Greg Olsen's infant son has successful heart surgery

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen's wife, Kara, had twins this week, but the couple knew going into the childbirth, their infant son was going to have a tough fight.

Talbot, the newborn daughter, would be delivered in good health, but Greg and Kara had learned about halfway through the pregnancy that baby boy T.J. has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (an undeveloped left ventricle and aorta).

They also knew that T.J. would have to undergo three surgeries before the age of 3, including one just days after he was born.

On Thursday, T.J. underwent the first surgery (considered the most invasive of the three), and this evening, Greg Olsen tweeted that it was a success.

After a full day of surgery our son TJ is resting comfortably in the cardio intensive care unit. Surgery a success. 1st step of long road

Thank u all for the amazing support and prayers for my family. You have helped us thru this nightmare. Our boy is a fighter.

So, obviously, great news for the Olsens, and here's hoping T.J. will continue on the path to full health and happiness.

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Lamar Miller must show mastery of Joe Philbin's offense

DAVIE, Fla.—The Dolphins better hope running back Lamar Miller knows where he's going. Miller, the rookie fourth-round pick, essentially was removed from the offense the last two weeks, in large part because he doesn't know the playbook well.

In the loss to the Jets three weeks ago, he went the wrong way on a handoff, forcing Ryan Tannehill to keep the ball and take a 3-yard loss. Miller only had four carries for 13 yards the next week at Arizona, and didn't play an offensive snap in this past Sunday's win over Cincinnati.

But the Dolphins will need Miller to backup Reggie Bush this week against the Rams. Daniel Thomas suffered his second concussion in five weeks on Sunday and could be looking at an extended absence.

Jorvorskie Lane also likely will see more snaps to replace Thomas' pass-blocking skills, but the Dolphins will have to play Miller on Sunday, whether they want to or not.

"He can take a guy on pretty well one-on-one and so, for him, he’s just going to have to make sure he’s in the right place," Bush said. "He’s going to have to make sure he’s playing fast mentally, so that he’s not getting caught out of position. With the guys that we have, the maturity and the leadership we have on this team, he’ll be fine and he’ll be more than ready.”

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Ray Lewis' motor, drive still in prime

Observers around the NFL are talking more and more about the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis being “over the hill.” In fact, one national sports website recently ranked him fourth in the league in that very category.

“He's still viable, but you can see the old age beginning to show,”'s Josh Katzowitz wrote.

But at age 37, the 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker is still in his prime when it comes to breathing fire and brimstone.

Take, for instance, his performance during a conference call with the Dallas media Wednesday to promote Sunday's game between the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) and the AFC North-leading Ravens (4-1).

When it was suggested the Cowboys' moribund running game (31st in the NFL, 67.8 yards per game) could return to health in Baltimore against a Ravens defense ranked 22nd against the run (118.4 yards) and coming off a game against Kansas City where it yielded 214 yards on the ground, Lewis' determination surged through the long-distance line.

“I tell you what,” he said. “They can look to do whatever they want to do, but it ain't going to be what they think it's going to be.”

That's the kind of leadership that has made Lewis an NFL legend.

“Ray is a one of a kind, historic type of leader,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said in another conference call.

In February, Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher made headlines by saying he couldn't identify the leaders inside the team's locker room and suggested the club could use a Ray Lewis type.

“I don't even want to talk about that,” the Dallas Morning News quoted Hatcher as saying Wednesday. “That is so over.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also tried to do his best to squelch comparisons between the leadership-heavy Ravens and the Cowboys, who have plenty of players who lead by example but lack emotional ones such as Lewis.

“I think it's unfair to compare anybody to Ray Lewis,” Garrett said. “This is a great player, first ballot Hall of Famer, as good as it gets. We feel good about the leadership we have from our best players.”

One of those is third-year linebacker Sean Lee, who Lewis went out of his way to praise.

“You see (on tape) this one Energizer bunny that's on that defense,” Lewis said, referring to Lee. “... He's definitely one of those high-motor guys, always around the football. ... I really, really appreciate the way he plays the game.”

In his 17th season, Lewis leads all active players in tackles with 2,629, including a team-high 43 (36 solo) this season. He's a big reason the Ravens have ranked in the top 10 in the league in yards allowed for nine straight seasons, a streak they're determined to continue even though they entered Week 5 ranked 24th with an average of 379.8 yards per game.

“We need to do a better job of controlling the big plays, and I think we'll be in good shape,” said Harbaugh, who pointed out the Ravens are seventh in scoring defense, allowing just 17.8 points per game. “We take a lot of pride in defense around here, so we'll keep chasing that.”

With Lewis leading the way, their pursuit will no doubt be furious.

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Scout's Notebook: Colts WR Reggie Wayne

WR Reggie Wayne, #87 Indianapolis Colts
Height: 5-11 7/8 Weight: 198 Speed: 4.54

Notes: College roommate of Ravens FS Ed Reed at Miami (Fla.), where Colts head coach Chuck Pagano served as DB and special-teams coach during Wayne's tenure. Set a Hurricanes school record with 173 career catches. Was selected 30th overall by the Colts in the 2001 NFL draft and took two years to become a fixture in the starting lineup. Broke out in 2003, when he started all 16 games, not missing a start the next eight seasons. Signed a six-year, $39.5-million contract extension in ’06 and proceeded to earn his first Pro Bowl invite after helping the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI with a 53-yard TD catch in the first quarter. Earned Pro Bowl honors the next four years. Has seven seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards and has caught 898 passes for 12,214 yards and 75 TDs in his career in 163 starts, along with 83-1,128-9 in 17 postseason contests. Is off to the best start in his 12-year career in 2012, catching 36-506-2 in four games.

Positives: Very natural, soft hands catcher with outstanding body control to make in-air adjustments. Extremely quick, savvy route runner ­— sets up defensive backs with stems, nods and head fakes and accelerates at the top of his routes to uncover. Outstanding football intelligence. Understands how to read coverages and find soft spots in zones. Is mentally tough and willing to cross the middle and catch on contact. Exceptional balance in his feet. Terrific hand-eye coordination. Can make difficult one-handed snags look routine. Well-respected team leader. Outstanding work habits. Extremely durable. Rises to the challenge and makes plays in clutch situations, as he did taking over the final drive against Green Bay, making the winning TD catch and converting two 3rd-and-long situations.

Negatives: Modest size. Is not a blazer and lacks elite vertical speed to burn past defenders or pull away from the pack after the catch. Does not power off the line and can be rerouted by physical, press coverage. Not strong or powerful after the catch and at times will look for a safe landing spot. Can give more consistent effort in the blocking game — not a physical, front-up blocker who will earhole defenders or factor heavily in the perimeter run game. Average lower-body explosive power and leaping ability to compete in a crowd.

Summary: One of the few holdovers from a roster heavily stripped after the Bill Polian regime was ousted, Wayne quickly developed a rapport with rookie QB Andrew Luck, bringing precise, reliable route running that immediately has gained the trust of Luck, as it has passers throughout Wayne's career, from college to the pros. A sleek, smooth-moving acrobat, Wayne has all the traits desired in an elite receiver — hands, body control, toughness, route savvy and separation quickness —and has been a model of consistency throughout his career, emerging as the Colts’ most tenured leader in the absence of Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning.

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Lamar Miller waits for his moment

DAVIE— Lamar Miller's waiting for his time, using the same patience required to seek and hit the right hole on a successful running play.

The Miami Dolphins rookie tailback has had some success carrying the pigskin in the three games he's played on offense so far, gaining 126 rushing yards and averaging a team-leading 5.5 yards per carry on 23 attempts.

But the opportunities have been sparse early because he's third on the depth chart, and admittedly rough around the edges.

But Miller thinks Sunday's home game against the St. Louis Rams (3-2) might provide an opening, an opportunity to showcase himself seeing as how Reggie Bush is battling a sore left knee he admits has impacted his performance, and Daniel Thomas is sidelined by a concussion.

The former University of Miami standout intends to seize the day, and show the coaches he's addressed the shortcomings in his game.

"I've got to continue to know my opponent better, watch more film and learn what I need to work on to get better in practice," Miller said. "I'm working on being more physical running the ball, and in pass protection. I've got to hit the holes and stop dancing with the rock.

"Sometimes I'm too patient," said Miller, whom numerous teammates praise based on what they've seen from practices, and his few in-game opportunities. "This is a fast league. I'm not going to run away from everybody. I've got to hit it and get positive yards."

Last week offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said at some point later this season he plans to settle into a rotation of two tailbacks, which would leave someone out of the mix if injuries don't become a factor. That means this could be Miller's opportunity to prove he's a suitable pass blocker.

Bush, a six-year veteran who also struggles with pass blocking, said the key for Miller is to "play fast mentally" when it comes to his blocking assignments.
"I think Lamar does a great job in pass protection. I think that's one of his strong suits," Bush said. "I think the most important thing for him is fundamentally being in the right place. He can take a guy on pretty well one-on-one and so, for him, he's just going to have to make sure he's in the right place."

Coach Joe Philbin, who has established a reputation for being candid about his players, stressed that Miller's played well in his opportunities. But he also pointed out there's more to the tailback position than running with the ball.

"I think the running part come naturally to him," Philbin said. "Before you put a running back in the game, [lining] him up in the backfield, you have to make sure his pass protection responsibilities are taken care of. That's probably as important as anything else."

He'll likely get that chance against the Rams, and can't afford to miss on a block like the one he whiffed on against the Raiders, which got Ryan Tannehill hit.
Bush, who leads the team with 417 rushing yards and three touchdowns, hurt his left knee during the Sept. 23 overtime loss to the New York Jets and had his participation in Thursday's practice limited.

He's started every game since, gaining 115 rushing yards on 35 carries, but openly admits he's not 100 percent.

"100 percent? I don't even know what that is any more. As far as being 100 percent from, I guess, from a health stand point, no. That's part of this league. You learn to play with injuries and some of the great players who've played in this league [and] played this game have learned to play well with injuries," Bush said.
"If I'm out there, I'm doing my best regardless of if I have little injuries here or there."

But if Bush isn't getting the job done the Dolphins might make it Miller time.

"I have a lot of room for improvement as a player and if I get more physical in pass protection I'll be out there," Miller said. "I know my assignment I've just got to get better at being more physical."

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Santana Moss will wait until career ends to savor joining 500-catch club

Lost in the flurry surrounding Robert Griffin III’s concussion and the Redskins’ defeat by the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was the milestone achieved by wide receiver Santana Moss.

The 12th-year veteran recorded his 500th catch as a Redskins, joining Art Monk (888 catches), Charley Taylor (649) and Gary Clark (549) as the only receivers in franchise history to reach that mark.

Moss had two catches for 80 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, but was in no mood to reflect on his accomplishment after the game. That 77-yard catch from Kirk Cousins marked Moss’ longest reception since 2005.

A couple days removed from the loss, Moss said he appreciated reaching the milestone, but likely won’t truly comprehend the significance until his career has ended.

“To be honest with you, man, I’m honored to be a part of something down the road that’s going to be big to me. Right now, I don’t know what it does for me because I don’t really get into all that,” said Moss, who had 151 catches as a New York Jet in the first four seasons of his career before he was traded to Washington. After joining the Redskins, Moss became the team’s featured receiver and led the team in catches in six of his seven seasons in a Washington uniform.

Moss no longer is a starter following the offseason additions of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. But Moss remains a part of the offense as a slot receiver. Through five games, he has 12 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Coaches have praised Moss’s attitude and leadership this season and say that Moss has rebounded from last year’s injury-plagued season and has returned in top shape.

Moss says he hasn’t ever let statistics or status affect his thinking. His only goal is to win. He said that reaching the 500-catch mark does indicate to him that his approach to the game is correct.

“I know it comes down to the work that I put in to do what I do,” Moss said. “One day, I’ll appreciate having something to sit back on and say, ‘I really did go out there and do some work and have something to be acknowledged for.’ I don’t look at catches because everybody gets put in different situations. But just to be a part of the guys that are a part of it, I’m honored to be named among them.”

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Is Ray Lewis' performance slipping in Year 17?

There's no question Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has had a Hall of Fame career, one that has somehow continued into his 17th NFL season.

Lewis was the second selection in franchise history in 1996. He was a Super Bowl champion in 2000 and could go down as the best middle linebacker to ever play the game.

But at age 37, is his time nearing an end? Is his skill set diminishing to the point where his performance on the field could negatively effect the Ravens each game?'s Pete Prisco evaluated the game film from Baltimore's 9-6 win over Kansas City and came to the conclusion that Lewis isn't the same player, though noting there are a lot of other deficiencies on the defense.

"Inside linebacker Ray Lewis is a big part of the problem, but he's not the only part," Prisco wrote. "The down linemen are getting blocked. The linebackers are getting mauled at times, including Lewis. And the safeties aren't tackling like they should on some long runs."

Prisco's assessment is correct from the Kansas City game, as the defensive line failed to occupy blocks consistently against the Chiefs. For a 3-4 base defense to be successful, the three down linemen need to force blockers to pay more attention to them with double teams, freeing up the linebackers to attack backs at line of scrimmage.

In the first half against Kansas City, Baltimore lost most of its one-on-one battles, freeing up Kansas City offensive linemen to move into the next level and block players such as Lewis, making his performance look worse than it possibly was.

"We're not playing good technique up front," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "A lot of times you can say whatever you want about the linebackers. It isn't going to matter if a guy comes off and has him sealed. I don't care who it is. It could be Dick Butkus, it ain't going to make a difference."

When Lewis was in his prime, he had a great ability to shed blocks and get to running backs quickly. So far this season, he's been blocked more and has been caught chasing more often than not.

Then again, that should be expected when you're talking about a 37-year-old middle linebacker playing a game against men who average an age 10 years younger than him. Factor in the speed of the game getting faster each year, and it's a lot for Lewis to keep up with.

But Lewis, being the veteran and playbook junkie he is, remains one of the smarter football minds in this league. Teammates rave about his knowledge and his ability to keep them in position to make plays based on what he sees before the snap.

Outside linebacker Paul Kruger said Lewis' knowledge of the game makes up for any athleticism that lessens with age.

"For a lot of guys, (the mental aspect) is 90 percent of the game," Kruger said. "Everybody out here is talented, everybody's fast. Everybody's strong. The guys who figure it out are the ones who are making the plays. If you look at what he's doing right now, he's leading the team in tackles. He's playing unbelievable. Yeah, he might've been faster a couple of years ago, but he's still dominating the game. I give Ray all the credit in the world. He's done something not many players have been able to do."

It's been stated that Lewis' weight loss -- he's under 240 pounds for the first time in his career -- could have caused his run support to diminish. Pees hasn't seen Lewis' weight loss being a factor at all this season, as Pees seemed to place some blame on Baltimore's struggles on the defensive line.

"If the offensive line is coming off the front and getting to the second level to the linebackers, then we're not in a good system here," Pees said.

Despite the noticeable difference in Lewis' game compared to the days when he dominated offenses, he's still finding ways to get to the football. He leads Baltimore in tackles with 43 through five games this year.

It should also be noted that against the Chiefs, when it mattered most in the middle of the fourth quarter, Lewis executed a perfect run fit to stop running back Cyrus Gray from gaining any ground at the Baltimore 14-yard line. This forced Kansas City into second-and-11, and ultimately forced the Chiefs to kick a field goal instead of scoring a go-ahead touchdown.

"I see the same guy," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, whose team plays Lewis and the Ravens on Sunday. "I see a guy who is the emotional leader of that defense and the emotional leader of that football team. They all look to him. I see a guy who makes a ton of plays once the play starts. He makes a lot of tackles, is around the football a lot. He is the same guy that we have been seeing here for the last (17) or so years."

What's transpired on the field has put Lewis in an interesting position, talking about himself with the media. It's been a long time since he's been asked about his own performance, since it's been understood that he's one of the best to ever play the position.

Sure, there are elements to Lewis' game missing in 2012 that was prominent from 2000-2010. But that doesn't necessarily also mean Lewis is at the end of his line just yet.

"I think for us to be where we are right now as a team, it's probably more important than anything individually," Lewis said. "You look around the league and you always hear these personal stats by guys, and their teams are 1-4 or their teams are 1-3. So, I throw things out the window. The blessing is there is not an accolade or record I don't have. None of that impresses me. What impresses me is having my team ready to play every week to come out and get a ‘W.'"

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Reggie Wayne on Sunday Countdown

Playing for Pagano: Perhaps no member of the Colts’ family appreciated last Sunday’s dramatic, comeback win over the Packers more than Reggie Wayne. It was a game dedicated to head coach Chuck Pagano, who is currently battling leukemia. Wayne’s relationship with Pagano dates back to the middle of the 1990s, when Pagano recruited Wayne to play at the University of Miami. The two have remained close over the years. We learn what last Sunday’s game meant to Wayne, who had one of the best performances of his career, and hear how the receiver is helping his coach and friend tackle the fight of his life.

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Kubiak wants Andre Johnson more involved

Coach Gary Kubiak said he's "got to a better job of getting [Andre Johnson] involved."

Over the last four games, Johnson is averaging 2.2 catches for 41.0 yards with one touchdown. His 31 targets on the season rank 50th in the league, a reminder that the Texans run to win now and often take the air out of the ball while nursing leads. "Other guys are making plays because of Andre, I can tell you that, because they're paying so much attention to him, but still need to get him more involved with what we're doing, so that's my responsibility," Kubiak said. The Texans figure to need some extra scoring against the Packers this Sunday night.

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Greg Olsen's twins are born; T.J. will have surgery Today

CHARLOTTE T.J. Olsen, the newborn son of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, will have the first of three scheduled open-heart surgeries Thursday at Levine Children's Hospital to correct a congenital heart defect.

Kara Olsen delivered twins by Cesarian section Tuesday – T.J. and a daughter, Talbot. The Olsens learned 18 weeks into the pregnancy that T.J. has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition marked by an undeveloped left ventricle and aorta that affects between 1 and 4 babies for every 10,000 live births.
The first surgery is the most invasive and carries the most risk. T.J. will face two additional surgeries before his third birthday.

“He continues to be closely monitored by physicians and clinical staff during this very important period of time,” Olsen said Wednesday via text message. “We appreciate the thoughts and prayers and respect for our family's privacy.”

Olsen said Kara and Talbot are doing well.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said everyone in the organization is thinking about Olsen and his family.

“They had the babies (Tuesday) night. They were both big. One was over 8 pounds. The other one was almost 8 pounds,” Rivera said. “Now T.J. is in the infant care unit, and they'll go from there. So far, so good. We'll keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he texted with Olsen after the twins arrived.

“Delivery was good. Everything's going according to what they predicted,” Gross said. “They were healthy and big, which was good. So they're getting a good start.”

Running back DeAngelo Williams, who has a 2-year-old daughter, said he is confident T.J. will make a full recovery.

“Everybody here's praying for him,” Williams said. “In this day and age, with the technology that we have – it's better than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. I don't expect anything less than their best, and I know he'll recover.”

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Lamar Miller Practicing Well

"He's ready to play and he's practiced well," Coach Joe Philbin said of Lamar Miller. "If he's called upon he'll be fine."

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Ray Lewis isn't backing down from Cowboys running game

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys need to get their struggling running game going against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Cowboys have rushed for just 128 yards the last three weeks combined.

Overall, the Cowboys are 31st in the NFL with 271 total rushing yards.

Now they face the Ravens a team that's allowed 592 rushing yards, 22nd in the league, and coming off a game against Kansas City last week where they gave up 214 rushing yards. In the first five weeks of the season, the Ravens have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in four of the games.

But inside linebacker and 13-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis isn't backing down.

"I tell you what, they can look to do whatever they want to do, but it ain't going to be what they think it's going to be," Lewis said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning.

Now, Lewis wasn't trying to start anything, he was just answering a question.

But he understands the Ravens can't allow another running back to produce the numbers like the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles did. He rushed 30 times for 140 yards, but had no touchdowns.

"If you look at it per play, we're No. 3 per play, so if you take out the big plays, which every team has to figure it out, whether you go through it sooner or later, that's the business of football. We've been through this before," Lewis said.

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Darryl Sharpton not ready to come off PUP

Texans ILB Darryl Sharpton (hip) is "not ready" to come off the PUP list.

Sharpton is first eligible to return in Week 7, but the Texans are hoping he'll be ready "in a couple weeks." Sharpton's return has taken on an added importance with Brian Cushing (torn ACL) out for the season. Sharpton could rotate snaps with veteran Tim Dobbins whenever he's finally ready to make his 2012 debut.

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Tommy Streeter: 'I want to be an all-around receiver'

For lanky Ravens rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter, now is the time to work on his weaknesses.

Ranking first on his priority list: rehabilitating the sprained ligaments in his left foot and ankle that have sidelined him for the year on injured reserve.

There's a bigger-picture goal, though, for the 6-foot-5, 220-pound former Miami player.

During the preseason and offseason minicamps, it was evident that Streeter was having difficulty, as a taller player, lowering his pad level, bending his knees and accelerating in and out of his breaks to make the sharp cuts a receiver needs to elude quick defensive backs.

While I'm out, I'm working on strengthening my legs so I can get low," Streeter said. "Being this tall, it's tougher to bend and get down low. That's one thing you need is that low pad level coming in and out of your breaks for that explosion and lateral movement and things like that.

"So, I'm strengthening my legs in the weight room and working on my rehab, on my balance, on everything to put my lower body together. I just want to be stronger, especially my lower body."

During the preseason, Streeter caught four passes for 52 yards and one touchdown.

The jump ball was a particular highlight for Streeter with his height and leaping ability.

"I'm not worried about that, but there's always things you can perfect to make it that much easier," said Streeter, who caught 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior before declaring for the NFL draft. "I want to be an all-around receiver. I need to get off the line, get into that quick separation. Once everything is healed, I want to maximize my potential.

"I miss those days. I miss being out on the field with these guys. I was able to learn a lot during the course of time I was out there."

As for the rehab, Streeter, who didn't require surgery, said he'll be prepared for a full offseason.

"I should be ready," Streeter said. "I feel myself getting back. Each day, I do mor eand more. Everything is going good. I can feel myself getting stronger, getting better."

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Lighter Ray Lewis struggling vs. run for Ravens

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was lauded before the season for slimming down in an effort to improve his pass protection against the league's wave of up-tempo, no-huddle air attacks. Now he's catching heat for it.

In Baltimore's narrow win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Chiefsleaned heavy on the run game, eating up 19-plus minutes of the first half by feeding running back Jamaal Charles no less than 20 times. The Ravens hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the first half since December 1998, but Charles racked up 125 by intermission and made it look easy. rated Lewis as Baltimore's worst defender on the day, and pointed to his troubles against the run. Lewis spent too much of the game skirting around blockers when he used to power through them.'s Peter King suggests Ray Ray's "weight loss looks like it's hurting him a lot. He just isn't a factor against the run the way he used to be."

Lewis is playing closer to 235 after weighing as much as 260 at points during his career. He played heavy in the past to take on the steady stream of monster fullbacks around the league, but the game has changed and Lewis was committed to become leaner to change with it.

Lewis is 37, but I've waited to mention that because I don't believe he's aging the way others might. He's in fine condition, but he's lost some speed and he's struggling right now to dominate his lanes. It's something to monitor as you watch Ravens games this season, but hold off on tapping the panic button. Lewis has a knack for bouncing back.

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Reggie Wayne AFC Player of the Week

The NFL has released the official AFC Players of the Week on offense, defense, and special teams with Reggie Wayne, Randy Starks, and Shane Suisham took home the honors in those respective categories.

Wayne caught 13 passes for 212 yards to set a career-high, which is absolutely astounding considering Wayne has been in the league for such a long time. He’s somebody who should be in the Hall of Fame discussion once he retires, so breaking a record like that and getting 200+ yards is nothing to sneeze at. He was the most important player on a Colts team that completed an emotional upset over the Green Bay Packers that helps remind us why we love the game. I can’t think of a player who deserved this week’s honor more.

He is now 17th on the all-time receiving list after pushing past notable receivers in Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, and former San Diego Chargers HOFer Charlie Joyner.

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Santana Moss in elite company after 500th catch as a Redskin

After Santana Moss sparked the Redskins with a 77-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that gave them the lead in the fourth quarter against Atlanta last Sunday, he quietly reached a milestone.

Moss' next reception, a ho-hum 3-yarder, was his 500th as a Redskin. That put him among elite company. Only three other players have caught 500 passes with the team: Hall of Famers Art Monk (888) and Charley Taylor (649) and also Gary Clark (549).

"I’m happy because a lot of people don’t get the opportunity," Moss said. "I’m humbled, too, at the same time. I appreciate the honor. I appreciate being up there with those guys, but I know I’m still out here doing it."

Moss joined the Redskins in 2005. In four years with the New York Jets prior to that, he had 151 receptions. For his career, he has 9,319 receiving yards and 58 receiving touchdowns.

He has never been a big stats guy, though. Anytime a reporter mentions his numbers to him, he seems surprised.

"I just don’t really let that stuff bother me now while I’m still playing," he said. "When I’m done, I can sit back and think about everything I did then. When I’m still playing, I just kind of have one goal in mind. That’s just to be out there doing what I’m doing."

When he's done playing, he's sure to be enshrined in the Redskins' Ring of Honor at FedEx Field.

"That’d be pretty special, too," he said.

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Ray Lewis: I would like to talk with Dez Bryant, ‘see where his head is’

IRVING — If Ray Lewis wants to give Dez Bryant any advice, the 37-year-old middle linebacker will share it with the Cowboys wide receiver in private.

“A lot of the things he’s doing as a man I think would definitely be more personal attention that would help him kind of figure things out in life than hearing this or hearing that,” Lewis said. “He is a person that I have said that I would definitely like to rap with for a minute and then just kind of see where his head is.”

Like Bryant, Lewis has been arrested during his NFL career.

In 2000, Lewis was involved in an Atlanta fight that led to two men being stabbed to death. Lewis avoided murder charges and jail time by pleading guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and testifying against two co-defendants.

Bryant was arrested in July on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for allegedly assaulting his mother.

Since Lewis’ arrest, he has worked to repair his reputation. One sign of that is his large amount of charitable work. In 2010, a street in Baltimore was renamed “Ray Lewis Way” in honor of his charitable contributions.

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Better for Reggie Wayne: Luck or Manning?


Early in his rookie season, Andrew Luck seems to have found a safety net with veteran receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne had a career-high 212 receiving yards against the Packers in Week 5 and after just four games, is tied with Brandon Marshall for first in the league with 56 targets. He’s also averaging a league-best 14 targets per game with Luck under center.

During the 2009 and 2010 seasons with Peyton Manning, (they were the first two without Marvin Harrison), he never led the league in targets and averaged 10.1 targets per game. Manning spread the ball around to players like Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon but Luck has focused more on Wayne.

Entering Week 6, Luck has targeted Wayne on 34.1 percent of his throws while Manning targeted him on only 26.1 percent of his throws from 2009-10.

One reason Wayne is receiving more targets is that Andrew Luck has utilized him all over the field. Manning predominantly got him the ball on the left side.

Wayne already has more targets in the middle of the field this season (13) than he did in both 2009 (eight) and 2010 (10).

With Luck, Wayne has truly been the number-one option in the Colts offense and his versatility has been on display. That wasn’t always the case during his final few years with Peyton Manning.
--Adam Grigely


In their 10 years together, Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning combined for more than 10,000 yards, 115 regular-season wins, one Lombardi Trophy and a record of success that is in no way comparable to a month’s worth of achievements with a rookie QB.

From 2001 to 2010, a stretch in which Manning started every game and Wayne appeared in all but three, Wayne ranked among the league's top five in receptions (787), receiving yards (10,748) and receiving touchdowns (69) and led all players in receiving first downs (569).

Those 10 seasons were the first 10 of Wayne’s career, and the list of players to catch more passes than Wayne through 10 seasons can fit comfortably on a sticky note: Marvin Harrison (927), Torry Holt (869) and Jerry Rice (820).

Peyton Manning was on the other end of 67 of Wayne’s receiving touchdowns from 2001-10, ranking them among the most prolific QB-receiver tandems ever. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only duos to connect on more touchdown passes are Manning and Marvin Harrison, Steve Young and Jerry Rice, and Dan Marino and Mark Clayton.

For those counting, three of the four players on that list who are eligible for the Hall of Fame have a bust in Canton. Should Reggie Wayne one day join them, it will be because of what he accomplished with Peyton Manning under center, not Andrew Luck.
--Jason Vida

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Community Player of the Week: Rocky McIntosh

The St. Louis Rams Community Player of the Week presented by Ameren Missouri is linebacker Rocky McIntoshicon-article-link. Ameren Missouri also recognizes Kim K. as the Powering Change Customer of the Week.

After spending his first six NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, McIntosh signed with the Rams during the offseason. At nearly 30 years old, he stepped into the role of “savvy veteran” on a Rams team that is one of the youngest in the league. As a result, McIntosh was charged with the task of helping the young “Simbas” to grow and develop into full-on lions over the course of the season.

But McIntosh was not brought in to be a babysitter. Through the team’s first five games, he has mixed it up with the youngin’s, contributing 17 tackles and an interception on defense, and adding three more tackles on special teams. All this while holding down a starting role.

McIntosh displays the same leadership qualities in the community as he does on the field. Since arriving in St. Louis, McIntosh has made an effort to involve himself in a variety of team and personal community projects. Earlier in the season, he took part in the Make-A-Wish Celebrity Server Dinner. During the evening, McIntosh and many of his Rams teammates helped raise over $225,000 for kids with serious or terminal illnesses. With help from McIntosh and the Rams, Make-A-Wish was able to raise enough money to grant the wishes of nearly 45 Wish Kids.

In addition, McIntosh joined three other Rams teammates in Fairmont City late in September to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. McIntosh and the rest of his Rams entourage arrived at the Fairmont City Library Center under cloudy and rainy conditions, but their presence brightened the day for the kids in attendance.

After leading a quick stretching session, McIntosh put his dancing shoes to good use during Latin Dance lessons given by a local troupe. Afterward, it was McIntosh’s turn to teach the kids a thing or two. He led one of the three fitness stations, throwing touchdown passes to kids after they jumped over mini hurdles and tackled a practice dummy. At the conclusion of the program, McIntosh signed autographs for the kids and posed for photos as well.

His connection to honoring Hispanic culture is nothing new. McIntosh takes part in the Rams player ticket donation program, and purchases 20 tickets to each Rams home game. The tickets are given to groups and organizations that benefit Hispanic youth. And to top it off, McIntosh is fluent in Spanish.

Outside of team programs, McIntosh has his own community efforts. In December of 2011, he, along with his wife and two kids, founded A GRAN Foundation. The organization seeks to “provide youth with the skills to embrace learning, lead healthy lives and mentor others in the community.”

Recently, A GRAN Foundation began its first program known as “Rocky’s Road.” The program pairs 26 kindergartners at Yorkshire Elementary School in Virginia with fifth grade mentors to set various goals related to mental and physical health. The students then log their activities in a computer database, and track their progress. Rocky’s Road is a comprehensive program that supports the students from kindergarten through fifth grade with the goal of proving that with the right tools, any student can accomplish his or her goals.

“The Rams are extremely lucky to have added Rocky to the roster this off-season,” said Molly Higgins, Rams vice president, corporate communications and civic affairs.  “We knew he was going to be a great contributor on the field and he has proven that he is equally as valuable to the St. Louis community. Rocky has jumped head first into being a true community player, he is constantly looking for more ways he be involved and generously offers his off-time to serve as a positive role model to area youth.”

About the Rams Community Player of the Week presented by Ameren Missouri
Each week during the 2012 season, the St. Louis Rams, along with team sponsor Ameren Missouri, will select a player who has made a positive impact on the Greater St. Louis community, giving of himself off the field. Each honored Rams Community Player of the Week will receive a gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, the Official Steak House of the St. Louis Rams.

Tell us how you power positive change in the community for the chance to win Rams tickets and official merchandise, by going to

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Lawrence Vickers: Ray Lewis is entitled to his opinion; he’s not ‘Houdini’

IRVING – Lawrence Vickers says it doesn’t take a matchup against Ray Lewis to get him ready to play.

The Cowboys fullback lined up against the Baltimore Ravens’ 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker twice a season for four years when Vickers was with the Cleveland Browns. He’ll get another opportunity Sunday when the Cowboys travel to Baltimore.

“I stay ready, for whoever. Ray. Bernard. Bryant. Whoever it is,” Vickers said Wednesday, standing in front of his locker at Valley Ranch. “Names don’t scare me, man. Teams don’t scare me, man. I’m a man before anything, so I let other men just talk. See me in between them lines, that’s how I get down, like that.”

During a conference call earlier in the day, Lewis suggested that if the Cowboys think they’re going to get their running game on track in Baltimore, the Ravens defense has other plans.

“They can look to do whatever they want to do but it ain’t going to be what they think it’s going to be,” Lewis said.

When told of Lewis’ comments, Vickers said, “That’s just the way he feels. I don’t remember him being a Houdini or anything like that. He’s entitled to his own opinion. And if that’s how he feels, that’s cool, too. Kudos to him.”

And just in case the media members gathered around Vickers’ locker didn’t believe he wasn’t scared of Lewis, he added the following.

“Let me tell you something, I played against him two times a year every year I’ve been in the NFL, right. And I’m I still here standing tall, still mean, still stiff,” Vickers said. “They’re going to have to jump me, man. They’re going to have to jump me, that’s what it’s going to be. If you go back and watch them they’re jumping me because I’m coming with it and they know I’m coming with it just like I know they’re coming with it. Let’s meet in the lines. That’s just how it goes.”

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Jonathan Vilma's lawyer rips bounty suspension

We've already heard from Will Smith, who has vowed to fight on after the NFL re-issued a four-game ban against him on Tuesday.

Now it's time for Jonathan Vilma to vent. Like Smith, Vilma's suspension time -- in his case, one year -- is unchanged. Vilma will get paid for the time he's been on the New Orleans Saints' physically unable to perform list. Originally, Vilma's ban included no salary for the year.

In the ruling by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vilma was again found to have pledged money to any teammate who could knock then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

On Tuesday, Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, released a statement on behalf of his client. The statement in full:

Commissioner Goodell has crafted a "revised punishment" that continues his previous grossly misplaced interpretation of the "evidence." What the Commissioner did today is not justice, nor just. The suspension has the fingerprints of lawyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to appease an Appeals Panel decision ordering the Commissioner to pay attention to his authority under the CBA. Someone needs to tell the Commissioner directly that his duties also include being true to the evidence, to fundamental notions of due process and to the integrity of the game. That time hopefully will come soon.

Rather than fairly and impartially evaluate the evidence, the Commissioner instead has wrapped his arms around the architect of pay-for-performance programs, Gregg Williams, and attributes Williams' inflammatory language and bizarre slide shows not to Williams but to the players Williams coached.
Jonathan Vilma did not offer a bounty or any incentive to any teammate to injure an opposing player. Commissioner Goodell has now called every one of the dozen or more players and coaches a "liar" who has played the games with Jonathan and been in the locker room with Jonathan and who has sworn under oath to that fact. And to make matters worse, the Commissioner blatantly ignores other evidence that shows Jonathan did not do what the Commissioner, again, accuses him of doing. As but one example, Jonathan's bank records show that he did not withdraw $10,000 from his account at any time during the 2009 playoffs (or at any other time), the time period when the Commissioner claims Jonathan offered that amount of money as a bounty on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Consistent with the Commissioner's disregard of the evidence, he did not even request to see the bank records showing this fact.

As another example, in the sworn statements of Williams and Mike Cerullo, the people the Commissioner found "credible," Cerullo swore under oath that he turned Jonathan's $10,000 over to Williams after the Warner game when no one "earned the bounty," and before the Favre game. Williams swears he never received any money from Cerullo or anyone else. Commissioner Goodell has further damaged Jonathan's reputation, compromised his career, and cast an unfair cloud over a fine and decent man. It is unfortunate that the process exhibited by the NFL has had no decency.

This will be a legal fight that will roll on long after the public's interest in the situation has faded. Frankly, that might have already happened.

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Colts sign tackle Antonio Dixon

The Indianapolis Colts signed nose tackle Antonio Dixon and promoted linebacker Jerry Brown and defensive end Clifton Geathers from the practice squad to the active roster today.

The team also waived cornerback Justin King.

Dixon’s and Geathers’ signings is an indication that defensive end Fili Moala (knee sprain) and nose tackle Martin Tevaseu (foot) are likely to miss some time. Both were injured Sunday, when the Colts beat the Green Bay Packers.

Dixon (6-3, 322) appeared in 35 career games with 10 starts with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Colts also signed linebacker D.J. Bryant, cornerback Isaiah Green, fullback Robert Hughes and tight end Dominique Jones to the practice squad. The team released running back Alvester Alexander from the practice squad and linebacker Mario Addison was signed off the practice squad to the Washington Redskins active roster.

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Lamar Miller in the doghouse

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller didn't play in a single offensive snap in Week 5, but he could be used more often with RB Daniel Thomas (concussion) leaving the game with his second concussion in five weeks. The team hasn't been happy with Miller's awareness on the field so far, though, and his pass blocking hasn't been good.

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Jimmy Graham: Ankle Issue

Update: Graham left the Saints' locker room after Sunday night's game against the Chargers with a walking boot on his right foot as the result of a sprained ankle he sustained in the contest, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Recommendation: Graham hurt his ankle in the second quarter of Sunday's game, but was able to return in the second half, finishing up with one catch for four yards on two targets. Afterward, all coach Aaron Kromer said about Graham's injury was, "We'll see." The Saints are on bye this week, which is a case of good timing for Graham. In any case, his owners will need to find a Week 6 plug-in for him and then track his status leading up to Week 7's game against the Bucs.

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Reggie Wayne highlights best offseason decisions

The New England Patriots came close to signing Wayne. But credit Colts owner Jim Irsay for stepping up to keep the veteran receiver in Indy, even as the rest of the roster was undergoing a total makeover. Irsay surely knew that the Colts were picking Andrew Luck with the first choice in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wayne's return was a must.

As I said at the time, Wayne is still an elite player. He's also a fantastic worker and great teammate. If Luck was going to fully reach his potential as a rookie, he needed Wayne. The combination between quarterback and receiver has been outstanding all season, particularly on Sunday, when they hooked up 13 times for 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown. That comeback win over the Green Bay Packers, with the Colts playing for coach Chuck Pagano as he fights leukemia, was one to remember forever.

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Santana Moss Has Huge Game With Reduced Role

WR SANTANA MOSS: Moss caught a 77-yard touchdown reception that gave the Redskins a 17-14 lead with 12:24 remaining. From the right slot, he ran through the defense between the hash marks. S William Moore didn’t get deep enough to defend a pass over the top, and QB Kirk Cousins exploited the blown coverage with a perfect throw. All Moss had to do was catch it.

Moss is on this list as much for how he has handled his reduced role in the offense. Before this year, he was the Redskins’ featured wide receiver in every season since he arrived in 2005. Moss, 33, hasn’t publicly complained, though. He’s a classy teammate who cares about winning. Good for him scoring that touchdown Sunday.

“Everyone has a role on your football team,” coach Mike Shanahan said last week. “You don’t always have to accept it. You don’t always have to like it…When I did approach him, it didn’t surprise me that he was 100 percent in. Not only did he lose the weight, it’s been the way he has handled himself since Day 1. He’s a competitor. He could care less if he catches a pass if we win. When you have that type of mindset, then good things normally happen with a guy like that.”   

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Goodell's upholds suspension: Letter to Jonathan Vilma

We already shared with you part of a letter from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, explaining the decision to uphold his four-game suspension.

Goodell also decided to uphold the season-long suspension of New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, although Vilma will be allowed to keep his weekly checks for six weeks on the physically unable to perform list.

Goodell’s letter to Vilma is much longer than the one he sent to Smith, so I’ll do my best to trim it up and include the most important items.

Here’s some of what Goodell wrote to Vilma:
“You confirmed that cart-offs and knockouts were part of a broader program in place among the Saints’ defensive players. You confirmed that these terms referred to plays in which an opposing player has to leave the game for one or more plays. You confirmed that, as (assistant head coach Joe) Vitt testified, an opposing player’s need for smelling salts under a trainer’s care was a consequence of the kind that the program sought to achieve and for which players were offered cash rewards from the incentive pool.’’

Goodell also went into detail and said a bounty system was in place during the playoffs at the end of the 2009 season.
“I also find that you engaged in conduct detrimental by offering a substantial financial incentive to any member of the defensive unit who knocked Brett Favre out of the Saints’ 2009 NFC playoff game against the Vikings.’’

Goodell also wrote that there was credible evidence Vilma made a similar pledge about Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, but said he didn’t need to go into further detail because he already had evidence of one pledge of a reward to hurt an opponent.

Many New Orleans fans have labeled former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely, and former assistant coach Mike Cerullo, as "snitches,'' although maybe they were simply telling the truth. Goodell acknowledged both men provided details of the bounty program and said he found their versions credible.

“I am not persuaded by any suggestion that either Mr. Williams or Mr. Cerullo had an incentive to testify falsely, under penalty of perjury, about such conduct by you or by any other player. With respect to Coach Williams, you and he have repeatedly spoken highly of each other, and nobody has identified any reason why he would make false charges against the Saints or you in particular. In that respect, it is telling that even though he had already left the Saints and signed a contract to be the defensive coordinator for the Rams, coach Williams continued to deny the existence of the program in its entirety, and acknowledged the program and his role in it only after detailed questioning by our investigators. Equally important, neither Mr. Williams nor Mr. Cerullo was made aware of the substance of the information provided by the other in the investigation; as one example, each independently volunteered to investigators that the bounty that you pledged with respect to Mr. Favre was in the specific amount of $10,000.’’

Aside from the statements from Williams and Cerullo, Goodell also said others, including Vitt, former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, talked about a meeting in which things got “out of hand’’ and pledges were made for big plays.
“Those statements support the written declarations, made under penalty of perjury, by Coach Williams and Mr. Cerullo about the events of that evening. In contrast, your statement that nothing out of the ordinary happened and that no pledges were made by anyone at that meeting is inconsistent with the information provided by other players and is simply not persuasive.

“I find, based on all of these facts and the entire record described above, that you did, in fact, pledge money to any teammate who injured or disabled Mr. Favre to an extent that he would not be able to continue playing in the playoff game. I recognize that you and some of your teammates have denied that you made such a pledge or claim not to recall your doing so, but I am persuaded, based on the entirety of the record before me, that you did so. And I find that such a pledge or any similar incentive is conduct detrimental.”

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Broncos Won't move away from Willis McGahee

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning said the team will continue to rely heavily on RB Willis McGahee and WR Demaryius Thomas after both players had costly fumbles and dropped passes in the team's Week 5 loss. "I stick with them. I told Willis after the fumble and the other fourth down when we had it, and I told Demaryius—I'm with them. We're going to need those guys all season," Manning said. "You don't see me not throwing to Demaryius or not calling Willis' number. They're out there; they're going to get the ball, and they're going to make more plays than they're going to miss, I assure you of that."

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Eric Winston stands by remarks

After Sunday's loss to the Ravens, Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston unloaded on those fans at Arrowhead Stadium who cheered when quarterback Matt Cassel was down on the turf with a concussion.

"Boo him all you want; boo me all you want," Winston said Sunday via's C.J. Moore. "Throw me under the bus. Tell me I'm doing a bad job. Say I got to protect him more. But if you're one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know and I want everybody to know that I think it's sickening and disgusting."

A day later, Winston stood by the criticism that he leveled at those fans cheering Cassel's injury.

“I meant what I said. I didn't say it off the cuff,” Winston said, via the the Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher (by way of PFT). “I look back on it, and I'm happy with what I said.”

Not everybody felt that way. Former Chiefs offensive lineman Rich Baldinger thinks Winston needs to apologize to the people of Kansas City.
"Needless to say, you cannot, after a game in a highly emotional situation, take your rant that way," Baldinger said. "It came off wrong. You embarrassed a lot of great people in the city of Kansas City that have been so supportive of this team. You go to any other city, and it's worse. These fans have been here through thick and thin.

"I was here in the '80s. It was bad, it got good and these fans have stayed here forever. Eric Winston, I think you owe these fans an apology because you cannot lump together everyone with a few you-know-what's out there -- a few jerks that might've had maybe one too many in the stands. So let's not put all these Kansas City fans together … Sometimes it's better to stop, take a breath, think about think about what you [say] before you say it."

Then the discussion promptly turned to Philly fans because, well, they always seem to come up whenever the topic is unruly crowd behavior. Incidentally, Baldinger's brother, Brian, serves as the Eagles' color commentator during preseason games.

Winston, meanwhile, offered this clarification on Monday: “I didn't mean all 70,000 [fans] were cheering. It might have been 7,000. It might have been 700. It's still too many.”

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Respect for Ed Reed from those who know

The Cowboys have a veteran and a younger player starting at the safeties, and they both express a lot of respect for the man who has been the pre-eminent player at the position for most of his career, the Ravens' Ed Reed.

Danny McCray, in his third NFL season, views Reed -- whom he'll see up close when the Ravens and Cowboys play Sunday -- as the prototype.

“When I was coming up, it was like, you mention safety and you hear Sean Taylor and you hear Ed Reed,” McCray told “He lived up to everything that everybody said about him: always around the ball, great player, smart player. You model your game around anybody, it’s Ed Reed.”

The Cowboys' other safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, is playing in his eighth season, having entered the NFL three years after Reed's rookie season in 2002.

“Probably the biggest playmaker I’ve seen since I’ve been in [the league],” Sensabaugh said. “He’s able to get a lot of turnovers, able to get to the football all kinds of ways, playing the deep middle or just playing different coverages. He’s a turnover machine. He’s always good for eight-plus picks, and that’s a goal I’ve tried to reach.”

As players whose job it is to be around the ball, they recognize how Reed makes his instincts pay off.

“His awareness and knowing where the ball is going to be and then finishing the play,” McCray said. “You see a lot of good players that can get to the ball, but they can’t finish the play. He knows where the ball is going and when it’s in the air he goes and gets it.”

And then there is the thing that Ravens fans have seen so often -- how Reed seems to appear from nowhere.

"He knows exactly where the quarterback is going," Sensabaugh said, "and he knows how to hide so the quarterback won’t be able to see him then he capitalizes."

But Reed never hides for long.

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Jon Beason expects to be back in the middle come Week Seven

The Panthers have been coy about the long-term plans for their linebacking corps, but it sounds like they’ll be sticking with Jon Beason as their middle linebacker a little while longer.

Beason missed the loss to the Seahawks with shoulder and knee injuries, but said that he expects to return to the lineup when the Panthers face the Cowboys after their bye. He also said that expects to be in the lineup at middle linebacker with rookie Luke Kuechly, who started there on Sunday, moving back to his previous spot on the weak side.

“That’s what’s been communicated to me, so I’m sticking with that,” Beason said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve been playing the Mike thus far, and I don’t anticipate anything different.”

Kuechly was a standout on the inside at Boston College and played very well in the spot against the Seahawks, leading coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to say that they would consider whether or not to make a more permanent switch in the coming weeks. It’s a question they’ve been batting around since drafting Kuechly in the first round.

For his part, the rookie says he’s fine playing wherever the Panthers decide to fit him into the lineup. Given his play and spot in the draft, it would seem to be just a matter of time before Kuechly winds up in the middle even if no move is imminent.

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Jon Vilma displeased with Goodell's new bounty decision; legal challenges could go on

Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and the NFL players union left little doubt they remain determined to challenge Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to suspend players in connection with the league's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints.

Goodell ruled Tuesday that Vilma, a linebacker, would remain suspended for the season, while Smith, a defensive end, still would face a four-game ban. The two players, among four who've been wrangling for months with the league, scoffed at the commissioner's latest decision.

Vilma said on Twitter that the new ruling "is not news to me pride won't let him admit he's wrong." Smith issued a statement saying he will continue to explore his appeal options.

Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said in a statement that Goodell's new ruling "continues his previous grossly misplaced interpretation of the 'evidence.' What the Commissioner did today is not justice, nor just. The suspension has the fingerprints of lawyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

The stakes are now somewhat lower for defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita. Hargrove's suspension effectively stands at two games after Goodell reduced his eight-game ban to seven and gave him credit for five games missed while he was a free agent. Goodell lowered Fujita's suspension from three games to one.

Hargrove and Fujita did not respond to requests for comment, but the NFL Players Association, which has been representing them, remained critical of Goodell's decision to punish the players and the process by which he reached his decisions.

"For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever," the said in a written statement. "The only evidence that exists is the League's gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league's refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake."

The players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool, but denied they intended to injure anyone.

Williams, now with St. Louis, has been suspended indefinitely. Saints head coach Sean Payton is serving a full season suspension, while general manager Mickey Loomis is suspended eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six. The Saints, a playoff team the past three seasons, have opened this season 1-4.

The initial player suspensions were vacated during Week 1 of the regular season by an appeal panel created by the league's labor agreement.

The players can delay their new suspensions by appealing again through their labor contract. They could also ask a federal judge in New Orleans to revisit their earlier request for an injunction blocking the suspensions.

Goodell, meanwhile, stood by the substance of the investigation that began three years ago.

"The quality, specificity and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental (to the game) are far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available," Goodell said in a memorandum to the 32 clubs.

The panel that vacated Goodell's initial disciplinary decision did not address the merits of the league's investigation. It asked Goodell to clarify the extent to which his ruling involved conduct detrimental to the game, which he has the sole authority to handle, and salary cap violations resulting from bonus payments, which would have to be ruled upon by an arbitrator other than the commissioner.

"In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story," Goodell wrote. "In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for 'cart-offs,' that players were encouraged to 'crank up the John Deere tractor' and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play."

Only Smith and Fujita have played this season. Vilma has been recovering from offseason knee surgery and hopes to return in two weeks when the Saints play at Tampa Bay. Goodell's new ruling did make a financial concession to the Saints linebacker, saying he can be paid for the six weeks he is spending on the Saints' physically unable to perform list.

In a written statement, Smith said he remained frustrated "with the continued unilateral rulings by this commissioner as he continues to disregard the facts and assault my character."

"I never participated in a 'pay-to-injure program,' never took the field with intent to injure another player, and never contributed any money to hurt other players," Smith said. "It was my hope that those investigating would put their arrogance and agenda aside in order to comprehend the difference between a 'pay-for-performance program' and a 'pay-to-injure program,' but until that day, I will continue to pursue my appeal options through the NFLPA, and attempt to return to work for my family, teammates, fans and the city of New Orleans."

The players declined to meet with Goodell before he made his initial disciplinary rulings in early May or during the first appeal process.

Goodell began to reconsider his disciplinary actions after the Sept. 7 appeal panel ruling and this time all four players agreed to meet with him. During those meetings the NFL produced sworn declarations by Williams and another former defensive assistant, Mike Cerullo, in which they stated that they observed Vilma offering what they believed were $10,000 rewards for knocking then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of 2009-10 playoff games.

Ginsberg, however, said Cerullo's and Williams' sworn statements are not credible because they conflict with one another on various points. Ginsberg also said the commissioner ignored the sworn testimony in federal court of several current and former teammates who denied the league's accusations against Vilma.
"Commissioner Goodell has further damaged Jonathan's reputation, compromised his career, and cast an unfair cloud over a fine and decent man," Ginsberg said. "It is unfortunate that the process exhibited by the NFL has had no decency."

Vilma has indicated previously that he would be inclined to continue fighting his suspension before U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan. The judge has stated that she found the NFL's disciplinary process unfair and that she would be inclined to grant Vilma at least a temporary restraining order if she believed she had jurisdiction on the matter.

However, Berrigan also has stated that she is hesitant to rule until she is certain the players have exhausted all possible remedies available to them through the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

The other three players have been represented by the NFLPA, which stated it will carefully review Goodell's latest decision and "protect our players' rights with vigilance."

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Broncos miss the on-field talent of linebacker D.J. Williams

It's times like this when D.J. Williams becomes conspicuous by his absence.

Where was the Broncos' best all-around linebacker Sunday as quarterback Tom Brady was making the Broncos' defense look embarrassingly inept against the rush-to-snap, rush-to-rush New England Patriots' offense?

Where was Williams as the Patriots rushed the ball an astounding 54 times for 251 yards, and 18 of their team-record 35 first downs?

Where was Williams as four or five Broncos were shifting from weak side to strong side while the Patriots were running back to the weak side? Or was that strong side to weak side?

Maybe Williams could have helped the Broncos think through their confusion.

Williams hasn't been around to help, though, because the NFL punished him not just six games for flunking a performance-enhancement test, but an additional three games for his second alcohol-related driving conviction.

His nine-games missed covers what on paper is the most difficult portion of the Broncos' schedule.

"With a legal situation like this — it's not like we had our head in the sand and said everything is going to be OK," Broncos coach John Fox said Monday. "We knew additional discipline was a possibility. We have prepared accordingly and will continue to evaluate things going forward."

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Ed Reed visits Booker T. Washington Middle despite not feeling well

Initially scheduled to host a Fitness Day for the third consecutive year this morning at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore, Ravens star free safety Ed Reed didn't arrive until this afternoon because he wasn't feeling well, according to his charitable foundation.

The Fitness Day has been postponed until a later undetermined date. Reed's foundation informed the school via an email early this morning that he wouldn't be able to take part in the Ftness Day scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

"Ed Reed and his Foundation have spent three hours this afternoon at Booker. T. Washington privately with the children going from classroom to classroom," Reed's foundation said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun. "Unfortunately, Ed was under the weather this morning and Fitness Day was postponed. We will hold Fitness Day in the weeks to come at Booker T."

Reed and several of his teammates are promoting fitness for youngsters through various programs this month.

Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo took part in a Play 60 Challenge today at Windsor Middle School in Baltimore along with Ravens cheerleaders and mascot Poe.

Today at M&T Bank Stadium, Ravens team president Dick Cass will address area youth at "The Live Positively: Get the Ball Rolling Fit Clinic with tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta leading fitness drills.

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Judge delays sentencing of Broncos' D.J. Williams in drunk driving case

A Denver County judge today delayed the sentencing of Broncos linebacker Genos "D.J." Williams until Oct. 24 following his recent DWAI conviction.

Because this is Williams' second drunken driving-related offense, he could face between 10 days and a year in jail for the misdemeanor and will have to spend two years on probation.

A spokesperson for the Denver District Attorney's Office said Williams will be eligible for in-home detention or work release.

He was stopped in November 2010 around 3 a.m. for driving without headlights and refused to take a blood alcohol test.

In light of the August DWAI conviction, the NFL announced Friday that Williams will remain suspended for three more games, returning to play Nov. 12.

Williams had been slated to return to play for the Bronco's Oct. 28 game against the New Orleans Saints following a botched drug test that led to a six-game suspension.

The league said he provided a "nonhuman" urine sample.

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Antrel Rolle admits lingering knee injury is a 'constant battle'

In the days following his collision with a camera in the fourth quarter of the Giants' win over the Panthers, Antrel Rolle maintained the left knee injury he suffered was minor.

Nearly three weeks later, to his surprise, it remains an issue.

"It's a battle, it's a constant battle each and everyday. But I just try to do whatever I can to go out there and perform on Sunday," Rolle said in his weekly interview on WFAN this afternoon. "As long as I'm out there with my guys, man, that's what's good enough for me. With this knee injury, it's going to take some time. It's going to take some time.

"I never thought it would be this crucial. It's just a lingering process, not anything too serious, but it's something that just lingers around and it kind of sticks with you a little bit, but I'll be fine. And I will be out there again come Sunday."

Rolle has played through the knee trouble the last two weeks and will be needed again this Sunday against the 49ers. The Giants, already without Kenny Phillips due to a sprained MCL, are now down two safeties after Will Hill was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

In his place, the Giants activated safety Tyler Sash, who is coming off the same suspension, and needed to be activated by Monday at 4 p.m. or the Giants would've had to waive him. Both Sash and Hill tested positive for Adderall.

"It is difficult -- especially when Will Hill has been playing good football for us," Rolle said. "Unfortunately, we had Kenny go down and myself, I'm still dealing with this knee injury. It just seems like if it's not one thing, it's another. I will be honest about that. But we're a tough unit. We're a tough unit and we're a close unit.

"And we're going to make sure with Will and his suspension, make sure that he's staying level-headed and make sure he keeps himself in the game and at the same time move Sash along and get Sash caught up to speed. We're going to look to Sash to be a playmaker come Sunday."

With Phillips out Sunday against the Browns, Stevie Brown got the start in his place and after a costly mistake in coverage that allowed Josh Gordon to score a 62-yard touchdown, he came through with two key turnovers.

"Very, very crucial turning point in the game," Rolle said of Brown's first turnover, an interception of Brandon Weeden at the end of the first half. "I think it couldn't have been a better moment in the game. Stevie Brown, he's a guy for us, like you said, he's making plays for us and he's been coming up huge for us with Kenny being out."

Rolle became close friends with former Giants and current 49ers running back Brandon Jacobs in their two seasons as teammates and the two have maintained contact since Jacobs' departure.

"I definitely kept in contact with Jacobs. [I] checked up on his knee and when I had my knee injury, he called to check up on my knee," Rolle said. "Jacobs is a good guy, man. A very passionate guy and I miss having him as a teammate."

But Rolle said the friendships – the Giants will also go up against former teammate Mario Manningham – are forgotten until the final whistle blows Sunday.

"It's going to be good to see those guys and to actually play against them," Rolle said. "We're all friends, we're all great friends off the field, but on the field we have to go out there and execute. So if that means to bring the noise then so be it. We're definitely going to bring the noise and we'll hug and shake hands after the game, but during that game time, there won't be any pats on the butt. It's going to be straight hard-nosed football."

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DeQuan Jones Opens Eyes In First Game

While much of the attention in summer league and training camp was focused on drafted rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn, it was undrafted rookie DeQuan Jones who opened eyes in Sunday’s first game for the Magic.

The 6-foot-8, 221-pound small forward had eight points and two steals in Sunday’s game while playing 23 minutes. He earned Vaughn’s trust with his willingness to defend and he also electrified the crowd in Mexico City with two thunderous dunks. The University of Miami product knows that he is in a fight for a roster spot as an undrafted player with no contractual guarantees. A high flyer, Jones has worked hard to show the coaching staff and management that he can be an asset to the Magic by doing the dirty work and offering up hard-nosed defense.

``I’m just trying to be a utility guy and on our defensive rotations really be aware and be a stopper for our team,’’ Jones said. ``I’m out there trying to utilize my athleticism to help this team anyway that I can.’’

Jones said it dawned on him during Sunday’s game as he was making his NBA debut that he was living out his dream. He is hoping that he will get enough opportunities throughout the preseason to show the coaches that he deserves a spot on the roster. ``It was a great experience for me and I was just appreciative more than anything,’’ Jones said of his debut. 11I just appreciated being out there and tried to give my all to give the team whatever I could. I’ve just got to keep it up.’’


PHOTO: Anthony Reddick Makes A Tackle


Calgary Stampeders' Marquay McDaniel, left, is tackled by B.C. Lions' Anthony Reddick as Cauchy Muamba, 3, and Ryan Phillips, 21, give chase Saturday.

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Ray Lewis won’t wait around to face his son

After last week’s win over the Browns, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis told NFL Network that he’ll know when it’s time to call it quits as a player, and that when the time comes he’ll be done — with no waffling and no unretiring.

On Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk, I asked Lewis if he’ll wait around at the NFL long enough for a chance to tackle his son, Ray Lewis III, who’ll enroll next year at the University of Miami.

After having a good laugh, Ray made it clear that the time to be a full-time father is coming.  And it sounds like it’s coming whenever Ray III actually starts playing in games at the University of Miami.

To judge for yourself, check out the video.

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Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

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Reggie Wayne may be the NFL’s biggest bargain

With the removal of three wide receivers who received the franchise tag — Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs, Wes Welker of the New England Patriots and DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles — and the Buffalo Bills keeping Steve Johnson off the free-agent market with a five-year, $36.25 million contract a week before the 2012 league year began, there were about 10 notable free-agent wide receivers on the market.

This year's crop was headlined by Vincent Jackson, who left the San Diego Chargers to sign a five-year, $55.555 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Marques Colston, who re-signed with the New Orleans Saints for five years and $36.3 million. Several mid-20-somethings Pierre Garcon, Laurent Robinson, Robert Meachem, Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal and Mario Manningham drew the most attention, signing contracts in the opening days of free agency, while a pair of over-30 free agents — Reggie Wayne and Brandon Lloyd — signed after the period had been open for a week to 10 days.

Since players are paid based on what they're going to do, and not what they've already done, age was likely the factor in the earlier signings of Garcon, Meachem & Co. Still, Wayne and Lloyd are shaping up to be the biggest producers and bargains of the group.

Signed to a three-year, $17.5 million contract that included $7.5 million in guaranteed money, Wayne's $5.833 million per year average ranks well below what Garcon ($8.5 million) received, and is nestled closer to the deals signed by Robinson ($6.5 million per year), Meachem ($6.375 million), and Morgan ($5.75 million). Yet, Wayne has been the most productive wide receiver of the entire free-agent class.

Through four games, Wayne has more targets (60), receptions (36) and yards (506) than any other receiver in the group, and his two touchdowns are bested only by Colston (four). To put Wayne's production into context, he has nearly as many receptions (39 to 36) and receiving yards (605 to 506) and touchdowns (three to two) than Garcon, Robinson, Meachem and Morgan combined. Wayne is taking home $7.5 million in cash this season, which is tied for 16th among NFL wide receivers. Garcon, Robinson, Meachem and Morgan will combine to earn $39.104 million in cash (base salary, signing bonuses, roster bonuses and workout bonuses) in 2012.

Wayne has also logged 281 snaps in the four games, which is only surpassed by Lloyd, who has logged 381 snaps (76.2 per game) in five games with the Patriots. Lloyd's deal with the Patriots has a base value of $12 million over three seasons, but an additional $3.5 million is available in incentives tied to his receiving production (2012-14) and Pro Bowl appearances (2013-14).

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Broncos' McGahee: 'Put it on my shoulders'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There were several momentum-shifting moments that went New England’s way in Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Broncos, running back Willis McGahee taking responsibility for two of the biggest ones.

With the Broncos driving early in the fourth quarter at the Patriots’ 47 yard line and trailing, 31-14, McGahee let a Peyton Manning pass on fourth and 1 slip through his fingers. Instead of a sure first down to keep the drive alive, the Patriots instead took over on downs.

“No excuses, man, I dropped it,” McGahee said after the game. “Point blank.”

Manning later got the Broncos back in the game by leading a touchdown drive that made it 31-21, and Denver was deep in New England territory looking for another score when McGahee made the blunder that ultimately sealed the victory for the Patriots. With 3:42 left on the clock, Patriots linebacker forced a McGahee fumble at the New England 14-yard line, the ball recovered by Jermaine Cunningham at the 11.

“I had two key plays, the dropped pass on fourth down and one and the fumble on the goal line,” McGahee said. "That probably changed the game for us when I fumbled that ball.”

The Broncos' running back, who finished with 51 yards rushing on 14 carries and 51 yards receiving on 5 catches, credited Ninkovich for forcing the ball out.

“He just made a good play,” McGahee said. “I had it high and tight, but still, you’ve got to do better than that. I think that changed the game for us and I take full credit for that, not getting down there. ... Put it on my shoulders.”

McGahee might be willing to take the heat, but he certainly wasn’t the only culprit for the Broncos, who turned the ball over three times.

On the opening drive of the game, Manning connected on a 43-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas that would have set the Broncos up deep in Patriots territory. But Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore poked the ball out and recovered it.

“The turnover set us back that first drive and we were just in the hole from there,” McGahee said.

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Reggie Wayne violates NFL uniform code in support of Chuck Pagano

Reggie Wayne was so intent on showing support for Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano, that he violated the NFL's less-than-flexible uniform code on Sunday.

Wayne, who showed Pagano and his teammates plenty of love by catching 13 passes for a career-high 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown in Indy's 30-27 upset of the Green Bay Packers, wore orange gloves and an orange mouthpiece as the color signifies awareness for leukemia, the disease Pagano is battling in an Indianapolis hospital.

NFL players everywhere are decked out in pink to support breast cancer awareness this month, but Wayne went off script for a coach he's known since their time together at the University of Miami (Fla.) more than a decade ago.

"I just wanted to do something, you know, for Chuck," said Wayne, who did sport a pink towel and sweat bands.

"I had some equipment guys make some calls. If they (the NFL) fine me, they fine me, I really feel like that would be a terrible thing to do, but if so, so be it, I'll go ahead and take the fine and do it for Chuck."

Here's hoping a league that obsesses over everything from face shields to sock length to messages worn on t-shirts underneath game jerseys takes a chill pill in this instance.

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Eric Winston blasts fans for cheering Cassel injury

Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel may not be very popular in the stands, but he still has support in the locker room.

Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston took fans to task for cheering when Cassel left the game with a head injury.

The veteran blocker called a group of reporters over, and said the following words, via Arrowhead Pride:

“We are athletes, OK? We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer and they can do whatever they want, I believe that. We are lucky to play this game. People, it’s hard to economic times, and they still pay the money to do this.

“But when somebody gets hurt, there are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play. I’ve already kinda come to the understanding that I won’t live as long because I play this game and that’s OK, that’s a choice I’ve made and a choice all of us have made.

“But when you cheer, when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel — it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there.

“I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people, hasn’t done anything to you people. Hasn’t done anything to the media writers that kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people that come out here and cheer him. Hey, if he’s not the best quarterback then he’s not the best quarterback and that’s OK. But he’s a person. And he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?

“Boo him all you want. Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I’m doing a bad job. Say I gotta protect him more. Do whatever you want. Say whatever you want. But if you are one of those people, one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know, and I want everybody to know that I think it’s sickening and disgusting. We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Coliseum. This is a game.

“I’ll sit here and I’ll answer all your questions for the next 30 minutes if you want to ask them and I’ll take all the responsibility I can take because I deserve it but don’t blame a guy, and don’t cheer for a guy who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans.

“It’s sickening. And I was embarrassed. I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK.

“I’ll get off my soap box and you guys can ask any football question you want.”

No, Eric, that pretty much covers it.

The Chiefs have played poorly. Frankly, they are a disaster. Cassel leads the parade.

But for too many fans, their passion for the team leads them to forget that the laundry they’re cheering for has a human being inside it.

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Reggie Wayne fought through “severe cramps” on final drive

The Colts’ stunning 30-27 win over the Packers has plenty of story lines.  Leave it to Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports to dig up a new one.

Silver reports that receiver Reggie Wayne, who generated a career-high 212 receiving yards on Sunday, overcame “severe cramps” during the final drive of Sunday’s game.

But that’s what a guy sometimes does when trying to achieve a greater goal.

“We wanted to win this for Chuck [Pagano] so bad,” Wayne told Silver. “At halftime we were so pissed off at each other.  We didn’t play up to par.  We didn’t play like a team that was hungry.  We challenged each other, got in each others’ faces, said, ‘Hey, let’s be accountable to each other.  Let’s trust each other to go out and perform the way we know we can.’”

Trust is the key word.  It’s what helped keep Wayne in Indianapolis, thanks to a relationship with Coach Pagano that started 16 years ago, when Pagano was the receivers coach at the University of Miami and Wayne was a freshman wideout on the team.

“I was at home in Miami getting ready for free agency, my kids running around, nothing but noise, when I saw a ’317′ number flash across my phone,” Wayne explained. “I answered it to see what was up.  As soon as I heard the voice on the other line, I knew it was him. I’ve been knowing Chuck Pagano for a long time.  This is beyond ‘head coach.’  This is family.”

The Colts quickly are becoming family.  It’s an often hollow and overplayed sports intangible that, when it’s authentic and organic, can carry a team farther than the team otherwise would have gone.  Though it will be an uphill climb to take back the AFC South from the Texans, the Colts could finagle a wild-card berth — and they would be a very tough out in the postseason.

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D.J. Williams' suspension increased

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos will be without linebacker D.J. Williams until mid-November after the NFL added three games to his suspension Friday.

Williams was punished for violating the league's substance abuse policy following his conviction in August of driving while ability impaired.

He already was serving a six-game suspension to start the season for violating the league's banned-substances policy -- such as performance enhancing drugs -- after the NFL said he supplied a "non-human" urine sample during a drug test.

Williams, the team's leading tackler in four of the last five seasons, won't be eligible to return to the Broncos until Nov. 12.

He was originally slated to return in time for the game against New Orleans on Oct. 28, but will now miss that game and road contests at Cincinnati and Carolina, too.

The Broncos, who had been preparing for Williams' suspension to be extended, declined comment after arriving in New England on Friday night for their game against the Patriots this weekend.

Wesley Woodyard and Keith Brooking have shared snaps at weakside linebacker in Williams' absence.

Williams met with commissioner Roger Goodell in New York last month in hopes of avoiding further punishment from the league following his latest run-in, a case that stemmed from a drunken driving arrest nearly two years ago.

He was originally charged with driving under the influence, but a jury returned a conviction on a lesser charge. He was also convicted of driving without headlights, the offense that prompted police to stop him near downtown Denver about 3 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2010.

Prosecutors said Williams failed roadside sobriety tests during his traffic stop and refused to take a blood test to determine his possible alcohol level. He was taken to a detox facility.

The Broncos stripped Williams of his captaincy shortly after his arrest -- the second time he'd been detained for suspicion of drunken driving. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to impaired driving.

Williams has led the Broncos in tackles five times in his eight years since joining the NFL as Denver's top draft pick in 2004 out of the University of Miami.

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Andre Johnson quietly nears milestone

HOUSTON — Larry Coker, the former Miami Hurricanes' coach, admits Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson was “a little hard to get to know.” That was because, and it remains the case today, Johnson doesn't say a whole lot ... with his mouth.

As Coker came to realize, though, Johnson's attitude, attention to detail and unwavering accountability — in the classroom, too, not just on the practice field — were sufficiently eloquent.

“I still hold him up as an example when I'm talking to my kids today,” said Coker, now in his second season of building a football program from scratch at UTSA. “Andre's size, speed and athleticism set him apart, but it's the other stuff you remember. You want all your players to take care of business like he did. He hasn't changed any, has he?”

No, coach, he hasn't.

“Every day, ever since I've been here, it's hard to get Andre to say anything, let alone complain,” Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “He never complains. He just works.”

Johnson is a full decade into his Texans career and likely just one ordinary — for him — game shy of 10,000 receiving yards. He goes to New Jersey to play the Jets on the cusp of becoming the sixth-fastest player in NFL history to get there.

Johnson needs 76 yards Monday night. Over the 126 games he has played, his average is 77.5. That's the second highest behind Marvin Harrison, who spent his career catching passes from Peyton Manning.

Johnson's quarterback for his first four pro seasons was David Carr on a talent-thin, confidence-shy expansion team. It took him until the end of that fourth year as a Texan before he could celebrate as many pro victories as he enjoyed in two seasons at Miami. Still, he calls himself “fortunate” to have remained a Texan, to have been an integral “part of building something.”

“In this day and time, for a player to stay the course with an expansion franchise like he did through some very tough times tells you what he's all about as person,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “His career has been excellent, but we're all happy we finally gave him a good football team to work with.”

Johnson admits he's proud of his prodigious statistics.

“(They say) I've been able to do something very productive since I've been here playing,” he said. “That means a lot.”

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Reggie Wayne on a torrid pace

Reggie Wayne is on the best first-quarter pace of his NFL career with 36 catches for 504 yards through four games.

In the Colts upset of Green Bay, Wayne pulled in 13 catches for 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown as the team honored Chuck Pagano in its first game without their ill head coach.

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was six-of-eight for 90 yards and the game-winning score when targeting Wayne in the fourth quarter alone.

In all, Luck threw to Wayne 20 times, with 10.6 yards per attempt, 11 first downs and zero drops.

All the Colts other targets combined caught 18 of 35 passes aimed for them with 4.3 yards per attempt, five first downs and two drops.

Orange is the color associated with the fight against leukemia. With coach Pagano in the hospital fighting the disease, Wayne had equipment men find him orange gloves and an orange mouthpiece and wore them without concern for a possible fine.

“I think the orange gloves were everywhere," Luck said. " I felt like there were eight pairs of those out there on the field. I told [Wayne] after the game he was the best football player I’ve ever played with. His leadership at halftime, on the field, before the last drive, I think I learned a lot from him from watching him operate. I’m very fortunate and blessed to be on a team with him.”

Wayne’s best reception total was in 2010 (111) and his best yardage year was 2007 (1,510).

At his current clip, he’d catch 144 balls for 2,024 yards.

The records are 143 receptions (by Marvin Harrison in 2002) and 1,848 yards (by Jerry Rice in 1995).

Surely, playing with a rookie quarterback, Wayne can’t maintain a pace that would have him pass Rice by 176 yards. Can he?

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Ray Lewis talks legacy, TV spot, future

More than 7 million people have viewed the video online of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis answering questions from a little girl in a TV commercial for Visa.

Viewers are struck by the cuteness of the girl, but also by the warmth of Lewis, known as one of the toughest players in the NFL.

"It was just one of those good days for me," said Lewis, who is a 13-time Pro Bowler. "I didn't know the setup beforehand and saw what they wanted me to do. I said, 'This is cool. I got this.' "

Lewis said he's a changed man these days, enjoying life more as a 37-year-old father of six and not getting caught up in the drama that consumed his early 20s.

"I'm now thinking about my legacy. The game will fade. I'm thinking what impact did I leave on this earth?" said Lewis, who created a foundation for disadvantaged youths. "I want people to look back on me and see my passion on the field and my heart off the field."

That's why Lewis spends a lot of time at children's hospitals and supports police and military programs.

"You have to look outside the game," Lewis said, "and listen to the stories and the impact that it can have for you inside the game."

Lewis is making the promotional rounds for Visa as part of the NFL Fan Offers program. In the coming months, Visa will debut TV spots featuring other potential experiences, including sitting in on an NFL coach’s game-day speech (featuring San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh) and watching an NFL game on a Sunday with John Madden.

Lewis, who has played for the Ravens since 1996, said this season has been his most rewarding. The team's offense has propelled it to a 3-1 record, which is OK with the defensive-minded Lewis.

"Sometimes, I need to educate my boys never to get caught up in the wins and losses and to get caught up in the opportunity," Lewis said. "Don't carry too much on your shoulder. We need to be the light among the darkness. This year, I tell them to just be the light."

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Reggie Wayne has classic performance in tribute to Pagano

Reggie Wayne has history with Chuck Pagano. Theirs is a well-founded relationship, established at the University of Miami in the mid-1990s, built on trust, respect and deep affection, nurtured through the years. So what happened on an emotional Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium was no surprise.

Wayne went out and played the greatest game Pagano never coached.

"I've been knowing Chuck for a long time, 16 years," the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver said after contributing 13 catches for a career-high 212 yards and the touchdown that made the Colts 30-27 conquerors over the 2010 world champion Green Bay Packers.

"Great human being, great coach, great personality, great husband. He identifies the word great. To be able to come out and just do it for him, I said to myself I was going to lay it all on the line."

Wayne did that. He was spent, and a little emotional, but in a perfect world he would have had one final duty. The game ball the Colts won for Pagano, their stricken coach, Wayne would have been the man to deliver it.

He delivered all day Sunday.

Wayne's 212 yards were the second fattest receiving total in the Colts' 60 seasons of NFL membership. They are exceeded only by Pro Football Hall of Fame member Raymond Berry, who had 224 yards at Washington on Nov. 10, 1957.

Wayne had the 40th 100-yard game of his much-decorated five-Pro Bowl, 12-year career at halftime: six receptions, 104 yards. He also had one of his most spectacular catches.

On third-and-6, "Reggie time," he beat Pro Bowl safety Charles Woodson and stretching to fullest extension, took an Andrew Luck pass on the fingertips, tipped it, grabbed it and pulled it in, all with his left hand, all while crashing to the turf. It was a 30-yard gain and a first down that set up a field goal.

And on the final, dramatic, decisive play, who else would it be?

Luck went to Wayne in a crowd at the goal line. The veteran receiver snatched the football out of the air, turned, stretched and extended the ball across the goal line for the winning touchdown.

The sellout crowd of 67,020 roared, gasped, then chanted: "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie, Reggie."

"I told him after the game he was the best football player I've ever played with," Luck said. "His leadership at halftime, on the field, before the last drive; I think I learned a lot from him from watching him operate.

"I'm very blessed and fortunate to be on a team with him."

Wayne wore pink shoes to salute Breast Cancer Awareness Month and he was the only man in the stadium in orange gloves.

"I found out this week that orange was the color for (leukemia) so I made some phone calls," Wayne said. "I had our equipment guys make some phone calls to try and get some orange gloves. They were able to do that.

"I wasn't sure how it was going to go as far as getting fined (by the NFL for a uniform violation), but I said I would take this one for the team. If they fine me, they fine me."

Wayne would have no trouble recruiting help to pay that fine, should the league be heartless enough to levy it. He was the man Sunday and he was playing for the man. All the Colts were.

"He left it all on the field," Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said of Wayne. "We had to follow his lead."

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Willis McGahee goes over 100 yards from scrimmage

Willis McGahee rushed 14 times for 51 yards in Denver's 31-21 Week 5 loss to the Patriots, adding five catches for an additional 51 yards.
A solid day on paper, but McGahee cost the Broncos any shot they had at a comeback in the fourth quarter, committing a back-breaking drop on an early 4th-and-1 before losing a soft fumble at the Patriots' 14-yard line with 3:42 to go. The mistakes marred McGahee surpassing 100 yards from scrimmage for the third time in five games. The good news is, McGahee is still running extremely well, and is far and away the Broncos' top back. The Broncos get the Chargers in Week 6.

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Devin Hester goes for 49 yards on 2 receptions

Devin Hester caught two balls for 49 yards in the Bears' Week 5 win over the Jaguars.

Hester saw a slight uptick in snaps after Alshon Jeffery suffered a game-ending hand injury, but it doesn't matter. Hester is a package player at best and a gimmick at worst, and you don't want him on your fantasy football team.

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Sam Shields can't catch a break

INDIANAPOLIS – Sam Shields still isn’t sure what constitutes a pass interference penalty, and worse yet, the Green Bay Packers cornerback can’t figure out why opposing wide receivers keep getting away with pushing him around.

Two weeks ago in Seattle, Shields was called for a stunning 32-yard pass interference penalty on a first-and-30 play, even though Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice went over his back and grabbed his facemask while trying to catch the ball. Then, as Packers fans know all too well, Shields was shoved to the ground on the controversial game-winning Hail Mary touchdown, a play after which the NFL admitted Shields should’ve drawn an offensive pass interference call on wideout Golden Tate.

So it was only adding to Shields’ rotten luck during Sunday’s 30-27 loss at Indianapolis when Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery shoved Shields on a deep ball down the right sideline … and Shields was flagged for a 25-yard pass-interference penalty. Four plays later, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck scored on a 3-yard run to cut the Packers’ lead to 21-19.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t go to the ref and ask or anything like that. In my eyes, that was kind of a bad call,” Shields said of the play. “But there’s nothing I can do. That’s what they called. You’re going to get bad calls. You’re going to get good calls. You just have to go to the next play, keep going.”

Asked what he saw on the play, Packers coach Mike McCarthy replied, “Whew, I didn’t see anything. I didn’t see anything.”

Shields said teammate Charles Woodson spoke to one of the officials after the play looking for an explanation.

“He went to the official and (the official) was saying the defender can’t be on top of the receiver – kind of like blocking him out. I never heard of that but that’s what ‘Wood’ said to me,” Shields said. “Like I keep saying over and over, all we can do is come in tomorrow and correct the mistakes. There were some penalties that we can’t have that hurt us.”

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Get to know: Packers cornerback Sam Shields

In a hurry to pick up his mother at the airport, cornerback Sam Shields took a few minutes to talk to the Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne about his mother's influence, "The U" and winning the starting cornerback job.

What do you like to do during your free time in Green Bay? Just relax. I really like to go to the movies. Later, I'm going to see Taken 2. I love watching movies. I'm going with my mom.

What's your relationship like with your mom? It's a big bond. I talk to her every day. Any time I have questions or anything, I talk to her. It's a great relationship. Every day, we talk. We talk a lot. Sometimes, we'll be on the phone for two hours.

What do you talk about? Just what's going on around, how my kids are doing, how my high school is doing. She still goes to the high school games.

How many kids do you have? Three.

What's it like being a father for three kids? It's tough but they know their dad and love their dad so it's all good.

How old are they? Three, three and five.

What are they up to? School. Just being kids.

Is it difficult when you're in Green Bay and they're in Sarasota, Florida? It is. But they know their dad is at work.

Are you close with your father, too? Yeah, we talk a lot but it's not like my mom. My parents have been together for 27 years.

Mom come out to Green Bay a lot? Yeah. She'll come in on the holidays and sometimes throughout the holidays.

What's the No. 1 thing you learned from your parents? Just being respectful. Respect people and learn how to talk to people. When things go wrong, don't cuss somebody out. Just learn how to walk away and things like that.

Is that why you never seemed to upset last season when things weren't going well? You can't. You get down on yourself, hey, you go in a hole. You go in a deep hole. You just try to let it go and keep working.

How much has that helped you bounce back from last year when your job was in jeopardy during the summer? It's part of football. Everybody goes through that. It's just how you handle it. I try to handle it the best way I can and just keep working. Things like that are going to happen - fighting for a position. I'll be fighting for a position next year. That happens. You just can't get down. You have to keep working.

How did you win the cornerback spot? Not giving up. Like I said, keep working. When there were guys in front of me, just keep competing. I love competing. All of my life, I've been competing. So it's nothing new.

Do you miss "The U?" Yeah, I do.

Best college memories? Just the big family of "The U." The partying part. I'm not going to lie, I miss that. I don't really party like that anymore. It gets old.

Is it a big party down there? Yeah, in Miami you never sleep. It goes on until 6 o'clock in the morning. And then you're back at it again.

So what's it like to change? It's your job. I'm always in the house here, working in the house. And when I get back home, I'm still the same way. Sometimes, I'll be in the house for two days and say, "Man, I need to get out and do something."

What do you do around the house? I just watch TV, watch TV on the computer. I'll talk with my family and friends. Time goes by so fast it's like, "Dang, we have to get ready for practice in the morning."

Favorite shows on TV? "The First 48." And I love the Animal Planet, too. How tigers and cheetahs live, it's kind of crazy. I like watching how they really live. They kind of live like us, but they're animals, you know?

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Jets TE Dedrick Epps Goes On Injured Reserve

After making his first ever NFL reception from, QB Tim Tebow, TE Dedrick Epps not only fumbled after getting hit but injured his knee as well during the Jets 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  Epps was in the Jets training camp but released before the season began.  With TE Dustin Keller fighting a hamstring injury the Jets brought Epps back to add some depth to the TE position.

The Jets waive/injured Epps, who cleared waivers, and has been place on season ending injured reserve.

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Jimmy Graham battling through ankle injury on SNF

Tight end Jimmy Graham hurt his ankle near the end of the first half and his subsequent return to the game won’t quiet all worry about his condition during the bye week. Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Graham, who had just one catch for four yards on Sunday night, was in a walking boot after the game and interim coach Aaron Kromer said that the team needed to take some time to figure out where things stand with the tight end.

“Jimmy was a little banged up as the game went along,” Kromer said, via WWL-TV. “We’ll see how he is.”

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Greg Olsen doesn't get much attention in loss

Greg Olsen caught just two passes for 37 yards in the Panthers' Week 5 loss to the Seahawks.

The FOX broadcast team was going nuts as Olsen saw no targets in the first half despite running open on multiple occasions. Cam Newton was simply locked onto Steve Smith and couldn't get off him. Olsen ended up with just three targets, but expect the Panthers' coaches to hammer Newton with tape during the bye week. He'll see that Olsen is getting open with ease.

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Leonard Hankerson demoted behind Morgan

Leonard Hankerson caught just one pass for three yards and gained two yards on a rushing attempt in Week 5 against the Falcons.

Hankerson was Washington's fourth receiver in this game, after getting demoted behind Josh Morgan. Pierre Garcon is the other outside receiver, and Santana Moss plays the slot. Hankerson could come into fantasy value eventually should one of those wideouts get injured, but for now he's droppable in 12-team leagues. He'd need a Garcon injury to be a viable week-to-week producer.

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Jon Beason expects to be back in middle vs. Dallas Cowboys

Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason said he expects to remain in the middle when the Panthers face Dallas on Oct. 21 after the bye week.

Beason missed Sunday’s 16-12 loss to Seattle with shoulder and knee injuries. Rookie Luke Kuechly, the first-round pick who started in Beason’s place, had one of his best games with 11 tackles and an interception.

Beason said in no uncertain terms he wanted to stay in the middle, adding the coaching staff indicated he would.

“That’s what’s been communicated to me, so I’m sticking with that,” Beason said Monday. “I’ve been playing the Mike thus far, and I don’t anticipate anything different.”

Kuechly, who set NCAA tackling records as a middle linebacker at Boston College, said he didn’t have a preference.

“Nah,” Kuechly said. “We’ll see what happens in the bye week. It doesn’t really matter too much to me.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said they planned to evaluate whether to keep Kuechly in the middle or return him to the weakside, where he started the first four games.

Beason posted the top four single-season tackle totals in team history his first four seasons before sustaining a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1 in 2011. He has been plagued by nagging injuries this season, including a shoulder issue that has led to missed tackles when he tried to arm-tackle ball-carriers.
Beason said the two weeks off should help him heal and get him ready for the final 11 games.

“That’s the plan. That’s why we get these bye weeks. Tough season, long haul,” he said. “If you’re really going to make a push for it, guys have to be healthy down the stretch.”

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Aubrey Huff's improvement afforded Giants extra pitcher

SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Bruce Bochy's satisfaction with first baseman Aubrey Huff's mobility proved to be a primary factor in the shaping of the Giants' Division Series roster.

Bochy noted that Huff ran adequately when he started a Sept. 30 game at San Diego.

"He's not hobbling," Bochy said.

Bochy wasn't suprised, noting that Huff received a painkilling injection in his right knee a few days earlier.

Huff cemented his place on the roster by rapping six hits in his last 13 pinch-hit at-bats. Due to his inclusion, the Giants were forced to go without a fleet baserunning specialist, such as Francisco Peguero or Justin Christian. Bochy said that infielders Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot would handle pinch-running responsibilities if necessary.

"Obviously, we haven't done much game play on it, but just running around in practice it feels twice as good as it did [before]," Huff said. He jokingly added, "I feel pretty confident that if I hit a ball in the gap, I can get a triple."

Employing a 12-man pitching staff also prevented the Giants from keeping an extra position player. Bochy said that he liked the "coverage" that a 12-man staff afforded. An ominous interpretation: Bochy believes he needs more relief help to address concerns about the starting pitching.

San Francisco used an 11-pitcher contingent throughout the 2010 postseason, but Bochy pointed out that the club temporarily operated with a 13-man staff during the regular season, so 12 actually represented a belt-tightening of sorts.

One challenging pitching-related decision involved keeping rookie George Kontos over veteran Clay Hensley to bolster the supply of right-handed relievers.
"Really, he has been consistent all year, and I like the way he has been throwing lately," Bochy said of Kontos, who has held opponents scoreless in 14 of his last 17 outings.

Bochy said that Kontos' dramatic strikeout of Los Angeles' Matt Kemp in the next-to-last regular-season game didn't seal the decision to keep the 27-year-old.
"But it certainly helped," Bochy said. "... It probably helped validate taking him."

Peguero, Hensley, catcher Eli Whiteside and right-hander Jean Machi will remain with the team through at least the Division Series in case the Giants need an injury replacement.

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Is Yonder Alonso next season's Chase Headley?

Chase Headley was a revelation this season. Will Yonder Alonso open our eyes wide next season?

Both players took four seasons to move from Single-A to everyday major leaguer.

Both players displayed a solid power stroke in Triple-A ball only to watch those homers turn into doubles in the Big Leagues.

It took Headley a while to figure out Petco Park, but he's always been productive on the road. Entering 2012, he was a career .303 hitter away from home. He hit .300 on the road this season -- with a respectable .272 at home -- with five more homers (18-to-13), 13 more RBI (64-to-51) and seven more steals (12-to-5).
In Alonso's first season in San Diego, he actually performed slightly better at the behemoth ballpark. He hit .276 at home, compared to .271 away. He homered more on the road (6-to-3), but actually had the same amount of RBI (31) and doubled more (23-to-16) at Petco.

Even though Headley accrued 55 more at-bats, Alonso led the Padres in doubles with 39. Headley had 31.

Like Headley, Alonso has had success on the road his entire career. He was a career .291 hitter before this season.

Is it a stretch to believe with another season of experience, Alonso will continue to mature as an offensive force? His trajectory is 20-25 home runs, 80-90 RBI and a .290-.300 hitter.

Outside of steals, the main difference between Alonso and Headley next season is where you can draft them. Headley will undoubtedly be a Top 25 pick because of his production and position. Alonso will likely be a late round flier if fantasy owners don't buy him making a jump in power.

As of now, most won't.

I believe he will be a steal.

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Pat Burrell playing different postseason role

ST. LOUIS -- Pat Burrell helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2010 as a part-time outfielder. He is trying help the Giants win another title this October in a much different role.

Burrell is now working as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean. Burrell has been doing a lot of scouting and his coverage includes the Washington Nationals-St. Louis Cardinals National League Division Series that opens today at Busch Stadium.

The Giants are playing the Cincinnati Reds in the other NLDS.

"I'm really enjoying scouting, especially the advance-type scouting that I'm doing in this series," Burrell said. "I'm not far removed from playing, so I'm familiar with most of the players and that helps."

Burrell played in 92 games last season and hit just .230 with seven home runs before retiring because of chronic foot problems.

"I really don't miss playing nearly as much as I thought," said Burrell, who hit 292 homers in a 12-year career with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and the Giants. "It became really tough to play through the pain. I like what I'm doing now and I'm glad I'm still able to be in the game."

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Jon Jay's extraordinary catch stops Washington rally in 6th

ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has been plugging Jon Jay's Gold Glove Award candidacy for weeks now, insistent that the Cardinals center fielder has been as steady as anyone at the position this season. Jay topped his personal highlight reel on Monday.

Though the Cards had already built a comfortable lead in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Jay halted a potential rally-starting moment with a catch he agreed should be labeled the best of his 2012 bunch. Others chimed in with a similarly strong sentiment after St. Louis' 12-4 victory over Washington.

"That's the best catch I've ever seen, all things considered," Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig said. "Just the timing of it. He stuck his glove up at the last second, ran into the wall and held onto it. Everything about it was great."

The grab came in the sixth inning, with the Cards ahead, 7-3, and Danny Espinosa at the plate. Facing rookie reliever Joe Kelly, Espinosa drove a first-pitch fastball to deep left-center. Jay sprinted, looking over his left shoulder as he did, and never slowed down as he reached the warning track.

Jay's glove went up against the wall, and as the ball went in, he collided with the padding. Jay held on to the ball, showing it with his hand as he tumbled to the ground.

"I saw it up there and got a pretty good jump," Jay said. "I got to the warning track and made a choice to jump. I knew I had to make a choice, and I made a jump and I was able to do that."

The leaping catch took away a leadoff extra-base hit from Espinosa, who entered the at-bat 0-for-4 in the series.

"When I hit that ball, I thought it was for sure over his head," Espinosa said. "I thought I got enough of it to actually hit it out. He went a long way and made a great play."

The sellout crowd of 45,840 gave Jay an extended ovation as he returned to his position in center. The play was shown several times on the Busch Stadium video board. Jay heard augmented applause again when he came to bat in the bottom half of the inning.

"I definitely appreciated it," Jay said of the recognition. "It was great for the fans to show their support like that. I've never had a stadium get that loud for me doing something. That was definitely something special."

Jay's night, while punctuated by that catch, was not entirely defined by it. The leadoff hitter reached base three times, drove in three runs and scored one. Two of his RBIs came with two out.

Jay maintained an aggressiveness on the basepaths, too. Though he was thrown out trying to extend a single into a two-base hit in the second, Jay swiped a base and legged out a triple later in the game.

Though his offensive contributions on Monday had a greater impact on the outcome, Jay's Game 2 performance will nevertheless be remembered for the moment in which he shined in the field.

"He's been so consistent in the outfield making the routine play, but the biggest thing about him is how he's taken charge in the outfield," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's truly been quarterbacking and improving, and it's fun to watch him do his thing."


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'Rookie Stripes' for Tim George Jr. at Dega

Tim George Jr. will make his first appearance at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in the Camping World Truck Series.

The New York City native has four starts at the track in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards earning one top-10 finish, a 15.2 average starting position and a 13.5 average finishing position. George completed 99.7 percent (378 of 379) of his contested laps, leading for 12 circuits.-Richard Childress Racing

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Chris Perez needs a better filter for outbursts, Chris Antonetti says

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Indians GM Chris Antonetti used one word to describe his end-of-the-season meeting with closer Chris Perez on Monday.

"Long," Antonetti said.

The only person in the Indians organization Perez didn't criticize during the season was Chief Wahoo. He ended the season by firing one broadside after another at fired manager Manny Acta.

Asked about Perez's sharp tongue Thursday, Antonetti said during his postmortem of the 2012 season: "I still think it comes from a good place with Chris. He's an exceptionally competitive guy, who badly wants to be a contributor to a winning team.

"Now, I wish he would have chosen his words differently . . . and maybe use the opportunity to do it more privately. But the root from where he's coming from is that he wants to be part of a winning team and he wants to do his part to help out."

Many feel Perez's verbal outbursts are a signal he wants out of Cleveland. Perez said Tuesday that was not so. He gave the same message to Antonetti.
"He expressed to me, and I think he expressed it publicly, that he wants to remain an Indian," Antonetti said.

As for his opinion on Perez's candor, Antonetti said: "I appreciate it when it's behind closed doors. Everyone would be best served if he chose his words more carefully. But I want guys on my team who care as much as Chris Perez does about winning ... absolutely."

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Ryan Braun wins National League home-run crown

Ryan Braun became the first Milwaukee Brewer to win the National League home-run title since Prince Fielder in 2007.

Braun had 41 round-trippers this year, four more than second-place Giancarlo Stanton of Miami.

Chase Headley won the league RBI title over second-place Braun last night, 115 to 112. Headley had a run-scoring double and a run-scoring triple in his final game, while Braun had a single but did not drive in anyone.

Braun also led the NL with 108 runs scored. He finished third in batting average at .319.

Buster Posey of San Francisco won the batting title at .336.

The Milwaukee pitchers failed to get the eight strikeouts they needed last night to set a new Major League record for season punch-outs. The Brewers had six K’s.

They became only the second Major League team to surpass 1,400 strikeouts for the year, finishing with 1,402. The 2003 Chicago Cubs own the record.

Milwaukee did become the first team since 1996 to lead the National League in both homers, with 202, and stolen bases, with 158.

Colorado was the last to achieve it 16 years ago.

Miguel Cabrera of Detroit became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967. He led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBI’s.

Cabrera became only the 14th big leaguer to accomplish the feat. Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski was the last to do it in 1967.

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