Current #NFLU #proCane TD Streak at 6 Weeks

Many have asked and here is your answer. At the start of the 2014 NFL season the current #proCane #NFLU TD Streak is at 6 weeks. Who will score the first proCane TD of 2014? Leave a comment below with who you think! Just as a reminder, the longest streak was 149 weeks set by the proCanes. In that streak at least one proCane had scored a TD from December 2002- November of 2011.

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Statue salutes Lewis' pregame dance

BALTIMORE -- Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis finished the ceremony where they unveiled his statue by pointing to the 9-foot sculpture that immortalizes his celebratory pregame dance.

"Now I'm never leaving," Lewis said with a smile.

The statue shows Lewis in his signature pose with his back arched, right foot lifted and mouth agape. It even has Lewis clutching a piece of grass, which he always picked up before going into his dance.

"This is forever my city," said Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl player who led the Ravens to two Super Bowl titles. "I will forever be a part of this city. Anybody who wants to create history in life, influence enough people to the way where they remember your presence."

Lewis spoke for 31 minutes, thanking many former teammates like Michael McCrary and Duane Starks, who both attended the event.

The statue sits in front of the north end of M&T Bank Stadium a few feet from the statue of Johnny Unitas.

"We didn't take this lightly, I promise you, for John to share this plaza with the greatest defensive player of all time," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said.

A couple of thousand people attended the event, which was announced late because team officials knew there was limited space. Many wore Lewis' No. 52 jersey and repeatedly chanted, "We love Ray!"

After the fans screamed for Lewis to perform his dance once more, Lewis obliged by doing so on the stage.

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Jim Kelly declared cancer-free

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly was declared cancer-free Thursday after follow-up biopsies this week came back negative.

"This is some of the greatest news I've ever gotten," Kelly said in a statement. "It's been a long road, and I'm still not back to 100 percent, but I have a lot to be thankful for."

Initial tests last month, conducted several weeks after Kelly completed chemotherapy and radiation treatments this past spring, returned no evidence of cancer in his jaw. Doctors, however, required biopsies on other areas of Kelly's jaw.

Kelly's wife, Jill, posted a video Thursday on Instagram of Jim calling to tell his daughter the news.

"I am so thankful for the support and prayers of my family, my friends near and far, and everyone in Western New York and throughout the country through my illness. I also want to thank the medical specialists who have done such amazing work," Kelly said. "Most of all, I want to thank God. Without my faith and God's constant presence, there would be no such thing as 'Kelly Tough.'"

Kelly's former teammate, special-teams ace Steve Tasker, tweeted about the news Thursday afternoon:

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Jon Beason still on course to play vs. Lions

Everything appears to be on track for Jon Beason's return to action on Monday night, just in time for the opener against the Lions in Detroit.

Beason (toe), who was just activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list earlier this week, was on the field during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday, and he once again did not seem limited in any way. Giants coach Tom Coughlin also said before practice that Beason remains on course to be in action on Monday night.

That's critical for a Giants team that needs its defensive leader. Beason's return allows Jameel McClain to shift back to outside linebacker, deepening the Giants' well of linebacking options.

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Phillip Buchanon Gives 12 Ways To Improve The Hurricanes

proCane Phillip Buchanon was an All-American cornerback and played 10 years in the NFL. By the looks of his Twitter feed, it also makes him uniquely qualified to coach football, or more specifically, to offer some unsolicited advice to Al Golden (whom he refers to as "Folden") in the wake of the Hurricanes' 31-13 loss at Louisville on Monday night.

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Redskins’ Secondary Well Aware Of Andre Johnson

The Washington Redskins’ secondary is well aware of the challenge that awaits Sunday when they open up their season against the Houston Texans, who feature seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Johnson is coming off another monster season in 2013, when he played in all 16 games and caught 109 passes for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns.

This season will be Johnson’s first under rookie head coach Bill O’Brien, who said this week that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will be his starter on Sunday over Ryan Mallett, who was recently acquired via trade from the New England Patriots.

“You’re talking about an All-Pro, Pro Bowl-caliber player who’s done it time and time again,” veteran Redskins safety Ryan Clarkicon-article-link said of Johnson. “So for us, it’s trying to see how he’ll be used in this new system, what kind of chemistry (he has) with whatever Ryan is playing quarterback — whichever one they figure to start — and understanding how we have to play him.”

Recent history shows how dangerous of a weapon Johnson can be against the Redskins.

In 2010, the Redskins were clinging to a 27-20 lead with 2:03 left in the game when then-Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, on fourth down, found Johnson 34 yards away in the FedExField end zone for the touchdown.

The Texans would tie the game on the extra-point attempt, and won it in overtime with a Neil Rackers 36-yard field goal.

Johnson finished that game with 12 receptions for 158 yards and that aforementioned touchdown.

He’s made a habit of providing moments just like those throughout his entire career, which has included 154 regular-season games, 927 receptions, 12,661 yards and 61 touchowns.

Over that span, Johnson has been named to seven Pro Bowls and been selected First Team All-Pro two times (in 2008 and 2009).

On Sunday, the Redskins will lean on veteran experience to try to neutralize Johnson. Duke Ihenacho — a safety who was claimed on waivers by the Redskins this week — started 17 games for the Denver Broncos a season ago, and said he got a up-close look at Johnson’s abilities when the Broncos and Texans held joint practices together.

“He’s been doing it for so long,” Ihenacho said. “He’s one of the greatest receivers of all time, and I had the opportunity to practice against him when I was in Denver, and you see how talented he is, and he’s still got it.”

The Redskins know stopping Johnson won’t be easy on Sunday, but they’re excited to be opening their season with a challenge.

“He has a bunch of touchdowns, bunch of catches, bunch of yards,” Ihenacho said. “He’s real physical, real fast, real smart and he goes about his business and is really consistent.”

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Where does TE Jimmy Graham rank among the top fantasy wide receivers?

Cullen: My forecast might put Graham as high as number two, behind only Calvin Johnson, but I'd be more inclined to throw Graham around fifth, behind Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green, high-end wide receivers that might have a higher ceiling, in terms of yardage, than a tight end, even one as great as Graham. Where Graham really made hay last season was when it came to scoring touchdowns, finishing with 16 to lead the league, and while it's possible that could happen again, it's tough to go chasing scores as the fundamental basis for a player's fantasy production. So, Graham should be good for 1,200-plus yards and possibly double-digit touchdowns, which is pretty much in his own class at tight end, but closer to the top handful at wide receiver.

Fisher: I would take Graham ahead of all the top receivers. With Rob Gronkowski still battling back from injury, there are so few tight ends you can rely on for big games every week. That's what makes Graham so valuable, there are barely 10 tight ends that can muster up a 100 point season in fantasy, as where there are at least 20 receivers you know are good for 100 points or more – some even on the waiver wire – to fill your two starter spots.

Hetherington: I believe Graham's name fits amongst the top-two fantasy wide receivers, second only to Calvin Johnson. I see Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green as the top four wide receivers this season and I'd pencil Graham in directly behind Megatron. Graham's speed and size lend themselves to redzone catches – he caught a league-high 16 touchdowns last year - and he remains Drew Brees' top target in a pass-first offence. Graham is the undisputed top tight end in fantasy this season and second overall when it comes to pass catchers on my board.

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Eric Winston on drug policy talks: 'It's critical that we get this right'

As the NFL Players Association and the NFL continue to haggle over the league's drug policies, including trying to adopt testing for human growth hormone, there's still no deal.

And  NFLPA president Eric Winston made that clear in a statement released today.

"?Players who have been to any collective bargaining negotiation understand that we never describe them as 'very close,'" Winston said. "We look at every issue we can to improve the rights and benefits of players. This process takes time, it takes creativity and it is never easy.

"?We want to get a new agreement in place but we understand the responsibility we have to the players and to the game. It is critical that we get this right.?"

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Ryan Jackson to 60-day DL

The San Diego Padres fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday by the score of 6-1. The loss dropped the Padres to 66-72 on the season, third in the National League West. The Padres continue to struggle offensively, ranked 30th in the Major Leagues in runs scored. Injuries to Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso and Everth Cabrera have not helped matters. In other injury news, infielder Ryan Jackson has been placed on the 60-day disabled list with a wrist injury.

According to the injury report, Ryan Jackson was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a right wrist sprain, effective September 2.

Jackson, a 26-year old infielder, has not played for the Padres this season.  He hit .200 over 35 at bats in the Minor Leagues this season. Jackson appeared in 20 games over parts of 2012 and 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals and had two hits in 24 at bats.

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Ryan Braun's a new dad

MILWAUKEE —Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and his wife are new parents.

Larisa Braun has given birth to a baby girl, according to the team.

The baby's name is Celine Elysse Braun.

Ryan Braun is expected to rejoin the team Friday. 

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Douglas taunts Devin Hester over U of L-Miami result

Devin Hester returned a punt back for a touchdown that gave Miami the lead in its 2004 victory over the University of Louisville. Harry Douglas caught four passes for 94 yards two years later when the Cardinals avenged that loss against the Hurricanes.

Monday's third regular-season meeting between the two schools in a decade meant there was a score to settle.

Now an Atlanta Falcons teammates of Douglas, Hester is still hearing about U of L's 31-13 season-opening victory over Miami from Monday. On Wednesday, as he showed up for interviews, Douglas' No. 85 U of L Orange Bowl jersey was hanging at Hester's locker.

Hester looked none too happy about it, either, in a photo posted to Twitter by ESPN's Vaughn McClure.

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Jimmy Graham Sportscenter Commercial

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Vince Wilfork among Patriots captains

The Patriots have selected their captains for the 2014. The group is essentially the same as the 2013 version with one exception.

Offensive lineman Dan Connolly joins quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater as a member of the leadership group.

Connolly, who was given one of the coveted parking spaces up front as a reward for his offseason work, essentially takes over the spot held by his former teammate and offensive lineman Logan Mankins, the three-time captain who was traded to Tampa Bay last week.

During his press conference this morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made note of Connolly's efforts.

"Dan's had a really good year," Belichick said. "He's had a really good spring. Good training camp. Been out there every day. He's been a versatile guy for us, as he always has. He's always been ready to play all three spots plus contribute in the kicking game. He's a sharp guy that works hard. He had a good offseason. He was able to train throughout the bulk of the offseason. He's done a solid job for us really at a number of positions."

As for Brady, who has been a captain in each of the last 13 seasons, he talked about the role and what it still means to be selected for the job during his press briefing.

"It's very flattering from my teammates, and I try to represent them the best that I can in whatever fashion the team asks me to do things and wants me to convey messages to the coach," Brady said. "We've got a great group of young men who've really committed themselves to really being the best teammates they can be. I hope I do a great job. I'll work hard at it. We've got a lot of other great captains - guys that I've always been able to rely on and depend on. It's a big responsibility and I accept it."

This is Wilfork's seventh season and Mayo's sixth as captains. It is year No. 4 for both McCourty and Slater.

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Pat O'Donnell Playing The Wrong Position

Pat O'Donnell, the Most Athletic Guy on the Field Playing the Least Athletic Position

Pat O'Donnell is a punter out of the University of Miami who was drafted in the 6th round by the Chicago Bears. He has a big leg, averaging 47.1 yards per punt his senior year, and he will likely be the starting punter for the Bears this year.

But O'Donnell has so much more to offer than just kicking a ball really high!

An absolute athletic freak, he tore up the NFL Combine. Measuring a solid 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, O'Donnell had 23 reps on the Bench Press (more than Jadeveon Clowney), ran a 4.64 40-Yard Dash (faster than Khalil Mack) and had a solid 30.5" Vertical Jump (the same as Zach Ertz).

Sure, O'Donnell can boom punts. But for this beast to be on the field for only a few plays per game is a downright travesty. He went stride for stride with Earl Thomas (who runs a 4.43 40-Yard Dash) on a touchdown-saving tackle in the pre-season, and he even forced a fumble in college! We would love to see O'Donnell put his athleticism to good use in a position like wide receiver or outside linebacker.

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New arrival LaRon Byrd has height, sees opportunity in undersized receiving corps

LaronByrd 2
BEREA — LaRon Byrd arrived at Browns headquarters and joined his new teammates partway through practice Monday afternoon. He immediately became the biggest receiver (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) on the field.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “The opportunity is there. You have to come in and listen to the coaches, work hard in practice and hopefully that leads to great production.”

Byrd was cut by the Cowboys on Saturday and claimed by the Browns off waivers. He caught seven passes for 103 yards with a touchdown during the preseason, and said he missed out on a roster spot in Dallas due to injuries on the defense.

He plans to pepper the Cleveland coaches with questions in an attempt to learn the playbook and be ready to play Sunday in the season opener in Pittsburgh.

“I want to get on the field,” he said. “I want to contribute to the team. I don’t want to just be a guy on the roster. This is my job. I’m going to be in the coaches’ ear. They’re probably going to be tired of me by the end of this week, but I have to get it and hopefully I’ll get it by the end of this weekend.”

Byrd’s in his third season after being undrafted out of the University of Miami. He played in four games with the Cardinals in 2012, catching one pass for 8 yards. He didn’t play last year after being put on injured reserve with a concussion. He appeared in 51 games at Miami, totaling 106 receptions for 1,254 yards and seven touchdowns.

Byrd realizes size could be what separates him in the battle for playing time. Besides Miles Austin (6-2, 215), the rest of the receivers are undersized: Andrew Hawkins is 5-7, 180, Travis Benjamin 5-10, 175 and Taylor Gabriel 5-8, 167.

“I have size, I have talent and deceptive speed,” Byrd said. “I just have to put all of that together and contribute that on the field.”
Size isn’t his only attribute.

“My willingness to work, my willingness to block,” he said. “Just that dog. That dog in me. I don’t take no for an answer. I’m not scared of competition. I go into a game with the mindset I’m the best on the field.”

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Vince Wilfork: Patriots have responded well

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When it comes to the pulse of the New England Patriots' locker room, and how players have responded following last week’s surprising trade of Logan Mankins, veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork likes what he’s seen so far.

The re-elected captain for a seventh straight season spoke to reporters for an extended stretch during Wednesday’s media-access period.

“I think the team responded well,” Wilfork said in his first locker-room remarks since Mankins was traded (Wilfork was a guest on sports radio WEEI Tuesday).

Wilfork echoed what coach Bill Belichick often says -- the importance of moving forward.

“Our focus is strictly toward Miami right now,” he said. “Anything we have personal or we feel leaning towards anything that is going on, if it’s not Miami, your mindset is in the wrong spot. So I think everybody is focused and ready to go play football. Our hands are full. We can’t be focused on anything that happened in the past right now. If we let that take us off track, we’ll be in big trouble.”

When asked if it was a challenging process to get to that point, given Mankins’ standing with the team, Wilfork didn’t want to go there.

“That’s the past,” he responded. “We all understand, the most important thing for this football team is Miami this week. Everything we have, we have to put in that bucket and deal with Miami. That’s where we’re at.”

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Ray Lewis Statue To Be Unveiled Thursday

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Excitement is building. Thursday morning, a new statue will unveiled featuring a Baltimore legend. The Ray Lewis statue will stand outside M&T Bank Stadium and what it looks like is still a mystery.

Meghan McCorkell has more from the man who created it.

We’ve known for months that a Ray Lewis statue was coming but we still don’t know what it will look like—so Wednesday night, we pressed the artist for some answers.

For 17 years, Ray Lewis danced his way into the hearts of Ravens fans and now he’ll join the ranks of Babe Ruth, Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas as he is honored with his own statue.

“For 17 years, I gave everything I had. I left it all on the field,” Lewis said.

The statue—delivered to M&T Bank Wednesday morning—was created by local sculptor Frederick Kail, who also made the Unitas statue.

“That’s a humbling experience to have the opportunity to do both of them,” Kail said.

But what it shows is still shrouded in mystery. We pressed Kail for clues.

“I think it reflects what Ray gave to Baltimore and I think it reflects what Baltimore meant to him, as well,” he said.

At the Sport Shop at the Inner Harbor, everything Ray Lewis is still flying off the shelves, from jerseys to balls to pictures—all of it in high demand.

“When you’re talking about sports and you’re talking about iconic figures in the city of Baltimore, you’re talking about Ray Lewis,” said Xavier Dandridge, The Sport Shop.

Fans are thrilled to see what it looks like in a larger scale.

“Very excited to see that. Ray has been a big part of this city and this community for a long time,” one said.

Now the two-time Super Bowl champion will forever stand outside the stadium walls.

Ray Lewis will be there at 11 a.m. Thursday for the official unveiling of the new statue.

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Mike James Limited

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Mike James was limited because of a shoulder injury, it is unclear whether he will play this week.

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LaRon Byrd wants to contribute to his new team, does not lack confidence despite limited resume

BEREA: New Browns wide receiver LaRon Byrd lacks experience and production in the NFL, but not confidence.

“I’ve got that dog in me,” Byrd said Monday after his first practice with the Browns. “I don’t take no for an answer. I’m not scared of competition. I go into a game with the mindset I’m the best on the field. A lot of people might say, ‘This guy hasn’t been in the league long.’ But that’s just my mindset. That’s the belief I have in myself.”

The Browns claimed the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Byrd off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He hopes to play in the regular-season opener Sunday at Pittsburgh.

“I want to get on the field,” Byrd said. “I want to contribute to the team. I don’t want to just be a guy on the roster. This is my job. I’m going to be in the coaches’ ear. They’re probably going to be tired of me by the end of this week.”

As an undrafted rookie from the University of Miami, Byrd appeared in four regular-season games in 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals and caught just one pass for 8 yards. He suffered a concussion during the 2013 preseason and sat out the rest of the year. The Cowboys signed him May 1 after the Cardinals cut him the previous month.

Byrd, 25, had seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown this preseason.

“I showed I belong in this league and I can contribute to this game,” Byrd said. “My job is to come here and work hard and never get complacent. The preseason really doesn’t count, but I have to do that and translate that into the regular season.”

The Browns need Byrd to back up his talk. Last week, the NFL suspended All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon for at least the entire 2014 season, creating a huge void on offense.

“Everybody in the NFL, no matter what team it is, you always want to go into the situation with a great opportunity,” Byrd said. “Josh is a great receiver, so definitely having him here would be a great plus to the team. Unfortunately, he’s not here, so it’s the next-man-up mentality. I didn’t want it to play out like that for him to be out for me to get an opportunity, but you have to have that next-man-up mentality.”

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Once ‘soft,’ Frank Gore credits Rathman for mid-career change

The 49ers employ a hard-nosed, Nebraska-bred former fullback as their running backs coach, and Frank Gore is grateful for that.

Gore, of course, is something of a rarity: a dynamic running back that delights in dirty work.

Gore’s ability to stonewall blitzing linebackers is legendary (see here). And watch closely the next time Colin Kaepernick is sprinting 20 yards downfield. There’s a decent chance Gore will be in the immediate vicinity looking to wipe out a would-be tackler.

It wasn’t always like this. During the first four seasons of his nine-year career, Gore defined himself by yards gained and linebackers eluded. Then former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman arrived in 2009.

During a 20-minute interview for this feature story, Gore brought up Rathman’s influence without prompting and was eager to stay on that topic.

“You have to try to do everything great as a running back,” Gore said. “I feel like everybody at this level should be able to run the ball, but coach Tom got me to think – he changed my mind – about the extra stuff. Protecting the quarterback, blocking downfield.”

“A lot of guys can’t do what I do. Seeing the holes before they’re there, getting through small spaces and trying my best to protect my quarterback. Other backs don’t do that. And I give credit for that to Tom. I just wanted to run the ball before. I didn’t mind protecting, but now I take pride in it.”

Gore arrived in the NFL known for his resilience. He tore the ACL in both knees at Miami. He returned from his second surgery to rush for 945 yards in 2004 in his final college season and won the Brian Piccolo Award given to the ACC’s “most courageous” player.

However, Rathman, whose run-first Nebraska team lost a national championship to glitzy Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl, wasn’t impressed: Dude, don’t you want to block?

“He challenged me. He called me soft: ‘Oh, you’re from Miami,’” Gore said. “I don’t know what kind of bad experience he had with Miami players, but he was going at me hard, man. And I’m a competitive guy. And I respect Tom. I’m glad he came into my career when he did because I think that was the perfect time. I think he’s a big part of my success and why I’m still going.”

One of Gore’s first chances to prove his grit to Rathman came during a joint training-camp practice with the Raiders in 2009. Gore treated the one-on-one pass blocking drills pitting the 49ers running backs and Raiders linebackers like the Super Bowl. At one point, Rathman had to separate Gore from Oakland’s Kirk Morrison (see video).

Gore admitted he was initially ticked off by Rathman’s assessment.

“Yeah, at first, I was like ‘Man, this guy,’” Gore said. “We went to practice against Oakland and I was going to show him that I wasn’t soft.”

For his part, Rathman, 51, doesn’t recall specifically calling out Gore.

“I can remember sitting down and talking to him in the classroom, with all the guys, explaining to them what we want those guys to become as football players,” Rathman said.

Whatever the case, Rathman acknowledged the obvious: The message resonated.

“You see Kap run and you see Frank down there getting cut blocks,” Rathman said. “I don’t know, from the footage I’ve seen in the NFL, I don’t know if any back has ever done what he’s doing as far as being a pass-blocker and blocking downfield.”

“… There’s a lot of players that play the game. And there’s a lot of football players that play the game. And Frank is definitely a football player. And we love having football players here. Guys that are passionate about the game and want to do anything possible to have success. Frank does it all.”

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Dolphins' O-line braces for Vince Wilfork

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins starting center Samson Satele has been through plenty of battles with New England Patriots defensive tackle and five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. Satele has played against Wilfork in the regular season and postseason as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Dolphins.

Therefore, Satele knows exactly what he's up against Sunday when Wilfork and the Patriots visit Sun Life Stadium.

"He's smart. He's going to pick up the offense, I think, within two series," Satele said. “He's going to know what's going on. He's just smart and he knows how to play that nose position.”

The Dolphins know their battle in the trenches between their offensive line and New England's defensive line will be key in Sunday's Week 1 matchup. Miami's new offense under Bill Lazor is making its regular-season debut, and a balanced running game is the goal. Wilfork will be waiting in the middle to try to make the Dolphins one dimensional.

Wilfork recently uped the ante in this game with a recent tweet saying how important this game was for him.

Wilfork is returning from an Achilles injury and an offseason contract dispute with New England. He is also a South Florida native (Boynton Beach) and former star at the University of Miami. So there are plenty of reasons for Wilfork to be motivated for Sunday's game.

The Dolphins will be starting five new offensive linemen against the Patriots, who boast a veteran group of defensive linemen led by Wilfork in the middle.

“He's a very gifted athlete,” said Dolphins guard Shelley Smith, who played against Wilfork in 2012. “He's very strong, he's very stout and it's hard to move him. He plays with great leverage and he's a smart player. He can read things and see things coming before they happen.”

Miami knows if Wilfork has a big game that could mean big trouble for the Dolphins on offense. Satele, who signed a month ago, said he's now comfortable with the offense. But Satele did not draw an easy assignment to kick off the regular season.

“I know he's coming off an injury, so I know he's going to be motivated to be back on the field plus he's back in Miami, because he's from here,” Satele said of Wilfork. “It's going to be his first game back, but I will be ready. I'm going to do what I know from this offense and work on my technique.”

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Leonard Hankerson, on PUP list, is trying to remain patient

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said that he felt like he could’ve opened the regular season on the active roster if the team had let him. The Redskins instead opted to place the fourth-year pass catcher on the regular season physically unable to perform list. And so, Hankerson says he will continue working, with the goal of returning to the field in Week 7.

Hankerson last November tore both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee. He spent the offseason and all of training camp and the preseason rehabilitating, but didn’t practice with the team while on the PUP list.

Hankerson had hoped to come off the PUP list late in the preseason and prove himself capable of playing at a high level in time to earn a roster spot for the regular season. But he said on Wednesday that orthopedist James Andrews, who conducted the surgery on his knee, recommended the team wait longer to activate him.

Since Redskins brass placed him on the regular-season PUP list, Hankerson said he will just keep working to further strengthen his surgically repaired knee. Because he’s on the PUP list, Hankerson is not eligible to return to action, even in a practice capacity, until after Week 6.

“Obviously, I would like to be playing. I didn’t feel like I would be rushing myself back too soon,” said Hankerson, who last season started seven of the 10 games he played in, recording 30 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. “Ultimately, it was up to them – up to Dr. Andrews, up to the training staff and the coaches – on what they wanted to do. Dr. Andrews is the guru on this. He recommended it.”

Hankerson has been running full speed since the first week of August. Each day, while his teammates practice, he works with the strength and conditioning coaches to improve his speed, quickness and mobility.

But he said Andrews’s preference not to clear him at the start of the regular season centered around concerns that Hankerson’s LCL may not have strengthened to the point to give him the needed stability required to quickly change directions.

“Being that I’m at the position of receiver, with the LCL and no knee brace, he didn’t want me to risk anything,” Hankerson said.

Hankerson said he had mixed feelings about the decision, but says ultimately, he knows that it was made because Andrews and the team want the best for him.

“They could’ve just turned me out there or rushed me out there,” Hankerson said. “I just have to keep grinding. I’ve been working hard, so, another six weeks.”

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Vince Wilfork says starting a new season'never gets old'

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork needn't look at the calendar on the wall to know what time of year it is.

"I've been doing it for a while so I know when it's time to go and it's not time to go," the Patriots' veteran defensive lineman said Wednesday. "And it's time to go."

Yes, the time to go to Miami for the start of another NFL regular season nears.

At 32 — he'll turn 33 in November — Wilfork may be aging, but he insists "it never gets old."

"I'm always excited about defense so it's no different," he said. "I'm excited about the start of the season. The start is always the beginning of everything and that's where we're at right now.

"(There's) a bunch of new guys, but the one thing that stayed the same is we have a bunch of guys that love the game. They always have a chip on their shoulder. They want to get better. And that's the one thing that's stayed the same around here, so hopefully that can put us where we need to be."

Limited to four games last season by a torn Achilles' tendon suffered on the opening series of the Patriots' 30-23 win at Atlanta and on the heels of an offseason in which his contract situation also threatened his future with the team, Wilfork is right back where one of his fellow captains says he needs to be.

"You can't really say enough about Vince and his leadership, not only on the football field but in the locker room," special teamer Matthew Slater said. "The type of man that he is off the field, his presence is so strong in this locker room. He's part of the heartbeat here, so (I'm) just excited that he's back and he's healthy and he's going to do whatever it takes to help this football team win."

The Patriots' top pick (21st overall) in the 2004 draft, Wilfork's past performances were enough to earn him five Pro Bowl berths, including four in a row from 2009-2012.

Over the course of his 10 seasons in New England, the 6-foot-2, 325-pounder has amassed 679 tackles in 142 games (132 starts).

"Vince is such a huge part of who we are," said Slater. "He's part of our personality, our character on that football field and in the locker room.

"He's a pillar for us on the field, but in the community as well. You see the community work he does. (He's) a man of character. You can't say enough good things about Vince."

The drudgery of organized team activities, offseason mini-camps and training camp is behind him now, but, given what he went through to get here, Wilfork says even that time passed quickly for him.

"Time flew," he said Wednesday. "I know we were sitting there in OTAs and mini-camp and training camp and all of a sudden we're sitting here preparing for the first game of the season. That's an exciting time for everyone, not just myself, but everyone. Being able to start on the road, it's going to be tough. Starting in the division on the road is always tough."

Season openers have treated Wilfork well over the years.

Amazingly, he's never suffered a season-opening loss, the Patriots' run of 10 straight season-opening wins dating back to Sept. 9, 2004, his NFL debut, when he registered seven stops at nose tackle and recovered a fumble forced by defensive back Eugene Wilson in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Now, the start of his 11th regular season nears.

"The good lord willing," said Slater, "he'll still be the same, old Vince."

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Michael Irvin endorses Dallas' addition of Michael Sam

Many would expect Michael Irvin to support the Dallas Cowboys in most of their endeavors. The Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver spent his entire NFL career with a star on his helmet. But when the subject is adding Michael Sam to the organization, it doesn't hurt Dallas to have the NFL Network analyst endorsing the move.

"I like Michael Sam," Irvin said Tuesday to TMZ. "I love him with the Cowboys. He knows how to get to the quarterback. ... WHen you are trying to get players and the Cowboys need players who can get to the quarterback, you sign Michael Sam, and I'm happy with that."

Sam, the defensive player of the year for the SEC in 2013, has three sacks in the preseason in his time with the Rams, before St. Louis dropped him during its final roster cuts. He cleared waivers, meaning the 31 other NFL teams passed on the opportunity to take him before he became free to join any team.

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Ryan Braun leaves team for birth of child

Chicago - Ryan Braun has left the Brewers to return to Milwaukee to be with wife Larisa for the birth of their first child.

That makes it extremely unlikely that Braun would be in the Brewers' lineup for their game Wednesday night against dthe Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, despite the proximity of the two cities.

The Brewers already are down one outfielder with Carlos Gomez out with a sprained left wrist. Gomez could miss as much as two weeks of action while he recovers.

Gerardo Parra has been playing in center field in Gomez's absence. Assuming Braun is not in the lineup tonight, Logan Schafer probably will start in right field as the Brewers look to snap their seven-game losing streak.

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Calais Campbell among Cards' captains

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have named their captains for this season, head coach Bruce Arians said, and two are first-time honorees.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was voted the offensive captain, defensive end Calais Campbell on defense, and punter Dave Zastudil and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on special teams.

“Over 20 guys got votes,” Arians said.

Palmer and Campbell won in a landslide, Arians added. After five straight years as a captain, Larry Fitzgerald will not wear the ‘C’ patch in 2014.

This was the first time since college that Zastudil was named a captain and it’s also the first time for Campbell. Palmer and Alexander were both repeat honorees, earning the patch in both of their seasons with the Cardinals. Alexander was named a captain for the fifth straight year, dating back to his last three seasons with Washington.

This was Palmer’s third captainship of his career.

“It’s a tremendous honor, as good of an honor as you can get in this game, being elected by your teammates and your peers,” Palmer said. “I don’t take it lightly. I am honored. I understand what it entails. I understand what it takes on the field, off the field, around the community, around the locker room.

“I’m just tremendously honored.”

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Latest proCane Cuts & Signings

It was one of the busiest NFL proCane roster cut weekends of all-time. See below all the action.

WR LaRon Byrd was cut by the Dallas Cowboys who signed him this offseason, but was quickly picked up by the Cleveland Browns and placed on their active roster.

DB Brandon Harris was cut by the Texans, who drafted him out of Miami 3 years ago, but was also quickly picked up and added to the Titans active roster.

Practice Squad Signings: Stephen Morris: Jags, Tommy Streeter: Dolphins, Chase Ford: Vikings, Erik Swoope: Colts, Brandon Washington: Rams, Harland Gunn: Falcons, Micanor Regis: Panthers, Asante Cleveland: 49ers.

Cuts: Maurice Hagens: Falcons, Eric Winston: Seahawks, Richard Gordon: Chiefs, Tyler Horn: Titans, Jared Wheeler: Bills.

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Chris Myers Backs O’Brien Resting Texans Players Throughout Preseason

There was maybe no bigger beneficiary of how Bill O’Brien managed Houston Texans players’ health this preseason than center Chris Myers.

Myers may be the biggest fan of the strategy.

“I think it was handled unbelievably (well),” Myers said. “I mean, that’s what they get paid for upstairs, to be able to make those decisions. It’s the first camp I’ve in where guys actually got healthy during camp, as opposed to unhealthy. So it’s pretty impressive.”

Myers played only 18 snaps this preseason, all in the opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Receiver Andre Johnson played (and rested) the same amount in his only appearance, against the Denver Broncos. Linebacker Brian Cushing saw only 14, playing only against the Broncos. Running back Arian Foster and cornerback Johnathan Joseph, meanwhile, didn’t play a single down. All battled injuries in camp or were coming off of injuries last season.

It’s a delicate balance, between pushing players too hard in games that don’t count, and not doing enough to get them up to game speed for when they do.
Myers, though, said he’s fully healthy ready to play in Sunday’s regular season opener against Washington.

“I’m feeling good, feeling good,” he said. “Once you get to the regular season, no one’s 100 percent. I was happy to get some down time a little bit, but I’m raring and ready to go now.”

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Family comes first, but Greg Olsen will be ready

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen loves football.

He loves his family more.

So when his football family said take unlimited time off two weeks before the season to be with his son, T.J., as he underwent open heart surgery for the third time since being born with a severe congenital heart defect in 2012, it was a relief.

"It's made life a lot easier, and it's not something I take for granted," Olsen said on Monday after returning to practice for the first time in seven days. "You would hope that it would be this way everywhere, but sometimes people aren't quite as understanding."

The Panthers have been. Team owner Jerry Richardson, who received a heart transplant in 2009, flew Olsen, his wife Kara, T.J., and other family members to Boston in 2012 to consult with doctors about an experimental surgery.

Richardson actually made the trip and spent time in hospital waiting rooms with Olsen.

"We talk about family and we want to follow up on that," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Mr. Richardson has fostered a great environment here for us and we've taken the ball and run with it."

Rivera would like to believe all 32 NFL teams take the same approach. But when asked if other organizations he's been around have, he said, "Well, I just know this, I'm more involved in it a little bit more. That's all I'll say about that."

There are other examples where the Panthers put family first. Rivera made time before practice last Wednesday to play catcher for his daughter, a pitcher at UCLA, before she returned to college.

Quarterback Derek Anderson was given time off last week to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple's first child even though it left third-stringer Joe Webb as the only healthy quarterback, as starter Cam Newton was out with fractured ribs and fourth-stringer Matt Blanchard was on injured reserve with a concussion.

"It all worked out," said Olsen, who happened to be at the same hospital as Anderson. "DA got to be there for his wife and [at Thursday's exhibition finale at Pittsburgh]. I didn't miss much. It all works out if you do things the right way."

Olsen would like to think the family appraoch has helped make the Carolina locker room and team stronger as it attempts to record consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.

"It's a special group," he said. "I've said that since I got here."

Olsen is happy to report T.J. is recovering well. But because his son remains in intensive care and is maybe weeks from being discharged, Olsen goes back and forth between the hospital and the stadium in his free time.

"He's a tough little guy," Olsen said. "He's really responded well to all three surgeries. We've had a few little hiccups, but for the most part he's on the right track."

And while there are no guarantees there won't be a transplant or other surgeries in T.J.'s future, Olsen has the support of the organization and is able to focus on football and Sunday's opener at Tampa Bay without added stress.

And the Panthers will need Olsen. He led the team in catches last season with 73. He is a big part of a two-tight end set Carolina plans to implement in an attempt to diversify the offense and take pressure off a new group of wide receivers.

Olsen vows he'll be ready.

"I haven't felt a ton of pressure to be two places at once, and I've been able to handle my family and that priority first," he said. "But also realize, this is a priority for me, too. It's important for me to be here.

"It won't be any challenge. I'll make sure I get what I have to get done. My wife is pretty understanding. She gets it."

So, apparently, do the Panthers.

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Ryan Braun continues to work way through thumb injury

CHICAGO -- Ryan Braun's nerve issues with his right thumb have been well chronicled, particularly during the second half of the season.

The slugging outfielder has seen his batting average dip from .298 to .274 since the All-Star break, and he's been hitting .160 (4-for-25) during the team's season-high seven-game losing streak.

"It is ongoing," manager Ron Roenicke said of Braun's thumb issues Tuesday. "There's times when he feels really good. You can tell it in batting practice, then he usually takes it into ballgames. But there's times where it's just sore and the swings aren't what he's used to. Now he tries to adjust. ... Now all of a sudden he gets out of whack."

Roenicke didn't rule out moving Braun from his customary spot in the three-hole, but that the lack of power in the Brewers' lineup currently has given no incentive to do so.

"We'll see," Roenicke said. "The problem is right now is that we don't have anybody who's really just crushing the ball. ... We need to have some guys swinging it well, so that when you make a move, you feel good about making a move."

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49ers Do Asante Cleveland Wrong, This Is Brutal

UPDATE: Asante Cleveland was eventually signed to the 49ers practice squad.

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Allen Hurns to open season as Jags No. 3 WR

Jaguars UDFA Allen Hurns is expected to open the season as the team's No. 3 receiver, behind Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee.
Shorts is the X and Lee the Z receiver in two-wide sets. In the three-wides, we suspect Lee will move inside to the slot, with Shorts and Hurns on the outside. Hurns beat out Mike Brown for the No. 3 role, although he will soon be pushed by recovering second-rounder Allen Robinson (hamstring). Despite Hurns' big August, Robinson is by far the superior stash in Dynasty leagues.

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Peyton Takes a selfie with Orlando Franklin

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New Browns receiver LaRon Byrd: 'I don’t want to just be a guy on the roster'

LaronByrd 2
LaRon Byrd arrived in Berea Monday afternoon via Dallas. The former Cowboys receiver was claimed by the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and met with reporters for the first time. Byrd gave a pretty convincing case for why the Browns might count on the 25-year-old sooner rather than later.

“I don’t want to just be a guy on the roster,” said Byrd. “I want to be a guy that contributes to the team. This is my job. I have to pick up [the offense] as fast as I can. So I’ll be in the coaches ears. They’ll probably be tired of me by the end of this week.”

Byrd caught seven passes for 103 yards with a touchdown for Dallas during the 2014 preseason and was quick to praise the Cowboys for letting him showcase his talent. Because of Dallas’ need for extra defensive players, Byrd got caught up in a numbers game once final cuts arrived.

“Having a solid preseason, I showed I belong in this league,” said Byrd.

Byrd went undrafted from the University of Miami in 2012, but latched on with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent. He appeared in four games in 2012, playing mostly special teams, but was placed on injured reserve in August of 2013 because of a concussion. The Cardinals released Byrd in April and he soon thereafter signed with the Cowboys.

What separates Byrd from the other pass catchers on the Browns’ roster is his height. At 6-foot-4, he and Miles Austin are the two biggest passing targets for Brian Hoyer. As cliché as it is, the one thing the Browns can’t coach is size. Byrd listed his other strengths: his willingness to work, his deceptive speed, his blocking skills and his attitude.

“I’ve got that dog in me,” said Byrd. “I don’t take no for an answer. I’m not scared of competition. I go into the game with the mindset that I’m the best on the field. A lot of people may say, ‘This guy hasn’t even been in the league long.’ But that’s just my mindset and the belief I have in myself.”

There will be an adjustment period for Byrd, who will be learning his third NFL offense in under a year. The Browns have to submit a 46-man roster 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Byrd is hopeful a crash course test on the offense will lead to him being on the turf at Heinz Field.

“It’s the next-man-up mentality,” said Byrd.

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Titans add Brandon Harris

The Titans claimed wide receiver T.J. Graham off waivers on Sunday, but he won’t be the only wideout trying to pick up Tennessee’s offense on the fly.

The team announced that they have claimed Kris Durham in addition to Graham. The former Lion had 38 catches for 645 and three touchdowns while playing with college buddy Matthew Stafford and brings a big frame with him to Tennessee.

Wide receiver Michael Preston, who has a big frame of his own, was waived with the two new receivers coming on board. The Titans also waived offensive lineman Steve Vallos and defensive back Khalid Wooten.

Wooten was deemed expendable because the Titans claimed cornerback Brandon Harris off waivers from Houston. Harris, a 2011 second-round pick, will join a thin cornerback corps in Tennessee.

The Titans also added six players to their practice squad. Offensive lineman Justin McCray, tackle Will Poehls, defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby, linebacker Brandon Copeland, running back Antonio Andrews and wide receiver Rico Richardson were all with the team this summer.

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Eric Winston released by Seattle Seahawks

It isn't easy making the NFL's most talent-packed roster. Just ask Eric Winston.

The Seattle Seahawks released the veteran offensive tackle -- and NFLPA president -- on Saturday.

Winston, 30, lost his battle for the team's right tackle job to second-round pick Justin Britt, who is now on tap to replace the departed Breno Giacomini as Seattle's Week 1 starter.

Britt tore his ACL in 2012 but rebounded to post a strong season last autumn at Missouri. "He is the type of guy who is going to persevere and fight his way through stuff," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Sports On Earth this month.

At 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, Britt has outstanding size for the role, but his preseason was a mixed bag as the rookie allowed eight quarterback hurries -- second-most among his peers in August.

It's possible another team comes swooping in to grab Winston, but he struggled in 16 starts for the Arizona Cardinals last season and might be near the end.

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Jimmy Graham's story of his difficult childhood

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Jon Beason to play vs. Lions in opener barring a setback

EAST RUTHERFORD -- The Giants were without their defensive leader all of training camp. They expect to have him back for the regular season opener on Monday night in Detroit.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason practiced Monday for the first time since fracturing his foot in June. Coach Tom Coughlin thought he looked "OK," but still expected him to play when the season begins next week.

"He just has to practice. He'll have x-amount of snaps at practice and if he comes through the practice week having handled that, then we can expect to play him whatever amount of time we decide to do it," Coughlin said. "If he stays out there, works hard and doesn't have any setbacks, then I think that is the proof right there. The medical people are very confident because of the way he's prepared himself to this point."

Beason was hurt during an Organized Team Activities workout in June. He was given a 12-week recovery time. That took him right up until the opener, with little time to spare.

Beason's right on schedule. He fully expects to play in the opener, despite not having played a single preseason snap.

"I think so," he said. "Obviously you want to gauge where I am mentally, physically and what my role is going to be -- how big, how small. We don't know, but I'm just taking advantage of the reps they're giving me and trying to prove why I need to be out there."

It sounds as if the Giants may use Beason in a limited role Week 1. Maybe that means veteran linebacker Jameel McClain, who filled in admirably for Beason this summer, handles the nickel package snaps along with weakside Jacquian Williams.

McClain is expected to slide to into the starting strongside linebacker spot ahead of rookie Devon Kennard in the Giants base defense as well.

Just having Beason on the field would be a huge plus for the Giants. It's not a coincidence that the defense transformed into a strong unit when he was acquired in a mid-season trade last year. The Giants finished eighth in total defense after an abysmal start.

Beason quickly evolved into one of the team's most respected voices and leaders. Coughlin believes having him on the field, in whatever capacity, helps.

"It definitely will," Coughlin said. "His presence on the practice field will. It's the upbeat, love to play, fly around a million miles per hour, encouraging other people to do the same or better and just how hard he plays. He shows great example by what he does. He loves the game. It's great to have him back out there."

It will be even better if he's out there for the first play on Monday night in Detroit.

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Brandon Meriweather loses appeal of suspension

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather is officially suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

Meriweather, who was suspended for his sixth violation of the rules against hitting defenseless opponents in the head, has lost his appeal of that suspension.

The appeal was heard by Ted Cottrell, who is hired jointly by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Cottrell was an NFL linebacker and had a long career as a defensive coach, so he’s not opposed to tough, physical defensive football. In fact, Cottrell reduced another suspension for Meriweather last year, from two games to one. But Meriweather has crossed the line too many times.

Meriweather will be eligible to re-join Washington for Week Three.

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Greg Olsen returns to practice after taking break for son's heart surgery

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who announced earlier this month that he was stepping away from the team while preparing for his son's heart surgery, returned to practice on Monday.

Olsen's son was scheduled to undergo the procedure -- his third open-heart surgery -- on Monday.

Olsen, 29, caught 73 passes for 816 yards and six touchdowns last season. He is entering his fourth season with the Panthers after playing the first four years of his career with the Chicago Bears. 

Carolina opens the season Sept. 7 at Tampa Bay.

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Falcons hope Graham just a nightmare

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The tone of Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore's voice lowered a notch as he recalled last year's second meeting with rival New Orleans, a game won 17-13 by the Saints.

During that contest, Moore found himself matched with Saints game-changing tight end Jimmy Graham near the sideline. Graham ran his route outside then quickly broke back inside to get down the field for a 44-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees.

"When you become too physical on a play that they run all game, they wait for that right moment for you to be physical again and they give you the double move,'' Moore said Monday. "It's called game-planning.

"For me individually, I had nightmares about that play. I wish I could take it back. But, you know, as a player, if you want to become elite, you've got to be able to have a short-term memory. I learned from that play and I got better off that play.''

Collectively, the Falcons have to find a way to be better at defending arguably the best tight end in the game as the Saints come to town Sunday. Graham had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in last year's game at the Georgia Dome. In New Orleans' two wins against Atlanta last season, Graham had nine catches for 145 yards and two scores. He has 500 career receiving yards and seven touchdowns against the Falcons through four NFL seasons.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham, a former basketball player in college, presents matchup nightmares because of his size, speed and leaping ability.

"It comes down to executing your play and the stuff you've got going on,'' Moore said of containing Graham. "You can't too much worry about Jimmy Graham. He's explosive. He does things other tight ends don't do. But at the same time, you worry about what you've got to do. Your technique should allow you to put you over an edge over what he's got going, if you execute.''

It will be interesting to see what type of coverages defensive coordinator Mike Nolan utilizes against Graham, particularly with having to contend with talented receivers such as Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks. No one on the Falcons roster is truly capable of matching up with Graham, one on one, although promising rookie linebacker Prince Shembo could be an intriguing option for that role in time.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant didn't shy away from going head to head with Graham.

"Just how they line up, I'm definitely going to encounter him,'' Trufant said. "I'm going to just be physical, just like any other matchup. I'm going to believe in what I'm doing and have confidence to go compete.

"I don't put nobody on a serious pedestal like that. Everybody breathes the same air. We all compete. He's a great player. We just have to bring it to him, pretty much.''

One aspect all the Falcons defenders have to be conscious of when it comes to defending Graham is the league's emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact.

"You can't think about it too much because then it will slow you down and you'll end up giving up a big play,'' Trufant said. "Obviously, you're aware of it. But we'll see. ... We play the game. We can't focus on how they're calling it too much.''

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Reggie Wayne on Peyton Manning: 'He's my brother. He's the enemy.'

Week 1 of the NFL regular season begins in earnest today and no one has to tell the Indianapolis Colts what that means.


The Colts open Sunday at Denver, and that means another go-around with Manning, face of the Broncos franchise today, face of the Colts the 14 years before that (1998-2011).

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne distilled it all into six words.

"He's my brother," Wayne said. "He's the enemy."

It's a measure of the cold facts of NFL life that only three years after Manning left to quarterback the Broncos, a mere seven of his former teammates remain on the Colts roster. They are Wayne, place-kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee, offensive lineman Joe Reitz, left tackle Anthony Canstonzo and two players who will not be in uniform Sunday.

Outside linebacker Robert Mathis is serving a four-game suspension for violating league policy on performance-enhancing drugs and defensive end Fili Moala is on injured reserve.

None will forget Manning or his impact.

"Greatness rubs off," McAfee said.

"Winning rubs off," Wayne added.

Castonzo was a rookie in 2011. He came to Indianapolis enthralled by the prospect of serving as Manning's blind-side protector, by the promise of Super Bowl rings and Manning-led glory.

Castonzo and Manning played not a single snap together. Their paths crossed not on the field, but in the training room. Manning spent the entire season rehabilitating from neck surgery. Castonzo worked incessantly to deal with the ankle injury that sidelined him four weeks and essentially left him playing on one leg for eight others.

Castonzo learned no less. He watched. He imitated.

His lesson: "Push yourself," he said.

That's the refrain.

"His work ethic; how to approach every day and find something to get better at every day," Reitz echoed.

McAfee wants to become the greatest punter in NFL history. So he studied the player he considers the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

"Exhaust yourself to become great and remain great. That's what I learned," McAfee said.

Those lessons were well learned. The Broncos were 6-0, averaging 44.2 points and hefty favorites when they arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium last October.

The Colts stunned them 39-33. McAfee considers that game a defining moment for a franchise heading in a new direction under new management with mostly new players. The Colts gave Manning a welcome back befitting a conquering hero. Then they conquered him.

"I think it was a huge deal for our coaching staff, owner, everybody," McAfee said. "It was just awesome for our city, for our team and most important for our coaches and the front office who had made the decisions to go forward (by releasing Manning and drafting his replacement, Andrew Luck)."

Wayne and Manning were teammates for 11 seasons. When Manning emerged during pregame to warm up by working through the route tree during the last several of those seasons, Wayne was his lone partner. He had earned the right. It was consummate professional throwing to consummate professional.

"Got to take care of my quarterback," Wayne once explained.

Wayne's quarterback on Sunday will be Luck. Wayne's brother will be his enemy, just as is the case when his path crosses with future Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, Wayne's roommate for four years at the University of Miami and closest confederate aside from family. Wayne is 8-3 against Reed, who is currently a free agent.

"I want to beat him every time," Wayne said. "Once the whistle blows, you're their enemy. When the fourth quarter comes and it's all zeroes on there, now we can laugh and talk about whatever it is.

"That's just the attitude of a football player."


The Colts went 141-67 with him under center. They are 1-0 against him.

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Red Sox Acquire Jemile Weeks In Trade With Orioles

The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles completed a four-player trade Saturday night. The Red Sox acquired infielder/outfielder Jemile Weeks and minor league infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. from the Orioles in exchange for infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson and minor league third baseman Michael Almanzar. Weeks, a first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2008, once was a highly regarded prospect in the Oakland Athletics organization.

He was traded to the Orioles back in December in the deal that sent then-closer Jim Johnson to the A’s. Weeks hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations, hitting .259 with four homers, 56 RBIs and a .319 on-base percentage in 226 career regular-season games over parts of four seasons.

The 27-year-old, who has spent the majority of 2014 with Triple-A Norfolk, does bring some speed, though, evidenced by his 38 career steals. De Jesus’ name might sound familiar to Red Sox fans because he’s already been involved in two major swaps. De Jesus was acquired by Boston in the August 2012 blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 27-year-old then was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that put Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt in Red Sox uniforms. Johnson, meanwhile, will join his fifth and final American League East team. The 32-year-old journeyman was acquired from the New York Yankees just before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for shortstop Stephen Drew. Johnson appeared in 10 games with Boston, hitting .160 (4-for-25).

Almanzar was selected by the Orioles from the Red Sox over the offseason in the Rule 5 draft. He was returned to the Red Sox on July 1 after playing nine games in the Orioles system. Almanzar, originally signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent in 2007, hit .277 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 49 games this season with Double-A Portland.

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Jon Jay continues to power Cards through second half

ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals have fought for consistency going into the stretch, locked in what feels like an eternal struggle with the Brewers for the NL Central title. 

Their best weapon in the second half has been Jon Jay. Lately seems every time there’s a Cardinal run, the Miami native has a hand-or a foot- in it. 

Mike Matheny was concise in his discussion of Jay’s surge, saying simply, “It’s the same conversation we’ve been having since February.” 

In fairness, the manager has maintained his confidence in the outfielder since the season began, emphasizing his versatility and praising his bat throughout the season. However, the current conversation is about a player far more compelling than just a solid piece to the team. The first half was solid for the utility outfielder. He posted a .286 average with 22 RBIs. The second half finds him nearly unstoppable.

Jay is hitting .372 since the break, with an OPS of nearly .944. He’s been an offensive force in the past two weeks, scoring 10 runs and driving in 7. He’s hitting .397 in August, leading the major leagues.  

Boiled down to the most impressive stat, since August 9, Jay has only five games in which he did not score AND did not drive in a run. He’s done one or the other 14 times and done both seven times.

As pinch hitter, he’s driven in four runs; 21 percent of St. Louis’ total PH RBIs. All four tied the game or took the lead and three of them came in August. Two took the lead on August 14 against San Diego, and a third tied Monday’s game in Pittsburgh. 

He’s played well in the outfield, coming out seven runs above average while manning three different positions. 

“He can fit in a couple different spots. Not afraid to throw him in there early, not afraid to throw him in there late,” Matheny said in Pittsburgh. “He’s a pro, he knows how to handle whatever spot we put him in the lineup.”

Jay is always humble when asked about his performance. He prides himself on his consistency and it’s never more evident than in his modesty when discussing his success.

When asked why August once again finds him among the league’s best hitters, Jay remained unchanging in his response. 

“I don’t know,” he smiled. “I don’t know, no idea. I’m just going out there trying to play hard like I always do.”

His steady play is one reason the Cardinals are nine games above .500, despite posting a run differential of -17. For a club that has seen enough one-run games for a lifetime, the Cardinals are looking at a tense stretch run if they want to make the playoffs. 

“Every game is so important right now,” Jay said. “Just have to keep playing hard, and every game is a big game.”

Luckily for St. Louis, the 25-year-old is playing like it’s already October. 

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Padres move Yonder Alonso to 60-day DL

Padres transferred 1B Yonder Alonso from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Alonso underwent season-ending surgery last week to repair a damaged tendon in his right forearm. The 27-year-old is expected to be recovered by mid-October. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.

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