16 May 2010

Photo of the Week - Damione Lewis In His New Patriots Uniform

Here is the first photo of Damione Lewis in his new Patriots uniform. It looks like Damione was able to his number, 92. It's unclear whether he paid to get it or not.

Click here to order Damione Lewis' proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen proud to help 'Canes in Chicago

Bears tight end Greg Olsen couldn't have been happier with his decision to go to the University of Miami.

While there on a scholarship, Olsen starred for the Hurricanes and earned a criminology degree.

And he also met Kara, whom he married in March.

Given all those reasons, Olsen said it's easy to lend his support to the University of Miami Alumni Association of Chicago's scholarship classic next week.

"I'm just trying to give back for the opportunities they gave to me," he said. "They gave me a scholarship to come play there, one of the top teams in the country, and believed in me and developed me and helped me get drafted."

"Anyway I can help support them and give other kids opportunities..."

Olsen, Miami head coach Randy Shannon, and Walter Payton's son, Jarrett, will be among the notable guests to attend a dinner to honor Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, a Hurricane alum, next Thursday at the Metropolitan Club.

Then, on Friday, there will be a golf outing at Oakbrook Country Club. Last year's events raised $45,000 for scholarship funds earmarked for Chicago-area students who want to attend the University of Miami.

"It's a cool event," Olsen said. "It's rare, Miami being a small school, to have that presence in Chicago."

In three NFL seasons, Olsen never had a chance to play Reed. Last season, in December, the Bears played in Baltimore but Reed was sidelined with an injury.

But, Olsen knows all about Reed, a six-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.

"He's kind of a legend down there, to all us young kids coming in," Olsen said of Reed. "It's a school that's proud of the players it produces. It's well documented the guys who come back and train.

"He was a guy, when I was a young kid playing, he would come back in the off-season and work out with us. We all knew what he did while at Miami, but also a potential Hall of Fame career. The best safety of his time, and one of the best ever."

Olsen said Reed's uniqueness lies in his versatility.

"He's just someone you have to account for. Most safeties are a ball guy or a box guy, run support. He's the whole package," Olsen said.
For those interested in tickets to the dinner or golf outing, visit www.chicago-canes.org.

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Hester's WR Time to Decrease?

Jerry Angelo will be watching the WRs closely.

"The secondary and the wide receivers are the positions that have the most interest for me, partly because you can see more from them during the off-season workouts," Angelo said recently on the team's web site.

"Until you get the pads on, you really can't evaluate the linemen like you want," Angelo added. "I'm excited about our receivers in our new offense, and I'm optimistic about what our secondary can be as well. I think we've got a good quality group of players. How it will play out, who's playing where, has yet to be determined."

Martz originally speculated that Devin Hester, last year's leader in receiving yardage, might play a reduced role as a slot receiver. But Hester, and especially Earl Bennett, made strides at the position last year. They might have to show even more improvement to prevent Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu from cutting into their playing time.

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

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Andre Johnson eager to rejoin Texans

Saying his absence from the team's first three voluntary practices over a contract dispute was "out of character", Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson told KRIV-TV in Houston that he was eager to rejoin his teammates.

"My big thing is I just want to be out there with my teammates and help us accomplish our goals," Johnson told KRIV. "Me sitting out is not going to help, so I chose to come back."

As expected, Johnson was on the practice field with his Texans teammates Thursday.

Johnson has five years left on an eight-year contract worth $60 million that included $15 million in guarantees. He is considered one of the top receivers in the NFL, but his contract doesn't place him among the highest-paid players at his position with Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall earning significantly more.

The Texans reworked his original contract three years ago when it had two years remaining.

"Me not showing up is out of my character and that's why I'm here. I just hope things will work out," Johnson told KRIV.

"I feel like the team understands my situation and I know theirs and we can meet at a certain point and get it done and have a successful season," he told KRIV.

Johnson's uncle and agent Andre Melton told The Associated Press that a meeting Wednesday with the team's front office went "extremely well."

Johnson's return is a smart move in dealing with a team that has had a policy under general manager Rick Smith to negotiate only with players who are participating in team activities. Melton seemed encouraged by his talk with team officials on Wednesday.

"I'm pretty sure it will be a win-win for everybody," he said when asked if he believes the two sides can agree to a deal that will make Johnson happy.

Johnson, the third overall pick in 2003, is entering his eighth season. He has led the league in receiving in each of the last two seasons.

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

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Santana Moss received treatment from doctor accused of HGH smuggling, according to source

LEESBURG, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is taking a "wait and see" approach to reports that receiver Santana Moss is linked to a Canadian doctor charged with smuggling and supplying human growth hormone.

Shanahan said Thursday that he will speak to Moss "at the right time" about the matter and has not been contacted by the league.

"Let's just wait and see before we throw him underneath the bus," Shanahan said after speaking at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
The Buffalo News and Washington Post reported that Moss has received treatment from Galea and is the unidentified Washington player mentioned in an affidavit associated with the case. The affidavit said the Washington player was planning to meet with Galea at a hotel last September.

The Washington Post earlier reported that Moss received human growth hormone from Galea but has since changed its report to say that Moss received only treatment from the doctor.

"Just because he's been associated with a doctor doesn't mean this person's guilty," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he's talked to "a couple of people" whose names have been associated previously with Galea.

"A lot of people whose names have been associated, there's no repercussions," the coach said. "So we're getting a little ahead of ourselves right now."

Galea is accused of smuggling, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone and unlawfully treating professional athletes. On Wednesday, a Canadian court document revealed that Galea made multiple trips to New York City, Boston, Cleveland and other U.S. cities to meet with professional athletes.

Moss is not in danger of being charged in the case, however. He had no comment Thursday and declined ESPN's request for interview through his representatives.

The Redskins also declined to comment Thursday when contacted by ESPN.

"At this juncture, any of the persons who are alleged to have used these substances are considered witnesses, and not targets, of this investigation," William J. Hochul Jr., the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, told The Buffalo News.

Mark J. Mahoney, one of Galea's attorneys, said his client did nothing wrong.

"Officials of the NFL and other sports organizations can sleep soundly tonight, because there is nothing he did with these athletes to help them with performance enhancement," Mahoney told The Buffalo News on Wednesday.

"[Galea] strictly provided treatment for injuries. If any athlete got [HGH], it was injected directly into injured tissue, in very small amounts, for purposes of healing," Mahoney told the newspaper.

When contacted Wednesday by The Washington Post about allegations involving an unnamed Redskins player, Moss tried to keep the topic on football.

"I'll talk about football. I don't know about nothing else," Moss told the newspaper. "I ain't got nothing to do with nothing that ain't about me."
Moss has played five seasons with the Redskins and previously spent four years with the New York Jets. He revealed at minicamp earlier this month that he recently had arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee to fix a problem that had been bothering him for three years.

"Santana's been out for a while," Shanahan said. "He's been working extremely hard over at the facility. We understand the rules and the guidelines and they're very explicit, so hopefully we do things the right way."

Moss would likely be suspended by the NFL if he is found to have taken human growth hormone or any other banned substance.

"I treat it like a sprained ankle," Shanahan said. "If a player broke their ankle and they're gone for the year, they're gone for the year."

Click here to order Santana Moss' proCane Rookie Card.

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Texans WR Johnson back without promise of new deal

Star wide receiver Andre Johnson returned to the Texans’ fold Thursday, sounding chastened after missing the team’s first three voluntary organized team activities and seemingly suggesting he wouldn’t skip future off-season workouts as a way of showing dissatisfaction with his contract.

“I didn’t feel right being at home,” Johnson said. “That’s not me. I never miss OTAs. I’ve always been here, so I came in. I’m man enough to say that it was (out of character for him to be a no-show). I’m disappointed about it. I talked to everybody (in Texans’ management). There are no grudges and I don’t have any grudges toward them. We’re just going to move on.

“You can’t really win against the organization. When you’re under contract, they can hold you to it. It’s up to them to re-do it, give you an extension or whatever. They really don’t have to do anything. But I’m past all that now. I’m here working and I’m going to continue to work and hopefully we can achieve our goal of getting to the playoffs and winning the super Bowl.

“Hopefully everything works out. That’s it. I plan on being a Texan until the day I retire.”

The 28-year-old Johnson was the Texans’ first draft choice in 2003 and has made the Pro Bowl three of the last four seasons. But, before he posted back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons with 226 receptions in 2008-09, he signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in March of 2007 that included $15 million in guaranteed money. He stands to earn $5.8 million in 2010 base salary.

In an arrangement that’s rare among high-profile NFL players, Johnson has always been represented by his uncle, Andre Melton, who isn’t an officially certified agent.

Asked if he had “outperformed his contract,” Johnson said: “Well, you know, everybody has certain feelings, but I’d rather not talk about it.”

Owner Bob McNair also met with the press  to discuss the situation. He said the team was willing to hear Johnson out. They spoke for the first time Wednesday.

“Andre came to see me and wanted to assure me that he loved being a Texan and that he’s a team player, that nothing has changed,” McNair said. “I told him we just missed having him out here and that we wanted him out here.

“With any of our players, if they’ve got something they want to talk about, we’re always willing to sit down and review their situation . . . help them understand what the team’s obligations and parameters are. There are some things we can do and some things we can’t.

“Andre’s a special player so, of course, we’ll listen. We’ll see what’s bothering him, where he’s coming from, and then see if something can be done.”

McNair said he wouldn’t personally participate in any process that might lead to a re-structuring of Johnson’s deal.

“I don’t do any negotiations,” he said. “(General manager) Rick Smith handles that.”

Smith didn’t make himself available for comment. There’s no word yet on when Smith and Johnson might sit down together.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak admitted he felt a measure of relief seeing No. 80 in the mix, even if the OTAs aren’t mandatory.

“It’s great to have him back,” Kubiak said. “Andre’s been the heart and soul of this football team for a long time. I’m not worried about Andre. He’ll be ready to play. Nobody works harder than him. “But you’ve got to understand there’s about 30 new faces out here who know who he is but didn’t see him in the locker room the last few days That’s really important. (Everybody’s) energy just picked up today.”  

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Pat Burrell Rumors: Interest from Giants and Padres

According to San Jose Mercury’s Andrew Baggarly, free agent Pat Burrell has received interest from the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres and he could be weighing offers.

Burrell is originally from the San Francisco Bay area, so that could play into his decision.

Burrell was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend and cleared waivers today. Any team interested in Burrell would have to pay the pro-rated portion of the league’s minimum $400,000 salary (about $300,000). The Rays will pay the remaining $6.5 million on his $9 million contract.

Burrell, 33, was hitting .202/.292/.333 in 24 games with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Chris Perez shaky of late for Tribe

Indians RP Chris Perez pitched a scoreless inning of relief during Wednesday's loss to the Royals. He allowed one hit while striking out a batter. Perez has a loss and two blown saves in his last five appearances.

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Former 'Cane Beverly Goebel Makes Impressive WPS Debut

Down a pair of key international players, the Washington Freedom turned to rookie Beverly Goebel and the 21-year-old rookie impressed in her first extended WPS action.

“So excited, it was so much fun,” the University of Miami graduate said.  “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

The Freedom made Goebel their third round pick in the 2010 WPS Draft—27th overall—and Sunday she proved herself a valuable depth player on a Freedom side missing Homare Sawa and Lisa De Vanna for National Team duty.  A week earlier Goebel had her number called after Abby Wambach had her nose broken in the 88th minute, but Sunday she saw her first significant time, banking more than half an hour as a second-half substitute.

“She changed the game,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said.  “She settled the midfield down and helped keep the ball.  She was huge yesterday.  For her to come in and play as well as she did is just a reflection of the kind of person that she is.”

“I thought I did okay,” a less effusive Goebel said.  “It was hard for me at first because of course I was a little nervous.  But I felt like I really got into my comfort zone and that was because of my team.  Every single person on the field was just so encouraging.”

Admittedly shy and intimidated when she arrived with the Freedom, Goebel has since been blown away by the support of her teammates—notably Rebecca Moros.

“I honestly did not expect to make an impact this early so I am so happy and thankful that they’ve been there and brought me to where I am now,” Goebel said.

Goebel, who played board games with her parents because she was too nervous to follow the draft, had heard good things about Freedom coach Jim Gabarra and his staff and was crossing her fingers she would wind up in Washington.

On Sunday Goebel held possession well on the right flank and tracked back aggressively on defense.  She took one shot at goal after Beat ‘keeper Brett Maron gave the ball away on a clearance, but she missed the top corner.  When the internationals return Goebel will likely slide back down the depth chart, but her strong performance is evidence that Gabarra and his staff still have the knack when it comes to uncovering talented players able to contribute to good teams.

“(We) got to do a little bit better job at possessing the ball and making them chase,” the understated Gabarra said after the 2-0 victory moved the Freedom over .500 for the first time this season.  “Credit to our team that we worked hard and battled and tried to possess the ball.  We could have done a little bit better but took the chances that we had pretty well.”

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Warren Sapp: Rothstein Owes Me $100K

Add Warren Sapp to the list of athletes, politicians and celebrities to the list of people screwed by Scott Rothstein.

The former NFL star and University of Miami standout claims Rothstein law firm is still holding $103,000 of his hard earned dough, but the problem is the law firm is now in bankruptcy and closed for business.

A federal complaint filed Tuesday says Sapp is trying to reclaim all or some of that money along with a few dozen other clients who had trust accounts with Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.

Attorneys have been going around trying to collect money that Rothstein may have used during his Ponzi scheme days to try and give investors and victims like Sapp some of their money back. Rothstein bilked about $1.4 billion during an elaborate Ponzi scheme that stretched into politics and pro sports.

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Solomon: Andre Johnson's right, so don't take it personally

So Andre Johnson is back, just as most figured he would be and a few days earlier than we predicted.

Did you get over your little panic attack, Houston?

Many of you took the news that Johnson didn't show up for voluntary meetings earlier this week with the right attitude: Real practice begins in July, games in September. Others of you took it as evidence that the Texans won't make the playoffs.

The worst among you took it as another slap in the face from a rich athlete whining about not making enough money.

Amazing, since Johnson, who will be on the field with the Texans at today's voluntary workout, hasn't whined, complained or otherwise said a word about money.

If you wonder why athletes sometimes don't seem to care about what fans think, check out what some fans have said about Johnson the last few days.

We're talking about a hard-working wide receiver who has done just about everything right in his seven-year career. He has done more for the Texans than the Texans have done for him.

What's fair really isn't
Other than pay him quite well to do a job — and for the past couple of years he has done it better than anybody else on the planet — what have the Texans really done for Johnson? They've stuck him with a group of co-workers who weren't good enough to make the playoffs.
So why wouldn't he just leave and go play somewhere else? Well, he can't because he has five years left on a contract. Ah, the NFL contract.
NFL contracts are like marriages in which only one person has to make vows.

Unlike those in professional baseball, basketball and hockey, NFL contracts are largely non-guaranteed.

Judging from some of the nasty correspondence I've received on Johnson, many of you don't know that if the Texans were unhappy with Johnson they could send him on his way without having to pay him another dime.

The money he is due per the contract in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 will go to Johnson only if the Texans decide to give it to him.
Yeah, that's a fair contract all right.

So if Bob McNair can rip up the contract whenever he likes, why can't Johnson request it be modified to his liking? Never hurts to ask.
Some of you even claimed it is immoral for Johnson to ask for a raise, as if his position in the saintly occupation of pass catcher precludes him from seeking a bump in pay on occasion. How un-American is that?

If lazy Lisa, three cubicles over, made more than your hard-working self, wouldn't you ask for a raise?

Have you ever sought a better interest rate on a loan? A better cellular phone deal? Why would you do such an immoral thing? Didn't you sign a contract? Please.

No offense taken
It is only smart that an NFL player should use leverage on those rare occasions he accidentally has some. One day the Texans will tell Johnson he can no longer work for them, and it won't matter how many years he has left on his contract then.

This is a good spot for a side note: Johnson hasn't broken any of the terms of his contract.

Missing three days of these unofficial practices is viewed by the league as a milder transgression than wearing the wrong color shoestrings in a game. A player would be fined for the latter.

With participating media pushing fans to attack players for doing nothing more than conducting solid business, NFL management doesn't even have to do its own dirty work when it comes to these types of contract discussions.

Johnson isn't a bad guy or poor leader because of what he did this week.

Know this: If the Texans had a few more Andre Johnsons, the words Super Bowl and Texans wouldn't draw laughter when they showed up in the same sentence. But there are only a few Johnson-level players in the NFL.

One e-mailer thought a painter signing a contract to do work at his house was an apt comparison to Johnson's situation with the Texans.

Johnson isn't some house painter easily replaced by thumbing through the Yellow Pages. He's Picasso.

Use leverage when can
There are roughly 250 people who do what Johnson does in the NFL, perhaps five who do it anywhere near as well as he does.

Does that make him special? Well, yes, for the brief period in his life when he will be the best in the world at what he does.

Better that he asks for a raise now, while he is the best, than wait for the Texans to take money off the table when he no longer is. (And one day that will happen.)

I don't understand why any of you would see that as a slap in your face.

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

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Andre Johnson ending "holdout"

Houston Texans' Andre Johnson(notes) was one of the league's top receivers last year, if not the best, and he would like to be paid more than the $5.8 million he's owed in his current contract for the coming season. So he used a little leverage and didn't bother showing up for a few Organized Team Activities.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Johnson is ending his little "holdout" today but that is likely because his agent brother Andre Mellon was promised a meeting on Friday with GM Rick Smith.

If things don't go the way Mellon likes tomorrow, don't be surprised if Johnson saves his holdout power for another period of time closer to the start of the season.

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

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Former University of Miami Kickers team up for summer kicking camp

Former Florida Firecats and University of Michigan place-kicker Brandon Kornblue will be teaming with the University of Miami this year for a summer kicking camp.

The University of Miami Kicking, Punting and Long Snapping Camp will be help June 19, featuring Kornblue and former UM starters Todd Sievers, Brian Monroe, Francesco Zampogna and Ross Abramson, as well as other former Canes players.

The instructional camp will also be a chance for kicking prospects to show their skills to Miami coaches.

The camp is open to high school and junior high kickers, punters and long-snappers. For more information, go to www.miamikickingcamp.com or call 561-702-0203.

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Roughriders Release Armour

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced one addition and two deletions while confirming one retirement on Tuesday.

The Roughriders announced that two other imports -- defensive back Carlos Armour and linebacker Jim Maxwell -- had been released. Armour spent part of the 2009 season with the Roughriders.

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Guillermo Diaz inks with Capitanes de Arecibo

The player from Puerto Rico lands in his home country

Capitanes de Arecibo signed combo guard Guillermo Diaz. The player spent the second part of the season in Italy with Biella averaging 7.7ppg. In March Diaz got injured and was replaced in the Italian team by Trey Johnson.

Superman Diaz has played six games in NBA with Clippers.

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Aubrey Huff mired in a hitting slump

Giants 1B Aubrey Huff went 1 for 6 in Tuesday's game against the Padres in San Diego. He is just 4 for 23 (.174) over his last six games.

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Burrell clears waivers, becomes free agent

NEW YORK -- Pat Burrell has cleared waivers and is now a free agent, meaning he can sign with any team that wants him.

The Rays designated Burrell for assignment prior to Friday's game against the Mariners and Hank Blalock was selected from Triple-A Durham.

Burrell struggled at the plate both seasons with the Rays, and his average fell to .202 following an 0-for-4 performance at the plate Friday night against Seattle. The 34-year-old served primarily as the designated hitter against right-handed pitchers while working in a platoon with Willy Aybar, and he had not been particularly effective in that role, striking out 28 times in 84 at-bats while getting just 17 hits.

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Good genes run in sprinter Williams' family

Rochester sprinter Erikka Williams hears the same question wherever she runs.

"The question is always, 'Are you really Lauryn's little sister?' " Erikka Williams said with a laugh, admitting she's heard it countless times. "And then when I say yes, everybody's eyes are on me, expecting me to be super quick."

That's life when your sister has six WPIAL gold medals — not to mention an Olympic silver medal and a world championship.

"I'm used to it," Erikka said.

The younger Williams sister could win her first gold medal Thursday when the WPIAL track and field championships are held at Baldwin, having qualified for the 100, 200 and long jump. The meet begins at 1 p.m.

"I'd really like to win them all," she said.

Erikka isn't quite ready to challenge her older sister's WPIAL championship record (12.04 in 100), but the junior has run the area's fastest reported 100 time this season (12.2 seconds), and the second-fastest 200 time (26.1) among Class AA girls.

Clairton's Paige Moody, the defending 100-meter champion, will be her toughest competition on the track.

"I think she can win," said Rochester coach Devan Parise, a good friend and former classmate of Lauryn's. Parise hosted her athletes at her house Wednesday night for a spaghetti dinner. "I think she can run sub-12 (seconds). If she runs 12.1, she could win it anyway."

Lauryn Williams lives in South Florida, but the sisters remain close. Lauryn recently signed an endorsement deal with Saucony, so she sent Erikka a new pair of white and black spikes that she'll wear today.

"They're pretty cute," Erikka said.

Lauryn Williams was a three-time PIAA champion in the 100 and 200 and holds state championship meet records in both events. She won a 100-meter silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and was world champion a year later.

But Lauryn doesn't give her little sister unsolicited coaching advice, insisting she's not good at teaching someone else how to sprint. Besides, Lauryn said, she doesn't want her little sister to always be known on the track as "Lauryn's little sister."

"Everyone says, 'Why don't you bring her here? Why don't you train her yourself?' " Lauryn Williams said. "I don't want her to ever have to hang in my shadow. If track and field is what she loves, I want her to find that on her own."

But Lauryn did use her connections to send Erikka to Los Angeles last summer for a track camp. It was there, Erikka said, that she decided to dedicate herself to running track. And ever since, her times have improved.

Three times she earned MVP honors at invitational meets.

"After my trip to California, I said, 'Yeah, this is what I want to do,' " Erikka said.

There's a nine-year age gap between the two sisters, so Erikka would have been in elementary school when Lauryn was winning her high school titles. She's heard the stories but doesn't remember much from those record-setting runs.

"I'm pretty sure I was there," Erikka said, "but I'm pretty sure I wasn't paying attention."

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Andre Johnson's unhappiness adds to Texans' drama

It was bad enough for the Houston Texans when they were dealing with Brian Cushing, the ramifications of what he did or did not take, and the resulting four-game suspension that will kick off Cushing's 2010 season. Now, receiver Andre Johnson(notes), the team's best player, is making noise about his contract. He's not happy about an eight-year, $60 million contract extension that he signed in March of 2007 that will pay him a base salary of $5.8 million this season. That base jumps to $6.8 million in 2011 and $7.3 million in 2012, narrows off to $7 million in 2013, and goes back up to $7.3 million in 2014. Add in $15 million in guaranteed money, and it sounds like a lot of scratch ... until you compare Johnson's contract with other recent receiver deals.

Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald(notes) signed a new deal in March of 2008, a four-year, $40 million contract that gave him $30 million guaranteed and $12.1 million in option and roster bonuses alone in 2009. Fitzgerald's base is $6.3 million in 2010 -- just half a million over Johnson's -- but it's the way in which the contract is structured that gives the advantage to Fitzgerald. Three-quarters of Fitzgerald's contract is guaranteed, while Johnson's guaranteed money comprises just one-fourth of his total deal. When Roy Williams signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Cowboys upon his trade from the Lions in October 2008, he got more than $26 million guaranteed, including a $10 million option bonus in the second year. He has a couple of years in which the deal is voidable -- 2013 and 2014 have base salaries of over $8 million -- but Williams will earn far more than his on-field production has been worth.

And that's where Johnson is in the right. As great as Fitzgerald has been, there's little doubt that Johnson has been the NFL's most productive receiver over the last few years. Last season, Johnson was targeted 172 times to Fitzgerald's 153 and Williams' 86. As Houston's offense has gone extremely pass-heavy, Johnson has been the focus of every defense playing the Texans, and he's still been able to put up ridiculous numbers -- his 1,569 receiving yards led the league by more than 200 yards over New England's Wes Welker(notes). No receiver had more plays of 20 yards or more last season than Johnson's 22. In 2008, Johnson led the league in catches (115) and receiving yards (1,575). And Houston's overall game plan isn't going to change anytime soon, which means that Johnson will continue to be the pointman in that offense.

Johnson is currently absent from the Texans' OTAs, and General Manager Rick Smith has said that the team has a strict policy of refusing to negotiate with players who aren't present. Johnson negotiated that extension with the help of Andre Melton, his uncle and agent, and Melton was quoted as saying last season that he had an "exit strategy" for Johnson if the Texans didn't pony up. Johnson went on the record and disagreed with that notion, but he's got a point when it comes to his compensation. Perhaps step one is to hire a more experienced advisor to help him through the process.

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

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Bucs will limit Kellen Winslow's workload until camp

The Bucs plan to limit the off-season workload for tight end Kellen Winslow as he recovers from a fifth surgery on his right knee.

The minor arthroscopic procedure was necessary to repair some scar tissue from previous surgeries and should not prevent him from participating in training camp, according to general manager Mark Dominik. Winslow is not participating in voluntary workouts this week.
Bucs guard Davin Joseph also will miss several Organized Team Activities recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

"Like Davin and dozens of players throughout the league, Kellen did have a procedure on his knee to clean up some things,'' Dominik said. "The fact that he is an established veteran, we plan to limit him during the OTA's and off-season work.''

Click here to order Kellen Winslow's proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson in odd role as distraction

Just as the story of Brian Cushing's suspension is due to quiet down some, the Houston Texans are faced with a new drama.

John McClain and Mark Berman report that Andre Johnson was not a part of Monday’s opening organized training activities session because he’s dissatisfied with his deal.

Johnson has five years remaining on his contract and will make a base salary of $5.8 million in 2010. When he still had two years remaining on his original deal, the Texans redid it in March of 2007. He got an eight-year, $60 million package with $15 million guaranteed.

Berman talked to GM Rick Smith about Johnson’s absence Monday.

"I'm not real worried about that," said Rick Smith. "We re-did him with two years left on his original deal and that was three years ago.

"And over the first three years of that deal, I think if you even ask him, he's been well compensated.

"He's got five years left on that deal. We're willing to sit down and talk with him and he knows that."

Smith acknowledges that re-doing a contract with five years left is unusual.

"It's very difficult," said Smith. "It's something that's not customary, but we've got a relationship with him and he knows we are willing to sit down and talk with him."

If Johnson wanted to get management’s attention more publicly, so be it. But he’s rated as a true pro and saw how Dunta Robinson’s contract dispute was unhealthy for the team last year.

Johnson has a tremendous amount invested in the Texans. With Houston believing it’s ready to make the jump into the playoffs, I have a hard time imagining Johnson would create an extended scenario where he or his contract is an issue.

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Aubrey Huff: I'll Move For Posey

Aubrey Huff says he's open to playing left field for the Giants so that prospect Buster Posey can play first base.

"If I'm told to go out to left field, I'll do it," Huff said.

"I've played outfield before. I played (right field) for a whole season in Tampa and played fairly well out there. It's not something I'm not comfortable with. I definitely enjoyed my time out there. I'm not the kind of guy who has to be at one certain position every day. Whatever they want. I'll play third, first, left, right, DH."

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Andre Johnson wants to redo contract

HOUSTON -- Andre Johnson has five years remaining on a $60 million contract he signed with the Texans in 2007. The star receiver feels that he's already outplayed that contract, however, and was missing from the start of Houston's voluntary organized team activities on Monday.

Johnson, who led the NFL in receiving yards last season (1,569 yards), is scheduled to make $5.8 million this season.

Texans general manager Rick Smith said Monday that Johnson was missing because he was unhappy with his current contract.

Since Johnson signed his contract, the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald received a four-year, $40 million deal and new Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall agreed to a four-year, $47 million contract after he was traded from the Denver Broncos.

Smith said that he was "not real worried" about the four-time Pro Bowler's absence.

"He's got five years left on [the deal he signed in 2007]. We're willing to sit down and talk with him and he knows that," Smith said.

Still, Smith said that redoing a contract with five years remaining will be challenging.

"It's very difficult," Smith said. "It's something that's not customary, but we've got a relationship with him and he knows we are willing to sit down and talk with him."

The team's policy under Smith has been to negotiate only with players who are participating in team activities. Smith pointed to what star middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans did last offseason when he was unhappy with his contract.

"One of the things that was real smart on his part was the fact that he was upset that we had not been able to come to terms with an agreement, but he came back and was a part of the offseason workout and he was with his teammates, he was a leader and he did things the right way," Smith said. "He played his contract out and he was rewarded."

Johnson's absence is another distraction for a team that has been dealing with Brian Cushing's upcoming four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. The 2010 season could be a pivotal one for the team, which is coming off its first winning record but has never reached the playoffs.

"You'd like to have all your people out here working, especially when we're trying to go do something we never have done," Smith said. "So the ideal situation is to have everybody working together, but as we talked about last week, you've got to be able to deal with distractions."
Smith said he has spoken to the receiver but wouldn't divulge details about their conversations.

"Obviously we want Andre here," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I know he and Rick are talking, so we'll get it worked out. We're not worried about Andre. He'll do his job."

Johnson has 587 receptions for 7,948 yards and 42 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons -- all with Houston.

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DJ Williams Misses First Day of OTAs

In what appears to be nothing more than a veteran move, starting inside linebacker D.J. Williams and nosetackle Jamal Williams were both absent from the Broncos’ first day of voluntary passing camp Monday.

Both Williams’ had contacted Broncos coach Josh McDaniels about missing the first-day. McDaniels downplayed their absences at his post-practice press conference.

D.J. Williams, who forfeited a $100,000 workout bonus with the club so he could stay back and condition in his offseason hometown of Miami, is scheduled to arrive in Denver today and will participate in the team’s camp workout Tuesday.

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Winslow Absent From OTAs: Recovering From Fifth Knee Surgery

PewterReport.com has learned that Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow was not at One Buccaneer Place on Monday because he is recovering from offseason knee surgery which is believed to be his fifth operation on his right knee in the last six years. Sources close to the situation say the knee surgery was a minor arthroscopic procedure that likely cleaned out some excess scar tissue from previous surgeries stemming from a motorcycle crash in 2005 when he was a member of the Cleveland Browns. Winslow tore his anterior cruciate ligament in that crash and had two surgeries prior to having microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007. The last two procedures after the microfracture operation, including the knee surgery this offseason, were to remove some of the excess scar tissue that can cause some soreness and inflammation. The Bucs do not believe this most recent surgery will impede Winslow in any way in 2010.

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“Good Guy” Feagles May Get Long-Awaited Distinction

The NFL has had some great punters. In the 1970’s there was Raiders’ Ray Guy, who could boot the ball to the moon. He is considered the forerunner of all things punting in this league, and is the odds-on favorite to become the first punter to earn enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Except, it hasn’t happened yet.

Guy has been eligible for enshrinement since 1991 but has never garnered enough votes to gain entrance. The collective school of thought is that if Guy does not make the Hall of Fame, then no punter should.

That school of thought may change now that Jeff Feagles has retired.

Feagles was as much a factor in games as Guy was. Guy would boom the ball and push opponents back while Feagles used finesse and savvy to trap them deep in their own territory.

Now, purists are rethinking their stance on who the game’s greatest punter was.

Feagles played in more games than any other player except two (kickers Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson), has punted the ball nearly 300 times more than runner-up Sean Landeta and kicked for 71,211 yards over a 22-year career. That’s over 40 miles…

He played in two Pro Bowls in his career – 13 years apart – and was voted team captain of the Giants three-times in his forties.

The other day at the press conference to announce Feagles’ retirement, coach Tom Coughlin could not shield his emotions in introducing Feagles. He ran the gamut from joy to sadness in describing Feagles and called him “one of the greatest Giants ever.”

Coughlin’s sentiments are echoed throughout the community here in New York. Everyone is a Jeff Feagles fan. He is a good guy who lasted over two decades in the game of football and is a great teammate and family man.

The media likes him, too, and those factors will bode well when Jeff Feagles’ name appears on a Hall of Fame ballot in five years. This could be good news for Guy, as well.

If the voters know Feagles is going to be hard to keep out of Canton, then Guy must go in also. Either way, Feagles is deserving. The NFL’s good guy will get his due.

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New Orleans Saints rookie Jimmy Graham appreciates life's lessons

For most people, there would be something terrifying about the controlled violence of professional football.

For New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, however, all the scary stuff happened off the field.

And most of that happened years ago when, at the age of 11, he awoke at the end of a car ride and discovered his mother was signing him into a group home. She dropped him off with two sacks of clothes, and with his sister wailing in the back, drove off into the night.

"Waking up in a place you don't know, with people you don't know, getting beat up every day -- it sculpted me," Graham said last week during the Saints' rookie camp. "It's definitely been a travel. I battled, but it's made my character."

He's also made an interesting group of friends during that travel. From Rebecca Vinson, the nurse who eventually took him in, to Donna Shalala, the president of the University of Miami where he spent five years as a student-athlete, something about Graham's personality drew them into his orbit.

It's not every scholarship kid, for example, who gets Bernie Kosar to throw passes to him three days a week when he wants to switch from basketball to football.

But, as Shalala noted when singling Graham out for praise when he graduated from Miami in 2009, sometimes a scholarship kid doesn't pan out, and sometimes they prove to be a man like Graham.

"He is a bright, special young man, with a joyful demeanor that is unusual and endearing," Shalala wrote in an e-mail Friday.

Praise from the powerful isn't taken lightly by its subject.

"That meant a lot, especially coming from where I'm from," Graham said when asked about Shalala's stamp of approval. "And I'm going to prove to her she made the right decision."

To see Graham, a chiseled 6 feet 6 and 260 pounds, is to see an athlete. He finished a four-year basketball career for the Hurricanes with more personal fouls than field goals, but he was also captain his senior year and could have played the game professionally in Europe.
Instead, he returned to what he called "his first love," football, for that fifth year of collegiate athletic eligibility, and the first time since he was in ninth grade.

Actually, he had wanted to play football at Miami before that, but the basketball coaching staff, understandably worried about injury, talked him out of it. Miami tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio insisted he was unaware of that early desire on Graham's part, but said the Hurricanes football coaches always loved to watch him play hoops.

"To be honest, and I don't mean to knock the sport, but basketball isn't as tough as football," Pannunzio said. "There has to be a part of you ready to get wiped out in football, and you have to have that mentality, and you could tell watching Jimmy Graham on the basketball court that he had that mentality. Right away we could see he had something we didn't have."

Whatever that right stuff was, Graham started developing it in that group home where his mother left him for two years. Graham still has never met his biological father, and he doesn't call any of the tough cases he met in the group home siblings.

He rejoined his mother and a man with whom she was involved -- Graham rather haltingly accepts the title of stepfather from him, although he found the man a snake from the beginning and was not surprised to learn he was cheating on his wife.

It was at that time, in Goldsboro, N.C., that he came to the attention of Becky Vinson, whose Bible study class Graham used to attend Wednesday nights, dressed in mismatched shoes and often soiled clothes, Vinson recalled.

"Then one week he spoke up, " she recalled. "We were going around the room with prayer requests, which are usually for some sick grandparent or something, and when we got to him he spoke with a real sense of urgency in his voice, saying, 'I need everybody to pray for me, because I think my mom is getting ready to put me back in another home.'"

So Vinson took Graham into the trailer she shared with her 6-year-old daughter, Karena. It was not a match made in heaven initially.
"You know, he'd been in and out of a lot of places growing up, " Vinson said. "He had a lot of anger, a lot of those issues he had to work through, and for the first four or five months it was really tough."

It was his grades that cost him football, Vinson said, recalling she read Graham the riot act when he brought home a raft of F's on a report card. Unless he got off the gridiron and concentrated on academics, Vinson said, he would have to go back with his mother.

Graham's report cards quickly turned to A's and, Vinson said proudly, "not in some easy bunch of classes, either, but algebra, geometry, biology -- in smart classes he was getting all A's."

The classroom success went hand in hand with the basketball he was allowed to continue, and Graham wound up as one of the top 100 high school players in the nation and a scholarship to Miami to play in the ACC.

College athletic departments are filled with kids who have overcome a lot of obstacles, who have beaten long odds to excel at a sport enough to earn a scholarship ride. But even in that group Graham stood out, according to Pannunzio.

"It's not that coaches can't identify the qualities in a kid that will translate into success, " he said. "It's that you realize the pool of Jimmy Grahams in the world is very small."

Tight end is something of a glamour position with the Hurricanes, as the program has produced a bevy of NFL players at that position. Yet Graham immediately became a starter. He caught only 17 passes in that one season, but he scored five touchdowns and caught the eye of more than just Saints Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis.

In fact, a number of NFL teams watched him closely at the Senior Bowl, where he arrived after working out together in Florida with none other than Tim Tebow, who also found Graham impressive.

Still, there were indications the Saints might be the team. When they represented the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, for instance, Graham was a guest of the team at a practice. Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, who also played at Miami, gave him words of encouragement in the locker room; linebacker Jonathan Vilma already knew about the new kid at "the U, " as Hurricanes players past and present refer to their school.

Both Shalala and Pannunzio now refer to Graham as an "ambassador" for Miami, although when he screamed himself hoarse at Super Bowl XLIV he was wearing black and gold rather than green and orange and cheering for the Saints as they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
And yet, despite the signs something could be brewing between Graham and the Saints, the only person who caught on fully was Karena, now 15 years old.

"A lot of teams seemed interested, so it was hard to say, but my daughter knew the whole time it would be the Saints, " Vinson said. "I was at a restaurant when the word flashed the Saints had taken him, and I screamed so loud people were worried."

Both Vinson and Graham said the fit seems logical, given the player and the city have endured so much.

"That was one of the things I thought about right away about coming to New Orleans, " Graham said. "I know there are a lot of kids in the city who have lived through a lot, and that seemed like sharing my own experience with them would be a kind of destiny."

Graham talks like that, with the easy grace of a well-educated man with a clear vision of his future. It seems remarkable that there isn't a trace of anger or slang in his voice, or something guarded or hunted in his look, but Vinson said it's always been that way.

"I know it sounds crazy now, but I always thought he had a lot of potential, " she said. "I can't tell you I thought he'd be a professional football player, but I knew he'd be successful. It's because he's so smart and because I told him he can't do poorly, that that was unacceptable."

The challenge meant a lot to Graham. He talks now with his mother from time to time -- she did a tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army, which Graham respects immensely -- but he is wary about past relations and he maintains strict control over his inner circle, which includes a New Orleanian he roomed with at Miami.

"I've forgiven my mom, but I'll certainly never forget, " he said. "Becky, though, she means the world to me. She took me in and gave me an opportunity and now she's very excited I'm in New Orleans.

"People come at you from everywhere, " he added. "But I'm a strong guy and I surround myself with good people. That's where I'm at right now."

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Ken Dorsey Looking To Sign With a CFL Team

Former University of Miami All-American Ken Dorsey, who quarterbacked the Canes to a national championship and holds numerous school passing records, has been the quarterbacks coach for Lakewood Ranch Highschool the past two seasons. Dorsey though may take a leave from his coaching duties and play again soon. Dorsey is working on a deal to play in the Canadian Football League.

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Devin Hester Learning All Wide Receiver Spots

One area where the Bears have stayed the course is at wide receiver, a group that has been a lightning rod for criticism but was one of the brighter spots on offense last season. Martz is sifting through the players there and while he originally suggested Devin Hester would be an ideal slot receiver, he's playing inside and outside depending on the play call.

"It's exciting, the things that Martz has brought with him," Hester said. "Just out there running routes, I can't wait to go against defenses. I am just so eager to try to do it against our opponents.

"Our offense is really built around giving the receivers opportunities to make plays. It's all up to the receivers. We have a big role this season to step up and make plays. I think our group has a good chance to shock a lot of people."

Hester said the offense better suits a quarterback like Jay Cutler who has the arm strength to make the throws downfield than what the Bears did previously. Hester dismissed the idea that Martz's playbook is going to be too difficult for anyone to digest.

"It's going to take time," he said. "Everything is not going to happen overnight. The way we have been picking up things so far, we just have to continue."

Meanwhile, Angelo said the Bears still could add a player or two, including an offensive lineman, but ruled out any linemen currently available.

"We could (sign someone) but we're not driven to do it," he said. "There is no one (available) right now (that we would bring in). I just feel there is the possibility of players being available later on."

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Jarrett Payton Talks About the 7th Annual Mooseheart Run and Bike Blessing


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METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Sometime between age 11, when his mother dropped him off at a group home, and last month, when he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints, Jimmy Graham stopped feeling sorry for himself.

Graham wouldn't wish a childhood like his on anyone - not the poverty, abandonment or neglect. Yet he says, ``I wouldn't change anything.''
After all, his unfortunate upbringing led him to someone who cared and eventually adopted him. With her help, he gained the confidence to do what he did at Miami: get two college degrees, play four years of basketball and one of football, and become a third-round draft choice of the defending Super Bowl champions.

``To be signed away by your mom isn't the greatest situation,'' Graham said of being put in the group home. ``It isn't something that - being a little kid - something that's easy, waking up somewhere you don't know, with people you don't know, and getting beat up every day. It definitely sculpted my life.''

Adult life could turn out quite well. When he graduated from Miami a year ago with degrees in business administration and marketing - before he'd started playing football and taking graduate courses - Graham was honored on stage by university president Donna Shalala.
Shalala, a Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton, said by phone this week that she tries to get to know every student on Miami's campus and was aware of Graham's difficult childhood.

``He overcame it with a grace and intelligence that didn't give him a chip on his shoulder, just a drive that only champions have,'' Shalala said. ``He would walk around campus just smiling, just so happy he was there. He'd talk to everyone.''

On the basketball team, he was a workmanlike power forward with speed who thrived at defense and rebounding. He didn't back down from anyone, and in 2009 held North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansbrough to eight points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. The Hurricanes nearly upset the eventual national champion Tar Heels that day, falling 69-65.

His hustling play, personal story and approachability made him popular with fans and peers, and when Shalala introduced him at graduation, ``The reaction of the students was huge,'' she said.

Better than anyone.

In the late 1990s, after serving in the Navy as an electronics technician, Vinson returned home to Goldsboro, N.C., and started working toward a nursing degree. Her younger sister was Graham's classmate and they were part of a group of friends that congregated at Vinson's mother's house.

By that time, Graham was out of the group home and living in his mother's apartment again, but Vinson saw signs that not all was well, such as the clothes he wore during winter.

``When a kid shows up in shorts and a tank top and shoes with holes, it's obvious this was not appropriate for the weather, and this was a common theme with him,'' she recalled.

Vinson was volunteering as an assistant youth leader at her church and invited Graham to some gatherings, producing the moment that changed both of their lives.

``We're going around the room as always to ask if any kids had prayer requests, and everything I've ever been in, if people have prayer requests they want to share, it's like, grandma's sick or an uncle in the hospital, those kind of things,'' Vinson recalled. ``On this specific occasion, there was a sense of urgency with Jimmy's request.''

Graham asked for prayer that his mother wouldn't put him back in a group home, and he sounded scared, Vinson recalled.
Praying for it and going about my day.'''

Vinson offered to take Graham in, even though she had very little money, a daughter of her own, Karena, and lived in a rented single-wide trailer.

``The movie '(The) Blind Side' doesn't have anything on Jimmy Graham,'' Miami tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio said, referring to the book and film depicting how NFL lineman Michael Oher, while in high school, was adopted by a wealthy family in Memphis.

Vinson bought Graham whatever proper clothes she could afford and stayed on him about his grades.

``She means the world to me,'' said Graham, who recently completed his first practices with the Saints at the club's rookie camp. ``She took me in as a sophomore in high school and gave me a great opportunity. I definitely owe her the world.''

Their unusual union produced one of the highlights of Vinson's life: watching Graham graduate from Miami.

``I was crying, crying, happy crying,'' said Vinson, who's now 35 and enrolled in a nurse practitioner's degree program through East Carolina. ``It was the most amazing feeling in the world and I hope I never ever forget that feeling.''

Meanwhile, Pannunzio eagerly anticipated his chance to work with Graham, who had fulfilled his basketball obligations and had offers to play professionally in Europe, but stayed at Miami to try football.

Gates, who also had basketball backgrounds before flourishing in pro football.

``We needed a tight end that could stretch the field. He could really run,'' Pannunzio said. ``He might not become Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez, but he has a chance to be as good or better.''

Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns in his one season at Miami. Current Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, a former Hurricanes star, followed his progress.

``I'm proud of him,'' Shockey said. ``A lot of people in the National Football League have stories and his is very dramatic. Dramatic things in life drive you to be great, or drive you to be not such a good person, and it's good to see someone that never had really much of anything growing up and seeing him turn that into a positive.''

Graham attended the Super Bowl last February in Miami wearing a Saints hat, having little idea that he'd be wearing a gold Saints helmet at rookie camp a couple months later.

Being drafted by New Orleans was ideal for reasons beyond football.

The city has its share of children with tough lives - Hurricane Katrina didn't help - and Graham wants to meet them.
``I know there's a lot of little kids who are like me and I see it as a great opportunity and kind of destiny for me to be here,'' he said. ``I'm a guy about giving back.''

He had gotten calls from a number of them. She lets them go to voice mail and gives Graham the message.

Graham never met his real father, but has re-established contact with his biological mother, who he said seemed to mature after joining the military and serving in Iraq.

``I talk to my mother now,'' Graham said. ``I've forgiven her. ... You certainly never forget, but I love her.''

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Yonder Alonso has career night for Louisville

After going 1-for-8 in his first two Triple-A games, Yonder Alonso broke out on Saturday night.

The former first-round Draft pick went 4-for-5 with a double and a career-high six RBIs to lead the Louisville Bats to a 12-9 win at Rochester.
The Bats had lost nine of their previous 10 games on the road.

Selected seventh overall in the 2008 Draft out of the University of Miami, Alonso was hitting .267 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 31 games for Double-A Carolina before joining the Bats on Thursday.

He played exclusively as a first baseman or designated hitter in 2009, but with Joey Votto ensconced at first in Cincinnati, spent about half of his games with the Mudcats this season in left field. He hit .306 while playing first and just .222 as an outfielder.

"I was pretty surprised," the Cuban-born Alonso said of his promotion. "I only have enough clothes for four or five days and we just started an eight-game road trip."

Regarding his outfield play, Alonso said his comfort level was improving.

"I've been getting good coaching both here and in Double-A and getting good advice from the guys. Plus, it helps me stay in shape," added the 210-pound 23-year-old.

Hitting third and playing left field on Saturday night, Alonso batted four times with runners in scoring position and took full advantage. He drove in Zack Cozart with a one-out single in the first inning, clubbed a bases-clearing double in the fifth and drove in leadoff man Chris Burke with a single in the seventh. A two-out base hit to right scored Burke again in the eighth.

The four hits also were a career high for the lefty-hitting Alonso, with three of them coming off southpaws.

"I just got good pitches to hit with guys on base," he said.

Burke was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored, while Cozart went 3-for-4 with a homer, four runs scored and two RBIs. The top three hitters in the Bats' lineup accounted for 10 of their 13 hits.

Neither club's pitchers had a pleasant night, with Louisville starter Justin Lehr (1-3) yielding five runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out one. Rochester's Glen Perkins (0-5) surrendered seven runs -- four earned -- on seven hits over five frames. He has a 10.08 ERA through seven starts.

For Alonso, the game was a big step forward. And with any luck, his hot performance will inspire one of his teammates to lend him a sweatshirt.

"It's pretty cold here [in Rochester]," he said.

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A's prospect Jemile Weeks out with hip injury

2008 first-round pick Jemile Weeks is again sidelined with a hip injury and could miss a month.
Weeks missed the first seven weeks of last season with a similar problem in his left hip. The guess is that he'll miss about a month this time. Weeks was hitting .304/.368/.490 in 102 at-bats for Double-A Midland before getting hurt a week ago.

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Bluefish Add Charlton Jimerson

Bridgeport, Conn. – The Bridgeport Bluefish today announced the signing of outfielder Charlton Jimerson. The former Major Leaguer will be entering his 10th season of professional baseball, second in the Atlantic League and first with the Bluefish.

“Charlton will be a fantastic addition to this club,” says Bluefish manager Willie Upshaw. “Having the ability to insert a player of his caliber into the lineup will provide a tremendous spark.”

Jimerson made his Atlantic League debut as a member of the Newark Bears last year. He became one of the most dominant hitters in the league and won the batting title by posting a .335 mark. The slugger also recorded 21 home runs, 62 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 103 games played.

The 30-year-old made his Major League debut with the Houston Astros in 2006 following six successful seasons in the minors. In his first Major League at-bat, the California-native slugged a home run on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 4, 2006. He finished that season with a .333 batting average over 17 games. After being signed by the Seattle Mariners the following year, he would make two more tours in the Majors in 2007 and 2008. Jimerson has appeared in 30 career Major League games and owns a .444 batting average.

Charlton was selected by the Houston Astros in the fifth round of the 2001 amateur draft.

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Aubrey Huff could move to left

Aubrey Huff said he's open to playing left field if the Giants decide to promote Buster Posey to play first base.

"If I'm told to go out to left field, I'll do it," Huff said. "I've played outfield before. I played (right field) for a whole season in Tampa and played fairly well out there. It's not something I'm not comfortable with. I definitely enjoyed my time out there. I'm not the kind of guy who has to be at one certain position every day. Whatever they want. I'll play third, first, left, right, DH."

Huff smiled and added, "It would ruin my Gold Glove opportunity at first."

The Giants' left fielder, Mark DeRosa, has missed six games with a left wrist injury, and it's still possible he could go on the disabled list and require in-season surgery. On Saturday, he took some swings, and he will take more today.

Another way Huff could move to left: With second baseman Freddy Sanchez and shortstop Edgar Renteria coming off the DL soon, Juan Uribe could move to third and Pablo Sandoval to first.

If Posey's brought up to play first, Huff is confident it'll work.

"If you could catch, you could pretty much play first," Huff said. "Just watching him move around in spring training, to me, he's got the perfect catcher's body: strong legs, stocky, quick feet. You can definitely tell he can play the infield."

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Signing Pat Burrell the worst mistake the Tampa Bay Rays have ever made

ST. PETERSBURG — The question is not about what went wrong, which was pretty much everything between coming and going.

The question is not about the size of the contract, although you can sum up Pat Burrell's Rays' Daze this way: The guy got a million dollars for each of his 16 home runs, which is far too much money for far too little muscle.

The question is not about the measure of the mistake of signing him, which was bad enough to apply for federal funding. To sum it up, signing Burrell was the worst idea in Rays franchise history. Worse than Wilson Alvarez. Worse than Vinny Castilla. Worse than Ben Grieve.

No, in the mercifully brief, thankfully complete term of Burrell, only one question counts:

Gee, Andrew, what took you so long?

It is over now, the unpleasant, unproductive stay of Burrell. It is only the middle of May, but executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the rest of the Rays' front office finally have seen enough. Burrell has gone from being a designated hitter to being designated for assignment, which is a polite way for a team to inform a player that it is willing to pay him millions of dollars to stay away.

Why? Because in the case of Burrell, it's worth it.

What a sad swing-and-a-miss he turned out to be. He couldn't throw, couldn't field, couldn't run and, from all indications, couldn't smile. In Tampa Bay, he was never "Pat the Bat." In Tampa Bay, he was "Pat Can't Hit That."

Now here's a sobering thought. If Burrell hadn't been shown the door Saturday morning, manager Joe Maddon said it would have been him — not Willy Aybar — at the plate in the bottom of the ninth against the Mariners with the score tied. Anyone think Burrell would have hit a walkoff homer?

In the end, do you know what Burrell's legacy will be? Because of him, Hank Blalock is about to become the most popular DH in Rays history. Why? Because he isn't Burrell. And that's a start.

That's the thing about Tampa Bay fans. They don't warm easily to a nonproductive mercenary. In his brief stay, Burrell was right there with the least popular of Rays — Alvarez, Castilla, Grieve. And remember, this is a franchise that flirted with John Rocker and Roberto Alomar, too. You could argue that few athletes in Tampa Bay history — maybe Michael Clayton, maybe Jerramy Stevens, maybe John Grahame, maybe Trent Dilfer, maybe Castilla or Alvarez — have been this unpopular.

I don't know about you, but I think we should give Burrell the key to the city. Provided, of course, that city is Philadelphia.

Let's be honest. Burrell isn't the only guy in the batting order who was struggling. At times, these guys make you wonder if there are termites in the batting cage. There are hitters who might as well bring a golf club to the plate and try to hit sliders with that. Clearly, it was time to get some help from somewhere.

Enter Blalock, who was signed in spring training because the Rays figured a day such as Saturday might be coming. After watching Burrell's struggles most of last season, the Rays were aware this year might not go the distance.

Will Blalock be any better?

How on earth could he be any worse?

So where did it go wrong for Burrell? In January 2009, he looked like such a good signing that even Blalock's agent, Scott Boras, was arguing that the Rays got off cheap. Odd. Boras hasn't made that argument lately.

Even then, Burrell had his flaws. On a team built on speed and defense, he possessed neither. But for most of his years, Burrell had been a solid hitter with predictable results. For four straight seasons, he had averaged 30 homers and 90-something RBIs. The Rays saw him as an equalizer against left-handed pitching. The fans saw him as a signpost of how hungry owner Stu Sternberg was to get back to the playoffs.
So how could Burrell fail so miserably? Maybe part of it had to do with adjusting to the American League. Maybe part of it had to do with adjusting to being a designated hitter. Maybe part of it had to do with adjusting to being a 33-year-old hitter.

Regardless, he was never an impact player with the Rays. They might as well have sent an ATM to the plate four times a night. It would hit as much and run as fast, and no one would have had to stuff it with as many dollars.

In the end, he was Pat the Pact. That's a truth about sports. No one seems to mind how much the great players make. The failures? Fans can recite those to the dime.

What did the Rays get for their $16 million? Burrell played in 146 games, so you can think of it as $109,583.04 per game. He hit .218, so you could think of it as $174,824.18 per hit. He drove in 77 runs ($207,792.20 per RBI). He had 496 plate appearances, so you can think of it as $32,258.06 per trip to the plate. Or, if you prefer, you can remember that Burrell's 147 strikeouts earned him a total of $4,741,934.82.
That's a lot of money. Sadly, it didn't buy a lot of memories.

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Burrell unlikely to rejoin Phillies

MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies cut loose Pat Burrell following 2008, figuring they had gotten the best of him.

They might have been right.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who signed Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract before the 2009 season, designated him for assignment Saturday to make room for Hank Blalock on their 25-man roster. Burrell had hit just .202 with two home runs and 13 RBIs this season. The Rays have 10 days to dispose of Burrell's contract. They can trade him, release or send him through waivers.

Asked if the Phillies have any interest in bringing back Burrell, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "It's unfortunate for him. I wish it would have worked out better there."

Amaro cannot address any interest in Burrell because he remains with the Rays, but it seems there is no place for him on the 25-man roster.

Burrell has hit just .218 with 16 home runs and 77 RBIs in 496 at-bats the since he left the Phillies. He has just a .311 on-base percentage and a .361 slugging percentage. Out of the 213 players that qualify for on-base-plus-slugging percentage the past two seasons, Burrell's .617 OPS is 198th. It is difficult seeing how Burrell would fit on the Phillies' bench, especially with Ben Francisco and Ross Gload occupying those spots. Burrell cannot run well and has played just two games in the outfield since he left the Phillies. He also is a career .227 pinch-hitter.

A National League team's fourth and fifth outfielders require versatility. Francisco and Gload are much more versatile than Burrell because they can play multiple positions. Matt Stairs fit Burrell's mold last season, but he also was an accomplished pinch-hitter.

"I think Burrell can still hit," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he'll get a job. I hope he does."

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Rays designate Pat Burrell

ST. PETERSBURG -- Pat Burrell never turned out to be "The Bat" his nickname suggested, which prompted the Rays to make a move to bolster their offense Saturday.

Burrell was designated for assignment before the Rays' game against the Mariners and Hank Blalock was selected from Triple-A Durham.

Burrell has struggled at the plate so far this season, and his average fell to .202 following an 0-for-4 performance at the plate Friday night against Seattle. The 34-year-old served primarily as the designated hitter against right-handed pitchers while working in a platoon with Willy Aybar, and he had not been particularly effective in that role, striking out 28 times in 84 at-bats while getting just 17 hits.

Blalock, meanwhile, has put up impressive numbers with the Bulls. He hit .349 in 109 at-bats, racking up five doubles, four home runs and 24 RBIs while recording a .405 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage.

"We feel like with Hank's left-handed bat and the positional flexibility, that it fits us better right now," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "The way Willy's come on against left-handed pitching made it a situation for us where we felt like a left-handed bat fit us better going forward.

"Not a primary reason for the move, but it definitely helps as we go into National League parks and the flexibility and the potential for double moves, it just makes us much more flexible and dynamic."

When Burrell signed a two-year contract for $16 million with the Rays in January 2009, the deal appeared to be just what the Rays needed to help out their offense, which had struggled against left-handed pitching. But the move did not produce good results.

In two seasons with the Rays, Burrell hit a combined .218 with 16 home runs and 77 RBIs -- none of his home runs came against left-handed pitching. The 11-year Major League veteran is a career .253 hitter with 267 home runs and 904 RBIs. He spent his first nine seasons with the Phillies after being selected first overall by the Phillies in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.

Rays manager Joe Maddon could only speculate on what went wrong, first suggesting that the problem could have been as simple as not adjusting to the change from position player to DH.

"I don't know," Maddon said. "The thing about Pat, which I respected so much from the first day, is this guy's worked. He worked very hard. He took a lot of abuse from outside sources. I'm always about effort and work. And this guy did that every day. He was the first guy showing up. He was always in the cage, always working on his defense even though he didn't play out there.

"He was very supportive among his teammates. It was just unfortunate that it did not work out. And I really don't have a good reason except maybe switching positions. Switching leagues took its toll."

Friedman met in person with Burrell on Saturday morning and said Burrell handled the move like a professional. Of note, players in the Rays' clubhouse thought the organization showed a lot of class waiting to make the move until Burrell had accrued his 10 years of Major League service time, which he did Friday night.

Blalock, 29, signed a Minor League deal with the Rays in March, and his contract included an out clause that agent Scott Boras told The St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday he would exercise if Blalock was not called up within a week. Several Major League teams, including the Mariners, had previously expressed interest in Blalock.

Friedman answered, "Not much," when asked how much Boras' comments affected Saturday's move. Friedman said the Rays also considered selecting Dan Johnson, who, like Blalock, has been playing well at Durham.

"We talked in Spring Training about evaluating it at this point and talking through it, and we spent close to a week really talking through it and going through with both Hank and Dan Johnson," Friedman said. "Dan Johnson's done really well. Swinging the bat really well and somebody we really like a lot. But with Hank, the positional flexibility is something that really helped us, especially as we go to interleague."
To date, Blalock has given the Rays insurance against any number of possibilities at the Major League level. Friedman said he would have been surprised had Blalock not hit at Durham.

"He's a professional hitter," Friedman said. "Again, both he and Dan Johnson are off to good starts. They're both good hitters. And so it really came down to how well Hank's playing in the infield right now."

Maddon explained that the move will allow the DH to be moved around more on a nightly basis, giving the team "more of a fluid DH."

"Willy against lefties, Hank against righties, and furthermore if you want to get Carlos [Pena] a day off his feet and have him still DH, you've got Hank over there also," Maddon said. "He gives us all of that. He gives us a little more flexibility in the lineup positionally and in regards to the left-right-handed DH stuff. Also, I believe he's going to fit into our culture well. He's going to fit into the clubhouse well, I got to know him during Spring Training and I like him."

Maddon noted that if Burrell had been hitting the way he once had, no move would have been made on Saturday, "but we had different options and one of them was Hank."

Maddon wanted to see Burrell in person on Saturday, but had to settle for talking to him on the phone. Like Friedman, he complimented Burrell's professionalism and he conceded that he was surprised that things did not work out better with Burrell.

"But who knows what might happen over the next couple of months?" Maddon said. "But listen, I wish him well. And I wish that he gets back to the abilities that he showed in Philadelphia. I just hope that it's in the National league where he shows it.

"Again, I have no solid answers. I wasn't around him before. And based on work ethic and caring, the way he conducted himself. You would think it would have worked out better."

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Sanchez has three of Marlins' six hits off Santana

Three spot: Gaby Sanchez accounted for half of the Marlins' six hits off Johan Santana. He singled and scored in the third, reached on an infield hit in the fifth and had a two-out double in the seventh for his first three-hit game this season. The only other time he had three hits in a game was Sept. 24, 2008 at Washington.

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Yonder Alonso promoted to Louisville

1b/lf Yonder Alonso has been promoted to Triple-A Louisville, Reds assistant media relations director Jamie Ramsey confirmed today.

Ben Badler (Baseball America) tweeted the news earlier.

In 31 games for Double-A Carolina this year, Alonso was hitting .267 with three homers and 13 RBI. He has 101 at-bats, 19 runs scored, five doubles, 19 walks, 16 strikeouts, four steals, .388 on-base percentage.

Alonso, 23, was the Reds’ No. 1 draftee in June 2008. Entering this year, he had a .293 minor league batting average (314 at-bats) with 9 homers and 54 RBI. Those totals were during brief stints mostly with Single-A Sarasota and Double-A Carolina.

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