02 September 2012

Week 1 NFLU proCane Matchups

Week 1 NFL U Matchups 2012 -2

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Full Updated proCane Rosters - Week 1 2012

NFL U Rosters 9.9.12

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Steelers will sign DeMarcus Van Dyke

The fastest man at the 2011 combine is going to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.

PFT has learned that the Steelers will sign cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Van Dyke was waived by the Raiders on Monday when they signed veteran corner Joselio Hanson.

Van Dyke, who passed through waivers unclaimed, ran a 4.28 40 at last year’s Scouting Combine. That helped him become a third-round pick of the Raiders, who were never shy about picking up players who could run like the wind.

As they say, you can’t teach speed. Van Dyke’s problem is that he sometimes made it look like he couldn’t be taught cornerback either. He was part of a Raiders cornerback corps that allowed opponents 251 yards per game through the air. None of the five cornerbacks who saw extensive time for the Raiders last season are still with the team, with Van Dyke helping to author his own pink slip with a rough night in a preseason game against Arizona.

Still, he’s got that speed and he’s 6’1″, which is a combination that makes football people try to make it all work out. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis are set as the starters in Pittsburgh, with Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown in reserve. Van Dyke will try to work his way into the rotation while working with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and other Steelers coaches try to put his impressive physical tools to better use on the field.

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Kellen Winslow didn't fail physical

Free-agent tight end Kellen Winslow did not fail his physical with the New England Patriots, as has been reported, according to two league sources. The Patriots were aware of the questions about his knees, but they did not fail him on his physical.

Winslow was released by the Seahawks last Saturday. The team originally acquired him in a trade with Tampa Bay in May.

Winslow has a base salary of $3.3 million for the 2012 season, which would have been guaranteed if he was on the roster for the season opener.

The Patriots did make moves at tight end on Wednesday, signing veteran free agent Michael Hoomanawanui and placing Visanthe Shiancoe on injured reserve.

The Patriots also have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Daniel Fells filling tight end spots on the roster, so the interest in Winslow may have fallen into the "in case of emergency" category.

Winslow, 29, has caught 437 passes for 4,836 yards and 23 touchdowns in seven seasons and made the Pro Bowl while with the Browns in 2007. He caught 75 passes for 763 yards and two scores last season.

Hoomanawanui, who was released by the Rams on Sunday, had 20 catches in two seasons with the St. Louis.

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Doubters don't concern Ed Reed

An injury history that includes a nerve impingement in his neck and hip surgery and his back-and-forth commitment to playing for the Ravens this season have encouraged observers to question whether free safety Ed Reed is edging closer to retirement.

The eight-time Pro Bowler did little to silence the critics in the preseason when he made just one tackle. But Reed said his priority is preserving his health, not satisfying the doubters.

“When I make a tackle or make a play and I have a slight pain or something, you’re going to react the way you react,” he said Thursday. “I never came out of a game unless I was truly hurt. Me being on the ground, that’s on me and my mother. That’s not on anybody, no fans. My mom is at home watching that and she’s more worried than anybody – my biggest critics if you want to call them that. She doesn’t want me laying on the ground either. So I can care less what other people think about it. So long as I get up and I have my health and can finish the game and I still get the respect that I’ve earned throughout the league, that’s fine by me, and I’m sure it’s fine by my teammates. The injuries are what they are. When you’ve been playing the game for so long and sports for so long, it can take a toll on your body, and that’s what we’re putting on the line, and that’s what our argument is as players when we’re doing negotiations and stuff like that. This is not the time for that, but it is what it is.”

Reed finished 2011 with just three interceptions, the lowest total for a season in which he played all 16 games in his 11-year career. He did make an interception in an AFC divisional playoff win against the Houston Texans, but that snapped a stretch of six contests without an interception. Earlier, Reed had endured an eight-game drought.

Reed contended that opposing quarterbacks were avoiding him rather than risk potential turnovers. It will be interesting to see whether that pattern changes  this season if quarterbacks sense that they can go after Reed.

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Brandon Merriweather out 2-4 weeks

Safety Brandon Meriweather sprained two ligaments in his left knee and will miss two to four weeks, coach Mike Shanahan said per John Keim of the Washington Examiner.

Meriweather injured his knee in practice on Monday, hurting the medial collateral ligament and the posterior collateral ligament. Meriweather injured the same knee in the second preseason game vs. Chicago and missed the final two preseason games.

“He was fine until [Monday],” Shanahan said. “He was practicing 100 percent. It was a freak accident. …He feels more optimistic than that, but the doctors felt it would take time.”

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At 37, Ray Lewis must battle Father Time

Ray Lewis has done it all in his illustrious 17-year career for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s been selected to 13 Pro Bowls, named a first-team All-Pro seven times, won a Super Bowl, been named Super Bowl MVP and is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Now the 37-year-old Lewis is trying to defy Father Time.

After the Ravens’ gut-wrenching defeat to the New England Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship game, Lewis was eager about returning for the 2012 season, but there has to be questions about whether he will play beyond this year.

In an April 2011 interview with NFL Network’s Frank Tadych, Lewis said, “I can’t see myself playing football past 37.” Things changes, though.

But at some point, Lewis is going to have to hang up the pads. Nothing lasts forever. Recently, though, there haven’t been any indications that he will be calling it quits anytime soon.

He is under contract through the 2015 season, and the Ravens showed their faith in Lewis when they passed on drafting his eventual successor in April’s draft.
Lewis was his normal self and played like one of the best inside linebackers in the first half of 2011. Then, after missing four straight games (Week 11-14) with a turf toe injury, it was evident he lost a step. This offseason, the University of Miami product shed 15 pounds to get down to 240 pounds to try to retain his trademark sideline to sideline speed.

He’s been one of the league’s most reliable players. Lewis has played in 222 games, second-most among active players, trailing only Detroit Lions’ kicker Jason Hanson. He’s also the only holdover from the 1996 team (the Ravens’ first year in Baltimore). To put that in perspective, the second-longest tenured Raven is safety Ed Reed, who was drafted by Baltimore in 2002.

As Lewis continues to age, you really have to wonder whether 2012 will be his final rodeo. 

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Andre Johnson Entering 10th Season

HOUSTON (AP) — Andre Johnson got to make his NFL debut in his hometown when the Houston Texans opened the 2003 season in Miami.

Big underdogs, the Texans upset the Dolphins 21-20 that day and Johnson made six catches to begin what now seems to be a Hall of Fame career.

Houston opens with Miami again on Sunday, this time at Reliant Stadium. The Texans are the heavy favorites now and harbor Super Bowl aspirations, like the Dolphins did that year. But Johnson has seen too many bad things happen to the franchise to take anything for granted.

"You just can't get caught up in what people say," Johnson said. "When I think about this game, I think about my rookie year, when we went down there and played them and everybody was saying they were going to win the Super Bowl. We didn't have a chance. One article said it was going to be like a scrimmage game. We went out and beat them."

"You can't overlook anybody in this league," he said. "I know that and we know that as a team. We're going to go out there and play the way we know how to play. That's basically it."

Johnson is entering his 10th NFL season since Houston drafted him with the third overall pick. He's the only player on the roster who was here when Gary Kubiak became the coach in 2006, so he's been around for just about all of the Texans' darkest days.

But Johnson never lost faith, signing a contract extension before the 2010 season that could keep him here through 2016. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has nothing more to accomplish individually, and the only goal left is playing long enough to see the franchise win a championship.

"The window is not as big as it used to be," he said. "As time goes on, you definitely feel a sense of urgency, but it's nothing you really can rush. You just have to take care of the task at hand. I would love to win a Super Bowl before I hang up my cleats, but you know, it's not going to just take me. It's going to take everybody in that locker room to get it done. We all have the same goal in mind and we're going to do our best to try and accomplish it."

Johnson topped 1,500 yards receiving to lead the league in 2008 and '09. He played most of the 2010 season with a badly sprained right ankle, then missed nine games last season with hamstring injuries. He underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery in the spring and turned 31 in the summer, but he long ago tuned out talk about his durability.

"I said that coming into camp, that everybody is saying that I'm old and I probably can't play anymore and that I'm injury-prone," he said. "Things happen. That was out of my control. I can't control that. I can't control what happens. I think, as players, if we could control that, there wouldn't be any injuries. It happens and I move on from it."

He seemed to be back to his old form in his limited action in the preseason, making four catches, including a 43-yarder in which he wrestled possession away from two defenders.

"When I'm out on the field," he said, "as you see in preseason when I was able to play, I went out and made plays. People can say what they want. I really don't care."

The Texans are grooming undrafted free agent Lestar Jean and draft picks DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin as some of the franchise's receivers of the future. Johnson has been happy to mentor them during training camp, while he nursed some minor injuries.

The real games are here now, and Johnson is healthy and ready to return to what he does best.

"I think the older you get, the more ready you are to play games, just ready to hurry up and get the preseason games over with," he said. "You pretty much know what to expect. This is my 10th season, so you just want to get training camp out of the way. The real games are finally here. I'm excited about it and I'll be ready to go on Sunday."

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Willis McGahee has been exception to the rules

For an NFL running back, age is not just a number. It's often the bottom line. For Willis McGahee, however, it's just noise, like some dog barking through the screen door.

"I've heard all kinds of things for my whole career," McGahee said. "People think I'm too old. Some people say I'm too slow.

"I like for people to say I can't do something. I always have. I use it."

But what if history says the odds are against you?

McGahee is a 30-year-old running back who will turn 31 in mid-October. The NFL routinely spits out 30-something running backs like unwanted sunflower seeds. Spits out those who are Canton-bound, backups and most everybody else in between.

Most don't make it that far. Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell and Marshall Faulk played a combined seven seasons at age 30 or older, but did not finish with 1,000 yards rushing in any of those seven years. The recently retired LaDainian Tomlinson had no 1,000-yard seasons after his 30th birthday, though he played in 43 more games.

Then there's McGahee, already an exception to the rule. He says he's ready and willing to take the ball as many times as the Broncos will hand it to him.

"I expect to get some touches," McGahee said, looking forward to a season that begins Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be quite a few, I don't know if it's going to be 30, or 35 (a game), or anything like that, but I'll get my hands on the ball."

"Willis is Willis," said Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. "We're going to give him as many touches as he can handle."

McGahee tore three ligaments in his left knee in his final college game at Miami, the kind of injury that puts a question mark next to any NFL hopeful. He didn't play as a rookie in 2003, then went on to rush for 1,128 yards in his second year. He was an exception.

When the Broncos signed him as a 29-year-old veteran, set to enter his ninth season, some saw him as a complement at that stage of his career, a rotation player. Instead, he led the team in carries, rushing yards, made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement and uncorked the run he was perhaps most proud about. It was a 60-yard touchdown sprint against the Raiders when he outran Oakland's speedy secondary.

By season's end he was a 30-year-old running back with 1,199 yards rushing on 4.8 yards per carry — his third-highest season total with his second-best yards per carry.

"McGahee is a stud of a runner," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "He's very talented. He's a very physical player, a combative player, one that we respect."

Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton each had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons after they turned 30. Curtis Martin had two, including an NFL rushing crown at age 31. It's hard to stay in the NFL for a decade at any position, but those who have done it at running back are on the shortest of lists.

Still, as the Broncos formally unveil their offense with Peyton Manning behind center Sunday night, there might be no player more important for Manning's health and well-being in the pocket than McGahee. Manning himself has stressed the importance of the Broncos having options in the offense that don't include Manning throwing the ball.

There is precedent for Manning being cocooned in a top running game. The Indianapolis Colts were second in the league in rushing in 2005, fourth in 2004. In Manning's formative years — 1999 and 2000 — the Colts' Edgerrin James was the league's rushing champion in back-to-back seasons.

"Everyone thinks with him we're throwing it all the time, but any quarterback wants to have a running game," McCoy said. "It makes his job that much easier."
"That's going to play a huge role for us this year," Manning said. "How can you not like what Willis does?"

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Ray Lewis: 'truly blessed to have had Art in my life'

"When you think about Art Modell, you think about a great man, a leader, a father and a servant. Every minute of his life, he cared more about everyone around him than himself. Anytime I saw him, he would always make me smile. He always had a joke to lighten your mood or some sort of wisdom to impart to make you a better man. I genuinely loved Art as a man, and he showed me what to strive for in life. When you truly see the impact he had on everyone he touched, it humbles you. When I found out he wasn't doing well, I knew immediately I had to see him. When I was with him yesterday, I prayed with him and shared with him things that a son would say to a father. Even though he has left us, he is going to a place that one day we all want to be. I am truly blessed to have had Art in my life. He was a humble servant, and one of the best men I have ever known."

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Vince Wilfork at a comfort level with defense

FOXBORO — The man who has seen more on the Patriots defense than anyone else knows the potential of this group.

Vince Wilfork sees two first-round picks added in April’s draft. He watched as Bill Belichick used his first six picks on defense. He’s seen the Patriots draft defense in 12 of their last 20 picks going back to 2010.

Now, with names like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower added to Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Kyle Love and Patrick Chung, Wilfork knows it’s time for the Patriots D to step up. And stepping up begins Sunday in Nashville against the Titans.

But at 30 years of age, Wilfork stands with Tom Brady as the only Patriots that have Super Bowl rings in their jewelry collection. Wilfork said Thursday he’s not feeling his age heading into the opener – and that’s a good thing.

“I don’t feel it,” said Wilfork, who turns 31 on Nov. 4. “That’s something I never look at. Every year I know it’s a year under your belt. But when I’m playing I don’t feel like I’m 30 or nine years in. I’m like everyone else; I come to work, work hard, and expect the same out of my teammates. As long as you keep that mind frame, you can play as long as you want to play.

“It’s very excited to get going. We’re on the road and it’s going to be a tough game for us. But we can’t look back now. We have to hit the ground running and I’m looking forward to it.”

Obviously, the biggest challenge will be containing the refreshed and rejuvenated Chris Johnson, a one-time perennial Pro Bowl running back with explosive power and speed.

“You have to have the passion for it. I love it, and I love playing with my teammates; love playing for this organization,” he said. “Whatever I can do to make this team better, that’s what I’m going to do.”

As is the case with Brady, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, Wilfork didn’t have a large number of game snaps in the preseason, playing in just two games. He did have four tackles and an assist in an active game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 24.

“Everybody is in the same predicament as us,” Wilfork said. “I’m pretty sure things that we’re preparing for, we’ll have to make adjustments on Sunday. We prepare well. We can only prepare from what we’ve seen in the past and you go from there. As long as everyone is on the same page I think we’ll be ok.

“You always have to have fun. As long as you know what you’re doing, you can have fun. It’s not fun when you don’t know what you’re doing. Hopefully everyone is on the same page and we can start this thing off right.”

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NFLPA asks judge to allow bounty players to return

The NFL Players Association has requested a temporary restraining order that would allow players involved with the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to rejoin their teams for the opening week of the regular season.

If a federal judge accepts the request, affected players other than Jonathan Vilma would be able to rejoin their teams for regular-season openers. Vilma earlier had filed a similar motion.

The motion was filed Tuesday for New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. It contends that the players will suffer irreparable harm if forced to miss games while they wait for their cases to be resolved.

All the players want their suspensions tossed because of what they feel was a disciplinary process.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is hearing the case. She has previously said that she finds the league's handling of the situation unfair to the players and the punishments excessive, but she has also said she isn't yet comfortable that federal courts can rule on a process that was collectively bargained between the union and the league.

The NFL has claimed to have uncovered a scheme in which the Saints ran a bounty program from 2009 through 2011, in which defensive players were paid cash bonuses to for hits that injured opponents.

In addition to the four suspended players, Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the season, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with St. Louis and allegedly administered the bounty, is suspended indefinitely.

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Kevin Everett five years later

For Bills fans that were at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sept. 9, 2007 it might be the only day they wished they were somewhere else. Not because the Bills lost their season opener by a point on a last second-field goal to Denver, but because the end result of the second half kickoff by Buffalo was a motionless Kevin Everett who was quickly carried off the field and taken to Millard Fillmore Gates hospital for emergency surgery.

Everett’s story was one that ended in triumph as he was walking again just a few months removed from his career-ending cervical spine fracture. This Sunday will mark five years since that fateful day, and while some might imagine a long and difficult journey for Everett, they’ve flown by for the former Bills tight end.

“These five years shot by so fast it’s unbelievable to tell you the truth,” Everett told Buffalobills.com. “They’ve been fast because I’ve been staying busy.”

Busy raising a family of girls. Everett is a full-time stay at home father to daughters Famatta (3) and Faith (2), with another girl set to arrive in December.

“My wife was so sure it was a boy that she wanted to find out, so she said, ‘We’re going to find out right now.’ But nope, it’s a girl. So I’ve been busy,” said Everett chuckling.

Everett’s wife, Wiande, has returned to work as a teacher not far from their Texas home. Famatta now attends Pre-K at her mother’s school, leaving Everett with his youngest, for now, Faith, at home during the week.

“It’s everything that I thought it would be,” said Everett of being a father. “It’s just a beautiful thing. I always wanted to have a family. It’s interesting I’ll tell you that. I love it. I enjoy every minute of it every day. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Powerful words from a man who still admits that being unable to play football still eats at him.

“Sometimes I catch myself lying back in my chair with my eyes closed tight just thinking about playing,” he said. “It’s something I can’t get over just quite yet, especially when I’m watching football. I was trying hard to block it out in the beginning, but it’s coming stronger now. I was blocking out the whole ‘not being able to play again,’ but I see it and I just come back to thinking about it. I’m still really in love with the game.”

Everett’s passion for football has never been debated. Harnessing and controlling the desire to play has been a process, but he feels he’s in a much better place than he was a few years ago. He’s proud that he did not get professional help to deal with his feelings about what he lost. He credits his wife and his pastor for helping him with what he calls his “spiritual growth.”

The phrase is an ironic one knowing the man he hit on that kickoff return five years ago credits Everett for his own spiritual growth.

Despite the fact that it was Everett that hit Broncos kick returner Domenik Hixon, the return man harbored an enormous amount of guilt after learning what had happened to the player that tackled him.

“I was devastated,” said Hixon. “It was one of those things that I talked to my parents about giving up football after that happened. I was just like that’s not what I want to play for. I just felt so bad that I changed someone’s life like that. I wondered about just giving up on football.

“The next three games after that, it was bad. I was having nightmares.”

Hixon’s game was so negatively affected that Denver released him. He was promptly signed by the Giants, giving him the opportunity to meet Everett again when the Bills hosted New York just 15 weeks later. December 23rd was also the same day that Everett returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium to publicly walk for the first time.

“Being able to meet him when we went up there to play… he was a huge influence on me and he changed my life, and just a God fearing man and Christian,” said Hixon. “He changed my life then and I finally started… I felt like I played like myself.”

Hixon is now the Giants number three receiver and had three receptions for 55 yards in New York’s Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Cowboys.

“I didn’t feel like I would have any animosity or anger in the conversations with him,” said Everett. “I just talked to him and was straight up with him about it. I told him, ‘It’s not your fault. Don’t feel guilty about anything.’ It could’ve been him and not me. It’s a part of the game.

“I tried to tell him to focus on what he’s doing with his career because I wanted him to do the best he can while he’s on the field. I’m proud of him just watching the things that he’s been doing out there for the Giants. I’m real glad that it didn’t affect him in a negative way.”

There are still players on Buffalo’s roster that can call Everett a former teammate. The Bills’ special teams captain in 2007, George Wilsonicon-article-link, remembers every detail of that play having run down the field with Everett. The result of that play is all too frequently jogged from the back of his memory.

“I think about it every time I see somebody lying on the ground and not moving,” said Wilson. “Whether it’s a concussion issue or a shoulder, anytime someone is on the ground that’s my first thought. That day.

“I always hope that the player starts moving so we know it’s not a situation like Kevin’s was. After experiencing something like that though, it’s not something that you can forget about or erase from your mind.”

After a brief pause Wilson smiles when he ponders his next thought.

“I will also never forget him walking out on that field at the end of the season.”

Everett admits he doesn’t keep in touch with Buffalo’s athletic training staff as much as he used to since the incident. Bills head athletic trainer Bud Carpenter and his staff will again be going through their annual review of emergency procedures later today. The same procedures that played a part in saving Everett’s life. The tight end’s spinal cord was nearly severed when one of the vertebrae in his neck practically folded over on the one underneath it from the impact.

“Obviously Kevin will forever be in our thoughts as we go over our procedures,” said Carpenter. “Kevin's life has taken a different turn and no, he was not able to return to football, but quality of life is more important in the grand scheme. He will always have some residual effects from his major injury, but thankfully he has been able to move forward and lead a very productive life.”

Everett acknowledges that many of the physical limitations he experienced a year or two after his recovery still persist. Finger dexterity and full sensation of his extremities aren’t what they were before the traumatic injury. His role as a father however, makes many of those physical shortcomings less of a focus in his life.
“I don’t give myself much time to sit back and be depressed or get down about anything,” he said

He still occasionally does speaking engagements and tries to raise funds for his Kevin Everett Foundation that assists those with spinal cord injuries both financially and emotionally. He’s also become the same kind of devoted Bills fan as those who supported him through the most trying time in his young life.

“I’ve been keeping up with them,” said Everett. “I’ve got the Bills app on my I-phone. That’s my team. I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan, but I’m a Bill for life. They fulfilled my childhood dream of wanting to play ball. That’ll make you change your heart right there. I’m watching, keeping up with every update so tell them that.”

Everett still gets mail from Bills fans and those dealing with traumatic spinal cord injuries. His family was amazed by the outpouring of support for him in Buffalo, and he shakes his head today with the encouraging words that still come his way from fans.

“I’m glad people still remember me,” he said. “I wish they could remember me for making touchdowns and making big plays for the Bills, but they still remember me as a person and what I went through in my life. So I very much appreciate that and I love every fan out there that supports me.”

While the desire to play still flares up from time to time, it doesn’t keep Everett from getting close to the game. That’s why come Week 9 when the Bills are in his backyard at Reliant Stadium in Houston to play the Texans he intends to be there. Some might see it as a painful reminder of what he has lost. For Everett it’s a perfect opportunity to rekindle old friendships.

“When I was there we had a good bond and good guys being friends and doing things together,” he said. “That’s the thing that counts most. It just feels good that guys remember me as a guy that didn’t stay down and got back up and tried to show strength. I want to be there with my new family. I’ve got to be there. Believe that I will.”

No one has a reason to doubt him.

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Bucs looking wise on Kellen Winslow deal

Consider this a sort of follow-up post to the one we had Tuesday on Tampa Bay making a smart salary-cap move when getting rid of a guy that clearly had no future on coach Greg Schiano’s team.

That one was on defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Before releasing Okoye with a $400,000 injury settlement, the Bucs restructured his contract to wipe out $700,000 in guaranteed base salary and also cut the player a break by eliminating offset language that could have helped the Bucs recoup some of Okoye’s salary when he signed with the Bears. The Bucs simply wanted a problem off their hands and they were able to do it with a relatively minimal cap hit. Okoye will cost them $600,000. He could have cost as much as $2 million.

Now, there’s another former Buc that I’m thinking about. That’s tight end Kellen Winslow. The Bucs traded him to Seattle and lost their chance of getting a draft pick in return when the Seahawks released Winslow. So what, it only would have been a seventh-round choice. The latest on Winslow is that he’s still looking for a team to play for after the New England Patriots showed some interest, but elected not to sign him.

The Bucs didn’t get anything in return for Winslow, but the beauty here is that he’s not costing them a dime in salary-cap space this year. Winslow had been scheduled to make $3.3 million this year under his original Tampa Bay contract, plus he could have earned a lot more incentives. Winslow’s base salary was scheduled to jump to $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.5 million in 2014, and both of those years also included lots of potential incentives.

The Bucs have plenty of cap space this year. But they already have a lot of cap space committed to 2013 and 2014. Winslow and Schiano obviously weren’t going to co-exist in the short term or the long term.

I’ve just checked the salary-cap situation on Winslow and the Bucs. There’s no pro-rated money hanging out there. They’ll never have to take any salary-cap hit for the tight end (although Seattle takes a $500,000 cap hit for a guy that never played a down there). I think you can say this one is a case of no cost, no foul.

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Kellen Winslow Fails Physical With Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tight end Kellen Winslow will not be joining the Patriots anytime soon after failing his physical, according to a report by CSN New England. 

Winslow, 29, has chronic problems with his knees and was released last week by the Seahawks after reportedly refusing to take a pay cut. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end caught 75 passes last season but only two for touchdowns for the Buccaneers. Winslow - the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Browns - seriously injured his right knee in a motorcycle accident in 2005. He has had several surgeries on the knee since, including microfracture surgery in 2007. 

Another tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe was also reportedly placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, and designated as the Patriots player eligible to return this season from IR as part of the new rule in the NFL this season. 

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LaRon Byrd thinking he’s right where he belongs

LaronByrd 2
LaRon Byrd smiled. The undrafted rookie wide receiver is seemingly already a fan favorite, which is always a good place to be when you were basically unwanted in April’s draft.

“I’m sure no one in Arizona knew who I was,” Byrd said. “But my job is to work. I’m a blue-collar guy. My friends laugh at me because they say I am old school. But I come every day with my hard hat, wherever that takes me.”

It’s taken him not only on to the Cards’ roster but as the fifth receiver, behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and Michael Floyd. After watching Byrd in the preseason, with his Fitz-like dreads and big (6-foot-4) body, it’s hard to believe someone like him at a big school like the University of Miami wouldn’t be picked. But such are circumstances like Byrd’s, after he fell off the radar of new coach Al Golden’s staff last season in Coral Gables.

Byrd shrugs off his history. College didn’t end quite the way he wanted, but he came into the league with a confidence that showed the experience didn’t ruin him. “Not to sound big-headed or conceited, but this is where I saw myself anyway,” Byrd said. “I didn’t come here thinking I wanted to be a practice squad guy. I didn’t come here thinking, ‘Oh, I may have a chance.’ “

On one hand, Byrd’s confidence is obvious. But his short interview is peppered with him talking about being “appreciative” and “thankful” and “grateful” for his Arizona opportunity. He doesn’t know his role yet — it’s possible Byrd won’t even be active on Sunday, but most of the time, the Cards do use five receivers — but the game is simple for him, NFL or not. “The quarterback throws it and we have to catch it,” he said.

A few lockers down from Byrd’s is Fitzgerald’s, the man with whom he has already drawn some comparisons (Mostly for the hair, but still.) Byrd looked over at the stall, and smiled. “Hopefully, I can get to be like that guy,” Byrd said. “Maybe I can get eight for 128,” he said, noting Fitzgerald’s eight-year, $128 million contract.

“As of now, I’m just very grateful.”

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Putting Devin Hester in slot could be jackpot

LAKE FOREST, Ill.—Chicago Bears coaches annually express optimism that wide receiver/return man Devin Hester will be a huge factor in the passing game. That hasn't happened yet, with Hester's career high at 57 receptions in 2009.

This year he's unlikely to go near that number again, but the coaching staff saw evidence in preseason of what they think can be Hester's legitimate role in this attack—one that could make him an even bigger factor than when they thought he would be their No. 1 receiver.

Moving inside to the slot at times, Hester will be matched up on nickel backs and lesser defenders. His previous matchup usually came against one of the top two cornerbacks or even double teams.

With Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery attracting the attention, it's also hoped Hester will get more chances for wide-open catches so he can display some of the speed shown so often on special teams.

Anticipate more drag routes or better-devised screens for Hester.

"Now I can go in and just play and not try to put a lot of pressure on myself to be the guy who takes over the game for us," Hester said.

In preseason, there was evidence to support all these possibilities. Hester was targeted four times and caught all four. In the past, the problem wasn't Hester dropping open passes, but him getting open against the top defensive backs or making catches in tight coverage.

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Sam Shields Still Doesn't Know If He Will Start

Green Bay - If you find out who is going to start at right cornerback for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, contact Sam Shields, because he has no idea.

Neither Shields nor anyone else in the secondary has been told whether it will be Shields or Jarrett Bush when the Packers line up against the San Francisco 49ers. It has been assumed that Bush would be the starter, but Shields' strong performance in the final exhibition game changed things.

Shields and Bush have been rotating in practice mostly and sometimes playing together when left cornerback Tramon Williams gets a breather.

"I wish I knew," Shields said. "I'm anxious just like y'all. I wish I could tell you. I just come in here and do what I can do. Whatever they come up with, I'm ready to rock and roll."

It might not seem like that big of a deal who starts because the Packers are going to play a lot of nickel with both Shields and Bush on the field together, at least until injured Davon House comes back.

But it's a source of pride for both guys and it does mean being on the field for just about every snap of the game. Shields' only start last year came against Carolina after Williams suffered a shoulder injury in the opener.

From his vantage point, Williams sees the coaches stretching out the competition between Bush and Shields one more week. Essentially, they are making them prove who is more worthy based on his week of practice.

"You can't just stop the competition because the competition has been so good," Williams said. "Those guys get better and better with competition. Why not keep it going? The worst case, everyone is going to play. They're going to contribute to this team.

"The more good DBs you have the better you can do in this league."

In addition to the corner position, the Packers still have not revealed to reporters who will start at safety in the nickel package.

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Calais Campbell plans even bigger year

Calais Campbell stands an imposing 6-foot-8 and weighs 300 pounds, making him one of the tallest defensive linemen in the NFL.

The size of the Arizona Cardinals' defensive end can be a blessing and a burden - a blessing because he can swat away passes and field goal tries and bury hapless quarterbacks, a burden because he has to constantly remember to stay low lest he be an easy target for blockers.

''This is a battle I've been going through my whole life,'' he said after practice Wednesday. ''The name of the game is stay low, the low man always wins.
''When it comes to batting down passes and blocking field goals, being tall definitely comes in handy, but you have to stay low first.''

Last season was a breakout one for Campbell, and he has been rewarded with a five-year, $55 million contract extension, with $31 million guaranteed.
He acknowledged that, with the big contract comes added pressure to perform.

''I guess naturally it puts a burden on you a little bit,'' Campbell said. ''But I put a big burden on myself to go out there and be the best I could be. I'm very passionate about this game. I love what I do. I want to be held accountable and I want to be worth every dollar they gave me.''

A second-round draft pick out of Miami in 2008, Campbell has led or tied for the team lead in sacks each of the past three seasons. Last year, he had eight sacks, 73 tackles and 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles , a fumble recovery and a whopping three blocked field goals - all career highs.

The three blocked field goals tied Seattle's Red Bryant for most in the NFL. Campbell was the leading force on a team that had an NFL-high five blocked field goals last season. He has five blocks in his career.

The most dramatic one came on Nov. 6 against St. Louis when he knocked down Josh Brown's 42-yard attempt on the last play of regulation. Arizona went on to win the game in overtime.

''I learned that if I do things the right way, I can be very dominant in this league,'' Campbell said. ''I got a lot of confidence from last year. I'm looking forward to this year to see if I can do better. That's the challenge, to try to do better, to get better every year, every game, every week.''

The Cardinals open their season Sunday at home against Seattle, a favorite foe of Campbell's.

He had 2 1/2 sacks against the Seahawks in their first meeting a year ago, marking the third time against Seattle he had at least one quarterback sack. In last year's regular-season finale, he had a solo tackle and quarterback hit against the Seahawks before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that there's one simple way Campbell can be even better, though, a reason the big lineman already knows all too well.

''Play better technique,'' Whisenhunt said. ''I think one of the things with him being 6-foot-8 is playing too high sometimes. If he can continue to work on staying lower and using his hands, it will make him an even better player. I like to think about those kinds of things because was productive as he was for us last year, if he can improve on that, it will make us a better football team.''

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Santana Moss a fan favorite

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The Rock Gets His First TV Show

I decided to write about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in our Celebrity 100 issue not just because he’s a charismatic action star with a penchant for saving franchises. Johnson is also a smart businessman who understands that in today’s entertainment industry, it’s no longer enough to do one thing really well. You have to build a brand and a business.

Johnson is doing that with his latest venture: a reality TV show on TNT called The Hero. The show, which will premier next summer, will feature ten ordinary people living in a house and carrying out various “missions” to “test their brains, their brawn and even their mortality.”

Johnson will appear on the show as as mentor and motivator. It’s a role familiar to his many fans. On Twitter, Johnson is constantly encouraging his 3.3 million followers to push themselves with the TeamBringIt hastag and tweets like “Pay your dues, stay grindin’ and flat out bust your ass daily to achieve success — no two ways about it.”  The show will also have a social media component allowing viewers to vote on who should win each week. The Hero is being co-produced by Johnson’s ex-wfe and producing partner, Danny Garcia, and Ben Silverman’s Electus.

If the show is a success, it will accelerate Johnson’s rise in Hollywood. The wrestler earned an estimated $36 million between May 2011 and May 2012. For more on Johnson you can read my Celebrity 100 profile of the star here.

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New smart phone app lets people pose with Ray Lewis

Wouldn't it be cool to pose for a picture with the Ravens' Ray Lewis on the 50-yard line of M&T Bank Stadium with Ray Lewis?

How about on the boardwalk of Ocean City or at a table at the Prime Rib over steaks or, hey, why not the privacy of your own privy? With a brand new smart phone app, it looks like you can be with Mr. Lewis pretty much anywhere.

MoZeus Worldwide has a deal with the gridiron star to create an app where fans will be able to take (or perhaps the word is "make") pictures with Lewis and download them.

The app will raise money for one of Lewis' favorite charities, the United Athletes Foundation. It will cost 99 cents and be available on the iTunes store, the Android Marketplace and www.MoZeus.com.

When the app is available later this fall, it will work on Android and iOS platforms, its makers say.

They'll usher it in with a promotion where a fan will win a real photo with the real Ray after a Ravens home game.

 “I’m excited about this cutting-edge technology which will allow my fans to interact with me in a whole new way – while raising money for charity,” Lewis said in a release. “Fans will be able to share photos via social media and then one lucky person will get to meet me after a Ravens home game later this season.”

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Vince Wilfork advice rings true

Vince Wilfork remembers the sense of awe he felt walking into a championship locker room when he was a Patriots [team stats] rookie in 2004. He also remembers how the veterans on the team, many of whom already had two Super Bowl rings in the vault, showed him the way to getting his first.

Back then, so many players on the defense knew what it took: Richard Seymour [stats], Tedy Bruschi [stats], Roman Phifer, Ty Law, Rodney Harrison [stats].
Eight years later, there’s just Big Vince. He’s the only ring-bearer on defense left to spread the word about what it’s going to take to win the next one.

‘‘We used to talk about how to play at a championship level. And there’s not a lot of guys in that locker room right now that can relate,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘But the guys who’ve been in the situations before (he and Tom Brady [stats] are the only remaining players with Patriots championship rings) know what it takes to win. We try to relate that to everyone. That’s one thing we do ‘‘

So what does the defense need to get to the promised land? What’s missing?

The not-so-old sage summed up part of the formula with one word: trust.

Wilfork, 30, said a defense needs to be able to play together as a unit. And to do that, each player has to trust in the guy next to him to do his job. The defenses on those championship teams played well together because the players had such trust and confidence in each other to be where they were supposed to be and make the play.

‘‘You have to work hard and have trust,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘That’s one thing you can never get tired of, trust in one another, and the will to get better.’’

The need for consistency was also drilled into Wilfork.

‘‘There’s no magic wand. You just have to be able to be consistent day in and day out. The more consistent you are, the better you’ll be. And that’s what we try to do,’’ he said. ‘‘I mean, the game has changed so much since ’04. But being able to play consistent football and great defense as a team, that’s what you need to win.’’

Having all 11 players in sync with each other — that’s the ticket, according to Wilfork.

‘‘We have to be able to understand on the back end what we’re doing up front, and up front, what we’re doing on the back end. And I think that’s one thing we’ve been getting better at. In meetings, we try to talk to one another,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘I say, ‘Hey guys, when you jam, this is what’s going to happen.’ You play the plays out, so you can see (that) when you can hold each other accountable, it makes you a better defense, it makes you a better team.

‘‘So, as long as we work together and we’re consistent as a defense. I think this defense can be a pretty good defense. If we’re not, we’ll be in trouble.’’

Wilfork indicated players come to him for advice. He said he spends a lot of time in the meeting rooms, trying to help guys figure out how best to react on certain plays by an offense.

‘‘They want to learn,” he said. “It’s not like I have to go to them. They come to me and want to learn. That lets me know they pay attention and want to get the concept of what we do around here. That’s a positive. Hopefully it stays like that. Hopefully we keep learning and we grow as a team. That’s the main thing.’’
Wilfork also doesn’t anticipate any problems in the room that might derail a championship run.

‘‘I’m telling you what — you can’t ask for any better guys than this. They work hard, they ask questions, they play good football,’’ Wilfork said. ‘‘If they’re doing something wrong, they’ll ask questions. They’ll take criticism and turn it into a positive. We don’t have no problems. That comes from the head man all the way down.’’

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Jon Vilma could play if bounty scandal suspension temporarily lifted

METAIRIE — On Wednesday, interim coach Aaron Kromer left open the possibility of immediately utilizing defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma if they are successful in gaining a temporary restraining order for their alleged role in the Saints bounty scandal.

Kromer's announcement came one day after the NFL Players Association filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Asked about their ability to play if the suspension was lifted, Kromer said, "I think those are two individual situations. Will Smith has been practicing all along until this week. I am sure he would be ready. Vilma, we’d just have to judge what kind of shape and what kind of knowledge he has of what’s going on."

Smith started his four-game suspension this week. Vilma, suspended for the entire 2012 season, has missed all of training camp and unlike Smith, who participated in training camp and played during the preseason, is likely not in game shape.

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Chris Perez rips Tribe owners, front office

DETROIT, Mich. -- That didn't take long.

Closer Chris Perez rejoined the Indians on Tuesday following the birth of his daughter and is already taking shots at the team's ownership and front office. In a FoxSports.com story about the success of small market teams such as Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, Perez was critical about the Indians ownership and front office.

Asked about the difference between the Indians and AL Central rival Detroit, Perez pointed to Indians owner Larry Dolan and Detroit owner Mike Ilitch.

"Different owners," Perez is quoted as saying. "It comes down to that. [The Tigers] are spending money. [Ilitch] wants to win. Even when the economy was down [in Detroit], he spent money. He's got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don't. But most of the time you do."

The Tigers opened the season with a $133.5 million payroll. The Indians opened at $65 million.

The story made the point that small-market general managers have a smaller margin for error when it comes to trading their key players. It said Oakland GM Billy Beane got more in return for Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Carlos Gonzalez than the Tribe did for CC Sabathia (2008) and Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez (2009).

"You can't miss," Perez said. "You have to be right. That's why I say it's not just ownership. They don't make the trades. It's the GMs. It goes hand in hand. The GMs can only spend the money the owners give them, but they pick who they spend it on or who they don't. They pick. The owners don't pick.

"Josh Willingham would look great in this lineup. They didn't want to [pay] for that last year. ... That's the decision they make, and this is the bed we're laying in."
The Indians pursued the right-handed hitting Willingham last winter, but he signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins. The Indians reportedly would only offer Willingham two years.

When asked about the comments before Wednesday's game, Perez said, "It's all online right? There you go."

Manager Manny Acta, when told of Perez's comments, said, "That's his opinion and I don't have anything to add to it."

"While we work to understand various perspectives, we strongly disagree with Chris' comments," said Tribe GM Chris Antonetti. "Nonetheless, we are not satisfied with our recent results and our entire organization remains committed to fielding winning teams and that is the standard by which we will continue to operate."

Antonetti did talk to Perez. Asked if Perez would be disciplined, Antonetti said only that the matter would be handle internally.

Earlier in the year Perez ripped fans for not coming to Progressive Field when the Indians were in first place in the Central. He also criticized Cleveland fans for their loyalty to the Browns and their refusal to forgive LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers. On a recent trip, he became embroiled in a profanity-laced argument with a fan in Oakland that was videotaped and put on the Internet.

"We all have different DNA and we all have to live with each other and deal with each other the best way we can," said Acta, when asked if it was frustrating to manage Perez. "What really concerns is when he comes into the game in the ninth inning to save the game and gets it. The rest of the stuff we handle internally."

Not closed yet: Perez saved his 34th game Tuesday. He did it by returning to the scene of one of his biggest blown saves of the year. On Aug. 5, Perez entered the 10th inning with an 8-5 lead. He retired the first two batters and then gave up five runs in a 10-5 Tiger victory.

"When I got to two outs [Tuesday] that's what I thought about," said Perez. "You're supposed to have a short memory as a closer, but you never really forget. I used it as motivation."

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Jon Jay leading the way

Jon Jay is getting the danged thing done as the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter. In what was easily one of the best moves made by Mike Matheny this season, the manager moved Jay to the No. 1 spot in the second week of August. Jay took over for a slumping Rafael Furcal who moved down to 7th or 8th in the lineup. In 27 games and 126 plate appearances as the leadoff man, Jay is batting .333 with a .419 onbase percentage and a solid .463 slugging percentage. Though it’s a much smaller sample size, Jay’s OPS in the No. 1 slot (.882) is better than the .691 OPS posted by Furcal in the leadoff position.

Jay also continues to rule over at Busch Stadium as if it’s his private backyard. In 205 plate appearances at home this season, Jay is batting .378 with a .460 OBP and .500 SLG for a .960 OPS.

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Can Ryan Braun win MVP again?

It's been a long, long, road for the Milwaukee Brewers to get to September within shouting distance of the .500 mark. Their 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 1 moved the Brewers to 64-68, the first time the team has been that close to level since July 18, when they were 44-47.

Following Tuesday night's game against Miami, the Brewers sit at 66-69.

Sure, there can be dreams of making a wildcard run here over the next four weeks, but the real race of interest is Ryan Braun and the quest for back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards.

Through Monday, Braun led the league in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS (on base plus slugging) and total bases.

He trails New York Mets third basemen David Wright in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) by a hair – 5.9 to 5.8. He is sixth in the NL in batting average, hits and on base percentage.

Defensively, Braun leads all NL left fielders in range factor and is 15th among all outfielders in the league.

Is his season as good as last year's? In some statistical categories, yes. And no. Considering who else (and who isn't) in the lineup with him however, you can argue this is his greatest season.

The big question with MVP races – unless it's so clear cut there is no debate – is who else is competing for the trophy.

This year, the National League has a mess of players that could garner some MVP consideration. Let's take a look*.

The first place teams: Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco.
Stephen Strasburg: It's incredibly difficult for a pitcher to win the MVP as it is, but missing the final two and a half weeks of the Nationals' season knocks him out of consideration.

Johnny Cueto: The 26-year-old righty has been magnificent for the Reds, but no position player on his team has really stepped to the forefront. It's been a total team effort since 2010 MVP went on the disabled list back in mid-July.

Bob Gibson was the last NL pitcher to win the MVP, back in 1968. Sandy Koufax (1963), Don Newcombe (1956), Jim Konstanty (1950), Mort Cooper (1942), Bucky Walters (1939), Carl Hubbell (1936, 1933) and Dizzy Dean (1934) are the only pitchers to ever win the award in the National League.

Melky Cabrera: Woops. The All-Star game MVP was hitting a league-leading .346 along with 25 extra base hits and 60 RBI before being suspended for testing positives for PEDs.

So that leaves...
Buster Posey: The 25-year-old catcher is hitting .330 with 19 homers and 85 RBI with an OPS of .938 while handling a pitching staff that sports a team 3.72 ERA and four starters with 10 or more wins.

Posey would be in my top three down the stretch.

The wildcard teams: Atlanta, St. Louis
Chipper Jones/ Jason Heyward/Michael Bourn: Like the first place teams, the Braves have been getting it done as a team. These players have been their best, but none are having stand out, MVP-type seasons. Heyward has 24 homers with an .834 OPS. Jones may be a sentimental favorite in his final season, but he's hitting .302 with 14 homers and a .881 OPS. Bourn has 38 stolen bases. Neither are really carrying the team, however.

Allen Craig/David Freese/Matt Holliday/Carlos Beltran/Yadier Molina: All are having fine years, but again it's proving to be a team effort in St. Louis. Molina leads the team in hitting at .322, Beltran in homers at 28, Holliday in RBI at 92 and Craig in OPS at .922. Has one been more distinguished than the other? No.
Teams with winning records: Los Angeles, Pittsburgh

Matt Kemp: Kemp famously lost out to Braun last year, but injuries have limited him to just 82 games. He's hitting .326/.570/.965 with 18 homers and 55 RBI, but he just can't compare with a guy who has played 40 more games ...

Like his teammate Andre Ethier. The 30-year-old right fielder has the best case, hitting .293/.472/.834 with 16 homers, 32 doubles and 79 RBI. He's been the one constant threat in the Dodgers lineup all year long. He's just not that spectacular however.

Andrew McCutcheon: The first half favorite for MVP as the Pirates shot out of the gate, the 25-year-old centerfielder is still going strong despite Pittsburgh's backslide to mediocrity. He's going to challenge the suspended Cabrera for the batting title, hitting .341/.559/.964 with 24 homers, 80 RBI and 54 extra base hits.

This is the one player Braun will have the hardest time overcoming, especially if McCutcheon can get the Pirates to just 82 wins – the team's first winning season since 1992.

McCutcheon, along with Posey and Braun, are the three runaway contenders at this point.

There is only one real reason voters would look past Braun completely (or at least with key first place votes) is that the Brewers may finish with a losing record.
The MVP has been awarded to a player on a losing team five times in history and three times in the NL. Interestingly, all three of those winners were Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks (1958, 1959) and Andre Dawson (1987).

Alex Rodriguez (2003) and Cal Ripken, Jr. (1991) won on losing teams in the AL.

But what if the Brewers keep up this trend and finish with a better record than the Pirates, climbing all the way back from 12 games under .500 on Aug. 15. That's when people will look closely at all the blown saves by bullpen – and that just a 50-percent conversion rate would have won the Brewers a playoff berth. That may be one of Braun's better defenses – the Crew missing the playoffs simply had nothing to do with him.

Sure, people will bring up the offseason "positive" test for PEDs, but count me in the camp that says if he was afforded the same privacy as every other player – suspended or not – no one would have known about the process in the first place.

True – you can't "un-know" what you know - but he won the appeal due to a tampered sample. That should be the end of that, but I know some stodgy BBWAA voters will not see it that way, or feel duped by voting for him in 2011.

Right now, I'd say Braun is running behind Posey for the award. I do feel that he has to go out and win it – maybe finish in the top three in batting average while finishing atop the other important stat categories. He'll have to make it impossible for voters to overlook him.

Perhaps the biggest question of all is this – can he do that all in four weeks?

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Cardinals Really Like LaRon Byrd

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Were there any surprises among the Cardinals’ cuts? “Not really,” one team source said. “I thought (veteran OLB Clark) Haggans could be in trouble, and they figured to keep all three of their drafted offensive linemen (fourth-round OTBobby Massie, fifth-round OG Senio Kelemete and seventh-round OT Nate Potter). I was a little surprised they cut (second-year WR) DeMarco Sampson, but they really like (undrafted rookie) LaRon Byrd, who’s a good, level-headed kid and another really big target to go along with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.”

The Cardinals drafted receiver Michael Floyd in the first round with visions of Andre Roberts moving to the slot and flourishing there.

The plan called for Floyd to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald, allowing Roberts to join Early Doucet among the inside receivers.

Four days before the regular-season opener, Roberts remains listed as a starter on the outside. The Cardinals list Floyd as a backup. Undrafted rookie LaRon Byrd has arguably outperformed Floyd to this point. It's early -- far too early to worry about Floyd -- but the Cardinals' plans for Floyd and Roberts might not take full effect in Week 1.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Byrd is both grateful for his opportunity and confident in his ability to succeed. Urban: "After watching Byrd in the preseason, with his Fitz-like dreads and big (6-foot-4) body, it’s hard to believe someone like him at a big school like the University of Miami wouldn’t be picked. But such are circumstances like Byrd’s, after he fell off the radar of new coach Al Golden’s staff last season in Coral Gables."

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Damien Berry expected to stay on IR

The Baltimore Ravens are expected to keep RB Damien Berry (neck, shoulder) on Injured Reserve, and they will not work out an injury settlement at this time, according to a league source. Berry told proCanes.com that once his neck heals, he should be off IR.

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Leonard Hankerson Needs To Step Up

WR Leonard Hankerson -- The coaches remain high on Hankerson but he needs to show why. He had a slow preseason which could be attributed to his recovery from a torn labrum in 2011. Free agent signee Josh Morgan outshined Hankerson in training camp and that's the reason he is listed as the starter at the Z position.

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stops burglary on the set of Fast Six

The 40-year-old former wrestler sprang into action when the youths tried breaking into vans containing expensive equipment in Hackney, East London.

The Rock — real name Dwayne Johnson — was dressed as an FBI agent while filming The Fast and the Furious 6 in a neighbouring warehouse and caught sight of the thieves trying to force locks.

When he clocked what was happening, the 6ft 5ins, 20-stone star left filming in the middle of a battle sequence and charged at the hoodies waving his fake police badge.

The youths were so shocked that they stopped what they were doing and fled empty-handed.

A source said: “It was so funny. The Rock looked like an action hero because he had his flak jacket on and an FBI badge in his hand. All of a sudden there was loads of gunfire and this giant dressed as a copper was about to mow them down. The lads jumped out of their skin and scarpered down the canal path and left the crew in peace.

“It was like the Only Fools Batman sequence — they must have thought they were in the middle of a real-life action movie.

“Now the crew are joking that they should drop security and just have The Rock do it.”

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Patriots Will Work Out Kellen Winslow

The Minutemen were Patriots.  The Minutemen were soldiers.  Kellen Winslow is a soldier.  And so it makes sense for the Patriots to be interested in Kellen Winslow.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Patriots are bringing in Kellen Winslow for a visit.

If signed, Winslow would join a group of tight ends that includes Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Visanthe Shiancoe.  Then there’s Jake Ballard, whom the Pats claimed on waivers and will carry on injured reserve.

There’s no indication Winslow, who was cut Saturday by the Seahawks, will be offered a contract.  If he is, it’s more proof of the extent to which the Pats are transforming NFL offense with big guys who can run and catch.

That said, the Pats likely would wait until after Week One to make a move.  If Winslow is signed now, his full base salary would be essentially guaranteed, via the termination pay provision of the CBA.

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Ravens resolve contract dispute with Bryant McKinnie

After a dramatic day of haggling where his roster spot was in serious danger, Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie held onto his job by accepting a restructured contract that cuts his salary by $1 million.

McKinnie signed off on a deal Tuesday afternoon that reduced his base salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million and he can recover the $1 million if he triggers a 50 percent playing-time incentive clause, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

"Yes, I can still make it with incentives," McKinnie confirmed in a text to The Baltimore Sun.

Six days prior to their regular-season opener at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were on the verge of releasing their starting left tackle. Instead, the former Pro Bowl blocker was retained as the Ravens created $1 million in salary-cap space.

"Bryant is with us, he's here," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I just had a great conversation with him. He's been a part of us, he never left us. I'm excited about Bryant, always have been.

"Like I told him, I've got a lot of respect for him as a football player. Love his style of play. We're going to have a strong offensive line, and he's a big part of that."

Earlier in the day, McKinnie answered affirmatively in a text when asked if he was off the team following his announcement on Twitter: "Decision is made! I'm gone!"

Roughly an hour later, though, McKinnie indicated that the situation might get resolved when he texted: "Just got a phone call, it's not officially over as of yet."

McKinnie said he was caught off guard when contacted directly by Harbaugh and informed that the team wanted to address his contract.

Harbaugh acknowledged speaking to McKinnie.

"I'm always involved with all of our players," Harbaugh said. "I had a chance to talk to Bryant. I talk to Bryant, probably every day. I talk to most of our guys every day, so nothing's really changed in that respect."

The Ravens initially requested that McKinnie take a 50 percent pay cut, down to roughly $1.6 million.

If the Ravens had parted ways with McKinnie, they would have gained $2.2 million against this year's salary cap by subtracting his $3.2 million base salary and accounting for $500,000, the prorated amount from his $1 million signing bonus paid last year, and the $500,000 roster bonus already paid to him in March.

"In the end, Bryant wanted to be there," said Michael George, McKinnie's agent. "He wanted to be on a good team that has championship potential. They're a better team with him than without him. Bryant is happy that everything has been worked out now and looking forward to the season."

From a legal perspective, McKinnie's wages are being garnished this year, in accordance with a deal he reached to repay Pro Player Funding for a loan he took out during last year's lockout. He owes more than $4.5 million and would violate the court agreement with Pro Player Funding if the Ravens stopped making payments.

Harbaugh said he wasn't concerned that McKinnie's contract situation would be a distraction for the team.

"I don't think it will be an issue at all," Harbaugh said. "Guys are pros and guys understand the business aspects of all this stuff. He's a great guy, he's a hard worker, he's a pro, he's a Raven. I'm really happy about that, and he seems very happy about it, too. So, it won't be a problem at all."

McKinnie was signed to a two-year, $7 million deal last August after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings when his weight increased to 387 pounds during the NFL lockout.

McKinnie had gotten into better shape after reporting to camp overweight and five days late, and then eventually passing the conditioning test. He was held out of a mandatory minicamp in June due to conditioning issues and asked to get down to a target weight of 345 pounds.

The 6-foot-8 lineman is listed at 354 pounds on the Ravens' official roster.

Prior to the Ravens picking up his $500,000 roster bonus in March, McKinnie met with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and promised to report in prime condition.

McKinnie also arrived at training camp with a back injury he said he suffered when he slipped on a wet surface at his South Florida home.

The former University of Miami standout started the Ravens' third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and seemed to hold up fine.

In the locker room following the game, McKinnie said he had regained his starting job after lining up with the second-team offense during the first two preseason games.

If the Ravens had cut McKinnie, they would have shifted Michael Oher back to left tackle from the right side. That would have induced a line shuffle with rookie Kelechi Osemele taking over for Oher at right tackle.

The Ravens didn't announce if McKinnie will start against the Bengals, but it's unlikely they would have kept him as a backup. He's listed first on the depth chart at left tackle.

"Bryant is a hard-working guy, that's our expectation," Harbaugh said. "Our expectation is that guys come out and practice hard, practice fast, give us their best.

"And he's always done that. He continues to work his way back to that Pro Bowl form, he and I agreed that's our goal for him. So, he's working his way back in that direction."

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Houston concerned about injury-prone WR Andre Johnson

The Houston Texans won’t say it publicly, but they’re entering the season concerned about receiver Andre Johnson’s health.

They know their best chance to challenge for the Super Bowl is to have quarterback Matt Schaub’s favorite target in the lineup for 16 games. The problem is that Johnson hasn’t played 16 games since 2009.

Knee and hamstring injuries have limited him to a total of 20 starts over the past two seasons. Johnson turned 31 in July and missed organized team activities and minicamp because of arthroscopic knee surgery. He was 100 percent entering camp but suffered a minor groin injury that kept him out.

In the third preseason game, he came down on the point of the football and had to leave the game for X-rays on his ribs that were negative. However, he missed a couple of days of practice and sat out the preseason finale. He ended up playing about one full game in preseason.

What frustrates the team the most is that Johnson still is outstanding—when he plays. He averaged 19.4 yards on four catches in preseason.

There’s no doubt Johnson still can be one of the league’s top receivers when he’s on the field, and his health remains the single most important issue for a team hoping to reach its first Super Bowl.

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Spencer Adkins Was Last Falcons Cut

With the team deciding to keep only five linebackers, the final spot came down to Robert James and Spencer Adkins. James won, in large part because he showed what general manager Thomas Dimitroff likes to call "urgent athleticism." Translation: James is a better athlete than Adkins and the Falcons think he can make some plays as a backup and on special teams.

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Santana Moss not just an elder statesman for Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. – Who's the toughest guy to cover on the Washington Redskins?

Is it hulking tight end Fred Davis? Free agent pickups Pierre Garcon or Josh Morgan? Or maybe sizeable second-year wideout Leonard Hankerson? Ask Redskins safety DeJon Gomes, and the answer is simple:


According to Gomes, 33-year old Santana Moss — the Redskins' longest-tenured veteran — is still Washington's toughest player to check. Even after being relegated to the slot receiver position and coming off what was statistically his worst season in seven with the team.

"He has the speed," Gomes says. "But he also has a lot of moves off the line. Nobody can get hands on him."

With the release of Chris Cooley last week, Moss became the only remaining member of the 2005 Redskins, the year he was traded by the New York Jets in exchange for Laveranues Coles. He caught a career-high 84 passes for 1,483 yards that season, and his production remained largely consistent over the next five years. Then came a disappointing 2011, which Moss finished with 46 catches for 584 yards after breaking his hand in Week 7. When he was on the field, his yards per reception from 2010-2011 were the fewest in his NFL career.

If he had lost a step, it might explain why Redskins coaches asked Moss to slim down this offseason to keep his place on the club. So Moss showed up 15 pounds lighter in the spring, and faster, say teammates.

"Honestly, man, things change in life, and I'm well aware of that," Moss said last week. "I've never been a guy that was complacent about where I am. I've never had a hard time adapting.

"Whether the coaches need me to be the guy I used to be or not, and be something less, at least they gave me an opportunity."

The preseason showed he had gained a step, and he will likely see the field in three- and four-receiver sets beside Garcon and Morgan or Hankerson.
For years, Moss and Cooley were the only relevant targets for Redskins quarterbacks. Moss' 488 receptions for Washington are fifth-most in team history. Finally, he'll share some of the spotlight as rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III begins his NFL education in earnest.

"Santana comes to work every day and does what he has to do," Hankerson says. "In meetings, he's helping us young guys out and he's preparing like the old Santana. There's nothing different."

Moss is still one of the fastest players in what has become a diverse if not star-studded Washington receiving group. Davis, 26, was named the team's offensive player of 2011 despite being suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Garcon, 26, led the offensively inept Indianapolis Colts with 947 receiving yards last season. Morgan, 27, seemed on the cusp of a breakout effort in San Francisco last year before a season-ending leg injury.

In a division full of star wide receivers in their prime, the Redskins have none, but do have one of the deepest groups.

"They're all good," says Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson. "They all do different things that make it hard for a defensive back. Santana's quick. Pierre can take the top off of a defense. Hank is a big receiver. They all have different strengths that make it tough to check them."

But if you ask the right Redskin, there's none tougher than Moss.

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Willis McGahee's workload likely to be lessened

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—The days of Willis McGahee carrying the football 20 times on a week-in, week-out basis probably are done. After averaging 19.8 carries during a six-game stretch last year, the 30-year-old runner began showing wear and found himself limited to 14 carries a game for the following seven weeks.
But he could be used more selectively and more effectively, and his most significant impact in 2012 could be as a short-yardage and goal-to-go threat.

McGahee scored only four touchdowns last year, mainly because then-quarterback Tim Tebow would usually get the call—or make the call himself after the football was snapped. This year, the Broncos' goal-line offense will look more traditional, with fullback Chris Gronkowski expected to play a key role. On McGahee's only preseason touchdown, Gronkowski blasted open the decisive hole.

Denver's reserve runners are unlikely to supplant McGahee in short yardage; Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman operate best in space, and Lance Ball is a jack-of-all-trades reserve who doesn't possess McGahee's decisive burst.

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Q&A with Giants' Antrel Rolle

Antrel Rolle won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, but it was also a grueling season for him in which he battled physical troubles, his own emotions, and eventually called out the entire team when they were on the brink of missing the playoffs. The safety sat with Newsday's Tom Rock for a Q&A session in which he reflected on the season, its difficulties and its glories.

I saw you on the field after the Super Bowl and you were completely exhausted. It looked like you didn't even really comprehend what was going on at the time. How long did it take it to sink in?
"I'd been to a Super Bowl before [with Arizona], but this past year, that Super Bowl, I think it drained me to my possible limits. I don't think I had another game left in me."

So if the game had gone into overtime . . . ?
"If that game had gone into overtime, I was going to pull it together. I had it in me for that game. But I didn't have another game in me. That's for certain. I think my parents saw it, I think my brothers and sisters saw it. After the game, I just went back to the room and I just crashed. It was a sigh of relief. I didn't go to any party, I didn't celebrate after. I was more mentally exhausted than physically exhausted. My shoulders were banged up but more important than anything, there was a lot on my plate playing the multiple positions, playing the nickel, playing the bison (the name of a Giants subpackage), playing safety as well as doing multiple thinking for my teammates, for myself and for the coaches . . . I kind of distanced myself from everyone going into the playoffs. The only people I really spoke to was my family. That was something I'd never ever done while playing football was distance myself from everyone. Not my teammates, but outside friends or whatever. I felt like this was something that I needed to give my all and I didn't have room for anything else in my life at that time. I think it was definitely worth the sacrifice."

You played with a lot of pain last year, two torn rotator cuffs in your shoulders. How hard was that?
"It was hard but it wasn't as hard as most people may think. I'm a guy who has always fought through injury, I've always fought through tough times, through battles no matter what it's been. If God allowed me to run, I was playing. That's just the way I approach the game. If I'm allowed to run, I'm going to go out there and do the best I can for my teammates. I know that they were depending on me and I had a huge role to play last year and I just couldn't see myself sitting out no matter how injured I was."

Did you want out last year? Was there a low point when you wanted to leave the Giants?
"No. Never."

There were articles written that you did.
"I don't even know where those stories came from but I've never ever wanted out of this organization. I think this organization is a class-act organization. I think it's a first-class organization. There were times where I wanted to play the position, the safety position. Yeah, there were times where I was unhappy about maybe how I was being played and things of that nature. But you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes me having to play the nickel spot, obviously they put me in that spot because they knew I could do it. You have to take that on your shoulders and put all the selfishness aside and do what's best for the team. That was my approach toward the end of the season. It took me a while to get there. I can admit that. But when I got there, we were all in."

That was a big turning point for the team, when you seemed to commit yourself to that role. Did you see that as a turning point at the time?
"Absolutely. I think I definitely felt it at the time. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I always say that I'm going to be as good as I want to be. I think at that point and time, right after the Washington game, I made a choice that I'm just going to go out here and be the best nickel I can be, go out here and be physical and disrupt receivers and just play within the defense and let's see the outcome."

You get criticized sometimes for being too outspoken, but then you spoke out after that Redskins game (a loss that left the Giants at 7-7). It seemed like when you were outspoken there, it actually helped and changed the mood and the attitude of this team.
"I think it's definitely a fine line. You never want to cause any problems. That's something I've never done, I've never caused any problems within this organization or with my teammates. They'll be the first ones to tell you that. By me saying what I said, it was one of those moments where I thought: 'Damn, Antrel, do you say this? Do you know what it's going to cause? Or do you keep your mouth closed and you know what that's going to cause?' I chose to just let it weigh on my shoulders and deal with whatever was going to come my way but I just knew that once we got on board and we had everyone on deck that the outcome was going to be phenomenal. I don't have a crystal ball or anything but I just know the talent of this team and I know how hard we worked to get to where we were. I'm just grateful that my teammates backed me up. My teammates backed me up with their play, with their words, with their actions. For us to go out there and win it as a team, it couldn't have been more gratifying than that."

Do you feel you're misunderstood by the fans and public?
"I really don't think I'm misunderstood. I think the way people portray things, I think they lead people to misunderstand me. If anyone ever listens to what I say, I never ever say anything for myself, I never ever say anything about my own selfish goals or selfish reasons. Everything is always for the betterment of the team. I realize that maybe I was a little different breed coming here and me speaking out and saying certain things may have opened peoples' eyes, but I never said anything other than the truth. I never said anything to intentionally hurt anyone or have anyone look at me with an odd eye. I've always said things in favor of our team, whether good or bad. I've always been a guy that takes criticism. I've always been a guy who loves for people to critique me, whether it's going to hurt my feelings or it's going to lift me up. I just always wanted the right info. Just give me what I need to hear as opposed to what I want to hear. That's just the way I am. I know it may not all seem pretty at first but at the end of the day, it's going to have a pretty outcome."

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Ryan Jackson is expected to be recalled by the Cardinals on Tuesday

Jackson is expected to be recalled by the Cardinals on Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

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Grandal leads Padres over Dodgers in 11

Logan Forsythe hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in the 11th inning after Yasmani Grandal tied the score with a two-run homer in the eighth, and the San Diego Padres beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-3 Tuesday night.

The Dodgers wasted an excellent outing from ace Clayton Kershaw and dropped 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis in the race for the second NL wild card.

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Ryan Braun Leads Brewers Over Marlins

Gorkys Hernandez hit his first career home run, Giancarlo Stanton crushed his 30th of the season and A.J. Ramos made a stellar major-league debut — becoming the first Marlins pitcher to strike out the side in his first big-league appearance.

But much like everything else this season for the Marlins season, not much good was made of it.

Former University of Miami standout and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun led a barrage of big Brewers’ hits as Milwaukee rallied for an 8-4 victory in front of 23,403 at Marlins Park on Tuesday night.

Braun smacked a 400-foot RBI double to center in the first and then a 40-foot nubber down the third-base line in the seventh to ruin what had been a nice rally by the Marlins, and what could have been a victory for Wade LeBlanc. Norichika Aoki and Jeff Bianchi, meanwhile, each homered and drove in three runs for the Brewers, who rallied with five runs off the Marlins bullpen.

“[Braun’s hit] hurt a little bit, but that’s part of the game,” Guillen said. “The bullpen struggled. It’s kind of hard to keep the lead. We tried to put the best matchup out there. But they couldn’t do the job. The only good thing about the bullpen [Tuesday] was the kid.”

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Eddy Rodriguez Sent Down

The San Diego Padres today announced they have reinstated right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass from the 60-day disabled list, recalled right-hander Brad Boxberger and infielder/outfielder Andy Parrino from Triple-A Tucson and selected catcher Ali Solis from Double-A San Antonio. In addition, the club has designated right-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf and catcher Eddy Rodriguez for assignment. Executive Vice President/General Manager Josh Byrnes made the announcements.

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Aubrey Huff contributes

As Monday's walk-off celebration unfolded, Aubrey Huff did not attempt his Renaldo Nehemiah act leaping over the rail.

"I waited until everyone cleared out and I walked with my cane up the steps," said Huff, who had a hand in the comeback against Arizona that preceded Marco Scutaro's game-ending single.

With the Giants down 7-4, Huff opened the seventh with a pinch single, which led to a run. What might seem like one measly single to some was huge for Huff, who had only nine hits in a season marred by emotional issues and a knee injury sustained during the celebration of Matt Cain's perfect game. Huff had no hits since June 10.

"I felt so dislodged from the team the last three months," Huff said. "I felt terrible that I wasn't able to do more. I just wanted to stay out of the way. To be able to be out there and feel part of it felt great."

Huff is playing what are likely his final weeks with the Giants, completing a two-year, $22 million contract that brought the team very little after he was a huge part of the 2010 championship team. He still believes he can help, though.

"If I could go out there and get some big hits down the stretch, it would be huge," he said.

Huff struck out looking as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning Tuesday.

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Chris Perez mows down Tigers to earn save

Indians closer Chris Perez was not available for Monday's series opener against the Tigers after leaving the team to be with his wife for the birth of his child.

On Tuesday Perez mowed down all three Tigers he faced on Tuesday en route to his 34th save of the season.
Perez came out of the gate firing, fanning Prince Fielder and Brennan Boesch before getting Delmon Young on a weak ground ball. After consecutive blown saves at the beginning of August, Perez has responded by converting five consecutive chances for the fading Tribe.

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Latest proCane NFLU Rosters

NFL U Rosters 9.4.12-2

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Raiders Waive DeMarcus Van Dyke

The Oakland Raiders’ change at cornerback was a strong message from their new brass: No one is on scholarship and none of Al Davis’ decisions will be given special consideration moving forward.

The Raiders drastically changed the look of the cornerback position when they signed veteran Joselio Hanson. The 31-year-old was cut by the Eagles on Friday. To make room for Hanson, the Raiders surprisingly cut second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. He was a third-round pick in 2011.

Van Dyke was a classic Davis draft pick. He was the fastest runner at the combine in 2011 and the Raiders used a high pick on him because of his speed despite the fact that he wasn’t overly productive in college. Van Dyke struggled last year. He came back and had a nice training camp this season, but he wasn’t overly impressive in preseason games.

Still, because of the team’s investment in him, his youth and speed, he wasn’t considered to be in danger of being cut. No one expected Oakland to keep newly signed Coye Francies over a third-round pick like Van Dyke. This decision has to show the rest of the roster that few players are safe.

The Van Dyke cut comes on the heels of the team cutting 2011 fourth-round pick Chimdi Chekwa. He was put on the practice squad.

Both Van Dyke and Chekwa were expected to push free-agent signing Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Yet, the youngsters couldn’t push either player.

Hanson is a fairly respected nickel cornerback and he will give Oakland solid experience. Still, the Raiders are still in flux at the position for the long run. Bartell, Spencer and Hanson are not high-level players. They are all over 30 and all are signed to one-year deals.

So, while Oakland’s cornerback position -- which was very solid in 2010 with Nnamdi Asomugha and Stanford Routt as the starters -- is drastically different for the short term and it will likely look much different next year. It’s early, but you’d have to think a cornerback will be very high on Oakland’s draft wish list next year. The picks of Van Dyke and Chekwa were designed to fill the cornerback needs for years to come.

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Matt Bosher booming punts

Entering last season one of the team’s major question marks was rookie punter Matt Bosher.

That will not be the case entering the 2012 season.

Bosher averaged 47.3 yards on seven punts against Jacksonville and placed three kicks inside the Jaguars 20-yard line. He put one punt down at the 1-yard line and another at the 4-yard line.

Overall, he placed 11 of 20 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

After just pinning opponents inside the 20, 27 times last (tied for 10th in the league, Bosher worked on his directional punting this offseason.

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Eagles Release Antonio Dixon

There were rumors this pre-season that Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Antonio Dixon could be released because he didn’t fit the Eagles defensive line scheme. Dixon was having a great season last year before suffering a season ending arm injury. Dixon is a very effective run stuffer and shouldn’t be a free agent for very long.

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Falcons Release Tyler Horn

The Atlanta Falcons released proCane undrafted Rookie offensive lineman Tyler Horn on Friday. Horn was lauded as part of the deepest position group and part of the best group of rookie the Falcons had in a while. Unfortunately Horn was cut, but hopefully he can land on a practice squad.

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Dwayne Hendricks Cut By Giants

proCane defensive lineman Dwayne Hendricks who had a solid pre-season for the Giants and was on their active roster at the end of last season after being a late practice squad pick up was cut by the Giants on Friday.

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Leon Williams Cut By Chiefs

proCane LB Leon Williams was cut by the Chiefs on Friday. Williams was entering his 7th NFL season after being drafted in 4th round by the Cleveland Browns in 2006.

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Dedrick Epps Cut By Jets

After getting a lot of playing time during the preseason with the NY Jets due to injuries at the TE position, proCane TE Dedrick Epps was cut by the Jets on Saturday.

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Falcons Add Micanor Regis To Practice Squad

After releasing proCane DL Micanor Regis on Friday, the Atlanta Falcons signed Regis to their practice squad.

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Eagles Release Brandon Washington, Signs With Rams

The Philadelphia Eagles on Friday released proCane Rookie OG Brandon Washington. Washington declared early for the draft and did indicate after falling to the Eagles in the 6th round that if he had known he was going to be drafted that low, he would have stayed at the University of Miami. Washington dealt with a concussion early in camp and missed significant time. Luckily, the St. Louis Rams signed Washington to their practice squad on Sunday.

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Ravens Place Tommy Streeter on Injured Reserve

Rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter has been placed on injured reserve, a league source confirmed.

Streeter has a sprained left foot that has sidelined him for the past week since catching a touchdown pass in the third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has been wearing a protective walking boot.

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Adewale Ojomo makes Giants roster after strong finish to preseason

At first, Adewale Ojomo was just flashing a bit and getting in Tim Tebow's head.

By the end of the preseason, the defensive end was winning games, sparing all of us from preseason overtime and downright forcing the Giants to keep him.

The undrafted free agent defensive end will make the team's final 53-man roster today, according to someone informed of the team's plans. The person requested anonymity because the Giants won't release their transactions until 9 p.m.

Ojomo had four sacks over his last three preseason games, including a strip sack of New England Patriots' quarterback Brian Hoyer to set up the game-winning field goal on Wednesday. Ojomo nearly had another strip sack, which he called "an Osi Umenyiora move," earlier in the game when he hit Ryan Mallett's arm as Mallett tried to throw.

Even Justin Tuck said he didn't see Ojomo's emergence coming in the spring and early summer.

"You didn't see that at all," Tuck said. "But he came in, continued to work, listened and went out there and made plays and at the end of the day that's what it's about. He took advantage of the opportunities given to him. I would dare say he probably had one of the best camps of any defensive end I've seen, not only here but around the league."

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D.J. Williams' ban likely to lengthened

The Denver Post expects suspended Broncos WLB D.J. Williams to have "additional games" tacked onto his six-game PED ban following his conviction for driving while ability-impaired.
Williams could be in for an additional two-game ban, which would mean he couldn't return until Week 10 in November. It's possible the Broncos will release Williams once his suspension is through, though he'd still count $3.466 million against the cap. Wesley Woodyard is starting in Williams' absence.

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Eagles Add Chase Ford To Practice Squad

After releasing proCane TE Chase Ford on Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Ford to their practice squad.

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Harland Gunn Cut By Cowboys But Signed To Saints Practice Squad

Harland Gunn, 6-2, 314, was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami (Fla.). Following a four-year career with the Hurricanes, Gunn worked at both center and guard for the Cowboys in their training camp. Gunn was then signed to the Saints practice squad.

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Josh Morgan listed as starter over Leonard Hankerson

Josh Morgan is listed as the first-team "Z" wideout on the Redskins' Week 1 depth chart.

Leonard Hankerson is listed as a second-teamer. Mike Shanahan's depth charts rarely mean much, but this confirms our suspicion that the two will rotate opposite every-down "X" receiver Pierre Garcon. It's a poor recipe for fantasy success.

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Baraka Atkins Cut By Cowboys

The Cowboys cut proCane LB Baraka Atkins on Friday. Atkins had a very good preseason for Dallas and is a good-sized linebacker, at 265 pounds, but it ended up being a numbers game at that position.

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A Matter of Time for Kellen Winslow Jr

The kid who lived down the street had size. He looked like an athlete, even at seven years old. He was big, muscular even. But he never played sports. His name was John, but he went by Kevin. People told me his father was the late John Mackey, the Hall of Fame tight end and one of the most magnificent players ever to play ‘ball. But I wasn’t sure of this because I never saw him. I saw the house, though. It was huge, the biggest house in our small Altadena neighborhood.

Kevin Mackey never played football. Not to my knowledge at least. What an unfulfilling task it might have been had he played. Could the shoes have been bigger? Or the name more significant? It’s fascinating how sons of famous athletic fathers can be left without a chance to find their own place in the world. It seems like those who inherit the genes are burdened by the angst of managing those genes.

If Kellen Winslow Jr. has been left out of some things, it’s because he’s had an issue with his timing. Winslow was the last of the colorful Miami Hurricanes players. In 2003 and 2004, the Canes played in the B.C.S. championship game, beating Nebraska in the former then losing to Ohio State in a classic the following year.

In the midst of that Winslow called himself a “soldier.” It wasn’t just what he said, but his delivery. It was defiant, bristling with an anger that seemed misplaced. Such a remark might have received some play in the eighties, when the Hurricanes were at the height of their dominance. In those days it might have garnered Winslow the macho cowboy points so coveted in the Reagan era.

But Winslow uttered those words when the country was engaged in its second Gulf War, when world tension was building, creeping towards the feverish pitch it is today. This was also after the Hurricanes—as well as Luther Campbell, the program’s unofficial spiritual leader—had lost its place in pop culture lore. The Miami Hurricanes were a great football team, but just another program. And Winslow presented himself as just another misguided athlete who knew nothing of what he spoke.

That was really the first time we had seen him up close. The image was nothing like the one cast by his father. For a lot of us, those who hear the name Kellen Winslow will always remember that one scene from the 1982 playoff game between San Diego and Miami. By then Winslow had already reshaped the tight end position to fit his image. His 13 catches for 166 yards were certainly impressive that day. But when he blocked a kick to send the game into overtime, then staggered off the field, dehydrated, cramped and bloodied, propped up by two of his teammates, we had a genuine folk hero.

That’s a lot of legacy to pass on and a whole lot more to swallow. In 2004, after Winslow Jr. was drafted sixth overall by the Browns, he’d already established himself as the best tight end in the country. I’m not sure his hands were softer than his pop’s, but the young Winslow was certainly a more fluent athlete and more explosive off the mark.

I’m sure that’s one reason—in addition to his being a young person—that Winslow lived as though he was invincible. His well-publicized motorcycle crash was an unfortunate circumstance and it kept him out of the 2005 season. But it followed some statements and gestures—like calling himself the “Chosen One,” and having a team employee carry his pads and helmet from the practice field—that kept the young man out there on the periphery, the place where opportunities are missed.

After a couple of Pro Bowl years, he was traded to the Bucs. They were just a couple of years removed from the playoffs, but the franchise had already begun its cyclical decline. Now there’s a new coach, who by all appearances, seems to prefer players without any kind of history.

Then last January, there was an occurrence in the football community—one that surely caught the attention of all those who line up at tight end. During the playoffs, for a two week period, everything in the football world orbited around the tight end. Guys named Vernon Davis, Gronkowski, and Jimmy Williams didn’t just dominate the scene, they dominated the conversation as well. Against the Saints, Vernon Davis had 180 yards, breaking Kellen Winslow Sr.’s record for yardage in a single game.

When Winslow was traded to Seattle, he had his chance to become part of this year’s great tandem. In the giant Zach Miller, Winslow had a perfect partner in crime. And in the Seahawks, Winslow had a chance to join something new and fresh. Say what you will about Pere Carroll, but when it comes to energizing a base and creating exciting new movements in places that have gone stale, the man has the touch. With the dynamic Russell Wilson as its leader, the Seahawks could very well be this year’s most exciting team.
Word is Winslow was asked to give up some cash in order to stay. Winslow declined. Winslow believes his salary is commensurate with his status in the league.

Even if that is true, now may not be the best time to express it.

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Jon Beason Will Be Ready For Week 1

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera said wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Jon Beason are expected to play in the team's Sept. 9 regular season opener against Tampa Bay after both returned to practice Sunday.

Beason didn't participate in any of the preseason games after injuring his hamstring early in training camp. He split reps in practice Sunday with Jason Phillips, who has been filling in at middle linebacker in his absence.

Beason said the biggest thing now is not pushing the hamstring too fast.

"Coaches are limiting me in practice, but all in all it was a great day," Beason said. "As of today I feel good."

Beason also missed the entire preseason last summer with tendinitis in the lower left leg and then went out and tore the Achilles in that same leg in the season opener against Arizona, thus ending his season.

He said he's not worried about something similar happening this year.

"It's a different injury," Beason said. "When you deal with tendinitis you can only treat it and it goes away on its own. But as far as hamstrings are concerned it's more a strength thing. If there's too much fatigue that's where you begin to get into trouble."

Smith and Beason were captains last year and are considered key cogs for the Panthers.

Smith has played in five Pro Bowls and Beason three.

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Raiders terminate Roscoe Parrish’s contract

The Raiders terminated the contract of receiver/punt returner Roscoe Parrish, a day after he fumbled his first two opportunities at returning punts for the team. He was signed Tuesday after the Chargers cut him on Monday.

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Giants' Perry Fewell pleasantly 'surprised' by Adewale Ojomo's emergence

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell read what you read this week: Adewale Ojomo said he was going to get a few more sacks.

“He has a lot of confidence in himself: ‘Hey I did it last week, I’m going to do it this week.’ And I’m kind of saying to myself, ‘Yeah, right. Okay,’” Fewell said this afternoon. “And he goes out and he does it and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes.’”

Ojomo, if you somehow haven’t heard by now, made the Giants’ final roster after pretty much coming out of nowhere and surprising even Justin Tuck by recording four sacks in the team’s final three preseason games, including the strip sack to set up the game-winning field goal against the New England Patriots.
Tuck wasn’t the only one stunned by the undrafted free agent’s emergence.

“You know what, I’ve got to give (defensive line coach) Robert Nunn all the credit. This was a kid Coach Nunn called up on draft day and he joined our squad,” Fewell said. “He just kept working and the kid, he surprised me, he surprised everybody. I love his attitude. The way he went out and worked.”

And the way he backed up his talk.

“That’s a great thing for us because there’s another guy in the mix that wants to get better,” Fewell said. “He’s in a room with some good football players. If he’ll listen, he’ll learn and if he’ll work hard every day, he’s got a chance to get better and be considered one of those guys one day.”

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Modest Chris Myers has growing profile

Offensive linemen are often some of the most fun, funny and smart players in an NFL locker room.

Reporters -- and fans -- tend to rely on at least one as a key team spokesman who can address issues that extend well beyond pass protection or room for the running backs.

But some lines are intentionally quiet, believing that any voice that emerges as louder than the others in a group of five can dent the cohesion necessary for five guys -- maybe not literally, but certainly in a symbolic way.

Eric Winston’s tenure with the Houston Texans dated back to 2006, and he never shied away from a microphone or a tape recorder. The team cut him at the start of the offseason in a cost-cutting move, and he’s now with Kansas City.

The line’s personality changed a little with the move.

Center Chris Myers signed a four-year, $25 million contract to stay in Houston including $14 million guaranteed. While left tackle Duane Brown landed a monster deal during training camp and rates as one of the best in the league at his position, it’s Myers who was the group’s quiet leader even with Winston around.

And it’s Myers who will be looked to more to explain things going forward.

“That’s not really Myers’ personality,” Rashad Butler, who lost the right tackle job to Derek Newton in camp, told me during the offseason. “Now since Eric’s gone, and this is not a knock against Eric, I just think we don’t have that type of guy on the offensive line now. Eric was that guy, he loved that, he loved to talk, to debate and things of that nature, not in a bad way. I don’t really see us having any guy now on the offensive line that has that personality that Eric had.”

I feel like I’ve gotten a better sense of Myers over the last couple years. He’s smart, gritty and intensely focused. Those are qualities you want in any player and certainly in a center. Chatting with the likes of me is part of his job and he’ll do it, but it certainly wouldn’t make the list of his favorite duties.

In July, he said he treated training camp like it was his first and his last. He learned the offense all over again and took detailed notes during install as a rookie would while also being paranoid that he was a veteran whose job was on the line and it could be his last time.

“I’ve never been a big media guy,” he said. “If there are things going wrong in the season, I view it as there is nothing to talk about. Spend your time getting better as an offensive line. You’re a unit, there shouldn’t be one or two guys out there kind of doing the whole media thing.

“I’m a firm believer in that, but I do understand the business side of it and the media side of it. Somebody has to speak. I don’t like it, I’m not a huge fan of it. I will do it for the time being. The offensive line just needs to go out there and work. Whatever perceptions positive or negative come out of it, that we don’t talk, we don’t care.”

I respect that stance and explanation.

But I think team accountability is reflected, at least to a degree, in public accountability.

If a guy is reluctant to talk during the week, that's one thing. A player’s willingness to talk after a game is what people should be most concerned with, as fans are eager to know what happened and why. There are big egos in the business, no matter how one unit on one team may try to suppress that. And part of what wins the continued respect of teammates is the way a guy might step out to accept blame for errors or spread credit for success.

“I’ll talk after a game,” Myers said, before shifting to the bigger picture. “Last season and the season before when Arian Foster was blowing up, everyone wanted to talk about the offensive line. So there was a lot more media attention on the offensive line and I’m not a big fan of that.

"Obviously the attention’s great. But with us having to talk and do interviews and personal type of things, appear on the coverage of programs and those type of things, obviously I’m not a huge fan of that. I think we should just get the whole accolades as an offensive line. But me, Duane and Wade Smith being vets, we do understand the process.”

Last year's line made the Texans go, and nothing schematically has changed so that should be the case again, even with new starters Antoine Caldwell and Newton on the right side. Hopefully for Houston, Myers and crew will be in position to decline interview requests often.

It'll mean they're playing great.

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D.J. Williams begins suspensions

Veteran linebacker D.J. Williams begins his suspension Saturday for violating the banned substance policy. He likely will be suspended additional games because he was convicted of driving while ability impaired.

Williams, an eight-year starter, didn't play in any preseason games. He declined all interview requests during the preseason, including Thursday night in Arizona.

Green and Williams are allowed to keep their iPads containing the Broncos' playbook, but the team is prohibited from updating it or communicating with the two players during their suspensions.

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Santana Moss hopes reduced role with Redskins leads to increased impact

When Santana Moss sits at his locker at Redskins Park and glances around the room, he can’t help but notice how different it looks compared to when he first got there in 2005.

A lot of notable names have come and gone from the Washington Redskins’ roster since Joe Gibbs traded a disgruntled Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets in exchange for Moss. Clinton Portis, LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Sean Taylor, Mike Sellers, Shawn Springs, Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell. They’re all gone.

Last week saw the Redskins part with another member of that team when they released tight end Chris Cooley.

Of the 53 players on that 2005 team, only Moss remains — having played for three head coaches and prepared to play with his eighth starting quarterback.
But as the Redskins prepare to kick off the regular season Sunday in New Orleans, Moss has not only survived, he is still expected to be a key figure in the offense.

His role has changed. He no longer is the starter, thanks to the arrival of free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and the anticipated breakout of second-year pro Leonard Hankerson. This season Moss takes on the role of slot receiver, meaning he will come off the bench for three- and four-receiver formations, and could see time on only half his team’s offensive snaps. But Redskins coaches believe that with the lighter load, the 33-year-old will be more effective.

Moss, whose 488 catches as a Redskin rank fifth on the team’s all-time receptions list, refuses to see the decision as a demotion. He’s simply glad to still be on the field.

“Honestly, man, things change in life, and I’m well aware of that,” Moss said. “I’ve never been a guy that was complacent about where I am. I’ve never had a hard time adapting. . . . Whether the coaches need me to be the guy I used to be or not, and be something less, at least they gave me an opportunity. . . . You see guys come and go — guys that have been here a while — that are gone now.”

Last summer, Moss signed a five-year, $25 million contract to return to the team, but his production during the season was limited. He broke his hand halfway through the season and missed four weeks of action. Once Moss returned, he didn’t seem to have the same explosiveness, and finished the year with only 46 catches for 584 yards and four touchdowns.

This past winter, Redskins brass deemed the receiver position in need of an overhaul. So they signed Garcon to be their No. 1, Morgan to compete with Hankerson as the No. 2, and told Moss he needed to lose weight and have a strong offseason and training camp. Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also planned on having Hankerson and two other young wideouts — Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson — compete for Moss for playing time at slot receiver.

Moss reported for spring practices 15 pounds lighter and coaches remarked that the 12th-year veteran seemed rejuvenated. Moss emerged from the preseason having beaten out Hankerson and Robinson, and Austin was released.

“He’s just keeping his nose to the grind, and wherever they put him, he’s able to be successful and still show he’s a dangerous receiver,” said Anthony Armstrong, Moss’s teammate of two seasons, whom the Redskins released Friday. He signed with the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

Moss said he never wavered in his confidence over making the team, and never felt threatened by the competition.

“I’ve never been insecure,” Moss said. “So when it comes to [competition], I always look at it as, ‘You line up next to me and show me that you’re better than me.’ . . . We’re a team, so if I have to do something different than what I had to do before, then cool, because I can line up with the best of them.”

To understand Moss’s sense of contentment with his situation, one must go back to his days at Miami Carol City High School, where as a skinny, 5-foot-6 kid, he made the varsity squad, but found opportunities hard to come by.

His first year on varsity, Moss saw only three balls come his way. Not much changed the following year and Moss wanted to transfer to another school, but his father wouldn’t let him.

“It took me two, three years for the coach to finally say, ‘Okay, you’re ready now.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Coach, I been out here running my routes.’ But I appreciated it,” Moss said. “As I seen my senior year, we won the state championship and I was, quote unquote, that guy. I was like, ‘Wow.’ Dad told me to stay, and I was always humble about the situation, I never had any outbursts or anything. But it showed me that if you work hard and wait patiently, good things will come to you.”

Even after that state championship campaign, which saw Moss record 25 catches for 600 yards and 12 touchdowns, doors were slow to open for him. He got into Miami on a track scholarship and then earned a spot on the football team before finally developing into a first round draft pick four years later.

Moss got off to a slow start in the NFL as well. An injury forced him out of the first 11 games of his rookie season, and he didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season. Nine years later, Moss has made one Pro Bowl appearance and recorded four 1,000-yard seasons (three with Washington). He counts himself fortunate, especially considering his longevity both with the Redskins and in the NFL as a whole. Of the receivers drafted his rookie year in 2001, only Moss, Indianapolis’s Reggie Wayne and Carolina’s Steve Smith are still in the league.

“He’s probably one of the best guys I’ve been around that understands the game and understands his role and how he fits. That’s why he’s been able to last so long,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “And he’s a real humble guy. Even though he’s been a top receiver, Pro Bowl guy, at the top of his game, he’s never been a prima donna. And that’s what you love to see in a guy.”

Kyle Shanahan said this summer that he still sees Moss as “one of the premier guys in the NFL at that [slot receiver] position.” And despite his reduced role, Garcon and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III say Moss remains the leader of the receiver position.

“I am throwing it to Santana if I get in trouble,” Griffin said. “It’s just something that comes about with the flow of the play. If the play breaks down, Santana just happens to have more experience in following the quarterback.”

Moss appreciates the respect of his teammates, but at this point in his career, recognition isn’t something he seeks. Having made the playoffs with Washington only twice since 2005, he only wants to win.

“It’s bad. It’s real bad,” Moss said of his increasing contempt for losing. “But with that said, man, the only way to get that taste out of your mouth or conquer what you’re feeling is to go out there and do it. . . . Receivers can have a losing season as a team and have a great statistical season as a receiver. . . . My success is based on what the team does. I’m all about winning. And if you can’t win, you ain’t successful.”

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Scott Maine Recalled

The Indians have announced they will recall four players from Columbus on Tuesday: left-handed pitchers David Huff and Scott Maine, infielder Cord Phelps and infielder/outfielder Vinny Rottino.

Maine was recently claimed off waivers from the Cubs and made two scoreless relief appearances for the Clippers. In 21 relief appearances over three different stints with the Cubs’ major league team this season he was 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA.

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Peter O'Brien's home run lifts Staten Island Yankees to 1-0 win over Brooklyn Cyclones

University of Miami product Peter O’Brien continued his late-season power surge with his 10th home run and four pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout as the Staten Island Yankees closed out their season series with the Brooklyn Cyclones with a 1-0 victory Sunday night at MCU Park in Coney Island.

The Baby Bombers (28-44) snapped a three-game losing streak before returning home for a three-game season-ending series with the Connecticut Tigers beginning Monday night at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

Brooklyn won the season series 8-6, but dropped into a tie with the Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays in the race for the 14-team New York-Penn League’s lone wild-card playoff berth. Batavia rallied for its ninth straight victory, an 8-7 triumph over Auburn.

Brooklyn, Batavia and Auburn all are 44-29. Batavia and Auburn are also tied for the Pinckney Division lead, while the Hudson Valley Renegades and Tri-City ValleyCats have clinched their respective divisions.

Brooklyn hosts the Lowell Spinners in a three-game series beginning Monday night. The Cyclones own the tiebreaker against both Batavia and Auburn on the basis of head-to-head competition should there be a tie for the wild-card berth.

O’Brien’s one-out blast over the leftfield fence off Rainy Lara was the only scoring of the night.

Andrew Benak (5-5) posted the win with five innings of one-hit ball for the Yankees, while rehabbing major-leaguer Pedro Feliciano worked one inning of relief followed by James Pazos and Taylor Garrison, who nailed down his ninth save.

Staten Island manager Justin Pope was ejected for the first time this season, in the top of the sixth inning by plate umpire Ben Levin.
O’Brien also had a double in a 2-for-4 night. Staten Island had five hits and Brooklyn four.

Lara (8-3) pitched seven innings and took the loss.

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