field and do something.

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Antonio Dixon tackles health and weight issues in strong return to Eagles

Given the setback encountered by Mike Patterson in his recovery from brain surgery, Antonio Dixon's return to the Philadelphia Eagles from his triceps injury has come just in time.

The fourth-year defensive tackle became the forgotten man of the defense last year after his season ended in the first week of October, when he tore the triceps in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Two days later he was on the injured reserve list and headed for his first surgery.

Dixon admits he didn't handle that period very well.

His weight had already ballooned, the result of previous injuries and the NFL lockout.

But there was more.

"I had never had surgery before," Dixon said, "so it was pretty tough. I was a little depressed some days [not being able to help]. ... They fought hard every game. We just couldn't put it together. It made me realize how important I am for the team. So I just have to stay healthy and stay in shape."

Dixon has more control over the second part of that goal than the first. To that end, he plans to hire a personal nutritionist/chef to take over the meal-planning and preparing portion of his life.

Dixon actually has already made great strides from where he was last year at this time.

"He was so heavy and out of shape," recalled defensive line coach Jim Washburn of his first meeting with Dixon last summer, following a long labor stoppage that meant no offseason minicamps for the players and no use of the team's facilities. "It was disgusting how out of shape he was last year.

"It was not him. He had all these injuries and no offseason. ... But he looked so much different for spring, and I'm so excited about him. I didn't know what we had. And now, getting himself in shape, making a commitment — I'll tell you what. Two words: Barry Rubin."

Rubin, of course, is the Eagles' head strength and conditioning coach who put together the plan that dropped Dixon to his more manageable current weight of 338 pounds, just about two weeks away, according to Dixon, from his target of 330.

Washburn and the Eagles now may be able to count on Dixon to step in and provide what Patterson has for seven straight seasons — all except one as a fulltime starter. That would be huge, considering how much Washburn thinks of Patterson, who will sit out this camp and be out indefinitely until his surgeon pronounces his skull sufficiently healed from the operation more than six months ago.

"I'll miss the guy when I turn on the film on Monday morning [the guy who] plays solid the whole time," Washburn said of Patterson. "He's just always in the right place. He does the right thing and he's going to play hard and he knows what to do. It's a constant.

"You turn on the film and you wonder how's Vinny [Curry] or Fletcher [Cox] going to play or whatever, but Mike was the old solid guy that was always there, and that's a comfort to a coach to know that he's always going to do the right thing."

At the very least, Dixon has earned Washburn's trust and admiration.

"This spring he worked his butt off," the coach said. "He's down. I don't know how much he weighs. He's maybe 330 from 360 or whatever it was. He's in so much better shape and I went, 'Wow, this guy's got some quickness.' He likes to play and he's tough, but he's got ability.

"He's a real guy. I'm really excited about him. And he's such a good person. He wants to be a good player. He's going to help us a lot."

Without Patterson in the mix, Dixon might even start, although all of the four tackles who eventually will wind up in the rotation are considered starters anyway by head coach Andy Reid because they essentially play the same number of snaps.

"The thing I'm good at is getting off the ball," Dixon said, "so Coach Washburn's system fits me a lot."

Especially now that Dixon literally fits into the system.

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Yasmani Grandal out after hard swing

CINCINNATI -- Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal left in the second inning after taking a big swing against Reds reliever Alfredo Simon, then grabbing his right side.

Grandal led off San Diego's five-run inning with a walk on Monday night. Batting for the second time in the inning, he had a big swing and miss, then winced and reached for his side. He was replaced by John Baker, who flied out to end the 10-batter inning.

The Padres said Grandal strained a muscle.

The Padres had all four players that they got from the Reds in a trade for starter Mat Latos last December. Right-hander Volquez started the game, first baseman Yonder Alonso and Grandal were in the starting lineup, and reliever Brad Boxberger was called up from the minors before the game.

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Aubrey Huff exits game with apparent leg injury

Aubrey Huff left Monday's game against the Mets in the sixth inning with an apparent leg injury.

Huff pulled up lame while trying to leg out a double-play ball. Mets second baseman Ronny Cedeno bobbled the ball, so the go-ahead run scored on the play. Matt Cain replaced Huff as a pinch-runner. If the injury requires an extended absence, one wonders if this could be his last appearance in a Giants' uniform.

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Jemile Weeks wins game for A's in 15th

After going 0-for-7, Jemile Weeks delivered a game-winning sac fly as the A's beat the Rays 4-3 in 15 innings on Monday.

The A's won despite striking out a team-record 21 times. Their top three hitters in the order -- Weeks, Jonny Gomes and Josh Reddick -- combined to go 1-for-20 with one walk and eight strikeouts. Still, the last out got the job done. The A's bullpen combined to pitch eight scoreless innings after a solid outing from A.J. Griffin.

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'Reggie Wayne reporting for duty'


Reggie Wayne: The veteran receiver has often made dramatic -- and thematic -- arrivals at training camp.

This morning, he showed up in three Humvees with soldiers from the Indiana National Guard in Shelbyville.

Emerging from one of the Humvees in military fatigues, Wayne declared: "Reggie Wayne reporting for duty."

Then he paid tribute to the soldiers who joined him.

"I had these guys on speed-dial," Wayne said. "I take my hat off to these guys. They're on 24-hour notice."

In the past, Wayne has shown up to camp in a dump truck to symbolize getting ready for hard work. Another year, he showed up in an Arizona Cardinals No. 32 jersey as a tribute to former Colts running back Edgerrin James.

"I don't want people to think this is a joke," Wayne said this morning. "I fully support the military. They are the heroes. ... I want our team to take a page out of their book. These guys are what you call true heroes. I appreciate that."

The military escort was planned two years ago, but the Colts, then under different management, nixed the idea, said Staff Sgt. Lamont Sullivan.

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Brandon Harris receives praise

Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Sunday, July 29, that CB Brandon Harris has looked like a totally different player since playing sparingly in his rookie season last year. "The last five days of OTAs (organized team activities) and the first couple days of camp, Brandon has been a little different player," Kubiak said. "Usually, guys will make a big jump from year one to two, so we'll see."

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Lamar Miller cleared for contact, impresses Dolphins teammates

Lamar Miller spent most of the offseason wrapped in imaginary bubble wrap, protected from contact.

The former University of Miami standout the Miami Dolphins traded up to select in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL draft saw his draft stock plummet because of a shoulder injury he played his junior season with, and one that wasn’t fully healed during this summer's OTA work.

During the offseason program Miller's participation was limited because of his shoulder issues. Sunday was the team’s first day working in full pads during training camp, and that meant it was the first time Miller tested his surgically repaired shoulder.

“I wasn’t nervous at all. This is football,” said Miller, who rushed for 1,918 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in his two seasons of playing at Miami. “I got cleared [for contract] by the doctor a month ago. I’ve been good about the rehab and it just keeps getting better every day.”

The Dolphins hope Miller's play does the same thing considering they envision him as the team's top kickoff returner, and a change of pace back who shares the backfield with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Since joining the team Miller has been one of playmakers the team’s most excited about because of his breakaway speed. Center Mike Pouncey labels Miller the team’s most exciting player to watch because of his knack for finding open running lanes.

"Lamar Miller has great vision for a running back,” said cornerback Sean Smith. “Every day he (breaks) at least one (good run).”

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Orlando Franklin could see time at guard

According to the Denver Post, the Broncos have "kicked around" the idea of moving RT Orlando Franklin to guard.

The move would give the Broncos insurance on RG Chris Kuper (broken leg), but also open up a hole at right tackle. Kuper has been cleared for camp. Franklin actually made 12 more starts at guard than tackle for the University of Miami, and was much better in the run game than pass protection as a rookie.

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Chase Ford showing off his hands at Lehigh

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- It's all about who you know. Chase Ford has been a pleasant surprise so far, but he ended up at Eagles training camp largely because of a connection.

The 6-foot-6, 258-pound undrafted tight end played two seasons of college ball at the University of Miami, where Jed Fish is the offensive coordinator. Fish happened to be college roommates with Eagles' GM Howie Roseman at the University of Florida.

That is not to say Ford is out of place or in camp undeservedly. Roseman just had good information. Ford has shown great hands, is a reliable, big target and seems to understand what he can bring to the team at the tight end position.

"My best thing, in my opinion, would probably be catching the ball," Ford said. "I try not to drop anything and I usually don't."

Before going to Miami, Ford played at Kilgore Junior College in Texas. In junior college, Ford caught just about everything thrown his way. He racked up 545 yards on 32 catches and was named a second team Junior College All-American. After the 2009 season, he left for the University of Miami.

Miami was a different story. Ford had just 16 catches in his two seasons there. In his final year for the Hurricanes, Ford had nine receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown. He played in all 12 games, but started just six. The statistics are a bit underwhelming, but stats aren't everything.

Ford has raw ability, good size and potential. You can't teach potential. Roseman and Fish understand that. Ford also has the right attitude. There are no guarantees for Ford with Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Brent Celek at tight end. He just focuses on the task at hand.

“I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job so far," Ford said. "You always got to come out here and get better every day and that’s my goal to come out here and get better.”

With Celek day-to-day with a sprained knee and the Eagles passing on signing a veteran, Ford should have some extra opportunities and reps the next few days. Those are precious extra snaps to improve and make an impression.

And with Saturday marking the start of full-contact practices, the real fun is about to begin.

"It has been a long time since I've been in pads," Ford said. "I'm ready to get back into pads and get that feeling back again."

Embracing contact is just the ticket to being popular in Philadelphia. And if Ford can continue to impress the way he has when the hitting begins, he will turn some heads. Not that the rookie is focusing on any of that.

“My goal for training camp is just to come out here and get better every day.  That’s all you really can do," Ford said. "Get better from one day to the next and if you do that you should be alright.”

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Devin Hester hurt but says he's OK

The Bears got a little bit of a scare -- and still might not be out of the woods -- when wide receiver Devin Hester gingerly walked off the practice field at Olivet Nazarene with an ankle injury after colliding with Major Wright on a downfield pass play.

Hester jogged off the injury on an adjacent practice field, then returned for the final offensive drill of the day, making one catch of a pass from Jay Cutler.

Hester said he expects to practice Saturday night.

''I really don't know [what happened on the play],'' Hester said. ''Both of us were going for the ball. It just kind of happens in football.''

That Hester returned was a good sign. But it remains to be seen how it responds overnight.

''It was bothering me, but at the same time I wanted to see where it was at,'' Hester said. ''You can have a nagging injury, but it won't affect the way you're playing once the ball is snapped. I wanted to see how it felt once the ball is snapped.''

Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't have a problem with Wright's contact on Hester in a non-contact practice. ''We're in pads tomorrow, and there was a little bit of contact today, so we should be good,'' Smith said. ''It's the last day before you go. I'd say most camps around, there will be a little bit of contact right before you get into pads.''

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Andre Johnson strains groin, will miss 'a week or so' for Texans

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said Sunday that he'll miss "a week or so" after sustaining a minor groin injury in the team's second morning practice.

Johnson fell awkwardly while running a route Sunday morning and had an MRI exam later in the day that showed a "mild strain." A team source told and NFL Network's Charley Casserly that Johnson would miss “a few practices.”

"It just tightened up on me," the five-time Pro Bowl receiver said. "I had hit the ground pretty hard, stretching out for a ball. That was pretty much it."

Johnson missed nine regular-season games last season with hamstring injuries and was sidelined from the first organized team activities in the spring after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

"Nothing that I'm not used to, doing rehab," Johnson said. "It's very frustrating, but it happens, man. I wish I had some control over it. Unfortunately, I don't."

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson wanted to continue practicing, but Kubiak took the cautious route. Johnson watched the rest of the outdoor half of the workout with a towel wrapped around his head, then went to Reliant Stadium when the practice moved indoors.

"I felt pretty good, because he wanted to go back out there," Kubiak said Sunday afternoon. "When a guy is telling you that, I don't think it's too bad."

On Sunday afternoon, Johnson wasn't even walking with a limp. He said he'll know "in a few days" when he'll be able to return to practice.

"Everybody's just saying, ‘Just be smart about it,’ " Johnson said. "You don't want to rush in, come back out here and have something happen again. We'll be smart about it, and see what happens."

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Jeremy Shockey sounds off on Goodell, concussions

That sound you hear in the background is any remaining interest in free-agent tight end Jeremy Shockey evaporating.

Shockey, who reportedly has drawn interest (but no workout, yet) from the Eagles, has teed off on Commissioner Roger Goodell, accusing the Commissioner of lying about the health effects of concussions.

“The no it all Rog goodell lied to every player and told us concussions will not effect us in life that a LIE!” Shockey declares on Twitter.

The full extent of Shockey’s Twitter timeline suggest that he’s thinking about joining the concussion lawsuits, given that he says, “Science tells me I’ll be dead time in 54yrs old!! What would u do?“

Shockey, who has played for the Giants, Saints, and Panthers, also says, “It would be great to give the health study on NFL players on a commercial during the games!! just want the fans and congress to know! FACT.”

Of course, if Shockey decides to keep playing at a time when he fully appreciates and is concerned about the risks, it’ll be hard for him to do anything about it later.  But if no one gives him an opportunity to keep playing, there’s a chance he may do something about it sooner.

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Harbaugh: Tommy Streeter's Development Won't Take As Long As Some Think

When the Ravens drafted wide receiver Tommy Streeter in the sixth round, they knew he would be a project.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wideout has the size and speed to develop into a dangerous vertical threat in the Ravens offense, but that talent is still raw.
Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that Streeter is a "developmental guy," but said that the learning process may not take as long as some are suggesting.

"It's going to take some time, it's a matter of time, but I don't think it's going to be as long as some people think," Harbaugh said. "He's got all the tools in the world. He's got a good vision for what he wants to become as a player."

As the Ravens opened training camp this week, Streeter continued his competition battle with some of the other young receivers for a coveted roster spot. He has primarily taken reps with the second- and third- team offense.

Working behind veteran receivers like Anquan Boldin, however, has given Streeter a valuable chance to sit back and learn.

"These past few days have been a learning process," Streeter said Friday. "It's been great to watch the veteran guys."

Since the rookie class arrived in Baltimore back in May, Streeter's time has been marked by a series of ups and downs. He's shown off his blazing speed and made some impressive catches, but he has also dropped passes and taken some ribbing from his teammates.

"I've made mistakes and also made a few plays," Streeter said. "I'm just trying not to make the same mistake twice. I'm trying to come out here, compete at a high level, have fun and continue to get better each day.

"Every day is not going to be a good day, but as long as you can stack days on top of each other, where you learned something and got better, then in the long run everything will come together and you'll get in good position."

In the time between the first rookie minicamp and the start of training camp, Streeter said he has already noticed an improvement in his game. He's gained a better understanding of the offense and also polished his route running.

"It's just been a continued process to get better in route running and I feel like I have gotten better by far," Streeter said.

An area where Streeter could see himself making an impact this season is in the red zone. As a big receiver, he's able to leap over smaller defenders and execute on fade routes to the corner of the endzone.

He flourished as a red-zone target last season at Miami, and finished the season with 967 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

"The red zone is a place where I thrive," Streeter said. "I feel like being of my stature and my skill set, that's one place where I'm able to use all that."

To get the chance to become a red-zone threat, Streeter first has to earn his way onto the roster at a crowded position.

Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are virtual locks to make the roster, leaving Streeter in a competition with second-year wideouts Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams and rookie Deonte Thompson. Third-year receiver/returner David Reed will also vie for a spot when he returns from a torn ACL.

For now, Streeter is focused on watching, learning and making the most of his opportunities in training camp.

And in time, he could develop into a dynamic receiver in this Ravens offense.

"Patience is key," Streeter said. "Football is a process because you're not going to be great overnight. It's a matter of who can last. It's a marathon, not a sprint in this game."

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Santana Moss wants to tap the brakes on RG3-mania

While many of the Redskins have been eager to heap praise on rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, veteran wide receiver Santana Moss has adopted a different approach.

Instead, Moss said he wants Griffin to be allowed to grow into his role at a comfortable pace, without veterans like himself adding to the media-fueled hype that was criticized by Giants tight end Osi Umenyiora earlier this week.

“I don’t want to every day be asked that question and have to say something,” Moss said.  “I don’t want to get into all that every day, telling you, ‘He’s this, he’s that.’”

“I just feel like every day we’re going to have a chance to get better with him,” Moss continued. “You all have seen him play in college. You know what he can do. I feel like on this pro level, he’s going to have to prove himself, and he knows that.”

Moss said Griffin already has enough pressure without having those at Redskins Park putting more on him.

“I don’t want to be that guy talking about him and putting too much pressure on him, because I know I wouldn’t want that on myself,” Moss added. “Until he goes out there and plays a game, then we can talk about it. Right now we’re practicing.”

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Javarris James to miss 'week or more'

Cardinals RB Javarris James will be sidelined a "week or more" with an abductor muscle injury.

It's a hip injury for the third-year runner, who spent 2011 out of football after appearing in 10 games for the Colts as a rookie. If James' timeline holds to its "or more" portion, his already slim chances of cracking the Cardinals' 53-man roster could be toast.

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Leonard Hankerson worked with the first-team offense at flanker

Leonard Hankerson worked with the first-team offense at flanker during Friday's training camp practice. Josh Morgan opened camp opposite "X" receiver Pierre Garcon, but the Skins are holding an open competition at "Z.

Speaking to reporters after Friday morning's walkthrough at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Hankerson admitted that he is still not quite recovered from the surgery to repair the injury.

"Not quite yet," he said. "I'm still working down in the training room, working with [Redskins head athletic trainer] Larry Hess and the other training guys.
"It's nothing major," Hankerson continued. "It is just not normal."

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Jonathan Vilma presented a compelling case, but was it enough?

Once the smoke cleared and the exchange of words ceased Thursday inside the courtroom of federal judge Helen Berrigan, the fundamental issue remained unchanged.

Jonathan Vilma's temporary restraining order hearing was about whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the fix in for him and had predetermined that a Vilma defense was without merit, and about whether Berrigan has the authority to set aside Goodell's one-year suspension of Vilma, temporarily or permanently, power that even the judge isn't sure that she holds.

So while Vilma might have gained ground and won more support as he continued to administer body shot after body shot to Goodell's image, Vilma still is nowhere near a majority decision and only might have inched closer to a draw.

Gaining ground with Joe Public and making headway with a judge are different matters altogether, and it's tough to say the needle significantly moved in favor of the New Orleans Saints' suspended linebacker.

Not to say his offensive wasn't impressive.

A parade of witnesses - including teammates Roman Harper, Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas and Sedrick Ellis and interim head coach Joe Vitt - adamantly insisted the Saints did not have a pay-for-injury bounty program.

They caringly spoke of Vilma as a friend and player, admirably detailed his leadership qualities and toughness.

But the hearing wasn't about positive characteristics and his willingness to provide wonderful, needed charitable contributions.

Nor was it about the uniform, disarming definitions that he and his supporters provided for phrases like "whack," "cart-off" and "kill the head."

It wasn't about the line that Vilma and the NFL have drawn between pay for performance (Vilma's assertion) and pay for injury (the NFL's assertion).

And it didn't center on whether Berrigan believes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell overstepped his authority when he issued unprecedented league suspensions, including a season for Vilma, for the roles Goodell determined that several current and former team executives and players held in establishing, funding and nurturing a bounty program.

And Vilma, his attorneys and the NFL Players Association counsel present must have been giddy internally when Berrigan informed NFL lawyers that she had "jurisdictional concerns" about Goodell's ruling.

That aside, the hearing was about whether Vilma's career would be irreparably damaged by the suspension, and whether Berrigan even can do something about it.

"There is not sufficient evidence to support what he has done," argued Peter Ginsberg, one of Vilma's attorneys.

"He's not allowed to prejudge," Ginsberg added.

And Berrigan - also, undoubtedly, to the delight of Vilma and Co. - suggested that Goodell had shoehorned the allegations into his jurisdictional strike zone. She said the evidence on which Goodell based the suspensions easily could have been classified as on-field violations or salary-cap circumvention, rather than off-field, integrity-of-the-game crimes.

She said that the agreement of arbitrators might have been a result of possible fear of ruling against the powerful commissioner.

But when league attorneys countered that, one, Vilma didn't wholly participate in the appeals process or exhaust it and, two, that Berrigan doesn't have the authority to overrule Goodell's boundaries that have been determined by the collective bargaining agreement, it's that much more difficult to envision Vilma gaining long-term relief from the suspension.

When the fact was established that none of Vilma's witnesses were asked to appear on his behalf at the appeals hearing with Goodell on June 18 - a brief, direct cross examination that NFL attorneys gave to each witness - it might have fed Vilma's contention that he believed his fate had been decided, but it also helped the league's argument that Vilma shouldn't seek relief from Berrigan when he hasn't exhausted all options.

Now he hopes Berrigan will provide that relief, by way of granting his temporary restraining order. But even she isn't sure that she has the authority to do so.
For all the positives Vilma might have gained Thursday from his and others' testimony under oath, that one snag is a significant one.

And it's hard to believe he can get past it.

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Sam Shields: 'I love competition'

Green Bay -- Tomorrow, the pads come on. Yet again, expect built-up frustration from months away from hitting. There will be quick whistles ending plays. Teams must be cautious. They cannot afford injuries in July.

But if Sam Shields pushes the limit? He probably won't be scolded too much.

Two days into training camp, coaches have sent an early message to the third-year cornerback --- get physical. Jarrett Bush, not Shields, has lined up with the first-team defense opposite Tramon Williams. After a up-and-down season of several missed tackles and shaky fundamentals, the pressure is on Shields to perform this summer. Considering Bush's limitations in man-to-man coverage, his promotion may be more of a wake-up call to Shields than anything.

The former undrafted cornerback out of Miami (Fla.) will be in a battle to retain his spot in the defense.

On Friday, Shields says he welcomes the competition. Asked what went through his mind when he found out Bush would be ahead of him on the depth chart, Shields said, "Nothing."

"It’s just competition and I’ve been there and everybody else has been there," Shields said. "So, hey, if there’s not competition there’s no fun. I love it and Jarrett loves it. It’s a big competition. ...I love competition. It’s the sport of football. You’re going to have competition every year. You can’t relax. You have to keep learning and keep working.”

Last season, Shields finished with 36 tackles (32 solo), four interceptions and 14 pass break-ups. His speed is unquestioned. The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder may be the fastest player on the entire team. Beat in coverage at times, Shields was able to catch up in a hurry to make a play. But his tackling woes also led to some big plays after contact -- something that isn't an issue for Bush.

This camp, Shields says that cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt told him to play more aggressive.

Too often, Shields admits, he simply threw his shoulder at a receiver or running back instead of wrapping up. He has gone back to the film and replayed his missed tackles.

"Yeah, I’ve seen them," he said. "I go back and watch them. And most of the tackles that I did miss, it was me not bringing my arms around. Wrapping up. I just tried to go in like that with my shoulder — not wrapping up.”

He has one month to figure it out. Shields is competing against Davon House and Casey Hayward just as much -- if not more -- than Bush. While Bush endears himself to coaches with his special teams play and physicality, it's hard to imagine them leaving him out wide at cornerback when the season begins Sept. 9.

Seeing Bush ahead of him on the depth chart is motivating Shields.

“Most definitely," he said. "There’s competition with everything."

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Uphill battle for Tommy Streeter

OWINGS MILLS — Almost immediately after taking the snap the football was already out of quarterback Curtis Painter’s hand, lofted toward the corner of the end zone intended for rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter.

Cornerback Chykie Brown actually had decent position to defend Streeter’s fade pattern, but it didn’t matter.

Once the ball arrived, the athletic 6-foot-5 Streeter easily out-jumped the 5-foot-11 Brown, reaching over him to make a graceful, almost effortless looking grab for a touchdown.

Albeit in a training camp setting, it was exactly the type of play the Baltimore Ravens envisioned Streeter making when they selected him in the sixth round of April’s NFL draft.

The problem for Streeter is that for every one of those acrobatic grabs, he’s also had a head-scratching drop on a relatively routine play for most NFL receivers.
He’s also still very raw after running an extremely limited route tree during his college career at the University of Miami.

“These past few days have been a learning process,” Streeter said. “I’ve made mistakes, but also made plays. I’m just trying to not make the same mistake twice, just try to come out here and compete at a high level, have fun and just continue to get better each day.”

There’s no denying Streeter’s ability as both a deep threat and a weapon in the red-zone.

At 6-5, 219 pounds, he blazed a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February for one of the fastest times among all skill position players.
During his lone season as a starter at Miami, he recorded 46 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns.

He averaged nearly 18 yards per catch.

“Tommy is a developmental guy,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s got all the tools in the world. He’s got a good vision for what he wants to become as a player. It’s going to take some time. It’s a matter of time, but I don’t think it’s going to be as long as some people think.”

Yet, while the Ravens would love to utilize his rare combination of size and athleticism — especially in the red-zone — Streeter may have a difficult time cementing a roster spot.

Frankly, it comes down to numbers.

Baltimore usually keeps five receivers on its regular season roster.

Three spots are already locked up — Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones — and Tandon Doss, who has impressed through the early part of camp, appears to have a job solidified as well.

This potentially leaves Streeter competing with returning contributor Laquan Williams and undrafted rookie speedster Deonte Thompson for the final roster spot among receivers.

David Reed could also factor into the mix depending on his recovery from a torn ACL suffered towards the end of last season.

Even if Baltimore decides to keep six receivers, which it did last year and could very well do again, it would most likely expect to have that player contribute on special teams, something which Streeter doesn’t look very capable of doing.

For now, Streeter said he’s just staying patient and focused on improving.

“Every day’s not going to be a good day,” Streeter said. “But as long as you can stack good days on top of each other where you’ve learned something and gotten better in some way, then in the long run everything will come together and you’ll be in a good position.”

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Has Advantage in Camp Battle?

CB -- Shawntae Spencer vs. DeMarcus Van Dyke vs. Chimdi Chekwa: The Raiders added free agents Spencer (49ers) and Ron Bartell (Rams), a pair of experienced corners, and they worked with the first team throughout the offseason. Bartell looks like a lock on the left side, but Spencer could face a challenge at right cornerback after a rough 2011 season. Spencer started every game in 2009 and 2010 for the 49ers but made zero starts last year and appeared in only one game. He was limited by a hamstring injury in camp, which hurt his chances to impress new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. But that doesn't fully explain why he played so few snaps and why the 49ers released him after the season. Last year the Raiders drafted Van Dyke in the third round out of Miami and Chekwa in the fourth out of Ohio State. Both are still raw, but Van Dyke appeared in 14 games and made four starts last year, while Chekwa played in only four games with one start. Of the two, Van Dyke has more speed but Chekwa is more physical. At cornerback in the NFL, speed trumps brawn. Advantage: Van Dyke.

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Darryl Sharpton suffers setback in recovery

Texans ILB Darryl Sharpton recently suffered a setback in his recovery from a torn right quadriceps.

Sharpton suffered the injury all the way back in October, so this is becoming a long-term issue. Coach Gary Kubiak stated that Sharpton's injury is now affecting his hip. It looks like the 24-year-old may open the season on PUP.

Sharpton, who tore his right quadriceps tendon last October, was on the field Friday morning but did not practice on the first day of training camp. The third-year pro is expected to return shortly and potentially push veteran Bradie James for a starting job.

“Sharp looked really good this morning,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “We’re going to ask him to show us one more time tomorrow, and then he can be back on the field very quickly. He’s real close.”

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Bryant McKinnie to arrive at Ravens camp with injury

Bryant McKinnie is scheduled to make his overdue arrival at Baltimore Ravens training camp Monday, but he won't be 100 percent healthy when he gets there.

McKinnie told Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times that he suffered a back injury at his South Florida home last week. The veteran offensive tackle missed the first four days of camp and was slapped with a $30,000 fine for each missed day.

"Of course, I'm glad to be back," McKinnie said Sunday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "I'm kind of disappointed, though. I've been training hard, I've been boxing and doing all this stuff. To have a setback like this is disappointing.

"Why isn't anybody saying I got hurt? I don't know what people thought was going on. How I got hurt is running out of the house. It was slippery, and I fell and hurt my lower back. You can't be playing football when your back is hurting. When I fell, I said, 'I know I ain't going out like this.' "

McKinnie will have to pass a physical to get on the field, so we'll soon find out the severity of the injury. Wilson said McKinnie was carrying his own luggage at the airport, a sign the issue might not be serious.

McKinnie is a tough one to figure out. Weight issues cost him his job with the Minnesota Vikings. Now he has opened himself up to heavy fines from the Ravens, this despite deep financial woes tied to a massive loan he took out during the NFL lockout.

McKinnie can play. But he also can drive you crazy.

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Returning Aubrey Huff could add pop to Giants lineup

The most vexing question facing the Giants at the trade deadline this year: What to expect out of Aubrey Huff down the stretch?

Just nine days ago, the Giants seemed content to let the deadline pass without a major shake-up. They’d opened the second half with a 7-1 record and were leading the Los Angeles Dodgers by 2½ games in the NL West standings.

But then Pablo Sandoval strained his left hamstring, the Dodgers traded for three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez and the team dropped three in a row at home to the Boys in Blue, concluding with Sunday’s 4-0 loss. Now, the Giants are tied with L.A. for first place and the lineup suddenly looks like it could use some more pop.

It would be easier if the Giants had a single, glaring hole to fill. Brandon Belt has slumped at first base recently (he’s batting .172 in July), but the Giants aren’t going to give up on him completely. The new outfield has been a pleasant surprise, but Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan’s current struggles raise questions about their stamina.

That’s why the Giants need a left-handed bat that hits for some power, and is comfortable playing first base or platooning in the outfield. Do you know anyone like that?

Of course, the Giants did when they signed Aubrey Huff to a two-year, $22 million contract in December 2010. During the World Series run, Huff provided exactly what the Giants are missing right now (.290, 26 HRs, 86 RBIs).

If he could regain his strut (Huff was activated from the disabled list Saturday), Brian Sabean could focus his trade efforts on acquiring an arm for the bullpen.
But the Giants don’t know what they’ll be getting with Huff. He’s 35, and returning from a stint on the disabled list (knee) after leaving earlier in the season because of anxiety issues. Redemption could be right around the corner, but so could his last big league at-bat.

Huff’s departure in late April would have been catastrophic for the Giants if Pagan hadn’t batted .375 through May, Cabrera wasn’t having an MVP-type season and Buster Posey hadn’t bounced right back from last year’s season-ending knee injury. But unexpected contributions from guys such as Blanco, Ryan Theriot and Hector Sanchez masked the void until Sandoval went down last week in the midst of slumps from Belt and Pagan. Now, a problem that’s been brewing since April is starting to bubble over.

To make matters worse, there isn’t an obvious player the Giants can rent for the last two months of the season to plug this hole. The names that are being tossed around — Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Justin Morneau — aren’t very appetizing. Pence is in the prime of his career, but he has two years left on his contract and that would impact the Giants’ ability to re-sign Cabrera; Morneau has the power, but he hasn’t been the same player since he suffered a concussion more than two years ago; and Victorino is a multitooled player, but he’s battled through his own slumps this year.

Like Huff, each of these players has the potential to swing a big stick or go ice cold. So why waste a prospect when you can gamble with the guy sitting at the end of your bench?


Jon Jay's defense proving he is an elite center fielder

CHICAGO -- Jon Jay's dazzling acrobatic catch on Friday -- a catch that ranks among baseball's best this season -- is just the latest feather in the cap for the Cardinals' center fielder, who has been turning heads with his defensive play all season.

While Jay insists that he does not compare his catches, Friday's backward leap and dive to rob Anthony Rizzo of extra bases has to be at or near the top of Jay's career list. And perhaps it takes such a sensational play to earn Jay the recognition that those in the Cardinals' clubhouse have been insistent he deserves for months now.

"From what I'm seeing, I can't imagine anybody doing any better job than what he has done," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's made all the plays he should make and then made a lot that we never thought he would. He's taking charge out there. Every pitch, he's thinking, moving, directing. To me, that's one of the most valuable things. That's where I've seen him take steps -- that he's leading out there."

Especially impressive is that Jay's leadership has come primarily with veteran All-Stars -- Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran -- to each side. He's done so, too, in what is his first full season as a starter. It was at this time last year that Jay took over as the team's everyday center fielder after the Cardinals traded Colby Rasmus.

"I just go out there and try to help the team win," Jay said. "I definitely take pride in my defense. It's something that I do work on a lot. I want to be a complete player."

The numbers back up the Cardinals' claim that Jay has been one of the league's best at the position. His ultimate zone rating -- a sabermetric statistic that reflects how someone compares to an average player at that position -- of 6.3 is second best among the 14 National League players to log at least 400 innings in center field.

Jay has also yet to commit an error this season.

"This year, I think he came believing that this was his job," Matheny said. "And he wants to do it right."


Yonder Alonso breaks out of slump back home in Miami as San Diego loses to Marlins

MIAMI — Miami native Yonder Alonso was in an 0-for-19 slump heading into the series against the Marlins. As family and friends watched, he broke out of the slide.

Alonso hit a tying, two-run homer in the eighth Sunday for the San Diego Padres, who went on to los to the Miami Marlins 5-4 in 10 innings.

“It’s always a good thing when a player goes back to his hometown,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “A lot of players enjoy that situation more than not.”
Alonso was 5 for 13 with five RBIs in the series as the Padres lost two of three.

“It was good,” Alonso said of the series. “Obviously I wish we had more wins, but for me personally it was pretty good. It was fun. I enjoyed it a lot. It was everything that I was hoping for.”

Alonso’ homer against Edward Mujica was a 410-foot drive to right.

“It was a sinker that stayed middle over the plate,” Alonso said. “I was just trying to drive it.”


Danny Valencia returns to lineup

Danny Valencia is in the lineup for the Twins for the first time since May 10.

Valencia was in an 0-for-25 skid when the Twins sent him to Class AAA Rochester more than 11 weeks ago.

He batted .190/.204/.290 with one homer and 11 RBI in 25 games, and the Twins wanted him to go back to Triple-A and regain his confidence. Valencia never really dominated for Rochester, but he was fairly consistent over 69 games, batting .250/.289/.399 with seven homers and 37 RBI.

The Twins recalled Valencia somewhat reluctantly Friday, when Trevor Plouffe landed on the disabled list with a bruised right thumb. But it’s worth remembering that Valencia wasn’t exactly dominating Triple-A in 2010, when he got his first big league promotion. Valencia was batting .292 with no homers in 49 games, but he came up to Minnesota, in the heat of the pennant race, and batted .311 with seven homers and 40 RBI.