Blazers: Will Jones Start In Portland?

The Portland Trail Blazers kept the red carpet rolled out today as they introduced James Jones as the latest addition to a revamped Blazers roster.

Jones was acquired from Phoenix along with the draft rights to Rudy
Fernandez in exchange for cash considerations and the acquisition was finalized on July 11. The Jones-to-Portland rumor circulated back on draft night and become reality as Jones was introduced to the local media at the Rose Garden this morning.

Jones, 26, averaged 6.4 points and 2.3 rebounds with a .368 shooting percentage from beyond the arc in 2006-07, his second season with the Suns. He now becomes an elder statesman and a team full of young guns.

“I’m coming from a team where guys are 29, 30. And now I’m one of the older guys on the team," Jones said at today's press conference.

Blazers take shot with Jones

PORTLAND — The puzzle the Portland Trail Blazers have been putting together all summer is one step closer to completion.

The Blazers held a press conference Thursday morning at the Rose Garden to announce the signing of small forward James Jones.

Portland expects Jones — who was acquired along with the draft rights to Rudy Fernandez in a draft-day trade on July 11 with the Phoenix Suns — to immediately provide an outside shooting threat and playoff experience to a young, inexperienced team.

“(Jones) is off the charts in terms of what he brings to the court. He’s gonna compete for playing time,” said Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard. “We know who he is. He’s great. He’s coachable. He’s a guy who’s willing to play.”

Ray Lewis to host radio show during football season

Baltimore Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis has never been shy with words.

So it only seemed like a natural fit that the 12-year veteran would one day host his own radio show. Lewis will take to the airwaves for a weekly radio show every Monday night throughout the upcoming football season.

"The Ray Lewis Show" will simulcast on CBS Radio's 105.7 WHFS-FM and ESPN Radio 1300 AM. Lewis' Canton restaurant, Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que, will be the site of the broadcast.

ESPN 1300's Anita Marks will co-host the program.

Lewis was MVP of the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants.

Firecats Benton Mr. 1000

Estero, FL- Florida Firecats receiver Magic Benton became the arenafootball2’s 1st player to score 1000 career points in their 55-44 win over the Alabama Steeldogs.
Benton began the night with 996 points and quickly set the milestone scoring on Florida’s opening drive of the ball game. He finished the night with 5 receptions for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“The records are nice but I’d rather have another championship,” said Benton about the milestone. “When I am done playing it will be nice to look back at my accomplishments but for now I’m just focusing on the next game.”
In 15 games this year Magic has caught 111 passes for 1,552 yards and 27 TD’s. His 1,552 yards currently rank him 4th in the af2 this year. 
Benton is the league and Firecats’ most prolific receiver holding records for receptions (578), receiving yards (7,683), and touchdown receptions (163). He is the only player to have played with the Firecats since their inaugural season in 2001, starting in Florida’s 1st game.


Face in a new place: Willis McGahee

Adversity is Willis McGahee's friend.

Strike that -- companion is a better word. Adversity is Willis McGahee's companion. Yep, that works better. Remember the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? McGahee, the best running back in college football, was about to lead his Miami Hurricanes to another national championship and was a lock to be a top five pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

But upstart Ohio State derailed the Hurricanes' back-to-back hopes, and an ugly fourth quarter knee injury turned McGahee's NFL dreams into a nightmare. So, yeah, McGahee knows a bit about having to overcome adversity.

Baraka Atkins Update

Baraka Atkins. The fourth-round defensive end also played defensive tackle at Miami, but he looks more like a rangy edge-rush guy. Some of his numbers are very impressive; at 6-4, 271, he has been clocked in 4.69 in the 40. Early impression based on very limited evidence: If he turns out to be a high-motor guy, he might really be a steal. But I’ll be interested to see if he revs it up when camp starts.

Chances: Atkins walks into a spot without great depth, and is listed as the No. 2 left defensive end behind Patrick Kerney.


Testaverde says he's returning for 21st season

Although there has been no confirmation from New England officials, quarterback Vinny Testaverde said during a national radio appearance Friday that he will sign with the Patriots during training camp, and return to the NFL for a 21st season.

Testaverde, 43, signed a one-year contract with the Patriots last November and played in three games, completing two of three passes for 29 yards, with one touchdown pass and no interceptions. He has spent this spring and summer as an unrestricted free agent, but took part in the Pats' passing camps and in the three-day minicamp last month.

"After two-a-days are over, I'll go back and sign my contract," Testaverde told Sporting News Radio. "I'll wait until then."

If a deal is consummated, it would likely be a one-year contract for the minimum base salary of $820,000, and it would come as no surprise. Coach Bill Belichick, who is on vacation, is an admirer of Testaverde, and the team has maintained his locker in the offseason.

Pat burrell Update

The resurgent Pat Burrell (.452/.571/.871 in 40 July plate appearances) hit the 200th homer of his career. He's now seventh on the team's all-time HR list, and a scant week after multiple calls for his outright release Burrell has his season OPS up to .826.


Steelers' Barlow Vs. Davenport: A RB Comparison

It may not be Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader, but a battle is being waged for the Steelers number two running back position behind starter Willie Parker. Seven year veteran Kevan Barlow and sixth year pro Najeh Davenport are competing for the role of Parker's primary back up and the loser may find himself in the NFL unemployment come September.

Kevan Barlow has been living off his performance in the 2003 season for the last three years but has failed to reach the same level of statistical success ever again. In that year he averaged 5.1 yards per carry, scored six touchdowns and rushed for 1,024 yards while only starting four games. Barlow also caught 35 passes for 307 yards and another score and showed versatility that many thought would cement him as the 49ers starter for years to come.

But over the next two seasons as the feature back Barlow's production decreased significantly. On 420 carries in 2004 and 2005, Barlow averaged only 3.3 yards per carry after averaging 4.6 on 471 carries from 2001 to 2003 and generally looked worn down and out of sync with the rest of the Niners offense. The offensive line received most of the blame for this, but with the emergence of Frank Gore in 2005 and his success running behind the same offensive line (4.8 yards per carry vs. Barlow's 3.3) Barlow essentially punched his ticket out of town and was traded to the New York Jets prior to the start of the '06 season.

Vernon Carey Update

Carey is the best offensive lineman on the roster. Last year, he really emerged as a bright young player and proved to everyone that he was worthy of a first-round draft pick. Of course, that breakout happened while starting at right tackle. This year, he will be switching over to the most important position on the line - left tackle. That's also the most difficult and demanding position on the line. Early in his career, he saw time at LT but didn't show the confidence or physical skills necessary to excel there. This offseason he seems to have regained the confidence to take on the LT position. There he will be charged with protecting the blind side of Trent Green. I would have liked to see Carey remain at RT where he played so well, but the team simply doesn't have another adequate option to start at LT. Anthony Alabi was given a shot, but he went down with an injury. This means that if Carey is forced to miss time, the team could be in serious trouble. I think that Carey has the ability to play LT well, although I'm afraid that he isn't going to receive the support that he will need. By that I am referring to the left guard position, which is the weakest point on the line and perhaps the weakest position on the entire team. Whether he's playing next to a very average (at best) Chris Liwienski or a very green Drew Mormino, Carey truly is going to be alone on an island. That is going to make it very easy for teams to line up their top pass rushers over Carey and let them go wild on the QB. Training camp is going to be the first step in showing that Carey has the ability to go out on an island and take care of his assigned man in space - and he will have the perfect opponent to practice against: Jason Taylor.


DJ Williams Update

HT.: 6-1 - WT.: 242
EXP.: 4 - CAREER GP: 48 (3 postseason)

Moving to middle linebacker after playing two seasons on the strong side and his rookie year on the weak side ... Not only is he expected to play more in his new position, but he will have greater responsibility for making calls in the huddle. "In the past years at 'sam' linebacker, I didn't have much responsibility that was verbal," Williams said. "I kind of gave down and distance, things like that. But now the 'mike' linebacker is kind of leading the whole huddle." ... "He's done a good job right from the start," Bates said. "He's hitting it with both barrels loaded, and we're fired up with him." ... Has never missed a game as a pro.


Nate Webster Update

HT.: 6-0 WT.: 237
EXP.: 8 - CAREER GP: 70 (5 postseason)

Played in three games in 2006, starting two -- one at weakside linebacker (Oakland) and the season finale against San Francisco at middle linebacker ... Focused on middle-linebacking duties at OTAs, but could potentially swing to one of the outside spots. "In our scheme of things, with most of the athletes we have, their ability level will allow them to play more than one position and we will look for the best combination," Bates said during OTAs.


Reaching new Hites

Attentive basketball fans might have noticed an unusual name gracing a roster in the Orlando NBA summer league this past week. No, it wasn’t the return of Celtics’ draft bust Kedrick Brown (may Allah curse his name). The name in question was Robert Hite, formerly of the Miami Heat and patron saint of Faulty Sports Arrests.

Hite, who was then on the Nets’ summer roster and might yet make someone’s team, was arrested earlier this year for a DUI while a member of the Miami squad, and was promptly kicked off the team by Pat Riley, despite playing well in a few regular-season games. But tests later showed that Hite was not in fact intoxicated, that his blood alcohol was well within the legal limit, and that he was unfairly held by police. Unfortunately, this little-known player missed a Heat game against the Mavericks because of the arrest, and his subsequent dismissal forced him to spend the rest of the year with Sioux City, of the NBDL.

Hite had an interesting quote about his fate when he resurfaced as a Net in Orlando. “No hard feelings at all,” he said. “It’s the business of the NBA.”

Getting kicked off the team for a DUI is the business of the NBA? Maybe that is true, if you only averaged 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.


Jimerson, Jaxx take down Mobile

(Mobile, AL) July 18th- The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx jumped out to an early lead and held off a Mobile rally to defeat the BayBears 5-4 in game two of the five game series from Hank Aaron Stadium. The win was the Diamond Jaxx second in a row over Mobile.

Charlton Jimerson slugged a two run homer in the first inning off losing pitcher Matt Green (9-5) to give the Diamond Jaxx the early lead. The home run was Jimerson's seventeenth of the season and extended his hitting streak to fourteen straight games. The Diamond Jaxx scored single runs in the second and fourth innings to take a 4-0 lead. That was enough for Jaxx starter Doug Fister (3-7). Fister broke a personal five game losing streak as the right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings of work. Jose De la Cruz pitched the final two innings to pick up his second save of the season. Jimerson and Casey Craig led the Diamond Jaxx offense with two hits and two RBI's each, while Rene Rivera had three hits and a run driven in to help lead the Diamond Jaxx ten hit attack.

Cesar Nicolas and Rusty Ryal both homered for the BayBears in a losing effort. Nicolas went 2-3 with a homer and two RBI's, Emilio Bonifacio had three hits and a run scored and Chris Rahl had two hits to help lead the Mobile eleven hit attack.

Ryan Braun Update

This just in: Ryan Braun is really good. He's led the Majors in both HR and RBI as the top-ranked player in the Yahoo! game over the past month. The 23-year-old rookie now has 14 HR and 38 RBI in 176 at bats – among players with at least 100 AB, his AB/HR of 12.6 is seventh in the league, and his AB/RBI of 4.6 is good for 16th.


Pat Burrell Update

Pat Burrell: On the Top 10 leaderboard, his name isn't listed. But guess who is No. 11 in the NL in on-base percentage? Pat Burrell, who is getting on base more than Lance Berkman, Jose Reyes or Matt Holliday, a current MVP contender. Hard to fathom for a guy who hit .129 in June. But check the walks: Burrell has already drawn 62 base on balls, which puts him on pace to shatter his career high of 98 in 2005.

Burrell should still be on his way out, though who knows if general manager Pat Gillick can get anyone to take him. Yet for all the flak he's gotten this year, he has hardly been a black hole in the lineup (though he hasn't been a source of power either, the same charges levied against Bobby Abreu in the past for taking too many walks). And with Burrell hitting .458 this month, there just might be signs of life.


Cardinals' James set to do 'business'

Football is coming, and change is in the air. Edgerrin James has even ditched the gold teeth.

"It was time to take them out," the Cardinals running back said. "I had them for a long time, but I took off my mask. Now the real 'Business Edge' will surface."

Rejoice, Cardinals fans.

Even if his smile no longer is capable of blinding innocent bystanders, your starting running back is happier than he has been in months. Even after enduring the year from Hades, in which his game turned pedestrian and his ex-teammates won a Super Bowl.

And if you didn't notice, new salt keeps pouring into old wounds. This time, another Colts player not named James just hit the jackpot. This time, it was defensive end Dwight Freeney, who snagged a $30 million signing bonus from Indianapolis.

It must hurt to be so not missed.

"Man, I am so over that," James said. "When the Super Bowl was done, we were all hanging out again. They know I was a part of what they did. They know I helped build what they became. And all throughout the year, (Colts running back Joseph) Addai and I became really close friends. He was calling me for advice like every day, all day long."

Pat's bat showing some signs of life

LOS ANGELES - In June, last night's game was exactly the kind that Pat Burrell would be watching from the bench.

Burrell was 3-for-18 against Dodgers ace Brad Penny, dating back through 2003.

Burrell slumped mightily from June 8 through the month's end: 4-for-41 - that's .098 - with one homer and six RBI. After a 2-for-22 skid from June 8-16, Phillies games largely became a spectator sport for Burrell. He was benched for nine of 13 games. He finished June hitting .203 for the season.

Then came July and, with it, a fresh chance from manager Charlie Manuel. Burrell responded: 11-for-24, three homers, 10 RBI entering last night, when Burrell started for the ninth time in 12 games and for the fifth game in a row.

Braun, Bush lead Brewers past D-Backs

MILWAUKEE—Corey Hart and Ryan Braun homered, Dave Bush pitched six strong innings and the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 on Monday night.

Hart started the Brewers' first by hitting Micah Owings' second pitch deep to left-center for his 13th home run, tying the game. J.J. Hardy followed with a single and Braun, the next batter, hit his 14th homer for a 3-1 lead.

Diamondbacks leadoff batter Chris Young also hit a leadoff homer, the first time two leadoff men have homered in the same game since April 23 when Houston's Craig Biggio and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins did it.

The Brewers won their third straight and remained 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.

The Diamondbacks lost their season-high sixth straight on the road. They've lost nine of their last 10 away from Phoenix.

First-round pick Meriweather looking to get deal done before camp

With negotiations slated to pick up this week, New England Patriots first-round draft pick Brandon Meriweather expects to have a deal done in time for training camp, which opens July 27, his agent said Saturday.

"We are about to start a real substantive discussion," Meriweather's agent Joby Branion, a Wareham native, told The Standard-Times. "I intend to talk with their (front office) in the coming week. I don't see any reason why we wouldn't be able to get a deal done that makes both sides happy."

The Patriots signed seventh-round draft pick Oscar Lua, a linebacker out of USC, to a four-year contract this weekend according to Branion, who also represents Lua. Based on reports, the Pats have now signed four of their nine selections.

Santana Moss fears no broken plays

A while back I drew reader(s) attention towards a new series on Football Outsiders where they exhaustively break down individual plays. They covered a Redskins/Titans play that yielded good yardage and a first down... for the Titans. FO's Mike Tanier must have a vendetta crush on the Redskins, as his newest installment returns to the Redskins/Titans game, this time with the good guys on offense. The setup:

The typical full-house package includes several running plays, some six- or seven-man protection passes, and a few wrinkles on basic pass plays. Today, we are going to install something a little more exotic: an end around from a full-house formation. This play was used by the Redskins against the Titans in Week 6. The play only yielded a minimal gain, so we will examine ways to improve it after we look at what actually happened on the field.

The situation: First-and-10, first quarter, Redskins trailing by three points. The Redskins deploy a three-receiver, single-back, single-tight end personnel package, but they align in a full house formation with Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El at "fullback."

The article has helpful diagrams if this isn't making a whole lot of sense. What you'd see is Chris Cooley, Randle-El, and Portis in the backfield, with Moss lined up close to the O-line on the right and Brandon Lloyd wide on the left. The play involves Moss faking a block and taking the ball in a handoff towards the left sideline. It relies on subterfuge, as Randle-El has to sell a play fake to him running to the right. What happens?

Burrell looks to have found stroke

PHILADELPHIA -- As he walked to the dugout after being lifted for a pinch-runner in the sixth inning Saturday, Pat Burrell earned a warm ovation from a sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

That's what three hits and four RBIs will get you.

The maligned Phillies left fielder continued to break out of his 212-month slump by going 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth, raising his average 10 points to .227.

In his past seven games, Burrell is 10-for-19 (.526) with three homers and 10 RBIs and has hiked his average from a season-low .201.

"He's not a .200 hitter," right fielder Shane Victorino said. "Everyone in their right mind would wait for him to come around. Right now, he's turning his season around."

Magic Benton Update

The Firecats' Magic Benton scored his 1,000th point in the first quarter of last week's game against the Alabama Steeldogs game, making him the first player in the history of the af2 to do so.


Time to send Burrell packing

Turns out, there are a few members of the Phillies' ownership group who are not, in fact, invisible, and one of them was walking down a hallway in Citizens Bank Park not long ago.

Suddenly, David Montgomery stopped when asked a question about the team's payroll, incredulous at the suggestion the Phillies don't do all they can in pursuit of a championship.

“Freddy was not adding to the payroll?” said Montgomery, the team president.

He was talking, of course, about the $10 million the Phillies will pay pitcher Freddy Garcia this season to do two things: pitch poorly, and not pitch at all. And yes, the trade for Garcia did marginally add to the Phillies' payroll. The franchise paid its 2006 Opening Day roster roughly $88.2 million and its 2007 Opening Day roster roughly $89.4 million.

Piazza ponders a trade

A's designated hitter Mike Piazza, launching a rehabilitation assignment with the River Cats, singled twice in five at-bats Friday night as Sacramento lost 8-1 to the Portland Beavers at Raley Field, ending its six-game winning streak.

Piazza's Sacramento stay is scheduled to last through the final two games of the series today and Sunday. He expects to shift to Class-A Stockton next week while the River Cats are on the road.

After that? Well, the 12-time All-Star said he is eager to return to the A's but wouldn't be surprised if he winds up with another team before the July 31 trading deadline.

Guillermo Diaz Update

Guillermo Diaz has struggled with his shot this summer.  He's 14 for 44 in 4 games (32%) which does not bode well for his odds of making the team as a combo guard.  He'll have another chance to prove himself in camp in October, but he's got to be feeling the pressure at this point.