Sam Shields comments on Yahoo! report

If you haven't read the Yahoo! report on the misdeeds of a renegade Miami fooball booster, do so here. In a horrid run of alleged NCAA violations across the country, this one takes the cake. Several current NFL players are implicated in the report, including Packers cornerback Sam Shields.

The booster, Nevin Shapiro, says he gave Shields a handful of benefits while the then-receiver played for the Hurricanes. The benefits included, Shapiro said, a 42-inch Toshiba flat screen television along with drinks and VIP access in nightclubs. Compared to some of the other player accusations, which go as far as prostitution services, this may seem but against NCAA rules, nonetheless.

On Thursday, Shields was briefly in the locker room and addressed the report.

"They contacted me," Shields said of Yahoo. "But I just told them that I didn't want to get into that right now. I'm just focusing on the Packers right now."

After missing Green Bay's preseason opener with a hip injury, Shields is back.

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Todd Sievers says Miami booster never offered him benefits

Former Ankeny football star Todd Sievers met the man in the eye of the Miami of Florida football hurricane, but that’s as far as the relationship advanced.

Sievers commented a few days after a Yahoo! Sports detailed imprisoned booster Nevin Shapiro’s claims that he provided Hurricane athletes illegal benefits that included cash and cars, between 2002 and 2010.

“He never offered me anything, and to be quite honest, I never saw him offer anyone anything,” said Sievers, a Miami place-kicker between 1998 and 2002.

The NCAA confirmed this week that it is investigating the allegations.

“I met the guy on the sidelines at games a couple times, but that’s as far as it went,” said Sievers, who works for a beer distributor in Denton, Texas. “I never saw anyone take anything that was illegal.”

Sievers was a senior in 2002, the year Shapiro claimed he first provided athletes illegal benefits.

“We were told by (athletic department administrators) as soon as we got on campus for the first time that if anyone approached us with something that we even thought might be fishy, to say no,” Sievers said. “It’s not like we weren’t warned that guys like (Shapiro) might be around.”

Sievers, a 1998 Ankeny graduate, said he wasn’t immune to offers.

“When I was at a restaurant and someone offered to buy a drink, I said no,” Sievers said. “I told the person that it was illegal; that we couldn’t accept anything.”

Sievers was a two-time first-team all-Big East Conference selection, including during Miami’s 2001 national championship run.

“We had a lot of people around us back then,” Sievers said. “We were on top of the world, and fans were everywhere.

“But I never saw anyone take anything illegal.”

He wears the national championship ring proudly.

“Right now, it’s just allegations coming from a guy that’s in prison,” Sievers said. “If all the stuff he’s saying is true, then it’s going to hurt real bad, but I honestly don’t think it’s true.”

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DeMarcus Van Dyke is 'Next Man Up'

NAPA -- Hue Jackson's training camp-long mantra of "Next Man Up" is about to be put to its latest, if not ultimate test.

Rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who had his NFL baptism by fire at the hands and feet of All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald last week, has risen to the top of the Raiders' cornerback depth chart. This is what happens when an All-Pro cover corner like Nnamdi Asomugha takes advantage of free agency and bolts for Philadelphia. And when sixth-year Raider Chris Johnson is downgraded from not injured on Sunday to being in the "Over-30 Club" on Monday to having an unspecified surgical "procedure" on Wednesday. All without once being mentioned as "nicked" up.

In Jackson's philosophy, Next Man Up means opportunity lost for one, opportunity gained for another. Enter the speedy rookie already known in the streets of Silver and Blackdom simply as DVD.

"Yeah, it's an opportunity to show out, to show the team that I can play," Van Dyke said Wednesday. "And this is an opportunity to show Coach Hue that I'm ready to play."

Obviously, the Raiders believe he has the skill set, otherwise they would not have used a third-round pick, No. 81 overall, on the lithe former Miami Hurricane.

Listed at 6-feet-1 (in his cleats, maybe) and 180 pounds (soaking wet and with rocks in his pockets), the baby-faced DVD has run the 40 in 4.25 seconds. Of course, that's what caught the Raiders' attention, as he was seen as a sixth- or seventh-rounder pick by many draft pundits after he lost his his starting job as a senior.

"I think so," Jackson said when asked if this weekend's exhibition against the 49ers was an opportunity for Van Dyke. "Whether it's Van Dyke (or)%u2026whoever the next guy is, step up and play. Again, as you guys know, I don't bat an eye at those things when a guy goes down or a guy's out of here. I don't like it for our players, but you can't worry about that. I can't worry about that.

"I've got to coach the guys that are here. The next guy's got to step up and play like a Raider."

Without the benefit of a rookie mini-camp or OTA's, Van Dyke has had all of 16 NFL practices to hone his skills.

"I've improved a lot," he said, "and every day I try to get better at different things, like playing off (the receiver) and ball skills. So I figure I'm much better than when I came in."

Granted, he's been able to do it under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, the Raiders' new cornerbacks coach.

"He's going to be good," Woodson said recently of Van Dyke. "It's the little things that he has to work on. He has to learn how to finish. He's still learning the little things about playing corner in this league -- playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he'll be a decent player."

Besides his speed, Van Dyke has been credited with having good hips, a must for cornerbacks, what with their need to immediately switch directions in coverage.

Woodson said Van Dyke reminded him of a former teammate in Baltimore -- Duane Starks.

"DVD%u2026he's a little bit taller," Woodson said. "His range, I don't think too many receivers are outrunning him. So, he has a lot to learn to break down, move his body weight and transition when he's playing in space. If he does that, he can be a pretty good player."

He was put to the test immediately by Arizona, Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb throwing deep to Fitzgerald down the left sideline. And while Van Dyke was with Fitzgerald step-for-step and actually had good coverage on him, the receiver's cunning won the short-lived battle as he went over the shorter DVD and made the catch.

He finished the game with two tackles.

Van Dyke insists his newfound standing atop the depth chart does not change his thinking.

"It's a mentality you've got to have anyway as a cornerback," he said. "It's you against the receiver; you've got to win the battle."

Still, there was a little extra bounce in his step Wednesday. And maybe not simply because he's slated to start against the 49ers.

Van Dyke's name was absent from the damning Yahoo! Sports report chronicling a booster bankrolling the Hurricanes program over the past decade.

"Hey, that's key right there," he said with a nervous laugh. "I didn't make the list. I'm good."

He may not have made a certain list in South Beach, but be sure of this -- his back will have a target on it come Saturday at Candlestick Point.

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Shawnbrey McNeal: 'I've never seen that guy'

Shawnbrey McNeal, a Madison alum, played at Miami as a running back in 2007 and 2008 before transferring to SMU. He is on a short list of area players who went to Miami during that time, a list that also includes Lance Leggett of Arlington Grace Prep, Chris Perry (now at Texas Tech ) of Keller Fossil Ridge and Jason Fox of North Crowley. Southlake Carroll alum Kacy Rodgers is a sophomore at Miami now.

McNeal said he was shocked by the Yahoo!Sports investigation that uncovered multiple payments to players from a booster from 2002 to 2010.  

“The situation seems kind of weird because I was there at one point in time,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve never seen that guy, don’t even know who he is.”

McNeal ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons with the Hurricanes. He transferred to SMU to be closer to his family, playing in 2009 and rushing for 1,188 yards.  

“Whatever comes from the situation, I wish the best for the football program,” said McNeal, who recently signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers.

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Martin Bibla Removed From Active Roster

On August 18, the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions removed offensive guard Martin Bibla from their active roster. Bibla was starting his second season as a Mountain Lion and his 10th year as a professional football player. We will keep you posted on Bibla’s whereabouts.

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Clinton Portis loses money on mansion

Clinton Portis’s McLean mansion sold for $1.65 million — a sizable loss for the former Redskins running back, who purchased the home for $1.95 million in 2004. He got his money’s worth in press, though. The property made regular blog headlines (and an episode of “MTV Cribs&rdquoWinking with its eye-searing color scheme (burgundy, violet, electric chartreuse) and its exotic amenities (pool, spa, theater room, stripper pole). By February, the football player, 29, was ready to move on, listing the house for $2.5 million.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Roscoe Parrish ruled out for second straight game

Bills WR Roscoe Parrish (hamstring) has been ruled out for a second straight preseason game.

Parrish has been out for eight days now. The veteran slot receiver knows coach Chan Gailey's offense, so the injury shouldn't be a major setback if he can get healthy by the end of the month.

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Colin McCarthy's high school coach would be surprised if Miami booster allegations pan out

Colin McCarthy, a Clearwater Central Catholic graduate, was among  65 former University of Miami players who allegedly received improper benefits from a booster, according to an investigation by Yahoo! Sports.

Mike Jalazo coached the Marauders when McCarthy was there and said Wednesday he would be surprised if the allegations were true.
"Colin just doesn't seem like the guy who would do that," said Jalazo, who is now the coach at Northeast. "He comes from a great family. He was never a big partier in high school, and he was one of the most responsible kids we had on that team."

McCarthy, a linebacker who was selected by the Titans in the fourth round round of this year's NFL draft, was alleged to have received multiple benefits from Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, including food, drinks and playing pool for cash at Shapiro's $6-million mansion, as well as VIP access and drinks at nightclubs that were provided by Shapiro.

"(McCarthy) was at my house maybe three or four times," Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. "Maybe more than that. He went to the clubs with us one or two times, but he was involved in that pool tournament for cash at my house."
McCarthy did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment. According to the Associated Press, McCarthy wore an orange Hurricanes' T-shirt when reporters talked to him after practice Tuesday night. He responded "no comment" to four questions.

McCarthy played for CCC from 2002-05. He was ranked by Rivals as the 24th best linebacker in the 2006 class.

Another CCC standout, A.J. Trump, was an offensive lineman for the Hurricanes from 2005-09. He was not one of the players mentioned who received extra benefits, though Shapiro does say in a audio outtake on that Trump was present at his mansion when Armwood grad and current Florida player Matt Patchan came on a recruiting visit.

"The linemen didn't get a lot of fanfare," said Trump, now an assistant coach at East Lake. "We were more country boys who did things on our own. So I didn't really see a lot of the stuff that supposedly went on."

Trump and McCarthy played three seasons together at CCC and three more at Miami.

"I've known Colin for a long time, but we kind of hung out with our group of friends once we got to Miami," Trump said. "It would come as a surprise to me if he did those things because he is a pretty good guy."

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Michael Irvin calls Shapiro a "snake"

Former Miami star and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin called disgraced Miami booster Nevin Shapiro a “snake” and a “rapist” in a radio interview.

Irvin was a guest on ESPN Radio Los Angeles, and began the interview by explaining his attacks on Shapiro on his own radio show in Miami. “I got personal,” Irvin said. “I called the guy a snake.”

Later in the interview, when the subject of Shapiro’s $930 million Ponzi scheme was addressed, Irvin said, “It doesn’t get any lower than this. You sit with people and you not only take money from these people, and you go here and you rape these kids of their future.”
Irvin said he still wants to wait and see the credibility in Shapiro’s claims of paying millions of dollars to 72 current and former Miami players, and players Miami was trying to recruit.

“We have to consider the source when we get stuff like this, and hope the NCAA does too,” Irvin said. “I had the guy on from Yahoo! today that did the article (Charles Robinson) and he was saying this guy says he doesn’t care. He wants to die. He has sixteen years of sin. I said anytime you run into someone who is suicidal you better believe they are homicidal. If they don’t care about their own life. They don’t care about anybody else’s life. Now if he is at place where he doesn’t want to die, then OK, what is he going to do? He’s going to reach up and bring down everybody. I’m not saying the things he said are not true. I am sure some of it is true, but in the middle of it I am going to blow it all up because let’s remember he always wanted to be big time.”

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Jimmy Graham wants to be a complete TE in his 2nd year

Jimmy Graham spiked the ball ferociously after a touchdown catch during a recent training camp practice, drawing a combination of cheers and laughter from the fans behind the end zone.

The celebration seemed to be Graham's way of saying he was really starting to understand how to play in the NFL, and having fun doing it.
''We're just competitive and I knew they were going to watch it later on film, so it's funny,'' Graham said of the spike, which came after he made leaping catch in a crowd of defenders, much like the way he grabbed rebounds when he was a college basketball power forward.

''I am 10 times better than I was last year at this point,'' Graham continued. ''But for me it's still (about) working hard and just keep taking those baby steps.''

Graham, who came from humble beginnings in North Carolina that included being picked on while living in a group home for children and being told by relatives that he'd ''amount to nothing,'' leans toward modesty when talking about himself.

Yet, while Graham talks about ''baby steps,'' the Saints see the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end making significant strides toward becoming one of the more fearsome components of their already explosive offense.

Some of that is based on his performance in the latter part of 2010, when quarterback Drew Brees began targeting him more.

Graham wound up starting five games, finishing with 31 catches for 356 yards, including one reception as long as 52 yards, and five touchdowns.

''It's easy to spot just raw talent, which he obviously (has),'' Brees said. ''He wants to be great and he is willing to work to do that. That is everything that you would want in a guy. He listens. ... He is starting to understand how important technique and fundamentals are.''

After playing four seasons of basketball at Miami, Graham played one season of football with the Hurricanes. He caught 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns.

The Saints decided they had seen enough to take Graham in the third round of the 2010 draft, and hope that Brees eventually would develop the same chemistry with Graham that he had in his days with another converted basketball player, Antonio Gates.

By the end of 2010, Graham's growth made it easier for the Saints to release starting tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Graham understood the move was a vote of confidence in him, but he was conflicted because he saw Shockey as a mentor and still talks to him regularly.

''I'll be on the phone with him and he's still telling me what to do,'' Graham said. ''He's like my older brother still, but for me I know it's going to be a great opportunity.''

At the same time, Graham sensed he had a long way to go to master his position. During the NFL lockout, he flew from his offseason home in downtown Miami to New Orleans for workouts organized by Brees and defensive captain Jon Vilma at Tulane, giving him a chance to strengthen his relationship with his quarterback, but also to work with veteran tight end David Thomas.

Graham has added between 5 and 10 pounds of bulk and said he has been focused on becoming a better blocker.

''I just want to be a complete tight end to where, whenever I'm on the field, you don't know what's going on,'' Graham said. ''Last year I felt like a lot of opponents knew we were going to pass the ball when I was in there. Now I just want to be able to block and hold my own.''

While Graham went to Miami, he has yet to be mentioned in the scandal surrounding booster Nevin Shapiro and does not expect the NCAA's investigation of the matter to be a major distraction for him.

Graham said he recalled seeing Shapiro sitting in courtside seats when he was a basketball player, but said he could not recall hearing of teammates receiving improper gifts from him. He added, ''I don't know the guy. I was a battling power forward. When it comes to big guys they were helping, they wouldn't help me out. I was a nobody.''

It is apparent now, however, that Graham is no longer a ''nobody'' in New Orleans, particularly when it comes to his growing relationship with Brees.

''Last year, I think at the end of the year, I was jelling with him very well, especially those last couple games,'' Graham said. ''For me, it's just working and building off that. I know he has confidence in me and now I've just got to go out there and prove it.''

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Jon Jay 'a little off now'

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinal OF Jon Jay wasn't in Monday's lineup in place of Skip Schumaker because of a recent clump he has been mired in. 'Jay's a little off now,' said manager Tony La Russa, 'so he's doing some work to get back on. In the meantime, Schu's versatility allows Theriot to get back in there and he's done well against (Pirates starter James McDonald). Schu's a very useful guy.' Jay was hitless in five at-bats on Sunday and is just 7 for his last 43 at the plate (.163).

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What they're saying in NFL: proCanes dismiss allegations

Here's whirlwind reaction from notable former Hurricanes football players in the wake of Yahoo! Sports' report detailing University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro allegedly providing illegal benefits to the program:

Texans WR Andre Johnson (via Houston Chronicle)
“It is what it is, man. I really don’t have much to say about it. The guy’s in trouble, and he’s trying to take everybody down with him. I’m really not worried about it. ...

“You kind of get upset about it, but at the same time, you can’t control what anybody says. He knows and I know what really happened. It’s over. It’s done with. The NCAA is handling it, and we’ll just move on.”

More Miami coverage: What scandal means | DeCourcy: Leadership failure | Gallery: NFL players among those named | Recruits react | List of those implicated

Saints LB Jonathan Vilma (via New Orleans Times-Picayune)
"I'm not really worried about that right now. You have a guy that's in jail. Whatever his motive is right now, I don't know. Honestly I don't care. You know, I'm gonna move forward and keep working with the Saints."

Retired NFL DT Warren Sapp (not named in the Yahoo! report)
"He's A Nobody Who Stole $$$ And Threw it At Young Kids & a Athletic Program!! -- @QBKILLA (Sapp) on Twitter

Panthers TE Jeremy Shockey (@JeremyShockey on Twitter)
"Wow what a shame another loser (Nevin Shapiro) trying to make money after a $930 million Ponzi scheme. I just dont get it. GOD rest his soul"
"People will do anything to sell a book and make$$$ Its a proven fact this guy is a #CRIMINAL"

Bears WR/KR Devin Hester (Sporting News)
"I know of him. At the time I was going into the draft, he was like a runner for an agent. I had declared into the draft. He was one of the runners for one agent. It was after I declared for the draft. I don't have any more to say now. That's all I know about him." (Monday)
"If this is about the Miami thing, I ain't got nothing." (Tuesday)
"I'm here to talk about football, Chicago Bear football. Other than that, I have no comments." (Wednesday)

Patriots DT Vince Wilfork (via Yahoo! Sports)
“I’m not interested, buddy.”

Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (via Washington Examiner)
“Nothing about nothing. I don’t know nothing.”

Asked if he's ever seen Shapiro hanging around UM, and how he feels about allegations:

“Never. I don’t know him. I never met the guy at all. ... Man, I’m always going to feel the same. I don’t regret being there or nothing. I mean, stuff happens, and I guess stuff happened there, so can’t do anything about it now.”

Redskins LB Rocky McIntosh (via Washington Examiner)
"I'm focused on Indy right now. We got a game in two days and I'm in the NFL. You got to be a professional and worry about what we got right now."

Texans OT Eric Winston (via Houston Chronicle)
“It’s unfortunate. We have to deal with it and move on. Sure, you’re surprised when something like this comes out. It’s unfortunate that a guy like that got as close as he did with the program, but a lot of colleges are dealing with the same kind of thing. I heard the name, but I didn’t know him and I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.

“Sure, anytime you have a guy who, obviously, has the character he has and gets that close to the program it’s worrisome. We have to deal with it as a program, as a family and keep pushing forward.”

Texans C Chris Myers (via Houston Chronicle)
“To be honest with you, it was a surprise to me. I was there five years. I knew the guy was around, but I didn’t know all that stuff was going on. Every story I read is new stuff to me. It’s a shame, but it’s a one-sided story right now. I’m anxious to see how it all pans out. He’s in prison. He can say anything he wants to say. It’s a real shame, dragging down a program right now. There’s always two sides to every story.”

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Running With the 1st Team

Raiders LCB Chris Johnson is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery Wednesday for an undisclosed injury.

Johnson was practicing at the beginning of the week, so he must have gone down very recently. The Raiders are being tight-lipped about injuries in camp. With Johnson out, raw rookie Demarcus Van Dyke is running with the starting defense. Coach Hue Jackson says Johnson should be back before Week 1.

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Bryant McKinnie getting in shape

Drew Rosenhaus, agent for free-agent OT Bryant McKinnie (Vikings), said McKinnie has been working out and is down to 365 pounds. McKinnie usually plays at 355 pounds. Rosenhaus said McKinnie has received a few offers but has not accepted any of them.

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Colin McCarthy ignores Miami rumors

Titans rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy, a fourth-round pick from Miami, is one of dozens of former Hurricanes named in the Yahoo! Sports report on booster Nevin Shapiro and impermissible benefits he said he gave to a number of UM players.

Shapiro alleges he provided extra benefits to McCarthy including food, drinks and entertainment at Shapiro’s mansion on multiple occasions, as well as VIP access and drinks at nightclubs on at least one occasion. Shapiro also alleged that McCarthy played in pool tournaments for cash at Shapiro’s home.

Here is what McCarthy — wearing a green University of Miami football shirt and putting his clothes in a UM backpack — had to say about the report after Titans practice Tuesday.

On his relationship with Nevin Shapiro. “I really don’t have any comment to make about it. I understand whatever’s out there, whatever, but really I’m just focusing on the season, focusing on practicing and understanding what I need to do and preparing for St. Louis. I’m focused on football. …”

On if the NCAA had contacted him. “I’ve really got nothing to say. No comment.”

On if he’s angry about the report. “Not really, it is what it is. But I’m here. I’m here to get better and to work. I’ve got a great opportunity here in Tennessee and that’s my focus.”

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Antrel Rolle says Miami Hurricanes allegations 'irrelevant' to him

Giants safety Antrel Rolle allegedly received a $7,500 watch, thousands of dollars of cash gifts and paid trips to nightclubs and strip clubs from a University of Miami booster while a standout cornerback for the Hurricanes, according to a Yahoo! Sports investigation released on Tuesday.

The benefits came from Nevin Shapiro, who is in prison for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. All would violate NCAA rules. Provided an opportunity today, Rolle neither confirmed nor denied the allegations against him.

"To me it doesn’t matter what’s true or what’s not true," Rolle said today.

"There’s nothing for me to comment on this guy. Obviously he’s on a rampage to cause havoc, and I’m just going to let him do his talking. Because right now, to me, it’s irrelevant. It don’t concern me at this point. I’ll deal with it when the right time comes."

The report indicated that Rolle also received $1,000 for shutting down Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson in a 27-3 win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 2, 2004 and $500 for a game-sealing interception in a 41-38 victory over Louisville on Oct. 14, 2004. It also accused Rolle of accepting $40,000 from an agent who was Shapiro’s former business partner.

Rolle was one of 72 athletes named in the report. The report also included fellow Giants safety Kenny Phillips, who allegedly accepted food, drink and entertainment at Shapiro’s home and yacht, and meals at restaurants in the Miami area. Phillips was not available for comment today.

"You get 20 years in prison, certain things like that happen, you’re going to find something to take it on, right?" Rolle said. "I guess we have to bite that bullet."

Rolle said he and other Miami players are not frustrated by the report because "we understood our place, and we also understand what he’s trying to do."

However, Rolle expressed concern about the possible ramifications on Miami’s football program, which could be in line for significant sanctions if the NCAA finds the allegations are true.

"I think this is bringing unnecessary drama to the program that doesn’t need to be," Rolle said. "I’m a Miami guy at heart and I always will be a Miami guy at heart. I just want those guys to have the same fortunate career as I had and other people ha, and right now there’s a lot of drama going on at that school. And it’s all caused by one guy."

Busy in training camp, Rolle has not yet read the report. However, he’s received messages from those who have. He said his mother called after seeing a photo of Shapiro wearing Rolle’s No. 6 college jersey.

"I’m like ... I didn’t give him the jersey’," Rolle said. "When I saw him, he switched up jerseys each and every week. It just happened to be the jersey he had on in the Florida State game. He represented me. I played ball down there, he should have represented the No. 6 jersey."

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Rocky McIntosh mum on U. Miami scandal

Redskins inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh declined to discuss a Yahoo! Sports report that he and at least 71 other current and former University of Miami athletes violated NCAA rules by accepting improper benefits from booster Nevin Shapiro.

The report, published Tuesday, alleged that during his time as a student-athlete at Miami, McIntosh received $500 in bounty cash, drinks and entertainment at night clubs and on Shapiro’s yacht.

When asked about his involvement, McIntosh said: “I’m focused on Indy right now. We’ve got this game in two days. I’m in the NFL and I’ve got to be professional and worry about what we’ve got right now.”

McIntosh and the late Sean Taylor, a former Redskins safety, were the only two Washington players named in the report.

Receiver Santana Moss left the school before the period that Shapiro allegedly began giving the gifts to players.

Asked about the report, Moss said, “I don’t know nothing about that. Let’s talk about the team in this week. I wasn’t even there.”

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jonathan Vilma comments on University of Miami scandal

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Devin Hester won't discuss allegations of benefits from booster

BOURBONNAIS -- As far as the Bears are concerned, what might have happened at the University of Miami stays at the University of Miami.

Stunning allegations of rampant NCAA violations at the school and millions of dollars in impermissible gifts from one rogue booster being lavished on student-athletes came out in a highly detailed Yahoo Sports report that names Devin Hester as one of more than 70 athletes involved.

Hester, who is pictured with Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro in multiple photos in the Yahoo report, declined to discuss the situation Wednesday, a day after he said he didn't know the man who is serving 20 years in federal prison after being convicted of running a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

"I'm prepared to talk Chicago Bears football," Hester said. "I'm willing to do whatever you want -- if you want to talk about Bears, I'm all down for it. But other than that, no comment."

As far as the Bears and the NFL are concerned, the story is mostly a non-issue. It doesn't affect Hester's standing with the team, just as the Reggie Bush USC probe didn't involve the Saints directly. In this instance, there's no national championship team Hester was on, and he didn't win a Heisman Trophy.

"That's the University of Miami's issue," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "It's unfortunate that it does go on in college. That's why they have the NCAA, and the NCAA always does its due diligence. Whatever wrongs there are, they'll find out."

Shapiro admitted he had an ax to grind with the players he splurged for because he believes they betrayed him at his time of need when authorities came down on him. According to the Yahoo article, Hester allegedly received rims for his SUV, $3,000 for an engagement ring, cash bounties for game performances and NBA playoff tickets through Shapiro. None of that would affect his standing in the NFL, and he's not bound to discuss the matter with NCAA officials if they come calling.

Shapiro told Yahoo he provided extra benefits to 72 football players and other athletes at Miami from 2002 to 2010.

The Yahoo article says a source corroborated Shapiro's account of Hester receiving food, entertainment and lodging in the booster's home, saying Hester was having roommate problems and stayed with Shapiro for a sustained period.

As for Hester's claim that he doesn't know Shapiro, the Yahoo article includes a photo of Hester sitting in Shapiro's VIP section of Opium Garden nightclub in 2003 and another photo of Hester with Shapiro at an October 2003 dinner the booster allegedly paid for at Japanese-themed steakhouse Benihana.

The story is just getting started for Miami, and the potential fallout could make tattoos and game-used jerseys at Ohio State look minuscule in comparison. For the Bears, if it's not over already, it will be soon aside from the distraction.

"The NCAA has a lot of issues," Angelo said. "These kids are highly recruited. These programs are very, very visible to a lot of people. Alumni are a huge part of every program. Sometimes people get near lines and go over them. I'm not saying that's the case in Miami. They'll do their homework and right whatever wrongs there might be.

"Hopefully, it's just a bad rumor."

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Colin McCarthy adapts his game

Trying to live up to expectations is something Titans rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy has gotten used to.

During college, he was even given the number 44 to wear as a freshman because of how much he reminded the University of Miami coaching staff of former Pro Bowler Dan Morgan.

But now the fourth-round pick, overshadowed by the drafting of Akeem Ayers in the second round and the free-agent signing of Barrett Ruud, has the chance to surprise people — a chance he’ll gladly take.

“Everybody comes in here and makes friends. As linebackers we’re a pretty close group, but at the end of the day this is a competition,” McCarthy said. “You may be cheering each other on, but ultimately you’re fighting for a position.”

A three-year starter and two-time All-ACC linebacker at Miami, McCarthy is trying to emerge from a daunting shadow of former Hurricane greats having current NFL success. He considers fellow alumni Jon Beason and Jonathan Vilma to be personal mentors, easing his transition with their knowledge of the lifestyle and work ethic required to be successful in the NFL.

Ayers, the projected starting strongside linebacker, believes the pains of transition for himself and McCarthy have been more muted than most first-year pros. With a new coaching staff in place, the philosophies and terminologies of defensive coordinator Jerry Gray are new to everyone, not just the rookies.

“We’re all learning at the same time, learning the same things, and it would have been more difficult if coming in all these guys already knew it,” Ayers said. “They’d be moving at a totally different speed, but now everybody’s learning from scratch and we’re able to develop as a group.”

That group of three linebackers is still to be determined at this point, though the athleticism of Ayers on the outside and Ruud’s experience at middle would appear to make them frontrunners to start. That leaves Gerald McRath and Will Witherspoon vying for the starting weakside linebacker position.

As for McCarthy, he will likely make most of his impact on special teams this season, though his brief and ongoing tutelage under Ruud and linebackers coach Frank Bush are preparing him for his eventual opportunity with the defense.

“(McCarthy) has still got to improve in almost every area, but the kid is taking heed of what we’re saying and getting better every day,” Bush said. “He’s got a knack in pass coverage and is learning the run game as we go about it, so he’s moving along quite nicely.”

His measurables, while not significantly lacking in any area, will not and may never be the reason McCarthy finds success at the professional level.

But his willingness to learn the position at a higher level, even from the man currently ahead of him on the depth chart, may be more than enough.

“When you have guys like Barrett, who has been in the league for a while, he’s a great guy to learn from,” McCarthy said.

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Brandon Merriweather’s Starting Job is in Jeopardy

FOXBOROUGH - It has become clear in recent days that the Patriots are not happy with what they have at the safety position.

The first sign came two Sundays ago, when they hosted - and then offered a contract to - Dashon Goldson. A 26-year-old who started all 32 games over the last two seasons for the 49ers, Goldson ultimately decided to re-sign with San Francisco.

Then came word that the Patriots would have Darren Sharper in for a workout. Sharper, a 14-year veteran who was a key member of the Saints’ run to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, is 36 and underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee shortly after New Orleans’s win over Indianapolis in that game.

He played in just eight games last year, missing the first six.

Sharper’s workout was done behind closed doors, but during Monday’s practice, there was another sign: Sergio Brown took the majority of the first-team snaps alongside Patrick Chung, stepping in over Brandon Meriweather.

Yesterday, Meriweather and Brown split repetitions with the top defense once again, this time with Meriweather appearing to have the edge in number of snaps.

Nick Caserio, the Patriots director of player personnel, said Monday that bringing in players for workouts is just part of “due diligence,’’ and he would not talk specifics about Sharper.

But two league sources have told the Globe that the Patriots are unhappy with Meriweather, who was roundly criticized for his play last year despite being selected to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.

Caserio said Meriweather, now in his fifth season, has been productive for New England.

“He’s got a lot of experience in our system,’’ said Caserio. “He’s a talented player. Is it perfect? No. Is he working to get better? That’s the most important thing.

“I think Brandon has improved since he’s been here.’’

New England’s depth at safety is already thin, since James Sanders has missed all but four practices. If Sanders is healthy, pairing him and Chung is likely the best option, but it isn’t known right now when Sanders will be able to get back on the field.

Chung wouldn’t say much about playing time for Brown and Meriweather.

“That’s not for me to comment,’’ he said. “Whoever is out there is out there, period. If it’s me and Brandon, if it’s Brandon and Sergio, if it’s James, it doesn’t matter who is out there to me. Whoever is out there, you have to be able to play next to them.

“We all know the same things. We all know our responsibilities. We all know what we have to do regardless of who is out there.’’

The most important thing, Chung said, is that there is communication between the players roaming the backfield.

“It’s very, very critical, because if we mess up, it’s more than just a couple yard gain,’’ Brown said. “You have to be able to communicate, you have to know your teammates, know what they’re thinking. And if you don’t, you’ve got to at least talk and be able to know everything that you’re supposed to do and you have to know what everyone around you does so it will be easier for you to talk and know the defense.’’

The second-year player out of Notre Dame, an undrafted free agent last year who was promoted off the practice squad just before a game in San Diego, said he feels more confident this year but knows he’s still fighting for a spot.

For what it’s worth, Bill Belichick may not be that enamored of Brown. When asked yesterday about Andre Carter, he raved about the veteran defensive lineman the team brought aboard this month. But a couple of questions later, when asked to assess Brown’s performance in camp, he said he wouldn’t “get into an analysis of every player’’ and that in general the players who have been on the field practicing have made progress.

“Sergio is in good condition, he’s worked hard, and he hasn’t missed any time,’’ said Belichick. “He’s been out there on a consistent basis and he’s gotten better, like I would say everybody else has who has been out there on a consistent basis working at it. How could you not improve?’’

In the preseason opener against Jacksonville, while many defensive starters got the night off, Meriweather and Chung played the entire first half together. It will be telling if that changes tomorrow night in Tampa Bay.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson doesn't deny knowing jailed Miami booster

Three Texans starters who played at the University of Miami — receiver Andre Johnson, center Chris Myers and offensive tackle Eric Winston — were critical of the former Hurricanes booster who is at the center of a scandal that could bring down one of college football’s most successful programs.

Johnson accepted drinks and VIP accommodations at Miami-area clubs, according to Nevin Shapiro, a former Hurricanes booster who told Yahoo! Sports he lavished as many as 72 Miami players and coaches with cash, prostitutes, jewelry, travel and parties at his mansions, on his yacht and at local nightclubs.

Johnson didn’t deny knowing Shapiro, who was one of Miami’s most prominent boosters.

“I wasn’t in the clubs too much when I was in college, so I don’t know about that,” Johnson said about Shapiro claiming he hosted Johnson in VIP sections and bought him drinks, a violation of NFL rules. “He knows what happened, and I know what happened. I’m not really worried about it.”

Shapiro, who is in a New Jersey prison for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, also told Yahoo! Sports that between 2002 through 2010 he paid players to attend Miami and, on one occasion, paid for an abortion.

“I don’t know about everybody else,” Johnson said. “I can only speak for myself. The guy’s in trouble, and he’s trying to take everybody down with him. You kind of get upset about it, but at the same time, you can’t control what anybody says.

“It’s over. It’s done with. The NCAA is handling it, and we’ll just move on.”

Johnson said no one connected to the scandal has contacted him. He made it clear, though, he doesn’t like what Shapiro is doing to his college, where he expects to earn his degree next summer.

“I think that’s bad,” he said. “It’s something you don’t want to see.

“Being down there this offseason and working out with so many guys and seeing the team improve and seeing that team on the rise, you hate to see something like this happen.”

Yahoo! Sports had a picture of Johnson posing with Shapiro at the Hurricanes’ 2002 all-sports banquet. Johnson said he took a lot of pictures with a lot of fans while he played at Miami and doesn’t remember that one.

Shapiro also said Texans second-year linebacker Darryl Sharpton partied at one of his mansions and accepted VIP access at clubs, where he also was bought drinks.

Counting veteran defensive lineman Damione Lewis and rookie cornerback Brandon Harris, the Texans have seven players who played for the Hurricanes.

Myers, Winston and backup tackle Rashad Butler played on the same offensive line at Miami. Myers left for the NFL after the 2004 season and was drafted by Denver in 2005.

“To be honest with you, it was a surprise to me,” Myers said about Shapiro’s allegations. “I was there five years. I knew the guy was around, but I didn’t know all that stuff was going on.

“Every story I read is new stuff to me. It’s a shame, but it’s a one-sided story right now. I’m anxious to see how it all pans out. He’s in prison. He can say anything he wants to say. It’s a real shame, dragging down a program right now. There’s always two sides to every story.”

Winston earned All-American recognition with the Hurricanes before the Texans drafted him in the third round in 2006.

“I heard the name (Shapiro), but I didn’t know him, and I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup,” Winston said. “Anytime you have a guy who, obviously, has the character he has and gets that close to the program it’s worrisome.

“Sure, you’re surprised when something like this comes out. It’s unfortunate that a guy like that got as close as he did with the program, but, a lot of colleges are dealing with the same kind of thing.

“It’s unfortunate, but we have to deal with it as a program, as a family and keep pushing forward.”

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Randy Phillips Waived

The Detroit Lions have made a change at safety, signing Aaron Francisco and waiving/injured Randy Phillips. The move was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Francisco entered the league as an undrafted free agent from BYU in 2005. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and appeared in 11 games during his rookie season.  He went on to appear in all 16 games in 2006 and 2008 and 10 games in 2007. Over that time he made nine total starts.

After leaving Arizona, Francisco joined the Indianapolis Colts. He played in Indy for the last two seasons and started in 12 games last year. He started in only two and appeared in only 10 in 2009.

Even though Phillips has been dealing with a shoulder injury, it is a bit surprising that he has been waived/injured. He joined the Lions as an undrafted free agent last year and looked very good during the preseason. He ended up appearing in four games for the Lions in 2010 and spent the rest of his time on the practice squad.

Because he was waived/injured, the Lions could place Phillips on injured reserve if he clears waivers. They could also simply release him, which is what they did with cornerback Maurice Leggett and offensive guard Jeff Maddux.

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Jason Fox Recovering

Offensive tackle Jason Fox also had a cast replaced by a walking boot on his left foot and was on the practice field Tuesday.

“They’re almost the exact same situation,” coach Jim Schwartz said, comparing Fox to Fairley.

The injury to Fox did not require surgery.

“It’s just the first part of the rehab I’m doing,” Fox said. “Now I can start rehabbing and get back as soon as possible.”

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Ray Lewis excused from team for family issue

Ray Lewis has been excused from the Ravens so the inside linebacker can deal with a family member's illness.

There is no timetable for Lewis to return. He wasn't at practice Wednesday as the team prepares for Friday's preseason game at Kansas City.

"It's something he has to take care of," coach John Harbaugh said.

Other Ravens not practicing are: cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), guard Marshal Yanda (back), center Matt Birk (knee), receiver David Reed (wrist), receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry and safety Marcus Paschal (undisclosed).

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Bryant McKinnie To The Bears?

What do Bryant McKinnie and Steve Smith have in common? Not the Steve Smith who did his best impression of boat rowing on the same day Daunte Culpepper’s life took a severe downward turn. The “other” Steve Smith.

A funny thing happened last week. The Eagles signed former Giants wide receiver Steve Smith, who just two years ago set a franchise record in New York with 107 catches. He was an unrestricted free agent and, thanks to trying to come back from a significant knee injury, he may not be ready by the start of the season. Philadelphia technically made two roster moves with the signing of Smith – one to announce the signing and one immediately following that placed him on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

In the foamy-water feeding frenzy the Eagles undertook when the lockout ended – signing one big-name free agent after another and being linked to interest in many more – Smith went largely unnoticed.

Why? Because, at the time he was signed, he wasn’t close to being in physical condition to play football. Yet, the Eagles, with their eyes rolled back like a great white shark taking yet another bite out of the bloated free agent market, signed Smith.

Initially, the rationale given was that the mystery mononucleosis type setback suffered by Jeremy Maclin, who has yet to practice, was the impetus to sign Smith. But, after saying that out loud, those same rationalists had to ask themselves, “Why would you replace a guy who would potentially miss the start of the season with a guy who is just as doubtful?”

The reasonable inference is that the Eagles had the money and saw Smith as a commodity. In the previous version of free agency and the salary cap in the NFL, it’s doubtful that any team would have signed a player that couldn’t pass a physical to a contract.

But this is 2011, where presidential hopefuls mistake the anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley with his death. In the Bizarro world of the NFL in 2011, things are taking place that don’t make rational sense. Which leads us to the comparison between Smith and McKinnie.

McKinnie showed up at Winter Park in dismal shape before heading to Mankato and was summarily dismissed from the team that had him as a building block at left tackle for over the better part of the last decade. McKinnie turns 32 in September. He would be over the hill at most positions, but savvy offensive tackles are a notable exception to that rule. A top-end offensive tackle routinely plays into his mid-30s. A player at McKinnie’s age and experience could expect to have up to five years left on his career.

However, McKinnie needs someone to champion his cause. Enter Mike Tice, stage left.

Tice was the head coach when the Vikings drafted McKinnie, even though they momentarily thought they had DT Ryan Sims – in hindsight a stroke of luck that changed the franchise for the better. Tice, a former offensive line coach turned head coach, knew talent when he saw it. He was able to push McKinnie to become acclimated to the game quickly after he held out until the 11th hour to sign a rookie deal. He has been a starting left tackle ever since.

If McKinnie has any desire to reclaim his career, Tice may be the guy that can get that done. Few people in the NFL know McKinnie better than Tice and, if anyone can talk sense into him to get the most out of his potential, it might be the guy who brought him into the league.

Given their current space under the 2011 salary cap, the Bears could sign McKinnie to a team-friendly deal, put him on the PUP list and have a couple months to see if the reclamation project is worth undertaking. If it works, it could be a masterstroke for an offensive line that allowed nine sacks in its first preseason game – prompting the family of Jay Cutler to begin a prayer vigil for his health during the regular season.

We likely haven’t seen the last of McKinnie. He won’t be a Viking again, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be potentially hanging out in the NFC North this autumn.

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Tim George Jr. takes Watkins Glen car to Montreal

Tim George Jr. will pilot Chassis No. 302 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series stable in Saturday's Napa Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

This is the same Chevrolet that George raced in the NNS event at Watkins Glen International last weekend, finishing 21st. George will make his first NNS start at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend in Saturday's Napa Auto Parts 200.-Richard Childress Racing

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Gaby Sanchez Slumping

Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins: One of the hottest hitters of the first two months of the season -- he ranked 11th in batting average (.322) among those with 150-plus plate appearances and 19th in RBIs (35) -- Sanchez's bat has cooled considerably since. He regressed to the level of mere mixed-league corner infielder/NL-only option in June and July, turning in so-so .250-7-23 numbers in 52 games, and in August has slipped to .122/.200/.143 rates in 14 games. As has always been true in his big league career, he remains more of a lefty masher (.315/.391/.526 lifetime rates against them) who has ordinary stats against righties (.257/.328/.420). The latter numbers are league-average at best from a first baseman, meaning Sanchez's matchups, on a daily and weekly basis, need be carefully considered from this point forward.

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Cubs Option Scott Maine

The Chicago Cubs recalled pitcher Casey Coleman from Triple-A Iowa and optioned reliever Scott Maine.

Coleman, who rejoins the Cubs for the fourth time this season, is scheduled to start on Wednesday against the Houston Astros.

Coleman, 24, is 2-4 with a 7.23 ERA in 11 games, including nine starts. He is 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA at Iowa this season.

Maine was recalled from Iowa on Monday but did not appear in a game.

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Jonathan Vilma says he's not worried about University of Miami allegations

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn't have much to say about the allegations of University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who claimed that Vilma was one of dozens of former Hurricanes to receive illegal benefits from him in a Yahoo! Sports report.

Vilma declined to comment on the specific allegations that he received cash, food, drinks and various forms of entertainment, including cash "bounties" for hits on opposing quarterback.

"I'm not really worried about that right now," Vilma said. "You have a guy that's in jail. Whatever his motive is right now, I don't know. Honestly I don't care. You know, I'm gonna move forward and keep working with the Saints."

The exhaustive Yahoo! Report includes several photos of Vilma with Shapiro, including some on Shapiro's yacht and in his home, in addition to phone records showing frequent communication between the two as recently as 2010.

Click here to order Jon Vilma’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Leonard Hankerson Taking It All In Stride

Much of the hype surrounding Leonard Hankerson leading up to the draft was the enormous size of his hands.  The biggest hands in the draft? He used them to break all of the records held by Andre Johnson and Michael Irvin?

Yes, please.

His pro debut on Friday was rather anti-climactic, however, as he ended the game with one reception on three targets, for eight yards.

But Hankerson shook all of that off today and said that he doesn’t feel any pressure going into Indianapolis.

“I don’t feel like I have to prove, I just have to go out there and make plays for the team,” he said.  ”Do my job, know my assignment, and just go have fun.”

That’s comforting to hear from a guy that the Redskins clearly have a lot of faith in.  Most of the best players in the history of the game were just out there having fun.

Some fans were ready to cut Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson after they had ball-handling issues against the Steelers, forgetting that they were experiencing their first NFL action against guys in different helmets.  Both of them made some nice catches today. On one throw Hankerson did a great job of coming back to the ball and using his large hands to grab it out of a crowd. Robinson made a good grab on the sideline.

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Sam Shields ready to make big leap forward

GREEN BAY — Joe Whitt just might put together a Miss Cleo-type psychic career if this whole football coaching thing doesn't work out.

It was this time last year when he told everyone Tramon Williams would be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. It was evident Williams was an improving young player, but in 2010 he had career highs of 63 tackles and six interceptions and a Pro Bowl invitation.

Whitt, the Packers'mag-glass_10x10 cornerbacks coach, is at it again with his I-know-something-you-don't-know routine.

"I would have loved to have my hands on him (during the lockout) because he's still so raw and in the early parts of his career," Whitt said of second-year player Sam Shields. "He's rare. He's rare with his ability to bend and pedal and really loves the game. We got lucky with him.

"When we got him, I knew he was going to be good. I didn't know he was going to be that good, that quick. He can improve from what Tramon did in '09 to 2010. If he can make that same kind of jump, which he can … ."

There were two moments last week that encapsulated Shields' value to the organization.

On Thursday, he made a spectacular interception on the last play of practice and landed squarely on his hip. The entire team fell silent on Ray Nitschke Field as coaches and the medical staff rushed to Shields' side. The first player out to check on Shields? Charles Woodson, who didn't participate in team drills that day.

The injury kept Shields from playing in the preseason opener at Cleveland on Saturday night. He and Woodson didn't play, which left Williams, Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush as the top three cornerbacks. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy didn't glance at Williams on the opening drive and scored the game's first touchdown on a 27-yard pass to Josh Cribbs with Lee in coverage. The Browns won 27-17.

The defense looked completely different with Shields and Woodson on the sideline. And, frankly, Woodson's coverage responsibilities have been lessened since Shields arrived in Green Bay.

"Tramon and Sam give us the opportunity to do other things with Wood," Whitt said.

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Meet Matt Bosher Q&A

After ranking near the bottom of the league in net yards per punt last season (35.6, 26th in the NFL), the Atlanta Falcons are looking for a replacement for Michael Koenen.

The answer may have come in form of Matt Bosher, the team's fifth-round pick in April's draft. The former Miami Hurricane, who earned All-ACC honors as both a kicker and a punter in his college career, is in a battle to take over as Falcons punter, kickoff specialist and even the holder for placekicker Matt Bryant.

He spoke with The Times sports editor Brent Holloway after practice Monday about his training camp and preseason experiences so far.
Question: You got your first NFL action under the lights last week. What were you feeling out there?

Answer: Really excited. It was great to be out there, great to be out there playing football again. It's different, playing in the NFL, a little bit, but football's football, so I just go out there and kick the ball.

Q: What was different?
A: Just the feel, you know the comfort level after being in college for so long. It's just a new team, a new feel, obviously a little bit faster pace. But I feel like I'm catching up on the learning curve and doing well.

Q: They've got you pulling a full load with kickoffs, punts and holding on PATs and field goals. You were also a kicker in college, so obviously you weren't doing any holding. Did you have any experience with it before coming in?
A: Outside of in practice, holding for other kickers, not so much. But I've been working a lot with Matt Bryant and Joe Zelenka. Joe, he's a great long snapper, so he makes it easy for me. And Matt, he's a great teacher and he's really helping me out and (special teams coordinator) coach (Keith) Armstrong is really helping me out and get used to everything and work on my hands.

Q: It's kind of a unique spot. Nobody every notices you as the holder unless you mess up.
A: Yeah, the holder can never be the hero, you can only be the zero. So you just have to work hard to make sure people don't notice you.

Q: You're in a bit of a battle for the punter spot here in camp. What are your goals for this season?
A: I want to make the team, but as of right now I'm just focusing on getting better and making sure that when the next preseason game comes along, I can improve as far as where I was last week.

Q: What are you looking for as far as your numbers go? You had a 48 (yard average) gross last week and 40 net. Where does that rank with what you're shooting for?
A: I think our goal as a team, as a punt unit is to get a net that's always around 40. Our goal is to get good hangtime, and (fellow punter) Ken (Parrish) and I are both going out there and trying to get that good hangtime and force fair catches.

Q: How about on your kickoffs - are you looking for more hangtime or longer distance?
A: A good combination of both. You don't want to drive the ball down there and have the guy run it out. You don't want to just put it up and short. So you have find the best of both worlds.

Q: Are you pleased with how you did Friday night (in the preseason opener)?
A: Yeah, it was a good start. I just need to keep working to better.

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Frank Gore hopes for deal before season

Frank Gore said Tuesday he feels six years younger than his listed age.

The 49ers' running back would feel even better if his up-in-the-air contract situation is resolved within the next several weeks.

Gore, who held out the first four days of training camp in an effort to get an extension on his expiring contract, is still waiting for a new deal. Gore will earn a $2.9 million base salary and a $2 million roster bonus this season.

"Hopefully, it will get done before the season," Gore said. "If it doesn't, I've just got to go play and if I have to be a free agent, I'll be a free agent."

On Aug. 2, when Gore arrived at training camp, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said the team anticipated getting a deal done "sooner rather than later." On Tuesday, Harbaugh said of Gore's contract, "I'm confident we'll work out something fair, hopefully soon."

After missing last season's final seven games with a hairline hip fracture, Gore, 28, said he feels like "the 22-year-old Frank Gore. Ready to take the load. Ready to play. I feel like I can score any time I touch the ball."

Quarterback Alex Smith said Gore, post-injury, doesn't look any different.

"I think Frank looks great," Smith said. "Frank always looks great in my opinion, though. He's a true professional. I've never seen Frank out here and thought 'Man, Frank doesn't look very good.' It just doesn't happen. The guy just lives and breathes football."

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vernon Carey to be FA after season

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports that the restructuring of Vernon Carey's contract cut the player's 2011 salary from $4.2 million to $2.5 million. The Dolphins also voided the final three years of Carey's contract. That means Carey would be an unrestricted free agent in 2012.

Click here to order Vernon Carey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Darryl Sharpton Playing Downhill

As for Darryl Sharpton, he’s not big enough to just sit back and let the play come to him.  He’s at his best when he’s playing downhill into gaps.  I love the fact that Sharpton plays with good violence and is a willing combatant around the line of scrimmage.

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Fantasy alert for breakout candidate Jimmy Graham

The New Orleans Times-Picayune still believes Jimmy Graham is "primed for a breakout season."

"Graham will be and should be a popular pick in fantasy football leagues this season," writes the Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan. Graham has dropped weight since a slow start to camp. He's flown under the radar the past few weeks, allowing his ADP to level off in the seventh round.

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Frank Gore a happy and healthy camper

Frank Gore walked in his white socks into the 49ers' locker room Tuesday, with his cleats carried like a football in his right hand.

Another three-hour shift was complete for the 49ers' most consistent offensive weapon.

"He's a joy to be out on the practice field with, because he really loves football," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We were both kind of sharing that same topic today, how we felt about the game. You know, this is the medicine, when you're out here on the field and all you've got to think about is football."

Gore is not worried about the hip he fractured Nov. 29 to halt his season. Nor is he irate that his contract has yet to get extended beyond this season.

"Hopefully it will get done before the season," said Gore, a seventh-year veteran who is slated to make $4.9 million this season. "If it doesn't, I just have to go play here. If I have to be a free agent, I'll be a free agent."

Gore missed the first four days of training camp in search of a new deal. Harbaugh expressed confidence that "something fair" will get done, possibly soon.

If the 49ers sought assurances Gore is healthy, he has provided proof on a daily basis. He has not missed a practice since reporting, and he played Friday night in his first exhibition opener since 2008.

"I was hoping not to play because I like to work hard in practice," Gore said. "But I was happy Coach let me get out there for just a couple plays, to let me get some hits in and get the speed of the game back again. Once I got in, I didn't want to come out."

He took part in the 49ers' opening three series. The offense struggled mightily against the host New Orleans Saints to set the tone for a 24-3 loss. But Gore's four carries for 20 yards further convinced him he is healthy.

"I feel like 22-year-old Frank Gore, ready to take the load, ready to play," Gore said. "I feel I can score any time I touch the ball, block anybody I've got to block. Right now I'm just trying to get the offense down pat and get ready for Seattle" in the Sept. 11 season opener.

Gore did not undergo surgery for the non-displaced fracture in his right hip. Instead, he wore a brace and couldn't move his leg for a month, per doctor's orders.

When it comes to hip injuries and running backs, Bo Jackson's career-ending tale with the Raiders springs to mind. Did it with Gore?

"The doctor told me it was serious but it wasn't as risky as the Bo Jackson injury," Gore said. "I asked him, 'Would I ever be able to be the same?' He said, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'OK.' "

Before each practice, Gore goes through some individual conditioning, and Tuesday's stretching session included what appeared to be a cordial, supportive visit from general manager Trent Baalke.

Quarterback Alex Smith is in awe of his fellow member of the 2005 draft class.

"Frank looks great. But Frank always looks great in my opinion," Smith said. "He's a true professional. I've never seen Frank out here and thought, 'Man, Frank doesn't look very good.' It just doesn't happen.

"The guy just lives and breathes football, loves this team and this organization, and he's always ready to go," Smith added. "I know with the hip thing, he's worked extremely hard this offseason to make sure he's back 100 percent, and it shows."

As for how Gore fits in to the West Coast system being revived by the 49ers' offense, Harbaugh raved about being able to use Gore for any play, any run, any catch, any block. Gore expects to tally a lot of receptions in this quick-strike attack. In terms of rushing, he ranks third on the 49ers' all-time list with 6,414 yards, 930 shy of Joe Perry's record.

Up until two weeks ago, the 49ers didn't know if Gore's hip would permit him to take on that typically exhaustive workload.

"That was an unknown until he got here," Harbaugh said. "But he is in great shape. He's a tireless worker out there. There have been times I've had to say, 'OK, Frank, we're going to get another back in here to take a few reps."

And during those rare breaks, Gore now has an offensive-minded coach who shares his obvious passion for football.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Another chance in left for Yonder Alonso

After not starting in left field at all over the last eight games, Yonder Alonso is back in the lineup there tonight against the Washington Nationals.

“We’re trying to find out,” Reds manager Dusty Baker. “We’re trying to find out was that just a bad day or if he can do it.”

Alonso had two very rough games against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field. He misplayed ball into a two-run inside-the-park home run, misjudged another ball, had an error and didn’t have the speed to get to another ball.

Alonso started 62 games in the left for Triple-A Louisville.

“There’s not much difference,” Baker said. “There’s more people, third deck, there’s scrutiny. The game’s the same. Some of it’s mental; some of it’s physical.”

The physical part of it is Alonso lack foot speed.

Baker is torn between trying to win games and finding a spot for Alonso’s bat in the lineup. He wouldn’t say how much of a trial Alonso will get.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “We’re hoping does it. But we’ve also got to win ballgames too. A lot depends on how confident he feels. It’s been an experiment from the beginning.”

Alonso welcomed the chance.

“I’ve been working really hard,” he said. “I’ve got to do my thing and not think about the negative. Don’t try to do too much. That’s how you get in trouble.”

Alonso has also been working out at third base. But Baker is reluctant to try him there in a game.

“The Reds have a history of that,” Baker said. “But everybody’s not Pete Rose.”

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Carolina Panthers Hire Ken Dorsey

The Panthers have hired former NFL and University of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey to be an advance scout, which will entail Dorsey attending the games of the team’s next opponent and reporting back on what he sees.  On the surface, it isn’t that big of a story.

Given that Dorsey previously worked for the IMG Madden Football Academy, which worked with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after the draft and during the lockout, the decision to give Dorsey a job could be interpreted as a reward for Dorsey’s efforts to school Newton in the playbook of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, whose relationship with Dorsey dates back to their mutual time at Miami.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells us that move was in the works before Newton chose IMG to help him get ready for his first NFL season.  We’re also told that Newton picked IMG via a connection other than Dorsey’s link to the Panthers.  Moreover, even though media reports have painted Dorsey as being directly involved in the tutelage of Newton, we’re told that former Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke took the lead, and that Dorsey assumed a lower profile, with Dorsey having only limited contact with Newton.

Still, despite the fact that the Panthers disclosed the situation to the NFL after Newton began working with IMG, there’s bound to be suspicion regarding the connection.  For now, it appears that any suspicion that Dorsey was working as a double agent and/or that he’s being repaid for helping the Panthers get Newton ready is unfounded.

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Graig Cooper Running With the 2nd Team

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eagles Running back LeSean McCoy is being held out of practice Monday morning, although it doesn’t appear as if anything serious is bothering him.

With McCoy not participating, former Dolphins Pro Bowler Ronnie Brown has taken the tailback reps with the first offense. Dion Lewis and Graig Cooper are getting most of the reps with the second- and third-team units.

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Sam Shields Back At Practice

Second-year Green Bay Pacers cornerback Sam Shields was back on the field after being held out of the exhibition game. Shields went down with a hip pointer late in practice Thursday. He was a full participant Monday.

“Sam was close Saturday to playing in the Cleveland game,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Everybody saw the way he fell in the last practice. He practiced today and I anticipate Sam will play this week unless he has a setback. But he had a pretty significant bruise.”

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DeMarcus Van Dyke in Woodson's pocket

Raiders rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke is practically attached at Rod Woodson’s hip here in Napa.

"He just wants us to trust our instincts and make plays," Van Dyke said. "The guy was a Hall of Famer, coaching me now so I've just got to take everything he says and do it on the field and it will be all right."

Sounds like Woodson's work here is already half-done.

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Jon Beason to watch Friday

SPARTANBURG -- The last time Jon Beason played in his Miami hometown, he was in for a few snaps before he injured his knee in the first series of the NFL exhibition.

Beason might not even get in the game this week.

Beason, the Panthers middle linebacker who agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension on the eve of training camp, has yet to practice. He has been sidelined by tendinitis in his left Achilles, which has bothered him since May when he was training in Miami.

As much as Beason would like to play Friday against the Dolphins, the three-time Pro Bowler is being cautious so he doesn't miss games that count.

"We're just trying to rest it. You push it to the point where it said, 'Hey, I can't go anymore.' The pain becomes a factor," Beason said Monday at Wofford.

"When you do have time, you kind of want to take advantage of it. Once you get in the season, it'll be different. There'll be more of a sense of urgency - on their part and on my part.

"I just want to deal with it because it definitely could be something that lingers."

Beason has the Panthers' four highest single-season tackle totals - accomplished in his first four years since he was drafted in the first round (25th overall) out of Miami in 2007.

He came back from the preseason knee injury in 2009 to finish with a career-best 169 tackles.

While he understands the importance of not rushing back from an injury, he also is mindful about getting work in the new system of former Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

"It's tough not being able to practice because getting familiar in this defense is going to be important, and obviously the conditioning part of it," Beason said.

"You train so hard in the offseason, and then you sit down for a little bit, it definitely sets you back. So the mental part and obviously the physical part - just being in condition - is going to be a huge test for me."

Beason planned to go through an extensive warm-up at practice Monday night and see how the foot feels today.

If it responds well, Beason said he might try to return this week with hopes of playing Friday at Sun Life Stadium, which is about 20 minutes from his offseason home.

"This is the second time I've had the opportunity to go home and play in front of friends and family. It was short-lived last time. I did my MCL on the first series," he said. "So now, here we are a few days out and I haven't even practiced, yet. It's unfortunate. But I definitely want to play."

The Panthers want him healthy, too. Beason is the captain of a defense that locked up its three starting linebackers with long-term deals and signed defensive end Charles Johnson to a six-year, $72 million deal.

Omar Gaither and Dan Connor have been getting most of the work at middle linebacker, where Beason returned midway through last season after beginning the year outside.

"Hopefully, he's getting close. I think it's hard to set a timetable on things and you take it day to day," general manager Marty Hurney said. "When guys are ready, they'll come back. That's how we do things. It's just when they're ready, it's hard to predict. But hopefully he's getting closer."

Beason will not have much time to visit with his family in Miami. The Panthers, like all NFL teams, keep to a tight schedule on the road.

"It's a business trip," he said. "We'll be in the hotel. We'll have bed check. We'll wake up. We'll have our meetings, chapel, pregame, play the game, get dressed and come right back."

It's the "play the game" part Beason is focused on - if not this week, sometime soon.

Click here to order Jon Beason’s proCane Rookie Card.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke gets rude introduction to NFL

NAPA, Calif. (AP) - DeMarcus Van Dyke got quite the introduction to the NFL.

The rookie cornerback from Miami was lined up against Arizona superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald on his first series of his exhibition debut and the Cardinals went right at him.

Van Dyke allowed a long completion to Fitzgerald on the first pass his way even though he did have tight coverage. He stayed with the five-time Pro Bowler on the next deep pass, leading to an incompletion.

But the debut got progressively worse after that with Van Dyke allowing an 18-yard touchdown to Stephen Williams late in the first half and several other completions to Arizona's less accomplished receivers.

"As a DB, you've got to have amnesia," Van Dyke said. "You get beat one time, you can't let it keep building, that feeling. They got me. They're not going to beat me again.

The Raiders are hoping for much steadier play this season from Van Dyke, a third-round pick out in April who could get plenty of opportunities to play against multiple receiver packages this season.

Van Dyke started just three games at Miami as a senior but blossomed at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash. Along with the sprinter speed that made him so attractive to the Raiders, coach Hue Jackson has praised his loose hips, 6-foot-1 size and makeup as attributes that should help in man coverage.

"When I talk to the young man, there is no fear in him at all," Jackson said. "Fitzgerald makes those plays on everybody. I've seen him make them on the best in this league. He made one on that young man. But the young man came back and stayed with him the next time and that's what this is all about."

Van Dyke received encouragement after the game from fellow former Miami cornerbacks Antrel Rolle and Sam Shields, veterans who have been through the rough transition from college to the pros.

That only got harder when Van Dyke saw himself lined up against Fitzgerald as soon as he got on the field. He stayed with Fitzgerald stride for stride on the first pass but was outmaneuvered for the ball at the end, giving the Cardinals a 43-yard gain.

"It's a pretty good way to go out there and judge yourself on a guy of his caliber and see what I can get better at," he said. "I just have to finish on plays, that's about it."

Van Dyke gets to learn the trade from a pair of Hall of Famers in assistant coaches Willie Brown and Rod Woodson. Woodson, in his first year as a coach, compares Van Dyke to one of his former teammates in Baltimore, Duane Starks, and expects big things from his young player.

"He's going to be good. It's the little things that he has to work on," Woodson said. "He has to learn how to finish. He's still learning the little things about playing corner in this league, playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he'll be a decent player."

The question for the Raiders is how long that process will take. With All Pro Nnamdi Asomugha gone to Philadelphia in free agency, the Raiders have no experienced cornerback behind starters Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson.

Oakland drafted a pair of cornerbacks a year ago in Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, who both struggled in limited time as rookies and have been victimized in training camp and in the exhibition opener. The Raiders also drafted Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa in the fourth round in April, but he has not been able to practice much this summer because of a shoulder injury.

Arizona quarterbacks combined to go 17-for-27 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions at a 137.4 passer rating once the starting cornerbacks sat after the first series.

"It's so blown out of proportion," Routt said. "They're young. People are going to make mistakes. It's preseason. Everybody wants to act like if you do bad in one preseason game, you should be crucified or whatever. It is what it is, the first preseason game. We got three more. Mistakes happen. Veterans make mistakes."

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Rex Grossman values bond with Santana Moss

Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman on Friday praised the play of Santana Moss, calling the veteran receiver “a quarterback’s best friend.”

On Monday, Grossman said that the success he had against the Steelers came thanks largely to the bond he has with both Moss – Grossman’s favorite target during the three games he started last season – and the team’s other veteran receiver, Jabar Gaffney – Grossman’s former University of Florida teammate.

“I trust them both, a lot,” Grossman said. “Santana has a way of separating from defenders and knowing when to sit down on an option route. … Jabar is a savvy vet. As soon as he started as a freshman at Florida, you could tell he had that ‘it’ factor. He still has it and is a great receiver.”

Moss on Friday caught seven of the nine passes Grossman threw his way (the two non-catches being an overthrow and an underthrow from the quarterback) for 64 yards and a touchdown. Gaffney, meanwhile, caught all five passes that came his way while accumulating 38 receiving yards.

All told, 14 Grossman passes went to either Moss or Gaffney. He spread his other 12 pass attempts around to six receivers. Four of those leftover 12 went to Anthony Armstrong, whom Grossman praised as an explosive, big-play threat.

The quarterback admitted he has something special with Moss and Gaffney, however.

“I can trust that they will separate from defenders,” Grossman said. “It allows me to anticipate some throws. You don’t have to see them get open. You can trust that they’re going to do what they have to do and beat the defender. It creates a passing lane. In the NFL, it’s about anticipating your throws. Those two guys, and our entire receiving corps, are doing a great job.”

The big question: Is the connection Grossman has with Moss and Gaffney is enough to give him an edge over John Beck in the starting quarterback competition, or can Beck develop a similar bond?

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Cubs recall LHP Scott Maine from Triple-A

HOUSTON — The Chicago Cubs recalled left-hander Scott Maine from Triple-A Iowa on Monday to fill the empty roster spot after starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano was placed on the disqualified list.

Maine is 0-0 with a 10.29 ERA in seven games this season. He last pitched for the Cubs on May 30 against Houston, allowing three runs in an inning. For his career, Maine is 0-0 with a 4.95 ERA in 20 games.

The Cubs were left with an open roster spot when they placed Zambrano on the disqualified list Saturday. He cleaned out his locker and left the team after giving up five home runs and being ejected Friday in Atlanta. He did not return to the team Saturday.

The Cubs said Zambrano would not receive pay or be allowed to participate in team activities during the 30-day suspension.

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Slumping Gaby Sanchez staying the course

DENVER -- Sometimes not changing anything is the best change a hitter can make.

Gaby Sanchez is going through one of those rough months, batting .098 through his first 12 games in August. The Marlins' All-Star first baseman is in a 4-for-41 spell.

As frustrating as the month has been, the Florida first baseman is upbeat and taking solace in the fact he has been hitting the ball hard of late without any luck. He estimates about eight line-drive outs during the Marlins' 1-9 homestand.

So his approach as the road trip begins is to stay the course.

"Last game, it got to the point where I was like, 'I don't know what else to do,'" said Sanchez, who is batting .269 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs on the season. "What you do is you stay right there. There is nothing you can do when you hit the ball at people. If you start to stress about it, and you start to go away from what you've been doing, then you go down further."

During the series with the Giants, Sanchez had a brief conversation with Cody Ross about his slump. Sanchez actually lined out to Ross in the ninth inning on Sunday.

"I am hitting the ball well," Sanchez said. "It's not like I'm going down there every AB and striking out or grounding the ball to the pitcher. I am hitting the ball well, but right at people. I was talking to Cody. He was like, 'Keep swinging.'"

Sanchez was arguably the Marlins' steadiest player in the first half. Right now, he is battling through a rough stretch.

"It's such a frustrating sport," he said. "You can do everything right and still not get anything out of it. It's frustrating. It stinks. It's just the way the game is. Nothing you can do about it but put your head down and go forward.

"I feel like it's on the verge of just going off again. You're going to have your peaks and valleys in seasons. You have to do the best you can to reduce the valley. You're always going to have it. You're not going to have a season where you are raking all year. Nobody does that. You have to understand that."

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Jon Jay receives Cards' Heart and Hustle award

ST. LOUIS -- Jon Jay received two presents prior to Wednesday night's game against the Brewers. He was added to the Cardinals' lineup at the last minute, and he was named the team's recipient for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association "Heart and Hustle" award.

The award "honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game," according to the MLBPAA. Cardinals broadcaster and former pitcher Al Hrabosky presented Jay with the award in an on-field ceremony. The league-wide winner of the award will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 3, in New York.

"It was really cool," Jay said. "I found out last week about it, and it's pretty cool to get recognized for that."

Jay, 26, has emerged as the Cardinals' starting center fielder. He's batting .297 on the year with a .346 on-base percentage and a .418 slugging percentage.

He was initially slated to be held out of the lineup for a second straight night, the result of a recent slump. However, when Matt Holliday suffered a lower back injury before the game, Jay was inserted into the starting lineup.


Ken Dorsey Gets a Pro Coaching Position

The Riverview High football team is preparing to unveil a new pro-style offense this season. Unfortunately, the architect of the new offense won’t be around to call the plays.

Ken Dorsey, the former University of Miami and NFL quarterback who joined the staff of new Riverview football coach Todd Johnson this past spring, is leaving for a coaching job in the NFL. Dorsey is still working with the Rams but will be leaving shortly for an opportunity to coach professional football.

“We knew this would come about sooner or later,” Johnson said. “We are just thrilled to death that we were able to work with him all the way through spring and have him install the offense, and really teach us the ins and outs.”

The offensive coordinator job will be turned over to Jeremy Taylor, who played at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, before graduating from USF and moving to Sarasota in 2000. He has been coaching at Riverview for the past decade and has two children.

“He is a real smart guy, a real Xs and Os coach,” Johnson said about Taylor. “He knows the offense great and will take over the play calling.”
Volunteer coach Torry Johnson will be added to the official staff.

Dorsey, who has yet to reveal the team he will join, installed the type of offense used in college and pro football during the spring and continues to work with the players.

“They have a real good grasp of the offense,” Johnson said about quarterback Devonte “Tater” Williams and the rest of the players. “They know what we are trying to accomplish. They can call plays in the huddle in the two minute situation and have a real good feel for what we are trying to do.”

Dorsey, who led the University of Miami to a national championship in college and played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL, has been invaluable in installing the offense and working with the coaches and players.

Dorsey was drafted in the seventh round by the 49ers in 2003, starting three games in place of the injured Alex Smith in 2005. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns for Trent Dilfer in 2006. He played six games with the Browns as a backup before being released.

He also was on the roster of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after briefly working with the Lakewood Ranch football team. He has recently worked with the football program at IMG Academies.

“He told me before spring that this was his dream and I knew that,” Johnson said about a job in professional football. “He was a bit hesitant to do the play-calling, because he knew anytime this could happen. I said, ‘Look, if we get the opportunity to work with you for a week, we will take it. We want you all the way in.’

“I am glad we did it that way. We learned so much from him, not only the players but the coaches as well. We were lucky to have him for as long as we did.”

The Rams open the football season Aug. 26 against Dunedin at the Ram Bowl in the fall classic. They open the regular season Sept. 2, at Palmetto.

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Damien Berry Gives a Stiff Arm


Ravens running back Damien Berry gives a stiff arm to Eagles linebacker Rashad Jeanty in the fourth quarter.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke can only lament giving up big play to Cardinals Fitzgerald

DeMarcus Van Dyke received quite the "welcome to the NFL" moment in the Raiders' exhibition opener Thursday.

The Raiders' rookie cornerback found himself lined up against All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who promptly did what he does so often — make a spectacular catch against coverage.

Van Dyke was in good position to defend the pass, only to have Fitzgerald make an acrobatic play on the ball for a 43-yard gain.

After the Raiders lost to the Cardinals, 24-18, at Coliseum, Van Dyke was thinking he could have done more. He was one of many Raiders who have things to work on.

For Van Dyke, it was the big play he didn't make.

"I should have come away with an interception," Van Dyke said. "That was my fault. I didn't attack the ball."

On a conference call with reporters Friday, Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Van Dyke had nothing to be ashamed about, a sentiment he said he relayed to the rookie.

"I've seen that man (Fitzgerald) catch that ball on a lot of great cornerbacks," Jackson said. "But the thing that was most impressive was the next opportunity that he had to cover him. They threw another deep ball and he was right with him stride for stride, and there was an opportunity there for him to make a good play on the ball. So I was impressed with this guy. He's not afraid. I think he wants to compete."

Chances are Van Dyke will be needed this season. The Raiders lack experience behind starting cornerbacks Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson.

Van Dyke figures to get picked on more than once this season. But he knows there won't be many matchups tougher than his first.

"It was pretty exciting," Van Dyke said of going against Fitzgerald. "It was kind of shocking, but it's football now. I play football in the NFL and he plays in the NFL."

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Greg Olsen Spikes The Ball

Greg Olsen Spikes

Panthers' Greg Olsen spikes the ball after catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Clausen. (Jeff Siner, McClatchy-Tribune / August 13, 2011)

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No timetable for return of Jason Fox

Detroit Lions OT Jason Fox (foot) is lost with a foot injury and there's still not definitive word on when he might return.

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Matt Bosher Deals With Some Nerves In His First Game

Rookie kicker Matt Bosher, who’s attempting to replace Michael Koenen, did not have a good start. His three kickoffs from the 35-yard line in the first half went to the 6-, 3- and 1-yard lines. Also, his first punt went just 37 yards. After Bosher settled down, he boomed a 63-yarder in the second quarter.

Bosher, who was also the holder, appeared to handle that duty flawlessly.

“I’m sure he was nervous,” Smith said. “ Heck, I was, you know. . . but I thought he handled it well.”

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Willis McGahee hopes to increase carries

ENGLEWOOD, Co. -- Willis McGahee could have signed with other teams after he was cut by Baltimore in July.

However, he studied the Denver Broncos’ situation and liked what he saw. He saw a hungry team that is starting a new program under the guidance of a head coach in John Fox who is known for running the ball first.

“These guys are a lot like me,” McGahee said Saturday. “Everyone is looking forward to being in a new situation … I’m glad to be here, knowing I’m playing for a coach who pounds the ball.”

McGahee has looked good in training camp and he had 17 yards on two carries in Denver’s preseason opener at Dallas on Thursday.

McGahee, who will turn 30 in October, had had a total of 379 carries the past three years. He had 380 yards on 100 carries last season in Baltimore. He said he is looking for an opportunity to carry the ball more in Denver. He should get the chance as he shares carries with third-year running back Knowshon Moreno.

McGahee, who missed his rookie season in Buffalo in 2003 with a knee injury, said he’d ideally like to carry the ball in the 15-17 time-a-game range. McGahee said his low carry totals the past three years have preserved his legs well.

“I didn’t have many miles on my tires the first two years of my career and now the past three years I haven't, either,” McGahee said. “I don’t even need a tire rotation … I feel good. I feel ready to help this team.”

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Devin Hester locked in as Bears' flanker

Johnny Knox has taken no reps at Devin Hester's Z receiver position in camp, working only as Roy Williams' backup at X.

Hester is locked in at flanker, leaving Knox to fight for scraps in four-receiver sets. It's a shame that the Bears have given up on Knox in favor of Hester, who is an exponentially better returner than receiver, and Williams, who hasn't played well in several seasons. It's almost like they named the starting lineup based on contract size. Knox is the lowest paid.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen: Bears’ claim that I asked for a trade is not true

After trading tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers, Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo said that Olsen “came at me hard” and asked to be traded to a team that has a more tight end-friendly offense.

Olsen says that’s false.

“I’m the last one to go to the media and make big spectacles, but sometimes when things aren’t right, it’s hard to keep your mouth shut,” Olsen told the Chicago Tribune. “[Angelo] put the perception out that I forced my way out of there, which wasn’t true at all.

According to Olsen, Angelo is spreading the perception that Olsen demanded a trade because Angelo wants to avoid criticism for the decision.
“I never asked for a trade,” Olsen said. “If he had said, ‘We are going to try to get rid of you,’ I would have said, ‘That’s fine.’ I did not go in his office and ask for a trade. I think a little bit of that is him trying to make it look like I tried to force my way out because they took so much heat about it. It’s just not true.”

Still, Olsen says he’s happier in a Carolina offense that will see him playing to his strengths, rather than the Mike Martz offense that doesn’t get the tight end involved in the passing game.

“There’s no question I wasn’t happy catching only 40 passes after the previous two years,” Olsen said. “It was pretty clear when Mike was hired it was going to be a different role. But I embraced that and was the bigger man. I tried to do the best I could and think I played well.”

And Olsen says he would have been willing to keep playing well in Chicago, and it was Angelo’s decision to send him elsewhere.

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Tavares Gooden played Thursday despite injury

Despite sitting out practice on Tuesday with a recurring neck injury, Tavares Gooden made three tackles in the second and third quarters of the Ravens’ 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday night.

The linebacker sounded happy that he could contribute to the defense despite the losing effort.

“The warrior in me, the coaching staff gave it up to me and let me make the decision, and I felt today that I was able to go,” Gooden said in the locker room beneath Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. “I still have a little soreness, but the competitive beast in me came out, and I just wanted to compete and show what I had and that I could hold my own weight on this team.”

Gooden confirmed that the neck injury is a repeat of a similar injury during last year’s training camp that the team had described as neck tightness. Gooden said the recurring nature of the injury prompted him to consider missing the game against the Eagles, but he changed his mind.

“I thought about that, but just getting ready for the game, my teammates were jumping around, and I kind of fed off of their energy,” he said. “So I had to go. It’s just something that I had to do. I didn’t want to let my team down.”

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Greg Olsen adds punch to Panthers' offense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton shared a common denominator on their biggest throws in the Panthers' first exhibition: tight end Greg Olsen was on the receiving end of both.

Olsen, who came to the Panthers last month in a trade with Chicago, pulled down three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown Saturday in Carolina's 20-10 win against the New York Giants.

The Panthers hope Olsen's performance was a preview of what is to come this fall in the first season of Extreme Makeover, Tight End Edition.
At his introductory news conference in January, first-year coach Ron Rivera identified the tight end spot as an area that needed to be addressed. The Panthers signed free agents Jeremy Shockey and Ben Hartsock, and gave up a third-round pick for Olsen, who had two big years in Chicago before seeing his role diminish when Mike Martz took over as the Bears' offensive coordinator in 2010.

Olsen seems thrilled to have landed in Charlotte, where the tight end figures prominently in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's offense.
Chudzinski came with Rivera from San Diego, where he worked with Antonio Gates, the Chargers' Pro Bowl tight end.

"I think it's a great fit. From the leadership of coach Rivera all the way down to the veterans that they had coming back and the new guys that they added, I feel like they have a really good group here," Olsen said after Saturday's game. "I've been around some good teams and I think that this group has something special and has something going forward."

Gary Barnidge is the only holdover among the six tight ends on the roster. Barnidge, a proven blocker who did not catch a pass in 2010, had two receptions for 25 yards against the Giants.

With Shockey not seeing much action, Olsen and Barnidge were targeted four times each-more than any of the Panthers' receivers.

"I was really pleased with their play as a unit. I thought they did some really good things," Rivera said. "I thought their route running was well. They caught the ball well when they had opportunities. They ran well with the ball and protected it."

"We have four guys who can really handle the position for us," Rivera added. "We are pretty excited about that group."

Rivera said last week the Panthers could potentially keep four tight ends on the roster. Olsen and Shockey, in particular, will be good safety valves for the team's young quarterbacks.

Newton said his safe, 10-yard completion to Olsen on his first play Saturday helped settle his nerves and get him into the flow of the game. Newton threw a 30-yard laser to Olsen later on the same drive to help set up the first of Olindo Mare's two field goals.

Olsen was careful not to put too much emphasis on the offensive showing, considering both teams sat their starters for most of the second half. But after failing to score a touchdown in four exhibitions last year, the Panthers will take it.

"You don't want to get too high. You don't want to get too low. But I do think we did a lot of good things that we can build upon and show what the future for this offense could look like," Olsen said. "There's obviously a lot of things we have to fix moving forward. But I feel like it was a good start."

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Darnell Jenkins Runs Over Minutewoman

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Calais Campbell Needs To Get Lower

Arizona Cardinal DE Calais Campbell struggled against a run play or two because he got too high. That's a problem for Campbell, who is 6-8. He was driven off the ball once because the Raiders lineman got under Campbell's shoulder pads.

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Clinton Portis Drawing No Interest From Teams

Former Washington Redskins running back seems to be the invisible man this summer. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Portis has not only drawn no interest but he hasn't even heard his name mentioned. The running back market has been slow and will remain so unless teams suffer an injury in training camp.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Jimmy Graham Hot & Cold

The Saints love his talent and the mismatches he presents in the red zone for the Saints offense.  However, Tight end Jimmy Graham has struggled with drops at times in the camp so far.  He’ll make a couple of tough catches and then drop a routine pass.  It’s puzzling, but at the same time kind of expected from a guy that hasn’t been playing football very long.  Graham was primarily a basketball player until the end of his college career.  There are still going to be growing pains with Graham, but for the most part he’ll be a huge weapon in 2011. 

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Greg Olsen leads Panthers in targets

Greg Olsen caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's preseason game against the Giants.
Olsen and fellow tight end Gary Barnidge tied for the team lead with four targets each. We're one game in and already Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski - an ex-tight end at the University of Miami and former tight ends coach of Antonio Gates - has put his stamp on the offense. Olsen's fantasy outlook is trending upwards.

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Brandon Harris - Doubly committed

Before Brandon Harris signed his four-year contract with the Texans, he autographed a separate piece of paper for his mother.

This paper had terms and conditions, too. Some Harris understood to be non-negotiable.

"My mom was a little nervous when I told her I was thinking about coming out (of college) early (for the NFL draft)," Harris said. "It sunk in finally, but she told me I had to promise her a few things."

The terms he agreed to are simple: Harris must complete his college education at the University of Miami and earn a degree. The conditions in which Harris must fulfill his contractual obligations, though, are more complex.

The second-round pick, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business, has to complete his coursework during the offseason following his rookie year in the NFL. And if he doesn't, Harris said he can expect to be in a ton of trouble.

"I don't even want to find out what happens if I don't," Harris said, laughing. "I'm not planning to."

Class in session
For now, class is still in session for the young cornerback.

"There's a lot of studying involved," Harris said. "Coach Wade (Phillips) has been putting a lot of different things in every night. There's so many different plays and different calls. Sometimes it can get overwhelming but you have to keep working and learn how to break everything down."
Because of the amount of information he has to process, Harris spends a good portion of his time after practice studying the playbook, film and defensive concepts.

He's not alone. Johnathan Joseph, Roc Carmichael and other younger cornerbacks work with each other sharing tips that further expedite the learning process.

"We communicate with each other all the time," Joseph said. "It's not like we are pulling one way or the other. This is a tight unit and everyone helps each other any way that they can."

The suggestions have worked. Harris is defending much better and breaking up passes on a consistent basis after a rocky first week of camp.
"Some days have been better than others," Harris said. "Some days you make a mistake and get frustrated because you want to play well. You just have to sit back and watch some of those veterans and then go back out there the next day and show that you belong here."

High football I.Q.
He's performed in practice like he belongs — garnering attention and the praise of cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph - and put himself in position to get playing time this season.

"He's showed that he has a high football I.Q. and good instincts on the field lately," Vance Joseph said. "He's above his time and plays like a veteran so that inside nickel spot is going to be his."

Vance Joseph and the Texans staff aren't the only people that see the potential in Harris. A former NFL player voiced his opinion not too long ago as well. During the NFL combine, Hall of Fame Cornerback Deion Sanders publicly stated that Harris was the best cornerback he had seen there.

Harris said the endorsement gave him a huge boost of confidence and serves as motivation for him to become a great player in the NFL.

"It was a huge compliment," he said. "It makes me want to go out and continue to work hard to live up to those standards."

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Tim George Jr. - A Runner-Up Finish in Pocono

With a late race charge, Tim George Jr. and the Applebee's/Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet team backed up their first-career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards victory in June with a second-place finish in Sunday's Pennsylvania ARCA 125 at Pocono Raceway.

Following a one-day postponement due to heavy rains that washed out the 2.5-mile track located in the mountains in eastern Pennsylvania, ARCA officials threw the green flag on the 50-lap event at 10 AM on Sunday morning.

Taking the green flag from the seventh position, George almost immediately fell back a few places in the field as he adjusted to a race track surface that had been changed by the torrential rain. A heavy crash on lap two brought out the caution flag for the following 11 laps.

A restart on lap-13 and George began to muscle his way through the field, moving himself into seventh position by lap 25. As he radioed to his crew about his continuing difficulty getting the No. 31 Applebee’s/PFDG Chevrolet to turn in the corners the second caution of the day was displayed on lap 26. George brought his black and red Chevrolet to pit road for service and crew chief Gere Kennon called for four fresh Hoosier tires, a minor chassis adjustment and fuel.

George restarted seventh on lap 31 and quickly found the speed needed to move through the field in the ensuing laps. He began picking off positions over the next handful of circuits, finding his way to second with nine laps remaining. In the closing laps, George fought hard to reel in the race leader, teammate Ty Dillon, whose lead had grown to over one second, but despite the solid effort, he crossed the finish line in second, 0.833 seconds behind Dillon.

“Well, it was second,” said George. “I would have liked to have won again today, but we’ll take second and a 1-2 finish for RCR.”

He explained his late charge through the field.

“We were really good at the beginning of the race, but after the pit stop, the changes Gere (crew chief Kennon) made were a big difference,” he said. “When we won (in June) we were really good in Turn three. Today, we were good in the Tunnel Turn as well and I made up a lot of ground there, running two and three wide. I think it made for some great racing for the fans and I hope they enjoyed it.”

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Yonder Alonso could play 3B at Triple-A

Reds manager Dusty Baker said it's possible Yonder Alonso could be demoted to Triple-A Louisville in order to get some playing time at third base.

"There's a chance. We've discussed that," Baker said. "You'd rather do it there than here." GM Walt Jocketty, though, indicated that they might want until the offseason to give Alonso regular time at the hot corner. "I don't know if we will or not," Jocketty said. "If we do something, we'll probably do it in the instructional league." Alonso has been taking grounders at third daily, but the Reds don't appear close to giving him a shot there in a game.

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Chris Perez Gets Another Save

Cleveland Indian Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 28 chances on Saturday as the Indians earned their fourth win in five games to remain three back of AL Central-leading Detroit.

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Jemile Weeks Needs To Work on His defense

Second baseman Jemile Weeks has shown himself to be a defensive liability. He had two errors on one slapstick play during a 7-1 loss to the Rangers and has 11 errors in 56 games overall. That is the most by an Athletics second baseman since Mark Ellis had 14 errors -- in 154 games -- in 2003.

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Pat Burrell likely to return in September

Giants manager Bruce Bochy is expecting Pat Burrell (foot) to return to the Giants sometime in September.

That is, if Burrell doesn't opt to undergo foot surgery. If he chooses to have the procedure, his career and season could both be over. The veteran outfielder is the owner of a .233/.342/.419 triple slash line with seven homers in 172 at-bats.

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Gaby Sanchez improves immensely at first base

MIAMI -- Hard work and dedication are two key ingredients to success in any profession.

Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez is one of the hardest working players on the team, and manager Jack McKeon believes that work ethic is a big reason why Sanchez has made such huge strides defensively this season.

"He listens and he works," McKeon said. "You've got a guy who really wants to improve himself, and Gaby is one of those kinds of guys."

Sanchez was a third baseman in college before being drafted as a catcher in 2005. He finally ended up at first base, but was not very good there initially. All that has changed, thanks in part to Marlins infield coach Perry Hill.

"Perry Hill is one of the best infield instructors around the game, and he's done a remarkable job with Sanchez," McKeon said.

Sanchez committed 11 errors in 2010, but he has cut that number down to four this season. What might be most impressive is how many plays he has made that have saved runs.

"Fifty percent difference or maybe 100 percent difference," McKeon said of how much Sanchez has improved. "He's been working diligently with Perry. He's improved a lot over there with how he fields the ball and how he sets his feet in position."

Having managed three-time Gold Glove Award winner Derrek Lee, McKeon knows what an excellent defensive first baseman could do for a team, and he feels Sanchez is headed in that direction.

"Perry takes him out on a regular basis and turned him into an outstanding first baseman," McKeon said. "He's saved a lot of runs. He's not Derrek Lee, but he's getting there."

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Blake Tekotte Optioned

The Padres called up right-handed reliever Pat Neshek from Triple-A Tucson and optioned outfielder Blake Tekotte to the minors before the final game of their series against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

Neshek began his fourth stint with the Padres this season. He was sent to Tucson on July 29. Neshek is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 24 games.

Tekotte was sent back to Double-A San Antonio. He's had three stints with the Padres, batting .182 in 18 games. He was called up Aug. 6.

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