Beautiful LaRon Byrd diving catch

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Lamar Miller goes 3-32 against Bears

Lamar Miller rushed three times for 32 yards in the Dolphins' preseason opener against the Bears.

Miller got three carries to start the game, broke a 27-yarder and also had an eight-yard run called back. A bit of a stir was caused when Miller was pulled for Damien Williams when the Dolphins reached the red zone, but it turned out he was simply done for the day, with Williams taking over thereafter.

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Denzel Perryman was raised to tackle

Desmond Perryman stuffed a backrest pillow up his shirt, cushioning himself like a hockey goalie about to enter the crease. His son Denzel had just begun to play youth football. Dad wanted to teach him how to tackle, committed to living-room drills a few days a week until Denzel mastered proper technique.

They started when Denzel was 6.

They stopped when Denzel was 7.

"I actually had to brace myself because he would've knocked me down," Desmond said. "I knew he had it at that point. ... He was a form tackler at 7 years old, a perfect tackler. When a grown man has to brace for a 7-year-old kid, you know he's coming real hard."

Denzel, a grown man now, is set to play his first NFL game. The Chargers inside linebacker and second-round pick will debut Thursday night against the Cowboys. His parents will watch the exhibition opener from afar, as Denzel looks to apply on defense and special teams some of the homegrown hitting learned in South Florida.

The lessons are the foundation to Perryman's game.

All linebackers must seek out contact. Few seem to find enjoyment rivaling that of Perryman. As a boy, he ran at his dad and older brothers from a three-point stance and tried to tackle them. He practiced form against a door. He grew up watching a highlight tape of the NFL's hardest hits while idolizing Ray Lewis.

After an offseason of limited contact, Perryman gets the green light Thursday.

"A lot of people ask me am I nervous, am I nervous," Perryman, 21, said Wednesday. "I'm just (eager) to hit somebody else, to go against somebody else. ... I'm looking forward to that environment. I know it's a preseason game, but still, it's an NFL game, an opportunity for me to showcase why they drafted me."

The pillow drill is where it started.

Television time turned into tackling time. His dad gave basic pointers like to keep his head up, a safety measure to reduce risk of spinal injury and paralysis, and implored him to tackle through his target. If Perryman did not tackle properly or hard enough, his dad wouldn't feign impact and playfully fall to the floor.

He had Perryman reset and try again.

"He used to tell me, 'Everything you touch, you knock it down,' " Perryman said. "That's always been my mindset. Whatever I touch gets knocked down. When I'm coming to make contact, I'm going 100 miles per hour, and I'm not slowing down. At all."

Desmond, 47, coached Perryman from age 6 to the start of high school.

He knew the coaches at Coral Gables High, so he was comfortable stepping back. Still, he remained closely involved, the two speaking after every game. Desmond has attended just about every one of Perryman's games from Pop Warner through college at Miami. Any one he had to miss, he'd watch on tape later so he could rehash plays with his son.

Perryman appreciates it.

Some childhood friends had a mother without an active father. For others, it was vice versa. He grew up with both, his father highly involved in what became his career.

"I guess I'm his worst critic because I critique everything," Desmond said. "I just think he should be perfect on the field. I don't tolerate half speed or taking plays off. The motto in our house is 'it's all out or nothing.' If you're not going to go all out, then don't even get on the field."

Desmond cannot attend every Chargers game.

The drive to see Perryman play Pop Warner or prep football was about 15 to 20 minutes. For college, the commute was about 30. Any trip to San Diego is far longer, and as commissioner of Pop Warner football in Coconut Grove, Fla., Desmond has other commitments.

But he'll be watching Thursday night.

And his presence will be felt.

"I'll hear my dad's voice in my head," Perryman said. "If I'm missing a tackle, he'll say, 'Come on, man. Get it together. Take the proper angle. Bend your knees. Stop lunging.' It's already registered in my head."

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LaDarius Gunter shows promise with pick

Foxborough, Mass. — The play panned out as something of a recreation from the first day of a training camp, an unexpected glimmer from an unknown player, although his exploits have become more and more routine.

It began with a play-action fake near midfield, a backup quarterback working through reps the New England Patriots hope will prepare him to replace the potentially suspended Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo feigned a handoff to the running back, turned to face the field and zipped a bullet toward the left sideline.

The pass arrived with four hands there to meet it, two from intended receiver Josh Boyce and two more from LaDarius Gunter, a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers. Leather of ball met leather of gloves in an entangled heap. The ball squirted free.

Gunter pounced, just as he has done all throughout training camp, and with two hands he secured the first Green Bay Packers interception of the 2015 season. A 28-yard return set up the go-ahead score one play later, and the Packers exited Gillette Stadium with a 22-11 win thanks in large part to an impressive performance from a pair of young corners. Their efforts, buoyed by a stout defensive effort across the field, limited Brady and Garoppolo to less than 170 passing yards combined.

"We're getting our hands on a lot of balls," coach Mike McCarthy said. "As a secondary, it's happening a lot more this year. You can see it in the practices and it definitely carried over to the field."

With the cornerback position an obvious area of need following the off-season departures of Tramon Williams and Davon House, the Packers opted to solve the problem with youth. Their top two draft picks were used on corners, with Damarious Randall chosen in the first round and Quinten Rollins taken in the second.

Rollins began training camp on the physically unable to perform list, which enabled Randall to take a heavy dose of reps early on. Randall, who played safety at Arizona State, adjusted well to both the slot and outside positions, and within days he was the third corner on the perimeter behind veterans Sam Shields and Casey Hayward.

But a nagging groin injury that pulled Randall out of practice on two occasions prevented him from traveling to Massachusetts this week. The roles reversed, and Rollins was a mainstay on the edge Thursday night.

"It was fun to actually get out there and go against some guys we haven't seen since we got here in May," Rollins said. "It was fun to go against a different opponent, get a different look."

His enjoyment was undoubtedly enhanced by a sterling introduction to the NFL. Rollins, playing in the second unit, excelled as he deployed a physical brand of football predicated on challenging for the ball in the air. Twice he nearly intercepted passes from Garoppolo, and twice more he made impressive leaps to contest alongside a receiver.

He prevented four catches in the span of two drives during the second quarter alone.

"First time into action he got his hands on a couple balls," Hayward said. "He was a little disappointed. He should have caught both. I told him don't worry about it. He was in good position. This is preseason ball. We're going to drop some. I have dropped plenty since I've been here. I told him it's not going to be his last time. I thought he played pretty well."

With Randall injured, the remainder of a beautiful Massachusetts night belonged in many ways to Gunter, an undrafted free agent from Miami. Gunter made headlines on the opening day of training camp when he logged the first interception of Aaron Rodgers during 11-on-11 drills. His extremely physical play throughout camp — cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said Gunter excels with hand placement at the line of scrimmage — bothered some of the Packers' most veteran receivers.

Gunter surfaced again with his team trailing 11-9 early in the third quarter when he made a mid-route adjustment to intercept Garoppolo. What he initially believed to be a "go" route morphed into a quick stick along the sideline. Gunter stopped, broke back toward the line of scrimmage and thrust his hands into the midsection of Boyce.

Using the same hand strength that enables him to jam receivers, Gunter inadvertently launched the ball into the air in front of the Patriots' bench. He snagged it at waist height and bolted the other way.

"I just tried to sit down when he sat down," Gunter said. "I actually went to bat the ball down, and it popped up in my hands."

A lengthy runback moved the ball deep into Patriots' territory. Tailback Alonzo Harris bounced outside for a 25-yard touchdown on the very next play to put the Packers in front.

An unexpected glimmer, indeed.

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Ereck Flowers says hip flexor is 'a lot better'

CINCINNATI — On the eve of his professional debut, Giants rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers said the hip flexor injury that bothered him earlier in training camp is no longer bothering him.

"It's gotten a lot better than what it was," the first round pick said Thursday prior to the Giants' preseason opener against the Bengals here on Friday night. 

Flowers, who was selected with the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft earlier this year, missed a handful of practices due to the injury last week. But Flowers was a full participant in both of the Giants' joint practices with the Bengals this week, and performed well in both sessions in preparation of his first professional game experience. 

"I'm excited, it's my first game," Flowers said. "I came in and got some good work (during the two joint practices). I'm looking forward to [Friday]. It's a big deal for me to play any game."

Guard Justin Pugh, who filled in at left tackle when Flowers was unavailable, said he liked what he saw out of Flowers during practice this week.

"I think he did very well," Pugh said. "Especially coming in coming off an injury. It's tough, because he really hasn't been in full pads yet. So to come back and play like he has been playing, I'm excited for him."

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Andre Johnson to be on 'pitch count'

According to, Indianapolis Colts WR Andre Johnson will be on a 'pitch count' with the team this season. This means he will receive more plays off, and is less likely to play every down. (

Fantasy Impact: This is a new bit of info on the veteran WR, and though it was buried in the article it does seem to have fantasy significance. Johnson is currently being drafted as the No. 18 WR, right around where our experts think he should be taken. We'll see how owners react to this news and if he begins to slide at all.

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Denzel Perryman anxiously awaits NFL debut

SAN DIEGO – Sprinting to the ball and tagging off on a running back isn’t what Denzel Perryman is all about.

He wants to hit somebody. And the University of Miami product known for the physical way he plays the game will get his first opportunity on Thursday, when the San Diego Chargers face the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium.

“It’s means a lot,” Perryman said. “This is my first NFL game, so I’m eager to play and just get in that environment. I know it’s preseason and whatnot, but it’s still an NFL game, and an opportunity to showcase pretty much why they drafted me.”

The Chargers selected Perryman in the second round of this year’s draft because of his penchant for knocking people backwards. At 5-11 and 240 pounds, Perryman led the Hurricanes with 110 tackles in 2014, earning third-team All-America honors.

Perryman ran a 4.68-second 40-yard time for the Chargers. Along with good athleticism, he provides versatility, with an ability to play both linebacker positions. And with projected starters Manti Te’o and Donald Butler missing a combined eight games last season, Perryman adds talented depth and competition at the inside linebacker spot.

“A lot of his game is based off of his instincts,” Telesco said. “If there’s one thing you could on him, it would be key and diagnostic instincts. It’s outstanding. And that makes up for some of that lack of height. And then he takes that lack of height and uses it to his advantage.”

Perryman wears No. 52 in honor of his favorite player growing up, Ray Lewis. He started wearing the number when he was six years old playing pee wee football, and tries to emulate the way his favorite player competed on the field.

“I was a big Ray Lewis fan,” Perryman said. “I even had Reebok cleats at the time.”

In order to do that, Perryman said he needs to continue to get better at the little things and steadily improve his overall game.

“I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good,” Perryman said. “There’s still some things I would like to clean up, little, small areas so they won’t turn into big areas.”

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Allen Bailey uses bull rush to torture opponents

It became a common sight during one-on-one pass rush drills the past few weeks of Chiefs training camp. No. 97 in the white jersey, all 300-plus pounds of him, using his comic book-ish combination of mass and strength to put an offensive lineman on skates with his bull rush.

It mattered little who was lined up across from Allen Bailey. Even Ben Grubbs, the two-time Pro Bowler who has immediately become the Chiefs’ best lineman, was put flat on his back.

“You’ve got to start off with that,” said Bailey, a defensive lineman. “I mean, you’ve always got to start off with something to make them sit. So my bull, I worked on for a good year. So once I got it right … they know it’s coming but they still can’t stop it at times.”

You might think this would cause some good-natured complaining from Bailey’s offensive line counterparts in practice.

“They don’t really say too much,” Bailey said with a chuckle. “They’ve got to catch their breath.”

Perhaps that’s why Chiefs coach Andy Reid — when asked if he enjoyed watching Bailey’s bull rush — simply started nodding his head and chuckling before answering in the affirmative.

“Yeah, he is a bull — he’s a strong guy,” said Reid, who regularly watches the cut ups of one-on-one pass-rush drills. “To be built like he is — that big and proportional — the way he is put together is something.

“He’s a strong human being and he’s even a better person than he is a football player, which makes it great. He brings intensity every day, works his tail off, and never says anything. I love watching him.”

The offensive linemen who have to line up across from Bailey and block his bull rush are understandably less enthusiastic.

“It’s explosive, to say the least,” rookie center Mitch Morse said. “He gets down in this coil, he really does. He gets down in this (stance) and you’re like ‘Oh, here it comes, bro.’

“But he’ll do that and hit you with the quick swim, too. So if you’re not in perfect position, it’s going to be ugly.”

Part of this is, again, is because of Bailey’s combination of size and strength. A third-round pick in 2011, Bailey entered the NFL as an athletic 278-pounder. He’s always thought of himself as a smaller guy — he wanted to be an inside linebacker at Miami and moved to defensive end as an upperclassman — and even though he continues to grow larger, he’s managed to maintain most of his athleticism.

“I was avoiding 300 my whole life, honestly,” Bailey said with a cackle. “Through college, through my first couple of years in the league, I was avoiding 300.
“But my body, you know, got used to it. Made it do what it do. I couldn’t deny it anymore. I tried to deny it as long as I can.”

Now, the 6-foot-3 Bailey says he’s about 302 pounds, a little more than last year, when he opened camp at 293 pounds in an effort to be more stout against the run. And it’s all muscle.

“I carry it like a small guy,” Bailey said. “People try to guess my weight. I went to the county fair a couple years ago. You know that little game where they guess your weight before you step on the scale? A dude said I was 275. I got on there, I was 291.”

But don’t think Bailey’s bull rush prowess as simple as it being one giant guy bowling over other giant guy. Bailey’s technique with the move is there, too.

“I had to develop the hat and hand placement with the bull rush — it’s all about that,” Bailey said. “Sometimes you can be too high and you lose power, or you can be too low with your hat and it will pull you down.”

Scary thing is, Bailey — who set career highs last season with 41 tackles and five sacks — is confident he hasn’t hit his ceiling as a football player.

The Chiefs apparently agreed, signing Bailey to a four-year, $25 million deal last October that kept him from exploring free agency in March.

“He’s a young guy and every day he’s going to give you work — that’s how he approaches it,” Reid said, citing Bailey’s high-effort play. “He’s a pro and you don’t mind paying those guys. That’s what it’s about; for them to make a living for themselves and their families for now and for the rest of their life. The ones that come to work every day and prepare like he does — that’s a treat to pay those guys.”

Now Bailey has to earn his money, especially with two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe out for an undetermined amount of time.

Bailey will again be a constant on the Chiefs’ interior in their nickel and dime packages, and he’s confident he won’t be a won’t be a one-trick pony on passing downs, either.

“I’ve got other things I can add to it,” Bailey said of the bull rush. “You always want three good, main rushes you can always go to. You don’t need six or seven rushes. You need three, and you’re good.”

Bailey, understandably, didn’t want to name is other go-to moves, but insisted they’re in his arsenal.

“Yeah, I’m working on them,” Bailey said. “And they’re all coming off the bull rush.”

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Yasmani Grandal dealing with sore shoulder

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal was not in Thursday's lineup against the Reds because of a sore left shoulder, reports the Orange County Register. Grandal is expected to take the next two games off with the Dodgers facing left-handed pitchers.

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Seantrel Henderson has improved from OTAs

Bills OC Greg Roman said RT Seantrel Henderson has made "leaps and bounds improvement" since OTAs.

Henderson has moved ahead of Cyrus Kouandijo after playing with the second team all offseason. He was listed as the starter on Buffalo's training camp depth chart and will play over Kouandijo in the preseason opener. Henderson was PFF's third-worst tackle despite starting all 16 games last year.

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Olsen Pierre Get His Madden Rating

Rookie defensive lineman Olsen Pierre, a Miami product, has the lowest rating of any Bears player (59).

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Phillip Dorsett is not the normal rookie

ANDERSON, Ind. — Phillip Dorsett has shown more than just speed at training camp.

NFL rookies typically need time to hone their craft and enhance their skills against fellow professionals. Dorsett is no different, but the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver is already wise beyond his 22 years.

During last Friday’s practice at Anderson University, quarterback Andrew Luck went deep in Dorsett’s direction with an on-target bomb. The first-round draft choice had a step on the safety and a closing cornerback. The rookie ever so subtly took his eye of the ball to look off one of the defenders, then found it again in flight and made the catch for about a 60-yard gain.

Proven NFL wide receivers develop this skill of not alerting defenders to an incoming pass by how they look back for the ball and not putting their hands into position to make a catch until the last possible moment.

Dorsett already has this ability down pat.

“He’s an active listener,” Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “He’s done a great job of digesting a lot of information and I think you see the fruits of his labor out on the practice field. He’s making a ton of plays and he’s not just playing in one spot.”

That’s been Dorsett’s biggest adjustment to the Colts’ playbook. In this offense, receivers are expected to know all of the positions and routes. Dorsett’s ongoing learning process hasn’t prevented him from turning heads and impressing teammates as well as fans with continual cant-miss catches.“I feel like I was pretty prepared for camp,” Dorsett said of his work during offseason training activities and mini-camp. “Training hard in the offseason like I always do, mentally preparing, just going over your plays, going over your iPad. We had our iPads over break, so I was always in it. I was ready.”

He’s learning every day from Pro Bowl stars T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson. Dorsett and Luck have their timing down, too. Hilton, among other things, has set an example for how to be crafty to get open. Johnson defines work ethic and attention to detail as a consummate professional.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from Andre is the way to work, how to go about your business,” Dorsett said.

They worked out together in Miami before Dorsett was drafted. Johnson has praised his understudy periodically, beginning in offseason training activities.
Dorsett understood he could enhance his learning curve with his preparation in the offseason.

“There are a lot of things that I have improved on coming into this camp,” he said. “It’s basically just running the shorter routes. I know I’ve improved on things like that. Just the playbook basically. It’s a lot of information, and I’m getting it down because I’m all over the place. I would say basically the playbook. Once it trims down during the season, I should be fine.”

Dorsett is involved in a competition with second-year pro Donte Moncrief and rookie Duron Carter for playing time as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver. Each have made their share of noteworthy plays. Carter, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter, had an exceptional opening week before being slowed by a groin injury. Moncrief has given every indication he’s upped his game after showing flashes of tremendous potential as a rookie.

While the pecking order is undecided so far, Dorsett’s potential suggests he could start the regular season as the slot receiver.

But for now, he’s continually studying to ensure he’s prepared to play any position.

“I am not going to lock you into one position,” Hamilton said of wide receiver sets. “You have to learn our concepts, you have to learn what all of the guys have to do because a big part of what we do is we want our receivers to be interchangeable. We just talked about it, we have to be able to move guys around so that defenses can’t just key in on one guy.”

That said, Dorsett’s speed is an undeniable strength. Anyone who runs under 4.4 in the 40-yard dash is going to open eyes when he turns it loose.

“The one thing that we have to do as coaches is we have to understand that a guy like Phillip, his biggest asset is his speed,” Hamilton said. “So there is no reason for us to handcuff him and force him to slow down because he’s overthinking things. I have to do a good job of making sure that I do not get greedy and try to put too much on him.”

So far, so good.

“It’s basically the same as the offense I ran in college,” Dorsett said of his Miami Hurricanes days. “Just more plays, more terminology and different things like that. It’s basically the same, so I really didn’t have to change how I play.”

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Carroll 'couldn't believe' Saints wanted to trade Jimmy Graham

The trade of tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints to the Seattle Seahawks in March came as a shock to pretty much everyone, including Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

During an appearance on 950 AM KJR in Seattle on Wednesday morning, Carroll said that he expressed disbelief when he was first told about the possibility of Graham coming to Seattle.

"I couldn't believe they'd give him up," Carroll said. "I (said) 'Why would they do that? Why would they give him up?' Because we didn't know the whole story.

"Later we figure out that they had somewhat of a falling out with some issues about his franchise tag number and all that kind of stuff and they had to go to court with it and it was a very difficult situation and all that. It made him available. All the way through the process, I couldn't believe they were doing it. (General manager John Schneider) kept moving it, and it was going along, and I thought they were going to pull the plug on it, but they didn't."

The Saints' loss is Seattle's gain though, and Carroll is happy to have Graham, saying that things have worked out despite some of the jawing Graham had in the past with Seahawks players.

"We've acquired a great football player and a great kid," Carroll said. "He's mixed so well with our players, which you might have thought would be different because there was some talk and some yapping, but that was just competitive stuff."

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WATCH: Ryan Braun blasts No. 250

Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun blasted his 250th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday's game at the Chicago Cubs, moving him one home run shy of tying Robin Yount for the franchise's all-time record.

Braun has reached his total far faster than the Hall-of-Famer Yount. According to, Braun has hit 250 long balls in 4,619 at-bats while Yount hit 251 in 11,008 at-bats.

Braun's total will likely be looked at with scrutiny because of his 2013 suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. He now has 20 home runs on the season, his high since 2012 when he finished second in National League MVP voting.

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Danny Valencia homers for Athletics

Danny Valencia stayed hot Wednesday, homering against his former team in the loss to the Blue Jays.

Valencia took R.A. Dickey deep for his third homer in six games with the A's and 10th homer in 185 at-bats overall. He's collected an extra-base hit in each game he's played for Oakland, which seems pretty good for a guy thrown away 10 days ago.

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Vince Wilfork Plays Basketball, Calls Himself “The Real MJ”

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Teammate on Phillip Dorsett: 'He's ready. He's arrived.'

At first Mike Adams wasn't buying. Fast? That's all anyone talked about with this kid. He's fast. Really fast. But Adams knows fast. He's been an NFL safety for 11 years. He practices against T.Y. Hilton every day. This kid, this rookie out of Miami, that everyone was gushing over? Nothing special, Adams figured. Nothing he hadn't seen before.

"When I first saw him on tape, I was like, 'No, he's not that fast,'" Adams said. "I honestly said that."

Then he saw Phillip Dorsett run through a drill at practice. Then he changed his mind.

"I was like…" Adams says. Then he tells you turn off your recorder.

"When I saw him open up, I said, '(Expletive)!' "

Now Adams buys it. Now he sees the Colts' first-round pick churning out that jaw-dropping, 4.2 speed every day in training camp. It's what makes Phillip Dorsett another tantalizing talent in an already well-stocked offensive cupboard. As Dorsett likes to say, you can't teach speed.

A sobering reminder: Dorsett is just a week into his NFL career. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

But talent is talent. All the wide receiver out of Miami has done since arriving in May as the Colts' somewhat-stunning first-round pick (defensive line, anyone?) is impress. He impressed in rookie camp. He impressed in minicamp. Now he's impressing in training camp.

Much like the University of Miami brethren he worked out with in the offseason, Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, Dorsett is a man of few words. (Wise move, rookie.) His play speaks louder. His speed speaks louder. He has future star written all over him.

"You have to really focus on him to see him," Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton says of Dorsett. "Because a lot of times he's running so fast it's hard to keep up with."

Take Saturday afternoon. After slipping past cornerback D'Joun Smith and safety Dwight Lowery, Dorsett swiped a 60-yard bomb from quarterback Andrew Luck out of the sky, hauling in the football just over his shoulder. Colts fans are bound to see one or two — or three or four — of those types of plays this season. Count on it.

Why? It's darn near impossible for a defender to keep Dorsett in front of him.

"He can fly," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "He can take the top off defenses."

Adams knows. He saw that catch.

"The first thing I said was, 'He's ready. He's arrived,' " Adams said.

This is Week 1, remember.

Adding Dorsett's skill set to this Colts' offense — tops in the league last year in passing yards — is akin to a car collector adding a Lamborghini to a garage that already includes a Maserati, a Porsche and two Bentleys. You can never have too many toys, it seems.

But painting Dorsett as T.Y. Hilton 2.0 — both are 5-9, 180-pound South Florida boys who can run like the wind — is ambitious at this stage. Hilton has earned his reputation as one of the league's top wideouts. He's a Pro Bowler with more receiving yards (3,289) in his first three seasons than any player in Colts history. That's more than Marvin Harrison. That's more than Reggie Wayne. That tells you something.

Dorsett, meanwhile, has yet to play an NFL game.

And to hear Adams tell it, there are differences in their game, subtle as they may be. He starts with their speed.

"When T.Y. runs fast, you can see it," Adams said. "When Phillip runs, you can't really see it. It's a smooth fast. It's effortless. It's gliding. The way he gets out of his breaks, it's so smooth. I haven't seen that in a long time. I haven't seen guys run routes like him in a while. I can't even describe it."

Dorsett's speed being what it is — rare — he still has to learn the Colts' playbook. He still has to master the complexities that come with the different receiver positions (a must in Hamilton's system). He considers himself lucky, then, that he was drafted into a wide receiver's room that already included the likes of Andre Johnson (13,597 career yards to his name), Hilton (a budding star) and Donte Moncrief (who is coming off a promising rookie campaign). Dorsett just makes them deeper.

He has listened and he has learned. He takes notes from Hilton ("How to be crafty out there," Dorsett says) and from Johnson ("The way to work.") He'll undoubtedly absorb more as the seasons wear on.

There's also Luck, now more veteran than NFL youngster. Dorsett's good fortune took him from catching passes from a freshman quarterback his senior year at Miami to Indianapolis, home to a three-time Pro Bowler and the QB free agents are drooling to play with.

"Night and day," Dorsett said, comparing the two. "Andrew has total control of the offense. He helps you. Doesn't get on you too hard. If you mess up, he'll correct you and you'll get it right after practice."

So far in training camp Hamilton has lined up Dorsett all over the offense — a peek into just how creative the coordinator might be with his new Lamborghini. While Dorsett's skillset screams slot position (name a linebacker than can keep up with him), the Colts' formations will be so fluid with personnel he could line up in any of three or four spots come Sundays.

What Dorsett must do now, amidst the dog days of training camp, is prove to Luck he knows where to be.

"He's a guy that our quarterback is starting to trust," Hamilton said. "The more and more reps that he gets with Andrew, the more he will be able to contribute in our offense."

It's a slow process for most rookies. Phillip Dorsett just likes doing things faster.

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Clive Walford practices after missing first nine days of camp

NAPA — Clive Walford wasn’t bothered that Oakland coach Jack Del Rio pulled him out of the final 20 minutes of his first practice in training camp out of concern the rookie tight end might get fatigued.

After missing the first nine days with an apparent leg injury, the Raiders’ third-round draft pick understood Del Rio’s reasoning Tuesday.

“Coach is still trying to hold me back a little but it felt great to be out there with my teammates,” Walford said. “I thought I was in shape to actually run with the team but I was a little behind in that category. As practice kept going on, I picked it up.”

Walford broke almost every tight end record at the University of Miami and is expected to play a significant role in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s first season with the Raiders.

The team hasn’t disclosed the nature or extent of the injury, but the training staff was cautious with him during his rehab.

Back on the field Tuesday for an evening workout, the 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Walford went through several individual position drills, took part in a handful of team scrimmage plays and also spent time working on special teams.

Walford did not finish an agility drill, spoke briefly with Del Rio then returned to take part in a half-speed goal-line drill before watching the remainder of practice on the sidelines.

“I thought we got a good amount of work where I thought there might be fatigue involved with a couple of the guys because they have not been working like the other guys,” Del Rio said. “I went ahead and pulled the plug on that last period or so.”

Walford has a lot of ground to make up.

Mychal Rivera, who was second on the team with 58 receptions, 534 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, has taken the majority of reps with Oakland’s first-team offense while undrafted free agent Gabe Holmes has handled the backup duties.

While his workload was kept to a minimum in his camp debut, Walford still make an impact. During one play in the team scrimmage period, Walford lined up on the left side then pulled to the right and stood up defensive lineman C.J. Wilson with a solid block.

That’s an aspect of Walford’s game that tended to get overlooked at Miami, primarily because it was overshadowed by his pass-catching ability.
The Raiders drafted him because he could do both.

“When I was at Miami because people said I couldn’t block, so I tried to prove people wrong,” Walford said. “I take blocking very serious. If you’re in my way, I’m just trying to roll over you. I like to put in the dirty work. Then after all that had work, the receiving and all that will come.”

Del Rio hasn’t said whether Walford will play in Friday’s preseason opener against St. Louis.

“He’s a football player that had a really good spring and we look forward to getting our hands on him and getting him to work,” Del Rio said. “We’d like to avoid that yo-yo process where he’s back and forth. Hopefully we let (the injury) settle down and we can put it behind us.”

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Thurston Armbrister looking to continue his football journey in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Few football get the opportunity to go from high school to college to the NFL in the same state, but Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Thurston Armbrister is hoping stick on the roster and stay in Florida.

The Hollywood, Fla. native went undrafted this offseason and quickly signed with the Jaguars following the selection process.

For most undrafted rookies, entering an NFL locker room and competing with some of the top football talent in the world can be a daunting and overwhelming task, but Armbrister was able to find solace rather quickly.

Armbrister joined a locker room full of young talent that included three former teammates from his college days.

"Not only the former [Miami] teammates, but the new teammates made me feel at home," said Armbrister, regarding his adjustment to his first NFL opportunity.

Since joining the team, Armbrister has been a common noteworthy name in press conferences. Both Head Coach Gus Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich have praised the young linebacker, as he fights for a roster spot.

"I'm just doing what I can, showing the coaches what I can do," said Armbrister, following Monday's practice.

"That's all I can do, everything else is out my hands."

Throughout training camp, Armbrister has played well against the run and surprisingly, has been breaking up passes in coverage with regularity.

"Coming out, [coverage] was a weakness that everyone said I had," said the former Miami Hurricanes linebacker.

"This offseason I worked hard on it and my coaches have been helping me out a lot. I'm looking forward to doing big things this coming season."

The rookie has also put a focus on special teams, which is actually nothing new to him.

"[Special teams] is how I made my name [in college] first," said Armbrister.

"I know I have to do that here, and I know I need to take that responsibility to make the team better."

The rookie recently took part in the team's scrimmage at EverBank Field and getting the taste for the crowd and the atmosphere has Armbrister aspiring for more.

"It was a moment, I had to take it in, being in my first 'live' NFL practice," said Armbrister.

"It was a big deal for me. I'm glad it happened and I'm ready for the games now."

Armbrister will have his opportunities to play in the exhibition games that will start on Friday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If he is able to continue to impress the coaches, he could be in line for a lot more action during the regular season.

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Giants rookie tackle Ereck Flowers starting to blossom

CINCINNATI - Rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers appeared to do OK in his first action against an opposing team, holding up against Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap in pass protection during team drills. Flowers' development is a key to the Giants offense this season as he was thrust into the left tackle spot after Will Beatty (pec) was injured.

"He seemed to be good," Manning said. "We did some cadence stuff and changed some plays and he did a good job understanding what was going on and understanding the looks and what his assignments were. It seemed like he had a good day."

The Giants have been waiting for this opportunity to judge Flowers since they drafted him. As an offensive lineman, it's been difficult to get a handle on just what he's capable of doing when he spent all spring without any pads on and most of training camp going against teammates.

No one doubts Flowers' size is his biggest asset at 6-6, 329 pounds. But his technique seemed stable, as well. He kept square against the pass rushers and was able to keep the pocket generally clear.

The rest of the offensive line also seemed to hold up. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg were out in front of a screen pass to Shane Vereen at one point and Manning's passing space was generally uncluttered.

"I thought the offensive line did well," Manning said. "It seemed like we had some good runs and protection seemed to be good on most of the plays. I'll go back and look at the film, but sitting right here right now, it felt like we had a good practice."

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Frank Gore Gears Up

Frank Gore is ready. Colts management knows this is Andrew Luck’s window. They acted to surround him with more options and signed an offensive weapon in veteran running back Frank Gore. The longtime 49er has been impressive in camp and has yet to take a day off of practice. He’s a total workhorse. The Colts need a 1,000-yard season out of Gore (the team hasn’t had a 1,000-yard back since Joseph Addai in 2007). “He practices hard, really hard, he runs hard in practice,” Luck said. “The old adage ‘practice how you play,’ he does that.” In 10 seasons Gore has come up short of 1,000 yards just twice. The Colts need Gore to be twice what they thought they were getting in Trent Richardson.

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Devin Hester returns to practice from toe injury

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons returner/wide receiver Devin Hester, who missed the past two practices with a toe injury, returned to practice on Tuesday.

He took part in the special teams drills and was catching kickoffs early in practice.

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After years of chasing the Colts, Andre Johnson relishing life as one

ANDERSON, Ind.—In 12 NFL seasons, Andre Johnson never had this. Not even close. The personal honors and accomplishments came in droves in Houston. But every day since he became an Indianapolis Colt, he catches himself realizing this is by far the best quarterback he’s ever played with, and this is the best team he’s ever played on. And that’s when he remembers why leaving Houston might wind up being the best thing that ever happened to him in football.

The greatest player to ever wear the Texans uniform isn’t the face of a franchise any more. But it’s a happy-go-lucky face he wears, because of the guy who already fills that role in Indianapolis, and how Andrew Luck puts him closer than ever to the career-capping dream of winning a Super Bowl. Johnson never really thought it’d come to this, but now he’s eminently glad it did. For years he and his Houston teammates chased these Colts—first against Peyton Manning and then against his replacement—and now he’s among them, finding out just how good life is on the other side.

“After you’ve been somewhere so long, you never think you’ll join another team,” said Johnson on Sunday in Colts’ training camp at Anderson University, minutes after the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver left the practice field. “And then, to actually be on the team you’ve had a hard time beating, it’s kind of crazy.”

Crazy equals crazy good in this case. Whatever joy had been drained from the game for Johnson in his last two years in Houston has returned. In force. With Texans head coach Bill O’Brien planning on diminishing his role in 2015, Johnson sought and was granted his release in March. And then he set his sights on joining Indianapolis, the team—and former AFC South rival—he identified as having the best possible road to the Super Bowl. It’s the most important go route Johnson has ever run, and the journey seems to have rejuvenated him.

“I think he already loves this team, that’s evident,” said Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, seated behind the wheel of a golf cart just before practice begins. “He kind of lights up just talking about it. It’s energized him, because of the culture of winning here, and I think just playing with Andrew is something that’s really excited him. He’s working his tail off out here.”

Johnson sounds like a kid at Disney World when the topic turns to Luck, the Colts' fourth-year franchise quarterback who has led Indy to a 33–15 regular-season record and three playoff wins in his first three NFL seasons. After just two playoffs trips and two postseason wins in his dozen years spent in Houston, Johnson sounds almost in awe of how far Luck has come so quickly. The Texans never went beyond the divisional round in the postseason with Johnson, but Luck and Colts ended last season in the AFC Championship Game, and have successfully climbed another playoff rung each year since Luck arrived.

After years of playing with the likes of David Carr, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, Johnson almost can’t believe his good fortune of finding Luck in his huddle. It makes him feel like he’s 34 going on 27.

“It’s been so much fun,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of great energy on this team. It’s a fun group of guys, and it’s a great feeling to be part of that. People always ask me about [Luck] and I tell them you’d think he’s played for 10-12 years. He’s such a young player in this league, but he’s a hell of a player. I can only imagine what his career is going to be like.

“The guy is just very, very smart, and he sees a lot. He sees things before they even happen. And that’s a great thing to have in your quarterback.”

After 1,012 catches, 13,597 receiving yards and 64 touchdowns in 169 games for the Texans, Johnson learned to see something coming before it happened as well: the end in Houston. It didn’t make it sting any less, but when O’Brien called him into his office and explained his vision for Johnson’s reduced role—fresh off an 85-catch, 936-yard showing in 15 games last year—he knew his time had come. Johnson will be in Houston’s ring of honor some day in the not-too-distant future, but he realized he would have to leave the only NFL home he had ever known to pursue the ring that he really wanted.

“After we played our last game last season, [the media] asked me did I feel like it was my last game there,” Johnson said. “I told them I didn’t, but deep down in my heart I knew it was. You hear things here and there. I just had a feeling. And when you have that gut feeling, your gut never really lets you down.

“I had that feeling that I probably wouldn’t be back, so when it happened, I really wasn’t surprised. But when you see it happen, you’re like, ‘Man, I’ve been in this place for 12 years and now it’s all over.' You build so many relationships, and it all has to go away until football season’s over.”

Johnson doesn’t sound bitter about how he and Houston divorced, but there’s still some lingering hurt which he doesn’t make much of an effort to hide. From the second season of the expansion Texans on, Johnson was synonymous with the franchise. And then, after enduring as Houston struggled for respectability, finally won, and then struggled again, he was deemed expendable.

“I just think they really didn’t know how to come at me,” Johnson said. “I just think they wanted to go in a different direction, and that was pretty much it. I would have felt better if they would have said that’s what they wanted to do. I’ve always been straightforward with them, so I felt like they should do the same. But it is what it is. I don’t really care about it too much. I’ve moved on from it. I’m here. I’m a Colt now.”

Johnson’s quick signing with the Colts, the division’s perennial powerhouse that has made the playoffs in 12 of the AFC South’s 13 seasons, was viewed as something of a revenge move by pundits and fans; the jilted veteran making sure he could come back to haunt his former team twice every season. In reality, Johnson said, it wasn’t the payday or the payback that drove him to Indy. It was the opportunity to win big, and he and his fellow new Colt, ex-49ers running back Frank Gore—old friends and onetime University of Miami teammates—even made something of a pact to reunite in Indianapolis to win a ring.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Did you come here to get back at the Texans?’” Johnson said. “That’s not what it’s about. I came here to win. I came here to win a Super Bowl. When I was in Houston, I always said I wanted to be a part of something that was built from the ground up. But then you go through that, and then after 12 seasons, there comes a point where you know your career’s almost over. What do you do?

“You go find a place and give yourself the best opportunity to try and get a ring. That’s just the way I looked at it. My decision was never based on money or anything else but, ‘Where can I go and play with a great quarterback and get a chance to go to a Super Bowl?’”

The Colts, of course, went all in this offseason in their quest for another Super Bowl berth, going on a mini-signing spree of proven veterans such as Johnson, Gore, and ex-Eagles Trent Cole and Todd Herremans. Indianapolis correctly came to the conclusion that despite going 11–5 last season, it underachieved in most of its biggest games of the year. Of the Colts’ six losses, including the playoffs, five came against teams that made the postseason (the Patriots were in there twice) and the other came against the 10–6 Eagles. The average margin of defeat in those six losses was a glaring 20.3 points. To win big games, you need big-game performers, and Johnson and Gore have track records to lean on, hopefully upgrading over aging receiver Reggie Wayne and injury-prone running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

“No, you don’t expect to be able to sign an Andre Johnson, but the harsh reality of the NFL is that it happens,” said Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who has known Johnson since he helped recruit him to the University of Miami as a Hurricanes assistant under Butch Davis. “I never wanted to say goodbye to Reggie Wayne. Nobody ever envisions the day you have to move on from people, and for every Ray Lewis ending there’s a thousand train wrecks that don’t end that way. It’s hard. But I’m really glad he’s here. Seriously.”

There’s no more chasing the Colts for Johnson. He’s caught them. And now he catches passes from none other than Andrew Luck. And together they get to chase a ring. As Johnson has quickly grasped, it’s kind of crazy how good this all might work out.

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Yasmani Grandal is looking for the right stuff

Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire confesses he doesn't know much about switch-hitting. So he shrugs his shoulders and admits he has no explanation for catcher Yasmani Grandal's performance at the plate this season.

Grandal entered Tuesday's game against the Washington Nationals hitting .350 against left-handers, second on the team to Enrique Hernandez. But just one of those hits has gone for extra bases.

Step across the plate, however, and Grandal becomes a slugger. All 15 of his home runs and 42 of his 44 runs batted in have come swinging left-handed. Among Dodgers, only Adrian Gonzalez has a higher slugging percentage against right-handers.

But Grandal, who had two walks and scored a run as a left-handed hitter Tuesday, is hitting just .277 from that side, 74 points below his average as a right-handed batter.

"It used to be the other way around," said Grandal, who hit five of his first nine big league homers as a right-handed hitter.

That changed after Grandal had season-ending reconstructive surgery on his right knee midway through his second big league year, robbing him of his power.

"For me, being a guy who is used to just sitting back on that leg and turning on it, it becomes kind of difficult," said Grandal, who has three doubles and eight RBIs right-handed since the surgery.

"It's just a comfort level," continues Grandal, who writes, brushes his teeth and does virtually everything but throw left-handed. "Even thought my knee is perfectly fine, it's one of those things were you think about it and you're used to making a certain move. Or when you do it, even though it's the right move, sometimes it's like I don't want to hurt it again."

Grandal also said platooning with A.J. Ellis, who gets most of the starts behind the plate against left-handers, has made it tough to get a rhythm going as a right-
handed hitter. He's had just 40 at-bats from that side this season.

And that's something McGwire, a right-handed slugger in his playing days, does understand.

"The more he plays, if he gets his opportunities, you'll see more home runs," the coach said of the catcher. "To me, he's fine right-handed."

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Seantrel Henderson No. 1 On Depth Chart

This day, the Bills worked on combination blocks. And, up close this day, you could see why the coaches have Seantrel Henderson back at right tackle over Cyrus Kouandjio. He’s a massive 6 foot 7, 331 pounds with a much larger, stronger lower body in the run game. Kouandjio did all the right things this offseason, training at LeCharles Bentley’s complex hellbent on starting.

But after the proverbial kick in the rear from Ryan to start camp — lining up Kouandjio with the No. 1 offense — Henderson is back at right tackle where he started all 16 games last season with Doug Marrone’s staff. In 1 on 1 work with D-linemen, Henderson has mauled his defender at times.

“Seantrel, I think is really doing well,” Ryan said. “But again (Kouandjio) will work in there some, but I think Seantrel is a little ahead right now.”

The first Bills depth chart was released Monday with Henderson, not Kouandjio, as the starter at right tackle.

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Clive Walford to have 'significant role'

ESPN's Adam Caplan says third-round TE Clive Walford will have a "significant role" in the Raiders offense this season.

A strained hamstring has kept Walford sidelined for the last few days, but he's expected back shortly. At that point, he'll continue his push on incumbent Mychal Rivera. Walford, someone to keep on watch lists as a potential in-season add, outplayed Rivera during the spring.

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Andrew Luck on Frank Gore's blocking skills: 'He protects his butt off'

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen was in midsentence answering a question when teammate and running back Frank Gore walked by.
Allen stopped. Looked, pointed and said what many inside the organization have noticed.

"He may be quiet around [the media], but that guy is a beast. I mean a beast," Allen said. "He runs like he's in his 20s still, but what doesn't get talked about or noticed as much as his blocking."

Gore's rushing résumé is well documented -- eight 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his 10-year NFL career -- and he should be the perfect piece to go with quarterback Andrew Luck and the passing game. The Colts finished 22nd in the league in rushing last season, and Luck knows very little about having a player rush for 100 yards in a game because it's only happened once in his 53 career NFL games.

"Frank was born to run and what I mean by that is Frank has a great combination of size and the ability to change direction," Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. "But when you look at his leg cycle and his ability to accelerate and not need a lot of room or space or it does not take him a lot of time to get from zero to 10 in a sense. I think that's just a gift that he has, a natural talent. That's one of the many things that have made him an exceptional pro for a long time in this league."

What should quickly become obvious about Gore during the preseason is his ability to block. He excels at being able to pick up the blitzing linebacker or defensive end coming off the edge trying to get to Luck. Gore's ability to do that is significant when you take into consideration the concerns the Colts have on their offensive line.

"He protects his butt off," Luck said. "Maybe one of the best in this generation of football players with protecting the quarterback. I know I'm learning a lot from him about protection and how running backs see things, and I know he's passing it along to the younger running backs. He's a great addition."

Gore had no choice but to be a good blocker. That was the message delivered to him when he was at the University of Miami, which was turning out running backs nonstop back in the 2000s.

"It's grown men out there," Gore said. "I would say that my college coach and my running backs coach in San Francisco, they were similar. If you couldn't protect you couldn't be on the field. I think that's pretty big in this league, especially when you have a guy like No. 12."

Gore isn't wired like some 32-year-old veterans in the league. While some players aren't too keen on training camp practices, Gore wants to be on the field.

Every day for every snap.

You often see him passing up wearing shorts for sweatpants in the 90-degree heat. That's just how he operates.

"Why not practice? I like being out there," Gore said. "I get paid to play football. That's my job and that's how you get better."

That's just Frank Gore, and that's why he's the perfect fit for the Colts.

"The way I know Frank, football is life for Frank," Hamilton said. "What I mean by that is, I don't know if we ever have a conversation where we are not talking about football. Even when I try and probe and ask him, 'How's your family, so on and so forth?' It goes back to, 'Hey coach, what do I need to do to get better?' He has a passion for the game. He's a great teammate and a leader of men. Frank has been a welcome addition to our team."

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Falcons WR coach Terry Robiskie: Devin Hester's role is to win

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A lot has been made during Atlanta Falcons training camp about Devin Hester's role in the offense.

This offseason, Hester told he was uncertain about his place in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme and wouldn't know until mid-training camp. He was by no means disgruntled when he addressed the matter. That being said, the emergence of rookie Justin Hardy as a primary slot guy only fuels more speculation about Hester's touches coming off a season during which he caught 38 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns.

The topic was brought up to wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, and Robiskie's response spoke volumes about the mindset he wants from all of his receivers.
"Tell him his role is to win a game," Robiskie said. "That's easy. Tell Devin Hester his role is to win the game. That's all. Tell him I said so.

"I don't care what he is. He can be the quarterback if he wants as long as he can go out there and win the game. ... When we put him in the game, wherever we send him, go win the game. That's his role."

Of course, Hester's primary role is as the team's return specialist. He was named to the Pro Bowl last season in his first year with the Falcons. He also set an NFL record with his 20th return score with a 62-yard punt return touchdown against Tampa Bay. But even at the age of 32, Hester can't be discounted for what he can do on offense with his elusive ability. Last year, he ranked fifth in the league with an average of 6.7 yards after the catch.

Hester missed Sunday's practice to rest a sore toe and ankle. He isn't concerned about it becoming a lingering issue.

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Colts hope Frank Gore can provide boost to running game

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) The Indianapolis Colts are hoping Frank Gore can finally get their running game going.

At the very least, there's a good feeling and a sense of confidence in Indy's backfield.

Things are starting to fall into place for an offense that has been inconsistent on the ground in recent years.

''I feel like it's going the right way,'' Daniel ''Boom'' Herron said. ''We made some great moves during the offseason, got some new guys who have come in.''

Things started to turn in a new direction for the Colts when the team waived Trent Richardson and then signed unrestricted free agent Gore in March.

Gore, a five-time Pro Bowl running back, rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each of the past four years while with the San Francisco 49ers.

Adding Gore to the mix has created the most excitement for the running game since the Colts acquired Richardson in 2013.

The midseason trade with Cleveland for Richardson turned out to be a bust, and one that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has been criticized for making.

Now with Gore, Indy hopes its backfield can give quarterback Andrew Luck the balance he needs.

''We have some great backs and a great O-line,'' Herron said. ''If we can just get the chemistry and everything down, I think we can do some great things.''

Richardson struggled to produce much during his time in Indianapolis and Herron stepped up late last season. Now the fourth-year running back is joined by Gore, along with Vick Ballard and rookie Josh Robinson, whom the Colts selected in the sixth round of this year's draft.

Ballard spent most of the past two years on injured reserve. He tore his Achilles tendon during training camp last year. And after starting in the regular-season opener, Ballard suffered a season-ending knee injury during a drill in practice in 2013.

He missed practice during training camp at Anderson University on Monday after straining his hamstring last week - an injury that doesn't worry Ballard all that much.

''I've been through a torn Achilles and had a knee reconstructed,'' Ballard said. ''So a little muscle strain is nothing but a walk in the park.''

Ballard can still play a big role in the way Indy runs the ball this season. In his rookie season in 2012, he played in all 16 games and started the final 12 that season.
Now he's ready to go this season.

''There's a lot of excitement, but at the same time I want to be smart because I want to be a part of it,'' Ballard said. ''I can't go out there and haul it from day one. I have to take baby steps to get back to playing form.''

Richardson was brought in to lead the way when Ballard went out and the Colts never got a consistent running game going. They only ran for 1,612 yards in 16 games.

Whether Ballard is in the mix much or not, he's confident the Colts have a backfield that can do some good things.

''I feel like anybody you put in can be productive, especially with our offensive line there,'' he said. ''I feel like if one person comes out, we won't miss a beat.''

But there is one common theme. When Gore joined the team it added more balance to the offense.

''We're trying not to be one-dimensional,'' Robinson said. ''Just being able to run and pass. When you include Frank Gore we have a lot of depth on the running depth chart.''

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Phil Jackson takes another shot at Shane Larkin

In picking on Larkin, Jackson showed he's not afraid to critique small guys as well as big guys.

Larkin, who reached a two-year, $3 million agreement with the Nets that also includes a $1.5 million player option for the 2016-17 season - admittedly struggled in the triangle last season.

But nowhere has it been mentioned that his hands were a source of the problem.

"His play did improve, but he's still a long shot to be back with us,” Jackson told Rosen. “He's incredibly quick but he doesn't use his speed the way he should. Shane mainly wants to get his shot off a high screen-roll situation when he should be pushing the ball and getting his shots in an open floor. Another problem is that he can't control the ball because he has such tiny hands. For sure, every team needs a small, quick guard, but there are a lot of guys like that available."

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Rams sign Marcus Forston

The St. Louis Rams signed defensive tackle Marcus Forston on Saturday and waived running back Terrence Franks.

Forston, 25, had bounced on and off the New England Patriots' practice squad since he was undrafted out of Miami in 2012.

He last played in an NFL game in 2013, when he played in four for the Patriots.

Franks was an undrafted rookie out of Texas State.

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Clive Walford 'very close' to returning to practice

The Raiders selected Miami tight end Clive Walford out of Miami in the third round of the draft last May. He was immediately inserted as the team's top tight end target and looked very good in OTA's and minicamp. Then while participating in the pre-camp warm-up, he suffered an undisclosed injury that has had him out all nine days of training camp this far.

Up to this point, head coach Jack Del Rio has maintained that he is not concerned and the injury is not major. He also said the same of Rod Streater who has been on the Non-Football Illness list all of camp.

Overall Del Rio has been pretty mum on the status of players who are not practicing. But today, he opened up a little bit about the status of Walford and Streater.

"No (setbacks)," said Del Rio. "Two different scenarios. With one (Streater) we're trying to determine exactly what we're dealing with with the Non-football (illness) situation and the other (Walford) is very close. It's two different situations."

In Sunday's practice, Walford was taking light passes with a trainer on the side which was a good sign as well. The Raiders have a day off tomorrow, after which it seems like a real possibility we could get our first look at Walford in practice on Tuesday.

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Duke Johnson won't play in Thursday's preseason opener

Browns rookie runningback Duke Johnson will not play in Thursday's preseason opener against Washington, coach Mike Pettine said on Sunday, per the Medina Gazette.

Johnson, Cleveland's third round draft pick in 2015, has been sidelined with a hamstring injury.

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VIDEO: Vince Wilfork Absolutely Dominates Redskins Lineman At Joint Practice

New team, same Vince Wilfork. The 6-foot-2, 325-pound defensive tackle joined the Houston Texans in the offseason after spending over a decade with the New England Patriots. Wilfork will turn 34 in November, and some have wondered just how much gas he has left in the tank.

This video should settle that debate. During the team session of the Texans’ joint practice with the Washington Redskins, Wilfork completely manhandled a Redskins offensive lineman to the point of knocking him into his own running back.

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Seantrel Henderson Starting

Seantrel Henderson started at right tackle in front of Cyrus Kouandjio as that battle continues.

“Cyrus had a little setback with missing a day and things,” Ryan said, referring to a minor knee injury earlier in the week. “But Seantrel has really been going like this and again this is competition there. But Seantrel is really doing a nice job.”

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Devin Hester out with ‘short-term’ toe injury

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons returner/wide receiver Devin Hester was held out of practice with a “short-term” toe injury on Sunday.

“We anticipate him being back either (Monday) or at the latest, the following day,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Sunday.

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The NFL’s Next Star Wide Receiver Is... Phillip Dorsett

Second-team All-ACC.

In 2014 , a third of his catches went for touchdowns with 24.2 yards per catch.

In 2012 led Miami University with receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Drafted 29th overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

Have you guessed who it is? With a 40 time of 4.27 seconds, rookie Phillip Dorsett is sure to shine this year; well, at least his coaches and teammates think so. Drawing comparison to Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and the Arizona Cardinals‘ John Brown, the speedy deep threat has only raised excitement within the Indianapolis Colts organization.

So far, training camp has really helped Dorsett, as he is quickly picking up the Colts’ offense while showing off his talent and athleticism. Coming out of college, everyone knew Dorsett possessed a special kind of speed but Indianapolis coaches are now realizing that their first round pick has excellent hands as well. What Dorsett lacks in height, he has been making up in ability and work ethic.

To compliment it all, Dorsett has been practicing hard with his teammates to learn how he fits into the offense and in the locker room. With reports stating that veteran receiver Andre Johnson is helping mentor the young rookie, Dorsett will be learning from the best on how to act like a pro on and off the field. Like any rookie, it will take time to learn the ins and outs of a complex NFL offense but things have been looking very optimistic for Dorsett so far.

With the amount of talent the Colts currently have, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been calling his unit the “Greatest ‘Shoe on Earth.” With a combination of the Colts horseshoe logo, and a shoutout to one of the most electric offenses, the “Greatest Show on Turf,” the Colts may have the start of their own legendary title in the making.

Whether or not the Colts live up to their slogan, the team is sure happy that Dorsett is looking like a rising NFL star.

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Ereck Flowers working back into Giants practice

A little bit of good news on the offensive line injury front for the New York Giants on Saturday, as both left tackle Ereck Flowers and center Weston Richburg returned to practice on a limited basis. Both were on the field for individual drills, and Richburg ran with the first-team offensive line in more than one of the 11-on-11 team periods, though not all of them. Flowers had only one series of team drills.

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Allen Hurns threatening to secure starting spot

With fellow second year receiver Marqise Lee sidelined due to hamstring injury, Allen Hurns has continued to impress coaches throughout camp.

Fantasy Impact: Despite often being the forgotten man throughout the offseason (Allen Robinson hype, Julius Thomas signing, etc.), the undrafted free agent out of Miami led all Jaguars receivers in both yards and touchdowns in 2014. If Allen Hurns locks up the Z reciever spot opposite Allen Robinson, the combination of opportunity and deep threat ability may make him a borderline flex consideration throughout the season.

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Two proCanes Reunited in San Diego

On Monday, the Chargers didn’t just add a new defensive tackle to the roster; they bolstered their defense with another Miami Hurricane.

Luther Robinson reunites with ILB Denzel Perryman, and couldn’t be more excited to be back working with his former teammate.

“It’s pretty cool,” Robinson said.  “Denzel’s a character so he welcomed me in good.”

Being a rookie can be tough, but Perryman said having someone on the roster he’s previously played with feels great.

“I played with him and it’s great just having Luther here,” Perryman said.  “When I heard he was coming, I thought ‘It’s back to how it used to be playing at UM!’  But it feels really good having another fellow ‘Cane in the locker room.”

Robinson and Perryman shared the field for two seasons together.  In 2013, the duo was part of a fierce defense that forced five turnovers to upset ninth-ranked Florida, 21-16.

At 6-3, 301-pounds, Robinson comes to San Diego by way of Green Bay where he started 2014 on the practice squad before appearing in five games for the Packers.  Although he’s joining the Bolts mid-camp, he’s excited for his new opportunity in San Diego.

“I’m excited, and am just ready to come in, work as hard as I can and do the best I can,” Robinson said. 

As for what the Bolts are getting in Robinson?  Perryman calls his friend a “dog” who can “get after it and play.”

“Where we come from, we balled out,” Perryman added.  “I know he’s going to come here, earn some playing time and make stops.”

And as for what the team can expect out of their 2015 second round draft selection?  Robinson’s endorsement of Perryman is something Chargers’ fans are already seeing out on the practice field.

“He’s a hard-hitter ready to thump.”

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Browns RB coach high on 'Duke,' disturbed by injuries

On Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend, Duke Johnson’s position coach shared a slice of Canton from the rookie runner’s résumé.

“In my scouting report,” said Wilbert Montgomery, a former All-Pro who is in charge of the Browns’ running backs, “I wrote up Duke as a Thurman Thomas type.”

That’s a mouthful. En route to the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2007, Thomas produced 12,074 rushing yards, 4,458 rushing yards and 79 touchdowns. He helped the Bills reach four Super Bowls.

The trouble for Thomas was that Buffalo lost all four Super Bowls. The problem with Johnson is that he has been out since Aug. 1 with a hamstring injury and still isn’t back, and he is ruled out of Thursday’s preseason opener against Washington.

Still, the Browns are leaving the door wide open for “The Duke” — a rookie Round 3 pick out of Miami (Florida) — to move past 2014 contributors Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.

And forget about the Browns being all about “running back by committee.”

“I don’t want to get into it like we had to last year, rotating,” said Montgomery, who once racked up 1,906 rushing-receiving yards and 14 TDs in a season with the Eagles. “I want one guy to be able to say, ‘Hey, we know who the starter is.’

“These next few weeks, I want to see if somebody’s willing to pick up the flag.”

Before that happens, Johnson must be able to pull on his pads. Montgomery thinks that might be soon and is anxious for it to happen.

“Duke showed so much (in the spring), all of the things we wanted him to do,” Montgomery said. “He’s going to be OK because of the things he’s done already.”

Buffalo’s Thomas played at a shade under 5-foot-10 and a bit over 205 pounds. The Browns list Johnson at 5-9, 210. Like Thomas, they see him as a big threat running or catching. He could be an ideal fit for new coordinator John DeFilippo.

“Duke gives you a dimension you didn’t have in the group we had last year,” Montgomery said. “He can be a slot receiver. He can line up wide and move all over the field. He’s a total mismatch.

“Plus, he played in this system before. Last year was the first time for West and Crowell in the system. Duke’s been in it all three years in college.”

Johnson became Miami’s all-time rushing leader with 3,519 yards (6.7 per carry). He caught 69 passes. 

Shaun Draughn, who is a relative unknown but is going on 28 and is in his fifth season of knocking around the NFL, has been a big help to the young backs. Montgomery said Draughn has quickly become “a big-time mentor to Duke.”

Montgomery is hardly writing off West and Crowell, saying the competition is “a close race.” Yet, he laments the wave of injuries that has cost West, Johnson and Glenn Winston practice time.

“The disappointing thing was all those guys not being in tip, tip, tip-top shape,” Montgomery said. “That was a total setback.”

Draughn was exempt from that comment. He was having a strong camp before banging a thumb on a helmet, and he spent Sunday in a temporary cast.

Montgomery’s overriding point is that his young backs, as a lot, need to toughen up.

“If they want to make money, get to that next contract, they have to be thinking, ‘I have to show something.’ Right now, I think the importance of that is missing,” Montgomery said. “You’ve got to play injured, you’ve got to play sore, you’ve got to play banged up.

“If you can’t deal with those things, you really can’t play.”

Crowell became last year’s fan favorite. He spent some of the season behind West, who came off as immature.

Crowell has dodged injuries thus far. Coaches haven’t forgotten that West opened 2014 with a 100-yard game at Pittsburgh and closed it with a 94-yard game at Baltimore.

“Terrance has done everything we asked him to do up to this point,” Montgomery said. “I’m proud of where he’s at right now.”

Yet, as Montgomery noted, Johnson adds a dimension. The coaches definitely think he can play.

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Andre Johnson lets his play do the talking

ANDERSON — Andrew Luck scrambled out of the pocket Friday but kept his eyes downfield.

It's a classic look for the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, on the run, extending the play and looking for an opportunity.

Andre Johnson saw the passer on the move and turned back toward the line of scrimmage. He found a spot in the flat and sat down in his route, hugging the sideline.

But cornerback Vontae Davis was watching the play develop, too, and he anticipated Johnson's veteran move. Sprinting to the spot, Davis suddenly was right on Johnson's hip.

So the 6-foot-3, 229-pound wide receiver ever so subtlely created space. He boxed out a bit like a power forward preparing for a rebound and used his elbow to keep the defender at bay.

Then Luck rifled a pass toward the sideline, and Johnson effortlessly pulled it in before turning out of bounds for a comfortable gain.

This is vintage Johnson, a wide receiver who often is open even when he appears to be well covered.

"That, I think, is a big part of camp, is one-on-one drills and tight man coverage," Luck said. "You don't get that necessarily in OTAs, the offseason, with the rules on how physical you can be. You understand that what may not look like a wide-open route, with Andre it really is because he's so big. He's so physical and does such a great job contorting his body to shield the defender away or to put that ball in a safe place. So it's been fun to see how his body moves in that sense and see him go up and make some plays."

With Johnson, there's often more than meets the eye.

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Lessons Learned by Colts WR Phillip Dorsett

ANDERSON, IN --- Colts first-round pick Phillip Dorsetticon-article-link has rare speed and the football skills to grow into an NFL superstar wide receiver, but in his first professional training camp his growth begins with lessons learned from two Pro Bowl counterparts, T.Y. Hiltonicon-article-link and Andre Johnsonicon-article-link.

“The biggest thing I learned from T.Y. is probably being crafty out there. He’s a real crafty guy. That’s how he gets open a lot,” said Dorsett Friday. “The biggest thing I learned from Andre is just the way to work, the way to go about your business night and day on-the-field and off-the-field.”

Now Dorsett knows from Johnson the way not to work as well.

“Not studying, loafing, lazy, taking snaps off,” explained Dorsett when asked the wrong things to do as a rookie. Dorsett said Johnson has also been there to correct simple things in walk-through, like not watching the ball and jumping offsides. “When it’s a run play, don’t get a block. Stuff like that.”

Dorsett is in the fraternity now, so to speak, of former University of Miami Hurricanes with Andre Johnson, even if Dorsett is a rookie and Johnson is entering his 13th NFL season.

“I worked out with him in the Summer and just seeing how he goes about his business, you want to be able to copy it because you want to go out there and play 13 years just like him,” said Dorsett.

“I think the biggest thing is you just watch him run. Speed stands out,” said Johnson Friday, when asked what he’s noticed about Dorsett. Colts Owner Jim Irsay tweeted in May Dorsett ran a 4.24 40-yard dash for a scout on grass, a time that would’ve tied Chris Johnson’s NFL Combine record on turf.

“He’s a very explosive talent. He’s going to get better with time, as he learns the game,” said Johnson.

Johnson also said he thinks Dorsett has picked up Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton’s offense very well so far, considering all the new wide receivers are still learning in camp. Physically though, Dorsett is confident he’s already improved from OTAs.

“There’s a lot of things that I have improved on coming into this camp, especially just running the short routes,” said Dorsett, before answering what’s he also still trying to polish. “Just the playbook, basically. It’s just a lot of information. I’m getting it down, because I’m all over the place (lining up in different positions). Once (the playbook) trims down during the season, I should be fine.”

Dorsett may be a season away from earning enough snaps to post upper echelon wide receiver statistics for an entire season, but the tools are certainly there for when the Colts will most certainly press him into action for specific situations as a rookie.

After all, you can’t teach speed.

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Travis Benjamin looks to regain punt-return magic

BEREA, Ohio -- During the first two years of his NFL career, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin made his biggest impact on special teams.

A dangerous special-teamer, who at one point, broke the Browns' single-game record for the most return yards, Benjamin suffered a torn knee ligament in October of 2013, and was unable to regain his form in 2014. However, nearly two years after the season-ending injury, Benjamin is eager to reclaim his spot as a punt returner.

"I am more confident, more ready to fill in a position that needs to be filled," Benjamin said. "Offseason, I didn't have to go through rehab just work receiving, catching punts, catching balls and just running full-speed all summer just getting ready to come play.

"One out of 10 I would say 11. I want to be back and help the Browns and get back to the point where I was the best in the game. I am very confident that I will be. (I) talked with Tab (coordinator Chris Tabor) and Coach Pettine and we're all on the same page that I would be the returner."

Benjamin returned 22 punts for 257 yards in only eight games in 2013, and took back one of those kicks 79 yards for a touchdown. But over 16 games last year, he returned 15 punts for 127 yards, and at times, struggled to hang onto the football.

Although Benjamin's special-teams output decreased, he had a career year on the offensive side of the football. Benjamin turned 18 receptions into 314 yards and a team-best three touchdowns, all of which were personal bests.

"He surprised all of us last year," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "I think he was looked at as 'Hey, he's a returner. He's on the bubble because he's coming off a knee. How effective is he going to be?' He never got going as a returner, but he certainly showed his capability as a wide out.

"It was a surprise. It was a very pleasant one. What's encouraging this year is if you talk to him and ask him, 'Hey, how do you feel compared to a year ago?' It's night and day, and that's usually true with that type of injury, that it takes to that next year to really feel back to being your old self."

And Benjamin enters 2015 hungry to become an impact player for the Browns any time he touches the football.

"I am ready to turn it up on all phases," Benjamin said. "Whenever they give me the chance to go into the game and make a play, I am gonna make sure I have put my best foot forward to give the Cleveland Browns the best chance they got to win the game.

"(I will) just continue to compete, continue to separate myself from the others and showcase my skills, showcase my speed and be willing to be that guy for when it's time, to be able to make that play."

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Is Lamar Miller ready to be an every-down back?

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Ereck Flowers is chirping in his coach's ear ... for a good reason

EAST RUTHERFORD ‐ Giants rookie offensive tackle Ereck Flowers just wants to play football. He doesn't want to watch or rehab on the side field as his teammates participate in a training camp practice. He doesn't want to take mental reps and receive tips from offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. 

Flowers wants to be on the field getting ready for his rookie season. A hip flexor has kept it from happening this week. Flowers missed three straight practices, and the Giants were without four offensive line starters (Flowers, center Weston Richburg, guard Geoff Schwartz and tackle Will Beatty) because of injury on Thursday. 

"Ereck is a little different now. Ereck wants to [get on the field]. He's chomping at the bit. He's in my ear," Flaherty said. "I said, 'Listen,we have the best training staff in the world. They're going to put you out there when you're ready, so you don't get reinjured. It's not good to get out there and get back to square one now.'

"So he's missing some time now, but the objective is when he gets out there, there is no looking back. When that is, I can't tell you."

Flowers and Richburg returned to practice on Friday. 

While every practice Flowers misses is "critical," according to Flaherty, it's at least comforting to see the attitude he brings to the table. Flowers is the ninth-overall pick and doesn't come with any noticeable ego.

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Colts' first week of camp good for Dorsett, Gore

Almost a week into Indianapolis Colts training camp, the early reviews are clear.

Rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett has speed and game, veteran (don't call him old) running back Frank Gore can still accelerate, the offensive line remains a question mark and sack master Robert Mathis looks cute when he plays with his three children on the sideline.

“Timetables” remain a thing, including Mathis' timetable to return, which is sooner (according to Mathis, who's shooting for the opener) or later (according to Jim Irsay, who projects another month after that). Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's timetable for a new deal remains fluid, as well, although agent Drew Rosenhaus chatted up reporters with the notion that both sides are fully in love and only the details remain to be worked out.

The good news revolves primarily around Dorsett and Gore, the fresh ingredients thrown into the Colts' offense along with wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson might end up making the biggest impact, but he's not going to be flashy in training camp in the same way Dorsett and Gore have been.

Dorsett arrived known for his speed, but he's demonstrated the other facets of his game, such as his ability to change directions on a dime, maneuver his body in mid-air and display incredible hands.

It was natural to question the Colts' decision to use a first-round pick on Dorsett when they had other seemingly more pressing needs. But there's no question, in the limited view of training camp, that he can deliver.

“His football instincts, and his ability to take the information from the meetings out to the practice field. I'll have to give him a double thumbs up from that standpoint,” Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “He's a guy that our quarterback is starting to trust even more and the more reps that he gets with Andrew (Luck) the more he will be able to contribute in our offense.”

Gore, meanwhile, darts his way through offensive holes with a quickness and purpose that reflect his previous accomplishments. It looks stunning to Colts observers after so long watching Trent Richardson's slow-motion approach.

There's an all-business demeanor to Gore that should be admired. He seems to attack every day as a player who has something to prove.

“When everybody else is in the offseason traveling to the Bahamas or Aruba and going here and going there and getting on boats and doing things like that,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, “(Gore) is down in Miami grinding.”

Gore's age (32) and 10 years of grinding in the NFL give some people pause. The Colts see nothing but freshness, and his play in the limited time so far shows a veteran player but not a worn-down player.

“He looks great,” Pagano said.

As for the offensive line, the sudden release of right tackle Gosder Cherilus – a business decision to admit Cherilus wasn't effective – made it clear the Colts are confident in Jack Mewhort moving from left guard to right tackle. Mewhort seems comfortable in the spot, too. It should be upgrade.

Anthony Castonzo – another big cog with a contract to address – brings stability and production at left tackle, but Lance Louis at left guard and Khaled Holmes at center still must prove they can deliver consistently. That's a question that won't be answered in training camp, but will show up, positively or negatively, once the season hits.

That brings us to Mathis, who was put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to open camp. That was not a surprise, but Irsay's proclamation that he's likely out until late September or early October is a revision of Mathis' previous goal.

That could be Irsay tempering expectations so no one worries about a setback if Mathis doesn't play before early October. Let's say he makes his debut Oct. 4 against Jacksonville. That would give him two weeks to sharpen his play before the Oct. 18 game against the New England Patriots.

Sounds like perfect timing, after all.

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Danny Valencia’s ninth-inning single gives A’s 5-4 walk-off win over Astros

OAKLAND All season, the A’s poor record in one-run games derived largely from the struggles of their bullpen. Those problems surfaced again Sunday, as the A’s took a two-run lead into the ninth inning against the Houston Astros and gave it back in the span of three batters. Only this time, Oakland buried that narrative with a ninth-inning rally of its own, with newest acquisition Danny Valencia playing the hero again.

Valencia’s two-out, bases-loaded single capped the A’s comeback against Houston closer Luke Gregerson and gave Oakland a dramatic 5-4 win, their third in a row over the first-place Astros. In each of those wins, Valencia played a key offensive role, collecting six hits in 11 at-bats and driving in five runs during the series for an A’s team that is mostly still getting to know the 30-year-old journeyman infielder.

The A’s claimed Valencia off waivers last Monday from the Toronto Blue Jays, who designated him for assignment two days earlier. In four games for Oakland he is 7 for 16 with two home runs, and his fifth career walk-off RBI on Sunday ensured his first week in an A’s uniform ended with that uniform dripping from a celebratory Gatorade shower, and with teammates expressing their disbelief over how they acquired him.

“We got a gift-wrapped present from Toronto, I promise you that,” said A’s right-hander Chris Bassitt, who got a no-decision Sunday despite recording a career-high 10 strikeouts in 62/3 innings. “I mean, my goodness. How he got DFA’d is shocking to, I think, every single person on this team, including the coaches and everything. I just don’t know how we got him. He’s unreal.”

In short, the Blue Jays hadn’t seen room for Valencia on their roster after acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the trade deadline. For the past three days, though, the A’s have put Valencia in the cleanup spot and reaped the benefits.

Valencia’s fourth-inning home run against Astros right-hander Mike Fiers gave Oakland a 1-0 lead. The Astros tied it in the sixth on daring baserunning by Jose Altuve, who scored from first base on a softly hit double to center field by Carlos Correa. It stayed 1-1 until the eighth, when Billy Burns lined an RBI single past a pulled-in infield and Josh Reddick doubled to give the A’s a two-run lead entering the ninth.

A day before, recently anointed closer Edward Mujica entered a one-run game with a man on first in the ninth inning and secured the A’s first save in nearly a month by retiring three hitters in a row. Sunday, Mujica faced three hitters and didn’t record an out. After Carlos Gomez and Jed Lowrie singled, Mujica left a full-count fastball up to Colby Rasmus, who launched it into the right-field seats. Mujica left to audible boos from the crowd at Coliseum.

Catcher Josh Phegley said he talked with Mujica after the game and Mujica “said he just didn’t feel like he had it today. He felt OK; he just didn’t have a lot of movement and his pitches weren’t sharp … I just told him, ‘We picked you up. We’ve got your back.’”

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Danny Valencia keys A's 2-1 win against Astros

OAKLAND — Danny Valencia could get used to being a cleanup hitter.

In his second consecutive game at the No. 4 spot in the order for the Oakland Athletics, Valencia delivered an early two-run double to support right-hander Jesse Chavez’s strong start in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.

Valencia ripped a two-run double to the gap in right field in the bottom of the first. It came just a day after he belted a home run to back Sonny Gray’s gem in a 3-1 win over the Astros. Valencia finished 2 for 4 on Saturday and is 5 for 12 with three RBIs in three games since the A’s acquired him off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

“It feels good,” Valencia said. “It feels better when you come through to help the team win, it makes all that much (more) gratifying. It was nice to be out there today, it was nice that we won this game. Jesse did a great job. A team effort today for sure.”

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Jon Jay: Has Yet to Swing A Bat in Rehab

Jay (wrist) continues to do exercises to strengthen his wrist and has yet to swing a bat in his rehab, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Jay hit the disabled list in early July and at the time it seemed like a fairly minor injury, but it's looking like the outfielder will be out until at least the end of August at this point.

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