All Canes Radio With Damione Lewis & Eddy Rodriguez

Every Thursday Night joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes live from Shake Shack in Coral Gables. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interviews with proCanes Eddy Rodriguez and Damione Lewis. Eddy Rodriguez talks about being called up to the Major Leagues last year by the San Diego Padres, his friendship with other proCane Padres, the state of the current UM Baseball team, and much more!

Retired proCane DL Damione Lewis also joined us and talked about his playing days in the NFL, his Hurricane days, what it was to be a part of the greatest show on turf, the current state of the Hurricane football team and MUCH MORE!

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Antrel Rolle to A.J. Green: "Duck"

A.J. Green just couldn’t watch his mouth. And now, he’ll need to spend all of Sunday watching out for Antrel Rolle.

The Giants safety made that clear to Green on Thursday, just minutes after hearing that the Bengals receiver had questioned the strength of the Giants’ secondary. The morning began with Green declaring on the radio that the Giants ‘D’ had “a lot of holes.”

And that’s all it took to set Rolle off.

“I’ll talk with my pads come Sunday,” Rolle said. “That’s how I approach the game. If he sees me, he better duck. That’s it.

“If I get a chance,” he added, “I’m coming across.”

A.J. Green, you've been warned. The always-spirited Rolle will be hunting for Green on Sunday in Cincinnati, looking to make a statement for the entire Giants ‘D’. It’s a statement the Giants ‘D’ failed to make back in Week 4, when they couldn’t shut down Browns tailback Trent Richardson, who’d yapped that he’d find running room then backed it up with 128 total yards and a score.

Green was already expected to be a marked man on Sunday; the Bengals receiver, who leads the NFL with eight TD catches, is easily Cincinnati’s most dangerous offensive weapon. The Giants praised the second-year man throughout the week and Rolle called him “a great receiver” and “definitely their best player on the offensive side of the ball.”

But Green drew the Giants ire early Thursday morning. In an interview on WFAN, the wideout praised the Giants’ defensive line, calling them “one of the best front fours in the game.” Then, he ripped the Giants’ beleaguered secondary.

“I feel like they’ve got a lot of holes in their defense,” Green said.  

Little else was needed to irritate a proud Giants secondary that knows that it has struggled. The Giants allow 264 passing yards per game, seventh-worst in the league, and they’ve been unable to shut down big plays. Last week, Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace turned a short slant into a 51-yard touchdown. And a week earlier, a 55-yard Dez Bryant catch helped spark the Cowboys near-comeback.

Rolle and his teammates knew these deficiencies long before Green opened his mouth. They just didn’t care to hear it from him. And while offenses have taken advantage of the Giants, Big Blue’s defense has been effective, making 17 interceptions, tied with the Bears for tops in the league.

“Have we given up plays? Yeah, we’ve given up plays,” Rolle said. “So I can definitely see why he says that. But at the same time we’re winning games. We’re doing whatever it takes to win games out here. We’re creating turnovers when an opportunity presents itself. So I don’t really worry too much about what he says.”

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did care just a bit. Truth is, Green’s little rip was hardly revelation; every defense has weaknesses.  But the Bengal wideout gave Fewell just a little more ammo to push his unit to play tighter.

“I think we’ve shown lapses in play,” Fewell said. “There are holes in every defense. If you’re a good offense, you exploit what the defense gives you. All that says to me and says to our players is we need to play better.”

And the Giants defense must do that, if only to silence Green and anyone else in the league. The Giants’ beleaguered ‘D’ is tired of being ripped.

“Just go play the game, man,” Rolle said. “You can’t worry about what one guy says. He just needs to go play his game, and we need to play ours. If he sees holes, then hopefully, he’ll find ‘em.”

And if Rolle has his way, he’ll find A.J. Green, too.

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Meet Sean Taylor's Brother, Gabriel Taylor, Who's Tearing up Pee-Wee Football and Basketball

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Last Saturday, as part of the Redskins "Homecoming Game" vs the Panthers, the Redskins held several events around the city, including a lunch with Sean's Dad, Pedro "Pete," where I got the chance to talk and interview him. Also there was Pete's son, and Sean's brother, Gabriel, who is as nice and humble as can be. Much of the buzz of the afternoon was how good Gabriel is and that he has highlights on YouTube. Indeed. And they are quite amazing. Reportedly (I don't buy this for one minute), Shanahan only cares about a prospect's 10 best plays, so Gabriel would fit that nicely. If only the NFL draft was like Major League Baseball's the Redskins could draft the rights to him now.

Via Generation Nexxt:
Gabriel Taylor #21, safety for the Florida City Razorbacks 90's was selected as the Miami Dolphins Youth Player of week. With a key interception for a touchdown, Gabriel sealed a victory against the Gwen Cherry Bulls in the Championship game.

Here's video of Gabriel for both basketball and football. At the 3:05 mark shows him swishing a NBA three pointer and game film begins of all his point guard dishing. He's clearly playing against kids bigger than him and likely older than him.

At the 7:30 mark, the football highlights begin from his 90 pound league. They're all very Sean Taylor-esque. Out-juking players as a RB, great jumps on interceptions, tackling guys bigger than him, and some big pops.

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Ed Reed upgraded to limited participation

Ravens free safety Ed Reed rejoined his teammates at practice Thursday as he was upgraded to limited participation after sitting out the previous day.

While Reed deals with a knee injury and a torn labrum in his shoulder, four other starters were sidelined for the second consecutive day.

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Darryl Sharpton unlikely to return this week

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharptonicon-article-link is unlikely to be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list this week.

Sharpton practiced for the second time in 2012 on Thursday, but the Texans did not wear pads like they do on most Thursdays. It sounds like Sharpton, a third-year pro who suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury last October, has a chance to return next week.

“He’s doing good,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Thursday. “I think he’s moving forward. I took (the pads) off today, but I liked the way we practiced. The next step for (Sharpton) is to get in his pads.

“I think to say that he’s going to be ready to go this week, I don’t think we’re there yet. I know I’m probably early to say that, but I just think it’s the smart thing right now because I think he needs a few more days of work and make sure he comes out of one week clean. But he’s had two good days.”

The Texans have until Week 13 to move Sharpton to the active roster. Otherwise, he will remain on the PUP and not be able to play this season.

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VIDEO: Great Punt by Matt Bosher

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Greg Olsen On The Health Of His Infant Son Following Surgery And The Support He’s Received

Nearly a month after TJ was born, Greg Olsen and his wife, Kara, were able to bring their infant son home from the hospital Tuesday, reuniting him with his twin sister and making the Olsen family complete.

TJ was born with a congenital heart defect which required surgery and weeks of recovery, and he’s slated the undergo two more procedures in the coming months and years.

Greg Olsen joined The Drive on WFNZ in Charlotte to discuss his son’s health, his family and how the team’s owner, the organization and the city have supported him during such a trying time.

On how his son is doing:
“Everybody’s doing good. It feels like it’s been a long time coming and something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and we’re just thankful that the doctors were able to give him such good treatment, and his recovery was a little faster than everyone really anticipated. He’s home now, and obviously there’s some follow-up stuff that Kara and he needs at home, but for the most part he’s home and we can kind of settle in as a family now and enjoy these next couple months before the next surgery.”

On bringing his son home to be with his twin sister and the rest of the family early this week:
“It was the first night we were able to have them all together at home, and brought him up to the nursery and all that. So that was obviously a special moment. It was a little bittersweet when we brought Talbot home a couple weeks ago and weren’t able to bring the whole crew, and just knowing as we sat around at night that one of the pieces of the family was at the hospital, going through some tough times. So we’re really thankful and feel really fortunate with the outcome, how it’s been so far. And we just hope that the next couple big stages of surgery go as well as the first one.”

On the support he’s received from owner Jerry Richardson, the organization and the city of Charlotte:
“It means everything. It shows you that the people have their priorities straight with this organization. And that’s the kind of team, that’s the kind of people that you want to work for and play for. Sometimes I think, in this business, people really lose track of that. Don’t get me wrong, we all take this very seriously, and we all want to win and win every game, but sometimes the bigger picture gets lost between all of us, and I think sometimes things get put back in perspective a little bit. It’s unfortunate that it had to be something like this, something so serious, but to see the true colors of people in situations when you need them the most is really the true test. And everybody kind of rallied around us and really was there for us through a really tough time when we first got the diagnosis back in the spring. Obviously what Mr. Richardson has done everyone has heard about, and I couldn’t be more thankful that he brought me here and then the help and the care we’ve got from the city and the hospital. It’s unbelievable how much sense everything makes looking back — just a year ago being brought here and not knowing we’d need the type of care that this city has to offer, and to happen to be right in our own backyard was amazing.”

On the intersection between the team’s struggles and his personal struggles:
“It’s been a rough couple months, but it doesn’t make the losses any easier, it doesn’t make them any harder. The reason they’re hard is you know how much time and effort the team and how much sweat and pain and everything that you put into each week and each game. And for the outcomes to go the way they did in such a heart-breaking way just makes the whole thing difficult. And then when it’s time to go home, though, that’s when my family needed me to be dad. And sometimes it’s not easy for us guys in this league to separate the two — you always end up bringing your work home with you, good or bad — and I really was trying to be aware of that. I didn’t need to bring my problems from practice home to my wife, who had a lot bigger fish to fry.”

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Darryl Sharpton elated after first practice since 2011

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton practiced for the first time in 2012 on Wednesday.

It was 372 days after he tore his right quadriceps tendon against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 30, 2011. Sharpton is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list after suffering a setback in his rehab during training camp, but Wednesday was a major step toward an eventual return to the field on Sundays.

“It felt really good,” Sharpton said on Wednesday afternoon. “Just driving to the stadium today, I felt like a kid on the first day of school or something; I was all nervous. But it felt really good. I can’t even explain it. It felt good just to be a part of the team again.”

Added Sharpton a few minutes later: “I’m sure for everybody else, it was just a regular Wednesday. For me, it was just a huge, huge day. Like, it was bigger than the presidential election for me.”

Sharpton was eased into action at his first practice, playing about half of the scout team reps and doing limited special teams work.

“We’ll go back and look at it,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “If we put on pads on (Thursday), it’ll be good to see him bounce around in pads a little bit. I’ve got to make a decision there. We’ll proceed this week. There is no pressure on him. It’s strictly, we’ve got our window here to figure out when we think we can turn him loose. Today was a step in the right direction.”

The Texans have three weeks to move Sharpton to the active roster. It could happen as soon as this weekend for their game at Chicago. It could happen as late as the week leading up to their game at Tennessee in Week 13.

Sharpton said he “felt good, felt strong” on Wednesday and that he was able to cut and change directions. He wants to be activated as soon as possible but is leaving the decision in the hands of coaches and trainers.

“After I went out there today, obviously, it was the first time getting back out there, so I had my doubts, (was) a little hesitant,” Sharpton said. “I had butterflies in my stomach. I was excited. All kind of different emotions, but after running around, letting the adrenaline flow through my blood, I felt like my old self. I felt like a good football player.

“Honestly, I’ve been blessed my whole life, but for me, this is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, especially as an athlete, my whole life never being sidelined this long, never experienced anything like this. Emotionally, it was really rough on me. I had really bad days. It was ups and downs, but I just kept pushing through it, following directions, and I’m just happy to be back out.”

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Colin McCarthy was limited in practice Thursday

McCarthy (ankle) was limited in practice Thursday, the team's official site reports.

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Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne keep Colts on improbable playoff path

When March 13, 2012 rolled around and NFL free agency began, Reggie Wayne could have played the market, checked out what kind of deals were out there. He was, after all, coming off eight straight seasons with at least 70-plus receptions and seven of eight with 1,000 yards receiving — 2011 being a “down year” at 75 catches and 960 yards on a miserable Colts team with massive quarterback issues.

Wayne could have followed Peyton Manning to Denver. Or signed with a receiver-needy team like the Ravens. Heck, he could have taken some extra money and landed with a desperate, underachieving franchise just looking for some star power.

Instead, he re-signed with the Colts … then cautioned everyone against writing off his longtime team.

“It’s not set in stone that we’re going to (struggle),” Wayne said after deciding to stick in Indianapolis. “Who knows — we might shock the world.
“This time next year, you might be writing that these Colts are some bad boys.”

Eight months after Wayne’s comments, and about seven after the Colts drafted Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, the veteran wide receiver is starting to look like Nostradamus.

Thursday night, in front of a scattered and apathetic crowd in Jacksonville, the Colts won their fourth straight game and sixth of the season, 27-10. That’s already four more victories than they had all of last season — and three more than they had during Peyton Manning’s rookie year of 1998, if you’re keeping track of such things.

With seven games left on their schedule, the Colts have a solid grasp on an AFC wild-card spot. And considering that two of their remaining contests will be against AFC South-leading Houston, it might be time to raise the bar.

“In the locker room, we have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Luck said on the NFL Network set after the game. “We prepare to win football games. It’s great to be where we are; we also realize that it’s on the right path, but it’s nowhere near the end goal.”

The Luck-Wayne combo set the tone Thursday night, as it has for much of the season.

Luck threw eight passes in the first quarter against Jacksonville, seven of them in Wayne’s direction — five for completions. The Colts’ rookie QB then opened the second quarter by finding Wayne again, this time for a 21-yard gain to the Jaguars’ 8. Two plays later, Luck ran one in for a touchdown to put Indianapolis ahead 10-0. Luck scored again before halftime, extending the Colts’ lead to 17.

Jacksonville briefly showed some life, when backup QB Chad Henne hit Cecil Shorts on a fourth-quarter TD pass, pulling the home team within 14.

Facing a 3rd-and-3 on the ensuing possession, Luck looked Wayne’s direction again. The 16-yard gain that resulted? Mere child’s play.

From there, the Colts embarked on a time-draining drive that ended any ill-founded hope the Jaguars had of mounting a comeback.

“He’s come in and done an outstanding job — I’m just glad to be on his side,” said Wayne of Luck. “I wouldn’t compare him to (Peyton). I want him to get his own legacy, I want to help him. Just keep winning games with him, man.”

Luck returned the praise.

“Reggie’s been a great leader for this team and a great leader for the young guys on this team,” Luck said. “He’s not going to sit down and lecture us on what to do, but he leads by example incredibly well.”

Somehow, Jacksonville handed the Colts their lone home loss thus far back in Week 3. But seeing how far Indianapolis has come in such a short time has to be a punch to the gut for the Jaguars. While they muddle through a second straight frustrating year with Blaine Gabbert under center, the Colts appear to have found a clear franchise quarterback in Luck — not to mention the potential 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year and a fringe MVP candidate.

Earlier this week, a large group of Colts players shaved their heads in a show of solidarity for head coach Chuck Pagano, away from his post for weeks as he fights cancer. In Pagano’s absence the Colts have adopted the motto “Chuckstrong”, and they just keep flexing their muscles.

They did so Thursday, on a short week after a hard-fought win over Miami, despite the absences of linebacker Robert Mathis and cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis.

A perfect performance, it was not — Luck turned it over twice, and only a personal foul penalty prevented a third miscue. The Colts’ defense bedeviled the moribund Jacksonville offense, though, giving Luck and company all the help they needed.

Another win secured. Another step toward a stunning and improbable playoff berth taken.

“I came in and talked to (Pagano, after he was hired), and he told me to take a leap of faith,” Wayne said. “That’s why I’m here today.”

So far, that faith has been rewarded.

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Vince Wilfork proves tough to move

FOXBORO — On nearly every snap, Vince Wilfork [stats] is forced to shed a minimum of a quarter ton of blockers.

Wilfork almost always squares up against a pair of 300-pound men, and the triple teams come nearly as often as the one-on-one matchups for the defensive tackle. Point is, opposing offenses don’t want Wilfork to single-handedly blow up a play, at least not on a regular basis. The problem, though, is he finds ways to do it anyway.

“Whenever you see him get double-teamed and he splits it, you’re sitting there like, ‘Damn, two guys and they didn’t move him at all,’ ” defensive back Devin McCourty said. “That happens countless times.”

Stats have never dictated Wilfork’s value. For instance, in last season’s AFC Championship Game victory against the Ravens, he pushed both guards and the center --— 935 pounds of linemen — into Joe Flacco’s face, forcing the quarterback to scramble on their initial third-down failure.

Stack up the game tape, and those plays are a dime a dozen for Wilfork. But every double team is a victory for the Patriots [team stats]’ defensive front because it allows ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to work with more space. That, in part, has played into the pair’s 11 combined sacks in the first eight games.
“It’s pretty hard to stop a guy that is as athletic as he is going forward with his size,” Ninkovich said. “There have been a lot of times when he has completely overpowered the people that are trying to block him. It takes two to stop him, and sometimes that doesn’t even work. He’s just a great lineman. He’s one of those guys who is able to change games.”

Wilfork expanded his game last season when he intercepted a pair of passes, and he has stretched out his play-making arsenal this season, too. In Week 4, Wilfork snuffed out the Bills’ wide receiver screen to Donald Jones and raced to his right to destroy Jones as the ball arrived, causing an incompletion. Wilfork’s recognition saved a long gain in a two-score game.

“That’s his territory,” Ninkovich warned. “They ran that middle screen, and he was able to sniff it out and clobber the guy.”

Wilfork really put his athleticism on display in the second quarter against the Rams. He barely engaged his block before diagnosing a pass to the right flat, and darted to arrive in Daryl Richardson’s face before the ball to make the tackle for a 4-yard loss.

“He makes some crazy plays,” Ninkovich said.

The uniqueness of it raises the Patriots’ eyebrows. Teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Jets call an assortment of zone blitzes where a defensive lineman will be tasked with dropping into coverage. But Wilfork’s plays have been a result of his own intuition, not the assignment.

His teammates love it, mostly due to the result but also because they know the next day’s film session will turn into Wilfork’s boasting session.

“I laugh right away,” McCourty said. “I laugh because I know as soon as he does it, the next day I’m going to hear about it, probably because I’m always the guy making fun of him, being big, I always hear about it when he does something that skill guys do. It’s pretty unique. I think it’s pretty amazing for a defensive lineman to be able to recognize different things in the pass game.”

The flip side is McCourty and Co. are waiting for Wilfork to whiff on one of those freelancing plays because they can’t wait to get on him for it. One issue: It hasn’t happened yet. They’re plenty happy with that, too.

“When I see him play out there, to me, it’s unbelievable at how dominant he is, at how he can be that size and still be so quick with lateral movement and make so many different plays all over the field,” McCourty said. “I think he’s definitely one of the most dominant players in our game.”

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Ryan Braun wins fifth Silver Slugger

Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun was rewarded Thursday for having the best overall offensive season in the National League in 2012 by claiming his fifth consecutive Silver Slugger Award.

Silver Sluggers are awarded every year to the best offensive performers at their positions in each league in votes by the managers and coaches, who are not allowed to select players from their teams. Three outfielders are elected in each league with no regard to the exact position they play.

Braun, who has won the award in all five seasons in which he has played the outfield, led the NL with 41 home runs, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS (on-base plus slugging). He was second with 112 runs batted in, 191 hits and a .595 slugging percentage, third with a .319 batting average and fourth with a .391 on-base percentage.

The other outfielders selected in the National League were Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and Cincinnati rightfielder Jay Bruce.

Aramis Ramirez did not repeat at third base in the National League despite having a big offensive season -- .300, 50 doubles, 27 homers, 105 RBI. That honor went to San Diego's Chase Headley, who led the league with 115 RBI.

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Pedro Taylor: There never will be any closure

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It’s been nearly five years since Sean Taylor was killed at his home in Florida. Time hasn’t dimmed the memories of him for fans or, especially, his father, Pedro Taylor. He was back in town for the Redskins homecoming game Sunday vs. Carolina, along with Taylor’s daughter and other family members. Here’s a little bit from a short conversation with him (tough to hear at some points because of the noise):

Q: What’s it like to be back?
A: It’s beautiful. It’s been a great, exciting time. The reception was nice last night.

Q: When was the last time you were back?
A: It was about less than a year ago. I try to come back once a year to a game to show my love.

Q: Is it hard for you? Odd?
A: I think it’s more rewarding and healing for me to come back. It helps just bring back memories and have a good time. That’s what we had here, a good time.

Q: What memories have you had since you’ve been here?
A: Watching my granddaughter being held by by [Sean] over here in the corner and just having fun.

Q: Does your granddaughter like being around?
A: This is her second time back. She’s very excited and it’s a great feeling.

Q: It must be nice to have here come here and have people tell her what they think or remember about her dad.
A: As she gets older she understands more. She definitely will be appreciative. I’m appreciative. The family’s appreciative.

Q: [Tough to hear question; was about the trial of Taylor’s accused killers].
A: I’m in every trial. Right now we’re getting ready to start the real trial.

Q: Is it nice to get to that point?
A: It will be.

Q: Will that bring any closure?
A: There never will be any closure. It’s hard to lose a child. It’s hard for a parent to bury a kid. I respect the fact that God makes some mistakes [inaudible].

Q: It’s hard to believe it’s been five years.
A: Very hard. But he’ll always live forever in my life.

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Calais Campbell nursing leg injury

Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell missed practice on Wednesday and apparently will be nursing a leg injury during the team's off weekend.

The severity of the injury is unknown. The team isn't issuing an injury report this week, and coach Ken Whisenhunt declined comment.

Campbell, the starter on the right side, was seen limping in the locker room following Tuesday's practice.

A significant injury to Campbell would be a huge blow to the Cardinals.

He has 3 1/2 sacks this season and has played well against the run.

Campbell's injury explains why the Cardinals signed a defensive end, Ronald Talley, to fill the roster spot created when linebacker O'Brien Schofield was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.

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Titans hope change helps Colin McCarthy heal

Three players – linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), safety Al Afalava (ankle) and linebacker Xavier Adibi (knee) – did not practice on Wednesday.

In past weeks, McCarthy has practiced on Wednesday and Friday, using Thursday to rest his ankle. But coach Mike Munchak said the team will see if changing his schedule might help the healing process for McCarthy, who suffered his high-ankle sprain in the first week of the season.

The Titans practiced on their indoor field.

“We thought we’d rest him today, especially being inside on this turf,” Munchak said. “We’re trying to find different ways to help him get healthy … so you’ll see us try different combinations. He may just practice on a Friday or a Saturday. I don’t know if he’ll do a lot more tomorrow, but we’ll probably get him doing a lot more on Friday.”

Munchak said he wasn’t sure about the status for Afalava or Adibi this week. Afalava said earlier in the week he’d likely miss a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

As for other Titans on the injury report, linebacker Patrick Bailey (ribs) and cornerback Tommie Campbell (ankle) were limited.

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Ravens miss Ed Reed and others at practice

Five starters didn't practice Wednesday for the Ravens, including three Pro Bowl selections in free safety Ed Reed, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and offensive guard Marshal Yanda.

Plus, offensive guard Bobbie Williams and defensive end Pernell McPhee were sidelined at practice.

Reed is listed with a torn labrum in his shoulder as well as a knee injury.

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Concussed WR Santana Moss subject to NFL return-to-play protocol

Veteran receiver Santana Moss is subject to the NFL's return-to-play protocol after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to Carolina, Mike Shanahan said Monday.

The Redskins don't play again until Nov. 18 against Philadelphia because this weekend is their bye, so Moss has some extra time to show he is asymptomatic.
That's fortunate for Washington because Moss leads the team with five receiving touchdowns (no one else has more than one) and ranks third with 313 receiving yards. He primarily has been a slot receiver in sets that include three or more receivers.

Moss, 33, will go through the same neurological tests quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver Aldrick Robinson underwent earlier this season. Both played in the following Sunday's game, but the duration and intensity of concussion symptoms are unique to each sufferer.

Moss was injured when he ran a quick out from the left slot. Cornerback Josh Norman, who lined up over receiver Aldrick Robinson on the outside, came off Robinson when he recognized Griffin intended his throw for Moss. Norman dove to broke up the pass, and his helmet hit the side of Moss' head. Both players were going for the ball, and the hit was not penalized.

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$2.1M bid for Warren Sapp's mansion rejected by bank

The bank has rejected a $2.1 bid for Super Bowl champion Warren Sapp's Reserve at Lake Butler Sound mansion on Wednesday as part of his bankruptcy.

According to a news release, the 15,000 square-foot, custom-designed Tuscan mansion, which was built in 2005 for nearly $7 million, includes 10,100 square-feet of living space and features four large bedrooms, a wine cellar, movie theater, a custom resort-style swimming pool complete with waterslide and lazy river, 500 feet of combined frontage, with dock, on Lake Butler and an array of upgrades and extras.

And it's all back on the market Wednesday. The home, which is located at 11049 Bridge House Road in Windermere, was sold last week to a fitness entrepreneur who said she isn't planning on living in the home.

It's not clear if the mansion will be put up for auction again. Sapp made $77 million in the NFL playing for the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Oakland Raiders.

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Giants plan to rest safety Kenny Phillips through bye week

Giants safety Kenny Phillips is not expected to return until after the Giants' Week 11 bye, coach Tom Coughlin said today.

Phillips has been sidelined since suffering a right knee sprain against the Eagles in Week 4. He practiced each day last week, twice in a limited capacity, and said he would play against the Steelers, but wound up being inactive.

"It's not a setback," Coughlin said. "I think what's going to happen is we're going to try to rest him this week and then through the bye, and hopefully we can get him back."

The Giants have their bye after this week's Bengals game. Their first game after the bye is against the Packers. Stevie Brown has filled in well in Phillips' absence.

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Defensive duo of Calais Campbell & Washington gets top 50 recognition

The Cardinals’ defense hasn’t been playing as well of late as it started, but they have had a pair of players who have done well all season: defensive end Calais Campbell and inside linebacker Daryl Washington. It makes sense then that both were recognized on’s top 51 players of the first half of the season. Campbell came in at No. 36, while Washington was No. 17 — interestingly, tucked right between both 49ers inside linebackers, NaVorro Bowman at No. 18 and Patrick Willis at No. 16.

Here’s what the site had to say on both:

17. Daryl Washington, ILB, ARZ
Washington continues to make plays for the Cardinals even if his reckless abandon style has seen him miss 11 tackles already this year. At times has struggled in coverage but his inside linebacker leading 62 tackles and eight sacks show just how much of a playmaker he is.
Key Stat: Has picked up 17 quarterback disruptions on 86 blitzes.

36. Calais Campbell, DE, ARZ
Last year Justin Smith upstaged him and this year it’s J.J. Watt, but Calais Campbell is damn fine player. Incredibly productive on every down, he’s gone from a guy who generated a lot of pressure, to a player who can (and does) do it all. Regularly commands a lot of attention from offenses, but has still managed to make 24 defensive stops and bat four passes.

Key Stat: Has made a stop on 8.8% of all running plays he has been in on.

It doesn’t hurt that both players were wisely signed to long-term extensions by the team recently, Campbell this summer and Washington right before the season. That’s turned out to be a very smart move. Again, this list is about every player, not just rankings at each position.

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Frank Gore happy to line up behind these guys

SANTA CLARA -- Like a race car forced to make a pit stop, Frank Gore watched some competitors zoom past him last week. Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards, Adrian Peterson for 182 and Chris Johnson for 141.

Gore ran for zero. The 49ers had a bye.

So upon reporting for duty this week, Gore had a message for his offensive linemen.

"I told them that we have to play catch up," he said. "It seemed like nobody played defense last week. There were all these guys running for 100 yards. I told my guys we have to catch up. And we will. We'll be all right."

Gore smiled. After spending so much of his early career running for mountainous yardage behind molehill blocks, the three-time Pro Bowler is running behind an offensive line capable of making up for lost time. Gore even declared this the best O-line of his eight-year NFL career.

"They're springing me and giving me big lanes that I've never seen before," he said.

Heading into Sunday's home game against the St. Louis Rams, Gore is averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry -- a tick better than his 5.4 average in 2006. At this season's halfway point, he is on pace for just the fourth 1,300-plus-yard season in 49ers history.

He slipped from sixth to eighth among NFL rushing leaders during his week off (when Martin and Johnson passed him), but Gore said he doesn't need the numbers to tell him how effective his offensive line has been. His body tells him.

"It's a blessing that I'm not nicked up," Gore said. "I'm just having fun running through the big holes that they're giving me."

Gore is the only player since 2006 with at least 10,000 yards from scrimmage and 50 touchdowns. He's somehow done that behind offensive lines that have produced just two Pro Bowlers: guard Larry Allen in 2006 and left tackle Joe Staley in 2011.

He might have two more this season alone. Right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati were named to Pro Football Weekly's midseason All-Pro team, and each is paying off in the way that the 49ers hoped when they embarked on their prolonged (and patient) approach to upgrading their blocking.

There are now three former first-round draft picks up front -- Staley (28th in 2007), Davis (11th, 2010) and Iupati (17th, 2010). There is also last year's free-agent score, former Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin, as well as the risk-reward jackpot of right guard Alex Boone (undrafted free agent in 2009).

That explains why Gore's running space has steadily widened from dead-end alleys to two-lane highways. And it helps that the 49ers coaching staff has found ways to capitalize on its maturing talent up front.

Just ask Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, who, while preparing for Sunday's game at Candlestick Park, marveled at the 49ers' weekly creativity.

"I don't think I've seen some of these plays since the Tecmo Super Bowl," Laurinaitis said, invoking the cult video game from the early 1990s. "They throw the house at you."

Laurinaitis, in a conference call Wednesday with Bay Area reporters, said that the 49ers list of "weird running plays" includes two-back sweeps and triple traps.
"You don't see that formation anymore where two backs line up at the same depth, side by side. It's just good stuff," Laurinaitis said. "And they have the personnel to do it because they have the offensive linemen who can pull and get out there. Or they can just come up and maul you."

The Rams are a team Gore tends to torment no matter which blockers are in front of him, averaging 113.7 yards from scrimmage in his past three home games against them. He also has 11 career touchdowns against St. Louis, tied with Arizona for his most against any opponent.

Now, he gets a crack at the Rams behind the unit he called the best O-line he's ever had. Upon hearing that compliment, his blockers -- not surprisingly -- had Gore's back

"He's probably the best runner I've played for," Goodwin said. "He's up there with a guy like Curtis Martin. He's a great back, a complete back."

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Ryan Braun finalist for NL MVP

As expected, Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun -- the reigning NL MVP -- was named one of the five finalists for the 2012 MVP Award in the National League on Wednesday.

The finalists for each award of the Baseball Writers Association of America were announced on the MLB Network, which will broadcast the awards next week for the first time from Monday through Thursday.

Braun was joined by San Francisco's Buster Posey, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, San Diego's Chase Headley and St. Louis' Yadier Molina as finalists for the MVP Award. The BBWAA submits ballots after the regular season with 10 names, with first place weighted heavily in the points system.

By statistics alone, one could make a strong case that Braun should be the MVP again this year. He was first with 41 home runs, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Braun was second with 112 runs batted in, 191 hits and a .595 slugging percentage, third with a .319 batting average and fourth with a .391 on-base percentage.

But MLB Network analyst brought up the subject that is expected to cost Braun dearly -- the positive drug test for elevated testosterone last October. That process was supposed to be confidential but leaked to the media and even though Braun had the test overturned on appeal and it had nothing to do with his 2012 season, the general consensus is that he was penalized in the voting by BBWAA members, making Posey the favorite.

"He was better (than in 2011) but he's not going to win it because of the offseason he had last year," Reynolds said flatly. "He's not going to win MVP this year."
Reynolds went on to say that he expects Posey to win in a landslide.

Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki, who had a very nice first year in the majors, was not among the three finalists for NL rookie of the year.
The finalists for the other awards:

Rookie of the Year
National League: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati;  Bryce Harper, Washington; Wade Miley, Arizona.
American League: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland; Yu Darvish, Texas; Mike Trout, Los Angeles.

Manager of the Year
National League: Dusty Baker, Cincinnati; Bruce Bochy, San Francisco; Davey Johnson, Washington.
American League: Bob Melvin, Oakland; Buck Showalter, Baltimore; Robin Ventura, Chicago.

Cy Young Award
National League: R.A. Dickey, New York; Gio Gonzalez, Washington; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles.
American League: David Price, Tampa Bay; Justin Verlander, Detroit; Jered Weaver, Los Angeles.

Most Valuable Player
American League: Adrian Beltre, Texas; Miguel Cabrera, Detroit; Robinson Cano, New York; Josh Hamilton, Texas; Mike Trout, Los Angeles.

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Yasmani Grandal suspended 50 games for use of testosterone

Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal has been suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for use of a banned substance, per MLB's drug policy. MLB has announced that the substance in question is performance-enhanching testosterone.

"We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Yasmani Grandal for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention & Treatment Program," the Padres said in a statement. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outlined by Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, we will not comment further on this matter.”

Grandal released his own statement: "I apologize to the fans, my teammates, and to the San Diego Padres. I was disappointed to learn of my positive test and under the Joint Drug Program I am responsible for what I put into my body. I must accept responsibility for my actions and serve my suspension."
Grandal's suspension will take effect at the start of the 2013 season.

This past season, the 23-year-old rookie batted .297/.394/.469 with eight home runs in 60 games. He was acquired in December 2011 as part of the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Reds.

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White Sox acquire Blake Tekotte from Padres

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- The White Sox acquired outfielder Blake Tekotte from the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, hours after the general manager’s meetings began.

Right-handed pitcher Brandon Kloess, who spent last season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, was sent to the Padres in exchange for Tekotte, who was added to the 40-man roster.

A third-round pick in 2008 out of Miami, Tekotte, 25, has played in 30 major league games over the last two seasons and carries a .163 career average in 49 at-bats.

The Padres designated Tekotte for assignment on Nov. 2.

Tekotte hit .243 with nine homers in 89 games at Triple-A Tucson last season. He hit .285 with 19 homers and 67 RBIs in 2011 at Double-A San Antonio.

Kloess, 27, was 6-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 73 2/3 innings last season. A minor-league free agent in 2009, Kloess struck out 70 batters and walked 30.

The White Sox now have 34 players on their 40-man roster.

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Magic give DeQuan Jones unlikely shot at NBA

When DeQuan Jones finally got a moment alone after making the Orlando Magic's roster, he sat silently for a while in his rental car outside the team's practice facility, reflecting on his good news that defied NBA odds.

Here's how big of a long shot Jones was in making the team, let alone starting a game for the Magic: He wasn't invited to any predraft camps, wasn't listed in the league's media draft guide and worked out with only three teams. He was the seventh-leading scorer at the University of Miami last season as a senior, light credentials that led to a quiet evening at his parents' house last June, when he watched the NBA draft and didn't hear his name called.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say an ounce of doubt didn't creep in my mind," Jones said of his NBA dreams. "Nobody expected anything. It was more so a shot in the dark."

Jones got workouts with the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. While working as a Pistons executive, Magic assistant general manager Scott Perry liked the athleticism he saw from Jones, a 6-foot-8 guard/forward. Perry soon added Jones to the Magic's summer league team, where he made a strong impression that landed him a training camp non-guaranteed invite.

Jones began believing he could make the Magic when he scored 22 points in a preseason game against the Pistons on Oct. 16. (His career-high at Miami was 16). He made a strong final impression in the preseason finale, scoring 16 against Houston.

The Magic had to make the tough decision of keeping either Jones, veteran swingman Quentin Richardson, who had two years and $4.5 million left on his contract, or young guard Justin Harper. On Oct. 27, the Magic gave Jones the nod.

"I just sat in the car for about 10 minutes and replayed everything that happened the last couple years of my life," Jones said. "I just wore a smile. I just can't stop smiling."

Two days later, the 22-year-old was apartment hunting in Orlando with a new salary of $473,604.

"He was smiling ear to ear when we told him," Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. "We told him it doesn't get easier from here, it gets harder. It speaks to the perception of timing. DeQuan put himself in this position because he was in shape, – his effort, his athleticism – and he made great plays."

Not bad for a player who had a lackluster college career that included a career-low two games started as a senior, and an average of 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game. His top highlight was perhaps competing in the slam dunk contest at the Final Four. His lowlight was serving an 11-game suspension as part of the investigation into former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who said he gave a then-Miami assistant coach $10,000 to give to Jones to aid his recruitment.

Jones, who was later reinstated, denied receiving any money or ever meeting Shapiro. He said the "suspension wasn't justified" and believes the scandal hurt his standing in the NBA heading into the draft period.

"I looked back on that as a teaching point," Jones said. "It taught me how to deal with adversity and how to persevere. In the future adversity is guaranteed. But that moment taught me how to deal with it, how to stay positive, how to believe in myself and not give up."

Miami coach Jim Larranaga said Jones played sparingly during his college career because he made the mistake of "making a habit of trying a lot of different things" like shoot a "Kobe Bryant fade-away jumper." Once Jones focused on rebounding, Larranaga said, he was able to improve his game – and that makes him a "major success story."

Jones missed the Magic's season-opener because of a strained left groin. But with swingman Hedo Turkoglu out indefinitely with a broken hand, Jones started the next two games for Orlando at small forward. He had two points Sunday in his NBA debut against the Phoenix Suns as a starter, but described the moment as incredible.

Said Jones: "My hat goes off to the Orlando Magic organization for giving me an opportunity in summer league and training camp. They obviously saw the potential in me and took a chance."

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John Salmons is almost ready to play

John Salmons is almost ready to play in a game. "I want to get him at least two or three (more) decent practices," Keith Smart said. Even if Salmons does wind up playing, it should be in a minimal role and he's not on the fantasy radar.

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Greg Olsen’s son TJ home from hospital

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife Kara brought their son home from the hospital Tuesday – four weeks after TJ Olsen was born with a congenital heart defect.

TJ Olsen spent nearly a month at the Levine Children’s Hospital after surgery to correct a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

He faces two additional surgeries over his first three years. The next one will be scheduled within three to five months.

The Olsens were excited to reunite TJ with his twin sister, Talbot, who has no health issues, and his 17-month-old brother, Tate.

“Today is a day we have been looking forward to for the past 10 months. To have all our children home together is an amazing feeling,” Greg Olsen said in a text message to the Observer. “TJ is doing great and we look forward to enjoying our time as a family for the next few months until the next big hurdle. Thanks to everyone for all their continued support and prayers.”

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Vince Wilfork Named Mid-Season All Pro

Two New England Patriots were named to the Pro Football Weekly Midseason All-Pro Team on Tuesday. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive end Vince Wilfork both earned the honors.

Gronkowski has 43 receptions for 580 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He leads all tight ends in yards and touchdowns. Gronk was named an All-Pro last season with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Wilfork has 22 tackles, three pass deflections, and three fumble recoveries this year. He has earned second-team All-Pro honors four times, in 2007 and 2009-2011.

Gronkwoski and Wilfork were two of four total AFC East players named to the Midseason All-Pro Team. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and Buffalo Bills punt returner Leodis McKelvin were both named to the team as well. Pro Football Weekly named four defensive linemen and four linebackers to this years team. They also eliminated the fullback position and added a third wide receiver.

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Jimmy Graham feeling near 100 percent

Jimmy Graham said he was finally able to "push" off his tender ankle in Monday's win over the Eagles.

Graham missed one game due to his ankle sprain and was limited in two others. On Monday, he looked really healthy en route to a 8/72/1 line. Graham is primed for a monster second half of the season.

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Sam Shields to battle Hayward, House for RCB job

Packers RCB Sam Shields will compete with Casey Hayward and Davon House if he returns from his shin injury following the Week 10 bye.
Shields was the victim of a few questionable penalties early in the season, and it may be enough to cost him a starting job. Hayward was named NFL's defensive rookie of the month for October, and CBs coach Joe Whitt believes House has come "probably further along than anybody I've had."

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Frank Gore ready to get back to work

Frank Gore spent the bye week in his hometown of Miami relaxing, spending time with his family and watching other NFL teams play. As soon as he returned to the team facility, one of the first things he did was find his offensive linemen.

“I told them today we gotta play catch up,” a smiling Gore told a group of reporters by his locker after Tuesday’s practice. “It seemed like nobody wanted to play defense this last week. All these guys ran for over 100 yards.”

Gore dropped to eighth in the rankings among NFL running backs after Doug Martin’s 251 yard performance and Adrian Peterson’s 182 yard outing last weekend. But the eight-year veteran is feeling good. His bruised ribs are nearly back to normal after the time off, and he gets to go back to work with what he says Is the best offensive line he’s ever run behind.

“I’m just having fun,” Gore said.  “Just having fun running through the big holes they give me.”

Even with the week off, the 49ers still put up more rushing yards per game than any other team in the league. They lead the league with 5.6 yards per rush as well. Gore’s teammates up front give him just as much credit for their runaway success.

“I love blocking for Frank. I think everybody does,” said starting right guard Alex Boone. “He’s one of those guys he’s a power back. He can be a speed back. He sees a crease and he hits it. To play for a guy like that, unbelievable.  He’s tough. He never gives up. He’s always going. His motor’s always turning. He always wants more. To play for a guy like that you gotta be ready.”

“When Frank gets hit he doesn’t always go down right away,” adds center Jonathon Goodwin. “You see him makes some pretty tough runs. And that’s one thing I love about him is he’s a physical type guy.”

The Arizona game showed how the 49ers' passing game benefits when Gore gets going early.  Boone said it also served as an example as why their running game needs to get even stronger during the second half of the season. Opponents are stacking the box to stop Gore first.

Three of the 49ers' next eight games feature run defenses ranked among the league’s top seven. But Gore is always ready to take on the challenge.

“Seeing him out there and he’s like, 'Come on guys we gotta go we gotta go,'” Boone said of Gore. "And the line responds '‘Hey, Frank’s pumped up we gotta go. Let’s roll. Gotta get more yards and keep on grinding.'”

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Leonard Hankerson was scheduled to rotate Sunday

OC Kyle Shanahan said the plan was for Leonard Hankerson to rotate with Aldrick Robinson at "X" receiver in Week 9.

Hankerson didn't start, but played 44 snaps compared to 32 for Robinson. Hankerson was the preferred option in the red zone. Even if Pierre Garcon (foot) ends up shut down for the season, neither of his backups can be trusted while sharing the snaps.

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Darryl Sharpton cleared to return to practice

As expected, the Texans have cleared inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton to return to practice.

Sharpton will remain on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he does not count against the 53-man active roster. The Texans have three weeks to decide whether to place him on the active roster or leave him on the PUP for the remainder of the season.

The earliest Sharpton could return to action is this Sunday at Chicago. The latest he could be promoted to the active roster is the week leading up to the Texans' Week 13 game at Tennessee. The Texans would have to release another player in order to create room for Sharpton, a third-year pro out of Miami (Fla.).

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Murielle Ahoure and Ben Meite support the future of athletics

Success in the Olympics, for the United States of America and Jamaica, is the end result of a long preparation. It all begins with the identification of those boys and girls who have what it takes to become the next Murielle Ahoure and Ben Meite, or even the next Bolt and Blake.

Murielle Ahoure (7th on 100m in London 2012) and Ben Meite (champion of Africa on 100m) brought their support to a day of detection of young athletes. They tell the story to StarAfrica in this video.

Let's hope that some of these young runners can make it very far. The Olympics in Rio, 2016, are on the horizon!

Murielle Ahoure et Ben Meite soutiennent... by starafrica

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DeQuan Jones is Magic's feel-good story

Let's face it: After going through the Dwightmare, the firing of execs, coaches and scouts and some considerable embarassment, the Magic were due some good karma this season.

And there's no better feel-good story on the roster than DeQuan Jones.

If you're tired of spoiled, misguided superstars, DQ reminds us what's great about sports.

Jones had little chance of making the team, it seemed, after the UM forward was snubbed in the draft

"The draft...that was the longest three hours of my life," he said. "That was tough."

DQ proved to be tougher.

He beat the long odds to make the roster, and his hard work, perseverance and appreciation is refreshing.

The Magic had so many guaranteed contracts on the books that it appeared Jones was merely a training-camp body.

"Honestly, I didn't think about that. I couldn't think about that. I just had to play my best," he said.

Jones' athleticism caught the Magic's attention when they invited him to participate on their summer-league team. He once dunked over a motorcycle in a NCAA dunk contest.

The Magic ate the last two years of Quentin Richardson's contract to effectively make room for Jones at small forward.

Then, when veteran Hedo Turkoglu sustained a broken hand in the opener, Jones was thrust into the starting lineup on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.
Jones didn't have much impact on the game, but the game had an impact on him.

"It was surreal," he said.

Teammates, recognizing how much his NBA debut meant to him, welcomed DQ when he came to the bench in the first quarter.

"Jameer (Nelson) said, 'Welcome to the NBA, rook,'" Jones said.

Yes, rook. Welcome to the NBA. And thanks for reminding us what the journey is all about.

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Darryl Sharpton to return to practice

When the Texans return to practice Wednesday, they’ll be joined by inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton for the first time since he blew out his quad tendon and knee last season and suffered a setback with a hip injury in training camp.

The Texans can wait up to three weeks before deciding to activate Sharpton or place him on injured reserve.

“You would love to think he comes out there and practices Wednesday and Thursday and say, ‘Boy, I think he can help us,’?rdquo; coach Gary Kubiak said. “There is no pressure on him.

“Obviously, he wants to get back on the field as quick as he can, but we’ll make sure he’s shown us he’s ready to go.”

Before he was injured last season, Sharpton was rotating with DeMeco Ryans at the inside spot next to Brian Cushing.

“He’s an excellent special-teams player,” Kubiak said. “He’s a very physical player, loves to hit, and can help us. We see a guy that can be factor for our team.”

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Jimmy Graham gets into end zone

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham posted a game-high eight receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Week 9 game against the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, Nov. 5.

Fantasy Tip: Graham has posted TDs in back-to-back games, and he has found the end zone in five of the seven games he has played this season.

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Andre Johnson credits new practice regimen for health, production

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson only played seven games in 2011 because of injuries, a number he topped Sunday by playing in his eighth game of the season.

Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle reports that Johnson credits a new between game routine for keeping him on the field this season. Johnson is taking fewer reps in practice, doing more stretching and getting regular massages in hopes of being as fresh as possible on Sundays.

It didn’t look like the approach was working all that well through the first five weeks of the season. After catching eight balls in the opener, Johnson had just nine catches in the next four games and looked like a less dangerous receiver than he’s been at earlier points in his career. Things have turned around since then as Johnson has 25 catches in his last three games, including eight for 118 yards in Sunday’s win. The Texans had stretches of ineffective play on offense Sunday, but Matt Schaub found Johnson to keep the chains moving on several occasions during the 21-9 win.

Johnson’s burst of productivity has him closing in on the top 25 in NFL history in receptions and the top 30 in receiving yardage, numbers that he said don’t mean as much to him as the fact that the team is 7-1 halfway through the 2012 season.

“The only time I find out about stats is when I talk to the media,” Johnson said. “It’s an accomplishment, a great accomplishment, but winning is the thing.”

It felt at times on Sunday that the Texans were doing just enough to come out of the game with a victory. That won’t be enough to win against the Bears next Sunday, which makes it a good thing that Johnson is riding a hot streak into the marquee matchup of Week 10.

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Ray Lewis not expected back in Ravens' building in near future

For anyone expecting to see injured Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis at practice or attending games anytime soon, they'll probably have to wait a bit longer.

Placed on injured reserve-designated to return after undergoing surgery to repair his torn right triceps suffered during a 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has been rehabilitating away from the Ravens' training complex.

Lewis has been spending time in Florida and following his surgeon's advice as far as his recovery plan.

"He's doing well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He probably won't be in the building for a little while. He's got a protocol he's following. I can tell you this: He's got the best doctors in the world, to my understanding, working on his triceps. So, I fully trust Ray with his rehab right now. I know he's doing everything he can to get back."

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Andre Johnson silencing critics with production

HOUSTON—In the Texans’ first five games, receiver Andre Johnson caught 17 passes for 283 yards. He heard and read criticism that he was slowing down at 31, that hamstring injuries last season and a groin injury in preseason had taken a toll, and he couldn’t run the way he used to.

Johnson has turned those jeers into cheers over the last three games in which he’s caught 25 passes for 279 yards.

In the last two victories over Baltimore and Buffalo, Johnson has 17 receptions for 204 yards. Of those 17 receptions, 12 have produced first downs.

Johnson says he feels better than he did in camp and at the start of the season. Coach Gary Kubiak takes it easy on him in practice, preferring to save Johnson’s best for games.

Basically, Johnson says he’s getting more opportunities, and he’s taking advantage of them. Johnson usually attracts double coverage. Corners play on or off coverage, and there’s usually a safety over the top. If the defense is playing one safety, he’ll shift to Johnson’s side. Unless it’s a gifted cornerback like Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets, defensive coordinators seldom put one player on Johnson.

In the victory over the Bills, Johnson caught eight passes for 118 yards. It was the 40th 10-yard game of his career. He’s played a key role in the Texans’ 7-1 record that’s the best in the AFC.

Johnson’s on a pace for 84 catches for 1,124 yards but only four touchdowns. His two touchdown receptions are three fewer than tight end Owen Daniels’ team-leading five. The one thing quarterback Matt Schaub has to do better over the second half is to get the ball to his best receiver in the red zone.

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No setback for Kenny Phillips

Coach Tom Coughlin said Kenny Phillips did not suffer a setback over the weekend, but rather he was not ready to play against the Steelers, the reason he was not active for the game.

Phillips seemed confident his return would happen Sunday when he spoke to the media for the first time since spraining his MCL against the Eagles in Week 4.

"I don’t know if you would call it [a setback]," Coughlin said Monday. "Just didn’t feel like after a couple of days of practice that he could do the things he had to do to perform in the role that we wanted him to be in."

Stevie Brown started his fifth consecutive game in Phillips’ absence. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell stuck with a three-safety package in the game plan with Tyler Sash getting snaps as the third safety.

Former St. Peter’s Prep star Will Hill completed his four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy. The rookie safety was in the Giants’ locker room Monday and the team has until Monday to activate Hill from the suspended list and add him to the 53-man roster.

Hill must be added by 4 p.m. Saturday in order to be eligible to play at Cincinnati.

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Almost the return of magnificent six for Bears’ Hester

Oh, so close.

Seemingly lost in all the commotion Sunday was Hester’s best punt return of the season.

Hester returned a line-drive punt from Brett Kern 44 yards to the Titans’ 8, setting up Matt Forte’s touchdown run. Kern was able to slow Hester as Jamie Harper made the tackle and prevented him from ending his TD-return drought.

Nonetheless, it was Hester’s longest punt return in 2012. He entered the game averaging 7.3 yards. Hester remains one touchdown shy of tying Deion Sanders for the most combined return TDs.

“[It was] very important for Devin to get off and the rest of the group,” coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “We’ve been close a couple of times. We feel like we’ve had a couple of opportunities where we could’ve broken a big one, but it’s just a matter of time with Devin Hester before we would be able to do it.”

On Hester’s 44-yard return, the Bears used two blockers on each of the Titans’ gunners. Hester last returned a punt for a touchdown Nov. 13, 2011, against the Lions.

Smith, though, said Hester’s history definitely played a role in a blocked punt.

“No doubt it does,” Smith said. “Just having Devin back there does so much, period. You look last week, the field position we were able to get [when the Panthers used squib kicks]. Guys worrying about getting down there and covering as opposed to protecting, all of that comes into play when you have the greatest returner of all time back there.”

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Paul Tagliabue refuses to recuse himself

In news as expected as "Mark Sanchez refuses to give up his job to Tim Tebow," former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has told both the league and the NFL Players Association he won't step aside as the arbitrator in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

Tagliabue was appointed by current commissioner Roger Goodell, who recused himself from the appeals process last month. The NFLPA and Jonathan Vilma's attorney filed motions in a New Orleans court asking a judge to recuse Tagliabue.

The players believe Tagliabue is incapable of being an objective arbitrator because he's senior of counsel at the law firm representing the NFL in Vilma's defamation suit and because he still serves as an advisor for the league.

The motions are still pending. According to a report by ESPN, the hearings, which were originally slated for last week but were postponed by Hurricane Sandy, will be held on Nov 20.

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Leonard Hankerson caught three passes for 49 yards in Week 9

proCane Redskins WR Leonard ankerson caught three passes for 49 yards in Week 9 against Carolina.

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Adrian Thomas stars as Phoenix eclipse Shining Suns

Decades from now, Adrian Thomas will still remember Sunday's game at Hamamatsu Arena, when the spotlight shined on him from start to finish.

With his teammates setting him up for shot after shot and a green light from coach Ryuji Kawai to do what he does best, Thomas had a ridiculously prolific game for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix.

The final numbers: 13-for-25 from 3-point range and 41 points in a laugher, a 139-83 victory over the visiting Miyazaki Shining Suns in the bj-league series finale.

Hamamatsu won the opener 112-77 on Saturday.

Thomas, a 25-year-old former University of Miami (Florida) player, has previously competed in the NBA Development League and in the NBA Summer League for the Miami Heat.

Hamamatsu improved to 7-3 in its first season in the Western Conference after four sensational campaigns in the Eastern Conference, and Thomas helped the run-and-gun squad establish a league record for total points, shattering the old mark (126) set by the Toyama Grouses in a triple-overtime contest against the Rizing Fukuoka on Oct. 24, 2009.

In addition, Thomas established a league record for 3s in one game. Michael Gardener had 10 3-pointers on May 10, 2009, for Hamamatsu, and his former Phoenix teammate Masahiro Oguchi drained 10 in the Final Four on May 22, 2010.

Thomas scored 25 points and drained 7 of 14 3s on Saturday.

Kevin Galloway finished with a triple-double in Hamamatsu's rout, with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 16 assists. Jeffrey Parmer had 15 points, Atsuya Ota added 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Tsubasa Yonezawa poured in 13 points.

The Phoenix erupted for 85 points after intermission. As a team, Hamamatsu was 21-for-43 on 3-point shots.

Larriques Cunningham paced the Shining Suns (1-7) with 33 points and Dominique Keller had 28.

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Sean Taylor's father joins Redskins defense for pregame huddle (VIDEO)

SeanTaylor copy
The Washington Redskins secondary invited Pedro Taylor, the father of the late Sean Taylor, to join in a pregame huddle before Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Taylor shook hands with members of the Redskins defense, then huddled with them in a pregame circle.

Sean Taylor was murdered in his Florida home five years ago this month. His father was in Washington as part of the team's 80th anniversary celebration. Sean was honored as one of the 80 greatest Redskins at an event Saturday night. Pedro accepted the honor with Sean's six-year-old daughter, Jackie.

This was an undeniable goosebump-raising moment, even if the "we ride together, we die together" mantra felt too uncomfortable given the circumstances.

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PHOTO: Anthony Reddick With a Takedown


B.C. Lions' 44 Adam Bighill and B.C. Lions' 26 Anthony Reddick bring down Saskatchewan Roughriders' 87 Aaron Hargreaves in the first half of the Lions final game of the 2012 CFL regular season at BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, November 03 2012.

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D.J. Williams opens up publicly

Criminal. Thug. Cheater. Liar. Overall bad guy. Those are just some of the less-than-flattering words used to describe Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams in recent months.

This morning, Williams is only 10 days away from returning from a nine-game (combined) suspension for a failed drug test and a DWAI conviction stemming from a November 2010 arrest. Williams, a 2004 first-round pick who’s led the Broncos in tackles in five of his eight seasons coming into 2012, may be considered a success on the field, but his all-too consistent off-field troubles have sparked controversy at best, hatred at worst and down-the-center disappointment for most.

Part of the harsh judgment comes from several questionable actions, but Williams is also notoriously difficult to deal with for the media. Reporters looking for a quote from the now-30-year-old University of Miami product are always turned down, some politely and most rather bluntly. And Williams’ disconnect with the media has unquestionably helped shape a strongly negative perception of the talented-yet-troubled linebacker.

Starting with his first DUI conviction in September 2005, a second DUI arrest in November 2010 (lowered to a DWAI in an August conviction), and wrapping up with two failed drug tests in 2011 and the subsequent nine-game suspension that he’s currently serving, the 17th overall pick in the 2004 draft is in the doghouse of many Broncos fans for a number of transgressions. And his previous media silence only appears to have alienated him further.

But on Thursday night, Williams opened up publicly with the media for the first time in more than two years, talking about his troubled past, his uncertain future and how he’s dealing with the present.

“It’s hard to open up to people that you don’t know,” Williams exclusively told Mile High Sports from his kitchen table, appearing relaxed and speaking far beyond the allotted half-hour scheduled interview. “That’s not me. That’s not my personality. I don’t talk to people I don’t know genuinely.”

Williams spoke candidly on a smorgasbord of topics for nearly a full hour on Thursday, discussing everything from his heavily criticized social media antics to his desire to retire as a Bronco and his “Dyme Lyfe” lifestyle.

On social media – often the source of several of Williams’ headaches over the years – and Dyme Lyfe, which is closely related to his Twitter account (@DJWilliam55), Williams was particularly candid.

If you were to glance at his Twitter account, you’d find frequent references to Dyme Lyfe and retweets, or mentions, from various fans wearing t-shirts and other clothing sporting the two words that have taken on a life of their own. Despite little mention of the exact definition of what exactly it means, the “Dyme Lyfe” has gradually developed a negative connotation among some fans and the media.

Williams helped spearhead the Dyme Lyfe movement two years ago with then-Broncos teammates Ronald Fields and Marcus Thomas as a means to positively get through a difficult 4-12 season in 2010. Holding up a pinky, ring and middle finger and using the same hand’s thumb and index fingers to form a circle, most outsiders might interpret the hand gesture as an “okay” sign. However, many critics have taken it as either a gang symbol or a reference to smoking marijuana, a claim Williams vehemently denies. Instead, he said it was simply a way for the three teammates to stay positive.

“It has nothing to do with anything negative,” Williams said. “It has nothing to do with smoking marijuana. We have a creed. It’s a select few who focus on bonding, and building relationships with each other and indulging in the finer things in life, and never, I repeat, never, press for attention or accept it. That’s what ‘Dyme Lyfe’ means; it’s almost like paying something forward. It’s not treating somebody like you’d treat yourself; it’s far beyond that.”

But Williams’ prolonged silence about the subject helped allow the stories and rumors about the Dyme Lyfe’s true origin to circulate. And like a bad game of telephone, stories tend to get worse over time.

His Twitter-related problems don’t end there, however. When Williams tweeted that he was going out to party after the Broncos lost an October 2010 game to the 49ers in London, he was vilified on Twitter. He took exception to the criticism.

“Fans don’t understand. You’re mad, you had a five-dollar wager on it, you’re probably going to get teased by your friends, your work colleagues,” Williams said with a hint of anger in his voice. “(But) when we lose games, guys lose jobs, livelihoods; guys who are married who have wives and kids. We’re talking about multi-millions (of) dollars being lost. So for someone to think that someone who lost a game is not upset is foolish. Just because their actions after a game are different than some other people is foolish. We have a saying in the locker room, ‘Hold on to this one for the day and get it over with, and get ready for the next one.’ Just because a guy goes straight home after a win or loss doesn’t mean that he cared about something more than me. And I know the perception of it, but guys release and get rid of stress in different ways.”

Williams’ public reputation perhaps reached its all-time low in June, when the Sacramento native tweeted a picture of the Broncos’ playbook on Twitter, igniting a firestorm of criticism from both fans and media, who barked at Williams for revealing preciously-held secrets of the Broncos’ playbook. But Williams – who had just been asked to switch positions for at least the fifth time in his eight-year career – said he was just trying to show fans that he was hard at work.

“My coach tells me, ‘Hey, we’re changing your position; you’ve got to learn a new position over the weekend and you’re basically going to compete against somebody who’s been doing it for two, three months. And you’re fighting for a job,’” Williams said. “So, I woke up on my day off at nine in the morning, because I always like to write things down. I went and I got flash cards. So what I did was I took every defensive call. I wrote the call down. I wrote where I set in the front. I wrote where I (lined up). I wrote what I’m doing. I wrote what everybody else is doing. I wrote every check if they go to empty.

“So I had those cards, I had 50 or 60 cards. I look on the card, the actual card that I put on the thing was (a play call). I would see how many I could get without looking at the back. And so while I was doing that, because it just was after Memorial (Day) weekend (June 8 was the day of the tweet), I went to Vegas and I had a great time, and I took pictures with my friends. Just like hundreds of other NFL players did the same thing. So I was like, ‘I’m going to show people, do something for the fans to connect and show them.’ Because they didn’t know.”

In addition, the tweeted plays (which came on a panel of six cards) were, what Williams described them as, mainstream plays that weren’t, or aren’t, secrets across the NFL.

“Every defense has this call (the one that he tweeted). Every offensive player knows it,” said Williams, who said he received numerous calls of support from teammates after the incident. “It would have been the equivalent of a basketball player posting the pick and roll.

“None of my teammates thought that I did anything wrong. A guy wrote a report talking about treason. Treason? That’s turning on your government. People get killed for treason. You get life in jail for treason. (I posted) one call, of one defense – out of 50 defenses – without our checks, without any of our conversations. So, no team could ever use that. No team could ever use that.”

Poor judgment – and not an underlying desire to conspire against or harm his own team, as many took it – were the real motifs behind Williams’ tweet.
And speaking of blunders, Williams admitted his 2010 DWAI conviction was a mistake.

“I served my punishment – sitting out nine games. You know what I mean? I’m losing $3 million. That’s what people don’t understand. Is that not enough punishment? But like I said, let my coaches, let the Denver Broncos punish me. You’re not in the locker room. You don’t know. Even with all my situations, nobody knows that absolute, deep truth about it. Like I said, wrong is wrong, and I did wrong things – but if they really knew the foundation of them, I think they would look at them in a different light.”

This didn’t – or doesn’t – solve the issue of the linebacker’s harsh public perception, but it’s certainly a start for a shy player who prefers to keep to himself.
It was simply impossible not to walk out of the 52-minute encounter with the troubled linebacker having anything but a distinct feeling that the 30-year-old was misunderstood – partially by his own doing, undoubtedly, but also by a public perception that Williams intentionally chooses not to battle. Williams was genuine – an occasional curse word served as the perfect periodic reminder that he was speaking from the heart – and although he made it clear he plans to work his way back into a more favorable public perception, it won’t come quickly.

“This was a first step; I said I’d take baby steps to see how it goes,” Williams finished, before taking off to a team dinner. “But it’s just difficult because it’s not my natural personality. I don’t need to be taught how to do interviews. I’ve been doing interviews since I was 13 – about me. Anybody you can think of – Sports Illustrated, USA Today – I’ve been doing it my whole life. It’s just that, I just think of myself as a normal person. I think nobody cares about my story.”

But the truth is, people do care. And Williams’ natural personality is appealing. He doesn’t like to talk about his numerous charitable contributions (he donates turkeys every Thanksgiving, pays for uniforms for local sports teams and sponsors kids to take part in sports camps), claiming other (some) athletes do it simply for the attention. Fair enough.

Now the real question is, who will D.J. Williams be? The guy who was open, honest and transparent with me for nearly an hour. Or will he be the player whose silence has allowed imaginations and perceptions to spin violently out of control for nearly a decade, portraying Williams to be the monster he – based on our lengthy conversation – doesn’t appear to be?

The real answer is, it’s up to D.J.


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Reggie Wayne hauls in 7 balls for 78 yards

Reggie Wayne caught a team-high seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown versus the Dolphins in Week 9.

Wayne beat Sean Smith for a 9-yard score, passing Edgerrin James for the third-most touchdowns (76) in franchise history. The veteran also surpassed Torry Holt (920) to move into 13th place on the NFL's all-time receptions list. At the midway point, Wayne is on pace for career highs in targets (202), receptions (122), and yards (1678). He faces Jacksonville's injury-depleted secondary in Week 10.

Wayne has managed three touchdowns this season, which puts him on pace to eclipse last season's total. He already has 835 receiving yards, which has him well on his way to his eighth 1,000-yard season in the past nine years. He remains a must-start fantasy option heading into Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Nov. 8, in Week 10.

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Andre Johnson racks up 8 catches in win

Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 118 yards in the Texans' Week 9 win over the Bills.

Johnson says he's finally feeling back to his old self and it showed today. He was open at will, eating up both Aaron Williams and rookie Stephon Gilmore. If the Texans needed to throw more, the numbers would have been much bigger. As it was, Johnson came within three yards of a touchdown and a truly massive game. He's now on pace for 84 catches, 1,124 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson is a good bet to top that pace when it's said and done despite a brutal matchup in Chicago next week.

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Santana Moss Diagnosed With Concussion After Late Collision

LANDOVER, Md. – Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss was diagnosed with a concussion after he collided with a defensive player late in the loss to Carolina on Sunday and was not allowed to return to the game.

Moss, who had just one catch for two yards in the 21-13 loss, collided with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman with 3:22 remaining. He was the intended receiver on that play, running out of the left slot but apparently unaware of Norman’s presence.

He dressed with the rest of his teammates after the game but was not allowed to speak to reporters about his health because of a league policy prohibiting players experiencing concussion-like symptoms from doing so.

Because of the bye week, Moss will have two weeks to recover from the concussion before the Redskins face Philadelphia on Nov. 18. He has 24 catches for 313 yards and a team-high five touchdowns through nine games.

He is the fifth Redskins player to sustain a concussion this season, joining cornerback Josh Wilson, receiver Aldrick Robinson, quarterback Robert Griffin III and safety Jordan Pugh.

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Ban about to end, Broncos LB D.J. Williams still bitter

– In his two-months-long forced absence from football, D.J. Williams has grown remorseful about his off-field errors, bored without the structure of practice and games, and bitter at the NFL.

More than anything, the Broncos' veteran linebacker – a former first-round draft pick and one of the two longest-tenured players on the team -- is just ready to return to the teammates that he knows he let down over the past several months -- teammates who have risen to first place in the AFC West without him.
I felt that the story of D.J. Williams had made a huge wrong turn. It was snowballing, and everything about it was negative," Williams said. "I'm just excited that my team is doing great, and I can't wait to get out there and help them."

Williams is about to serve the final week of his nine-game suspension, punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for two violations of the NFL personal conduct policy.

The first six games of his ban were the result of a violation of the banned substance policy (the NFL said Williams submitted a "non-human" urine sample in August 2011), and three more games were added after Williams was convicted of driving while ability impaired in August, his second such offense while in the NFL.

Williams is eligible to fully rejoin the Broncos on Nov. 12, the day after Denver's game at Carolina. He said when he returns, Broncos fans will see a different player.

"I'm bigger, stronger and faster, and my attitude is a lot different. I've got a lot of anger inside, you know what I mean?" Williams said. "Some good, some bad, but I think I play the perfect sport to be angry at somebody. You get to let it out, get the frustration out."

That anger, Williams said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports Friday, is directed internally for the bad choices he made, and externally at the people who have taken shots at him in traditional and social media.

He is also angry at the NFL, he says, for botching a routine drug test.

In the hour-long interview, Williams accepted responsibility for some of the reasons he ended up in the NFL doghouse, while also defending his decision to file a lawsuit against the league for what he believes was an improper drug testing procedure.

A Denver court and an appeals court refused to hear Williams' case, and he is continuing to appeal. Williams said he turned down an offer for a three-game suspension instead of six because he didn't want to admit to doing something wrong, nor implicate anyone else.

"I thought I was dealt an unfair deal," Williams said.

Williams said he has never used steroids or other performance enhancing drug, and that over the past four years, because of his two drunken driving arrests, he was under scrutiny by the league. In that time, Williams said he had never once tested positive.

He said his physical attributes come from genetics, not a needle, and he is angry that anyone would suggest otherwise.

"There's a lot of bitterness about it. For the rest of my career, I'll have an asterisk beside my name, saying that I used performance enhancers or steroids or whatever," Williams said. "People forget that when I was 16, I was 6-2, 225. I went to (the University of) Miami at 233 (pounds). My dad is huge, my mom competes in fitness and body competition – that's the genetics that I have gotten passed on. It sucks because I'll always be questioned on my ability and what I do as if I did steroids."

Williams would not comment further on the alleged nature of the urine sample.

His punishment for the drunken-driving conviction, stemming from his arrest in November 2010, will continue after the season. He will serve 30 days of in-house arrest, during which he'll be required to wear an ankle monitor. He also will serve two years' probation, perform more than 50 hours of community service and have his sobriety monitored.

The drinking and driving "was a mistake," he said, "and I shouldn't have done it. It was very dumb."

And now that his back-to-back suspensions are nearly over, Williams is hoping he can focus on football again. He was allowed to return to team headquarters two weeks ago and resume meetings with coaches and teammates and workouts with strength coaches, though he is still barred from practices and games.
Still, there are no guarantees about Williams' future with the Broncos when his suspension ends. He is in the second-to-last year of a contract that will pay him $6 million next year, and he realizes that with off-the-field baggage and one of the biggest contracts on the team, he is by no means safe, especially now that other linebackers have played well in his absence.

To reclaim his spot, he has returned to Denver fitter than he's been at any point in his NFL career, he said, thanks to six weeks of training at the University of Miami during the first portion of his suspension. He's eager to restart "football" training – full-contact practice in pads, and doing the football-specific movements he can't recreate in the weight room, and he is confident that the talent that once made him the nation's top prep recruit and a first-round draft pick will return, at age 30.

In eight seasons, all with the Broncos, Williams started 114 games. He has 20.5 career sacks, two interceptions, 12 forced fumbled and seven fumble recoveries. His career-high in tackles came in 2007, when he had 106.

"My role will be whatever they give me, but I know that whenever I get on the field, my talent will speak for itself," Williams said. "I know that even if, say, they want to give me 15 plays a game, whether it's defense or special teams, I feel that within a matter of time, it'll be 'He's performing. He's producing. Fifteen isn't enough.'

"Why would you want to keep someone off the field that's playing and producing?"

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Devin Hester, Bears special teams make impact

NASHVILLE -- It turns out the Bears' first quarter punt block call was originally designed for either Craig Steltz or Corey Wootton to get to Tennessee punter Brett Kern, not Sherrick McMannis, who surprised everyone with his strong rush from the outside that led to the block that Wootton returned five yards for a score.

"We wanted to rush them and we knew we could exploit them in some way," Wootton said. "Sherrick did a great job coming off the edge and he wasn't even the guy that was supposed to get the block that we planned in practice. He ended up having a great rush and he got his hands on it and I just picked it up and ran.

"It was either Steltz or myself that was supposed to come in and Sherrick just came in flying he's an explosive guy, an explosive athlete. He made a great play on it. A little Northwestern connection as some may say."

For Wootton, the punt return score marked the first touchdown since he brought back an interception for a touchdown in his junior year at Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Rutherford, N.J.

"I saw the ball in the air and I tried to play basketball and go up and get it," Wootton said. "I held on to the ball and just started rumbling into the end zone. It was a great feeling to get a touchdown and set the tone on special teams."

McMannis has excelled on special teams for the Bears ever since the club acquired the cornerback from Houston in a trade at the start of the regular season.

"When you come out in the game you never know what is going to happen so you just have to go hard and play fast," McMannis said. "The play wasn't designed for me necessarily, but you got to go out and make it happen."

Another element working in the Bears' favor on the punt block was the mere presence of Devin Hester on the field as the return man. Hester believes the fact Tennessee was trying to kick away from him helped give the Bears rush men an idea where Kern would be angling the football when he kicked it.

"When they overload to one side, they kick to that side," Hester said. "So as a returner we start cheating to that side. All of a sudden I’m back there cheating, and they kick it to other side. You got two or three guys blocking and you're overloading one side, you never go back to the opposite side where you’re shorter(-handed).

"No way in our mind did we think they were going back and kick the opposite way. Because when you overload one side, you limit your blocking on the opposite side. We anticipated when they overloaded one side they were going to kick to that side, because you can’t go back because you don’t have nobody to block."

Why exactly do teams do that?

"Trying to kick it away from me," Hester smiled.

Later in the game, Hester almost broke his first return when he fielded a punt and brought it back 44 yards to the Bears' eight-yard line. On the next play Matt Forte rushed up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown that increased the Bears' lead to 14-2.

"It was just a glimpse of us warming up," Hester said of the Bears special teams. "That’s very important to build confidence for myself and the players out there blocking for me. We're still a dangerous return team. We got a lot of opportunities this week and we made those guys pay."

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Reggie Wayne: I stayed to help Luck build his legacy

Andrew Luck may not be the next Peyton Manning, but like it or not, that's the standard that comes with the job for the Indianapolis Colts' rookie quarterback.Reggie Wayne -- now Luck's favorite receiver after years of connecting with Manning -- thinks that is so wrong.

"It's kind of unfair for Andrew," Wayne told USA TODAY Sports, as the surprising Colts (4-3) prepare for a pivotal game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. "Peyton's done so much here. His legacy is so big. Andrew comes here, and everything he does is going to be compared to Peyton. That's not fair.

"That's another reason why I'm glad I stayed, to help him create his own legacy. He's going to have to win some games, win some rings, before he can completely get out of Peyton's shadow. But I think he's on the right path. He's already done some things that Peyton didn't do his rookie year."

Even for Wayne, it's natural to compare a bit. During his 14 seasons with the Colts, Manning guided the franchises to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one, and in addition to setting a slew of records became the first player to win four NFL MVP awards.

Luck's resume covers seven games. But he's off to a decent start. He is the first rookie in NFL history (Manning's 1998 campaign included) to pass for at least 1,500 yards and post three victories in his first six games. His 1,971 passing yards is second-most for a rookie after seven games, trailing only the pace Cam Newton set last season en route to setting the rookie record.

Wayne, the all-pro receiver in his 12th season, leads the NFL with 757 receiving yards on 54 catches. Beyond providing Luck with a dependable target -- as he did for Manning -- he also sees himself as a big brother for the rookie quarterback.

"He's taking everything in stride," Wayne says. "He understands the situation, understands everything that's going on. But it's my job to help him. I'm not going to be here for 14 years to help, but I can help start this thing off. So far, everything's good."

Wayne can't help but notice Manning's revival with the Denver Broncos. He's not surprised. Manning has been on fire in recent weeks, and with 17 TD passes against four interceptions on the season, heads into Sunday's game at the Cincinnati Bengals as the NFL's top-rated passer with a 109.0 efficiency rating.

"So many people were writing him off," Wayne said. "He's like every other athlete. When people write you off, you're going to do everything you can to prove them wrong.

"You knew that mentally he has all the tools. You just needed to see if he could throw. Everybody sees that now. Now it's just a matter of being the football player he's always been. I'm glad he's out there throwing darts, winning games. Same ol' Peyton."

Wayne knows enough about Manning to realize that Denver's offense is probably just scratching the surface of how good it can become when the entire system is installed and the chemistry evolves.

"It's going to take those guys some time to get there," Wayne says. "It took me three to four years to really understand the dude's thought process. No way they're going to get that in three or four months."

Of course, Wayne is on a similar track, developing new chemistry with his own new quarterback -- the kid following in Peyton's footsteps.

"We're still trying to find that niche," Wayne says. "A lot of stuff we're doing right now, we're just doing under off his athletic ability as far as throwing the ball and me just running routes. Hopefully, we time it up. But each week, it gets better and better."

The Colts won't play the Broncos this season to offer a Manning vs. Luck, old-school vs. new-school matchup of quarterbacks ... unless they meet in the playoffs.

Weeks ago, envisioning a playoff matchup would have been absurd. But with the Colts ranking among the NFL's surprises, it's not so far-fetched.
Says Wayne, "Now that would be a good story."

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Jonathan Vilma acclimating to new position

METAIRIE, La.—Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma still is working his way back into the mix, while trying to get comfortable at a new position.

The longtime starting middle linebacker played 62 snaps against the Broncos last week, mostly at the nickel linebacker spot with a few snaps at weakside linebacker. It was a giant leap over the 18 snaps he played in his first game back from a knee injury in Week 7.

The Saints used Vilma so heavily because they spent almost the entire night in their nickel defense against the Broncos to guard against Peyton Manning. However, the Broncos combated that strategy by running the ball way more than expected and gashed the Saints for 225 yards on 41 carries. The Broncos used a ton of cutback runs, which got both Saints linebackers Vilma and Curtis Lofton tangled up in traffic for much of the night.

Eventually, Vilma started to do a better job of hanging back to guard against the cutback runs, and he did affect a couple of Manning’s throws when he blitzed. But it’s clear Vilma still is getting his feet back under him after missing the entire offseason.

The Saints are counting on Vilma to adjust quickly to his new position since they want both him and Lofton on the field together as much as possible. The Saints’ front seven needs to be more athletic and aggressive, especially around the edges, where they’ve been allowing too many big cutback runs this year. That will be especially important Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, with dangerous runners like tailback LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick.

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A Santana revival: Moss and RG3 are a 'Smooth' combination

Let’s examine a pair of Santana revivals for a moment, shall we? Because in some ways, the 1999 revival of seminal guitarist Carlos Santana and the 2012 revival of Redskins WR Santana Moss are comparable.

In 1999, the aging but still masterful Carlos Santana broke out of a long commercial slump with the release of the LP “Supernatural.” It included a number of collaborations with other well-known musicians, including Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Wyclef Jean and Cee-Lo Green. The album’s smash hit was “Smooth,” a song co-written and sung by young vocalist Rob Thomas of the band Matchbox Twenty. “Smooth” was the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks, and it holds the distinction of having been the final No. 1 song of the 1990s. The Santana-Thomas collaboration exposed Santana to a new generation of appreciative listeners.

In 2012, the aging but still skillful Santana Moss has broken out of a long TD slump with the release of the Redskins’ passing game from the clutches of mediocrity. The key Santana collaborator has been young QB Robert Griffin III. With Moss having caught five TD passes in his last six games, a new generation of appreciative fantasy owners has been exposed to the sort of TD production Moss last attained in the early-to-mid 2000s.

The two revivals have some obvious differences, of course. Carlos Santana goes back a little further than Santana Moss, having played for the masses at Woodstock early in his career, while Moss can only claim to have played for Herman Edwards early in his career. And I’m not sure how much the aforementioned collaborators have in common. Robert Griffin III is one of the most spectacular playmakers to come into the league in years. There are no adequate superlatives to describe how impressive his rookie season has been thus far. As for Rob Thomas … uh, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the quality of his career thus far.

For fantasy owners, the compelling question is whether the Moss revival is sustainable. I think it is, at least for the rest of the season — though it’s easy to understand why the Moss surge is being viewed suspiciously in some quarters.

Moss had largely fallen off the radar of fantasy owners entering this season. He produced 584 receiving yards and four TDs in 12 games last season and was only the third-most-productive pass catcher in Washington’s mediocre aerial game, behind Jabar Gaffney and Fred Davis. Although there was optimism that RG3 would be able to reinvigorate the ’Skins’ passing game this season, it was expected that Davis and the newly acquired Pierre Garcon would be the rookie’s top targets.

Davis is out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles, and Garcon has been struggling to come back from a foot injury that could conceivably put him on the shelf for the rest of the season, so Moss has been granted an opportunity to reassert himself as a principle component of the ’Skins’ passing game. But while Moss has been scoring a lot of touchdowns, he hasn’t exactly been a high-volume receiver. Yes, he has had five TD catches over his last half-dozen games, but Moss has amassed only 17 total receptions over that span, with an average of 41.7 receiving yards per game. Moss isn’t even a starter despite the Garcon injury — Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan have been starting for the Redskins.

In Washington’s loss to Pittsburgh last week, Moss caught four passes for 21 yards and a touchdown, with a long gain of only eight yards. But what’s significant, I think, is that Moss was targeted a season-high nine times. He hadn’t been targeted more than five times in any other game this season (though he entered last week’s game averaging a steady 4.0 looks per game, with no fewer than three in any contest). Moss was on the field for 25 snaps against the Steelers, up from 17 snaps against the Giants the week prior.

I don’t think the increased targets and snaps for Moss in Week Nine were a mere anomaly. More likely, they reflect the needed expansion of his role. Last week’s game against Pittsburgh was the Redskins’ first game without Davis, and it appears that Moss was a large part of the plan for filling the void. Moss is much better after the catch than Hankerson (Moss is averaging 6.7 yards after the catch this season to Hankerson’s 4.0), and he’s more effective in the red zone than Morgan (who has nine TD catches in 57 career games).

Moss, 33, hasn’t finished a season with more than six TD receptions since 2005, when he had nine in his first year with the Redskins. His career high in TD catches (10) came with the Jets in 2003. Moss might never again be as busy a receiver as he was two seasons ago, when he had 93 receptions for 1,115 yards, but he has a reasonable chance to finish with 9-10 touchdowns, and I think he can be a useful third receiver or flex play for fantasy owners the rest of the way.

Ain’t got nobody (at wide receiver) that you can depend on? Santana might be able to hit the right notes for you.

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Padres move Blake Tekotte, Spence to make room for injured players

The Padres designated outfielder Blake Tekotte and left-handed relief pitcher Josh Spence for assignment Friday afternoon to make room on the 40-man roster for five players who had been on the 60-day disabled list.

Reinstated to the 40-man roster were starting pitchers Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland, catcher Nick Hundley and infielder-outfielders Kyle Blanks and James Darnell.

The moves returned the Padres to a full 40-man roster, meaning the club will have to make several more moves by Nov. 20 to create spots on the 40-man roster to protect at least two prospects from the Rule 5 draft.

All five players returning from the 60-day disabled list are rehabbing following season-ending surgery in 2012.

Luebke and Wieland had “Tommy John” elbow reconstruction surgery. Hundley had knee surgery. Blanks and Darnell each had surgery on their non-throwing left shoulders.

Blanks, Hundley and Darnell are expected to be ready by the start of spring training. Luebke is expected to rejoin the Padres late next spring. Wieland could miss most of the 2013 season.

Tekotte, 25, hit .163 (8-for-49) in 30 games for the Padres over parts of the past two seasons. He was the Padres third-round pick in the 2008 draft. The left-handed hitter batted .269 as a minor leaguer in the Padres system.

Spence, 24, made 51 relief appearances for the Padres over the last two seasons, going 0-3 with a 3.15 earned run average with 41 strikeouts against 24 walks. He was the Padres’ ninth-round pick in 2010 and was the second player from that draft to reach the major leagues.

The left-handed Luebke, 27, underwent “Tommy John” surgery last May 23 after going 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his first five starts with the Padres. Luebke signed contract extension last spring that guarantees him $11 million through 2015.

Wieland, 22, made his major league debut with the Padres last April 14 and was 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts when he suffered the injury that ultimately resulted in “Tommy John” surgery in July.

Hundley, 29, hit only .157 in 58 games for the Padres last season with three home runs and 22 RBI. He spent more than a month in Triple-A and was placed on the disabled list a week after he returned to the Padres in August. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on August 29.

Blanks, 26, played four games for the Padres in 2012 before being placed on the 15-day disabled list on Apr. 14 with a strained left shoulder that first caused Blanks trouble in spring training. He had arthroscopic surgery on Apr. 24 and never returned.

Darnell, 25, played in seven games for the Padres in 2012 after being promoted from Triple-A Tucson on May 11, going 4-for-17 with a double and a home run. A week after joining the Padres, Darnell suffered a temporary dislocation of his left shoulder while diving for a ball in left field and went on the disabled list. Darnell had surgery on Aug. 29.

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