Devin Hester Marries His Son's Mother

Devin Hester married the mother of his child Zingha Walcott.

According to a EXTREMELY RELIABLE insider, Devin and Zingha have been dating for almost 5 years,and have a one year old son together.

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Sam Shields 98yd interception returned for touchdown

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Back on practice field, Devin Hester ready to open preseason

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – It’s nothing personal, but Devin Hester is sick of battling Charles Tillman, Zackary Bowman and the rest of the Bears cornerbacks every day in practice.

The game-breaking receiver is looking forward to Saturday night’s preseason opener in San Diego, especially because it provides the first chance to operate Mike Martz’s offense against an actual NFL opponent.

“I’m very eager,” Hester said. “We’re tired of going against the same guys every day, and I’m pretty sure they’re tired of going against us. I’m also very excited to see [the offense] work against other teams.”

Although learning Martz’s high-volume system hasn’t been easy, Hester feels that he has gained a strong grasp of the playbook.

“It’s all about repetition,” Hester said. “The more reps you get in practice, it makes a lot of things easier for you. That’s what we’ve been doing in OTAs, the offseason and training camp. It’s just constantly getting a lot of reps in and starting to pick up everything. We’re having fun with it.”

Hester returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out a few days with a sore groin. On a hot and humid night, he caught a Jay Cutler pass in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown in a red-zone drill and later snared Cutler’s frozen rope over the middle in team work.
“We see something we like from Devin every time he’s on the field,” said coach Lovie Smith.

Hester was relieved to be back on the field after being forced to watch from the sideline.

“It just kind of built up,” he said of the injury. “I didn’t hurt it on any specific play. When you’re working hard, things like that happen. The coaches always say that if you don’t get hurt in training camp, then you’re not working hard enough. So I guess I’m working hard.”

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Greg Olsen Impressed with Red-Zone Package

Greg Olsen spent half of the offseason listening to everyone tell him he wasn't a good fit for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system, and then he spent the other half being subjected to trade rumors.

Martz has never had a tight end catch more than the 38 passes Ernie Conwell did with the Rams back in 2001, which is saying something since he had Vernon Davis for a season in San Francisco, so Olsen's skills as a pass catcher didn't appear to have any place in Martz's receiver-heavy system.

But that wasn't the case Sunday in Bourbonnais, as the 6-5, 252-pounder caught five touchdown passes in the span of 12 plays during red-zone 7-on-7 drills.

"Our red-zone package is pretty impressive," Olsen said after practice. "When we first installed it in OTAs, I think guys came away like, 'Wow, we're really put in good positions here to find gaps and get the ball.' The last couple days we have done red zone, I think it has been pretty evident."

Olsen also made a huge play on the first snap of 11-on-11, reeling in a long pass from Cutler down the seam between safeties Chris Harris and Craig Steltz.

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Devin Hester returns, has 2 solid practices

BOURBONNAIS — The Bears took the cautious approach with Devin Hester when his groin was sore last week and it worked as he returned with two solid practices Tuesday.

Hester was the preferred target of quarterback Jay Cutler in the morning session and got plenty of work at night too as Cutler looked to him in red-zone drills.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz was effusive in his praise for Hester last week and said he hasn't made an error in training camp.
But he needed to get back on the field to continue developing timing with Cutler in the new scheme. The first test — Saturday's exhibition opener at San Diego — is fast approaching.

"It's all about repetition," Hester said. "The more reps you put in in practice, it makes a lot of things easier for you. The way this offense is designed, it's capable of putting more points on the board."

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Bryant McKinnie Has A Lot To Prove

Tackle Bryant McKinnie has been one of the most talked parts of the Minnesota Vikings -- for the right and wrong reasons. As he enters the final year of his contract, he may need to prove that he still has what it takes to hold the starting position.

McKinnie's condition has been frequently questioned, and this August is no different.

"Early on in the camp, he was doing a really nice job," said Vikings offensive coordinator Derrell Bevell. "I saw him play fast, saw him playing physical. I think some of those bigger guys, you know the heat, affects them more at times."

However, the heat will give way eventually and McKinnie will focus on football exclusively. When he does, he has some good incentive from the 2010 season. The name Julius Peppers might ring a bell.

Peppers, who is now on the Chicago Bears, so thoroughly dominated McKinnie on Dec. 20 that he was benched for the second half of the loss.

"That was just an off game I had," said McKinnie. "Of course I'm going to be a little more motivated when I play him this time. That's just a good challenge for me."

Also, with him entering the final year of his contract, the sound of money can be motivating.

"I am, am I? I didn't think of that! So, I definitely want to play well this season," laughed McKinnie.

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Still no word on Antonio Dixon’s return

Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, sidelined with a concussion, said he still isn't sure when he'll return.

Dixon went down Monday after being sandwiched between two blockers and seemed barely conscious as he was loaded into the cart.

"I just remember running a stunt. I think I fell, face first," Dixon said.

The next thing he recalls, he said, is the voice of head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder.

Dixon, the third tackle much of last season, is in much better shape now, having been persuaded by his girlfriend to eschew McDonald's double cheeseburgers, he said. At 6-3, 322, he is the Birds' heaviest d-lineman.

“He’s a big guy to handle inside, 320-some pounds and that’s tough to stop," coordinator Sean McDermott said. "So, he does give us a tremendous push inside.”

The defensive line rotation remains among the more intriguing story lines at camp, as the Eagles continue to try different combinations.

“We’re trying to find our best four out there, obviously, and you guys know that," McDermott said. "But the push up the middle, with our speed on the edge is important, where we can cut [DE] Trent [Cole] loose, or [DE] Brandon [Graham], or [DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim], whoever it is on the outside, [Darryl] Tapp, whoever it might be, but have a push inside, so when the quarterback does feel like he wants to step up, he’s got somebody in his face all the while.”

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D.J. Williams returns to practice

A number of Broncos returned to practice Tuesday, Head Coach Josh McDaniels announced, led by 2009 Pro Bowl alternate inside linebacker D.J. Williams. D.J. had missed all but two practices in camp’s opening two days.

Also returning were nose tackle Chris Baker, center Dustin Fry, and fullback Spencer Larsen.

“I don’t think anybody on the list of injured players (aside from Elvis Dumervil) is in a dire situation,” McDaniels said. []
Williams, along with captain Brian Dawkins, were wearing orange no-contact jerseys as they took the field Tuesday, indicating that, while they’ve recuperated from their ailments enough to walk through practice, they’re still not quite one hundred percent.

McDaniels also said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas underwent x-rays on his injured left ankle that came back negative. Thomas will still be sidelined, though, for the Broncos’ practice Tuesday. McDaniels did not give a timetable for his return.

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Ryan Braun not sure how long he'll be out

We just spoke with Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun, who said he wasn't sure how much time he'll miss with his sprained left wrist.

Braun is out of the lineup again tonight for the second consecutive game. He has the wrist heavily taped and is unable to swing the bat but is available to pinch run. On the other hand, Corey Hart (back stiffness) can swing the bat but can't run.

"I hope as soon as possible," said Braun. "I never want to put a timetable on something because you never know. Every injury is different; every injury is unique. You never know how your body is going to respond or what's going to happen.

"I'll do my part; the trainers will do their part and we'll see what happens. The trainers do a great job with us. I have no idea how long it will be. Hopefully, sooner rather than later."

Braun smacked his wrist into Houston first baseman Brett Wallace while legging out an infield hit Sunday in the fourth inning. He stayed in the game but when he reported to the ballpark Monday, the wrist was sore and swollen.

"I showed up and it was sore," he said. "I tried to swing the bat and couldn't swing it. At that point, I knew I wasn't going to be able to play."
In another item, manager Ken Macha opted to move Lorenzo Cain to right field tonight and start newcomer Chris Dickerson in center, as opposed to how the original lineup was posted.

"I know Cain can play (center)," said Macha. "I've seen him do it. I have to let guys play and let my own eyes tell me. I need to see what Dickerson can do."

Dickerson has played plenty of center field in the past but Cain told me he played center only in the minors this season.

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Alex Cora: Mets don’t know how to bounce back

What's wrong with the Mets?

Alex Cora, who was released by the Mets last week, said he knows the reasons behind the team's second-half swoon.

"When the team gets on a roll they get very high and emotional, but when they go bad they get very low," Cora said in an interview Tuesday on WFAN.

"I think winning teams try to find that middle part where you are consistent. Like you win today, but you turn the page and you do it again tomorrow. Or you lose today and go after it real hard the next day. Until they find that point where they lose and can put it behind them, they will be inconsistent."

Inconsistency has been the operative word for the Mets, who have not won back-to-back games since June 22-23 against the Tigers. The Mets have faded to 8 ½ games behind the Braves in the NL East thanks to their struggles, which were emphasized during the team’s 2-9 west coast trip that started the second half.

"We just didn’t hit," Cora said. "You can tell it was hard for us to show up and push it. It’s not that we quit, but it was very hard to find that level of consistency that winning teams have."

Cora was released by the Mets on Friday to make room for youngster Ruben Tejada, who has taken over as the starting second baseman over Luis Castillo. Cora does not blame the Mets for his move.

"Let’s be honest, I’m hitting .207 and in sports you have to perform," Cora said. "When you hit .207 ... they obviously expected a little bit more and that comes with the territory. And they also wanted to see the young kids perform."

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"The U" Deleted Scene #7

Every Tuesday until The U DVD release on Tuesday, August 17th, we'll be posting exclusive bonus features and deleted scenes that won't be available anywhere else.

Allcanes is taking pre-orders and offering free shipping through August 15th.

#8 - Tough Practice, Easy Games
This isn't a "deleted scene," per se, but rather a montage of interview clips not used in the movie, on the subject of practices vs. games.  What's fun is that every player said exactly the same thing: after a week of intense 'Canes on 'Canes action, game day was a cakewalk.

Click here to view all Deleted Scenes.

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Kenard Lang Back to School fair today (Aug. 10)

Retired NFL DE Kenard Lang has partnered with Target to host a Back to School fair for at-risk children identified by the Northwest Learning Center.

The fair will benefit approximately 70 children and help to prepare them for a successful school year. The event will be held on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 8:30 AM at the Target Superstore located at 7501 W Colonial Drive,  Orlando, FL 32818.

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Phillip Buchanon appears to have won the Redskins' nickel back job

Incumbent nickel CB Justin Tryon was buried on the fourth team on the Skins' initial preseason depth chart, and second-year CB Kevin Barnes probably isn't ready for the major role. In passing situations, Carlos Rogers will cover the slot receiver, with Buchanon and DeAngelo Hall stationed out wide.

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Lions rookie safety Randy Phillips fits in quickly

Safety Randy Phillips might be on the Lions roster because of his relationship with secondary coach Tim Walton , his former defensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.). But Walton had nothing to do with Phillips playing with the No. 1 defensive unit Friday in training camp.

"In understanding schemes and knowing what is being asked of him, sure, it helps that he played for Tim Walton," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Does it help him as far as competing and where he is on the depth chart? Absolutely not. That's all based on him and what he does."

Phillips, an undrafted rookie who spent most of the offseason recovering from January shoulder surgery, was added to the roster Wednesday. And after getting second-team reps at safety Thursday, he was with the first-team defense Friday, subbing for injured starter Louis Delmas alongside C.C. Brown .

It's unfair to evaluate a player based on a day's worth of drills, but Phillips seemed to handle the position well, just as he did in a three-day tryout in June mini-camp.

"He's a smart guy and he's had some experience playing the scheme we play," Schwartz said.

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Kenny Phillips takes 12 Giant steps ahead

ALBANY -- They were the most important 12 plays the Giants have run thus far in training camp, which entered its second week yesterday. No matter what had gone on before and what takes place in the month to come prior to the regular-season opener, the return to health of safety Kenny Phillips is the fulcrum on which the Giants' fate sits.

No player is more vital to the cause. With Phillips once again a star-on-the-rise capable of the football equivalent of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, the defensive shambles of 2009 can be transformed into real dominance. With Phillips hobbled or ordinary, the secondary is a player short and once again has holes to fill.

For the first time in 11 months, Phillips participated in practice with his team, an event safeties coach David Merritt called "another little Christmas present" and newly-imported safety Antrel Rolle said had Phillips "grinning from ear-to-ear, and we were also grinning from ear-to-ear for him." The long road back has finally placed Phillips on the field, and as long as he stays there, the Giants defense as a feared entity is back in business.

Coming back from microfracture surgery last September on his left knee, Phillips, only 23 years old, had worked on the side and waited in the wings for this day to arrive. In the morning, he participated in individual drills -- also a first for him this summer -- and then sprinted in for two plays with the second-unit defense, playing alongside safety Michael Johnson. Two plays in, then off the field. He followed that script six times for a total of a dozen plays. The agreed-upon plan was 10 plays for Phillips, but when the four-minute drill commenced he couldn't resist.

"He wasn't supposed to go in . . . so I may get a tongue-whipping by Coach [Tom] Coughlin," Merritt said.

Doubtful. Coughlin is as anxious as anyone to see Kenny Phillips in action. On back-to-back running plays, Phillips with all eyes glued to his every movement, slipped and fell to the grass, causing hearts to pause. He quickly regained his footing.

"I'm just going to blame it on the cleats," Phillips said, smiling. "I'm not going to wear those cleats anymore, that's all it is."

It was rust, more likely. The vast majority of his plays were rushing attempts that didn't involve him, but he was tested once. On a Jim Sorgi pass to tight end Scott Chandler, Phillips broke perfectly, dove and deflected away the pass on the left sideline, nearly coming up with an interception.

"I was really trying to get it," Phillips said. "I read his hips and I went for it -- came real close. Maybe next time I'll get it."

Not once, Phillips said, was he thinking about his knee, and there was no pain, no swelling -- nothing. He was hoping for a deep ball thrown his way ("Something to really test my knee out," he said), but for that he'll have to wait. He acknowledged "it actually felt weird" for him on the field and that he was locked into his own assignments.

"I think it's going to take a while for me to open my vision back up and start making plays like I used to, but I have time," he said.

Merritt said from what he saw from Phillips, it's all systems go. Of course, Merritt is biased. He calls Phillips "Superman," as do many of his defensive back teammates. Phillips loves it, but said he hasn't felt very super.

"I tell them I feel like Clark Kent right now -- I'm working on putting back on that cape," Phillips said.

Deon Grant, 31, was signed as insurance and is currently starting at safety alongside Rolle. The plan is for Phillips to take Grant's spot. Coughlin said "there is plenty of time" for that to develop. A consistent veteran, Grant knows the deal.

"One thing about this league, an injury don't take you out of the starting position," Grant said. "He's got great range, he will come down and hit and he got a mind on him. When you got all those talents as a safety you got a great safety."

That's the plan and Phillips is 12 plays closer to making it reality.

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Devin Hester returns to practice

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- After sitting out several days with a sore groin, Chicago Bears starting wide receiver Devin Hester fully participated in the team's Tuesday morning walk-through practice.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Hester said. "You know, I came out and ran around a little today and broke a sweat."

According to Hester, the groin injury didn't occur on a single play. The soreness accumulated during the first week of camp until the wideout required rest for a few days.

"It just kind of built up," Hester said. "When you're working hard, things like that tend to happen. Coach always says if you don't get hurt in training camp you're not working hard enough. I guess I'm working hard."

Hester says he's been medically cleared to participate in a full-pads practice Tuesday evening.

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Rocky McIntosh Isn't Looking Back

Go to bed one way and wake up another. That’s how Rocky McIntosh’s life went.

He entered the 2009 season as a starting linebacker in a 4-3 defense with a team that had been 8-8. He could look forward to free agency as he completed his fourth season. Success would mean more opportunities.

Good night. Good morning. Whole different day, whole different life.

The NFL opted out of its labor agreement with the players, turning 2010 into an uncapped year in which players needed six years of service to become unrestricted free agents. The Redskins crumbled and stumbled to a 4-12 finish.

Despite finishing second on the team in tackles and tying his career high with two interceptions, McIntosh was unable to attract suitors as a restricted free agent and ultimately signed his one-year offer with the Redskins.

In addition, the change in coaching staff led to a shift to a 3-4 defense that put McIntosh as the right inside linebacker.

Now he doesn’t want to look back too much. Perhaps the best is yet to be.

“All that stuff is the offseason and such. I always stayed in tune with what we were doing. It’s time to go out and perform,” he says.

A second-round pick in 2006, he has overcome a knee injury that cost him the final two games of 2007 to make 15 starts each of the last two seasons. He was also second on the team in tackles in 2008, trailing only his running mate at inside linebacker, Pro Bowler London Fletcher, the perpetual tackling machine.

McIntosh’s unhappiness over his contract situation didn’t keep him from getting in shape, staying that way and learning his assignments.

“You have to be a professional, whether you’re out on the street waiting for a call or you’re on a team, or you’re on the second team waiting to step in,” he says. “So my head has always been in the game and I’ve been on top of it.”

The outside linebacker on the right side is Brian Orakpo, who split time as a rookie between right defensive end and left linebacker. So many players changed positions with the alteration of the scheme – Fletcher, McIntosh and Orakpo only a few of them – and they simply go about their business in a new way.

“Everybody is buying in and putting their egos aside and just playing as one. That’s the most important thing,” Orakpo says. “We didn’t do that last year, to be honest with you. Everybody was doing their own thing. But everybody is buying in.”

He likes playing to the outside of McIntosh.

“It’s good. He’s a great athlete and he’s all over the field. We have a bunch of different blitzes where me and him are used as a package,” Orakpo says.

That’s the story at so many positions in this camp. Line up in an unaccustomed spot, learn the nuances and go.

“Rocky is making the transition smoothly. He’s doing all the detail work to become a good inside ‘backer. Very coachable. Takes pride in what he does and he only knows one way  – 110 percent,” linebackers coach Lou Spanos says.

For McIntosh, the scheme seems to work.

“London and me, we can just go downhill and make tackles,” McIntosh says. “That’s definitely a plus. I like it. You go downhill and you hit people. In coverage, there’s a little bit more zone than man coverage and that makes it easier to make plays because you can see the ball. That’s a plus.”

In doing the math, McIntosh keeps coming up on the plus side.

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Devin Hester's sights set on record

BOURBONNAIS – Devin Hester easily is one of the fastest players on the Bears.

But ask Hester how it feels to return a touchdown on special teams, and he stops cold.

“It happens so fast,” Hester said. “You really don’t think until after you’re in the end zone.

“It’s a great feeling, you know? It’s a great feeling just knowing when you hit the hole, and then there’s nobody in space. You’re just running free.”

It’s a feeling that Hester wants to recapture this season.

For the past two years, the Bears’ all-purpose speedster has been bottled up in the return game. Hester has not returned a kick for a touchdown since Dec. 30, 2007, when he scored on a 64-yard punt return against the New Orleans Saints in the final week of the season.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection set an NFL record with 12 special teams touchdowns in his first two years (seven punts, four kickoffs and a missed field goal). He broke his own record for kick return touchdowns in a season with six in 2007, when he scored on four punts and two kickoffs.

Since then, Hester’s average return yardage has plummeted along with his scoring totals.

On punts, Hester averaged 6.9 yards per return with no touchdowns in the past two seasons after he averaged 14.1 yards per return with seven touchdowns in his first two campaigns.

On kickoffs, Hester gave way to teammates Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning. He returned seven kickoffs last season, compared with 20 returns as a rookie and 43 returns in 2007.

Hester said he was eager to regain his prior success on special teams.

“Whatever I did the past couple years,” he said, “I want to just erase it and start over fresh.”

For Hester, that means scoring.

“That’s my whole mentality,” Hester said. “Every time I touch the ball on a punt return, I’m thinking of scoring. If you’re a returner and you’re back there, and you’re thinking of getting 10 yards and then settling with that, then you don’t need to be back there.”

At 27 years old, Hester has more than enough time to make history.

Hester needs three kick return touchdowns (punt or kickoff) to surpass the NFL record of Brian Mitchell, whose 13 return touchdowns are most of all time. As a punt returner, Hester is four touchdowns shy of breaking Eric Metcalf’s all-time record of 10.

During training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, Hester consistently has arrived early to the practice fields for extra work on fielding punts. He has stood by as a backup option on kickoff returns, where Knox and Manning have received the bulk of the work.

Bears special teams coach Dave Toub laughed when he heard about Hester’s score-or-else mentality. Toub would welcome more scoring, although it isn’t the only gauge of success.

“I don’t give him a minus if he doesn’t score a touchdown,” Toub said. “What we tell our guys is that we try to get a first down. We try to get 10 yards. Last year, we averaged, at the end of the season, [8.5 yards as a team]. That’s well below where we should be.”

Hester’s decline on special teams has mirrored a greater role in the Bears’ receiving game.

This season, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver will have more plays to memorize and tougher routes to run in Mike Martz’s offense. Yet Hester insisted that he could excel as the Bears’ go-to receiver and have enough strength in his legs to shine as a punt returner.

Hester worked out with ex-St. Louis Rams receiver Isaac Bruce this summer in South Florida.

“This year, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Hester said. “I honestly can say that. I’ve been training hard all offseason and preparing myself because I knew the situation that we were getting ourselves into as receivers.

“I really worked hard, and it’s starting to show. I feel it.”

Toub sees what Hester feels.

“I see a guy that’s focused,” Toub said. “I see a guy that catches punts early. He’s hitting it north and south. He wants to get the record. I know that. Deep down, he wants that.”

Bottled up

Devin Hester has struggled on special teams after shattering NFL records in his first two seasons. Hester will serve as the Bears’ No. 1 punt returner this season, but teammates Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning likely will receive the bulk of the work on kickoff returns. Season        Punt Returns    Yards    Average    TD 2006                     47                600         12.8          3 2007                     42                651         15.5          4 2008                     32                198          6.2           0 2009                     24                187          7.8           0 Career        145            1,636    11.3        7 Season        Kickoff Returns   Yards    Average    TD 2006                       20                 528         26.4          2 2007                       43                 934         21.7          2 2008                       31                 679         21.9          0 2009                        7                  156         22.3          0 Career                   101              2,297        22.7          4

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Willis McGahee settles into role as backup

The seasons have changed, but not Willis McGahee's approach.

The running back led the Ravens last season in scoring with 14 total touchdowns but backed up Ray Rice, who is taking a significant majority of the snaps with the first offense at training camp. And McGahee emphasized that he is not worried about his spot on the depth chart.

"They're going to choose whoever they want to start," McGahee said. "As long as I play, it's all good."

Only 28, McGahee still has the strength and athleticism to be a starting tailback in the NFL. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and ran for 544 yards last season.

And although Rice -- who rushed for 1,339 yards and finished second in the NFL with 2,041 yards from scrimmage en route to his first Pro Bowl berth -- will likely begin the 2010 season as the offense's starting running back, McGahee will still be counted on to power the rushing attack when he is on the field.

To that end, McGahee said he came into training camp a little heavier than usual. McGahee, whose playing weight is listed at 235 pounds, said he weighed in at 240 pounds -- which did not concern him.

"I feel like when I came in lighter, that's when I was getting the injuries and all of that," McGahee said, referring to 2008, when arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason was followed by injuries to his eye, ribs, ankle and finally neck because of a helmet-to-helmet blow by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark that knocked him out of the AFC championship game. "I just go with the flow right now. Just keep it up."

Coach John Harbaugh said the added weight did not appear to be a hindrance for McGahee.

"He looks like he's in very good shape," Harbaugh said. "He's carrying really well, and he's running really well. So I'd say that's a plus."

For now, McGahee is content to bide his time and play a supporting role to Rice. But McGahee put to rest any notion that he might launch a Twitter campaign like his backfield mate Le'Ron McClain.

"No," McGahee said with a chuckle. "I'll leave that to Le'Ron."

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Patriots counting on Vince Wilfork to lead the way

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Somewhere amidst the array of pieces and parts that the Patriots have assembled, there is a pretty good defense. How — and more important, when — that good defense will begin to show itself remains one of the most important questions of New England's 2010 season.

There is talent in the secondary, starting with Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather. There is also youth, though, with second-year men Darius Butler and Patrick Chung playing big roles, and rookie Devin McCourty expected to see the field. It's a similar story at linebacker, where Jerod Mayo established himself as a budding star last year, but a pair of rookies — second-rounders Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham — will be key components.

There will be youth all over the defense, which puts extra pressure on the one unit that will be dominated by veterans — the defensive line. And with the D-line being bolstered by two new players, Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren, with no prior experience in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme, the maturation of the defense must begin with the big man in the middle, nose tackle Vince Wilfork. In the offseason, the Patriots gave Wilfork a five-year, $40 million contract, signaling the franchise's commitment to Wilfork as the leader of the defense.

"I think a lot of it is leading by example," Wilfork said. "The last thing we want to do as veterans is not be able to offer a perspective or a role model for the young guys. They ask questions. They want to learn. They make that clear, and you like that. They will ask questions when the coaches are not around. It's early in camp; we still have a long way to go. But I like where we are at this point, it is going to be a good season for us and for our defense."

Wilfork won't just be mentoring younger players, though. He will have to help Warren and Lewis — both entering their 10th seasons — adjust to the 3-4, which is not an easy transition for a lineman.

"It's a totally different ball game playing in a 4-3, where everything is penetrate right off the ball," Lewis said. "This is, you are actually trying to play blocks rather than just getting around guys. That is the biggest difference. It is a very different tempo. It is all a transition, but it has been great having a guy like Vince to learn from."

That gives coach Bill Belichick some comfort, too. He would be much more worried about his defensive line if he did not have Wilfork directing traffic at nose tackle.

"Overall, they have performed very well in the running game, the passing game and in communication. Vince, being in the middle, kind of helps that, because communication starts on the inside and works its way out. Having Vince there for calls and adjustments and alerts has been a good thing."

And on a Patriots defense pocked with question marks, having at least one reliable good thing in place is a comforting start.

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Damione Lewis has moved on from Carolina to New England

Carolina is no longer on Damione Lewis’ mind.

“It’s just a different game,” the Panthers-turned-Patriots defensive lineman said, speaking of football life in New England. “It’s a totally different ballgame playing in the 4-3 (he’s played that scheme dating back to his college days at Miami) because everything is penetrate and get off the ball.

“It’s a little bit more of you actually playing blocks rather than trying to get around stuff (in a 3-4 scheme like New England’s). You’re actually sitting there trying to defeat blocks by putting your hands on guys.

“That’s really just the biggest difference – the tempo of the game,” said Lewis. “It’s been a transition, but it’s been fun and awesome playing in this system. I’ve been having a good time and I think it’s going well.”

Well enough during training camp for Lewis to be seeing plenty of time in the line with both Ty Warren and Mike Wright ailing.

Following five years in St. Louis and four in Carolina, including a career-high 65-tackle season (just half-a-sack, though, his lowest output since 2003) while starting all 16 games in 2009, the 6-foot-2, 301-pound Lewis made the move to New England as an unrestricted free agent on April 10.

The Patriots got a first-hand look at his work last Dec. 13 when he registered a season-high 11 tackles in the Panthers’ 20-10 loss at Gillette Stadium.

Lewis relocated to New England, a little more than a month after his March 4 release from the Panthers, a salary-driven move that saved the team $5 million.

Conversely, the makeup of the Patriots’ line has changed with time: Richard Seymour was traded to Oakland last September; Jarvis Green moved to Denver as a free agent during the offseason.

During that same offseason, the Patriots added veteran free agents the likes of Lewis and Gerard Warren themselves.

“I’m a football player,” Lewis said, “so I’m going to go out and do this if there’s a change to the system or me going from one team to another. Whatever it is, I love the game and I have a true passion for the game and any opportunity I have to play, (so) I’m going to come out and play.”

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Sinorice Moss going long as Giants' senior WR

ALBANY -- How can it be that Sinorice Moss has been with the Giants the longest of all the receivers, that at just 26 years old he is the oldest and has the most seniority? How can it be that the guy who has done so little -- and is so little -- is here so much?

"It's funny, very funny," Moss told The Post at Giants training camp. "The other day Coach said something, he was like, 'I'm going to go over a play, and I know Sinorice probably heard this a thousand times,' and I laughed and thought, 'Yeah, I have been here that long.' I'm enjoying myself and looking forward to this year and making some plays for this team."

There's the great contradiction. At a position where tenure is always a result of production Moss has made very few plays for the team. Sometimes, a player's draft position gives him a cushion for a few years, and that is no doubt part of the case with Moss, who was taken in the second round out of Miami in 2006. You don't cut a guy taken so high until there's no way you can keep him any longer.

That window has come and gone, but Moss is still around. He was reputed to be a small (5-foot-8), fast, jet-quick receiver -- perfect for the slot -- as well as a dynamic return man. He hurt his quad muscle as a rookie, ruining most of that season, and ever since he has lived up to his advance billing only by being small. He's played in 37 games, started only two, and caught 39 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns. He has done little in the return game. Last season was his least productive of all -- only one reception in eight games.

The resume says he should be gone. Yet when his contract expired after last season the Giants tendered him at $1.17 million. Moss said he has a number of attributes that have helped him last this long.

"I never get in trouble. I'm always positive. I help the team out when the opportunities are given for me. When I get in the game I do produce," he said. "Hey, I'm just a guy who understand the things necessary to be a professional athlete. That's what I do for this team. They know my work ethic and they know what kind of guy I am."

The kind of guy he is, unquestionably resonates deeply within the organization. That will not last forever, but it has lasted this long.

"It certainly means an awful lot about the attitude of the guy," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The second thing is now: What are you going to do with it? He's in a big-play position. That's got to happen for us. He's worked very hard and he's got a great attitude, as always. We're all rooting for him."

Moss goes by Humble83 on Twitter and frequently tweets inspirational messages. Lately, he's had something to chirp about, as he's been excellent thus far in camp.

That's nothing new. He runs the correct routes and catches the ball -- a typical Moss summer. He's All-Albany several years running. This seemed to be the year Moss might not make the cut, but in the spring Domenik Hixon was lost for the season to knee surgery. Now it appears as if Moss -- if he can show some spark in the return game -- will survive once again.

"Do I ever get beaten down?" Moss said. "There's some [expectations] I haven't lived up to, but a lot of time I haven't been given the opportunity to live up to them. You can bash me, you can say whatever you want to say about me, but I work hard. I'm a true professional athlete. I'm upset about a lot of different things, but I never get down on myself because I know what I bring each and every day to this field."

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Entering 15th season, Ray Lewis' passion sets him apart

After 194 regular-season games, 1,770 tackles and a couple of thousand practices, 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis is having as much fun now as he did 14 years ago, when he first put on a Ravens uniform.

He is still like a little kid at an amusement park. Lewis is the first in line for every drill. He sprints from station to station, either playfully taunting a teammate or chatting away. If he isn't high-fiving one player, he might be wrestling another.

Training camp is supposed to get harder as you get older, but someone forgot to tell Lewis, 35.

"The man runs sideline to sideline just like he did years ago," said Ravens defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, in his 11th season. "Me and [defensive end Trevor Pryce] were just talking about how veterans dread camp, but we'll keep coming out as long as we have fun. Ray Lewis is still having fun. It must be something they have in that Florida water."

It's hard to imagine a Ravens training camp without Lewis. The Ravens have changed owners, head coaches and assistants, but the two major constants have been general manager Ozzie Newsome and Lewis.

Like everything else, Lewis has changed. He has less hair and has added a few pounds since he was the 26th overall pick in the 1996 draft. The strength in his arms, shoulders and hands isn't what it used to be, but that's OK. He will never be the player he once was, but neither will anyone else. He set the standard too high.

But that's not what has made Lewis special. What still sets him apart is his passion for the game and his leadership ability. His instincts and experience fuel the bottom line, which is production.

"His No. 1 secret to lasting 15 years is his tremendous passion for the game," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "He respects the game more than anybody, and if you respect the game, you don't want to let it down."

It's all about respect. On the field, Lewis has been the NFL's best middle linebacker during his 15-year run. There have been other challengers such as the Chicago Bears' Brian Urlacher and the Miami Dolphins' Zach Thomas, but both faded sooner than Lewis.

Even the heir apparent to Lewis' title, the San Francisco 49ers' Patrick Willis, said in a recent interview that he can't accept the torch until Lewis passes it along.

A lot of us in the media used to laugh when Lewis said he advised so many players throughout the NFL, but listen to new Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger talk about former Ravens center Jason Brown, now in his second year with Bulger's old team, the St. Louis Rams:

"Jason Brown brought just a lot of different programs within the team because they've developed such a reputation here" in Baltimore, Bulger said. "It starts with Ray and then the rest of the guys. There's accountability for everything you do, and he's trying to bring that to the Rams, which is a good thing, which we didn't have before where players police each other. I could see it from the first day here that it's something that has been in place. It's not something [they're] trying to instill here, and it's been quite impressive."

That's why Lewis can never be replaced.

"When I see guys that came way before me or guys that are still doing it, it's just a respect level from the way you respected the game, the integrity of the way that you played the game, and that's why I think people respect me and the way I play," he said. "They know that I'm going to give them every time I step onto the field, not just for me, but the team."

Lewis certainly gets Mattison's attention. During the season, Mattison talks to Lewis more than he does family members.

"Ray and I have a great deal of dialogue prior to the game and in between series," Mattison said. "I feel if there is a possible problem, or sense something out there, I'm going to get his thoughts just to make sure because he is the leader of the defense."

A bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a lock for Lewis. He transformed the position from one being played tackle to tackle to one being played sideline to sideline. Lewis has become the prototype.

But Lewis would like to get at least one more Super Bowl ring before he retires. It's a miracle he can still play the game at such a high level because he has performed with such recklessness.

He acknowledges liking the Ravens' chances of winning a championship this season, especially with new wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth.

"I think you put that many pieces around that much talent and a Joe Flacco, then I think you have something on offense," Lewis said. "And that's still to be seen because everything still has to fall in place. All of the pieces still have to work together, and he has to start jelling with those guys. The chemistry that I've built with a Ray Rice or Michael Oher or Joe, to win one with them would be a very special thing. It would be a very special thing."

Almost as special as Lewis.

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Santana Moss: Zorn was "a little out of his league"

As the Zorn Era continues to recede from memory like Mike Wise's hairline, several Redskins players have danced around the issue Zorn's D.C. legacy, talking about how much different/better/more professional this year's training camp has been while taking pains to say how much they liked Zorn as a guy. But it seems like each week, someone comes a little closer to finally blurting out the truth, in clear, unguarded, fully skinned language.

Santana Moss may have come the closest yet in a recent interview with Larry Michael. Long quote alert:

"Everywhere I've been, where we were successful -- even my early years here -- we were successful with a coach that came in and demanded respect," Moss said. "He demanded you take everything that you're doing seriously, and that's what I learned when I first got here from Coach Gibbs, he demanded that you go out there and be good. If you wasn't, he didn't want you on the field. And I sense that we have that again.

"I'm not trying to knock what Coach Zorn did, because I feel like he was a great guy, great coach. I felt like it was just a little out of his league with some of the guys that we had, and the control wasn't the same. I feel like with Coach Shanahan, the respect is already there from just knowing who he is. And then once he came in and said his first words, there was nothing else you could say but just, 'This guy means well, and the only way we're gonna be better is listen to what he has to say.'

"I think we all need a little pep talk here and there at times, but when you're a professional you should be able to do that to yourself. But for the ones that get complacent -- like we all do -- it's always great to have a coach like that to remind you why you're here....If you don't have [discipline], then you don't have nothing to really look forward to. I feel like everyone needs something to just make them remember that hey, just 'cause you done it, don't mean you can do it again, just 'cause you're doing it, don't mean you're gonna do it forever."

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Thoughts on Alex Cora’s Remarks

Former Mets 2b Alex Cora had this to say on XM Radio with Jim Bowden:

Alex Cora told us that if they are building for 2013 or 2014…they should just come out and say it and then do it.

I realize Cora was a respected voice in the Mets locker room and I am one of the first proponents of how veteran leadership is necessary on a winning ballclub. However, it’s at the point where the cost of Cora’s leadership ($2 million dollar vesting option) and the stunted development of a kid (Ruben Tejada) made his dismissal necessary. Keeping Cora around would be lying to the fan base by sending the message they believe they are in a pennant race. We all know the reality of the situation.

The Mets have held onto players for “leadership” too long in the past. A perfect example of diminished cost of leadership would be Julio Franco. There is no doubt Franco was an important voice for the 2006 Mets team. I still point to how he facilitated the “Beltran vs. the fans” curtain call the first week of that season as a turning point. Franco was also a productive bench player that year. He hit over .300 with runners in scoring position and had 15 pinch hits. The following year he was an automatic out, yet Willie Randolph continued to rely on him late in ballgames. His veteran leadership at that point wasn’t worth the on the field detriment that he had become. Eventually the Mets realized this and cut bait mid season.

I disagree with Cora’s assessment of a “youth movement” as well. Earlier today I talked about how the Yankees have sprinkled in kids the last few years and could possibly add more in 2011. The Yankees have never had a youth movement, but have been able to incorporate a Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain into the mix over the past three seasons. In many ways the Mets are trying to do something similar with the additions of Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, and Angel Pagan.

Does subtracting Rod Barajas and Alex Cora from the mix affect chemistry? Absolutely, but the upside is only a few games because those players are not the future of the organization. Perhaps they could blame the manager for not being in the race- I suspect a competent manager would have this team about a half dozen games better- but the fact remains that we all believed this year was one of transition in the spring. I pegged them for 85 wins in and believe that’s where they ultimately will wind up.

There doesn’t have to be a “youth movement” or “veteran movement” on this team. What they need to do is give the right players an opportunity to contribute to the 25 man roster. Some will succeed, some will fail, but in the end they will wind up with supporting members that are productive and inexpensive. If they lack “leadership” during the process that is something they can address when the time is right. The Mets putting out a talented roster will do more for the fans than any empty statement.

The Mets need to focus on the talent on the field right now and worry about leadership after the fact. Right now they have a leadership void in the manager’s office that Alex Cora, Rod Barajas, Julio Franco, or even Derek Jeter can’t solve.

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Undrafted Randy Phillips makes quick impression

ALLEN PARK — Safety Randy Phillips, an undrafted rookie, was a guy the Lions kept an eye on since the draft.

They wanted to make sure his shoulder injury healed before they signed him.

He attended the Lions minicamp at the end of June as a tryout and he did nothing to change management's view. Finally, on Wednesday Phillips signed with the Lions. It was a little overshadowed by another rookie, Ndamukong Suh. On Friday, Phillips caught the eyes of everyone else when he was elevated to practice with the ones (the potential starters). Coach Jim Schwartz said not to read much into it because they are short on safeties due to the injury to Louis Delmas.

Still they like Phillips. And even though he missed the first four days of training camp, Schwartz said he was not really behind.

"He's smart, he has experience playing a lot of the schemes we play and picks things up very quickly. He's a bright guy so he was never really behind, that's a tribute to him,'' Schwartz said.

"He came in minicamp, got up to speed there, kept his mind in it, and when he got the opportunity he was able to show himself right away," Schwartz added. "That's rare that guys can do that, but he's shown well these couple days. But again we're talking about a couple days. Let's look at a continual period of time."

Phillips said he was not that surprised to be lining up with the ones.

"I've been working hard and just trying to find my way, finding my way led me to where I am, just practice, trying to practice hard and just doing what I'm doing,'' Phillips said.

Phillips played for secondary coach Tim Walton when both were at the University of Miami.

"I know him, I know that he expects hard work, expects me to put extra time into the playbook to know everything and expects me to know multiple positions, knowing that, I stay on top of all of that," Phillips said.

Schwartz agrees that it's a positive that Phillips has worked with Walton, but it only goes so far.

"(Does it help) knowing the schemes and understanding what's being asked of him? Sure. Does it help him as far as the competition and where he is on the depth chart? Absolutely not," Schwartz said. "There's always going to be a familiarity, you speak the same language and you understand what a guy wants.''

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Kenny Phillips' return provides a lift to Giants training-camp practice

ALBANY, N.Y. - "You've got to show me you can come back from a day off. Otherwise, what do we need one for?"

I have plenty of answers to Tom Coughlin's question, but something tells me the Giants' coach wasn't interested in any of them.

Neither was Kenny Phillips.

The Giants' third-year safety has had plenty of days off. Sunday was the last one. On Monday morning, Phillips was back on the practice field for the first time since undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee in September.

Phillips took 12 snaps in team drills - two at a time - and even snuck into the four-minute drill, which he was scheduled to sit out. Most of those plays were running plays in which he wasn't involved. The most action Phillips saw was a ball in his area. He dove for that one and got right back up, as he did after a pair of back-to-back slips.

"It's those cleats," Phillips said with a laugh. "I'm just going to blame it on the cleats."

Safeties coach Dave Merritt said he was nervous after seeing Phillips slip. But the former first-round pick popped right back up.

"When I slipped a few times, I was pretty sure it was going to happen," Phillips said. "It's been so long since I played football. I wasn't worried about my knee at all. I jumped right back up and tried to get back to the ball."

"Superman's back. That's what they call me," Phillips said. "It put a smile on my face. I tell them I feel like Clark Kent right now - I'm working on putting that cape back on."

He had been bothered by knee problems during training camp, played the first two games against Washington and Dallas, and then missed the final 14 games after he intercepted two Tony Romo passes. All of a sudden, the defense was without a potential Pro Bowl player.

The Giants are going to take it slow with Phillips, who showed signs of being a dynamic player. He came off the physically unable to perform list after passing his physical over the weekend and was on the field for 12 plays Monday in the team drills - two plays at the start of each period. Tom Coughlin said there is time for Phillips to earn back his starting safety spot, where he would team with free agent addition Antrel Rolle.

"I have no swelling. I have no pain," Phillips said. "I am just playing football right now."

Phillips' return energized the Giants as the drudgery of camp sets in the week before the first preseason game. Coughlin said Phillips will not play against the Jets on Monday night but that he could start the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Panthers.

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Leon Williams Practicing Well

The focus this weekend has been on the Hall of Fame Class of 2010. But when the Cowboys kick off against the Bengals today at a little past 7 p.m., an intriguing sidelight will unfold as Bengals receiver Terrell Owens goes against the team that a little more than a year ago released him.

This game isn't about Owens. It's not about Smith, either. It's about the players who line up behind the starters on the Cowboys depth chart. Those whom coach Wade Phillips and his staff want to observe.

"Some of the young guys and some of the guys who haven't been with us," Phillips said. "Those people for sure. Even guys who are coming along that have been with us."

Titus Ryan will get work on kickoff and punt returns. The staff wants to see if cornerback Cletis Gordon and linebacker Leon Williams can carry what they have done in camp to a game. The same goes for tight end John Phillips and linebackers Brandon Williams, Jason Williams and Victor Butler.

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Phillip Buchanon Having a Strong Camp

Phillip Buchanon is one of many cornerbacks having a good camp. He ran stride for stride with WR Anthony Armstrong on a go route that was overthrown. He showed good vision later when he peeled off his receiver in the slot to go stop a run. He’s gonna be more physical than Fred Smoot as the third corner, and he could be a factor on punt returns. So far he’s looking like a solid offseason pickup.

Buchanon is listed as the starting punt returner, while Thomas is the starting kick returner. Justin Tryon is listed as fourth on the depth chart at cornerback, behind DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Barnes and Ramzee Robinson.

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Devin Hester sidelined by groin muscle pull

BOURBONNAIS -- As some players like Major Wright and Juaquin Iglesias have returned from injuries this weekend, others are now battling some aches and pains.

Wide receiver Devin Hester has been sidelined since Thursday with a groin muscle pull. Coach Lovie Smith said that it is not serious and he is considered day-to-day.

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Greg Olsen stars in Sunday night football

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- There were no bobblehead dolls or cardboard cutouts bearing his likeness, but Sunday sure looked like Greg Olsen Night at Olivet Nazarene University.

The Bears' starters -- sans defensive and offensive linemen -- looked dominant again running the red-zone offense, with Olsen catching five touchdowns from Jay Cutler's 12 passes.

''That's just the way the balls end up going,'' Olsen said after practice. ''It's whoever is open. He's not dropping back and picking his guys. He's following the progressions and throwing it where it has to go, and tonight was my turn.''

Olsen and Desmond Clark have had dominant days, showing that tight ends can become a part of Mike Martz's offense.

''I see you guys talking to Greg. He had a great night," coach Lovie Smith said. ''I thought Jay threw the ball well. Offensively, we did some good things, got some good work down in the red zone.''

Olsen said he and his teammates were excited as soon as they saw the package at organized team activities.

''Our red-zone package is pretty impressive,'' he said. ''You get down in that area of the field, and we have to do better than last year. And in the couple of days we've done red zone, we've done pretty well.''

But Olsen wasn't done.

On the first play of 11-on-11, Olsen streaked down the field and hauled in a well-placed pass from Cutler, splitting safeties Craig Steltz and Chris Harris.

It would have been a 50-plus- yard touchdown.

''Yeah, we've hit that a couple of times so far in camp,'' Olsen said. ''It's just pretty much run straight down the field. We had two high safeties, and Jay threw a great ball down the middle, and we were able to connect.

''Those are the kind of big plays we're looking forward to making this year.''

Meanwhile, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna returned after missing some time with a right knee injury. He had the knee surgically repaired in the offseason, but he downplayed the injury earlier Sunday.

Manumaleuna was signed on the first day of free agency along with defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor. Manumaleuna, who received a five-year, $15 million contract that included $6 million in guarantees, played for Martz in St. Louis. He's known as a blocker.

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Durabilty separates Lewis from other great MLBs

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — There is no way to determine for sure if Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker in NFL history.

Many would argue in his favor. Others might suggest Hall of Fame stars Ray Nitschke, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert and Willie Lanier were more talented and fearsome.

This much is certain: No one has played the position as effectively for so long as Ray Anthony Lewis.

The Baltimore Ravens are preparing for their 15th NFL season, and so too is Lewis. He has played in 194 games, more than any of those other prominent middle linebackers.

Lewis says the "love of the game" keeps him going. That, and his fervent pursuit of another Super Bowl trophy.

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Eric Winston fights to protect his teammates

HOUSTON — Eric the Enforcer is 6-foot-7, 317 pounds and prepared to make sure nobody steps over the imaginary line he has drawn that separates friends from enemies.

“You don’t worry about whether they like you or not,” offensive tackle Eric Winston said. “Your job is to protect your teammates.

“I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to start a fight, but if something presents itself, I’m never going to back down, either.”

The subject of fighting came up Monday when strong safety Bernard Pollard and Winston got into it after a running play.

Center Chris Myers thought Pollard tried too hard to rip the ball from rookie running back Ben Tate. Myers went after Pollard. Then defensive tackle Amobi Okoye came to Pollard’s aid. Winston ended it when he started going at it with Pollard.

“If he (Pollard) steps over the line, it’s up to us to put him back over there, and that’s what competition’s all about,” Winston said. “We’re going to go inside, and we’re going to go have lunch together, and we’re going to start laughing and making jokes, so it’s not something that’s carrying over. It’s left out on the field.

“Look, you’re practicing, and it’s hot out here. It gets competitive, and sometimes you go at it. It would be a problem if it filtered into the dressing room and there was some hatred involved, but when we step off the field, we’re friends again.”

Coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t condone fighting, but he also doesn’t want his players to back down as long as they avoid hurting the team by being penalized or ejected.

“Coach (Kubiak) told us, ‘Don’t fight,’?” Winston said. “?‘Don’t hurt the team. Don’t cost your team penalties.’ That’s where it is from a coaches standpoint — just don’t hurt the team.

“Maybe if this was a game situation, it might have played out a little bit different, and you’d try to keep your head on. But it’s a long camp, and we (offense) can’t let them (defense) push us around. We’ve got to be the guys taking it to them. When I think they’re stepping over the edge, we’re going to do it.”

Last season, the Texans were playing a close game at Tennessee. There were cheap shots, penalties and fights. Winston became so angry at defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch that he took off his helmet on the field and challenged Vanden Bosch to a fight.

Winston had enough of what he thought were cheap shots by Vanden Bosch and a couple of teammates, who were going after tight end Joel Dreessen’s knees to settle a grudge.

Winston inspired his teammates, and they escaped with a three-point victory.

“If you can set standards and not get a penalty when you react, that’s good,” he said. “If you can get a penalty on them, that’s even better.”
“Hey, it's not just me, but all five of us will get involved.”

Going at it in practice sometimes preps players for opponents.

“We're all on the same team here,” Winston said. “We're all in this thing together.

“Right now, we're going after each other pretty good on the field. It's a case where we're all getting each other ready for Week One (Indianapolis).”

The Texans better be prepared for their three practices against the Saints in New Orleans. There have been a lot of fights during the Texans' practices with the Saints the past two years.

“What it comes down to is that we're going to protect each other,” Winston said. “If they're stepping across the line, we're going to go after them. Just like I'm sure they'll come after us like they did last year.”

Offensive assistant Bruce Matthews was an offensive lineman with the Oilers/Titans for 19 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played for coaches such as Jerry Glanville who encouraged fighting in camp.

“Yeah, I used to get into fights a lot, and then I realized they were ridiculous,” Matthews said. “One time, I almost lost the tip of my finger when I threw a punch and it got caught in a facemask. Finally, I realized how unnecessary that was.”

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Giants and Sinorice Moss Both Hope He Can Contribute

ALBANY — By the time Sinorice Moss reached the N.F.L., in 2006, his older brother, Santana, had two seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards. There was hope the younger Moss would follow.

Moss, who was drafted in the second round in 2006, is a consummate professional, willing to help in any capacity and with a strong work ethic. But in four years in the N.F.L., he has yet to have his breakout season with the Giants. He is hoping 2010 will be his year.

“I approach the season the same way as I did when I first go here,” Moss said. “I want to win, I want to contribute, and I want to do whatever I can to bring something to the team. I approach this like I do every year.”

Last season, Moss had one reception for 18 yards; it was a touchdown. He appeared in eight games, started none and did not dress for a handful of others. Still, he did not react angrily to not playing; he said he felt he could contribute, and that he would continue working at it.
The Giants had hoped that Moss would provide a consistent deep threat for Eli Manning. Moss missed 10 regular-season games as a rookie because of a nagging quadriceps injury, but he said that year did not set him back. Moss’s best season in the N.F.L. came in 2007, his second year, when he caught 21 passes for 225 yards.

Moss has volunteered to help in any capacity for the Giants, including on kickoff and punt returns. Coach Tom Coughlin said Moss was taking advantage of his opportunities, but he wanted to see more consistency.

“The ability to make the big play,” Coughlin said of what he was looking for in Moss. “He’s in a big-play position. That’s got to happen for us. He’s worked hard. He’s worked very hard, and he’s got a great attitude, as always. We’re all rooting for him.”

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Jonathan Vilma is a master at making the calls

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is well known for the theatrical display of pre-snap checks and adjustments that he makes at the line of scrimmage.

But no one paid much attention to the player across from him in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7 in Miami, who had to quickly assess the dance he was watching and react with a series of his own last-second adjustments.

"What people don't realize in that ballgame, on more than half our snaps, (middle linebacker) Jon Vilma checked out of our defense -- and that's special," said New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who described his postgame hug with Vilma after New Orleans prevailed 31-17 as "a moment in time that I'll never forget."

"It was his ability to out-check the defense over the check-master, Peyton Manning," Williams said. "Jon Vilma, make no bones about it, he's our Drew Brees. Jon Vilma runs our defense. Not only is he a very physical player, but he's a very cerebral player. Jonathan Vilma is smart, fast, tough, and he also can play as long as you want to play. That's what makes him special, and he's here every day to compete."

Vilma, 28, has made a tremendous impact on the Saints' defense since arriving in a 2008 trade. The active, athletic 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has been as significant as any addition since Brees, considering the importance of his position and the struggles New Orleans had in finding a reliable middle linebacker for more than a decade after Sam Mills' departure.

His terrific two-year run culminated this past winter with his second career Pro Bowl selection and that outstanding Super Bowl performance.
When asked the other day about that exhausting Super Bowl chess match against the "check-master," Vilma let out a long sigh, then a laugh.
"I'll tell you what, thank God we had two weeks to get ready for them," said Vilma, who estimated that he checked out of about 60 percent of the Saints' defensive calls against the Colts -- way more than an average game.

"That was a lot of hours of film, a lot of hours of film," added Vilma, explaining that once the game started, it was just a matter of getting a feel for Indianapolis' tendencies and finding a rhythm -- "just like a quarterback, once they get in a rhythm. And you know what, to be honest with you, I wasn't right every time -- but fortunately the 10 guys around me played hard and made up for it."

Vilma also credited one of his teammates from the other side of the ball -- Brees.

Since Vilma's first year in New Orleans, he and Brees have developed a friendly but intense rivalry. They keep a running tally of which side wins each team drill. Often, money exchanges hands -- but it's the pride that matters most.

"We try not to make it personal," Vilma said, laughing again. "But sometimes it carries over and carries off the field; but you've got to love it. You've got to love a competitive quarterback and a competitive linebacker going at it."

Brees said Vilma deserves some of the credit for his own career resurgence in New Orleans.

Those daily battles in practice -- which have been noticeably more intense since Williams arrived to run the show last season -- have coincided with Brees' ascent to the top rung of the NFL's quarterback ladder, alongside Manning and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady.
"Vilma is such a smart football player and also a tough, physical football player," Brees said. "I feel like if I can outsmart him, then I've done something because the guy doesn't miss much.

"He's constantly making adjustments, constantly making checks, getting guys in the right positions. He knows that defense very, very well, even only having been in it for one year now. So that constant match of wits and that chess match is something that makes me look forward to practice every day because I'm going up against one of the league's best. It's fun, and it's helping me become a better player."

If there's a knock on Vilma, it's that he's a bit on the small side, which sometimes gets him tangled up in traffic when a blocker gets position on him. Vilma usually does a great job of weaving his way through traffic, and he shows power for his size when he hits running backs and tight ends.

Despite a knee injury that briefly derailed his career with the New York Jets and has flared up from time to time since, Vilma has proven durable with the Saints. He has started every game the past two seasons, except for Week 17 last season, when New Orleans rested many of their starters.

The Saints have credited Vilma with 281 tackles the past two seasons (151 in 2008, 130 last in 2009), plus 14 in the playoffs last season.

He also has five interceptions, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three sacks, including the playoffs. In the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome, he intercepted a pass from quarterback Brett Favre, forced a fumble by tailback Adrian Peterson and recovered a fumble by receiver Bernard Berrian in the Saints' 31-28 victory in overtime.

Like most of New Orleans' defensive players, Vilma has thrived under the direction of Williams, who preaches the importance of playing to the strengths of each individual on the field.

"We have a real, real, real good relationship," Vilma said. "The thing I'm so fortunate to be a part of is having a defensive coordinator who lets me understand him and lets me go out there and play. He always gives me the freedom to check out of a play if I see something, and never questions me if I check out of a play and it may not be the right thing to do.

"He understands my capabilities, and I'm trying to be that extension of him on the field."

The feeling is mutual.

"You know, to date, I've not had a middle linebacker be a better quarterback of our defense than London Fletcher ... London is phenomenal," Williams said, speaking of the longtime NFL standout whom he coached in Buffalo and Washington. "Jonathan Vilma is breathing down London's neck."

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Suns Draft Pick Dwayne Collins Will Play In Italy

Suns second round pick Dwayne Collins has accepted a contract offer to play in Italy this season, giving up his chance at making the Suns roster -- for now.

As originally reported by Ridiculous Upside and now confirmed to SB Nation Arizona by league sources, Suns second round draft pick Dwayne Collins will forgo his chance to make the NBA roster and has accepted an offer to play in Italy for Cimberio Varese.

Collins was the the last pick of the 2010 NBA draft, a fact he immortalized with the tattoo "Mr. Irrelevant" on his massive hand.

Dwayne was unable to play for the Suns Summer League team due to a knee injury and likely felt he could get more court time in addition to a guaranteed contract by playing this season overseas.

Even before this news, the Suns were admittedly looking for another veteran center and with Gani Lawal (drafted 46th overall) receiving a guaranteed contract from Phoenix, there would have been little room for Collins.

The Suns still retain his NBA rights should his skill develop and warrant a shot at playing at the top level. I would be shocked if we don't see him in Vegas next summer for the Suns.

In the meantime, best of luck to Dwayne. He's seriously a funny guy with a fantastic attitude. If he was two or three inches taller he's be a first round pick for sure and if he can get more experience and range to his game he could still be a rotation player some day.

From Scott at Ridiculous Upside:

The 6-foot-8, 245 pound Collins averaged 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks as a senior at the University of Miami.  Though the well-built big man isn't the most talented player on the court, his athleticism - and 7-foot-4 wingspan - means that if he's able to add some polish overseas this year, he should definitely be able to come back and compete for a spot next season on the Suns roster.

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Ryan Braun has wrist strain and contusion

After getting X-rays Monday night, Ryan Braun was diagnosed with a left wrist strain and contusion.

Looks like he's going to be day-to-day. The contusion shouldn't be a problem, but a strain is reportedly minor, which is another way of talking about ligament tears. Hopefully it's just a minor thing, and the few days off will allow Braun to rest and perhaps recover some of his missing power. It's still not a good day for Braun's owners and the Brewers.

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Pat Burrell caps Giants' extra-innings victory

Pat Burrell doubled twice, walked twice and hit a game-winning sac fly in the bottom of the 11th as the Giants edged the Cubs 4-3 on Monday.

Burrell didn't drive in runs with either hit, but he got a chance with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 11th and he hit a long fly to center to end it. After a poor July, he's opened August with a .391 average, five doubles, a homer and seven walks in 23 at-bats.

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Ryan Braun earns NL weekly honors

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was named NL Player of the Week for the seven-day period ending August 8.

Braun led the majors with a .538 batting average (14-for-26) and a .586 on- base percentage over six games. His eight runs scored also tied him for the most in all of baseball last week. Included in the successful run was a career-best five-hit performance during an 18-1 thrashing of the Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 2.

This is Braun's second career weekly honor, after winning from May 5-11, 2009.

Other nominees for the weekly award included Braun's Milwaukee teammates Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee; Pittsburgh slugger Pedro Alvarez; Washington outfielder Adam Dunn; Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson and third baseman Chipper Jones.

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Dajleon Farr, Tervaris Johnson Released

The San Diego Chargers released Dajleon Farr and the Kansas City Chiefs have released Tervaris Johnson. Tervaris had been playing well in Chiefs camp, even scoring a touchdown during practice. Farr was competing for a roster spot against not only Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael but also proCane Dedrick Epps.

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Extension Makes Andre Johnson Texan For Life

The Texans signed four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson to a contract extension through the 2016 season on Thursday. The move, as general manager Rick Smith put it, essentially makes Johnson "a Texan for life."

Smith did not disclose contract terms, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the extension makes Johnson the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL with an average salary of $10.5 million per year.

Johnson previously was under contract through 2014 after signing an eight-year extension in 2007. Normally, that would make re-negotiation out of the question. The Texans were willing to make an exception for Johnson, who is one of two players in NFL history along with Jerry Rice to lead the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons.

"Andre is in a class by himself," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "It's important to us that Andre have one home, and that's with the Texans. He's a future Hall of Famer and will probably be our first Hall of Fame player, and we wanted to make sure that he went in as a Texan."

On the first day of training camp last Friday, McNair said that he wanted to get a new deal done with Johnson within two weeks. Six days later, Smith and vice president of football administration Chris Olsen finalized the extension with Johnson's agent, Kennard McGuire.

"With having five years left on my contact, for them to do something like this for me and my family, I don't think words can really describe it," Johnson said. "All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart… I'm very happy that we were able to get everything settled and I can move forward with football."

The third overall pick out of Miami (Fla.) in 2003, Johnson joined the Texans one season after the franchise began play in 2002. He has led the team in receiving yards in each of his seven seasons and holds 14 different team records.

"To be able to play for the Houston Texans for the rest of my career, it's a tremendous honor," he said. "I always said I wanted to be a part of something special, and I knew that coming to a new organization that things were going to be a little rough in the beginning. Now, I feel like things are taking that turn for us, so I'm very excited for this upcoming season. I know the fans are excited, the whole city of Houston's excited. We're going to give them something this year to be excited about."

Johnson, 29, said that his new contract will not change the way he approaches the game.

"I do know where this organization wants to be and I know where I want the organization to be, and if it's up to me, I'll tote it on my back to hopefully be playing in Cowboys Stadium (site of Super Bowl XLV) at the end of this season," he said. "When you watch me play on Sundays, you're going to see all that I have. I'm going to lay it all on the line, so that's what you can expect from me."

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No cause for alarm for Willis McGahee's absence

Willis McGahee did not practice Friday morning for the first time since training camp began, and his left knee was wrapped. But the issue isn’t the knee, according to the running back.

“Because I’m old,” McGahee said when asked why he sat out. “I’m an old guy. I am old. This is my eighth year. No, I’m all right. I’m good.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said McGahee has "a little bit of swelling" on the knee.

Said Harbaugh: "I would say it's precautionary to give it a little bit of rest."

McGahee had participated in eight consecutive days of practice until Friday morning. But he said he plans to participate on Saturday when camp is shifted to M&T Bank Stadium for one day.

“Yeah, I’ll be practicing tomorrow,” he said. “I’m good. Ain’t nothing wrong. It’s just precautionary, being safe. I’m not hurt. I’ve been practicing every day except this one time I missed. Everything’s great.”

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Randy Phillips excels with first team at practice

As a bit of a surprise, rookie safety Randy Phillips joined the first team for the Lions’ morning practice just three days after he signed with the team.

Phillips, a standout at the University of Miami, took the place of Marvin White, who had been practicing with the first team along with fellow safety C.C. Brown.

Phillips, an undrafted free agent, joined the Lions for minicamp in June and coach Jim Schwartz was impressed with how much he had retained.

“He was never really behind,” Schwartz said. “He’s smart. He has experience playing a lot of schemes we play. He picks things up very quickly. He’s a bright guy. He was never really behind.

“That’s a tribute to him. He came in in minicamp, got up to speed there, kept his mind in it and when he got the opportunity he was able to come in and show himself right away. That’s rare that guys can do that. But again, we’re talking about a couple days. Let’s let it be and continue over a period of time.”

During his time with the Hurricanes, Phillips played under Lions secondary coach Tim Walton when he was Miami’s secondary coach and defensive coordinator.

“There’s always going to be a familiarity when you have experience with a coach,” Schwartz said. “You’re going to speak the same language and you’re going to understand what that person wants. But that’s not going to be his evaluation. That helps him be where he is right now, but that doesn’t help his evaluation.”

Phillips said he knows what Walton wants and expects.

“Yeah, it helped that we had a previous relationship,” Phillips said. “I know him. I know what he expects: hard work. He expects to put extra time in the playbook and know everything and expects me to know multiple positions. Knowing that, I just stay on top of all of that.”
Defensive end Turk McBride also joined the first team, subbing for Kyle Vanden Bosch on the right side. Schwartz said he decided to rest Vanden Bosch for the entire morning practice, although he could practice this afternoon.

“He’s got some muscle tightness, but he was already scheduled to be a rest,” Schwartz said. “Generally when he rests, he goes through individual and still likes to do that and lead his group. But today we just said, ‘Let’s nix that and we’ll see where he is this afternoon.’ But he didn’t have anything that’s going to keep him out.”

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Undrafted Shields an early Packers camp standout

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Rookie Packers cornerback Sam Shields knows what's at stake when he takes the field for Saturday's Family Night scrimmage.

"Once you're on that field, it's your turn to do what you've got to do," Shields said Friday. "You've got to show 'em something just to make them smile or anything."

Past Family Night scrimmages have been a stage for lesser-known players to make a case for their place on the team. One of this year's candidates is Shields, an undrafted free agent out of Miami who has been impressive in the first week of training camp.

Buoyed by exceptional speed and a studious approach, Shields has been a quick study in the Packers' talent-laden secondary only a year after he was moved from wide receiver for his final college season.

"I think he's on his way," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. "He has a long ways to go, but he's in the right direction. He's not going the opposite way right now."

Whether flying in for an interception or making up ground fast to break up a pass, Shields is producing a big play on an almost daily basis since Green Bay's camp opened last Saturday. This Saturday, the Packers will hold their intrasquad scrimmage in front of a huge crowd at Lambeau Field.

"I'm very excited," Shields said. "Packers fans is crazy, I heard; they're all about the Packers. So, I'm more excited to see that, especially playing inside the Frozen Tundra. That's going to be great."

This is the 10th year of the scrimmage, a family-themed event that has regularly drawn more than 50,000 to 73,000-seat Lambeau in recent years, though thunderstorms washed out last year's game.

Whitt, among others, is looking forward to seeing Shields in a game-like environment.

"Sam, it's his first time to see a real NFL speed," Whitt said. "Family Night is going to be a lot faster than it is in practice. It's going to be packed, so he's going to see an NFL crowd. I'm excited to see what he's going to do."

Whitt's not surprised by Shields making favorable first impressions. The Packers coveted him as a cornerback when they were preparing for the NFL Draft in April, even though he had only 10 starts there as a senior at Miami.

"To me, he was the most talented corner in the draft," Whitt said. "We got lucky to get him, and we got him as a free agent" after Shields didn't have his name called during the three days of the draft.

"He's a talented young man," Whitt added. "He still has a ways to go, but I've been pleased with his progress. He's a serious guy, he's a professional, he studies as hard as he can to not make mistakes out here, so very pleased with him."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave Shields an assessment Friday of "up and down, (but) a lot of good things."

"He is a talented player that is making a position transition," McCarthy said.

The Packers also are trying to tap into Shields' breakneck speed — he was timed as fast as 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash in college — by having him audition as a kick returner. But he has been shaky so far in camp with numerous drops.

"We want everybody to catch the ball consistently," McCarthy said.

Shields had an 84-yard kickoff return on a reverse for Miami against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl last December. He has heard comments about that play — a Hurricanes bowl-game record — from several Wisconsin and Packers fans since his arrival in the cheesehead state.

"Just running a return back on Wisconsin and then coming here, it's crazy," Shields said.

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Michael Irvin recalls having sex while wearing his yellow Hall of Fame blazer

Michael Irvin is really proud of being a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

The former Dallas Cowboys receiver recounted his memories of his 2007 Hall of Fame induction this week. Irvin said he was so proud of his yellow Hall of Fame blazer that he didn't want to take it off ... including during intimate times.

Irvin describes it in his own words, via the Chicago Tribune:

"I remember when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame and they gave me my Hall of Fame yellow blazer. I wore it for two straight days. Finally my wife was in bed and said she wanted to make love but that I had to take the coat off. I refused and kept the blazer on because I wanted to perform like a Hall of Famer on the field and off."

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Glenn Sharpe Arrested

Former Falcons cornerback Glenn Sharpe was arrested and charged with drug possession Wednesday during a traffic stop, Gwinnett police said.

Officers stopped Sharpe around 11 p.m. along Interstate 85 near Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road for speeding, said Cpl. Edwin Ritter, Gwinnett police spokesman.

Police discovered Metronidazole, an antibiotic,  inside a prescription bottle and several Vicodin pills, Ritter said.  A .9mm pistol was located near the pill bottle, he said.

Sharpe is charged with illegal possession of a narcotic and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony.

Sharpe, 27, who played in college at Miami, was with the Falcons during the 2008-2009 season. He was on the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints last year. Sharpe is currently a free agent.

He is being held at the Gwinnett County Jail on an $11,400 bond.

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Roscoe Parrish injury not serious

Roscoe Parrish had to leave the field with what looked to be a left leg injury. Parrish was visibly frustrated when heading in to the locker room, dishing aside his shoulder pads before getting in to the training facility.

Head coach Chan Gailey said that he thinks Parrish's injury should only keep the wide receiver out a few days. Bills head coach Chan Gailey said after practice that the injury suffered by Roscoe Parrish Friday night was not serious.

“Roscoe… it’s not bad. He’ll be back in a couple of days at the worst I think,” said Gailey.

Gailey chose not to identify the injury suffered by Parrish, who was visibly limping on his way to the locker room.

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Jason Fox Works at LT

The second unit offensive line for the Lions, from left to right, continues to be LT Corey Hilliard , LG Roy Schuening , C Dylan Gandy , RG Manny Ramirez and Jansen. Rookie T Jason Fox is getting his reps, too, mostly on the left side, and has looked better the past couple days. C Dan Gerberry and G Trevor Canfield are the other linemen getting mostly third-team reps.

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Kenny Phillips expected back Monday

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Giants may need to build a hospital wing here at the University at Albany for all their injured players, but head coach Tom Coughlin could get one major player back on Monday.

Safety Kenny Phillips is expected to come off the physically unable-to-perform list and make his long-anticipated return to the field for practice next week.

"Monday, they're saying ... I think so," Coughlin said when asked when Phillips will return.

Coughlin also will have center Shaun O'Hara back on Monday. O'Hara has a chronic condition in his left ankle and the team has been trying to get the swelling down since Sunday night.

Phillips, though, has been rehabbing for almost a year to get back on the field. The team's star safety hasn't played football since intercepting Tony Romo twice in Dallas last Sept. 20. A few days later, Phillips underwent microfracture surgery on a degenerative condition in his left knee called patellofemoral arthritis.

The optimistic Phillips, 23, has been saying all along that he will return stronger and quell all doubts about his knee. His goal was to practice on the first day of training camp, but the team placed Phillips on the PUP list to be extra cautious and make sure he takes it slow.

Honestly I feel real good about it," Phillips said on Sunday about his knee. "It's tested, not football tested, but as far as cutting and doing drills and running, I have been doing this for almost the whole offseason. So I am not worried about being in any pain when I do start. Just got to get used to playing football again."

And when he does, Phillips says he will be better than before. General manager Jerry Reese said Phillips played at less than 100 percent at the start of last season, when he had 16 tackles and two interceptions in two games before undergoing season-ending surgery.

"We think Kenny Phillips is going to be the starter when we play Carolina," Reese said of the Giants' Week 1 matchup. "We expect him to be the starter out there."

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Jeremy Shockey returns to practice

The colorful New Orleans Saints tight end returned to action in training camp after missing the past seven practices while dealing with knee soreness.

"He's doing well," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "A lot of it is just making sure we monitor any soreness. But I was encourage with how he worked today."

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Clinton Portis's message to the haters

Clinton Portis has given so many terrifically defensive radio and television monologues over the year that it's hard to impressed by much anymore, but Tuesday's opus to Comcast SportsNet's Kelli Johnson cannot be ignored. Especially the first line, when Johnson asked Portis if his doubters continue to provide motivation.

"I really be wanting to give people my ass to kiss," he said. "Like, real talk."

Ah yes. That's the good stuff. More real talk, please.

"What I realized is, you can't please people," he continued. "People will never be satisfied. There's always gonna be a story of negativity. And I think so many people didn't want to see me in a Redskins uniform, so many people wanting to be able to hate me, so many people wanting to be able to write me off, but I'm still here. You know, I'm still here. I've still got a lot left in the tank, and I appreciate them for the motivation that they gave me, and they make it easier."

Frankly, that's the two-paragraph version of the entire interview. If you're really into this sort of thing, here's the extended-play version.

"So now when I walk around with my head up high, I don't have to look you in the eye and high-five you, because I don't trust you, I don't think you've got my best interests in mind," Portis said, to you the haters, not you Kelli Johnson. "I think for the true fans -- there's still some true Redskins fans, some Clinton Portis lovers, some people that appreciate the work that I put in here.

"But for the majority, I really think they're against me, because when I sat and listened to the radio shows and the talk shows for the first time, and hear the commentators and all the sports anchors writing me off -- oh, he's done -- and [about] all the competition that the Redskins brought in....

"I mean, there's so many haters, man, there used to be a point where you wanted to prove them wrong. Now, I think I'm at a position in life where every yard that I get is a yard that's gonna pass me on the charts of somebody, it's gonna put me into elite company in the NFL, and with that I think I can accept the appreciation and my track record in football.

"So all the haters, they gonna continue to be haters. So many people unhappy with who they are, they want to control who you are and where you are. Can't nobody control me. They're gonna stay unhappy, and I'm gonna continue to do the things that I do to shine and make you hate me."

Mid-season form, no? Portis and his haters have some sort of strange symbiotic relationship at this point, both happily sucking each others' third-person blood.

Want more? Johnson asked Portis whether the hate hurts, after a while.

"It do," he said. "It hurt, it's an aggravation, because if you're gonna turn on that film, I've been in D.C. for seven years. Five out of those seven years that I was healthy, you can't tell me I wasn't one of the best in the game. And I think I provided so much spark and gave so much and showed so much heart and left so much on the field for an organization, for an area, for a fan base, for the Washington Redskins.

"I feel like I always left it on the field. There wasn't a Sunday that you can question what I was doing or where I was or was I dedicated to this organization or this team. But from Monday through Saturday, the gossip come out through you all -- Portis not practicing and Portis a prima donna and Portis want his way and Portis want this and Portis want that.

"You haven't heard me ask for anything, and anything I ever said was the truth. I haven't came out and lied about one situation, I haven't came out and made myself try to look good in a situation, I came out and told the truth every time. How the outside world perceived that or took that was on them. A lot of people think that I pointed the finger -- I listen to shots a long time before I respond, and so many people still taking shots at me. But I think I'm at a place in life man, where for you, it'd take more energy for you to sit and figure out what I'm doing than it'd take for me to worry about what you talking about. So I don't."

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Cortez Kennedy Selected to the 2010 Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game Legends Class

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Former University of Miami defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has been selected to the 2010 Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game Legends Class, as announced by the league office on Tuesday.

Kennedy was one of the defensive forces on Miami's 1989 National Championship football team and helped lead the Hurricanes to a 22-2 record during the 1988 and 1989 seasons. During his time with the `Canes, Miami posted an 8-2 record against Top 15 teams, twice defeating the nation's No. 1-ranked squad, ending the 1989 season as a nation's top team after convincing wins over No. 1-ranked Notre Dame and No. 7 Alabama.

The third overall pick in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Kennedy played 11 seasons in the NFL, all with Seattle. Generally regarded as one of the top defensive linemen to play in the NFL, Kennedy was named to the Pro Bowl eight times and four times was tabbed as an All-Pro. In 1992 he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year (AP).

In addition to Kennedy, NC State's Ted Brown (Apple Valley, Minn.), Georgia Tech's Randy Rhino (Marietta, Ga.), Clemson's Steve Fuller (Enid, Okla.), Boston College's Tony Thurman (Lynn, Mass.), Maryland's Darryl Hill (Laurel, Md.), Florida State's Peter Boulware (Tallahassee, Fla.), Virginia Tech's Cornell Brown (Blacksburg, Va.), Duke's Jay Wilkinson (Houston, Tex.), North Carolina's Ethan Horton (Charlotte, N.C.), Virginia's Barry Word (Haymarket, Va.) and Wake Forest's Larry Hopkins (Winston-Salem, N.C.) make up 2010 class.

The Legends will be honored at this year's Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game weekend. They will be honored at the ACC Night of Legends event on Friday, Dec. 3, and will also be recognized during ceremonies at Bank of America Stadium for the 6th Annual Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship, which has a 7:45 p.m. kickoff on Dec. 4 and will be nationally televised by ESPN.

The group of 12 former gridiron standouts from current ACC schools includes five former players who earned some kind of ACC Player of the Year honors, three members of the ACC's prestigious 50th Anniversary Football Team, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, eight former All-Americas including four consensus All-Americas, eight players who combined for 58 years of professional football experience and eight who were drafted into the National Football League, including five first-round picks.

In all, the collection of players and coaches combined to capture a national championship, one NFL World Championship, a Canadian Football League Grey Cup and seven ACC team titles. A native of Osceola, Ark., Kennedy now resides in Orlando, Fla. He was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Ring of Honor in 2008.

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Bryant McKinnie Holds Telethon For Favre’s Return

First, thanks to Kevin Seifert and one of his readers (Emily) over at ESPN for pointing out this halarious video.

Second, while watching it keep a close eye on some of the donations being listed on the bottom of the screen.

Third, does anyone else think this is the most effort Bryant McKinnie has put into keeping Brett Favre on the field in about a year?  I’m surprised he didn’t need Jim Kleinsasser on the stage to help him out and provide backup.


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Vince Wilfork taking camp in stride

FOXBORO - If you've gotten the feeling that the Patriots have had a lot of walkthroughs among their training camp practices this year, you're not alone. There have been three, plus one canceled practice to lighten the load.

But as far as Vince Wilfork is concerned, a walkthrough does not devalue the training camp experience.

"I don't count them," the veteran nose tackle said after Friday morning's no-pads, no-helmets stroll through the playbook. "Practice is practice to me. When I'm on the field, I consider it practice. I really try not to count it because I know training camp is grind time and whatever he throws at us, we have to be prepared."

Patriots' coach Bill Belichick said earlier in the day that the switch to a walkthrough was done with preparation for next week's visit with the New Orleans Saints in mind.

The Saints and Patriots will practice together three times next week, twice on Tuesday and once Wednesday morning (according to a tentative schedule released by the Patriots) before Thursday's preseason opener (7:30 p.m.; Ch. 4, 64) at Gillette Stadium. Belichick said he wanted to install some of the game-related information before practicing with the Saints.

"Training camp is different now, but as far as putting stuff in, I think we're right on schedule," Wilfork said. "I don't think there's any overload there's a lot of stuff we're trying to get accomplished. We're far from where we want to be, but we're coming out with great energy, we're running around and getting some practices under our belt. We're just trying to get into football shape and get the team born."

Wilfork is practicing with a slightly rebuilt defensive line. Ty Warren and Mike Wright are sitting out because of injuries and Jarvis Green has departed for Denver, which has provided plenty of practice time for newcomers Gerard Warren (signed as a free agent after being released by Oakland) and Damione Lewis (signed after being released by Carolina).

"They're veterans," Wilfork said. "They've been around this game. They know exactly what they need to do. They've been in a different scheme, but they're professionals right now the scheme is a little hard for all of us because we're just getting back into it, but it's starting to come along."

Both Warren and Lewis are 10th-year veterans, so it's reasonable to expect that younger players can look up to them as leaders in the locker room despite their short tenure with the Patriots.

"You just put the film on and those (younger) guys get a chance to see how a professional works," said Wilfork, who noted that the older players have to have similar respect for the younger ones.

"The last thing you want to do is be a veteran in this game and don't have the respect for the young guys," he said. "That's not us. Guys come in to work on the defensive line, and we're bringing in new guys everybody can see that there's a lot of people that have played a lot of games at this level in that room, and they ask questions.

"They want to learn, they're willing to learn," he added.

Next week, when the Saints visit, it will signal a shift in training camp from classroom work and repetitions on the field to actual application in a competitive manner.

"It's getting closer and closer," Wilfork said, "but at the same time, we're still in camp and we've still got a long way to go. But I'm still excited the season that we're going to have, and I hope it will be a good one. For the most part we've been doing a pretty good job of coming out here and practicing and understanding the defense and what we're trying to do, and that makes Bill comfortable to move forward.

"We know what it takes to be good, and we're striving to be good," he continued. "We want to be great. We want to be that team that, in the fourth quarter, we can win ballgames. All that stuff starts now."

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Bears Notes: Devin Hester learns fast

BOURBONNAIS – Bears wide receiver Devin Hester worked out alongside ex-St. Louis Rams standout Isaac Bruce this summer to get an early grasp of Mike Martz’s offense.

Hester’s grasp is strong, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said.

“There were times he struggled a bit in the spring trying to figure things out, but he’s been mistake-free so far, and he’s been outstanding in his route techniques,” said Martz, who watched Hester reel in several balls Wednesday as the Bears practiced under the lights. “He’s better right now than I would expect him to be.”

Hester endured an up-and-down season in 2009, finishing with 757 receiving yards and three touchdowns. It marked his second full season as a primary wide receiver in the NFL.

“Having played in the league for a little while, I think that’s really helped him, and having been on defense, too,” Martz said.

Hester played cornerback at Miami (Fla.) and saw time on defense as a rookie in 2006.

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John Salmons takes aim for the fourth seed

The Milwaukee Bucks were an immensely successful team last season relative to expectation, and there's no reason why they can't be even better in the coming year. There aren't a lot of young pieces on the roster set to grow, but the internal development of Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut combined with the numerous moves Milwaukee has made to shore up their offense should put the Bucks firmly in the East's quasi-elite.

They're not even close to Miami. They're still a long way away from Orlando. But the Bucks were good and have gotten better, and that counts for something. While it's never a sound long-term strategy to shoot for merely being competitive, the Bucks have taken steps, even if there's not evidence of a durable plan to elevate Milwaukee to championship contenders.

Still, for now, the Bucks are good. Good enough for John Salmons to make public note of his expectations for the coming season, via the Sporting News:

"For me, I prefer having expectations. I have usually played under the radar, and I always struggle with people not recognizing how good we are as a team. But we should be good right from the beginning. I think last year we were a surprise team, but we are not going to be a surprise team this year. I think we can finish among the top four in the East."

There's no question that the Bucks will be right there in the thick of things, but top four? Miami and Orlando are locks, the Bulls should be up there, and the Celtics and Hawks are definitely in the mix. All of those are fine regular season teams, so fine that Milwaukee could easily be locked into the sixth seed for the second straight year. Fourth is well within Milwaukee's reach, but it's early, yet.

Maybe the Bucks will pick up in the '10-'11 regular season in the same ridiculous fashion that carried them through the tail end of the '09-'10 campaign, or maybe they'll look sluggish as Scott Skiles integrates the new offensive cogs. Either way, it's entirely too early to make predictions; training camp isn't even upon us, and with so much left to be determined, Salmons' expectations will have to be left lingering in the air for now.

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Ryan Braun fighting through unfamiliar territory

MILWAUKEE -- A lot of players would be thrilled with a pace that takes them to 24 home runs and 99 RBIs, but not Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. He set some impossibly high standards during his first three seasons, and for the first time in his career -- the first time in his life, really -- he's been fighting through a stretch resembling a slump.

Willie Randolph knows the feeling.

Randolph, now the Brewers' bench coach, recalls that the first Great Slump of his career came in 1974 at Double-A Thetford Mines, in Quebec. He was 19 and faced a language barrier, gnawing homesickness and what felt like the impossible task of hitting a baseball, all at once. For a time, Randolph was so frustrated he considered quitting the game.

He pushed through, of course, and went on to be a six-time Major League All-Star. But that slump wouldn't be Randolph's last.

"I've been in slumps where I woke up in the middle of the night in a hotel room and burst into tears, to tell you the truth," he said. "I don't like to admit that. I was in the big leagues, and there I was, crying in the night."

Braun has been down this season, but never even close to that far down. And now he's showing signs of life, coming off a 9-for-14 series against the Cubs in which Braun mostly peppered the opposite field with singles.

If he keeps it up, maybe the rest of the world will stop trying to figure out what's wrong with Braun. He certainly has not been trying to dwell on it.

"I just try to move on, man," Braun said this week at Wrigley Field. "There's no reason to dwell on the past, dwell on what's negative. For me, I try to stay positive, stay optimistic and move forward. I can't go back and get an extra 20 hits or 10 home runs or drive in an extra 30 runs."
If it sounds like he's trying to convince himself, he is.

"Of course it wears on you," Braun said. "Everybody says it doesn't, but it's impossible for it not to. Obviously, I understand where I'm at. Obviously, I'm disappointed in my performance to this point. But I can't go back. I can't rewind time to two months ago and play better."

Instead, here is a snapshot of where he's at: He batted .200 in July and as of Thursday was hitting .286 this season, on a pace for 24 homers and 99 RBIs. He owns a .340 on-base percentage, 19 points below his career mark, and a .465 slugging percentage, 87 points off.

These are by no means poor numbers, but they are also not the numbers Braun says he expects from himself.

Picked fifth overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Braun needed only 199 games in the Minor Leagues before winning the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award with 34 homers and 97 RBIs after a late-May debut. He hit a career-high 37 home runs in '08, including a go-ahead blast in the regular season finale that propelled the Brewers to the postseason for the first time in 26 years. He followed with a career-high 114 RBIs in '09 and led the NL with 203 hits.

In 2010, he's trying to stay positive.

"Because of who I am, because of my personality, I always have to fight the urge to go 4-for-4 with four home runs to make up for where I'm at," Braun said. "That's just who I am and who I'll always be. I don't think it's a bad thing, by any means. I think it's helped me more than it's hurt me. But it's something I have to fight from time to time. ...

"This is the first time I've experienced anything like this. I've never been through it -- not in high school, not in college, not in my year in the Minor Leagues, not in my first three years in the big leagues. It's a learning experience."

The problem is mostly pitch selection, and Braun admits he has been uncharacteristically offering at pitches out of the strike zone. Among those he's gone to for words of wisdom is his bench coach.

"We've talked," Randolph said. "I told him about Derek Jeter, who was something like 0-for-33 [actually 0-for-32, in 2004]. He's Mr. Yankee, and people were booing him in New York, which they never do. He never wavered. He was the same every day. He was as solid as a rock. That's the way you have to be -- play defense, run the bases, make a difference some other way.

"The best thing about Brauny is that he understands that you have to keep it together," Randolph said. "It's easy to get frustrated and mad, but that's not really going to get you through it."

Easier said than done.

"When I came into [professional baseball] I got my butt handed to me right away," said Brewers outfielder Jim Edmonds, in the 17th season of a fine Major League career. "I hit .220 in rookie ball. The one constant in this game is struggle and the key thing is not giving up. Hit, hit, hit, hit, hit, and sooner or later, you'll figure it out."

That's how Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder approached the start of his first full Major League season. He went 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts to begin 2006 before beating the Pirates with a bloop single.

"That's how baseball is," Fielder said. "You can't write it up. Sometimes you struggle, but we have two months left this season and you can't dwell on it."

Braun is following Edmonds' advice: Hit, hit, hit, hit, hit.

"At the end of this year, I'll look back and realize that this was a tremendous learning experience," he said. "Hopefully, I'll become a better player and a better person because of it. But when you're going through it, it's definitely not fun.

"My whole thing is that I have two months left," he added. "If I finish strong, there's no reason I can't have just as good a season I had last year. There's no reason I can't have my best season if I finish great this year. There's no reason for me to reflect until the end of the season."

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Jon Jay delights hometown fans with 3 hits

Home again: Miami native and University of Miami product Jon Jay made his Sun Life Stadium debut and stroked three hits. Jay, who played with fellow rookie Gaby Sanchez at Miami for two years, also scored three times and knocked in a run with a third-inning double.

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