Could Seahawks sign Reggie Wayne?

Despite no contract extension for Russell Wilson - or Bobby Wagner - yet, Seattle could be in pursuit of two veteran free agents, according to ESPN's Jim Trotter.

Those potential options include Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne. Should the Seahawks fail to strike a deal with Wilson by Friday, that would allow them to use the money that was set aside to pursue others and fill out the roster. 

The Seahawks already upgraded their offense with Jimmy Graham in the offseason, but adding Wayne could bolster their young wide receiving corps. Wayne had spent his entire 14-year career with the Colts before becoming a free agent this year, but posted just 779 receiving yards and two scores in 2014. 

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Jon Beason: I feel the best I have in four years

The 2014 season was a lost year for New York Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason. After helping to turn a potentially league-worst defensive unit in to a respectable group in 2013, Beason entered 2014 with high expectations.

An early offseason toe injury lingered and Beason was only able to grind his way through four incomplete games before being placed on injured reserve. After an extensive rehab, Beason feels like he's in better health now than he has been in a long time.

"I feel great. I can tell you I feel the best I’ve felt in four years," Beason said to Steve Serby of the New York Post. "I feel young. I feel like a kid again — but then I have to eat those words (chuckle) if something happens."

After coming over from the Panthers in 2013, Beason was a revelation for the Giants' defense. He immediately took over the leadership and play-calling duties at the MIKE linebacker spot.

The Giants' defense will benefit from getting a leader back, and Beason will likely have a similar role in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. Beason described what it will be like to play in the middle of Spagnuolo's defense:

"Spags (Spagnuolo) is not afraid to put more onus on the players. Everyone has the opportunity to step up and say something and orchestrate the defense, and personally, I’m not used to that. I’m used to it all be on me, but at the same time, I like the freedom of it. It’s a lot of pressure on guys who have not been a Mike linebacker per se in this league, but that’s the beauty of it. If we can get it down, look out, because we could be really scary."

If Beason can get back to his 2013 form, the Giants could boast their best linebacker corps since the last time Spagnuolo was coordinating the Giants' defense. Second year linebacker Devon Kennard is expected to breakout and the Giants really like what they've seen from free agent acquisition J.T. Thomas. Beason will be the leader of the group, and potentially of the entire defense now that Antrel Rolle has moved on from the team.

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Frank Gore set up for smashing success with Colts

Cardinals Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell recently asserted on NFL Total Access that Frank Gore was the biggest loss among the mass exodus of 49ers stars this past offseason.

"He was the heart and soul of that offense -- and really that team," Campbell explained. "... Playing against him, he is the guy. He's really the one we had to stop."
Now that Gore is 32 years old and playing outside the comfortable confines of San Francisco for the first time in his 11-year career, can the Colts expect their new backfield savior to keep stiff-arming Father Time?

The answer is a resounding yes, for several reasons.

Still the 'Inconvenient Truth'?
Will Gore's NFL swan song play out like Corey Dillon in New England (1,635 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) and Stephen Davis in Carolina (1,444 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns) or more closely resemble the late-career flops of Steven Jackson in Atlanta (543 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns) and Emmitt Smith in Arizona (256 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns)?

If his 2014 season had ended in Week 15, we might assume the latter.

Gore was coming off the least effective stretch of his career, failing to top the 100-yard mark in nine consecutive games while averaging a scant 3.46 yards per carry over that span. The five-time Pro Bowler was being phased out of game plans with the offensive line severely backsliding from its 2012-2013 dominance.

Once rookie Carlos Hyde came down with a late-season ankle sprain, though, the 49ers saddled up their workhorse for the final two games of the season.

What followed was one of the most impressive two-game stretches of Gore's career. He responded with 302 yards on 61 carries, marking the first time he had rushed for at least 140 yards in back-to-back games since November of 2006.

Although Gore may be the NFL's slowest starting running back at this stage of his career -- he finished near the bottom in Pro Football Focus' Elusive Rating and Breakaway Percentage metrics -- he remains effective via uncanny patience, vision and toughness.

Gore has actually averaged more rushing yards per season (1,165) since age 28 than he did in his first six years (1,069) in the league.

His 158-yard performance versus the Chargers in a 38-35 Week 16 loss was one of the most impressive all-around games by any tailback in 2014.

What does he offer the Colts after two years of watching Trent Richardson run up the back of his offensive linemen?

"Sustainability. He's a chain mover," NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell recently explained. "I don't think there's been a back in the last five, six, seven years who has been able to get through small cracks at the point of attack better than Frank Gore. Frank Gore is your classic four-, five-, six-yard runner.

"He's probably past the point where he's going to break a 40-yarder. That wasn't really his game anyway. ... He would get so skinny going through the point of attack and come out the other end, I'd have to watch the play four or five times on film and try to figure out how did he get through there. And that's what he gives this offense. He gives them a sustaining element, so they'll be in more favorable down-and-distance situations."

Pep Hamilton's scheme
Gore didn't land in Indianapolis simply because of his University of Miami connections to coach Chuck Pagano, associate head coach Rob Chudzinski and star wideout Andre Johnson.

The big draw, Gore told NFL Media analyst LaDainian Tomlinson, was the presence of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who learned under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

Ever since the ill-fated Richardson move in September of 2013, Hamilton has been crafting a power-running scheme featuring inside runs designed to soften the interior of opposing defenses.

It's the same scheme under which Gore thrived for the past half-decade in one of the NFL's most consistently successful power attacks.

Entering his twilight years, Gore wouldn't succeed in just any offense. Fortunately, Hamilton's is the one best suited to emphasize his unparalleled patience and vision.

Lighter boxes
"If you want to try and stop him and slow him down," Pagano said in early June, "I'd recommend you being in an eight-man spacing."

Pagano was referring to loading eight defenders in the box -- a tactic defensive coaches habitually used versus the 49ers.

According to Football Outsiders, Gore faced eight- or nine-man fronts on a league-high 30 percent of his carries last season, compared to the league average of 14.4 percent. In fact, Gore has had the highest percentage of carries against eight- or nine-man fronts for three consecutive seasons.

He can rest assured that won't be a problem with Andrew Luck's coach-like powers of perception and unique arm talent directing the Colts' offense.

Going back to college, as NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks explained in an informative 2013 feature, Luck pummeled opponents with a power running game that featured "check with me" calls based on defensive alignment.

If the presence of Gore leads to more loaded boxes, Luck will pick secondaries apart with high-percentage opportunities on the outside in early downs.

Worried about the Colts' much-beleaguered offensive line? Don't be.

As is often the case, a poor pass-protection unit is perfectly adequate in paving lanes for the ground game.

Indianapolis running backs not named "Richardson" have averaged 4.7 yards on 350 carries over the past two years.

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Ed Reed on Ray Rice getting a second chance: 'I think he deserves it'

Ed Reed may have just left the Ravens when Ray Rice's domestic violence scandal broke out, but the two were teammates from 2008-2012, and it's evident that Reed feels a certain bond with Rice. So when Reed was asked whether Rice deserves a second chance in the NFL, he answered it from a different perspective than most who've given their opinion on the matter.

"Oh, man," Reed said at his foundation's golf tournament. "I'm not just an analyst looking at it, I'm his brother, too. And it's a tough situation on either side."

With that being said, Reed does in fact think Rice should get another shot in the league.

"I think he deserves it. I know teams that need him. But, at the same time, how we are as a society, how things are -- I'm not going to say 'blown up' because it is a very sensitive thing that's going on in our country and around the world -- but we're a compassionate, forgiving people. And people make mistakes."

Reed, who recently retired from the NFL after 12 illustrious seasons, says that Rice is another example of an NFL player being scrutinized more because of the sport he plays.

"We gotta really look at -- and I'll say the NFL gotta look at -- how they punish the players versus other folks," he said. "We make an example out of the football players, and specifically we make an example out of NFL football players, more than any other sport or any thing. It's like we're the example. Why is that? Why do NFL players have to be the example?"

The Rice debate is one that's been heating up in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen whether a franchise actually signs the 28-year-old running back. If no one does give Rice a call, however, Reed believes Rice would still be content.

"Like I told Ray, 'Keep working man. You deserve it.' But at the end of the day you gotta be all right with yourself. And I know he is. And if he never played another down, I know at the end of the day his family is more important, and he'll be okay."

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Antrel Rolle on Chicago Bears defense: 'We're going to click'

Veteran safety Antrel Rolle hasn't been with the Chicago Bears very long, but he's already confident that his new defensive unit will come together.

"I think it's going to work great," Rolle told John Mullin of CSN Chicago. "We've got the young guys pushing us and the veteran leadership there, too. We're all flying around. The veterans just have to lead by example. We want to be a force.

"We're going to grow, but this is a good group to grow with.

"The chemistry of this group is excellent. It's going to take some time, but I feel like we're going to click."

The Bears do have an enviable mix of youth and experience on the defensive side of the ball. Up-and-coming draft picks, such as cornerback Kyle Fuller and nose tackle Eddie Goldman, are complemented nicely by seasoned veterans like Rolle, Jared Allen and Jay Ratliff.

Rolle, who appeared in a Super Bowl with the Cardinals and later won one with the Giants, has 10 seasons of NFL experience under his belt. At 32 years of age, he's still playing some of his best football, too, with nine of his 26 career interceptions coming the past two seasons.

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Shane Larkin gives diplomatic response to Phil Jackson’s criticism that he ‘hasn’t grown since the start of the season’

Shane Larkin took the high road in response to criticism by Phil Jackson that he failed to grow last season with the Knicks.

And the Zen Master wasn't talking about Larkin's 5-11 stature.

In a story written by good buddy Charley Rosen as part of his series on Monday, Jackson continued to dish on his former players, saying of Larkin back in February: "Unfortunately, Shane hasn't grown since the start of the season."

Larkin made no secret he wasn't a good fit for the triangle, saying as much in a tweet in response to Jackson's comments on Monday.

"Couldn't grow in an offense I wasn't comfortable in," Larkin tweeted. "All good. No shade. Glad I'm across the river now. Wish them luck."

The Nets were apparently higher on Larkin than Jackson, contacting Larkin as soon as he became a free agent on July 1 and quickly scooping him up, hoping he can return to the form he showed that enabled him to be a first-round pick with a more faced paced, pick-and-roll style of play.

Jackson was a bit more complementary with Andrea Bargnani, another Nets acquisition in free agency while also observing his history of injuries. He also noted that Bargnani had interest in remaining in New York for next season, which proved prophetic.

"Bargnani will be an unrestricted free agent and would be a great fit in the triangle," Jackson told Rosen. "He's 7-foot-1 with long arms, high shoulders, loads of talent and is an intriguing player. One thing working against him is his history of injuries. Because of a variety of injuries, at this time he's still in a training-camp mode -- and he hasn't really played full-time in over a year. Another concern is whether he wants to continue his NBA career or go back home and play in Italy. I had a sitdown with him last December and got the impression that he'd rather stay here. I know that he likes living in New York, and I've heard through the grapevine that he'd be happy returning to the Knicks. He's a very intelligent guy who's made some very profitable business investments in Italy, so money might not be a big issue. Anyway, if we can agree on a payday that meets both of our needs, this is something that will be worth investigating."

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Meet Raiders Rookie Jon Feliciano

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Clive Walford expected to start

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson expects rookie Clive Walford to win the starting tight end job.

Walford reportedly outplayed Mychal Rivera in OTAs. He has a chance for heavy snaps as a rookie, but will be mostly asked to block as the inline starter. Walford isn't on the re-draft fantasy radar.

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Jon Beason is Nearing Full Health: “I Feel Like a Kid Again”

It's been a long, long time since linebacker Jon Beason last considered himself fully healthy. In fact, the New York Giants defensive captain has played in only 22 out of a possible 64 games over the past four seasons, and only once over that span did he play in more than four games in a season (2013).

Needless to say, that reality has bothered him just as much as it's bothered the team and their fans.

"I don’t think fans realize how much of an impact having your dream, or something you thought you were born to do, taken from you has on you as a person. Nothing would make me happier personally than to go out and play ball at a high, consistent level, 1, for myself, for my family … but also for the fans," Beason told the New York Post. "(It's) like, “When is enough enough?” You find that there’s some benefit to having something that’s very valuable to you taken away from you because you realize how much it means to you."

Over the last four years, Beason has dealt with a multitude of injury issues, ranging anywhere from his knee to his back to his toe. His toe, of course, being the most recent and most concerning issue, twice landing him on sidelines a season ago — the first was considered more precautionary, while the second was of the season-ending variety.

Earlier this week, Beason admitted the toe would require "constant maintenance" for the remainder of his NFL career.

"I'm sure the Giants will force me into being smart about reps and the workload, I'll do what I can to listen them, but at the same time, do what I have to do to prepare and get ready for the season," Beason said.

Despite the long-term requirements of dealing with his toe and the likelihood that the Giants will proceed with caution at the start of training camp, Beason insists that he's almost fully healthy and feeling as good as he has in many years.

"I feel great. I can tell you I feel the best I’ve felt in four years. I feel young. I feel like a kid again — but then I have to eat those words if something happens," Beason said.

And as it relates to the 2015 season and the expectations within the Giants organization. Well… Beason summed them up nicely.

"From top to bottom, it’s a sense of urgency, the house is burning, the time is now. It’s unacceptable, and that’s been echoed extremely loud — from ownership, management, coaching and obviously all the way down to the players. It’s just unacceptable," Beason said. "I expect to win the whole thing. If you’re not in it to win championships, what are you in it for? I expect to make the playoffs, yes."

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Ereck Flowers could be the key to Giants' offensive line

With five days left until the New York Giants report to training camp, our position-by-position breakdown looks at the offensive line, where much has changed from 2014.

Projected starters: LT Ereck Flowers, LG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Marshall Newhouse
Likely to make roster: G John Jerry, G/C Dallas Reynolds, G/T Brandon Mosley, T Bobby Hart
Injured (likely to start season on PUP): LT Will Beatty
On the bubble: C Brett Jones, G Adam Gettis, G Eric Herman, T Michael Bamiro, T Emmett Cleary, T Sean Donnelly

This is all in flux: The projected starters here are based on where they lined up in OTAs and minicamp. There's no guarantee this will be the alignment in Week 1. There's no guarantee this will be the alignment next weekend, after a month of thinking and evaluating what the coaching staff saw in spring. They could decide Flowers isn't ready for left tackle but is ready for right tackle, in which case they could swap him and Newhouse or move Pugh from guard back to one of the tackle spots. Schwartz is likely to be limited at the start of camp, which could mean right guard reps for Jerry and a chance for more playing time if he shows well. Mosley intrigues them and was getting right tackle snaps in minicamp. Tom Coughlin will undoubtedly tell us the Giants are tinkering with different combinations to try and figure out the best five starters, and he'll be telling the truth.

Tackle is where the questions lie: The projected guards and centers are as originally planned. The Giants decided before the draft that they wanted to move Pugh from right tackle, where he started the first two years of his career, to left guard. They moved Richburg to center, his true position, and released 2014 starter J.D. Walton. And they want Schwartz back from last year's toe and ankle problems to start at right guard, where he's comfortable. The Giants believe the interior of their line will be strong. But when Beatty tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights in May and had surgery that will keep him out until at least November, the plan at tackle had to change. Flowers' ability to handle left tackle will determine how well the Giants can stick to their original plan.

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Is Sam Shields an elite corner? Packers want Pro Bowl DB to evolve

Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract last offseason, made his first Pro Bowl in 2014. (He was chosen as an alternate to replace the Super Bowl bound Darrelle Revis). To hear cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt tell it, Shields was indeed one of the NFL's top corners, but not quite elite.

“Last year, I thought the top four corners in the league were, not in any order, (Richard) Sherman, (Darrelle) Revis, Brent Grimes and Vontae (Davis). I think, if he does the things that we were working on, he (Shields) can be in that conversation," Whitt said, per

“Those four were clearly better and then there was a group of around 12 — he's in that group of 12 to 14, in my opinion. How do you get in that top four with Brent Grimes, Revis and Sherman and Vontae Davis? How do you do that? That's the question.”

The answer to that question, apparently, is having Shields occasionally shadow No. 1 receivers all over the field rather than strictly sticking to the right side, which the Packers plan on experimenting with next season. “I'm going to give him an opportunity over there. I just know he's made most of his impact from the right. He's going to have to match, so he's going to have to play left and right this year, anyway," Whitt said. "We're going to put him where he need him … and where I feel he's going to be most productive.”

With Shields as the primary defender there, the Packers led the NFL in defensive DVOA on passes to the right side of the field last season, according to Football Outsiders. Given that they were 23rd on passes to the left side and 29th on passes to the middle of the field, it does make some degree of sense to give Shields a chance at shadowing.

The Packers lost Tramon Williams and Davon House from last year's team and Casey Hayward is coming off an injury, so Shields is the only healthy cornerback on the roster with much experience. Green Bay took Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the draft and hopes are obviously high for the pair, but it's not often that rookie corners make a huge, immediate impact. Shields, then, is going to have a whole lot of responsibility in Dom Capers' defense. We'll see if he's up for it.

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Shane Larkin hopes Brooklyn suits him better than triangle

Shane Larkin was hoping for a fresh start and a chance to show what he can do in New York. But the speedy point guard and the Knicks’ triangle offense fit about as well as Phil Jackson trying to cram himself into a smart car.

So when Larkin became a free agent at midnight on July 1, the Nets came calling with a pitch the point guard was thrilled to hear.

“We just said we want to get back to how you played in Miami,” Nets general manager Billy King said recently about the former Hurricane. “Allowing you to be a leader on the floor, run the pick-and-roll, get up and down the court. That was the pitch to him.”

Brooklyn is hoping that the 5-foot-11 Larkin can show why he was the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Miami.

Larkin’s rookie season got off to a bad start when he broke his ankle during a summer league practice. He would end up playing in just 48 games, averaging 10.2 minutes and 2.8 points.

Dallas sent Larkin to the Knicks in a package deal centered around Tyson Chandler last summer. On a woeful, stripped down team that lost 65 games, Larkin averaged 6.2 points in 24.5 minutes while starting 22 games. In April, he averaged 8.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 31.8 minutes a game.

The Nets saw enough to believe that he can still realize his first-round potential in the right system.

“I talked to Billy and Lionel (Hollins) as soon as free agency started, and they told me they wanted me to come in and just play my game,” Larkin said at a recent Nets press conference to introduce the team’s free agent signings. “I’m more of a pick-and-roll guy, up and down. “And that’s the thing they told me they wanted me to come in and do. For them to tell me they wanted me to come in push the tempo, bring some energy to the team, that was everything I wanted to hear.”

At the moment, the Nets’ point guard position has much to prove. Brooklyn bought out Deron Williams and traded Steve Blake away. Jarrett Jack, as of now, is set to be the starter going into camp with Larkin poised to be his backup.

Brooklyn also may see what Ryan Boatright can do. The former UConn point guard averaged 14.1 points during summer league action. Larkin is looking forward to playing in a similar fashion as he did while at Miami, where he averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists and won ACC Player of the Year honors before leaving as a sophomore.

“I mean the triangle is a good offense if you have the type of players that fit within that offense,” Larkin said. “And I don’t feel like it was the best offense for me. I’m more of a pick-and-roll guy, and there’s not as many pick and rolls in that offense. I’m not talking bad about it. It’s a great offense. I wish them nothing but the best.”

“Last year was definitely a roller coaster ride,” Larkin added of the Knicks. “… We had great aspirations last year to make the playoffs and prove everybody wrong and then just a lot of stuff happened. People were hurt, we never were healthy, we were trying to learn a new system… I think Fish (Derek Fisher) did a really good job of keeping everybody together. Nobody really lost themselves last year, but it was definitely a difficult time, and I wish them luck.”

Now Larkin is looking for another new start in another area of New York. The Nets hope Larkin discovers his first-round talent on the other side of the river.

“He’s still young,” King said of Larkin, 22. “He came out (of school) early. I said the same thing to (free agent addition) Thomas Robinson -– we want to get you back to being what got you drafted, to where you were.” “We’re going to let you be who you are.”

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Red Sox Recall Infielder Jemile Weeks

BOSTON — The Red Sox bolstered their infield depth Sunday, recalling second baseman Jemile Weeks from Triple-A Pawtucket. Weeks, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles last August, played in 14 games for the Red Sox last season.

The 28-year-old has spent the bulk of this season with the PawSox, posting a .207/.307/.310 slash line with one home run and five RBIs in 51 games at Triple-A. To make room for Weeks on the 25-man roster, reliever Noe Ramirez was optioned to Pawtucket. “(Weeks can play) all over the infield, as well as, he’s played a couple of games in the outfield,” manager John Farrell said before Sunday’s matchup with the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. “Kind of a super-utility that gives us some flexibility all around the diamond.”

That flexibility will be necessary for the Red Sox, who on Saturday learned they’d be without second baseman Dustin Pedroia for at least the next two weeks. Pedroia was placed on the 15-day disabled list after reaggravating his injured hamstring.

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Q&A: Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso held his Celebrity Basebowl Tournament on Wednesday as a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego.

Question: As someone who was raised in the Boys & Girls Club, what does it mean to give back in a big way with your tournament?
Answer: Giving back to the Boys & Girls Club is such a huge deal. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to raise awareness for the club and the inner-city kids. I’m a huge believer in always giving back to the next upcoming (generation) and the future. It’s always an excellent tribute to them and obviously to us. It was just an opportunity to have something (for the kids).

Q: Playing for the Padres, it’s probably really exciting for the kids to see you out there putting on the event. Did professional athletes help out at events you attended as a kid?
A: Growing up in the Boys & Girls Club, you had guys like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter helping out. So many guys would come and give back to the Boys & Girls Club that I was a part of and it was a learning experience and I dream of mine to be able to reach their level and do the same for the kids today. Once they see guys like us helping out, maybe some of today’s kids will want to go that route and reach that big league potential. Those are just little things I try to help the kids out with.

Q: You talked about Jeter and Rodriguez helping out at some of the events you attended when you were younger. Is there a specific story of meeting or interacting with them that stands out to you?
A: One of the first times I met Jeter and Rodriguez, they had a Boys & Girls Club event to raise money during Christmas time. We were able to hang out with them all day and raise a lot of money for us. That was the first time where I saw those guys giving back and it was something that I wanted to be part of as well. It was a day I’ll always remember and I was only about 10 or 11 years old. I feel like if I can do that for even just one or two kids, it would make my day.

Q: When did you truly get serious about hosting a fundraiser for the kids of the Boys & Girls Club?
A: The minute I was a professional. That’s just what I wanted to do — I wanted to give back and do something like that.

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Could the Chargers pursue proCane WR Reggie Wayne?

Reggie Wayne has a friend in a very high place in San Diego's front office.

And it just so happens general manager Tom Telesco could still use an upgrade or two out wide.

A marriage between Wayne and the Chargers just makes sense. After all, as Chargers' blog "Bolts From The Blue" points out, Telesco is a fan of Wayne from back in his days as a Colts scout.

ESPN reporter Ed Werder connected the dots between Wayne and the Bolts, too.

"The Chargers are interesting because Tom Telesco the GM there was with the Colts," Werder said. "He's known to consider Wayne a Hall of Fame caliber player and of course Antonio Gates is going to miss the first 4 games of the season, Wayne might be able to help them early."

Wayne's greatest value could come in the form of mentorship. Keenan Allen is still a young, impressionable player who could use a voice like Wayne's around.
That alone might make No. 87 worth a try. And anything Wayne still has left in the tank would be the cherry on top.

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Tim Brown says Michael Irvin didn’t want him as a Cowboys’ teammate

Michael Irvin kept Tim Brown from trying to return home to play for the Cowboys when Brown was a free agent in 1994.

Brown, who played at Dallas Woodrow Wilson High School, proposed to Irvin the idea of playing together with the Cowboys when the two were at the Pro Bowl. Brown said Irvin “boisterously declined.”

“I think it was the first year I made the Pro Bowl as a receiver, and I was a free agent going into that offseason, the offseason of ’94, and I ended up signing with the Broncos,” Brown said in a Pro Football Hall of Fame conference call Thursday. “I sort of happily walked up to Michael thinking it was going to be a great concept, and I said to him, ‘Hey, man, look, man, I’m thinking about coming home to Dallas. I would love to come there and be No. 2 to you.’ He got so upset. ‘Tim Brown, don’t you ever think about coming….’ I was like, ‘Mike, man, what’s going on?’ He was like, ‘No. I’m glad you told me first. I’m calling Jerry right now and telling him don’t do it.’ So that was pretty much the end of that conversation, and I was a little upset, because I did want to come home, and I wanted to play for the Cowboys. I’m glad that worked out the way it did for many reasons at this particular point. But yeah, that is a true story.”

Brown signed a four-year, $11 million deal with the Broncos in March 1994 that the Raiders matched. Brown ended up playing 16 of his 17 seasons with the Raiders, making 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns in his career.

Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 after making 750 catches for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns in his 12-year career in Dallas.

Alvin Harper was the Cowboys’ second-leading wideout in 1994, the year Dallas lost to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. Harper made 33 catches for 821 yards and eight touchdowns that season before leaving for Tampa Bay in free agency. Brown had 89 receptions for 1,309 yards and 77 touchdowns in ’94.

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Lamar Miller will need strong 2015 campaign to earn big pay day

Lamar Miller of the Miami Dolphins is entering a contract year this season in which he'll look to prove his worth -- whether it's to the Dolphins or another running back-needy franchise. In 2014, Miller began to show just how talented he is, racking up 1,099 yards on just 216 carries, which gave him a 5.1 yard-per-carry average for the season.

Shockingly, Miller never topped 20 carries in a game last season, tallying 19 in the final two games of the season. In his career, he's only done it once. That doesn't mean he can't handle the workload. If anything, it shows the Dolphins' lack of desire to make him the bell cow at running back. That might not bode well for Miller come time to negotiate a contract.

Miller can't control how often he gets handed the ball this season, but he can make the most of his opportunities when they arise. With rookie Jay Ajayi likely Miller's primary backup, Miller could get even fewer carries than he did in 2014. Ajayi has long-term health concerns with his knee, but in the short term, he's good to go.

"This kind of talent — to be there where he was — is a perfect fit in terms of what we want to add and in terms of adding an element of additional power to our running game," Dolphins assistant general manager Eric Stokes said of Ajayi following the draft. "It really was an easy move to turn that card in, and we’re very happy to have him."

By the way Stokes was talking, they seem excited to have Ajayi on the team, yet another reason to pass on extending Miller long term. The way the NFL works nowadays, a running back by committee is gaining popularity, as teams shy away from handing out big contracts to running backs.

So what will it take for Miller to get a big time pay day? Well, if he has a breakout season and rushes for 2,000 yards, he may just become too expensive for Miami to keep. That's not to say another team won't pay him what he deserves, but it may not be the Dolphins with Ajayi on the roster and plenty of backs in the 2016 NFL Draft.

If he eclipses his mark of 1,099 yards from last season with say, 1,500 yards, it will show his consistency and reliability -- and he may be inexpensive enough to stay in Miami. 

In the end, however, it comes down to Miller making the most of his opportunities. He won't get 300 carries like he probably wants, but if he can average 5-plus yards per carry once again, he'll prove his worth. Needless to say, 2015 is the biggest year of Miller's young career.

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2015 Most Important Packers No. 7: Sam Shields, CB

GREEN BAY – Even after earning himself a four-year, $39 million extension, even becoming one of the Green Bay Packers’ rags-to-riches success stories as he went from undrafted free agent to top-level cornerback, Sam Shields has never been the kind of cornerback that everyone talks about.

Perhaps it’s his quiet demeanor, his relative disinterest in media interviews, or the fact that one of the team’s more popular and high-profile players, Tramon Williams, was always in the Packers’ secondary with him. But now, with Williams having departed as a free agent this spring, Shields’ time has come: It’s up to him to play like a No. 1 corner.

“I expect a lot from him,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said this offseason. “Last year, I thought the top four corners in the league were, not in any order, [Richard] Sherman, [Darrelle] Revis, Brent Grimes and Vontae [Davis]. I think, if he does the things that we were working on, he can be in that conversation.

“Those four were clearly better and then there was a group of around 12 — [Shields] is in that group of 12 to 14, in my opinion. How do you get in that top four with Brent Grimes, Revis and Sherman and Vontae Davis? How do you do that? That’s the question.”

Why he’s important:  The cornerback room is vastly different these days, as not only did Williams depart in free agency but Davon House also left (signing with Jacksonville) and longtime veteran voice and special teamer Jarrett Bush was not re-signed. The Packers did draft a pair of cornerbacks with their first two picks this spring – Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins – but how quickly they will come along remains to be seen. On top of that, would-be starter Casey Hayward hasn’t played a ton outside and hasn’t played a whole lot over the past two years – due to a hamstring injury in 2013 and a limited role last year – and has to earn the job opposite Shields. Given the situation, the Packers need Shields to be the shutdown corner the coaches believe he’s capable of becoming.

If he delivers:  If Shields has a breakthrough season like Williams did in 2010 – unlike Whitt’s assessment of Shields being in the 12-14 range last year, Williams became a top-5 cornerback during the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV run – then the Packers will have a player who can more or less take away half the field from their opponents. The Packers offense has seen firsthand the impact that can have on an offense when facing Seattle’s Sherman, and Shields playing at that level would also allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to scheme in a way that he could give help to whoever lines up on the other side, whether that’s Hayward or one of the rookies.

If he disappoints:  The Packers are hoping they can move Shields around and match up him up on the opposing team’s top target, and as Williams can attest, such an assignment means you will get beat on occasion – after all, you’re covering a top-level wideout, and that guy gets paid, too. That said, if Shields isn’t up to the task, then the Packers secondary could have problems given the unproven nature of their other cover men. Hayward, for example, could stay healthy and recapture the ball-magnet form he showed as a rookie in 2012. But if he doesn’t, and Shields backslides, the Packers’ pass defense could become a major liability.

Quote, unquote:  “[Some] corners throughout their career – Al [Harris] was predominantly on the right, Nnamdi [Asomugha] played on the right – some guys feel more comfortable one way or the other. Sam says he feels comfortable on both sides. I just know he’s made most of his impact from the right [until now]. He’s going to have to match so he’s going to have to play left and right this year, anyway. We’re going to put him where we need him and where I feel he’s going to be most productive.” – Whitt, on how he plans to use Shields this season.

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Cavs re-sign James Jones to one-year deal

The Cavs still have deals to make with Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith, but in the meantime, they’re quietly making moves to keep their depth at the end of the bench. On Thursday, they agreed to a deal to re-sign veteran forward James Jones.

From Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Small forward James Jones has reached an agreement on a one-year deal to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, league sources informed Northeast Ohio Media Group.

The contract, according to one source, is for the veteran’s minimum. The paperwork was faxed Thursday to Jones, who is in Florida with family. The contract is expected to be signed and finalized as early as Friday.

Jones isn’t a huge part of the Cavs’ rotation at this point, but he’s a beloved teammate and he’s still capable of coming in, playing spot minutes and knocking down three-pointers. For the veteran’s minimum, there’s nothing not to like about this signing.

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Ryan Braun slugs three-run home run in loss

Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun provided the only serious offense his team would mount in the 8-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Thursday. Braun launched a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to put the Brewers on the board. It was too little, too late however, as the Brewers fell 8-3 to Arizona.

The home run was Braun's 17th of the season and just his second this month. It was his only hit of the game, as struck out in all three of his other at-bats on Thursday.

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Allen Hurns looking to build off breakout rookie season

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Football season is just around the corner.

The Jacksonville Jaguars open their 2015 training camp Friday, July 31, with players reporting to camp the day before.

One of the major story lines heading into camp will be the development of the the group of second-year receivers in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
Robinson and Lee represent a pair of 2014-second-round draft picks. So there were some relatively high expectations for their rookie seasons. Hurns on the otherhand, went undrafted in 2014 out of the University of Miami.

Hurns had a relationship with, who at the time was the Jaguars offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, leading the to the team bringing him in as an undrafted free agent. The move turned out to pay off in a big way for the Jaguars as Hurns was the surprise rookie for the team in 2014.

Hurns was among the league leaders in receiving for all rookies in 2014, appearing in all 16 games for the Jaguars, starting eight, grabbing 51 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns. He was ninth among all rookies in receptions, eighth in yards, and tied for sixth with Buffalo's Sammy Watkins in touchdowns.

Hurns has been working privately during the offseason with fellow second-year Jaguars, Robinson and quarterback Blake Bortles. They are working to build off the chemistry the three of them, along with Lee, established in 2014.

The addition of a dynamic pass catching tight end, Julius Thomas, and the most prolific receiver in Florida State history in rookie Rashad Greene, paired with Hurns and the rest of the second-year receivers, means Bortles should have plenty of weapons to work with in the fall.

Hurns will be a vital part to improving the Jaguars offensive attack in 2015.

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Clinton Portis will work as a Redskins analyst for ESPN 980

Red Zebra Broadcasting on Wednesday announced that former Redskins running back Clinton Portis will serve as a Redskins analyst on ESPN 980 during the upcoming season.

Portis, a fan favorite during his seven years in D.C. for both his alter-egos and his play, will call in to “The Drive With Cooley and Czabe” on Mondays. He will also co-host a one-hour show about the Redskins on one Friday every month throughout the season.

“I am so excited to finally be on the air covering the team I love,” Portis said in a press release. “Chris Cooley was a great teammate and close friend and we promise to make it as memorable as we did during our playing career.”

Portis, who played with Cooley from 2004-10, officially retired in 2012. Portis has appeared as a guest on “The Drive” before, including last November, when he offered Robert Griffin III some advice for dealing with the media. His own experience as a member of the media includes work as an analyst for the ACC Digital Network.

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Bernie Kosar themed slot machines come to Northfield Rocksino

Bernie Kosar gets his place among slot machines in Summit County: Little Mermaid, Treasure Island and Wheel of Fortune can get out of the way, Bernie Kosar has made his entrance into the realm of video slot machines. 

Joining the genre of Kosar-themed stuff around Northeast Ohio, including Bernie Beer, are a set of Bernie Kosar slot machines at Northfield's Hard Rock Rocksino, Northeast Ohio Media Group's Karen Farkas reported. The minimum bet is $1, the jackpot $50,000

Kosar joins Drew Carey, Ellen DeGeneres, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley in the casino's lineup of celebrity slot machines.

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All eyes on Sam Shields

The game changed the moment Sam Shields put pen to paper on a new four-year, $39 million contract last year.

The Green Bay Packers cornerback no longer was an unsung and undrafted gem. Now among the highest paid at his position, more was expected of Shields. He was a marquee player and a pivotal piece to the direction Dom Capers’ defense was heading.

Shields took steps last season toward being the shutdown No. 1 cornerback the organization feels he can be, but there’s still room for growth in the 27-year-old. The Packers are counting on it. He’s the only proven boundary cornerback on the roster after Tramon Williams and Davon House left in free agency.

“I expect a lot from him,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “Last year, I thought the top four corners in the league were, not in any order, (Richard) Sherman, (Darrelle) Revis, Brent Grimes and Vontae (Davis). I think, if he does the things that we were working on, he can be in that conversation.

“Those four were clearly better and then there was a group of around 12 — he’s in that group of 12 to 14, in my opinion. How do you get in that top four with Brent Grimes, Revis and Sherman and Vontae Davis? How do you do that? That’s the question.”

Shields started 14 regular-season games for the Packers last season opposite Williams, registering 40 tackles and two interceptions. He played in his first Pro Bowl as an alternate for the Super Bowl-bound Revis.

The 5-foot-11, 184-pound cornerback will be the first to tell you he’s an unfinished product. He still has undisciplined moments and occasionally gets caught looking in the backfield, but his speed is what separates him and allows him to stand in against the league’s top receivers.

Shields played predominantly on the right side last season, but Whitt lined him up at the left perimeter spot throughout the offseason program to test his comfort. Shields had too many missed tackles last season — 11 according to Pro Football Focus — but didn’t give up many explosive plays.

Whenever the Packers have asked him to match a top-flight receiver, Shields has answered the bell.

“I don’t necessarily know if he’s going to play on the left,” Whitt said. “I’m going to give him an opportunity over there. I just know he’s made most of his impact from the right. He’s going to have to match, so he’s going to have to play left and right this year, anyway. We’re going to put him where he need him … and where I feel he’s going to be most productive.”

Shields’ place in the starting lineup is the only certainty entering training camp. Fourth-year cornerback Casey Hayward likely will get the first shot opposite Shields, but quickly will have to make up for lost time. He injured his foot in the spring and missed the offseason program.

Hayward saw only about 39 percent of defensive snaps last season, but that he played in all 18 games (including playoffs) was a positive step after he missed most of the 2013 season with a recurring hamstring issue. Rotating in the nickel and dime subpackages, Hayward had 42 tackles, seven deflections and three interceptions.

“He makes plays on the ball,” Capers said. “Some guys just seem to be around the football. So he’s done that with the reps that he’s had. Only time will tell on that, but we like what we’ve seen out of Casey and we know he can go out on the field and make plays for you.”

The only benefit to Hayward’s absence this summer is it allowed the Packers to get extended looks at their top two draft picks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, who were taken to help fill the void left by Williams and House.

The Packers also opted against re-signing nine-year veteran Jarrett Bush, who a league source confirmed has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Randall missed the start of the offseason program with an ankle injury before returning midway through organized team activities. A starting safety for two seasons at Arizona State, many teams were split on where Randall would play at the next level.

Not the Packers. The moment Randall was taken with the 30th overall pick, general manager Ted Thompson said he’d compete for a role at cornerback rather than being thrown into a jam-packed safety room. He has the versatility to play inside or outside.

The Packers face another high-ceiling project in Rollins, who played basketball for four years at Miami (Ohio) before making a late switch to football. He shot up draft boards after amazing scouts with what he could do based on pure instincts and athleticism.

Those attributes were on display this summer and could be enough to give third-year veteran Micah Hyde a run for the nickel cornerback spot. Undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter also earned reps with the first-team defense, overcoming a slow time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

When the rookies arrived, Whitt quizzed them on the best receiver they’d matched up against in college. Needless to say none of their responses were anywhere near the level of Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey, Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson.

“There’s two guys that’s in that cornerback room, not counting Micah who have played any snaps in the NFL,” Whitt said. “I think that’s being lost in a lot of this. There’s only two guys. I played just as many snaps as everybody else in the NFL. We have to teach them how to play.”

The Packers are stable at safety, a testament to how quickly they’ve rebuilt the position after a disastrous 2013 season. The addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Hyde’s transition to safety hastened that turnaround and spurred veteran Morgan Burnett’s comeback.

Burnett registered a career-high 130 tackles last season to lead the defense. He also ended a two-year drought without an interception against Atlanta on Dec. 8 and snagged another in the NFC title game, though his decision to slide with the Packers leading 19-7 with 5 minutes remaining has been widely debated.

Clinton-Dix arguably had his best game of the season in the playoff encounter with the Seahawks. His two interceptions erased sour memories from the Packers’ opener in Seattle when he badly missed an open-field tackle on Ricardo Lockette’s 33-yard touchdown.

“He came a long way,” said safeties coach Darren Perry of Clinton-Dix, who had 92 tackles and an interception in 16 games with 10 starts. “I can tell you the first time we played them out there, he had a lot going through his mind. He was probably thinking a lot and not just reacting. I think that second time we played them out there, he had seen some things. He experienced some good, some bad and I think that helped him grow as a player.”

Behind Burnett and Clinton-Dix, the Packers return Hyde, fourth-year veteran Sean Richardson, undersized Chris Banjo and practice-squad holdover Jean Fanor. Richardson, who missed a year following neck surgery in January 2013, played in all 18 games and led the Packers in special teams tackles.

Questions linger about Richardson’s quickness and ability to change direction, but the Packers thought enough of his upside to match the one-year, $2.55 million contract he was offered by the Oakland Raiders as a restricted free agent.

“He’s hungry. He wants to get on the field,” Perry said. “I think last year we developed a role for him and we’ll continue to try to work ways to get him on the field because Sean can help us. He’s a big-bodied guy who’s plenty physical and smart. He can make some plays. It’s just a matter of getting the combination and finding the package to get him some reps out there for us.”

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Jon Beason might have training camp reps limited

Few Giants defensive players have expressed more excitement than Jon Beason about playing in a new scheme under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

But in order for Beason to fill the "Mike" role that Antonio Pierce did for Spagnuolo, he has to stay on the field, and it sounds as if the Giants are going to handle the veteran linebacker with caution in order to make that happen. 

Beason, speaking with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on Sirius XM NFL Radio, said that while he's "chomping at the bit" to hit the field again after missing all but two games in 2014 with a toe injury, the Giants will probably limit his reps initially. 

"I'm sure the Giants will force me into being smart about reps and the workload, I'll do what I can to listen them, but at the same time, do what I have to do to prepare and get ready for the season," Beason said. 

While Beason is months removed from surgery, and participated in most offseason practices, he indicated that the toe will require continuous maintenance to get through a full season — from regular taping to orthotics, to special-made cleats.

Beason believes that the toe injury is a result of wear and tear brought in by the proliferation of field turf in the NFL as opposed to grass. 

"A big part of it is the turf, it's not great for our bodies and it changes based on position," Beason said. "They'll come to learn that it's unforgiving and learning how to plant and cut on it is key. If you're an older guy, like I never played on turf in high school, I was well into college before this turf thing became big. I always played on grass, where you learn how to cut and plant and you know the limitations of grass, how it gives. I think the younger kids have a better understanding of turf because they play on it at a younger age." 

But with his injury issues hopefully behind him, Beason now is tasked with helping the Giants improve their 29th-ranked defense. He told Gannon and Murray that he likes the fact that the defense will dictate to the offense, not vice versa, and revealed that Spagnuolo has one recipe for improving the Giants' ranking: Eliminating yards after contact. 

"There's a number that [Spagnuolo] mentioned the first day that we started our offseason program, it's 1,507, that's the amount of yards we gave up after contact," Beason said. "Not so much scheme, but getting guys down at the first opportunity. We can go from 29 to the early teens, close to a top=10 defense, just based on getting guys on the ground. 1,507 we want to eliminate that number, that's something that we worked on really hard this offseason, proper leverage, technique, and tackling."

Of course, eliminating that extra yardage would be made easier with a certain defensive end in the lineup. The uncertainty surrounding Jason Pierre-Paul's availability for this season after getting his index finger amputated in a fireworks accident creates another challenge for Beason and the Giants' defense to overcome. 

Beason intimated that he reached out to Pierre-Paul about the "freakish" injury, but did not hear back. He could only say what many of his other teammates and ex-teammates have expressed about their star defensive end: Get better, and we'll welcome you with open arms when you return. 

"First thing you hope is that he's healthy and then how is he feeling as a person?" Beason said. "I'll tell you what, when you make a big mistake like this and it costs you and the people around you, the media's not so friendly. You read the reports, and you turn on the TV, and you feel for the guy because you know him, you know his intent, you know what type of guy he is, he's all in, he's a good-hearted person, and probably one of the most giving people believe it or not, that you will meet.

"You just hope that him as a person that he can come to terms with it, and hopefully there's some way to continue to play football because he had tremendous upside, very rare talent, and Giants nation still loves him and we wish him well."

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Orlando Franklin at home in San Diego

Orlando Franklin joined the Chargers at a time their future in San Diego was anything but certain.

That hasn't kept him from making himself at home.

The left guard enters training camp as the main addition to what projects to be a more physical offensive line in 2015. He also is a new homeowner, having moved into the Poway neighborhood of San Diego this spring.

Franklin, a Denver Bronco the past four years, spent his early childhood living in Canada.

He and his wife wanted to own property somewhere cold and warm. When he signed with the Chargers in March, they already had 10 acres in Toronto. On a Wednesday in May, a Poway home hit the market, and by the following Monday, Franklin said, he had closed on it.

Any housewarming conversation begs the question what he'll do should the Chargers relocate to Los Angeles, a possibility as early as next year. He has a plan.

"(Broncos left tackle) Ryan Clady is one of my best friends, and he owns two places in LA," Franklin said. "I already told him that if I move to LA, I'm only paying his mortgage during the season. This is where I want to be. My girl and I always planned to be home owners in California or Florida because we like being snowbirds in Canada six months a year. ... It just so happened (we were) able to find a perfect house, I feel like, and got it for a good deal. I was like, why not?"

Franklin is at home on the field, too.

The Chargers offense is not unlike the one he had in Denver where coach Mike McCoy was the Broncos' offensive coordinator for Franklin's first two years in the NFL. He worked this spring mostly between left tackle King Dunlap and center Trevor Robinson; starting center Chris Watt was eased back from ankle surgery. Watt was a full participant during the June minicamp and is expected to be again in training camp.

Dunlap, Franklin and Watt are entrenched on the starting line.

The right side features less certainty. Johnnie Troutman is the incumbent at right guard, but May free-agency signing Joe Barksdale is expected to push him with Jeremiah Sirles among the others in the mix. D.J. Fluker is expected to remain the starting tackle, although he has seen occasional practice reps inside.

Not every Chargers lineman is at home just yet.

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Yasmani Grandal remains sidelined on Tuesday

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal is once again out of the lineup on Tuesday against the Braves. Grandal miss Monday's game after taking a foul ball off the mask on Sunday. The injury is not considered serious, but given Grandal's recent experience with concussion symptoms, the Dodgers are giving him at least one more day of rest.

Rookie Austin Barnes will be behind the plate for Tuesday's contest, while Grandal continues to recover.

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proCane rookies got their Madden ratings, and they're mad

2. Tevin Coleman, Falcons RB: 90. Solid paper tear.
3. Duke Johnson, Browns RB: 87. Paper crumple < paper tear.
4. Marcus Mariota, Titans QB: 84. Isn't he supposed to be non-emotional?
5. Philip Dorsett, Colts CB: 82. Incredulous laughter is always good.
6. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars RB: 81: "Lord have mercy."
7. Devin Smith, Jets WR: 79. Very befuddled.
8. Jameis Winston, Bucs QB: 74. His initial body language would've put him higher, had he stayed the course. Too much eventual acceptance, though.
9. Amari Cooper, Raiders WR: 72. Businesslike.
10. Melvin Gordon, Chargers RB: 67. This is where the quality starts drops. "I feel it," is barely mad at all.
11. Todd Gurley, Rams RB: 55. Gurley takes an even bigger step down. He thinks his rating is pretty good!
12. Devin Funchess, Panthers WR: 47. The first legitimately happy dude on the list.
13. Kevin White, Bears WR: 46. The dance/double "check it out" combo puts him in the basement.

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Seantrel Henderson's spring slide lands him on Bills' bubble

Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the Buffalo Bills' roster bubble and where they potentially fit in 2015:

Name: Seantrel Henderson
Position: Offensive tackle
Age: 23
2014 stats: 16 games (16 starts)
Chance of making 53-man roster: 75 percent

Why he should make it: Along with veteran guard Chris Williams, Henderson saw his stock drop the most of any Bills player this spring. He went from a 16-game starter at right tackle under coach Doug Marrone to rotating second-team reps with undrafted rookie Tyson Chandler during June's minicamp, the most recent time players were on the practice field. Still, his slide most likely won't be enough to keep him off the 53-man roster. The Bills don't have tremendous depth along their offensive line and have a long-term need at offensive tackle because Cordy Glenn is set to become a free agent next spring. Even if Henderson doesn't reclaim his starting right tackle job from Cyrus Kouandjio, he's worth keeping around at a position that very much remains in flux for the Bills, especially with last week's arrest of offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.

Why he shouldn't make it: The red flags through the spring were glaring for Henderson, who missed an OTA practice for non-injury reasons -- he was later spotted outside the locker room -- and also missed the first mandatory minicamp for travel issues. From all appearances, he didn't get off on the right foot with Kromer, although it's unclear if Kromer will even be coaching Henderson again this season. The one scenario that would keep Henderson off the 53-man roster is if coach Rex Ryan feels strongly about keeping 34-year-old veteran Wayne Hunter as his swing tackle. Ryan has a long history with Hunter that he doesn't have with Henderson and as a former seventh-round pick, Henderson is still very much expendable on the 53-man roster. The Bills keeping three offensive tackles -- Glenn, Kouandjio and Hunter -- is a possibility that can't be discounted at this point.

Closest competition: Hunter, Cyril Richardson, Williams

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Edgerrin James Delivering Hope At Youth Camp

In the six years since former Immokalee High and NFL star Edgerrin James began holding free one-day football camps in Collier County, he’s tried to deliver one over-arching message.


“I think you're supposed to come back to that area,” James said of giving back to his community. “Everyone has their own reasons why, but I think it's important to show the kids that it's possible to make it. They walk the same streets we walk and they've done things that we've done.”

The former Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks running back started holding free camps in 2009 in Immokalee, then moved the site to Ave Maria in 2012. In that time, James, who also runs the Edgerrin James Foundation & Charities Inc., has welcomed athletes from different parts of the state, including Orlando, Miami and Tampa.

Approximately 608 campers were in attendance Monday, program director Yhonsha Rue said, including almost 30 girls. That was nearly 100 more than in 2014 (525) and 200 more than 2013 (400). Rue said the non-profit Laces of Love also donated 300 pairs of cleats to underprivileged kids.

“All of my roots are from Immokalee,” said James, who lives in Orlando for most of the year with his family, though he has a house in Naples. “So it's very important to come back to Immokalee. What better time than right before football season?

“Anytime I have an opportunity to go back, even check out the games —even Immokalee, Naples, Fort Myers — I always pop in. I enjoy watching the sport. It gives me a chance to be a fan, he said.”

Almost 70 players from Immokalee High were on hand. It would have been more, Indians head coach Dale More said, but due to a scheduling conflict the varsity team members attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp.

More was appreciative of the work James put in and hopes he would consider being a part of the Indians program moving forward.

“I wanted him to be a part of our program,” More said. “He's a (important) figure in our community. I think the kids are excited to see him. When they see him walk around they say, ‘That's where I want to be some day.’

“And that's what I enjoy so much about our practices. Our kids give 110 percent effort every single day, every single practice, because they have someone to look up to like Edgerrin that they want to be someday.”

And someday soon Hall-of-Famer may be added to James’ dossier. The NFL’s No. 11 all-time on the NFL rusher with 12,246 yards was not selected in his first year of eligibility in 2014. On the plus side, nine of the 10 players in front of him are in the Hall of Fame — LaDainian Tomlinson being the outlier.

“My numbers are there,” said James, who also scored 80 touchdowns in his 11-year career. “Everything speaks for itself. Those numbers, you compare it to people who are already in. It's a matter of wins. It's a process they have to go through and once the process plays itself out, you can't deny what I've done and what I've accomplished.”

But before that even happens, it was about moments like Monday in his hometown. In his first camp, he saw players like Immokalee’s D’Ernest Johnson strut their stuff. This past season, Johnson finished his first season at the University of South Florida.

“It feels good,” James said of the success he sees from the camp. “Them being from Immokalee and knowing them from a youth stage. I watched them when they were playing Pop Warner football and watching them grow up and turn into men. And now they call me now and then when they want me to know anything. It was actually fun. It's a good feeling.”

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Reggie Wayne sparks interest in contenders

The list of teams interested in Reggie Wayne -- or perhaps the list of teams Reggie Wayne is interested in playing for -- is out.

According to WRTV's Dave Furst, the Patriots, Ravens, Texans and Packers have expressed some form of curiosity surrounding the future Hall of Famer. The Broncos have "backed off," per Furst, which denies us a chance to see Wayne catch a pass from Peyton Manning again.

As you'll notice, this is largely a list of contenders with the exception of the Houston Texans. There, Wayne would get a chance to reunite with old pal Vince Wilfork and ride off into the sun together.

This is why the list may be part fantasy and part reality. For example, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun has already mentioned that the Ravens are out and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle has reported that the Texans are not interested in the veteran's services.

In the NFL, "interest" often gets confused with a team merely checking up on a player's medical progress while asking purposely vague questions about where said player would like to suit up next season. Maybe that's the case here, maybe the Ravens are trying to fly under the radar until after camp, when they don't have to pay Wayne's entire salary for the season.

Either way, a team on the verge would be wise to take a flier on one of the best receivers of the last decade. If nothing else, he'll bring an unquestioned level of leadership and experience to the table.

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Ravens, Texans not expected to pursue Reggie Wayne

A report about interest in wide receiver Reggie Wayne included the Ravens on the list of teams that were in the mix, but it doesn’t look like the former Colts wideout will be heading to the place where the Colts franchise played its first games.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and Jamison Hensley of ESPN both report that the Ravens are not expected to pursue adding Wayne to their mix at receiver. Hensley adds that the team also isn’t expected to make a play for Ace Sanders, who was waived by the Jaguars last week after two seasons in Jacksonville.

There were questions about the wide receiver group in Baltimore throughout the offseason and the addition of Breshad Perriman in the first round didn’t put them all to rest. It would appear, however, that the Ravens are content to see what the rookie, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken can do alongside Steve Smith rather than double down on well-seasoned wideouts this season.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans also aren’t making a play for Wayne. DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts and third-round pick Jaelen Strong are at the top of their depth chart at receiver.

The Packers and Patriots were the other teams mentioned as potential landing spots for Wayne and we noted some of the potential obstacles to Wayne landing with those teams earlier on Monday.

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Reggie Wayne excited to see Andre Johnson, Frank Gore with Colts

INDIANAPOLIS -- Three of the Indianapolis Colts' new players have ties to receiver Reggie Wayne, who spent the past 14 seasons with the franchise.

The Colts signed running back Frank Gore and receiver Andre Johnson and drafted receiver Phillip Dorsett during the offseason.

All three attended the University of Miami, just like Wayne. And they all work out in Miami, just like Wayne.

That’s why it’s not weird -- anymore at least -- for Wayne to see Gore and Johnson playing for the Colts.

“I would say yes, but when they’re not up here they’re down [in Miami] and I see them working out and stuff,” Wayne said. “It’s funny cause you sit back and laugh, it almost was a University of Miami receiving corp. Andre Johnson always says, ‘I wish you were still there, it would have been exciting.’ Those guys are great friends of mine. I’m excited for them. I’m happy for them. I wish them the best and they’re great guys. You guys know about me doing stuff in the community. Those guys are also community guys. You’ll be seeing them do stuff around the city.”

The Colts decided not to re-sign Wayne, 37, in March. They turned around and signed Johnson as his replacement. Johnson is 34 years old, but he’s still an upgrade over Wayne at that position. Wayne said last week that he plans to play a 15th season.

Johnson and Wayne talked before the former Houston Texan receiver signed with the Colts back in March.

“We understand that as athletes that’s the way it goes and I’m just thankful I was able to do what I was able to do for so long,” Wayne said. “Not everybody is blessed enough to do it. I’m still going to be cheering from afar. Just have to ride the wave as best as you can.”

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Edgerrin James provides life lessons, free gear at free youth camp

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10 Things to Know About Shane Larkin

For Shane Larkin, joining the Nets for the 2015-16 season won’t require much of a commute. The 5-foot-11 guard joins Brooklyn after spending last season with the New York Knicks, averaging 6.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals in 24.5 minutes per game.

Making his first appearance with the squad at last month’s player-signing press conference alongside Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and new face Thomas Robinson, Larkin felt right at home.

Someone who Nets General Manager Billy King says will provide “athleticism at the point,” Larkin is already looking forward to that East River rivalry. Get to know one of the latest additions to the Nets roster.

First reactions on coming to Brooklyn: I was really excited. I was in New York last year, so obviously I’m excited to still be playing here in New York City, where basketball is a mecca. Coming across the water is definitely going to be interesting. I’m happy to be on the other side now and it’ll be fun when we play the Knicks.

Favorite movie: Recently, “Jurassic World” was dope and “Ted 2” was mad funny. As for all-time favorites, I’ve got a lot of them, like “The Departed.” There are too many to name.

Musical taste: I really like all types of music. Some of the dudes in the game that I listen to are Meek Mill and Drake. Those are probably the two I’m listening to most right now.

Player who inspires him: When I was younger, my favorite player was Allen Iverson, but he’s more of a scorer though. I’m more of a facilitator. I like getting in the paint and creating for guys.

Familiarity with Brooklyn: Being in New York here, I’ve been over to Brooklyn a few times before. Came over for that Michael Jackson show, it was cool.

Game inspiration: There are a lot of point guards that do it well now. Ty Lawson is a guy I try to resemble myself after. We’re the same height. You try and take different parts of different guys’ games. I mean, Steph [Curry] is probably the best point guard in the league right now. CP3 is always a 10+ assist guy, so I try to model my game after them.

Favorite NYC spots: There is so much in the city to do. I just go to the city and wind up wherever it takes me. You can’t get bored here.

Favorite shot on the court: I just try to get it done in the paint. I like throwing lobs. Hope we can connect on some of those this year.

Role model: My role model is my Dad. He played baseball and he was a professional athlete. I’m just learning from him and learning the ropes. He showed me how to go about the business side of things and showed me how to become better and better. Whenever I’m feeling down or not fully confident in myself, I can just call him and he’ll help me out.

One thing to tell Nets fans: I’m really excited for the season. It’s a great opportunity for me and the team. I’m glad we got Brook back, we got Thad back and brought in T-Rob. I think it can be really exciting and the sky’s the limit. We just have to mesh well together and come together as a group. I think we’ll have a really good season and it’s going to be fun when we play across the water.

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Reggie Wayne has spoken to teams, wants to play one more year

Reggie Wayne won’t be back with the Colts this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to throw in the towel on his career.

Wayne is in Indianapolis on Friday to receive a key to the city and told reporters at a press conference that he still plans on playing during the 2015 season. Mike Wells of reports that Wayne said he’s spoken to five teams that have shown interest in bringing him on board for what he says will be a last hurrah in the NFL.

“Ideal is playing one more year and hanging it up,” Wayne said, via Eric Cox of RTV6.

Wayne caught 64 passes for 779 yards and two touchdowns with the Colts last season, but didn’t look like the same player he was before tearing his ACL during the 2013 season. He had surgery to repair a torn triceps and a knee scope after the year came to an end and might not be guaranteed anything more than a chance to compete for a roster spot if he does strike a deal to go to training camp with a team later this month.

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Edgerrin James' annual free youth football camp in Ave Maria - TODAY

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James Jones said "I'll be back in Cleveland for sure"

LAS VEGAS – During these at times frenetic and expensive days of free agency for the Cavaliers, the one name seldom mentioned as been James Jones.

Well, he's a free agent, too. And he's coming back.

"I'll be back in Cleveland for sure," Jones told the Northeast Ohio Media Group Sunday in Las Vegas, on the red carpet for the first Players' Awards show.

"I've made it well known last year when I told them I was coming to help change the culture and do something special," Jones said. "It wasn't a situation where I was looking for a platform to move on. I was looking to be a part of something, to build something. And so I'm still in."

Jones, 34, is a free agent after playing out his one-year contract with the Cavs last season.

A 12-year veteran, he would qualify for a veteran's minimum salary of $1.5 million, which would be a $950,000 cap hit for Cleveland. He made the league-minimum $1.45 million last season.

A league source confirmed the Cavs would re-sign Jones. He's been a friend and teammate to LeBron James dating back at least to 2010, during James' first season in Miami.

The 6-8 forward averaged 4.4 points in 11.7 minutes per game during the regular season, and kept his scoring average through increased playing time during the playoffs.

"Last year was big for me in establishing who I am and defining myself," Jones said. "So, I'm excited about the things I've worked on this summer, and they'll see a different James Jones next year for sure."

The Cavaliers are negotiating with restricted free agent Tristan Thompson on a long-term contract, and may bring back J.R. Smith. The team is also considering signing Russian center Sasha Kaun.

"Those are conversations that are always tough to have," Jones said, speaking about Smith and Thompson. "This is the part of the business that requires a lot of thought and requires a lot of work. I'm hopeful we'll get it done. They're a big part of what we've done and we'll continue to do."

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X-rays of Dodgers' Yasmani Grandal's jaw negative after shot to mask

As Yasmani Grandal disappeared into the clubhouse in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' 5-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday, Manager Don Mattingly feared for the worst.

"I thought he broke his jaw," Mattingly said.

The mask covering the All-Star catcher's face was struck by a ball fouled by outfielder Michael Taylor.

Mattingly's fears were relieved, at least temporarily, when X-rays on Grandal's jaw were negative. Grandal is scheduled to undergo further testing Monday.

Pitcher Zack Greinke immediately sensed something was wrong with Grandal.

"His face wasn't really moving," Greinke said. "It was like frozen."

Grandal said his teammates and trainers had trouble understanding him because his inability to move his jaw prevented him from speaking properly.

Grandal was replaced by A.J. Ellis, who caught the remaining four innings. By the end of the game, Grandal's condition was significantly improved.

"It's a little better now," Grandal said. "It definitely hurts to swallow, hard to bite down."

Grandal didn't have any concussion-like symptoms. He was on the seven-day concussion disabled list in May after taking a couple of knocks to his head in a game against the San Diego Padres.

In addition to catching a majority of games, Grandal has established himself as a middle-of-the-order hitter. He ranks third on the team with 14 home runs. Only Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson have more.

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Yasmani Grandal likens himself to Varitek, aspires to be like Molina

The All-Star Game was a reunion -- in a fitting place too -- for Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal and Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger. Both players were dealt from the Cincinnati Reds in 2011 in exchange for Matt Latos. Now both of them are All-Stars.

Despite his All-Star status, the Orange County Register notes that Grandal still remains under the radar. Grandal responded comparing himself to a former All-Star:

“I look back, I see Jason Varitek…[He] was one of the best catchers, overall, for a period of about 10 years. And he wasn’t recognized like he was the guy, because at any point there was some catcher who was doing a little bit better that year.”

For Grandal, those catchers would be Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. Grandal actually aspires to be like Molina. He said:

“Because how can you be better than Yadi Molina, the career he’s had?...But, yeah, one of my goals is to get to that point.”

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Michael Irvin on Son Picking UM: ‘I’ve Brainwashed Him For Quite a While’

Canes fans had to be reeling upon learning that Michael Irvin Jr. plans to follow in his dad’s footsteps after committing to the University of Miami this summer.

But “The Playmaker” joked this was in the works for quite a while.

“Well I’ve brainwashed him for quite a while on this,” Michael Irvin said on the Joe Rose Show. “I remember telling him at six, if you don’t want to go to Miami, that’s good. That’s your choice. Let me know now so I can stop feeding you. He was six years old at the time so he was all cool with it in his young age. Like all kids, man, when they start getting 14, 15, they think they know everything. He’s like ‘well, dad I get to make the decision’ and I’m like ‘oh my god, who is this fella right here?’

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Today's Kids Will Never Know How Real Sean Taylor Was

Sometimes Twitter throws out a hashtag and sees what happens.

Yesterday, #TodaysKidsWillNeverKnow became a worldwide trending topic, which gave people an excuse to get nostalgic about the past and cynical about the future.

There was also some sad remembrance, like when this was tweeted out, to memorialize Sean Taylor and demonstrate a player nobody will ever be able to witness first hand again.

SeanTaylor copy
“I want the people of D.C. to know that he was really a good kid, a hard worker and he never shied away from performing at his best,” Taylor’s father Pedro said at this year’s Redskins Draft Day Party. “We always talk about treating people right and doing what’s right and this is the honor to show that he was truly treating people right.”

On the football field, Taylor treated players to his physical, hard-hitting tackles. It’s what made him such a special, highlight-reel performer.

It’s why you can just get lost in this six second loop from the 2007 Pro Bowl, watching him pound punter Brian Moorman to the ground over and over and over...and over.

Moorman, who was apparently OK after this hit, jogged over to shake Taylor’s hand. Even he had to respect landing on his back.

Today’s kids will only have this – and his many other grainy videotapes -- to really know. 

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Andre Johnson celebrates birthday Colts-style

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson celebrated his 34th birthday over the weekend and he did it showcasing his Colts pride.

Johnson, who signed with Indianapolis in March, marked the occasion with a cake in the shape of a Colts helmet, complete with his No. 81 and initials on it.
The inscription on the cake read, "Another year of life filled with new beginnings!"

Surprise B Day dinner

A photo posted by Andre Johnson (@ajohnson1500) on

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Ranking the Bears' roster: No. 9, Antrel Rolle

Name: Antrel Rolle
Position: Safety
Experience: 11 years
2015 base salary: $1 million ($3.9 million roster bonus)

2014 recap: Rolle never missed a game in New York after signing a five-year, $37.1 million contract with the Giants before the 2010 season. A two-time team captain, Rolle recorded 87 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble for the Giants last season. Rolle, 32, finished his career in New York with 464 tackles and 14 interceptions over five seasons with the Giants. The veteran also played a key role in New York’s Super Bowl XLVI title. Before he joined the Giants, Rolle spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals. Despite his age, the three-time Pro Bowl selection (2009, 2010 and 2013) showed few signs of slowing down in 2014. The Giants wanted Rolle to return in free agency, but were not prepared to match Chicago’s offer of three years, $11.25 million with around $5 million in guarantees.

2015 outlook: The Bears envision Rolle as one of their top team leaders on defense. Coaches said privately in June that they were extremely pleased with Rolle’s performance in the offseason program, even though the safety had to miss a little time because of the birth of his child. Rolle and Ryan Mundy are expected to bring stability to safety, a problem area on defense for years. Rolle and Mundy’s chemistry should not be an issue -- the two teammates previously played together for a year in New York. Because of Rolle’s experience, he’ll be counted on to help some of the younger players. So far, there is no hint of buyer’s remorse on the Bears' part. If Rolle continues to stay healthy, he should be an immediate upgrade in Chicago’s secondary.

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Watch proCane Pat Burrell wipe out on a wakeboard

As he rehabs an ankle injury and unwinds at the All-Star break, Chase Utley received just the levity he needed amid a rough season while vacationing with former Philadelphia Phillies teammate Pat Burrell.

Utley and Burrell headed out on a boat on Idaho's Lake Coeur d'Alene for some relaxation and fun over the break – and some amusement as well.

Burrell, who was one of the Phillies' most consistent offensive components during his nine-year tenure in Philadelphia, apparently doesn't have the same ability on the water as he did at the plate.

Thanks @patburrell5 for the good times this week. #tradition @kskatz @boovbaker @chasinggray

A video posted by @therealchaseutley on

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Peter O'Brien Named PCL's Top Star in All-Star Game

OMAHA, Nebraska -- At the end of the Triple-A All-Star Gameicon1, things got really exciting.

The International League rallied for three runs Wednesday night for a come-from-behind 4-3 winicon1 over the Pacific Coast League at Werner Park.

The top of the ninth inning began with Syracuse's Jason Martinson (Nationals) drawing a leadoff walk. Then Round Rock right-hander Jon Edwards (Rangers) hit Columbus' Tyler Holt (Indians) with a pitch. Lehigh Valley's Tyler Henson (Phillies) singled to load the bases. Two batters later, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Kyle Roller (Yankees) singled back up the middle to tie the gameicon1, 3-3, on a 2-1offering by Edwards.

"These guys in front of me did a great job," Roller said, who was named the MiLB Top Star for the IL. "They did whatever they could to get on base and kind of set the stage for me. I was happy to be in that situation to try to help my teamicon1 to victory."

The first baseman, who went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs, said he hit a slider on the clutch single.

"He was throwing a lot of sliders," Roller said. "I knew once he threw me a 2-0 slider that it was his pitch, and I looked for a pitch in the zone to do some damage."

That knocked Edwards from the game. With Omaha's Louis Coleman (Royals) on the mound, Henson lofted a soft single to center on a 1-0 pitch for the go-ahead run.

"He's a sinker ball guy -- a ground ball guy, obviously, by his arm angle," Henson said. "With men on first and third, I was just trying to get a ball in the air and I got enough for it to fall in."

PCL/Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg didn't have any second thoughts about waiting to bring in Coleman.

"He was going to be our closer from the get-go," Poldberg said. "The plan was to get him in with two outs, but we had to cover the 10th inning in case there was a tie. Everything went right as planned, but some days you're going to get it done, and some days you're not."

The crowd of 9,023 barely had a chance to get settled into their seats in the first inning when Rochester's James Beresford (Twins) tripled for the IL and Buffalo's Matt Hague (Blue Jays) droveicon1 him in with a single up the middle for the first run of the game.

The PCL struck back in the sixth when Albuquerque's Cristhian Adames (Rockies) belted an opposite-field home runicon1 down the left-field line with the wind blowing in on the first pitch of the inning to tie the game.

Then Reno's Peter O'Brien (D-backs) gave the PCL its first lead of the night with a two-run homer to left field. On his 25th birthday and after falling short in the finals of Monday's Home Run Derby, Arizona's No. 7 prospect was named the Top Star for the PCL.

Iowa's Carlos Pimentel (Cubs) got the start for the home squad. He gave up one run on two hits in the first two innings. New Orleans' Andre Rienzo (Marlins), Memphis' Dean Kiekhefer (Cardinals), Fresno's Tyson Perez (Astros), Colorado Springs' David Goforth (Brewers), Oklahoma City's Ryan Buchter (Dodgers) and New Orleans' Nick Wittgren (Marlins) shut down the IL for the next six innings. Edwards took the loss.

Charlotte's Erik Johnson (White Sox) started for the IL. He tossed two innings of scoreless ball before IL/Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr. handed the ball to Norfolk's Michael Bowden (Orioles), Rochester's Taylor Rogers (Twins) and Gwinnett's Carlos Fisher (Braves) -- all of whom threw scoreless innings. The Red Wings' A.J. Achter picked up the win by securing the finalicon1 out of the eighth.

"I think that's the definition of coming in and sneaking a win right there," Achter said. "For me, it was a little bit of redemption. I kind of had a rough All-Star Game in Durham last year. I didn't record an out -- faced two batters, so it's pretty rewarding.

"At the same time, it's a great time with a great group of guys."

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Duke Johnson almost quit football, but armed himself with a reason to be great

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Duke Johnson lifts up his left t-shirt sleeve to reveal a bulging shoulder completely enveloped by the smiling face of his mother, Cassandra Mitchell.

"She's the reason I'm playing football,'' Johnson, the Browns rookie running back, told Northeast Ohio Media Group last month while pointing to his tattoo. "It's all for her.''

If not for Mitchell, who sometimes worked three jobs to provide for her family, the Browns' third-round pick may very well have quit football a couple of years ago.

It was the summer before his sophomore year at the University of Miami, and Johnson felt like giving up. Never mind that he was coming off the greatest freshman season in the history of the U, rushing for a first-year record of 947 yards and 10 touchdowns and setting a single season school mark with 892 kickoff returns and two TDs.

The Miami native (5-9, 206) was struggling with the demands of college life -- the homework, the practice, the social pressures, the football expectations, the creaky ankles and temperamental hamstrings -- and he thought about quitting the team. What's more his dad, Randy Johnson Sr., had died of Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, four years earlier when Johnson was 14, and the sadness still sometimes engulfed him.

 When Randy Sr. was in the hospital dying from the neurodegenerative disease that can rob a person of the ability to speak, breath, eat or move, Johnson didn't want to see him that way. But his mother insisted.

"He supported me in everything that I do,'' Johnson, who's given name is Randy Jr., told when he was a senior at Miami's Norland High School. "He used to come to all of my games. He would take me to all of the University of Miami games, also."

But it was the memory of his mother working those three or more jobs -- as a corrections officer in Miami for more than two decades, as a waitress, as a school-board aide and as a seasonal employee at a toy store -- that kept Johnson going that summer. During their bleakest hours growing up, Johnson, his older sister Ranisha and their mom were sometimes forced to sleep in Mitchell's car. Other times, when Mitchell worked the overnight shift, Johnson and Ranisha stayed with their grandmother, Martha Williams.

How could Johnson give up when Mitchell never did?

"I'm knocking on the door (of the NFL) and wanting to quit and I didn't think that was fair to her,'' he told NEOMG.

Instead, Johnson decided to wear his heart on his sleeve -- or just underneath it. He called his mom and asked her to send a photo, claiming he had plenty of everyone but her. When the first batch wasn't quite right, he called back and asked specifically for a headshot. She happily obliged, not realizing what an indelible impression she was making at the time.

Mitchell never gave the request another thought, until Johnson came home a few days later, on the Fourth of July, with an almost life-sized replica of Mitchell emblazoned on his left shoulder.

"I teased him, 'at least you could've given me a nose job,''' she told the Detroit Free Press in February.

The tattoo served as a daily reminder to Johnson of why he was lifting weights until his arms went limp, why he took a pounding from defenders almost twice his weight and why he muscled and churned his way to the top of Hurricanes record book in career rushing yards with 3,519 in only three seasons.

 "I thought about all of the things my mom sacrificed growing up for me to get there,'' he said. "So anytime I'm in any kind of doubt with myself or whatever, I just look at the tattoo and it just kind of reminds me of what's the big picture.''

Besides, as Johnson journeyed through his career at the U and on to the NFL, he came to the unfortunate realization that he wasn't the only one who ever slept in a car or watched his father die when he was young. In fact, all he had to do was look to his left or right in the Browns running back room to find hardship and adversity. Isaiah Crowell was kicked out of Georgia after a felony weapons charge and forced to finish at Alabama State. Glenn Winston was kicked out of Michigan State and spent six months in jail after seriously injuring a hockey player in an assault. And so on.

"I don't really talk about it much because at this level, I look around the guys that are with me, and everybody's got similar stories,'' Johnson said. "Everybody's got the same story. Everybody has something they have to overcome and I don't do well with people feeling sorry for me.

"I just look at it like this is a story of never giving up because we have guys who have been through worse stuff than me and worse situations than I have and they're still here and we're not making excuses.''

And even though Johnson, the smallest of the Browns backs, poses a significant threat to the playing time of Crowell and Terrance West, they've welcomed Johnson with open arms in the running back room.

"I find it funny because Isaiah and Terrance West were in my position last year and they don't have to do it, but they're helping me out and have taken me under their wing,'' said Johnson. "It says a lot because they just got in the league and they haven't really made a name for themselves with what they're trying to do, and yet, they're still willing to bring a rookie in -- a couple of rookies in -- and teach them the right way.

"You also have Glenn and Shaun (Draughn) who also are in the same situation and they're teaching us the ropes. It's all love in the running back room and we're just enjoying it.''

The brotherhood reminds him of the strong bond he has with the decorated running backs that came before him at Miami, guys like multiple NFL Pro Bowlers Ottis Anderson, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis. Three of them were offensive rookie of the year, and one, Anderson, was a Super Bowl MVP.

"I get something from all of them,'' he said. "All have different stories, different situations. I've talked with Edgerrin and Willis and they just told me to take care of my body to be healthy and being able to take coaching and to be on time. I have Mike James from Tampa Bay. ...he just told me that special teams may be the way. Lamar Miller in Miami, he rushed for 1,000 yards last year and he was just saying 'play football, 'don't make it hard, just be in your playbook.'''

In an open letter to NFL general managers and coaches before the draft, Johnson promised to carry the enormous 'Canes torch.

"I believe that I'm the next great running back to come out of Miami,'' he wrote. "Yes, I fully understand how big the footsteps I'm following in are. Running backs that come through The U realized what it took to play there. It's no coincidence that they've been successful at the next level. Guys like Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James and Frank Gore laid out a blueprint for how to handle business. When you're a running back at Miami, making it to the NFL is an expectation rather than a goal. I have a legacy to live up to.''

Given the all-star lineup of predecessors, Johnson still can't believe he's the answer to the Miami trivia question of who holds the rushing title there.

"Yeah, from the outside looking in, I probably wouldn't guess me, either," Johnson said at minicamp. "Just because what those guys were able to do as far as wins, and I guess the way they were able to do it, that's why those names will always be at the top of my list."

Despite eclipsing Anderson for the 'Canes rushing crown, Johnson doesn't dare mention himself in the same breath with his famous Miami alum.

"Just for the record, in my book I'm not at the top," he said. "I'll probably be fifth, sixth. I'll probably be toward the middle bottom. I won't be one. I still haven't done anything close to what those guys were able to do, as far as winning."

The sixth running back selected in the 2015 draft, Johnson fancies himself a LeSean McCoy, the three-time Pro Bowler from the Eagles and now the Bills -- another quick, shifty back who can make people miss in the open field and also be a threat in the passing game. In addition to bringing the heat on offense, Johnson promises to be a force on kickoff returns.

"It just brings more competitiveness to the room,'' said Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery. "He's a guy that played outside. The best way I can describe Duke is what Thurman Thomas was for Buffalo. It's going to be all over the field. It's a 'Where's Waldo?' He gives you another dimension. He creates one-on-one problems. We hope he can be a little bit like the kid, Giovani Bernard, in Cincinnati.''

In the early going, Johnson, who displayed fine hands and explosiveness in offseason practices, might be used mostly on third down. But the opportunity is there for him to stake his claim to the marquee role.

"It's hard to have an every-down back in this league,'' Montgomery said. "There's too much punishment going on out there on the field. We've got to carve out a role for Duke. It wouldn't be fair [when] we have never put the pads on yet to say, 'He's our starter.' We don't know how he's going to recover from practice to practice yet.

"So with Duke, we've just got to find a way how we're going to utilize him. Like Le'Veon Bell, his first year, he wasn't the guy, but you kind of like working him into being the guy. Duke, I'm not saying he's not going to be the guy. But I don't know the workload he can handle right now."

Johnson is ready to shoulder whatever the Browns have in store for him, and he's got the perfect shoulder for the job.

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Pat O'Donnell preparing for second year in NFL with stop in Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH — Pat O'Donnell's road to the NFL took him through Daytona Beach for workouts with Dan Lundy and One on One Kicking, and now that he's established the Chicago Bears punter appears intent on keeping his offseason stops on the calendar. 

O'Donnell made a recent trip to Daytona Beach to workout alongside Lundy, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos, former Spruce Creek and current Mercer kicker Jagger Lieb and former Seabreeze and current Saint Anselm punter/kicker Shane Grayson.

"It's always great to get back to your roots and work with the guys that you are used to working with," O'Donnell said. "Dan Lundy is a great guy, and it's great to work alongside guys like (Kansas City Chiefs kicker) Cairo Santos."

O'Donnell is a physical specimen.

He stands 6-foot-4, weighs 220 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds and did 23 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine last year.

That, along with his booming leg, was enough to convince Chicago to use its sixth-round pick on him.

As a rookie, the former Miami Hurricane finished 23rd in the league with a net average of 37.7 yards per punt.

That's a number he would like to see improve.

"I'm just trying to be more consistent," he said. "And, I think,  any time you can be more consistent, you will see your numbers increase."

That doesn't mean that O'Donnell hasn't been working on adding a little flash to his game. During the offseason, he has posted several trick punt videos to social media — including one that shows him booting the ball over a house and into a garbage can.

"That's just having some fun," he said laughing. "And it's a way to keep the fans excited about the season."

As for O'Donnell, he said he doesn't need much to get him going heading into the season. The Bears have a new coach in John Fox, and there has been some overhaul to the roster.

"I'm excited," O'Donnell said. "There is a lot of energy in the locker room. We start back up July 29, and I think everybody is ready to get after it."

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Jimmy Graham talks of being traded to Hawks, first impressions of team

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Andre Johnson Close To Becoming NFL's 3rd All-Time Leader in Receptions

While the Indianapolis Colts Adam Vinatieri is set to become the NFL’s 3rd all-time leading scorer this season, another member of the team in recently added wideout Andre Johnson will be looking to make his own NFL career milestone (via

“In week 16 of 2014, Andre Johnson became the 10th receiver in NFL history to record 1,000 receptions. He is the second quickest player to hit the 1,000 reception mark, doing it in just 168 games. Marvin Harrison reached the milestone in 167 games. Johnson is currently 9th on the all-time receptions list. However, a mere 91 receptions with the Indianapolis Colts would bolster Johnson all the way up to the No. 3 spot on the all-time reception list behind only Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325).”

The longtime former Houston Texan only needs 91 receptions to surpass another Colts wide receiver great in Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time on the NFL receptions list. Currently, Johnson has 1,012 career receptions (9th all-time) to Harrison’s 1,102 (3rd all-time):

Considering that Johnson still had 85 receptions last year despite suffering from shaky starting quarterback play with the Texans, 91 receptions seems certainly attainable for next season. In fact, over the last 3 seasons, Johnson has averaged 102 receptions per season, so it seems like a fairly realistic benchmark for the 34 year old wideout.

While there are a multitude of receiving options in the Colts passing game, Johnson will also get the luxury of playing with an elite quarterback in Andrew Luck for the first time in his future Hall of Fame career. Johnson looks to fill the possession wideout role to complement T.Y. Hilton‘s deep threat ability, meaning that he should be in-line for a good amount of receptions.

For comparison purposes, a 34 year old Reggie Wayne caught 106 receptions for the Colts in 2014, playing the possession wideout role that has now been seemingly filled by his former Miami Hurricane teammate in Johnson. It’s worth noting that Johnson figures to pass Wayne as well, who is currently 7th all-time on the NFL career receptions list with 1,070 receptions.

It’s easy to forget how impressive Johnson has been during his 13 year NFL career, despite oftentimes suffering from inconsistent starting quarterback play with the Texans. He’s had one of the most decorated receiving careers in NFL history and should be Canton-bound for sure. For the 4x All-Pro and 7x Pro Bowler, all that’s seemingly left is winning an elusive Super Bowl championship.

While “receiving king” Jerry Rice appears safely out of reach with 1,549 career receptions, Johnson could potentially surpass Tony Gonzalez 2nd all-time 1,325 career receptions with 3 more productive seasons, who he trails by 313 catches. At the very least, it appears he should be topping Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time in NFL career receptions this season.

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Antrel Rolle posts Instagram message to ex-Giants teammate Jason Pierre-Paul

This is just a message so you all can take it however you want..... Many people worry about football, the money, all things that can be replaced in the blink of an eye. I am just happy that my boy has his health. This was a freakish accident that could have happened to anyone. Every year I do fire works for the kids in my family and some of the kids in the neighborhood. Have been doing it for 7 years strong already. So my point is this could have happened to anyone including myself. Sometimes trying to do a good deed can have the opposite affect as it did in this situation. My focus point here is health. As long as my boy and can go home and kiss his baby boy and pick his baby boy up whenever he wants is all that matters to me at this point. Everything else will take care of itself. This is just a bump in a road that I am sure he will hurdle in no time. Only the strong survive and you are that @iamjasonpierrepaul So go ahead and do what u have to do for yourself bruh. You already know I got your back no matter what just like you have always had mine. This is about a brotherhood that had developed over years! Many people are going to doubt, hate, speculate and that's all cool and they are well within their rights. But one thing they can't do is define who you are as a person and put a limit on your will and determination! So do you homeboy becuz the reals one will always be here no matter what. So like I said they can take this however they want to! #BandofBrothers

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Devin Hester's charitable efforts etched in childhood blessings

Devin Hester isn't looking for attaboy pats on the back. He's not posing as some sort of cleansing agent for the bad boys in the NFL. He stands on his own, far above the contentious fray embattling Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and others.

He spent his weekend surrounded by more than 600 kids, from ages 5 and up, talking not only about the fundamentals of football but the basics of life. It is his way of paying it forward. There are bigger plans on the horizon.

"I'm not here to look good," said Hester, who will begin his 10th year as an NFL player this season. "I'm not out to get publicity, but I don't mind it being put out there that it's something that comes from the heart."

If anyone was able to peek inside, they'd find a heart filled with compassion and the scars of a kid who grew up in Riviera Beach. His parents divorced when he was a toddler. A step-father filled the void, but Devin's biological father died just before he turned 10.

Hester stood on the precipice, oblivious to the meaning or implication of that word, but fortunate enough not to have the world betray him, as it would so many of his friends. He and his older brother were soul survivors. They got out alive, which cannot be said for a number of his buddies.

The village gathered around the brothers to protect them: his mother, a church pastor to this day; Demetrius Thompson, who inspired him to stay in school and pursue his love of sports; and all the people and friends at the local Boys & Girls Club, who showed him a better way, away from the streets.

Hester rose way above the usual expectations, becoming a star at the University of Miami, followed by a fabulous sprint toward NFL fame. Now with his second team, the Atlanta Falcons, Hester holds the league record for touchdown returns (punt and kick combined) and most punt-return touchdowns.

But he also knows that speed and fame are fleeting. So there is Plan B. Or maybe it's Plan A. Life after the NFL. It's coming. He knows it. He refuses to be blindsided, like so many others who have crossed that path.

Hester, who has lived with his wife, Zingha, and two sons in Windermere for the last three years, wants to build a Boys & Girls Club in the community or surrounding area, whether it's Winter Garden or the Dr. Phillips neighborhood. It's more than holding up a big cardboard check with a bunch of zeros on it and putting his name up in lights. He wants to be involved and show up for work three to four times a week.

He drives back and forth to his home every day and is saddened by the view. He doesn't see any kids playing tag, climbing on trees, riding bicycles. He assumes they all are inside, zombies obsessed with video games.

He wants to show his boys, Devin Jr. and Dray, what he had:

Meet new friends. Interact with all cultures. Play active games.

"A lot of kids today don't even know how to play with other kids," Hester said.

The club is a vision on the horizon, and then there's the reality: steps along the way. He welcomed hundreds of kids, from 5 to 15, at Olympia High School for his one-day camp on Saturday. They came from Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and other youth organizations.

It's all under the big umbrella of the Devin Hester Foundation. It would be wrong to mistake this as Hester's rainy-day plan for life after football.

It's all about sunny skies for every kid on the block. It's about remembering where you came from and honoring those who helped you along the way.

Once you look past the big check and the marquee name in lights, you will see a grateful boy paying it forward. Don't be surprised if he shakes your hand as you walk through the door one day.

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How Jimmy Gaines became a more controlled 'Ferrari'

When Jimmy Gaines first showed up at Proformance Sports Training in Amherst as a Canisius High School junior, his raw numbers were "off the chart," trainer John Opfer said.

He could get A to B as fast as anybody Opfer has seen at that size, be it at the high school, college or pro level.

"But his body control," Opfer said, "was absolutely atrocious. As soon as he had to change direction on somebody, he had so much momentum going one way and no body control of a first, second and third gear in his engine. He was like a missile. If he hits you, watch out. But if he misses, he might take somebody else.”

Fast forward to today and Opfer sees an explosive athlete who starred at Miami (Fla.) and is now ready for Sundays.

As he detailed in Friday's paper, Gaines believes his smarts, his ability to take total control of a defense could be the difference. The second-year undrafted linebacker will try to make his hometown team this training camp.

And here at Northtown Center in Amherst, with Opfer, is where he transformed his body to reach this point.

“I told him he was a like a Ferrari engine with one flat tire," said Opfer, who also works with former UB stars Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver. "What an unbelievable raw ability and desire to be great. Those are the two things I can say about Jimmy Gaines. Raw talent, his God-given talent was through the roof. But his willingness to work compared to guys I’ve had, and their talent, it’s just not even close.

“I would honestly rank Jimmy’s work ethic up there with any of those guys. Bo Oliver, probably, in my mind as far as work ethic is hand in hand with Jimmy. ... Those guys realize how close they are to exploding in the NFL, so they refuse to let it slip through their hands.”

While Gaines' pre-draft workout numbers didn't dazzle, Opfer believes the 4.70 time in the 40-yard dash can be deceiving.

For his job, moving in 10-yard spurts, Gaines is as fast as Mack, who pulled a 4.47 at his pro day.

"When you put that into perspective — the ground he’s covering — four, five steps it’s insurmountable," Opfer said. "The problem is when you deal with guys who have that kind of stature, if you look at the frame on him, he’s packed. He’s dense. So when you deal with guys like that, typically they break apart after 12-15 yards, they’re not strong enough in their little muscles to keep up with what their big muscles are generating. So that’s the secret with Jimmy we’ve been working on in the off-season. We’re trying to get all those small muscles that haven’t had to do anything to support these muscles so that the power output is as efficient as possible."

A strong core has always been a focus with these two. That helped him control his explosion.

And this off-season, Opfer is making Gaines use his mind during drills.

Between exhausting reps in the weight room, on the field, wherever, the trainer will ask "What are you thinking on third and 4?" It's all part of playing fast in what promises to be a complicated Rex Ryan defense. Soon, Gaines will be gunning for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"I want him to be able to understand that game," Opfer said. "It’s so fast. So he has to think as fast as he’s able to move. Above and beyond that, we’re fine-tuning his speed for not just forward but multi-directional as possible. I’m trying to help him be a stop-start guy at any angle and absolutely shut down an offense.”

"Sometimes guys go and you say they’re a perfect fit and they get there and they’ve got two other guys they got in free agency that play another position and you’re now a practice dummy, a guy who won’t make it out of camp. So my thing with Jimmy is, ‘as long as you get a fair handshake, we’re going to be prepared to make a splash.’ I don’t think any different.”

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Ryan Braun shines

Milwaukee right-fielder Ryan Braun, who was booed during the pregame introductions, pinch hit to lead off the ninth. He tripled to right off Minnesota's Glen Perkins and scored on Brandon Crawford's sacrifice fly.

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Peter O'Brien finishes 2nd in Triple-A home run derby

Diamondbacks' farmhand Peter O'Brien's already legendary power wowed the crowd in Monday night's Triple-A Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb., but it wasn't enough to bring home the grand prize.

O'Brien, an outfielder for the Reno Aces, hit 13 home runs in the first round of the competition -- the most prolific display of the night -- but he had just seven in the next two rounds and finished second to Orioles' prospect Dariel Alvarez, an outfielder for Norfolk.

Alvarez hit six home runs in the final round to finish with 21 on the night. O'Brien hit five in the final round but came up short on his final four swings.

Jamie Romak, O'Brien's teammate at Reno, finished third. He belted three homers in the first round and 10 in the second.

The competition also included Indians minor-leaguer Jesus Aguilar, White Sox minor-leaguer Matt Davidson and Padres minor-leaguer Cody Decker in addition to a pair of high school sluggers from the Nebraska area: Alex Bohm and Jack Kalina.

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Padres blew it with Yasmani Grandal

LOS ANGELES — Before we get to the quote, let's make clear that Yasmani Grandal looks back on his time with the Padres fondly.

He has friends in San Diego he still roots for. He exudes gratitude toward the organization that birthed his Major League career. He said he would have loved to have represented the Pads in the All-Star Game like he will the Dodgers on Tuesday.

But when asked about his old club's pitching philosophy, Grandal couldn't help but speak his mind.

"(Stuff) comes back to bite you in the (behind)," he said.

Sorry about the parentheses. Family newspaper. You can probably fill in the blanks, though.

Grandal spent his final season in San Diego as an untrusted catcher whose offensive talents were minimized. He started just 67 games behind the plate and, consequently, struggled to find his swing.

Andrew Cashner didn't pitch to him at all. Tyson Ross permanently switched to Rene Rivera in late June, then Ian Kennedy did the same in mid-July.

Granted, the latter pair each had slightly more success with Rivera than Grandal, and Rivera was just as effective in the batter's box. But in retrospect, the Padres' reluctance to use Yasmani every day may have been like repeatedly taking the popcorn kernels out of the microwave just before they were going to pop.

In 128 games last year — many of which he entered midway through the contest — Grandal hit .225 with 15 home runs. Through the first 67 games of this year — 65 of which he started — Grandal was hitting .278 with 14 home runs.

Yasmani said he he would have been more consistent with his bat if he were a regular part of the Padres' lineup, but he never approached then-manager Bud Black about it. He didn't talk to Cashner, Ross or Kennedy about his behind-the-plate banishment, either, although he has a pretty good idea of why it happened.

Despite the general San Diego approach being to throw down and away, Grandal thought the power pitchers should be throwing inside in the early part of the count before using the outer half of the plate to record the out. But the veteran hurlers weren't catching his drift, and as a result, he wasn't catching their pitches.

Of course, it may have gone beyond mere strategical disagreements. Grandal served a 50-game PED suspension in 2013, which, according to reports he would get, cost him much of the Padres' clubhouse.

He stayed positive, though. After last season, Grandal texted Cashner, Ross, Kennedy, Odrisamer Despaigne and Yangervis Solarte among others to see how he could improve his relationship with his teammates.Only Ross responded.

A few weeks later, Yasmani was part of a package shipped to the Dodgers in exchange for Matt Kemp. And while he didn't know it at the time, it was the best day of Grandal's career.

Heading into Friday's game against the Brewers, Grandal had more home runs and a better slugging percentage than any catcher in the National League. And in addition to upping his caught-stealing percentage from 13 percent last year to 26 percent this year, he also is the second-best pitch framer in baseball, according to

Perhaps that's why Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have no issue throwing to Yasmani. In fact, Greinke praised Grandal's consistency in calling his strengths after extending his scoreless-inning streak to 35.1 innings Thursday.

The cumulative effect has been Yasmani being selected to his first All-Star game after two disappointing seasons in San Diego, all the while batting clean-up for a first-place team.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been," said Grandal, adding that Kennedy was the only current Padre to congratulate him on his All-Star selection.

Don't think Yasmani doesn't pay attention to the Padres, though. After the hitters they added to the lineup this offseason, he expected his former team to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West crown.

San Diego's pitching, however, has disappointed, and Grandal can't help but wonder if that would be the case had his advice been heeded.

It wasn't, though. Didn't seem anybody wanted to hear what he had to say.

And now, one year later, Grandal's new team isn't hearing the Padres' footsteps.

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Ryan Braun named to National League all-star team

Los Angeles — Ryan Braun's plans for the all-star break changed quickly and dramatically on Sunday.

Now, instead of remaining home in the Los Angeles area and spending time with family and friends, the Milwaukee Brewers rightfielder will be traveling to Cincinnati to take part in his sixth All-Star Game, which is Tuesday night.

Braun was named as a replacement for the injured Matt Holliday by National League manager Bruce Bochy.

"It's a good problem to have," said Braun with a smile minutes before the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Braun homered in his first at-bat and finished the day 2 for 4.

"Logistically it makes things a little more challenging with a 10-month-old baby, but a good problem to have. A tremendous honor to have an opportunity to go to the All-Star Game again.

"It's something I'm really proud of. It's something that's extremely difficult to do, and I'm really looking forward to it."

Holliday has been out with a right quadriceps strain since June 8, and Braun admitted the news he'd take Holliday's place surprised him a bit.

"Obviously when guys get hurt you know there's an opportunity, potentially," he said. "I had a decent first half — certainly deserving of at least being in the conversation. When guys get hurt, ultimately it isn't the way you want to end up in the All-Star Game, but it's a tremendous honor to be there nonetheless."

Manager Craig Counsell believes Braun was well-deserving of the honor.

"I'm thrilled for him," he said. "Six All-Star Games is pretty incredible. I know it means a lot to him."

It will be the first time Braun will participate in MLB's midsummer classic since 2012. That year he was voted in as a starter, and eventually he finished as runner-up to Buster Posey for NL MVP after hitting .319 with 41 homers and 112 RBI.

Braun was suspended for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Last year, he posted career lows with a .266 average, 19 homers and 81 RBI while dealing with a nerve issue in his right thumb.

"I don't think about things in those terms," Braun said of making it back to the All-Star Game after being suspended.

"I recognize how difficult it is to have an the fact that I get to go is definitely something that's special.

"I just found out a little while ago, so I haven't really had too much time to reflect on it yet."

Braun has had two cryotherapy injections in his thumb since last season, and he's bounced back nicely to hit .275 with 16 homers and 56 RBI while also stealing 15 bases in 84 games this season.

He's also one of five players in the majors to have at least 15 homers and 10 stolen bases.

"It's been a little challenging just getting back to a consistent place mechanically," Braun said. "Obviously I've deal with a lot with the thumb over the last year and a half, just trying to get my swing and bat path back to where I expect them to be.

"But over the past couple months I feel like I've been a lot better, a lot more consistent. Certainly a lot of room for growth, a lot of room for improvement, and I expect to be better moving forward. But overall, the last couple months have been pretty good."

Added Counsell: "I think he's been really good for a while now. It's not the same every day, but he's a force in the middle of the lineup."

Braun joins closer Francisco Rodriguez on the NL team, giving the Brewers multiple all-stars for the third consecutive season.

In four career All-Star Games — Braun didn't play in 2011 in Arizona due to injury — Braun has hit .200 (2 for 10) with a double, triple, RBI and run scored.
Braun's six All-Star Game nods rank him first in franchise history. Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper each earned five during their time in Milwaukee.

"I think as you get older you have greater perspective on just how difficult it is to make one all-star team, let alone multiple all-star teams," he said. "You look around the league now and it's really dominated by young players.

"Looking back, first All-Star Game was 2008. To be going back to another All-Star Game in 2015 is certainly something I cherish."

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Randal Hill on Running For Congress: ‘I’m Gonna Win'

Randal “Thrill” Hill holds quite the diverse resume for a retired football legend.

After the electric wideout departed the University of Miami as a national champion, he played professionally and then became a federal agent for the Department of Homeland Security.

Now he’s running for congress for Florida’s District 24.

“[The interest has] always been there but we kind of kept in a box only to really talk about sports,” Hill said of his interest in politics on the Marc Hochman Show with Zach Krantz. “People who’ve known me know that I’ve tried to be politically astute and I I’ve set forth goals in my life. For example, I’ve always wanted to play professional sports. Done. I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. Done. I’ve always wanted to be a federal agent, kind of like Jason Bourne. Done. And now I want to go to the last chapter of my life and go into politics.

“When you have guys who are hyperactive, in tune with the community and want to give back to the community, it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen. And it’s gonna happen now because I’m gonna win.”

Hill will run against Rep. Frederica Wilson.

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Train Like A #proCane

#proCane #Bears P Pat O’Donnell and S Antrel Rolle workout at #TheU

#UFam #BearDown

A photo posted by Pat O'Donnell (@patodonnell_16) on

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Shane Larkin says Knicks triangle wasn't a good fit for him

After struggling last season with the Knicks, Shane Larkin is hoping a different system and borough will rejuvenate a career that he believes was stalled by Phil Jackson’s triangle.

“(The triangle) just wasn’t the best fit for me,” Larkin said. “It’s a good system but I’m a pick-and-roll point guard. That’s how I got in the NBA, playing pick-and-roll in college. That’s how I got here and now being back in a system where I can play the pick-and-roll and just getting in the lane, create for others, shoot my floater, and do a bunch of other things.”

Larkin was introduced Thursday as Brooklyn’s new point guard, signing a two-year, $3 million deal to play alongside Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. Where he fits in the rotation is still up in the air, considering the Nets have four point guards on the roster and it’s not clear who will stick around before training camp.

Larkin, 22, who is on his third NBA team in three seasons, acknowledged that he’s motivated to avoid a journeyman’s career, that he wants to stick around in Brooklyn beyond his contract. The former 18th overall pick out of the University of Miami averaged 6.2 points and three assists last season, leading the 17-win Knicks in minutes played.

“My rookie year (in Dallas), coming off an injury, I broke my ankle, miss the first 20 games. Last year, being in a system where it wasn’t really a fit,” said the son of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. “I feel like this year I can really go out there and be in the pick-and-roll, be in my comfort zone.

“I’m not talking bad about (the triangle),” Larkin clarified, “I just want to get that out there. It’s a great offense. I wish them nothing but the best.”

The three other point guards on Brooklyn’s roster have considerable more experience than Larkin – Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake. But Williams and Jack are on the trading block as GM Billy King attempts to cut salary.

A source told the Daily News that the Nets are still deciding whether to keep Steve Blake, who was acquired in a trade last month with Portland and is a buyout candidate.

“I know we have a lot of guys at the point guard position. That’ll be resolved hopefully in the next month, eliminate, so hopefully we won’t have as many going to camp,” King said.

Larkin isn’t going anywhere.

“The one thing he’s still young. He came out (of college) early,” King said. “And we just said we want to get back to how you played in Miami – allowing you to be a leader on the floor, run the pick-and-roll, get up and down the court. That was the pitch to him.”

The Knicks did not try to re-sign Larkin, who was acquired from the Mavericks before last season.

“I talked to Billy (King) at 12 midnight, the first minute we could talk,” Larkin said. “I knew they had strong interest. I had some other teams that called but he was the only other GM that called at that time of night and express that type of interest. So just for him to do that showed me that they wanted me here. That was enough for me.” 

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