Brandon McGee Coming On For Rams

That player would be Brandon McGee, who played in 15 games as a rookie last season but as a backup and special teams player.

“Brandon McGee is coming on in his second year already,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said during OTAs, noting that all of the team’s second-year players had make significant strides.

McGee, a 5-foot-11, 193-pounder, has an advantage over the Rams newcomers in the secondary because he has experience. Obviously one year of action doesn’t make the University of Miami product a seasoned veteran, but it does make a difference.

“I feel confident, really, going into it confident,” McGee said of how his second training camp is different from his first. “I feel like I know the position better. I just know the game a little bit better and kind of know what to expect. We’ve got a great group of guys, too. We’re a young bunch but we help each other out a lot. We kind of have to. It’s good. I feel pretty confident going into this year.”

What else is different?

“Definitely knowing what’s expected and also just knowing where to be, kind of,” McGee said. “Cornerback in this league is just kind of one of them things you get better with over time, by experience, just feeling it out, going through the reps, just going against receivers. We’ve got a great group of receivers, too. Just the repetitions are really the tool to learning.”

There’s probably not another secondary in the NFL as young as this Rams group. Three of the team’s projected starters — cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and safety Rodney McLeod — are entering their third seasons. The other, safety T.J. McDonald, his second.

McGee, 23, said the team’s young players rely on each other.

“It kind of keeps the room alive,” he said. “It kind of keeps the room fresh, because we’re all like learning from each other. Because we’re all learning basically the same thing at the same time. I guess our veterans in the room, three-year guys Rodney McLeod, Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, those guys are always willing to help.”

The 149th overall pick of the 2013 draft learned plenty last season while competing on special teams and at cornerback, with most of his snaps coming at the nickel cornerback spot.

McGee trained in Fort Lauderdale in his first NFL offseason, including working out with Rams’ undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Marcus Roberson.

The former Hurricanes defensive back said he worked on his coverage skills, but also studied the playbook because he wanted to know not only his assignments but to have a better understanding of what all 11 defenders were doing on the field.

Now, in his second training camp, McGee gets to put that work to use.

The Rams drafted Lamarcus Joyner in the second round to be a nickel cornerback, the spot that McGee is also competing for. St. Louis even traded its fifth-round draft pick to move up a few spots to make sure it was able to nab Joyner.

Fisher and general manager Les Snead wanted competition in the secondary and now they have it with McGee, Joyner and others are fighting for positions.

“We’re all just competing, really, and we can’t really do anything but make each other better,” McGee said. “That’s kind of the goal going into every practice, just competing and pushing each other and just learning from each other honestly.”

And that will, in turn, help the defense.

Defensive end Robert Quinn said earlier in camp that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was challenging everyone on the defense, but in particular the Rams’ back seven. The play of the secondary could go a long way in determining how successful St. Louis is this season.

“We approach every practice with a chip on our shoulder and we’ve done a good job thus far and I also think we can do better of just continuously executing day in and day out,” McGee said. “We’ve got one of the best d-lines, one of the best front sevens, in the game. It’s our job, if we don’t allow balls to go over our heads and we compete at a high level, we could do something special.”

Bookmark and Share

Steelers' Sean Spence caps lengthy comeback

LATROBE, Pa. —The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

Spence almost gleefully smashed into fullback Bryce Davis during the Pittsburgh Steelers' first full contact drill of training camp on Monday. The two tussled for several seconds before Davis - his fists full of Spence's jersey - pulled them both to the ground.

Call it a victory for Spence, in more ways than one. He's a football player again, however unlikely that may have been in the agonizing weeks and months after he shredded his left knee in a 2012 preseason game against Carolina.

The former third-round pick used to watch replays of his knee bending in ways it's not supposed to bend - ripping up his peroneal nerve in the process - as he raced into the Carolina backfield. No longer.

"I don't even revisit it," Spence said.

For good reason. Spence spent too many nights crying himself to sleep wondering if he would ever make it all the way back. Sure there were times he doubted he would get this far. He responded by forcing himself to go in for treatment on the days he would have rather stayed home because watching the Steelers prepare for life without him was just too painful.

Slowly, his surgically repaired knee regained strength.

Amazingly, the nerve regenerated. The 24-year-old Spence looked as quick as ever during organized team activities during the spring, but he knew Monday would be the day of reckoning.

The Steelers begin the contact portion of training camp at Saint Vincent College with "backs on backers," which is just as basic - and as violent - as it sounds. A linebacker bolts toward the quarterback, with a running back or tight end the only thing in his way. It's a chance for rookies to make a name for themselves and veterans to show they've still got it.

For Spence, it was a homecoming.

"I was anxious," he said. "I was chomping at the bit."

It showed. He plowed into the breach again and again, winning some battles and losing others. Not that it mattered. He'll have plenty of time over the next month to prove he's worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. Monday was simply about returning to the game he worried was gone for good.

"I was never a person who would quit," Spence said. "I'm never going to be that person."

Coach Mike Tomlin certainly isn't concerned. Standing a few yards away while Spence competed in just his second padded practice in two years - his initial comeback last fall was cut short by a broken finger - it hardly registered to Tomlin that Spence's long road back had reached its destination.

"We've had a great deal of comfort on where he is for some time," Tomlin said.

It's a sense of comfort Spence doesn't take for granted.

Considering the odds Spence faced as he laid on the Heinz Field turf in agony two summers ago, he knows many teams would not have invested the money or the time on what could have been a fruitless enterprise.

"They could have given up on me a long time ago," Spence said. "I'm just so thankful."

And so eager to pay that patience back. The one blessing of his injury is that it forced him to watch more football than he ever has in his life. While it may take a bit for him to get fully comfortable throwing his body around, there is little doubt Spence knows where to go when he's on the field.

The speed that overwhelmed him as a rookie has slowed to a more reasonable pace. It may be the one advantage he has over rookie Ryan Shazier, taken with the 15th overall pick in May to fill the job the Steelers expected would have been Spence's at this point if fate had not intervened.

The starting job next to Lawrence Timmons for the season opener against Cleveland is Shazier's to lose. Spence understands what he's up against but isn't ceding anything. He stressed he's "just here competing." For now, that's enough.

"Soon as I got the first hit, I was good to go," he said, "like back to football."

Bookmark and Share

In 10th season, 49ers running back Frank Gore isn't ready to slow down yet

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Asked how he'll deal with a challenge from a phalanx of young and talented running backs this year, the 49ers' Frank Gore turned toward his questioner, smiled and said, "I'm from Miami, man."

He could have left it at that.

Gore, the 49ers' all-time leading rusher, sharpened his skills and hardened his resolve by fighting for carries as a younger man, especially at the talent-laden University of Miami, where he first competed with Clinton Portis for a role in the Hurricanes' backfield and later did the same with Willis McGahee. Portis, now retired, is 30th on the all-time NFL rushing list; McGahee, a free agent, is 37th. Gore is 29th.

After the 49ers drafted him in 2005, Gore quickly wrestled the starting job from incumbent Kevan Barlow, and he has been dispatching challengers since. Whether it's been Barlow, Brian Westbrook, Brandon Jacobs or LaMichael James, the common thread of playing running back for the 49ers over the past decade has been frustration and a lack of playing time. Gore hardly ever leaves the playing field.

"I've been out there competing ever since I left high school," Gore said. "I've been with top guys who have been in the league. ... One day, (the young running backs) are going to have to get this role. But while I'm here, I'm going to look at it as a challenge."

This year is shaping up as Gore's biggest battle since he played for the Hurricanes.

He's 31 � ancient in running back years � and is surrounded by younger players, including two of the most highly regarded runners in the last two drafts, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde. Lattimore's challenge of Gore may be delayed. When the 49ers' first practice of training camp began Thursday, he was on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he continues to come back from his 2012 knee injury.

The group also includes Kendall Hunter, Gore's top backup the past three seasons, James and Jewel Hampton.

If the 49ers are eying a running-back-by-committee approach this season, they're not letting on.

"I don't know," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We could be talking about the wide receiver position same as the running back position. A very talented group of running backs, there's no question about it."

It's clear Gore is not the same runner he was when he out-dueled Barlow as a rookie.

His breakaway speed, which helped him gain a career-high 1,695 yards in 2006, is gone, and plays that call for Gore to run to the outside have been avoided. Still, he's started every game for the last two seasons, and last year, including the playoffs, he had 324 carries, the most of his career.

"When my number's called to be out there, I'm out there," he said.

An added motivation for 2014: Gore is going into the final year of his contract, which also happens to be his 10th season with the 49ers. A decade with one team is a major milestone, especially for a running back. One of the walls inside 49ers headquarters is dedicated to the men who have played 10 or more years with them. It's a small group of mostly household names � Montana, Rice, Lott, Young, etc. � but only one running back, Joe Perry, has his portrait on that wall.

Perry is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 49ers have retired his number. When the season ends, Gore will be the 49th player on the wall � a fitting number for a player who propped up the offense during its darkest years.

As far as sharing the backfield with his young teammates, Gore didn't dance around the question like Harbaugh. He's been protective of his status as the team's top back all of his career, and he's hungry for most of the carries this season, too.

Said Gore: "I'm here. I'm still here. So why not?"

Bookmark and Share

Sean Spence says he's optimistic, has 'total confidence' in future

Sean Spence, meet Rocky Bleier. Fifteen years from now, Spence could be earning a living by traveling the country and retelling his inspirational story.

He could take some inspiration of his own from the story that is Bleier's. Granted, Spence's tale does not contain the drama of Bleier's, whose foot was mangled by shrapnel in a Vietnamese jungle. Spence's knee was blown up on home ground at Heinz Field as the rookie linebacker chased down a quarterback.

Yet, their long, seemingly impossible comeback attempts in football parallel one another. Bleier's was a miracle. Spence's is still a possible miracle in the making.

Injured in August 1969, Bleier had trouble walking in training camp in 1970. Chuck Noll wanted to cut him. The Rooneys instead carried him on their injury list. He made the team in 1971, gained 1,000 yards in 1976 and retired after the 1980 season with four Super Bowl rings.

A book, a movie and thousands of inspirational speeches followed.

Today an important milestone in Spence's comeback takes place. This will be his first day in pads and contact at Saint Vincent College in two years. That contact promises to severely test his injured left knee that has been two years on the mend, particularly when he plants his foot and takes on a block from one of the big linemen.

"I'm looking forward to it," Spence said Sunday.

He has waited two years for this day, since that gruesome injury in the final preseason game of his rookie year against the Carolina Panthers. The anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments tore. The knee dislocated. More important, the peroneal nerve was damaged. That nerve had to regenerate and often it does not. Spence was one of the lucky ones.

There have been some low points over the past two seasons as Spence mounted the long rehabilitative process, but the moment of that injury was not the worst.

"Going back on [injured reserve] last year," Spence cited as No. 1.

Spence, placed on the physically unable to perform list to start last training camp, was allowed to practice with the team for a three-week period in the middle of last season, and it could determine if they would add him to their 53-man roster. Then came another setback when his right middle finger was broken after one day in pads. They wound up putting him on injured reserve again.

"After going through what I went through, then to finally getting back out there and had to break my finger and go back on IR, it was painful," Spence said. "But I think it was best."

Spence said he knows other organizations might not have had so much patience as he continues his comeback, much like the Steelers showed with Bleier.
"I was very blessed to be with this organization because I could have been cut loose a long time ago," he said. "But they didn't, they stayed and waited for me and I'm very thankful and grateful for that."

He remains an optimist, convinced that his left knee will do just fine today while digging in against bigger men from his inside linebacker position.

"The way I trained in the offseason, the way it feels, I have total confidence in it," Spence said. "I'm just looking forward to it."


"I'm a happy nervous, not nervous that I'm afraid, just the regular jitters you get when you put on the pads the first day."

Two summers ago, Spence was among the hits of training camp and in preseason games. A third-round pick, he was the original young inside linebacker expected to move Larry Foote aside and he looked the part.

That promise, the knee injury and his long ordeal since have helped make his story a popular one with Steelers fans.

He believes he can turn his story into a Bleier-like happy ending.

"I hope to play a 10-year career," Spence said. "People probably think it's unlikely, but they probably didn't think I'd be back in this setting and I am. I'm going to take one day, one year at a time and see how it goes.

"The story is still writing itself."

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson dealing with minor injury

It took just three days for injuries to limit the Texans’ offense.

Veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson tweaked his right hamstring Monday during practice, while star running back Arian Foster was held out of action.
Coach Bill O’Brien said both injuries were minor.

The team has not revealed what is affecting Foster, who has not spoken with the media since offseason workouts began and again denied an interview request Monday.

“Those guys have played a lot of football,” O’Brien said at NRG Stadium. “We’ll make sure we do a good job of managing them through the season.”

Foster exited practice early Sunday and didn’t take the field Monday, during a workout that saw the Texans wear pads and at times engage in full contact.

“He’s dealing with something,” O’Brien said. “He’ll be fine. He’ll be back. It’s a minor deal. You know, it’s a long season. He’ll be out there.”

Johnson was injured while making a catch down the middle of the field. He didn’t apply ice after the tweak and said he isn’t concerned. However, Johnson acknowledged he’ll have his hamstring examined as a precautionary measure.

“I don’t know (if I will be limited). We’ll see what happens,” Johnson said. “Like I said, it’s nothing that I’m seriously (worried about). Anytime you get a knick or anything, you know, you worry about it.”

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Meriweather, fan interrupt Clark's press conference for autograph turned tattoo

Ryan Clark started off his press conference on Sunday morning joking about how he's done too much media and wondered why people still wanted to hear him talk. So, Brandon Meriweather interrupted his press conference to agree.

"We need you to stop being such a media guy, and start being Ryan Clark the football player," Meriweather said.

To get his point across, Meriweather joked that a fan wanted to get his name tattooed after already having a few others, but would settle for an autograph. 
Clark made it clear that it wasn't special though if he already other players names tattooed on him.

"Imagine if I had like six tattoos of women's names on me, and then asked my wife once we got married if I could her name," Clark said going down an interesting path, "Is that going to be special to her? No." 

Brandon Meriweather wouldn't settle for that."Don't be Ryan Clark, be a Redskin. Be a part of the team," Meriweather joked. 

Clark, being the great sport that he is, signed the fans arm right in the middle of his press conference before announcing that he would take over Brandon Meriweather's press conferences in the future.

Ah, training camp hijinks. 

UPDATE: The fan went and got the autograph turned into a tattoo.

Bookmark and Share

DeQuan Jones Headed Overseas

With the NBA offseason slowly hitting it’s dog days, and most free agents finding homes, we see some players trying to find their way onto an NBA roster shift their focus to going overseas.

DeQuan Jones: Cantu, Italy

The two names that jump off the page right away are DeQuan Jones and Romero Osby. Jones played for the Magic during his rookie season in 2012, appearing in 63 games, scoring 3.7 points and grabbing 1.7 rebounds per game in 12.7 minutes of action. Jones was also on the Magic’s Summer League roster in 2013, and was invited to camp that same year, but was one of four cut in favor of big man Solomon Jones. 

Bookmark and Share

Royals trade Danny Valencia to Toronto

By dealing for a pair of minor-leaguers in Toronto’s system, Royals general manager Dayton Moore attempted to balance his roster, opened the door for a promotion for former first-round pick Christian Colon and delivered a vote of confidence for rebounding third baseman Mike Moustakas.

The team traded backup third baseman Danny Valencia to the Blue Jays for Class AAA catcher Erik Kratz and right-handed reliever Liam Hendriks. Colon received a call-up from Class AAA Omaha, and will join the club as a backup to second baseman Omar Infante and shortstop Alcides Escobar for the series against Minnesota that starts tonight at Kauffman Stadium.

Kratz replaces Brett Hayes as the backup to Salvador Perez. The Royals designated Hayes for assignment. Hendriks will go to Omaha as a swingman. But as Moore discussed the maneuvers on Monday evening, he focused on both Moustakas and Colon.

“Moose has played very well,” Moore told The Star in a telephone conversation. “We just felt we needed to add some depth to the middle infield. August is a very grueling month, a lot of baseball to be played.

“As you know, it’s very hot in Kansas City. We just need to add some depth there to be able to spell Infante and Escobar from time to time. We felt it was a move that strengthened the depth of our roster.”

Bookmark and Share

Sean Spence: 'There is no hesitation at all'

Linebacker Sean Spence is one of the happiest guys to have training camp underway, after missing the last two seasons with a serious knee injury that left many, but not him, wondering if he would ever play football again.

I have been waiting all offseason for this opportunity and I am up for the challenge,” said Spence. “Having to watch all of training camp last year and be separate from the guys, it feels good to be with them and working with them.

“Last year was full of a lot of down moments, sad times. I was away from football for my second year in a row. This year I am full of joy, around the guys, taking advantage of every opportunity.”

Spence has no concerns either about how things are going to pick up when the players put on the pads on Monday and the hitting begins.

“There is no hesitation at all,” said Spence. “I am very excited.”

Bookmark and Share

Bills Coach Marrone says LT Henderson 'can be special'

Bills coach Doug Marrone told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport he believes seventh-round LT Seantrel Henderson "can be special."

A former top high school recruit, Henderson had an up-and-down career at the University of Miami and fell to the seventh round due to character issues. With Cordy Glenn's (illness, NFI) health status up in the air, Henderson is a candidate to be the Bills' Week 1 left tackle. It's conceivable Henderson could be Buffalo's blind-side answer of the future, with Glenn eventually moving to guard.

Bookmark and Share

Punter Pat O'Donnell emerges as fan favorite

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- NFL punters are hardly ever the center of attention; except when things go horribly wrong in a game, like a bad kick or botched snap.

But Bears' rookie punter Pat O'Donnell proved to be the exception to that rule on Sunday.

A large part of the estimated 9,500 fans in attendance on Sunday spent the entire portion of the special teams drills loudly cheering for O'Donnell and chanting "Mega-Punt” every time he punted the ball.

O'Donnell's highly-touted right leg did not disappoint. Aside from one or two mishits, the majority of the rookie's punts were high and deep. One kick registered an unofficial hang time of 5.1 seconds and appeared to travel well over 50 yards.

"I didn't know what the crowd was saying,” O'Donnell said after practice. "I was just trying to keep focused. It's definitely a good feeling because the punter usually doesn't get a lot of attention. But it's the nature of the business. I just need to do my thing and hopefully flip the field when I can.”

Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis added: "That's a first for me [hearing fans chant for a punter]. I was thinking you have to be kidding me over there. It was ridiculous. Let's keep the kid's feet on the ground.”

However, expectations are high for O'Donnell, after the Bears spent a sixth-round pick on the 6-foot-4, 220 pound punter from Miami following a record-setting year when he averaged a school single-season best 47.1 yards per punt and had 23 kicks sail 50-plus yards.

Generally speaking, when a team drafts a punter, it becomes his job to lose. But former undrafted free agent Tress Way stepped up his performance following the Bears selection of O'Donnell, and actually outkicked the rookie in the offseason program, paving the way for a genuine camp competition.

But Sunday clearly belonged to O'Donnell.

"I thought [O'Donnell] did some good things today,” DeCamillis said. "But we need to just keep working and hopefully he continues stacking good days on top of good days.”

Punter is not the only specialist position up for grabs. The retirement of decorated veteran Patrick Mannelly left a serious void at long snapper, one the Bears are currently trying to fill with either Chad Rempel or Brandon Hartson.

In the Mannelly era, the Bears experienced a bad snap maybe once every five or six years. This summer, there have been multiple long snapping miscues over the span of just three days since camp opened on Friday.

"I wouldn't say we are concerned," DeCamillis said. "We need to work through the process and find out who our guy is going to be. Hopefully he's on this team right now. He may not be. We'll have to see. But I wouldn't say we're concerned. I've been in this position before with young guys. You just need to work through the process."

Bookmark and Share

Tommy Streeter Came To Play

Aside from the crazy play made by running back Jeff Demps Saturday, the biggest play of the day came from wide receiver Tommy Streeter. The former Miami Hurricanes stud was drafted by the Baltimore Crows in 2012 and after struggling with a bum food, released not quite a year ago.

Streeter was signed by the Bucs in January and fits the part of the “Dunkaneers,” at 6-5 with wheels. He displayed those moves yesterday that, at least for a day, has put him in the running for a roster spot.

Streeter ran up the left sideline and was doubled-covered by both Rashaan Melvin and Mycal Swaim. As Streeter reached about the 12-yard line, he hauled in an absolute bomb from Cannon Glennon, damn near 50-yards long. After Streeter hauled in the pass, he appeared blocked from the goal line by Melvin and Swaim. Then he put a move on the two so good, that Melvin twisted his ankle and hit the grass and Swaim, too, was juked out of his jock, also falling to the turf.

Streeter just jogged into the end zone from there as if he was chilling at a shopping center.

After practice, Streeter downplayed the play.

“I have to use the speed that God gave me and go up and get the ball on that play,” Streeter told Joe. “We have a great corps of wide receivers. A lot of guys could make that play. I was just fortunate enough to be out there.”

Later, Josh McCown fired through triple coverage to thread the needle to Streeter along the right sideline, where he danced just enough to get both feet inbounds before falling out of bounds.

Streeter admits he learned a lot in his brief time with the Crows. One thing he is trying to learn is upper body control.

“The thing for me being a tall wide receiver is pad level,” Streeter said. “A lot of times, you can tip off your route being such a tall guy running high. Once you drop your weight, defenders know you are breaking. That is something I have to continuously work on. There is always something to work on whether it is in the classroom or out here on the practice field.”

Streeter admitted that at least on paper, he is a perfect fit for the “Dunkaneers.”

“There is talent level and skill sets of all kinds [on the roster],” Streeter said. “A lot of guys can do different things. We have small guys and big guys. We have some King Kongs out there. We have height. It is rare you find the combination of height and speed but we have big guys who are fast at the same time.”

Bookmark and Share

A healthy Travis Benjamin could be significant for Cleveland Browns

There is no other position group quite like the Cleveland Browns' wide receivers. This competition should be named the Grand Canyon – it’s that wide open.  
Earlier this week my colleague Vic Carucci penned this column, analyzing the impact Nate Burleson, Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins and Anthony Armstrong could have on the offense. This eclectic quartet of newcomers each carry a variety of traits to the field and locker room.

Burleson brings route running and an influential spirit; Austin is a professional and has size; Hawkins is slippery and a deep threat; Armstrong is a master of the playbook and lengthy.

In the shuffle of all the fresh faces, we all may have forgotten about a familiar one: Travis Benjamin. On Thursday, the University of Miami alum tweeted this:

For a range of reasons, a healthy Travis Benjamin is another thought-provoking piece to this puzzle.

Because of all the accolades and jaw dropping moments Josh Gordon produced during the 2013 season, some of the big plays from Benjamin have flown under the radar. He was only able to haul in five passes before his ACL injury, but those receptions went for 105 yards – good for 21 yards a catch. Benjamin can fly.

In terms of potential, Benjamin’s ceiling is higher than you think. He’s only 24 years old. And now he’ll be given the chance to provide evidence in practice that he's more than just a reliable return man. Kyle Shanahan will be looking for home run hitters in his offense to stretch the field.

Bookmark and Share

Micanor Regis Signed

Bookmark and Share

Fins target Shady McCoy role for Lamar Miller

According to the Miami Herald, "there's a hope in Dolphins camp" that Lamar Miller "can play the role of LeSean 'Shady' McCoy" in new OC Bill Lazor's offense.

Lazor spent 2013 on Chip Kelly's staff as Philly led the NFL in rushing and yards per carry (5.1). Miller lacks McCoy's lateral explosiveness, but he is a speed back who's dangerous in space. Earlier in July, Miller met with McCoy to discuss "how to thrive in the system Lazor has brought from Philly to South Florida," and also watched Shady's game tape. Per beat writer Adam Beasley, Miller "has been clearly ahead" of Knowshon Moreno "every step of the way." "He looks good, he looks stronger than he’s ever been," said coach Joe Philbin of Miller, who gained 6-8 pounds of offseason muscle. "I don’t think he’s sacrificed any speed whatsoever." Miller is shaping up as a potential steal at his seventh-round ADP.

Bookmark and Share

Bulked-up Allen Bailey ready for expanded role with Chiefs

Defensive end Allen Bailey has been a role player for the Chiefs throughout his first three NFL seasons, appearing primarily in nickel situations.

Entering his fourth year, Bailey — who has appeared in 41 games but made only four starts — has taken over the starting reps at left defensive end early in training camp. It’s a welcome promotion for the former third-round pick out of Miami (Fla.).

“My first couple of years, I was kind of a role player, a third-down guy,” said Bailey, who is filling the void left by Tyson Jackson’s departure. “I added on to it last year, playing a little more base end, but now I want to be a complete player, an every-down guy. This year, I’m looking for a more all-around role.”

Bailey, 25, packed on a few pounds in preparation for more extensive duty. His playing weight last season was 288 pounds, but he’s now up to 300 pounds.
“It’s really to help out with the run game,” Bailey said. “I needed to bulk up a little bit. Playing inside at 280 is a little rough.”

Bailey used a meal service to help him put on weight in the right way. Deliver Lean created a high-carb, high-protein diet that helped him add those pounds.
“I wasn’t eating Little Debbie cakes all day,” he joked. “But the key was, I put on the weight, then it was time to transform the weight, so your body could get used to it and you could get into football shape with the weight. That’s the next step now.”

The Chiefs won’t practice in pads until today, but the early returns are encouraging.

“I’ve been real impressed with him,” Chiefs defensive lineman Mike DeVito said of Bailey. “You can see he’s moving well and he’s using that power to his advantage. Just like (Mike) Catapano, Bailey’s been adding weight, but they keep their athleticism, keep their strength, keep their agility and all that stuff.”
Bailey also expects to benefit from having a year’s experience in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense.

“I’m more comfortable, because you know a lot more and feel like you can do a lot more in it,” Bailey said. “You know the ins and outs of the defense, so it’s a little advantage.”

Bookmark and Share

Chase Ford Place on PUP

The Minnesota Vikings have placed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, safety Andrew Sendejo and tight end Chase Ford on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp.

The other player held out of the first full practice on Friday was wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who watched wearing a bucket-shaped fishing hat because of a minor foot injury. The team announced his status as day to day.

Ford has been in a cast with a broken left foot and will be out indefinitely. Munnerlyn has a minor hamstring injury. Sendejo is dealing with nagging lower-back and ankle problems. Players on the PUP list during the preseason can be taken off at any time, and they count against the 90-man roster. They can’t practice until they’re medically cleared.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson: 'I'm not rushing'

RICHMOND, Va. -- Here is what Washington Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson knows: His knee felt good Friday, something it did not feel Monday or Tuesday.

Here is what he doesn’t know: When he will be at, or near, 100 percent healthy and ready to return.

Hankerson tore his left ACL and lateral collateral ligament last season. After surgery in late November, the Redskins said he faced a seven-to-nine month recovery. He’s in the eighth month of his recovery.

“I don’t know if it’s a week or two or three weeks or a month, two,” Hankerson said. “I don’t know. I have no clue. When I came out here Monday, Tuesday I was positive I can’t go, I can’t go. When I came out today, I felt like I can go out there and make plays. I know that’s not the case. I have to keep being patient and keep working.”

Hankerson runs sprints and routes on side fields during practices. But he’s not sure how fast he’s really able to run. He just knows it’s not 100 percent.

“It’s about having some confidence in it, feeling like its 95, 100 percent,” Hankerson said. “I know I don’t have that explosion yet. When I come out here and run routes, it’s not explosive. I know that. There is no need for me to go on the field because I’m not there. I’d probably embarrass myself.”

Hankerson said it’s not hard for him to be patient for one reason: It’s his career. He’s entering the last season of his rookie contract and if he returned before he felt ready, then further damage would have a huge negative impact.

“It’s bigger than just going out there and trying to get back and having fun with teammates,” Hankerson said. “That’s why the main thing is to keep being patient and get to 95, 100 percent to where I know I can go out there and be explosive and making plays and not worrying about getting bumped.”

Nor is he worried about the preseason. Hankerson isn’t battling for a starting job, but the Redskins do have a new offense. Even if it’s similar to their previous one, there is still an adjustment period.

Again, Hankerson does not want to rush back for a preseason game.

“No, man. I’m not worried about the preseason,” he said. “I’m not rushing back. It’s about being healthy. I mean, my health is more important than the preseason. What do you gain from the preseason? Nothing. Yeah it helps guys get better, but I would rather be 100 percent before I step on the field.”

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson: O'Brien plans to 'move me around a lot'

Earlier this offseason, Texans running back Arian Foster said Andre Johnson "is Houston."

Fans turned the statement into sound Saturday when they loudly rejoiced after a simple screen pass went to the veteran receiver at the Texans' first training camp practice.

After skipping previous offseason work, Johnson is catching up on Bill O'Brien's offense.

"I think it's just gonna be fun for me, me picking up the things I need to pick up, him telling me that he's gonna move me around a lot and stuff like that," Johnson told NFL Media's Desmond Purnell. "So it's going to be interesting to see because I really wasn't moved a whole lot before, so I just got to, day-by-day, just progressively get better and make sure that I'm on top of everything ... "

Johnson also added that the Texans needed someone like the loud, blunt O'Brien to shake up the team.

Moving Johnson around to create mismatches in the offense should aid the receiver's production and that of second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Even with a shaky quarterback situation last season, Johnson was still one of the most productive pass catchers in the NFL (109 receptions, 1,407 yards).
There is no reason to think he can't produce similar results under O'Brien with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne Healthy

The only sign of receiver Reggie Wayne having any kind of knee issue was the ice bag wrapped around his right knee as he caught passes from the Jugs machine after practice Sunday. Turns out the ice wrapped around Wayne’s knee was just a precaution. Besides that, as he hauled in passes during a red-zone drill in practice, Wayne looked like the player who terrorized defenses for many years prior to tearing his ACL last October. He caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck between two defenders and another one from Luck that was tipped by the defender. There’s still more than a month before the Sept. 7 opener against Denver, but Wayne is continuing to make steady progress toward regaining his form from the torn ACL.

Bookmark and Share

Eric Winston waits for call as camps start

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago to the day, Eric Winston was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as his future teammates prepared for their conditioning test.

This year, Winston is still waiting for that call. Well, more like the call.

He's been contacted and recruited by several teams since free agency began in March, Winston said Friday from Houston, but none have offered an attractive enough opportunity to convince Winston to sign.

"It's more of the right situation not presenting itself," Winston said.

"Last year, I thought Arizona was a good spot for me and I think going forward I'm looking for that same kind of opportunity."

Winston doesn't need to be promised a starting job, he said, but wants the opportunity to compete for one. That's what Arizona offered last year, he said, and it worked out in his favor as Winston started all 16 games. The eight-year veteran isn't concerning himself with why he hasn't found a job yet as training camps continue to begin across the NFL. He's just trying to stay positive.

Last offseason taught him to be patient but it's easier said than done.

"It's tough," Winston said. "It's tough on me. It's tough on the family. There's so many balls in the air right now. It's just a stressful time. But, unfortunately, sometimes when you get late in your career it's the nature of the business, as well."

Winston was able to acclimate himself with the rest of Arizona's offensive line quickly last season but he'd rather not wait until the end of training camp to join a team. There's still a playbook to learn and a bond to build, but there's only so much he can control.

The Cardinals are one team with questions at right tackle but Winston doesn't seem to be the answer for them. He made about $2 million last season and improved as the season went on. Even though Winston allowed just one of his seven sacks in the final nine games, he was still rated as one of the worst tackles in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

Winston has spent his offseason preparing for the right call by staying in shape. He's worked out this summer with Houston Texans Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, and former Texan Owen Daniel. After a Friday morning workout, Winston said he's moving as well as he has in a while.

At 30, he's been putting in the extra work so he can make a seamless transition to anyone's training camp.

"I feel like I'm way more ready this year than last year," Winston said. "Not to say I wasn't ready last year. I just really feel like I'm in as good of shape than I've been in for a long time."

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham says "I am a hungry player"

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham went through what just about every high profile NFL player goes through at some point in their career - a tough negotiation session with the organization.

This offseason Graham didn't reach an agreement on a long term deal with the Saints until around 2 am on July 15th, just hours before the deadline. He didn’t have the benefit of training under the watchful eye of the Saints strength and condition coaches, but he did train with former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in Miami, and turned in the fast conditioning test time on the team yesterday.  “I feel fresh, I was just on extended vacation. I’m back hungry and ready to go!” Graham said. 

Graham admitted it was tough to see reports and speculation about an eventual deal with the Saints, not to mention the arbitration hearing process, but the All-Pro tight end says that’s all in the past. “I think it was a great deal for both sides. I just wanted a deal,” Graham said.  “What was unfortunate was in the offseason, all the false information that was out there and not being able to say anything about it, especially when you know whats going on. I’m an All-Pro tight end, and I’m going to stay that way.” Graham said he spent his days in the offseason working out, and it showed on the field: “There is no doubt he’s in shape, and he’s ready to roll. I had multiple conversations with him and he’s just glad to be back. I can see it in his eyes, he’s got a little pep in his step, he’s ready to roll,” explained quarterback Drew Brees. 

There is no reason to think Jimmy Graham won’t continue his dominance this season and beyond as he said “I’m a hungry player, I always play with a chip on my shoulder” after he was asked if the contract affects the way he would prepare for an NFL season. If rookie wide reciever Brandin Cooks progresses as well as the team hopes, this offense could be extremely scary in 2014, with the best tight end in football as one of their main weapons. 

Bookmark and Share

Jay Gruden warns Brandon Meriweather not to hit high in practice

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather was suspended for a game last year for helmet-to-helmet hits. Washington coach Jay Gruden is warning Meriweather that the same offense will get him suspended from practice as well.

“Brandon, he plays a very physical style of football,” Gruden said. “That’s all he knows. But there is a rule now obviously and he’s had to pay the price for it. And he understands the next one is going to be a longer suspension. We talked about that today, actually. I told him he is going to get a two-practice suspension if he doesn’t lower his target.”

Gruden expects Meriweather to be a big part of Washington’s defense, but only if he can remember to avoid helmet-to-helmet hits.

“He’s a good football player,” Gruden said. “He’s tough, he’s physical, he wants to do the right thing but sometimes at that position though and the ball is in the air, he’s trying to knock the ball out and sometimes they unfortunately make contact head-to-head and it’s not intentional. I don’t think he has the intent to injure people. I think he has the intent to get the player down and get the ball out. Sometimes those instances look worse than they are but he does have to really watch his area of target and hopefully we will keep him on the field for 16 weeks because he is much needed in the secondary.”

The NFL doesn’t take kindly to repeat offenders, and if Meriweather hits another opponent high in a game, he’s likely looking at a multiple-game suspension. Gruden is hoping to break Meriweather of the habit permanently.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason confident he will be ready for start of NY Giants preseason

Jon Beason started his press conference on Friday with a little levity.

“You guys are a little late,” the Giants’ middle linebacker said to the surrounding reporters. “You know, camp started on Tuesday, actually Monday.”

It was a good-natured attempt at humor for a player who was dealing with a frustrating injury. But if anyone’s late to camp it’s Beason, who tore a ligament and fractured the sesamoid bone in his right foot during team activities last month and missed his fourth straight practice on Friday. Beason was in good spirits, however, pronouncing his ability to heal “a little superhuman,” and suggesting he might be able to participate in at least some of the Giants’ five preseason games, which start on Aug. 3 and end Aug. 28.

“I would hope so,” Beason said of receiving preseason snaps. “Based on how I feel, the way things are going, you want to keep making baby steps. If you go too fast and have a setback, all of a sudden you're pushing that timetable of Sept. 8 (the season opener against Detroit). We want to be smart about it. Obviously I'm going to do what they tell me. But I would love to get into the preseason to get some reps.”

Asked if he will be ready for the start of the season, Beason said: “There is no reason now to think I won’t be there, based on how I feel and how I’m progressing.”

Beason suffered the injury on June 12 and was carted off the field during 11-on-11 drills. The news wasn’t all negative because the injury didn’t require surgery, but he is now relegated to running on an underwater treadmill and trying to beat the timetable doctors gave him for returning for the season opener. In his absence, Jameel McClain has assumed the middle linebacker spot, with rookie Devon Kennard taking over at strongside linebacker.

Beason has been injury-prone the past few seasons and was viewed as a bit of a health risk when the Giants inked him to a three-year deal in March.

Bookmark and Share

Saints say no awkwardness with Jimmy Graham

All offseason, the concern for the Saints was whether they could make the numbers work with *tight end Jimmy Graham.

But when he showed up for work, he posted another number that reminded them of his value.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Graham had the “low time” in the team’s pre-camp conditioning test.

“That was significant. I told him to stay in Miami every offseason,” Payton said, via Mike Triplett of “I mean, it was outstanding.”

Both Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis said the difficult negotiation (which led to discussions of how far he lined up from the tackle) was simply part of the process, and the $10 million a year deal now has everyone happy.

“Look, it was a tough negotiation, obviously, but it ended well,” Loomis said. “Obviously going to an appeal hearing over the position argument was unique. But otherwise it was a negotiation. You know, all of these negotiations are tough. Obviously when it’s a high-profile guy, there’s more written about it. And those are personal issues for the players, in particular, and we understand that. But that’s behind us. We’re glad to have it done. I’m sure Jimmy’s glad to have it done.

“It’s just a process that we had to go through. And, look, I think both sides are pretty pleased with the outcome.”

Given that both Payton and Loomis testified in an arbitration hearing against Graham’s assertion that he should be a wide receiver for franchise tag purposes, there was the potential for awkwardness.

But now that business has been taken care of, they can get back to the business of football, and Graham is apparently ready.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson picking up install well

All is forgiven between fans and Andre Johnson, if there ever was any animosity there for Johnson's offseason holdout.

The ones at training camp embraced Johnson's return as he sauntered onto the field this morning. It was Johnson's first time catching passes from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, his first time operating within the Texans' new offense under Bill O'Brien. The very first pass in 11-on-11 drills was a bullet from Fitzpatrick to Johnson, and again a roar arose from the crowd.

"So far, the first day install I picked up pretty well," Johnson said. "I went out there and wasn’t really thinking a lot. I got with Fitz after everything last night and me and him went over some stuff. Everybody has been very helpful with me picking up everything. It’s just fun to be back out here and be with my teammates and getting back to football."

That rapport between Johnson and Fitzpatrick will be especially important this season. They first met at J.J. Watt's charity softball game on May 2 and Johnson said he liked Fitzpatrick a lot personally.

"We have to be on the same page, especially in this offense," Johnson said. "There is a lot of communication and a lot of stuff that goes on."

Johnson is a weapon that will only benefit Fitzpatrick, who was named the Texans' starter during their mandatory minicamp.

"He’s a true pro," Fitzpatrick said of Johnson. "I think everybody here knows that and I’ve always admired him from afar. I’ve heard a lot about his work ethic and the way that he attacks everything. It was nice to sit back and throw to him a little bit today."

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore rooting for Marshawn Lynch in holdout

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore understands why Seattle Seahawks holdout Marshawn Lynch is trying to cash in while he can.

"Yeah, you've got to," Gore told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday. "You never know at the (running back) position. When you've got leverage, you've got to go get it."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told USA TODAY Sports on Friday "it's a contract for a reason," providing a strong indication the 49ers' NFC West rivals aren't inclined to appease Lynch with more money.

Lynch is due $5.5 million this season and $7.5 million next. Fellow running back Jamaal Charles also had two years left on his deal before the Kansas City Chiefs gave him a two-year contract extension and a $4.4 million raise in 2014.

"Jamaal Charles – he got it. I hope Marshawn get it, too," Gore said. "I respect Marshawn's game a whole lot. I think he's the one that makes that offense go over there. I respect their team. I respect their quarterback (Russell Wilson). But Marshawn is just a beast, man. A beast."

Gore, 31, is due $6.45 million in the last year of his own contract and he comes off his seventh 1,000-yard season in eight years. Is his own upcoming contract negotiation on his mind?

"I just play ball," Gore said. "Hopefully, I just go out there and try do whatever it takes to get me the trophy, man, and see how I go from there. I'm enjoying it. I'm blessed to be 10 years and still be able to be in the NFL. I'm just taking it one day at a time, one year at a time.

"If I have a great year this year, then hopefully, they're going to re-sign me or somebody will. I still love it. I want to walk away when I want to walk away. "

Bookmark and Share

UM Legend Bernie Kosar: Tony Bosch "Had an Amazing Impact on My Life"

Biogenesis proprietor Tony Bosch didn't spend all his time cooking up elaborate doping procedures for MLB stars like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. As reported in Blood Sport, the new book on the Miami scandal, Bosch also had a huge network of regular clientele, from UM students to high schoolers to ex-athletes. Among that latter group, Blood Sport recounts, was none other than UM legend Bernie Kosar.

Yesterday, Kosar talked about his ties to Bosch for the first time. The former NFL first-round draft pick says the unlicensed anti-aging doctor "had an amazing impact on my life."

Kosar, who discussed his relationship with Bosch on his Cleveland-area radio talk show, said that the Biogenesis founder was well-known around the Coral Gables campus where Kosar won a national title back in 1983. (Bosch's deep ties to UM were covered in a Blood Sport excerpt in New Times earlier this month.)

"Going to the UM, he's been around us and (our) friends for like 30 years," Kosar said. "And he has been talking about this for 20 years."

But Kosar says Bosch's sins as a PED-supplier in baseball cloud the fact that he's truly helped regular clientele like the ex-quarterback. Kosar struggled for years with symptoms related to his playing career.

"I had bleeding in my head for probably 20 some plus years from all those concussions that my body couldn't naturally clot and stop," Kosar said.

About ten years ago, Kosar said Bosch convinced him to try "natural hormones" as a way to "build up your immune system."

Bosch's treatments helped, Kosar said, and helped point him toward other holistic doctors who have aided his recovery. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been able to get on my kinda personal journey to health and wellness," Kosar said.

Kosar did note that his connection with Bosch came well before New Times exposed his ties to MLB ballplayers.

"The last couple years, it has become clear what probably transpired," Kosar said of Bosch's side job selling PEDs. "Go back 10 to 15 years, and I was more focused on myself and how I could get myself going. Not being a baseball player and in this post-football era trying to stay healthy to keep up with Joe, my 14-year-old son. It wasn't something I really paid attention to."

In Blood Sport, an old Canes teammate named Julio Cortes takes credit for connecting Bosch and Kosar. Like Kosar, he says the fake doctor helped heal his post-football pains. "A month before I saw him, I was sitting on the ground and I couldn't get up," Cortes said. "He put me on this program, and a month later I'm playing racquetball and feeling good."

As Blood Sport notes, it's tough to find too much fault in Bosch helping out two battered and aging football stars. From the book:

If he gave Cortes and Kosar testosterone, Bosch broke the law. But it's hard to see immediate harm in two ailing middle-aged men snagging testosterone if it helped heal their aches. After all, they had legitimate health problems and were certainly old enough to know what they were getting into.

Kosar puts himself into that category: "I'm really proud of how much he helped me. He really helped," Kosar said.

In the book, some ex-football gurus go even further. Mike Ditka says he'd like to see HGH legalized for football players. "We gotta stay hurt forever?" Ditka says. "If it helps you recover from injuries, I have no idea why it would be a bad thing. You're paying players all this money, wouldn't it help to get them back on the field where they can earn money? If I owned a football team, I'd want my guys to play every week."

Bookmark and Share

PG Shane Larkin Was the Most Improved in Knicks Summer League

The New York Knicks competed their Summer League run with a record of 4-1. We will review the 2014 summer league roster starting with point guard Shane Larkin.

From Game 1 until Game 5, Larkin was the most improved player on the Knicks roster. He started off slow and off the mark, as he got more comfortable in the offense, Larkin really improved. The turnaround for the Miami product began in the fourth quarter of the second game, which culminated in Larkin’s game-winning baseline jumper. Larkin started 4 of 16 (25 percent) and finished 20 of 40 (50 percent).

Considering he isn’t an elite athlete that shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Larkin isn’t going to overwhelm opponents with elite size or speed, so he needs to play within an offensive scheme. As he learned, Larkin got better and better.

It seemed, as he understood what he was supposed to do, the 2013 first round pick played with more confidence. In the final three games he did a much better job of finishing around the rim, after looking very shaky early on in Las Vegas. He’s an excellent cutter and flashed the ability to move without the ball, which should endear him to president Phil Jackson and coach Derek Fisher. Most of his baskets around the rim were the result of backdoor cuts.

At times Larkin flashed a sweet stroke, something Jackson spoke about when he visited the MSG telecast. The president identified Larkin as a “good shooter” and listed the point guard among those he wants shooting the ball from the perimeter. However, Larkin needs to be more consistent with his outside game from downtown. In Las Vegas, he shot just 42.9 percent overall and a very poor 30 percent from three-point range.

He’s not a pure playmaker (3.4 assists per game) and lacks the ability to consistently breakdown defenses off the dribble, but that’s OK, because the triangle offense is built on ball and player movement, while spreading out the distribution responsibilities. Having said that, Larkin is a good passer with excellent court vision. He also has a strong handle and except for a few sloppy moments he did a good job of protecting the basketball.

At times he had trouble staying with opponents who were both bigger and quicker than him, but for the most part Larkin had a strong defensive run in Vegas. He is heady and pesky. Larkin has the quick hands to strip the basketball away from opponents and is even better at playing the passing lanes with his deft anticipation skills. He had 15 steals in five games and more than held his own on the boards, averaging 4.2 rebounds per game.

If he can improve his three-point shooting Larkin has all the tools to be an effective player in the triangle offense.

While reports have the Knicks talking internally about trading Larkin, as the club looks to shed some of their glut at the guard position, I’d like to see Larkin stay. He may not have the highest ceiling, but he’s young enough were there is still a lot of room to grow in his game. He’s a smart and skilled player who plays with passion defensively, all attributes the Knicks can use.

In Las Vegas, Larkin showed he could be a contributing player this upcoming season as a backup to Jose Calderon, providing 15-22 minutes coming off the bench in his second NBA season. Expect Larkin to continue to get better as he learns the nuances of the triangle offense

Bookmark and Share

Shane Larkin is enjoying 'fresh start' with the New York Knicks

That sequence was emblematic of Larkin’s performance throughout the NBA Summer League. Just a few weeks after the Dallas Mavericks sent him to the Knicks in a multi-player trade, Larkin impressed new Knicks president Phil Jackson and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher.

“I feel like I have a great opportunity here,” Larkin told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s a new team, a new system, a fresh start, a new coach. Phil just took over the team, so it’s a completely new chemistry and new brand of Knicks basketball that they’re trying to build. I’m glad I can be a part of that.”

In five exhibitions, Larkin — who attended Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High and the University of Miami —  averaged 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.0 steals per game. He turned over the ball just 1.4 times per game.

Larkin compiled those statistics even as he was adjusting to the triangle offense, the system that the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers employed as Jackson coached them to 11 NBA titles.

“Shane was fantastic,” Fisher told the Knicks’ website.

“In a lot of ways, he was our most stable and consistent performer in terms of being solid with the basketball, making the right plays, making the right reads. I thought defensively he caused a lot of problems for every team that we played, and that’s where he can change the game every time he’s on the floor.”

Though only 21 years old, Larkin already has endured a tumultuous start to his NBA career.

On draft night last year, the Atlanta Hawks selected him 18th overall, then sent his draft rights to the Mavericks.

A few weeks later, as he was practicing with the Mavericks’ summer-league team, he fractured his right ankle just a few hours before the Mavericks were scheduled to leave for Las Vegas.

Larkin underwent surgery to insert two screws into his ankle, and the recovery forced him to miss training camp and the entire preseason. He made his NBA debut in mid-November, but he played sparingly for Dallas, appearing in just 48 games.

Then, on June 25, one day before this year’s draft, the Mavericks included him in a multi-player trade with the Knicks. Dallas sent Larkin, point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, swingman Wayne Ellington and a pair of second-round picks to New York for center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton.

Larkin likely will find himself behind Calderon and Pablo Prigioni on the Knicks’ depth chart at point guard. But Calderon is 32, and Prigioni is 37. If the Knicks want to play up-tempo and want to improve their defense at the point of attack, they’ll turn to Larkin.

He should be able to learn from Fisher, a first-year head coach who played in the triangle under Jackson with the Lakers.

“There’s really no better coach out there for me to learn from in this system,” Larkin said. “Dallas was a great situation, but this is also a great situation with a head coach that can help me probably more than he can help any of the other players, because he actually played my spot in this system.

“It’ll be a new learning experience. New York is the mecca for basketball. So if you can play in New York and be a good player in New York, it’s going to be a great thing for you.”

Bookmark and Share

Jemile Weeks Placed On Minor League DL

Weeks was placed on the 7-day DL Friday with a groin strain, CSN Mid-Atlantic's Rich Dubroff reports.

He hasn't really fit into the Orioles' plans this year at the major league level, but he's getting on base at a .394 clip with Triple-A Norfolk. However, he's hitting for basically no power, with just one home run in 55 games.

Bookmark and Share

Brewers Fans Forgive as Braun’s Bat Heats Up

MILWAUKEE — As the slider Ryan Braun had just crushed landed several rows up in the left-field bleachers, a horde of fans scurried to find the ball. The rest of the crowd roared, and fireworks boomed overhead.

Braun put his head down and kept jogging. His face was expressionless; he looked focused, determined.

For the rest of his career, Braun may be a polarizing figure everywhere but Milwaukee, remembered for how he adamantly denied using performance-enhancing drugs, how he accused a test collector of mishandling his sample and how, ultimately, he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended for 65 games.

Like other disgraced stars, Braun offered apologies. He expressed remorse through the news media but did not discuss specifics. He wrote a letter to Bud Selig. He had dinner with the test collector. He called Brewers season-ticket holders.

Here, in Miller Park, Braun is safe from judgment, safe from the vitriol that followed him. Brewers fans seem to have forgiven him, at least so long as he keeps producing. This season, his first since the suspension, this is his sanctuary.

“Here, it’s always good,” Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s been great. But on the road, it’s continued to be tough. It used to be, the Cubs fans would boo him; some fans around our division would boo him. Now, it’s everywhere.”

Braun, 30, declined to comment for this article, citing his busy pregame routine. Roenicke seemed mostly pleased with Braun’s season, perhaps because he has not needed Braun to carry the load by himself. Three Brewers players started in the All-Star Game, including catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a potential candidate for the Most Valuable Player award. Fittingly, the Brewers led the National League with 58 wins entering Friday.

And just now, finally, Braun is coming around, Roenicke said.

To this point, he has had an up-and-down season. Over his first 22 games, Braun crushed the ball, with 18 runs batted in. Then an oblique injury cost him about two weeks, and afterward, Roenicke said, it took Braun a while to regain his form.

His power numbers dipped noticeably. Over the first six seasons of his career, through 2012, he averaged about 34 home runs, 76 extra-base hits and 107 R.B.I. a season. Entering Friday, he had a .302 batting average but was on pace for only about 24 homers, 64 extra-base hits and 93 R.B.I. this season.
That home run to left field, though, a two-run shot in Thursday night’s victory over the Mets, extended Braun’s hitting streak to 12 games.

During the streak, Braun was batting .383, with three homers and 11 R.B.I., playing as well as he had all season.

“He looks like himself lately,” Roenicke said, adding: “If you look up there, his numbers are getting where they should be again. He’s slowly picking back up there.

“Really the last week, I’m seeing the guy that we were used to seeing.”

Left fielder Khris Davis, who has pushed Braun to right field, was leading the Brewers with 17 home runs. Four players other than Braun had at least 46 R.B.I. But his standing on the team, after all the drama, appeared unchanged.

“He’s producing, and that’s what we need from him,” third baseman Aramis Ramirez said, adding: “We treat him just like we did last year and the year before. He’s one of our teammates, who just went through a rough time.”

Bookmark and Share

Peter O'Brien hits 21st homer, but Thunder drop slugfest

TRENTON — The Thunder allowed four runs in the top of the seventh inning to erase a one-run advantage and went on to lose to the Binghamton Mets, 10-7, Saturday night at Arm & Hammer Park.

In the game-defining top of the seventh, Thunder (50-58) pitchers Phil Wetherwell and James Pazos surrendered three hits, a walk and hit a batter. Second baseman Jose Toussen also made an error on a tailor-made double play ball that would have ended the inning and kept the game tied at seven.

“If we eliminated a couple mistakes, we might have (won),” manager Tony Franklin said. “That’s what probably did us in tonight. We didn’t make the plays.”

Mets (63-43) manager Pedro Lopez and centerfielder Darrell Ceciliani were both ejected from the game during the seventh inning. Ceciliani was arguing with the home plate umpire after he believed he was hit by a pitch. Lopez came from the dugout, argued and was ejected. On the next pitch, Ceciliani was hit and was tossed after he turned and said something to the umpire.

The top of the Thunder lineup was crucial to keeping the team in the game. Jake Cave had four hits, including two triples and a double, from the leadoff spot. Ben Gamel and Gary Sanchez combined for five hits, three RBIs and three runs scored.

Peter O’Brien hit his 21st home run of the season. His solo blast went to the opposite field and sliced through the wind.

Bookmark and Share

For Chris Perez, it's back to the drawing board to fix delivery issues

SAN FRANCISCO – In recording a perfect inning in the eighth of a blowout victory Friday night at AT&T Park, Dodgers right-hander Chris Perez threw 16 pitches.

He estimated 13 of them included the type of delivery he is striving to replicate every time he throws. Three nights before in Pittsburgh, though, Perez threw 25 pitches and only felt right a couple times.

Not coincidentally, he totally imploded and issued four straight walks in the Pittsburgh game. But Perez remains confident in the mechanical adjustments he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have made in recent weeks.

“If you take away that one outing in Pittsburgh, the last two weeks have been pretty good,” Perez said Saturday. “We figured out what caused that one outing. If it happens again, hopefully I can make the adjustment pitch to pitch, not five hitters later.”

Perez said he has made around a dozen mechanical adjustments to his delivery at various points this season, a trying one for the 29-year-old right-hander who signed an incentive-laden deal with the Dodgers in December.

“One leads to another,” he said.

The latest one, made the afternoon after the hellish outing, involves Perez staying “six or so inches” more upright.

“That lets my foot turn more towards the plate,” he said. “If I bend over, my foot lands and I’m pointed more towards the batter’s box.”

Perez has a 5.06 ERA in 371/3 innings this season, a run and a half worse than his career mark. But he struggled in his final year in Cleveland in 2013, posting a 4.33 ERA in 54 innings and losing his closer’s role.

He felt off mechanically then, too, but spent little time tinkering.

“For whatever reason our pitching coaches couldn’t identify it, or didn’t want to, or nothing,” Perez said. “They just kind of let me figure it out. This has been about a good year and a half of creating bad habits.”

The Dodgers approached him in spring training about making some changes. Perez said he requested they give him time to work his old way, and they did, and he kept recording scoreless performances until early May.

“I was going good, so they didn’t say a word,” he said.

But he started going bad fast, and by May 22 in New York, he had a 5.68 ERA. That’s when the changes came.

The struggles of Perez and other veteran relievers have led to the expectation that the Dodgers will seek out additional relief help before Thursday’s trading deadline. But Manager Don Mattingly insisted Saturday that he believes his bullpen, as structured, is capable of performing at an elite level.

“We haven’t pitched to our best yet,” Perez said. “But I think we definitely have the experience. Me, Paul (Maholm) and Jamey (Wright) just need to get a little more consistent.”

Bookmark and Share

Bills sign center Jared Wheeler, adding to competition

Orchard Park, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills were awarded center Jared Wheeler off waivers Thursday after he was waived by the Carolina Panthers.

To make room for Wheeler, the Bills released cornerback Brandon Smith, who has been out of practice with what coach Doug Marrone classified as a "lower body injury." Smith was designated as waived/injured.

Wheeler, an 6-foot-5, 315-pound undrafted rookie out of Miami, will add some depth at center and could potentially push Syracuse's Macky MacPherson for snaps at practice. Wheeler made six starts at center for Miami last season and played in 38 games in his career for the Hurricanes.

MacPherson played for Marrone in college and had been receiving some second- and third-team repetitions during the first few practices on training camp. Added center depth will further the already close competition at center.

Bookmark and Share

Chase Ford recovering from foot surgery

Vikings TE Chase Ford is recovering from left-foot surgery, and will miss all of training camp.

Ford had a stress fracture. It's bad news for a bubble player, though Ford will likely spend the first six weeks of the season on the reserve/PUP list, delaying his roster decision. A 2012 undrafted free agent, Ford has 11 career catches, five of which came last Week 17.

Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork Not Limited By Achilles During Patriots Training Camp

FOXBORO, Mass. — There were concerns that at 32 years old and 325 pounds, Vince Wilfork might never be the same player after tearing his Achilles, but it’s been smooth sailing for the big man so far this offseason.

Wilfork said he has no limitations as the New England Patriots began training camp Thursday. Wilfork tore his right Achilles tendon in Week 4 of the 2013 season.

“If I had limitations, I wouldn’t be practicing,” Wilfork said Thursday at Gillette Stadium after a full training camp session. “My job is to help my teammates the best way I can, whatever that may be. The only way for me to help my teammates is to be on the field and be healthy. Right now, I’m on the field and I’m healthy. If anything happens in the future, I can’t predict that. But right now my job is to help this team the best way I can and get better each day, and that’s what I’m going to do.” Wilfork said his Achilles feels “fine” right now, but he acknowledged “I’m pretty sure there’s going to still be some stuff that I may need to do.” “Right now, I just feel good,” Wilfork said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen further down the road, but right now I feel good. I’m happy to be out here with my teammates.” Wilfork is entering his 11th season with the Patriots. He appears to be moving well so far and looks to be on track to start the season despite what could have been a catastrophic injury last year.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne: "Today felt Pretty Doggone Good"

Nine months ago this past Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts were closing out a massive Sunday Night Football win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's return to Indy.  In the fourth quarter of that game, star wide receiver Reggie Wayne went down to get a low pass and went to the ground clutching his knee.  And just like that, Reggie had torn his ACL and was lost for the season.

As he lay on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, realizing that his season was likely over, the crowd began the famous "Reggie!" chant, but Reggie was convinced to get back to hear that chant when he was scoring touchdowns, not laying on the field injured.

Today, after nine hard months of rehab, Reggie Wayne was back on the field for the Colts, and he couldn't be happier.  "This is what I work hard for," Reggie said.  "This is all the two and three-a-days and rehabbing and stuff like that. This is what it's about. Today felt pretty doggone good."  When he ran out on the practice field for the first time today, with his jersey tucked halfway up his stomach like normal and while strapping on his gloves, the fans watching practice today gave the star receiver a pretty nice ovation.  In response, Reggie turned toward the crowd and gave a fist pump.  And throughout the practice, Reggie got back to being Reggie.  He said that, other than being limited a bit and having to do what the coaches say, he "felt like the old Reggie."

He certainly looked like it, too.  The highlight of the day with Reggie came via a perfect pass from quarterback Andrew Luck, as Reggie was running down the left sideline with Darius Butler close behind, and Luck threw the ball perfectly over Butler's head and hands and right into Reggie's hands, perfectly in stride.  What was clear was that, even though missing half of last season, the timing between Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne was still there and that Reggie will be a big factor this year.  It was hard to tell exactly how effective Reggie will be, but there was really nothing I could tell when watching practice today that would suggest that Reggie had lost a step - other than, of course, the fact that he was limited, but he'll gradually get more playing time as camp goes on.

Reggie had talked back at minicamp about how he was going to bring his boxing gloves to camp in case Chuck Pagano wouldn't let him go to start training camp, and he said the same thing yesterday.  It sounds like Reggie thinks that his coach won round one of the imaginary fight.  "We want to stay the course, even if I don't agree to it. I give Coach Pagano the first round, he won this first round."  Reggie said that he did over half the practice and wanted to do the rest, but that Pagano told him to take it easy.  Reggie's eager to get back to a full go, but that'll come with time and it's the right thing to take it slow.  From what we did see from Reggie Wayne today, however, it's clear that he will be a factor and it was great to see him back.

When asked about whether any emotions came flooding back today when reflecting on the long road back, Reggie gave a perfect answer that is totally a Reggie Wayne answer: "No, I'll leave that for retirement. I'm good."

Luckily for the Colts, that retirement is probably still a few years away.  Reggie Wayne is back.

Bookmark and Share

Olivier Vernon: D-line 'heart and soul'

The Miami Dolphins have several question marks heading into the 2014 season. Fortunately for them, the defensive line is not one of them.

Miami has steadily built a strong collection of talent on the defensive line the past few years, via the draft and free agency. The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s deepest groups of defensive ends with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, valuable backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miami also has a strong rotation of defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell.

The Dolphins must rely on this deep group for production as well as leadership this season.

“All of us defensive linemen talked to each other, and we pretty much know what we have to do, especially when it comes to game-time situations,” Vernon said recently. “When it comes down to it, the D-line is the heart and soul of the defense. If we’re not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart. So that’s one thing we’re trying to focus on now going into the season.”

Vernon was Miami’s biggest breakout star last season. The 2012 third-round pick made a significant jump in Year 2 from a rookie backup to leading the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He followed up by having a strong offseason and looks primed for another solid year.

Wake, Starks and Odrick have been consistent producers for Miami. Mitchell signed a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason after the Dolphins lost Paul Soliai in free agency. The defensive line, on paper, should be one of Miami’s strengths.

“I would say just wait for the pads to come on,” Vernon explained. “I know what kind of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. I’m not the type of person [that] I don’t want to show what we have. I think all of us on the D-line will show what we have.”

Miami’s defense faces a new challenge this year in training camp. The Dolphins are implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami aims to use an up-tempo style with a lot of motion and formations to confuse and dictate to the defense. The Dolphins’ defense will see plenty of these elements in training camp, which starts on Friday.

“They’re doing a lot of things I’ve never seen before,” Vernon said. “They’re moving fast. [Quarterback Ryan] Tannehill is taking control and he’s showing his leadership ability, and a lot of guys are impressive.”

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss’ Mentality Still The Same

Throughout the many changes that inevitably occur in the NFL, Santana Moss has been a consistent X-factor for the Washington Redskins over the last decade.

Moss is entering his 10th season with the Redskins and 14th season overall. During his time in Washington over the past decade, Moss has excelled, as he ranks in the top-five all-time in career receptions (571) and career receiving yards (7,751).

Moss is a resilient leader who brings a significant amount of experience to a talented young group of wide receivers. After playing 187 career regular season games with 135 starts, he knows what it takes to be a serious competitor at football’s highest level.

“Every year you should come in with that hunger to try to go out there and take what everyone else wants in this league. And that’s the ultimate trophy, that title,” Moss said. “And I think every team in this league comes in with that same mentality, the same goal.”

Moss clearly has high expectations for the team this coming season and is ready to compete for a coveted spot on the final 53-man roster.

“It’s up to see who wants it more and that’s how we gotta play, how we gotta practice,” Moss said. “Regardless if you got a chip or not, we all have the same goal, every team in this league. Only two teams can get there, only one team can win it.”

Bookmark and Share

Football Was Briefly Taken Away From Reggie Wayne, Now No. 87 Wants It Back

INDIANAPOLIS –For nearly a decade and a half, Reggie Wayneicon-article-link’s vacation in sunny Florida has ended near the end of July.

This signifies the start of a grind, with humid training camp practices awaiting a player that has called Indianapolis home since 2001.

Training camp days can drag and become draining with family members away, along with the regular season seemingly still too far away.

But that’s not the case for Wayne, especially as he enters his 14th NFL Training Camp at an age where nearly every NFL player has already hung up the cleats.

“I’m a little bit more hungrier now. I hear Coach Pagano talk about all the time having something taken away from you and there’s nothing you can do about it. It was taken away from me since October. So yeah, it will be different,” Wayne said on Wednesday upon reporting for duty to Anderson University.

“It kind of feels like I’m a rookie all over again. I’m just anxious to go out there and prove what I can do. It’ll be fun. I’m excited and hopefully you can see the Reggie of the rookie times.”

Ever since Wayne began giving updates on his ACL injury rehab, he has stated that he was well ahead of schedule.

He reassured that notion on Wednesday morning, after exiting a two-seater IndyCar for his entrance to training camp.

“I’ve been cleared, yes I have. I am ready to go,” Wayne said.

“So we’ll just see from that point on. Hopefully everything stays the course and I’ll be out there (Thursday).”

Wayne is a realist.

He knows that an initial training camp practice on July 24 pales in comparison to a Sunday night matchup in Denver on September 7.

Sure, he’s packed the boxing gloves to “duke it out” with Chuck Pagano trying to keep Wayne from rushing back too quickly, but the veteran wide receiver knows the head coach has the best interest of the Colts oldest skill player in mind.

“I have to be smart, listen to my body, not try to prove any points,” Wayne says.

“The main objective is to be out there for the first game. The one thing I do understand is (the Denver game is) a little bit something more serious I need to look at and just take it day by day.”

As Wayne enters training camp at the age of 35, he reiterates how difficult it was to stand, at times hopelessly, on the sidelines for the better half of the 2013 season.

It was a place Wayne wasn’t used to spending his game days.

A racecar entrance to Anderson is an indication from Wayne that he is ready to steal a phrase from Ricky Bobby and “go fast” again.

“I’m eager to get out there and pick up where I left off,” Wayne says. “We already know what’s at stake here. It’s time to punch in and go to work.

“Fourteen years later, it’s the same intensity. It’s the same objective, and that’s to come out here and get better as a team. Let’s try to hoist that Lombardi after the season is over.”

Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork always a contributing factor for the Patriots

FOXBOROUGH — It seemed only fitting that the two longest-tenured Patriots walked up the stairs to the team’s perfectly lined practice fields for the first training camp practice together, Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork all smiles as they took those steps side by side.

They are the faces of their respective units, Brady the unquestioned leader of the offense, and Wilfork for the defense.

Even last season, as Wilfork missed the final 12 games after tearing his Achilles’ tendon against Atlanta, the five-time Pro Bowl selection was as involved as he could be, helping youngsters Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, and Sealver Siliga get ready to play, offering advice wherever he could.

It was a sign of the respect Wilfork has with coaches and teammates alike that he was allowed to travel with the Patriots despite his injury, a privilege Bill Belichick has afforded to very few players.

It remains to be seen if Wilfork will be restricted once the Patriots are in full pads on Saturday, but he has answered the first big question of his recovery just by being on the field Thursday. No setbacks, no physically unable to perform list, his age (32) and size seemingly nonfactors in his rehabilitation.

“I feel fine,” Wilfork said Thursday after the two-hour practice. “Throughout all season and just working hard, I’m pretty sure there’s going to still be some stuff that I may need to do so, so far so good. I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward. I’m just excited to be here.”

The 11-year veteran bristled at the idea that he would face any restrictions on the field.

“If I had limitations, I wouldn’t be practicing. My job is to help my teammates the best way I can, whatever that may be,” Wilfork said. “The only way for me to help my teammates is to be on the field and be healthy. Right now, I’m on the field and I’m healthy. If anything happens in the future, I can’t predict that.

“But right now my job is to help this team the best way I can and get better each day and that’s what I’m going to do.”

New England began last season with Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at defensive tackle, but Kelly was lost to injury in Week 5, leaving the Patriots highly inexperienced at the position. Without Wilfork and Kelly anchoring the middle, the defense gave up 134.1 rushing yards per game, the most for New England since 2002.

Wilfork helped where he could, though assistant coach Patrick Graham, who spent the last two seasons coaching the defensive line (he’s now in charge of the linebackers), said Wilfork’s biggest contribution may have come in the film room.

“I know for me, personally, as the D-line coach, ‘V’ was invaluable in terms of the input that he was able to give and to be around for those [younger] guys and just do a good job with them,” Graham said. “Vince has always been a guy that you can put on the tape and Vince’s presence is there, as far as the example.
“He’s always done a good job and I’ve always been appreciative of his help that he’s given me as a coach and how the players are able to go to him for advice as well.”

Vellano shined early, then ceded playing time to Siliga, who was signed to the practice squad in October and promoted to the 53-man roster before the 12th game, against Houston. Jones became a starter after Kelly’s injury, and his six sacks were second most among NFL rookies last season.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the injuries to Wilfork and Kelly, perhaps it was the experience the young players gained. Now New England has added first-round pick Dominique Easley and sixth-round pick Zach Moore to the defensive tackle group as well.

“Those guys grew a lot,” Wilfork said of last year’s newbies. “Every year we try to make a smooth transition and be able to do a really good job of teaching guys how we play, how we do things around here.

“It won’t be hard for [Easley and Moore] to catch on. They’ve been doing a really good job; haven’t had any problems out of anybody. Everybody is excited. If you stay excited, good things will happen.”

Expectations for the Patriots’ defense are high this year.

Wilfork gave a very simple answer for how to manage those expectations.

“Do your job each day. Do your job; you come to work every day to prepare, to get better each day, you’ll be fine,” he said. “Never get too high, never get too low, just manage expectations and put one foot in front of the other each day.

“Your goal is to get better. Help the team, help one another get better. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’re going to continue to do that. As long as we do that, we’ll be OK.”

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen 'getting tired' of hearing criticism of receivers

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen tweeted Tuesday that he's "getting tired" of hearing criticism of the Panthers' receiving corps.

Olsen tweeted the comment in response to discussion he heard on ESPN Radio.

The Panthers overhauled their wide receiver corps after last season, releasing veteran Steve Smith and allowing Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon to leave via free agency. The quartet combined for 156 receptions and 1,983 receiving yards last season.

To replace them, Carolina signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and drafted Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.

Olsen expanded on his tweet to the Charlotte Observer:

"Any time the Panthers have come up that’s kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it,” Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense.”

Olsen had 73 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Pierre-Paul's advice to Jon Beason: Be 100 percent

Jon Beason is hoping to be back on the field for the Giants' regular-season opener Sept. 8. Last year, Jason Pierre-Paul was in that role of trying to reconcile an offseason injury with an artificial deadline.

"Me personally, I wasn't ready," Pierre-Paul said of returning to the field for the first game in 2013 after back surgery and missing all of training camp and most of the preseason. "I wasn't ready. But I felt like I needed to be out there because I'm one of those guys who is a factor to the team. With me being gone, it's a big difference. Which it was."

Pierre-Paul wound up having the most disappointing season of his career. He never regained his health, never looked comfortable, and hardly ever showed being the dominant defensive player he thought he should have been.

So, does Pierre-Paul have any advice for Beason, whose injury to his foot will force him to miss most of the preseason?

"Honestly all I can tell Jon, and he knows too, is don't come out there if you're not fully healthy," Pierre-Paul said. "We'd rather have you at 100 percent than 50 percent. Honestly, when you're injured, you're liable to injure something else. Which I did. When you are 100 percent and ready to go you're not worried about this, you're not holding back or nothing. He knows, I know he knows. He's not going to come out there until he's healthy."

Bookmark and Share

VIDEO: Jon Jay doesn't notice ball four, strikes out on 4-2 count

Watch baseball long enough and you’ll see pretty much everything the game has to offer. Like a guy striking out in a 4-2 count.

In the seventh inning of the Cardinals-Rays game in St. Louis on Wednesday, Jon Jay worked a full count against starter Alex Cobb. The next pitched missed the zone outside. That should have resulted in a walk, given that it was the fourth ball and all. Instead everyone -- Jay, the home plate umpire, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny -- forgot the count. Jay remained at the plate and struck out on the next pitch.

Vine courtesy of The Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan:

As you can see in the video, the only person who seemed to notice it was ball four was the graphics guy on Fox Sports Midwest. Matheny took blame for the miscue after the game.

Bookmark and Share

Peter O'Brien dislodges home plate

Trenton power prospect Peter O'Brien dislodged home plate with a slide on Wednesday in one of the more interesting stories from the Yankees minor league affiliates on Wednesday.

DOUBLE-A – Trenton Thunder

The skinny: Trenton jumped on New Hampshire starter Matt Boyd for five runs in the first three innings and never looked back in a 5-2 win.

The standouts:
Peter O’Brien, 1B: 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk
Tyler Austin, RF: 2-for-4 with a home run and a double

NOTE: When O’Brien scored in the first inning, his slide dislodged home plate, leading to a 17-minute delay as the crew and umpires worked to secure the base again. The man has a powerful bat, and apparently powerful slides, too.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore on RB competition: 'I’m from Miami, man'

Asked how he’ll deal with a challenge from a phalanx of young and talented running backs this year, Frank Gore today smiled and said, “I’m from Miami, man.”

He could have left it at that. Gore became the hard-nosed running back he is today by fighting for carries, espcially at the talent-laden University of Miami where he first competed with Clinton Portis for a role in the Hurricanes backfield and later did the same with Willis McGahee. Gore was leading McGahee for the starting spot in 2002 when he blew out his knee and had to sit out the season.

“I’ve been out there competing ever since I left high school,” he said. “I’ve been with top guys who have been in the league. It’s all to get each other better, and I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to have to get this role. But while I’m here, I’m going to look at it as a challenge.”

This year, Gore leads a group of upstarts, including 2013 draft pick Marcus Lattimore and this year’s second-round pick, Carlos Hyde. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Jewel Hampton round out the 49ers’ group of tailbacks in training camp. It’s easily the most talented group Gore, 31, has faced in his 10 NFL seasons.

One of the questions that’s bound to dog him this season is, will there be an 11th season? Another: If he does continue to play in 2015, will it be with the 49ers? Gore is entering the final year of his contract and could be a free agent in March.

The running back said he is focused on this season. And he didn’t seem willing to relinquish any carries to the young guns.

Last year, Gore started every game and, including the playoffs, ended with more carries, 324, than he had in any previous year. Asked if he wanted the same kind of workload this year, he said, “I’m here. I’m still here. So why not?”

Bookmark and Share

Check Out How Reggie Wayne Arrived At Colts Camp

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen ready to silence doubters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was zipping through channels on his way to Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday when he came upon a conversation about the NFC South on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show.

Discussing the Panthers, hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic wondered aloud who quarterback Cam Newton would throw to after the mass exodus at wide receiver during the offseason.

It was hardly new ground Greenberg and Golic were covering, but it moved Olsen to tweet that he was "getting tired of hearing 'Panthers have nobody for (Newton) to throw to.'"

When Olsen reports to the stadium Thursday morning for the official start of the Panthers' preseason activities, he'll find plenty of others in the locker room who are likewise sick of the cracks about the re-made receiving corps.

"It's kind of been the storyline of the offseason. Any time the Panthers have come up that's kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it," Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense."

The Panthers' turnover at wide receiver has been dissected, discussed and debated at length since March when all-time receiving leader Steve Smith was released and three other wideouts left via free agency.

During his first comments after the departures, Panthers coach Ron Rivera focused on replacing the 10 combined catches per game the Panthers lost, rather than trying to find a No. 1 receiver.

The three receivers charged with filling the void are veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin, the first-round pick from Florida State.

Cotchery and Avant have played a combined 18 seasons, with 126 career starts. And though they have only one 1,000-yard receiving season between them � Cotchery amassed 1,130 receiving yards in 2007 with the Jets � Olsen said the two bring a level of professionalism and experience that will be good for the young receivers.

"Those guys are productive, successful veterans in the NFL, and those guys don't just grow on trees," Olsen said. "I think people are going to be very happy with what they see out of those guys. I know the team is. ...

"Then you add a young guy like Kelvin to the mix, a little younger, bigger-body guy � I think it's going to be a mix of playing to everybody's strength."

Olsen expects the Panthers to be strong in the same areas that propelled them to a 12-win season last year, namely an efficient, balanced offense led by Newton and a dominant defense spearheaded by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Even when they had Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn at receiver, the Panthers were not a quick-strike offense in 2013. Instead, they kept drives alive with a lot of third- and fourth-down conversions, controlled the clock (the Panthers were fifth in the league in time of possession) and kept the defense well-rested.
Olsen doesn't expect that to change.

"It's not a mystery. When we're at our best, we're a balanced offense," Olsen said. "We're not going to throw the ball 60 times a game. We might not throw 50 touchdowns. But we're going to win games, we're going to control the game.

"The sum of our parts is going to be very productive."

Olsen and NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced a joint fundraising effort Wednesday to benefit the Levine Children's Hospital, where Olsen's son, T.J., was born with a congenital heart defect in 2012.

Earnhardt and Olsen are offering fans a chance to win what they're calling a "Weekend with the 88s," a play on Earnhardt's No. 88 car and Olsen's jersey number.

The raffle winner will meet both athletes and receive tours of Bank of America Stadium and JR Motorsports, as well as a round-trip helicopter ride from Charlotte to the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the Truck Series race (including garage passes and grandstand tickets) on Oct. 25.

The next day the winner will return to Charlotte for the Panthers' game against the Seattle Seahawks, and will receive sideline passes, parking passes and premium seats.

Raffle tickets cost $18.88 and are available at through Sept. 30. A maximum of 8,888 tickets will be sold.

Olsen said he met Earnhardt several months ago, and was his guest at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. He said Earnhardt was receptive to the 88s fundraising theme immediately.

"It's been awesome," Olsen said.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson to begin camp on PUP list

RICHMOND – Defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and offensive lineman Maurice Hurt will all begin training camp with the Washington Redskins on the physically-unable-to-perform list, coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday.

Gruden said he did not want to estimate when any of the players would be able to return, though he conceded that Hatcher, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 19, should be the first one to return.

Hankerson tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in the Redskins‘ loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 17, and he wasn’t expected to be healthy for the start of training camp.

Hurt will enter training camp on the PUP list for the second consecutive season because he is out of shape. He also missed all of 2013 after he showed up to training camp out of shape last year.

“He came in a little bit out of shape and we’ll just go from there,” Gruden said. “We’ll make sure we monitor his condition moving forward.”

Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Richard Crawford have been fully cleared and will begin training camp with no restrictions. Porter, who signed a two-year, $6 million contract in March, had surgery to repair a torn the labrum in one of his shoulders before offseason workouts began, while Crawford tore the ACL and LCL in the Redskins‘ preseason victory over Buffalo on Aug. 24.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne cleared for practice

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s 2013 season ended early with an ACL injury. Wayne’s rehab has gone well and been ahead of scheduled and heading into training camp he said he has been cleared and is ready to go.


“I’m eager to get out and pick up where I left off,” Wayne said, via the team’s website.

“I’ve been cleared. I am ready to go… We will just see from that point on.”

Wayne also made a dramatic entrance to the Colts’ training camp, showing up in Indy Car, which was driven by Ed Carpenter, the Butler University product who has been the pole sitter at the last two Indy 500s.

Wayne said the big arrival had a special meaning to the team.

“It’s a sign for the Colts. We need to come out fast. We need to have a sense of urgency. We need to come out moving with some speed. This is one way of entering camp with the motto for the team,” Wayne said.

Plus it was just plain fun.

“I enjoyed every single bit of that,” Wayne. “I’m a guy that likes speed and this is one way to get that into you.”

Bookmark and Share

Michael Irvin Unleashes On Cris Carter For Drug Advice About Troubled Josh Gordon, Past Issues With Irvin's Wife

Michael Irvin is mad as hell at Cris Carter, and he has been for a long time. When former Vikings receiver and current ESPN analyst Carter publicly stated that the Browns should cut Josh Gordon for his recent troubles with drugs and alcohol, Irvin said he should mind his own business. Irvin, as well as Carter, have struggled with substance abuse in the past, and both understand the nature of being a high-profile NFL receiver. What Irvin, who was a premiere player for the Dallas Cowboys in their 90's heyday, has a problem with is Carter handing out advice on how to deal with addicts. When Irvin unleashed on Carter he also revealed that he has had issues in the past with Carter trying to convince Irvin's wife to leave him.

There's a mentality and a lifestyle that seems to accompany athletes of a certain disposition. Cris Carter seems to think he's helping Gordon out by offering tough love advice, but Michael Irvin says that Carter is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong (via CBS Sports):

"The people start thinking that you have insight on the situation or the issue or the problem so when you come out and make those kinds of comments and you're not in his sessions with his professional help, you don't know what's going on in those sessions, then you're being irresponsible. I was a bit disappointed Cris Carter made that statement."

Irvin also revealed that many years ago, Carter stuck his nose into his business (via LA Times):

"'... And all Cris is trying to do, he's just trying to share his experiences,' Irvin told ESPN's Dan Le Batard. ' [But] He said to my wife... you know, Michael would never come out of this problem until you leave him. Till you leave him. For years, I've held it. I've never shared that with anybody... I was so irked with Cris because he was out of line then. His ... is out of line now. He is out. Of. Line.'"

Bookmark and Share

Drew Brees 'excited' to have Jimmy Graham back with Saints

COMFORT, Texas - After a day as honorary mayor of this small town in his home state, Drew Brees immediately faces another long, tough campaign -- as quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.

Given what the New Orleans franchise has been through during the past decade, this season's training camp opens free of major distractions and disruptions, especially now that the money dispute over whether Jimmy Graham is a tight end or wide receiver has been resolved by a new contract.

But Brees is sticking to his game plan: stay ready for anything.

"I think our mentality, maybe like the military's, is to adapt and conquer," said Brees, whose 24-hour mayoral stint Wednesday was part of a Wrangler jeans promotion.

"It's been that way. No matter what's thrown at us, we find a way to handle and try to handle it with class and then be better for it at the end of the day.

"Tough offseason, just in regards to the whole Jimmy Graham situation. But you understand that's part of the process with free agency and contract situations. â?¦ I was in that situation two years ago."

Brees, whose own situation was resolved in 2012 by a five-year, $100-million deal, said Graham and Saints management both are now happy.

"I'm excited to have him back. â?¦ It's training camp time. It's football season. It's here. It's arrived. We're ready to roll," he said.

The eight-time Pro Bowler, who has thrown for 51,081 yards and 363 touchdowns in 13 seasons, arrived here early Wednesday via a Wrangler private jet that flew him from New Orleans to nearby San Antonio. He said the jet would take him to Lewisburg, W.Va., for the Saints' camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Players are due to report Thursday.

In nine seasons, the Saints have been through tragedy and turmoil, with a Super Bowl title in between: Amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Superdome was out of commission. The Saints went 3-13 playing home games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, San Antonio's Alamodome and LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Coach Sean Payton and Brees arrived the next year. They led New Orleans to a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.

Then the franchise was rocked by the Bountygate scandal in 2012. Payton was suspended for the season. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. The Saints went 7-9.

Last season, the Saints bounced back with an 11-5 regular season to earn a playoff wild card. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Does Brees begin this season with another Super Bowl title in his sights?

"You always feel that way. I'm not going to get ahead of ourselves because we've still got a lot of work to do. But I feel like all the pieces are in place. â?¦ If you stay healthy and things go your way, we've got as good a shot as anybody," he said.

With one Super Bowl title in hand, does that take some pressure off the 35-year-old?

"You try to avoid that mentality. Play like you don't have (a title)," said Brees. "I'm taking the approach that I'm 25 years old, I'm fresh in this league and every person who walks into the stadium to watch me play and watched my team play â?¦ we've got to prove something to them.'

There were plenty of Saints fans among the estimated 1,500 in attendance Wednesday at the Comfort High School stadium. Wrangler held the event for the national launch of its Advanced Comfort jeans.

Brees was honorary mayor by proclamation of a local judge. One local slogan of this community of about 2,300 is, "I found Comfort â?¦ in Texas." It was a fit for Wrangler. By proclamation, it also was deemed Comfort will be known as Advanced Comfort, Tex., for six months.

Free jeans and t-shirts were handed out. Wrangler estimated it gave away about 5,000 pairs of jeans. Attendees were allowed to ask for multiples pairs.

The jeans are for men. They were worn on the field by dozens of guys who took part in football drills dubbed the "Wrangler Comfort Challenge." The Comfort High football team took part and Brees supervised.

Brees also made a joking mayoral pledge.

"Well, now down to business. Now that I am the mayor, NO taxes!" he told the crowd from a platform on the field. He quickly added, "I don't think I have that authority."

Saints fan Jackie Freeman, 60, attended with several family members, including a 5-yearold grandson â?? named Drew.

"Of course, he's named after Drew Brees," said Freeman, who arrived here in the dark at 5 a.m. local time, more than two hours before Brees' scheduled arrival.

Freeman now lives about 45 minutes away in Universal City, Tex., but she grew up on the Mississippi coast and was a Saints' fan from their first season in 1967. Through the team's first two struggling decades, she never lost faith.

"I never wore a bag on my head and I never called them the 'Aints,' ''said Freeman.

Nick Alvarado, 23, of Kerrville, Tex., was a fan of Reggie Bush when he was at Southern Cal and Brees when he was with the San Diego Chargers. "When the two got together in New Orleans, that was it. I was a Saints fan," said Alvarado, wearing Brees' No. 9 jersey.

He likes the team's chances for a Super Bowl: "They lost a couple of players, but they still have Drew Brees."

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso Could Be Activated The End Of The Week

Alonso (wrist) could be activated from the DL by week's end, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

After going 1-for-6 at Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday, Alonso is slashing a combined .294/.294/.471 with one homer, five RBI, and one run in 17 at-bats between the organization's top affiliate and the Arizona League Padres. He could be eased into action upon his return, but first base is his on a daily basis when completely healthy.

Bookmark and Share

Texans, Andre Johnson’s agent are communicating

On Monday, Texans receiver Andre Johnson reportedly was back in the building.  On Tuesday, agent Kennard McGuire declined to address those reports.

“I am not refuting, confirming or denying any reports or stories,” McGuire told Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston.  “Per the collective bargaining agreement there’s a period in which veteran players are not allowed to participate or be in their team’s facilities.”

As explained earlier in the day, veteran players currently may work out on their own at team facilities.  Which is all that Johnson could have been doing, under the CBA.

While not addressing whether Johnson visited the team’s facility, McGuire admitted that he has been talking to the Texans on Johnson’s behalf.

“While I am personally in contact with the Texans organization, those conversations will remain between myself, the organization and Andre Johnson,” McGuire told Berman.

Johnson reportedly was willing to report for OTAs, but the Texans refused to give him a chance to earn back a $1 million roster bonus that Johnson forfeited by missing the first two phases of the offseason workout program.  That impasse caused Johnson to skip all remaining offseason activities, including a mandatory minicamp.  The question now becomes whether Johnson will show up for training camp.

Veterans are due to report in Houston on Friday.

Bookmark and Share

ESPN says Ryan Braun's power ratings are in decline

In a blog post headlined "Ryan Braun's power outage," ESPN's Buster Olney examines how different a hitter the Milwaukee Brewers rightfielder has been this season compared to past seasons, particularly 2012 and '11.

Olney quotes an unidentified evaluator who has seen Braun a few times this season, one in which Braun has dealt with a variety of injuries.

"Takes the ball to the opposite field a lot," said the evaluator. "I think he's more of an opposite field hitter than almost anybody in baseball. He doesn't really pull the ball anymore, and I don't think he hits the ball as far as he used to."

Olney then uses data about Braun generated by senior researcher Justin Havens, who found that 46.1% of Braun's hits this season were to the opposite field, compared to 32.8% in 2013, 31.4% in '12 and 27.8% in '11. He ranks 146th out of 163 batters in percent of hits pulled (30.8%).

Braun's slugging percentage notably is down when he does pull the ball. And his batted balls simply are not traveling as far, down 17 feet on average from last season. Braun also is chasing pitches out of the strike zone more than he has in the past — 39% this season, which Havens said is one of the highest marks in baseball. With two strikes his chase rate is 55% this season compared to 41.7% last season.

"The numbers are clear: a far greater percentage of Braun's hits are going to opposite field than in previous seasons, and the balls he does pull are being pulled with noticeably less authority," Olney said. "What has caused this clear departure is for others to speculate on, but it is clear Braun is not the hitter he was in previous seasons."

Olney notes: "Braun is having a good season, without question, with a .354 on-base percentage. He's on track to accumulate a respectable 63 extra-base hits — but with 19 homers and 37 walks, very different from his 2012 totals of 41 homers and 63 walks."

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia Injurs Hand

The Kansas City Royals moved to within a game of .500 with a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. At 49-50, the Royals are in third place in the American League Central, seven games behind the Detroit Tigers. Mike Moustakas went 3-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI for the Royals, who played without Eric Hosmer for the second straight game with a hand injury. Moustakas started at third in place of Danny Valencia, who was hit by a pitch on Monday.

As for Valencia, he was hit in the left hand by a pitch in Monday night's game and was not in the starting lineup.   He was available to pinch hit last night but did not enter the game.  Valencia is batting .295 with two home runs and 11 RBI this season.

Bookmark and Share

Bruce Johnson Not Giving Up His Starting Spot

Before this season, Alex Suber had appeared in 65 CFL games and started 65 CFL games.

Now he can’t even get on the field.

“It’s frustrating,” the pint-sized defensive back said after today’s Bomber practice.

The Middle Tennessee State product is a man of few words, and he didn’t have too much to say about his current predicament. Despite missing just seven starts over the last four years due to injury and playing well enough to keep his job while others struggled, Suber finds himself on the outside looking in after a training camp injury led to Bruce Johnson getting his starting job.

Suber said it’s a strange situation because he believes he can still be a dominant defensive back, not because he’s been starting for the Bombers for the last four years.

“I wouldn’t say it’s weird,” Suber said. “I’m a player. I’m up here to play. So if I’m not on the field it’s going to be weird, regardless if I was starting last year or the year before.”

Suber was the starting strong-side halfback through all of training camp until pulling his hamstring in the team’s second pre-season game. He was still nursing the injury in Week 1, but he was ready to play against Ottawa in Week 2. He’s still waiting to get back on the field.

“Alex has been extremely professional,” head coach Mike O’Shea said today. “He works extremely hard every day, and he makes the people around him better. That’s the guys competing against him from the offensive side. He makes them work. He knocks balls down. He gets balls out of people’s hands. He’ll pick the ball if the quarterback throws it even off a little bit. He provides good, tight coverage. He’s been extremely professional.

“I can appreciate that it’s going to be frustrating for Alex Suber. As camp broke and Alex wasn’t ready to start the season, Bruce Johnson stepped in and hasn’t shown any reason why he shouldn’t be there.”

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson expected to report to training camp on time

Andre Johnson has made it quite clear that he wants out of the Houston Texans franchise for a number of different reasons, but the team has also made it painfully clear that they have no intentions of letting Johnson go elsewhere.

Reports last week suggested that the team are not interested in shopping Johnson in any potential trades. The reason why is simple: the team is much better when Andre Johnson is wearing the Texans uniform.

Regardless of Johnson’s play next season, the team will likely not make the playoffs. Dealing him to another team, however, will not benefit the Texans in any way. Instead, the Texans are forced to look for other avenues to make Johnson a happy member of the Houston franchise.

Many pundits believed that Johnson would hold out during training camp and not show up to the team’s practices. Today, reports are surfacing that Johnson will in fact report to training camp on time as scheduled:

This is of course is great news for the Texans, as they desperately need the play making and leadership ability of Johnson in their locker room throughout training camp and into the regular season.

Only time will tell if Johnson’s attitude towards the team has changed, or if it will affect his performances come time for opening kickoff.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle on the new-look Giants and what lies ahead for Eli Manning

Entering his 10th NFL season and fifth with the Giants, New York safety Antrel Rolle has emerged as one of the team's leaders and most reliable performers, with only four players pre-dating him on the roster.’s Don Banks caught up with the always quotable Rolle just before New York’s first practice of training camp at the team’s Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., and went in search of answers about the Giants’ pivotal 2014 season: 

SI: It was only 29 months ago this team won a Super Bowl, and yet the Giants are still very much a team in transition in 2014, with a new offense and offensive coordinator (Ben McAdoo) and so many familiar faces missing (Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Chris Snee, Linval Joseph, Brandon Jacobs, etc.). Does all the change that has occurred buy this team some time or simply create even more of a sense of urgency to win now?
Rolle: It’s definitely a win-now time here. There’s no room for error at this point. We know that we have the talent here. It’s up to us to go out there and put it together. We can’t make excuses for ourselves, because there’s transition on each and every team throughout the NFL, each and every season. We’re going to hold our heads high and hold each other accountable and go out there and do what we need to do for this franchise and for ourselves.

SI: The Giants haven’t missed the playoffs three consecutive years since 1994-96, but the franchise is now working on back-to-back non-playoff seasons and has failed to make the postseason in four of the past five years. Can you feel that pressure as this season begins, especially after that ugly 0-6 start to 2013?
Rolle: The attitude we have always have here is that we’re winners around here. The last two years we haven’t really displayed our best work. We understand that. We also understand that that’s the past, this is now. So we can dictate our own future right now if we just go out there and control what we can and do what we can between those white lines.

SI: From the other side of the ball, can you give me a sense of what (new offensive coordinator) Ben McAdoo’s offense looks like to you early on? It seems predicated on getting the ball out quickly, finding play-makers in space on shorter pass patterns and letting them do what they do best, without many plays that take a long time to develop?
Rolle: I see it as opportunistic offense. It allows guys to go out there and show their best tools. It allows guys to go out there and play with more of a comfort zone, relying more on their talent, and not asking them to do too much thinking or even over-thinking. It allows everyone to go out and be effective in what they’re doing, but more importantly it’s an offense where everyone’s going to be involved and everyone’s going to get their touches. It’s going to make us more versatile.

SI: As one of the Giants' team leaders, what do you make of some observers questioning whether or not we’ve already seen the best work of quarterback Eli Manning’s career and wondering if last year’s struggles were the start of his decline?
Rolle: People are always tied to their own opinions. There’s going to always be questions about all the players in the NFL. If they have a good year, they’re the best. If they have a down year, maybe they don’t have it any more and they’re done. We as players all understand that’s part of the deal. Eli didn’t have his best season last year. He’s aware of that. I can’t say anyone had their best season around here last year. Because we were 7-9. So it doesn’t matter what you do as an individual, when you’re 7-9, you’re 7-9 and it’s not a good season.

But I’m overly confident in Eli Manning. He has a look on his face when he walks around the facility as if he has something to prove. He has some ass to kick and we’re going to be right there alongside of him the whole way.

SI: The Giants signed two new cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Denver and Walter Thurmond of Seattle, and both of them played their most recent game right next door at MetLife Stadium, in the Super Bowl. How much better is the Giants secondary after adding two players with recent Super Bowl history?
Rolle: Those two guys, for one, they want to win because they’ve been part of winning organizations and they know what that’s all about. And more importantly they’re both guys who love to go out there and compete each and every down. That’s something that you need on a team, because this league is new and improved every year. There’s a lot of swagger on teams now a days, a lot of winning demeanor that helps win games. Teams are playing with more attitude than ever before, and it seems like the teams with attitude, those teams nine times out of 10 are winning the game. It’s not always the most talented teams that wins, it’s the teams that go out there and want it more and have that winning attitude. I think that’s something that the organization here realized and we went out and brought those guys here to help us out with that.

SI: As a fellow secondary member and teammate, what was your honest review of Walter Thurmond’s bright-gold shorts suit that he rocked at the ESPY’s last week in Los Angeles?
Rolle: I think he’s in a league of his own. Definitely. But I wouldn’t mind being in that league. But you have to have the legs, the Thurmond legs, to pull that look off. Skinny thighs and big calves. But he’s a trend-setter, man. I’m not going to knock him for that. A guy’s swag is a guy’s swag, you know? He’s got confidence. First guy to wear a shorts suit and he makes his gold. He did it.

Bookmark and Share