Ed Reed admits some Ravens wanted Rex Ryan as coach

ESPN’s Ed Werder tracked down Ravens safety Ed Reed at his annual football camp in Louisiana this week, and Reed said that when he entered the NFL, he planned on playing until he was 35. But after suffering a hip injury and a nerve impingement in his neck in recent years, he isn’t sure how much longer he will play.

“I don’t want to be like these guys having neck surgery and then you got to have another surgery just to continue to play this game,” said Reed, who missed six games in 2010. “I love this game, but I love myself more.”

But the bigger news from this interview was Reed admitting that he and other players wanted the Ravens to hire Rex Ryan as head coach instead of John Harbaugh. We have heard that some in the Ravens locker room were pulling for Ryan to get the job in 2008, but it’s interesting that Reed would bring it up now.

"[Ryan was] like a dad, like a brother, man," Reed told Werder. "We wanted Rex as the head coach in Baltimore. We did not want him to leave. It hurt when he left. We knew he was a great coach. There was a reason why that defense was the way it was. I would play anywhere with Rex -- in a dark alley, on the street, in high school football, sandlot, anywhere -- because he makes it fun. He loves this game. He truly loves this game and there’s a reason why those guys in New York back him the way they do.”

And they have backed Ryan all the way to the AFC championship game in each of Ryan’s first two seasons as Jets head coach. Meanwhile, Harbaugh and the Ravens lost in the AFC divisional round in 2009 and 2010. Might that have something to do with Reed’s comments? Who knows, but they will certainly be a talker.

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Mike Rumph with Josh Darrow

Former Cane & Carol City Defensive Coordinator Mike Rumph from the Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 HS Tournament.

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Warren Sapp questions Tiki Barber as teammate

We’ve devoted quite a bit of blog space discussing Tiki Barber, who announced in March that he intends to return to the NFL after a four-season layoff.

Expectedly, opinions vary on if Barber, who will be 36 next season, has enough left in the proverbial tank to make an impact. Of course, there’s also the issue of Barber throwing his former Giants coach and teammates under the bus in comments during his post-career role as a television analyst.

Discussing the topic on “The Rich Eisen Podcast” with Barber’s ex-teammate, Michael Strahan, NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp took issue with the way the running back later turned his back on the Giants’ locker room.

“I didn’t think much of him when he did play,” Sapp said. ”I mean that’s the whole point. He was a fumbler all the way through his life, and then all of a sudden, somebody taught him how to hold the ball up high and then he (left the Giants) and said, Eli (Manning) can’t lead them and they’ll never win a championship.

“That kind of lends to who I’m talking about. This is the same guy. This is all encompassed into the same thing. There’s no way you turn your back on your teammates that block for you, that gave you the ball on short fields and did whatever they did. … There’s still no reason for you to attack your teammates.”

Strahan didn’t disagree with that assessment.

“Sapp is 100 percent right,” he said. “Only thing is, if it comes to playing football, he can play.”

Barber presents a tough decision for teams, given that he would take up a roster spot as a backup but likely wouldn’t play special teams. Strahan maintains a belief that Barber can be productive, but he admits he’s not sure how his ex-mate would impact a team’s chemistry.

“I think it plays into the minds of some of the teams that will probably go, ‘Well, he can come in, he can be productive. We think he can. But how does that play into the chemistry of our team?’” Strahan said. “So I think that’s important if you’re a GM. That’s what you’re going to look at if you’re a head coach. Now, if you want guys that are going to give you production, that’s going to work hard, is going to bust his butt, you’re going to get all of that.”

“But the other part, I’m not sure myself.”

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A samurai and Rocky McIntosh at the Presidents Race

“It’s a samurai!” the P.A. announcer said at Nats Park on Wednesday night, as a samurai emerged from the right field corner and began taking out giant racing presidents.

The surviving giant racing presidents kept going, headed toward a finish line held by Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh and world-famous gymnast Dominique Dawes.

Weird, no? And you know what? That still wasn’t as weird as what happened on the field. I mean, it’s late June and these Nats are .500 and in legitimate wild-card contention. Sort-of strangers are coming up to me and wanting to talk about Washington’s baseball team. You could populate the Presidents Race with three slices of talking watermelon, a grumpy kangaroo from Prague, an obstacle course made of broken yellow exploding laptops and coucous smoothies, plus Rex Grossman and John Beck, and I’d still be like, pshaw, that’s nothing, did you see what the team just did?

Plus, look to your right, at that little box with the top five most popular WaPo sports links. Odds are, at least two of them are about the Nats. The Nats. The Rapture is here, after all. I mean, Adam Kilgore has started going with Juggernats, and that works for me.

Anyhow, these images are from Cheryl Nichols and Let Teddy Win. They’re weird. Just not that weird.

(And yes, I realize it was U.S.-Japan Night or something like that. Still, a samurai taking out a giant racing Thomas Jefferson? That doesn’t happen on every U.S. Japan Night. And I’m pretty sure neither McIntosh nor Dawes is Japanese.)

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Sacramento Kings Acquire John Salmons

SACRAMENTO, CA, June 23, 2011 -- The Sacramento Kings today acquired forward John Salmons and the draft rights to Jimmer Fredette from the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade that sent guard Beno Udrih to the Bucks and the draft rights to Bismack Biyombo to the Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte also received Corey Maggette from Milwaukee in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the draft rights to Tobias Harris, according to Kings’ President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie.

“The acquisition of John Salmons, whom we had before, gives us a versatile small forward that can score the ball and defend a number of different positions,” said Petrie. “He obviously brings some experience back to our team and was extremely productive in his former stint as a King. We’re looking forward to have him come back and join our team.

“Jimmer was one of the most exciting players in college basketball the last couple of seasons. If not the best shooter in the draft, he was certainly one of the best. He’ll add a new dimension to our team offensively. He’s an exciting player and I think our fans will enjoy him as well.”

Salmons, a nine-year NBA veteran, averaged 14.0 points (.415 FGs, .379 3FGs, .813 FTs), 3.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game in 73 outings with the Bucks last season, of which he started 70. He has posted career averages of 10.1 points (.442 FGs, .369 3FGs, .806 FTs), 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assts per game in 674 contests with Philadelphia (2002-06), Sacramento (2006-09), Chicago (2009-10) and Milwaukee (2009-11). His arrival in Sacramento marks his second stint with the Kings. One of Salmons’ most productive seasons occurred while playing for Sacramento when he averaged 18.3 points (.472 FGs, .418 3FGs, .823 FTs), 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game in 53 outings during the 2008-09 campaign. He has amassed career playoff averages of 11.2 points (.401 FGs, .258 3FGs, .875 FTs), 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game through 22 contests, of which he started 14 for Philadelphia (2003 and 2005), Chicago (2009) and Milwaukee (2010). Salmons was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round (26th pick overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft out of the University of Miami where he enjoyed a four-year career, averaging 10.4 points (.466 FGs, .321 3FGs and .805 FTs), 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 124 outings for the Hurricanes.

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Jemile Weeks gets chance to meet hero Reyes

NEW YORK -- Jemile Weeks was never so much a fan of one particular Major League team. The A's second baseman was more drawn to certain players, among them three or four whom he tried to model himself after.

The Mets' Jose Reyes was included in that bunch. The nine-year veteran shortstop offers the speed, spark, and even the same long hair Weeks hopes come to define him as a big leaguer.

"That was probably one of my more favorite players in the league to watch before I got to this level," Weeks said. "I watched him a lot, and that's always been somebody who I watched and was like, 'Man, that's the type of guy who -- he brings that type of energy to a team, the way he plays. I like that.

"I would like to take pieces from his game and try to do that, too. And anything that I can bring along in my own style and my own way of playing, it'll add to it."

Weeks came face to face with Reyes for the first time on Tuesday night at Citi Field when he reached second base during the A's series-opening victory over the Mets and noted that Reyes had a few "encouraging words" for him.

Reyes currently leads the Majors with 13 triples. That's 10 more than Weeks, but the A's youngster has been in the bigs for all of 14 games, making Reyes' mark something of an attainable feat -- sort of.

"We'll see," Weeks said, smiling.

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NFL.com Ranks 3 proCanes in the Top 30 Safeties in the NFL

Pat Kirwan from NFL.com ranks the top 30 safeties in the NFL. 3 proCanes made the list.

Each player listed has either an (^) for players on the rise and has room for growth, (>) for players maintaining their status and playing at their peak level or (v) for those who can't sustain their level of play and are on the decline.

4. Ed Reed, Ravens (>): A free safety with special ball-hawking skills. He has missed 10 games in the past three years and still has 11 interceptions in his last 22 games. Reed is a Hall of Fame player and the best deep middle player in the NFL. He's forced 32 turnovers (interceptions and forced fumbles) the last four years.

18. Antrel Rolle, Giants (>): The Cardinals' defense suffered when Rolle left in free agency last year. He had one interception for the Giants in 2010 after recording 10 interceptions during the three previous seasons. A free safety who does a solid job in the deep middle of the field, or in the deep half in the Cover 2.

24. Brandon Meriweather, Patriots (>): Made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2010. He has had some issues off the field, but on the field finds the football with 12 interceptions and 24 passes defended the last three seasons.

Click here to see the full rankings.

Click here to order Ed Reed’s or Antrel Rolle’s or Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis Speaks To Current Canes

Ray Lewis apparently spoke to the current crop of Hurricane player on Wednesday afternoon and from the current players’ tweets which you can read below, he left quite an impression. Coach Golden has been great in bringing in former players to address the current Canes or just to be a presence in the weight rooms. Check out the tweets below including Coach Golden’s.

JFutchCincoOcho Jordan Futch
Wow Ray Lewis just blessed us Canes...Time Waits For No Man So Dont Waste No Time

RIP_ANT_45 eduardo clements

B34STMODE_ CJ Holton
Just heard the greatest message ever from #RayLewis

Cane78Boy Jermaine Johnson
After hearing Ray Lewis only one word to discribe this man....... BLESSED

UMB99M Marcus Forston
Great message by #RayLewis

UMB99M Marcus Forston
"I win the game in practice, so that when the lights cut on I'm ready to dance" #RayLewis

UMB99M Marcus Forston
"The eye of the hurricane sits in my heart" #RayLewis

adjohnson4 Aldarius Johnson
#RayLewis love the word WOW

GrindMode29 Jojo Nicolas
Very thankful to be able to gain knowledge from one of the greatest... #RAYLEWIS

UMB99M Marcus Forston
"Pain don't last forever" #Ra

GrindMode29 Jojo Nicolas
RT @UMB99M "The eye of the hurricane sits in my heart" #RayLewis --- This one was one of the powerful things he said

UMB99M Marcus Forston
You have to lead and serve. "Best message of the night. #RayLewis

millertime_6 lamar miller
Just got a great word from #raylewis!!!!

GoldenAl Al Golden
Super Bowl Champion, All-Pro & First Ballot Hall of Famer that came back & talked to our team today: Ray Lewis #UpholdTheLegacy

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Ed Reed hearts Rex

In an interview currently airing on SportsCenter, Ravens safety Ed Reed admits he loves him some Rex Ryan. Ed Werder sat down with Reed at a football camp to benefit Reed's "Eye of the Hurricane" Foundation.

“Like a dad, like a brother, man,” Reed said when asked about his relationship with Ryan.

“We wanted Rex as the head coach in Baltimore. We did not want him to leave,” said Ryan. “We knew he was a great coach. There was a reason we had a great defense in Baltimore.”

Reed said he's not surprised by Ryan's success with the Jets. “I would play anywhere with Rex -- in a dark alley, in the street, high school, or the sandlot because he truly loves this game. I love Rex and always will. He taught me so much. A lot of guys in Baltimore will say the same thing.”

Oh yeah -- Reed also found time to praise John Harbaugh.

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Arizona Rattlers' Jason Geathers excels in arena football

Jason Geathers has a who's who of NFL players on his speed dial, all of whom he played with in college.

There are running backs Frank Gore, Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis, tight end Jeremy Shockey, wide receiver Andre Johnson and safety Ed Reed.

The 2001 University of Miami team that was national champions is regarded as one of the greatest teams in college football history. And Geathers played a part.

He was a sophomore running back and receiver.

Now, as all those guys wait for the NFL lockout to end, Geathers is becoming a force in the Arena Football League for the West Division champion Rattlers He's a wide receiver, and now maybe a linebacker, too, with the recent knee injury to Kevin McCullough, who could be out the rest of the regular season.

"In the offseason, we get a chance to work out and hang out," Geathers said of some of his former Miami teammates. "We spend a little time with each other."

Geathers, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, has become the Rattlers' No. 2 receiver with Trandon Harvey out with a groin injury.

He will become Nick Davila's No. 1 target whenever the NFL lockout ends, because that means Rod Windsor will be gone to the Cleveland Browns.

"The plan's in place; I'm not going to reveal it," coach and general manager Kevin Guy said in case the lockout ends. "It is what it is. We're not going to sit around and worry about stuff we can't control. If it happens, it happens. While (Windsor is) here, he'll play and make plays for us. When that thing is over, he'll go back. But that thing is going to go for a while, I think."

Geathers has no problem being in the spotlight and Davila feels comfortable going to him.

In last Saturday's 64-57 victory against the San Jose SaberCats, Geathers had a team-best eight catches for 73 yards and four touchdowns.
"Any time we need a big play, like in the Orlando game, the corner route, he comes up big," Davila said. "It makes my job a lot easier."

Geathers didn't play until the final minute against Orlando. But everybody was talking about him after he caught two passes for 45 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown with eight seconds left that helped the Rattlers pull out a 48-47 victory at home on April 2.
A leg injury to Nate Forse gave Geathers more chances at receiver.

Now he's a go-to guy on a team that has scored more than 60 points in 14 games and comes into Saturday's game in Philadelphia with the league's second-best record at 12-2.

"I've been doing that all year," Geathers said. "I know the game. If my number is called, I'll make the play."

Geathers has no problem making plays on defense, too. He played both offense and defense on San Jose's 2008 team that reached the ArenaBowl.

"You get a chance to hit someone else, other than you always being the target," Geathers said.

Geathers had a small glimpse of the NFL. He was signed in 2004 as an undrafted free agent by the Browns, but he got cut that August. He was signed to the New York Giants' practice squad but was released in April of 2005.

Since then, he's been in the eight-man Arena Football League.

"I cherish every moment that I've had, and if I could get back to the NFL, it would be nice," he said. "I enjoyed my time."

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Ed Reed relied on his family and teammates when tragedy struck

Spend five minutes with Baltimore Ravens safety and former Destrehan standout Ed Reed, and you quickly understand what his family means to him.

Whether it's his family at home in Louisiana or his "other family," his teammates in Baltimore, Reed relies on both to carry him through his most trying times.

Last year, Reed needed his families the most.

Reed struggled to recover from lingering injuries that sidelined him for nearly half the season, but nothing compared to the news he received 48 hours before the Ravens' playoff game at Kansas City.

On Jan. 7, Reed's younger brother, Brian, had been reported missing after jumping into the Mississippi River to elude police. His body was discovered Jan. 26.

Reed stayed with his team despite the tragedy and helped the Ravens cruise to a 30-7 victory against the Chiefs. Reed said his teammates helped ease the pain of his loss, and they showed support by awarding Reed the game ball after the victory.

"Being around my teammates, being a part of a team and playing a sport always helps you in life when you go through tough times," Reed said. "They're always there for you."

Reed's mettle was tested early in the season, which he began on the Ravens' physically unable to perform list after undergoing hip surgery during the offseason. A nerve impingement in his neck also hindered the NFL's 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, and he missed 10 games in the past two seasons.

As some critics speculated that injuries might have finally gotten the best of the five-time All-Pro, Reed said he never contemplated retirement.

"I had pure focus in my coach and my trainer and my rehab," said Reed, who'll be 33 in September. "Everything I did in the offseason, I knew I could do on the football field. That's why I got on the PUP list, and I wouldn't come back until I was 100 percent."

Reed returned Oct. 24 against the Buffalo Bills, a 37-34 overtime victory, and quickly returned to form. He had two interceptions and forced a fumble in his first game back, a sign that injuries hadn't slowed him down.

"Once I got back, it was easy," Reed said. "It was football. Football doesn't change. I had 10 games to contribute to helping the team get better, and all I had to do was do my part."

Reed continued his dominant play for the remainder of the season, intercepting four passes and making 19 tackles in the final four games to help seal a postseason spot for the Ravens.

Reed now has his attention on the upcoming season, but admitted he still hasn't returned to full strength. He has spent the offseason at home, with his family, working out and hosted his annual football camp for kids at his former high school.

"I'm still not 100 percent (physically), but I'm 100 percent mentally at this point as far as everything I can do," Reed said. "I know my limitations; I still have a lot of work to do before the season starts."

Reed continues to prepare despite the ongoing NFL lockout, which prevents him from meeting with coaches and participating in team-sanctioned practices. Reed shrugged off the notion that the lockout will have an effect on his and his teammates' preparation.

"It's business as usual," Reed said. "I wouldn't be doing anything different than working out if it was a lockout or not. I don't think any guys are doing anything different. The only thing is that it's not organized. That proves to people that we're willing to do what's right and work despite of what's going on through the lockout and the organization."

Reed has put all his trials behind him, relying on his faith to move him forward in his life and his career.

"It's faith," Reed said. "It's having faith, keeping my faith strong and knowing God has everything under control. It's knowing that I'll see my brother again, knowing he's still with me in spirit and knowing that he's looking down on us.

"My family stands strong."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Calais Campbell among league's most efficient

While Calais Campbell may not be as household name, he is one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL, and has been for the past three years.

A recent study by profootballfocus.com discovered that Campbell was the 17th most efficient pass rusher last season and the 14th most efficient over the past three seasons.

Pro football focus determined a productivity rating by taking sacks, hits and hurries and dividing that by the number of snaps spent rushing the passer.

In 2010, Campbell rushed the passer on 424 snaps and was credited with either a sack or pressure on 34 of those, for an efficiency rating of 6.37, which was just above his three year average of 6.28.

Going through the list, perhaps the most noticeable thing (and this applies to the 2010 list as well) is the absence of Darnell Dockett. By no means poor (he finished 21st), Dockett largely gets credits which is probably more due the impressive physical specimen that is Calais Campbell. Since getting a starting spot in 2009, Campbell has largely outplayed Dockett, though it seems to have gone unnoticed.

In his three seasons as a Cardinal, the former Miami Hurricane has amassed 136 tackles and 13 sacks.

Click here to order Calais Campbell’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Zach Railey Wins Bronze

Zach Railey won the Bronze medal Kieler-Woche. Ed Wright (GBR), Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Zach Railey (USA) all ended on 30 points after the Finn Medal Race. But Wright took the gold after he finished ahead of his rivals in third place in the Medal Race. Lobert came fifth to take the silver medal and Railey was sixth and goes home with bronze.


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Lauryn Williams has passion back for track

EUGENE, Ore. — Tired and burned out of track, sprinter Lauryn Williams went searching for thrills of adventure over victory.

To rekindle her waning passion, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist tried sky diving and snow skiing along with retracing her family's roots with a trip to Trinidad.

The rush of those experiences snapped Williams out of her rut and got her head back into the sprint game.

Stepping away from the sport is no longer a consideration for the 27-year-old Williams, who's entered in the 100 and 200 at the U.S. championships this weekend.

She's all in as she sets her sights on making the team for the 2012 London Olympics.

First, though, she had to make sure the drive still remained, which is why she dabbled in thrill-seeking activities during breaks last season in a year that featured no major meets.

"I took a step back from track, to give myself a chance to miss it, to miss competing," Williams said in a recent phone interview.

She enjoyed sky diving, but for someone so used to speed, the experience wasn't all she was expecting.

"The guy pushes you out of that plane, you can't breathe for a second and you're going down. That's it," she said. "(The rush) lasts like 10 seconds."

That's about the same amount of time it takes Williams to motor down the track in the 100. Her best time in the 100 is 10.88, a mark she sent in 2005.

She knows that's far from good enough to keep up with the field these days. Fellow American Carmelita Jeter has turned in the fastest time of this era, clocking 10.64 seconds in 2009. Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster (10.49).

Not only that but the balance of power on the women's side has considerably shifted over the last three seasons, with the Jamaicans becoming the ones to beat.

"The 100 is very stacked, really a deep event right now," Williams said. "So when you think you've worked hard enough, you've got to work even harder."

And incorporate some wrinkles into the workout regimen. That's what led Williams to take up the hurdles, a way to increase her acceleration and power as she hops, skips and walks over the obstacles.

"If I see one more hurdle, I'm going to rename myself Lolo Jones," the diminutive Williams said, chuckling at the reference to the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials champion.

But don't expect an event switch.

"There are no hurdles in my future!" she said.

In her break from track, Williams took a trip to Trinidad to visit where her father was from. It's been a tough stretch for Williams since losing her dad, David Williams, to leukemia nearly three years ago.

Gone with her father went all those pep talks. He had a way to take her mind off her worries.

The Trinidad trip was quite therapeutic as Williams cooked meals and chatted with a side of her family she's getting to know better.

"It gave me my insight into my dad, tied it all together for me," she said.

Williams also tried snow skiing in New Hampshire, played friendly games of flag football and went on an extended expedition to Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama.

Through all her experiences, Williams revived her passion.

"It's no secret I've got talent inside of me," the former University of Miami standout said. "But if you're not going to put the hard work and training behind the talent, you might be a mediocre athlete at best, not a good athlete at all."

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A's activate Mark Ellis, but Jemile Weeks keeps second base job

NEW YORK -- The A's have officially made a switch from veteran Mark Ellis to rookie Jemile Weeks as their starting second baseman, manager Bob Melvin confirmed before Wednesday's game against the New York Mets.

Ellis was activated from the 15-day disabled list, and it was assumed that Weeks might hold on to the job considering he is hitting .362 with 10 runs and four stolen bases in 13 games since being promoted from the minors.

Ellis, the longest tenured Athletic who holds the Oakland record for games played as a second baseman (1,021), is likely to see time at first and third base as well as second as a utility infielder.

He took the news in stride about being relegated to the bench and said it's best for the team that Weeks remains in the lineup.

"It's different, I'm not going to lie," Ellis said. "But Jemile has played great and added a spark for this team."

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Ryan Braun working on career-best hitting streak

MILWAUKEE -- Left fielder Ryan Braun didn't want to try and overthink his hit streak. Chalk it up to consistency and discipline at the plate, add in some timely hitting and Braun is pleased with the outcome so far.

With an RBI single in Wednesday's first inning against the Rays, Braun set his career high with a 14-game hit streak and is the only player in the Majors this season with three 10-plus-game hit streaks. His previous 13-game streak -- which dated from May 10 to May 23 -- ended after an ejection in the third inning of a game against the Nationals.

Braun's key to extending the run was simple.

"Hopefully I don't get ejected," he said before the Interleague finale. "It's cool. The goal is always to strive for consistency as a player, so you know the fact that I've had three 10-plus-game hitting streaks means that I've been pretty consistent with my approach throughout the year."

Braun spent Monday afternoon wrapped in a blanket in the training room due to an upper respiratory infection, and he said he hung around the ballpark after being a late scratch from the lineup just in case a pinch-hit situation arose. He said he continues to feel better each day, and while he wasn't feeling his best on Tuesday, his seventh-inning two-run single extended the streak.

"You put Brauny up in those situations and Brauny against a left hander -- which I know he hasn't driven in a lot of runs off of lefties, which I'm still a little baffled by -- but if I'm left-handed I wouldn't want to face him," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "There's really no place for me to go that I'm comfortable with what pitch I'm going to throw to him."

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Moving on up, Jemile Weeks

I'll admit I didn't have a lofty opinion on Jemile Weeks(notes) when the Athletics recalled him earlier in June. He showed speed in the minors but little pop, and the A's buried him in the batting order. And doesn't everyone in the Weeks family break down about 15 minutes after you drive off the lot? I essentially tossed the rookie into the "prove it to me" file.

Two weeks into the run, it's time to reevaluate. Baby Weeks can play.

Weeks is off to a tidy .362/.400/.574 start with the big club, and he's batted leadoff in his last three games. He handles the bat well (just five strikeouts, 92.9 percent contact rate) and he's eager to make things happen on the bases (four steals in six attempts, including three swipes over the last two days). Weeks didn't show ideal patience in his early at-bats, but he drew a couple of walks in Tuesday's win over the Mets and he had a healthy 13.4 percent walk rate in Triple-A. Getting on base shouldn't be a problem here.

The diminutive second sacker still isn't a power threat, but he's producing runs (10 scored, six driven in). To this point in his pro career, he's been a four-category contributor.

Weeks is currently available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, a crazy-low number. I'd rather have him than Chone Figgins(notes) (39 percent, good grief), Omar Infante(notes) (33 percent), Jamey Carroll(notes) (30 percent), Jed Lowrie(notes) (29 percent, broken), and Ryan Raburn(notes) (22 percent), among others. Everyone needs a little banana yellow in their life.

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The Sean Taylor graffiti at the Brookland Metro station


A few days after the Redskins’ Sean Taylor was killed in Miami, Florida, a spray-painted memorial mural, written in the team’s colors, appeared on the northbound wall of the Brookland Metro station where it remains today, untouched. The mural, painted in burgundy, gold, and white, is seen by tens of thousands of Red Line riders going in and out of the city every day.

Taylor, 24, was in his fourth year with the Redskins. In the twelfth week of the 2007 season he had 5 interceptions — third in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His reputation as one of the hardest hitting players in the league and his all-out style of play had endeared him to fans.

News of his death during a home invasion on November 27, 2007 quickly spread across the region, leaving his teammates and fans in a state of disbelief and grief. While the Redskins organization honored Taylor’s memory on the field, an established DC graffiti artist took to the red line in a public display of deference. 

“The Red Line has been a hot spot since the mid-80’s, but became the spot in the early 90’s,” according to Roger Gastman, a Bethesda native and author of Free Agents: A History of DC Graffiti and the forthcoming The History of American Graffiti. “If you wanted to be someone in the DC graffiti scene, you had to hit the Red Line.”

“The Brookland station, you can walk right up to it. It is a very good location, if you can pull it off,” says Gastman.

“The best writers interact with their environment,” asserts Gastman, citing graffiti as the fastest growing art movement of the past forty years.
Beginning his graffiti career with the tag of “CERT” in 1992 at the age of 14, the well-known writer of the Sean Taylor mural declined an interview request for this article.

“The Red Line was CERT’s backyard. He basically lived there and owned it. CERT could disappear, but, to this day he holds enough respect that his spots will remain untouched for years to come,” reads CERT’s profile in Free Agents that describes his graffiti as “hardcore and illegal” and “always in highly visible spots.”

“Graffiti to me is my childhood, my teen years. That’s what I was about 100 percent. But I’m still representing. Don’t count me out. Don’t forget me. I can come back at any moment and in a month I’ll take king of the Red Line again,” contends CERT in the 2001 book.

“Whatever his reasons for slowing down, CERT is a true D.C. king. It’s time for him to sit back and let the mark he left on the city soak in. And like he said, don’t count him out. With a closet full of paint and heart that’s true to the game, CERT will be back,” Gastman foretold in the conclusion of CERT’s profile.

The mural has remained untouched since its appearance more than 3 years ago.  Gastman says there is a code among writers that is being followed. 

“Brookland station can be considered a museum for DC graffiti, because of the pieces that have endured over the years,” says Saaret Yoseph, a graduate student at Georgetown University. “Brookland is unique in that the art is eye level. The graffiti is looking right at you as you wait for your train.”

Yoseph is directing, “The Red Line D.C Project,” a documentary exploring the “communal experience” of graffiti on the Red Line as a public art space. It will be released later this year.  


Rider Reactions

“What struck me about that one was here was a memorial to someone we actually knew–or knew of. So much graffiti is inscrutable. Who are the people named there? What’s the purpose of it? But this was one we could grasp immediately,” said John Kelly, a writer for The Washington Post and Red Line rider since 1983. “And then a few years later, just across the platform was another one that fell into that category: some memorial paint for Michael Jackson.”

On a recent morning at the Brookland Station, riders’ reactions to the graffiti suggested a sense of pride in the station’s distinction as the home of the Sean Taylor mural.

“If they cleaned it up we would be really hurt behind that one,” said Milford Obendorf, a Brookland resident waiting with his wife on the northbound train to Silver Spring.

“It’s been here since he passed away. People come here to look at it,” said Marquette Obendorf.

“It’s real creative,” said LaWanda Swain, a custodian with Metro for 6 years. “He played here so they have respect for him.”

“It spices things up. If they cleaned it up then you’d be staring at a wall for 15 minutes,” said Mike Young, 20, a cell phone sales rep downtown. “People remember Sean Taylor because he shouldn’t have died. He hit the hardest like when he cracked yungin’ in the Pro Bowl.”

Numerous videos on YouTube have compiled Taylor’s highlights as a Redskin, including a tackle of punter Brian Moorman in the Pro Bowl that lifted Moorman off his feet to a point where he was parallel to the field.

However, some riders expressed frustration with the station’s illegal art.

“It grows and grows until they clean it up,” said Joe, an older man in a white dress shirt, a Brookland resident for more than two decades. “The kids that do it are talented, but they can put their talents to better use.”

As a regular rider of the red line for more than a decade, I can remember the walls at Brookland being cleaned, “buffed” in the language of graffiti, about five years ago.

“The graffiti is on CSX property, not Metro property. Typically, when we become aware of graffiti, our goal is to remove it within 24 hours,” said Angela Gates, a Media Relations officer with Metro.

CSX did not respond to email and phone call requests for comment.

“There have been no graffiti-related arrests or citations in the last year at Brookland-CUA,” said Gates who emphasized that the property is outside of Metro’s jurisdiction.

With no apparent plans to clean the walls and a lack of enforcement around graffiti, the Sean Taylor mural will continue to be a distinctive cultural landmark for the Brookland Metro station.

Click here to order Sean Taylor’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed: 'I'm still not 100 percent'

After missing the first six games of the 2010 season, Ravens safety Ed Reed returned from the Physically Unable to Perform list in Week 7 and picked off eight passes in the final 10 games of the regular season. Reed, who played well enough to earn another trip to the Pro Bowl, said Tuesday he is not yet fully healthy.

“I'm still not 100 percent," Reed told The Times-Picayune. "But I'm 100 percent mentally at this point as far as everything I can do. I know my limitations. I still have a lot of work to do before the season starts."

Reed, who was in New Orleans for his annual football camp at Destrehan High School, underwent hip surgery last offseason and has been battling a nerve impingement in his neck that cost him four games in 2009.

Since he is talking about the upcoming season, I wouldn’t worry about Reed missing training camp or anything like that, and at 80 percent, he is still better than most safeties in the league.

But these injuries made the future Hall-of-Famer mull retirement last spring because he is rightfully wary of the long-term health risks. So make sure you enjoy Reed’s excellence while you can.

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Sherko Haji-Rasouli To Play for Canadian National Team

During his retirement party last month Adriano Belli was approached by Toronto Argonauts general manager and head coach Jim Barker with an idea.

“Jim told me about the world football championship and said, ‘There will be a lot of good, young kids that will be there and you should be a coach.’ I told him, ‘Screw that, I’m going to play,’” said Belli.

The defensive tackle, who played 10 seasons in the Canadian Football League, made it official on Tuesday. He will suit up for Canada at next month’s world championship in Austria.

And Belli is trying to recruit other members of the CFL community to join the squad.

One player Belli was able to convince is former B.C. Lions offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli, who was also invited to join the national team on Tuesday. Both Belli (foot) and Haji-Rasouli (knee) missed most of the 2010 season due to injury. Haji-Rasouli was released by the Lions in January.

Team Canada will hold a training camp in London, Ont. from June 23 to July 1 before departing for Europe.

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Jonathan Vilma says Saints’ conditioning ahead of Super Bowl season

It’s no surprise the NFL teams in the best condition as the lockout continues into June are the ones with the most-seasoned rosters and the best on-field leaders. The New Orleans Saints, just two years removed from a Super Bowl victory, fall into that category, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma is a big part of their leadership core.

“I feel pretty comfortable saying that almost every player on the Saints is in terrific shape,” Vilma told CBSSports.com. “We could take the practice field tomorrow in full pads and be fine. This group of guys is in better shape than we were at this time when the Saints won the Super Bowl. … We’re more committed than other teams.”

“I feel pretty comfortable saying that almost every player on the Saints is in terrific shape,” Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told CBSSportsLine.com.

Those are strong words considering this year’s offseason model doesn’t have the luxury of preparing for the 2011 season at the team’s facilities, but there is good reason for Vilma’s confidence.

The Saints have been one of the most visible teams during the league’s labor impasse. Drew Brees has been the headliner, but Vilma, along with safety Darren Sharper, offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, and fullback Heath Evans have been right there with the quarterback to keep their teammates in line. That included bringing about 35 more of them together for a good series of unofficial workouts at Tulane University in early May.

It’s no wonder then, to try to match the Saints’ commitment, their NFC South rivals also have kicked up their preparations without aid from their coaches. Brees’ QB counterparts, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, have been the face of the Falcons’ and Bucs’ workouts, respectively, to help maintain those teams’ status as above-.500 powers. The Panthers, who finished 2-14 last season, started their first organized sessions last week with rookie quarterback Cam Newton reportedly among the attendees.

Let’s hope the lockout won’t prevent a full division slate of games from being played this season, as the NFC South has been one of the league’s most competitive divisions over the years. This year’s race for first place would be wide open between Tampa Bay (10 wins last season), New Orleans (11) and reigning champion division Atlanta (13).

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

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Video of Kenny Kelly slamming into concrete wall

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Melvin mum on Jemile Weeks/Ellis situation

When asked how the second base situation will shake out once Mark Ellis is back, Athletics interim manager Bob Melvin would say only that "If Jemile (Weeks) is here, he's going to play some. He's played well."

The guess here is that Weeks will get the majority of the playing time at second base, with Ellis maybe playing a couple days per week and being a prime trade candidate before the deadline. But, it wouldn't be shocking if Weeks is sent down to play every day at Triple-A. We should know more Wednesday, when Ellis is activated.

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Jon Jay expected to start in RF for Cardinals

Jon Jay is expected to become the Cardinals' primary right fielder in the wake of Albert Pujols' injury.

Lance Berkman will cover first base most nights. Jay has posted a quality .313/.364/.436 batting line in 71 games this year and is a slick defender. The 26-year-old will make the loss of Pujols a tiny bit less horrific.

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A's Melvin, Weeks inject life into dead team

Is this season moving fast or what? Spring Training felt like it was five minutes ago and now, just like that, we’re a little over a month away from the trade deadline. That magical time of year when every baseball fan is slightly on edge; where every move, or non-move, could be the difference between “this could be the year” and “there’s always next year.”

For the next month, each and every fan will be hypothesizing on what his or her team needs to get over that hump and into the postseason. It’s a telling time of year. If your GM makes a move that brings in talent, you know the front office is serious about going all the way this year. If they ship out talent for prospects, you’re in the dreaded “rebuilding” phase.

A’s fans have become far too familiar with this phase over the last five years. In fact, the rebuilding phase has seemed to be connected to the building of something else. Well, I’ve got news for you (which should come as a shock to absolutely no one), that “something else” A’s fans have been hoping for and Bud Selig has been refusing to seriously address isn’t coming any time soon. They’ve got to start looking for other ways to bring fans out to the ballpark and creating an exciting team would certainly help.

You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who likes Mark Ellis more than I do. The fact that he’s been in the top five among AL second basemen in fielding percentage for the last six years speaks for itself to just about everyone except the people who vote for Gold Gloves. His stellar defense has always been more than enough to make up for his career .265 batting average and it’d be difficult to find a nicer guy in all of baseball than the South Dakota native.

But now there’s this guy on the team that is bringing an infectious energy. He’s hitting, he’s playing defense, he’s all-around exciting to watch and brings an “anything could happen” air to a game. He gets on base and the pitcher can’t think of anything other than him. The A’s can’t afford to favor Ellis over Jemile Weeks. It’d be sending a similar message that keeping Geren would have sent. Beane would be saying, “I like this guy as a person and what he’s meant in the past, so we’re going to keep him here, whether he’s the right guy for the job or not.”

I know that Ellis is a million times more liked by fans than Geren ever was, but keeping him around as a starter wouldn’t be the right thing for the team and keeping him on the bench wouldn’t be the right thing for Ellis. We just have to accept, the Ellis era is coming to a close in Oakland.  If only they could figure out a way to convince him to retire and stay on as an infield coach. We all know they need it.

I’m not a huge fan of the term, “Chicks dig the long ball.” I don’t happen to dig it all that much. Sure, home runs are exciting, but I dig the underrated guys who play defense and get on base, the guys who play hard and make things happen. But the fact is, the long ball sells tickets and that’s something the A’s have been missing. The team hasn’t had a 30 home run guy since Jack Cust hit 33 in 2008 (he also struck out 197 times that year, but hey, who’s counting). Last year, Kevin Kouzmanoff’s 16 homers led the team.

Hardcore fans find other stats that excite them and look at multiple factors and qualities in players and in games, but for the A’s to bring in more fans without the new ballpark, they need to appeal to the average fan too; and if there’s one thing the average fan likes, it’s the long ball. Who could blame them? It’s exciting knowing that at any moment your team could go from down two to up one. It’s hard to cheer for a team that gets down a couple runs and all hope is lost, and that’s what it’s felt like as an A’s fan for the last few years.

The team is headed in the right direction. I honestly believe that Melvin is going to bring out the best in these guys, Jemile Weeks is going to add a burst of personality and energy that this team has been thirsting for and if Beane could add another bat to supplement the power that Josh Willingham is capable of, the team will keep winning and fans will show up.

If you can’t build it, smash a few out of the park, steal a few bases, strike them out, and they will come.

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Danny Valencia's injury comes at a bad time

It will be interesting to see if Danny Valencia will be able to play tonight against the Giants. The Twins third baseman missed Sunday's game with a sore triceps  but expressed optimism that he would be ready to take the field at AT&T Park.

The way things have been going for the Twins this season, he might not.

Most projections the Twins have made about their injured players have  been short. This isn't to blame them as much as it suggests that it just isn't their year with injuries.

Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka missed two months each. No one was sure on Sunday when Denard Span and Jason Kubel will return. Justin Morneau could be out until the first full week of July with a wrist sprain - and that depends on what shape his wrist is when the cast comes off at the end of this week,

Valencia has to prove he can throw. The more I think about it, the Twins might want to have him go through pre-game drills then see how he feels tomorrow.

It's too bad for Valencia, who has homered in his last two games, 

``I don't view myself as a .218 hitter,'' he said Saturday.

Valencia has hit the ball hard with few results to show for it. He's trying to be patient, waiting for things to even out.

Some stats on www.fangraphs.com suggest that it should happen.

Valencia entered Saturday with a 19.8 line drive percentage that was third best on the Twins behind Denard Span and Jason Kubel.
Valencia hit .311 with 7 homers and 30 RBI last season when he had a line drive percentage of 18.8.

Last season, Valencia's batting average on balls put in play was .345. This year is .233. According to Fangraphs, an average hitter's BAPIP is .290 to .310.

So that's bound to rise, right? With Valencia hitting line drives at a slightly better rate than last season, he should see more balls fall in. Or, as the case was on Saturday, fall in a fan's lap.

What he needs now is to be healthy so he can turn his season around.

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Jemile Weeks ahead of schedule

NEW YORK -- David Forst, assistant general manager of the Oakland A’s, was checking out batting practice before Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets and ticking off reasons for the team’s recent surge when the conversation turned to rookie second baseman Jemile Weeks.

A brief scouting report on Weeks: He’s a burner on the basepaths, a doubles-and-triples slasher type of hitter and a high-energy player who is still refining his game around the second-base bag.

Does the kid have plate discipline?

“Absolutely,’’ Forst said. “He’s a first-round draft pick of the A’s. He better have it.’’

As if on cue, Weeks proceeded to draw two walks, steal two bases, mix in a single and score three runs to help the resurgent A’s beat New York 7-3 at Citi Field. It was Oakland’s sixth straight victory and kept the A’s within 5½ games of first-place Texas in the equal opportunity American League West.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in Oakland -- and we’re not just talking about the trailer for “Moneyball’’ finally making the rounds. The A’s have weathered a rash of injuries, and they’re hoping things will continue to round into shape with pitchers Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy moving closer to returning from the disabled list.

The players’ collective mood has already shown a noticeable improvement since general manager Billy Beane fired manager Bob Geren and replaced him with Bob Melvin. The last time two Bobs were linked this closely, there was workplace havoc in the movie “Office Space.’’ But the managerial change has clearly had the desired impact since one Bob left the premises and another took his place.

The A’s found their stride over the weekend with a three-game sweep of San Francisco in the Bay Bridge Series and were so wary of upsetting team karma that they’ve continued to wear their Fort Knox gold jerseys on the road. Steve Vucinich, Oakland’s equipment manager, packed the home jerseys for the trip after consulting the Major League Baseball style guide and finding they’re permissible in away games under the rules. Gold jerseys don’t blend very well with the A’s road-gray pants, but when a team is on a 6-0 run, clashing hues can make for sartorial elegance.

“It’s not our best look,’’ Weeks said. “But it’s part of our winning right now, so I guess we’ll keep it until it wears itself out.’’

The A’s don’t hit much even in the best of times, and they ran out a nondescript lineup against New York. With team home run leader Josh Willingham bothered by a sore Achilles and the slumping David DeJesus forced to the bench by designated hitter Hideki Matsui’s outfield cameo, Melvin did some nifty improvisation. Center fielder Coco Crisp made his 11th career start in the No. 3 spot in the batting order. And Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney -- who have combined for one homer in 277 at-bats this season -- hit in the fifth and sixth spots.

Oakland’s table setters alleviated any concerns by setting the tone from the outset against Mets starter Dillon Gee. Weeks and shortstop Cliff Pennington reached base seven times in their first eight plate appearances and scored five runs, and that was more than enough offensive support for A's starter Josh Outman.

Weeks now is hitting .362 with a .400 OBP since his arrival from the minors June 7 and is showing some admirable selectivity at the plate.

“He looks like he’s been leading off for 15 years,’’ Melvin said. “He takes changeups just off the plate in two-strike counts, and he takes pitches when it’s 3-1. A lot of young players are going to want to swing there because that’s a good count to hit. But he just makes them throw another strike.’’

Barely a week into his new job, Melvin already has a big decision to make. Veteran Mark Ellis, whose hamstring injury prompted the A’s to call up Weeks from Triple-A Sacramento two weeks ago, is eligible to return from the disabled list Wednesday. The A’s aren’t saying precisely how they plan to resolve the traffic jam at second base. But Weeks sure isn’t playing like a kid who’s interested in seeing more of the Sacramento skyline.

“I’m certainly not going to do anything until I talk to the players,’’ Melvin said. “It’s a great problem to have. One of them is up-and-coming and probably our best prospect. And the other guy has probably meant as much to this organization as anybody in the last 10 years. It’ll be nice to have them both on the team, but it’ll be a difficult proposition either way.’’

Regardless of what happens in the short term, Weeks is carving out an identity beyond that of “Rickie Weeks’ little brother.’’ While Rickie sneaked up on people at Southern University before going to Milwaukee as the second pick in the 2003 draft, Jemile is a product of a baseball factory at Miami. At a rock-solid 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Rickie looks as if he should be blowing up offensive backfields on a safety blitz. Jemile, in contrast, is a scant 5-9 and 160 pounds. But when he’s raising havoc on the bases, with those braids spilling out from beneath his cap, he can certainly look intimidating.

Jemile has already earned an ardent following in a short time in the Bay Area. When Hall of Famer and stolen base king Rickey Henderson recently showed up to work with the Oakland position players on base stealing and pronounced Weeks “exciting,’’ it was enough to make a rookie’s head spin.

“It was just flattering,’’ Weeks said. “You just sit back and say, ‘Wow. Rickey Henderson said that about me.' It’s just a great feeling. I can’t really put it into words.’’

Two weeks and 47 at-bats into his tenure with the A’s, Jemile Weeks doesn’t need many words to express himself. His game is speaking quite eloquently on his behalf.

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Chris Perez gives up HR in ninth as Rockies top Indians

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians have mastered the art of pulling out late-inning wins at Progressive Field this season.

Thanks to Seth Smith, the Colorado Rockies turned the tables Tuesday night. Smith hit his second homer of the game off Chris Perez to snap a ninth-inning tie and give the Rockies a 4-3 win.

"It's part of the game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We're used to that now, especially the way we won so many games in the first month and a half of the season. They ended up scoring against our toughest guy out of the 'pen."

Smith, who hit a two-run homer off Mitch Talbot in the sixth, belted a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats for his eighth homer of the season and fourth career multihomer game.

Perez, who has converted 17 of 18 save chances, was brought in after the Indians tied the game in the eighth on RBI singles by Travis Hafner and Travis Buck.

Perez (2-3) took full blame for the loss.

"It was a hanging slider," he said. "I just didn't come through. It happens. Home runs are part of the game. Obviously, that's why we lost tonight."

"He threw me some good fastballs," Smith said. "Then I hit a slider that I don't think is the best he's got. It wasn't where he wanted it."


Osi Umenyiora Calls UM Offseason Workouts "Crazy"

In addition to his improved health, Umenyiora believes training at the University of Miami with a bunch of former Hurricanes will have him in the best shape of his career.

"Those guys are crazy," he said with a laugh. "Running in the sand pit, lifting, it was a lot. When somebody tells you they’re in Miami working out at UM, understand they’re getting it in. I train hard in Atlanta, but this is tough, this is very difficult."

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Leonard Hankerson benifitted from workouts

It’s called the Hammer route and it’s one that provided Leonard Hankerson problems. At 6-foot-2, he’s a long strider; this route calls for quick breaks – and shorter strides.

“They’re trying to get you to push in at 5 yards and push up to 10 yards and then stick,” said the Redskins third-round pick. “I’m looking at my yardage and when I get there I feel I overrun it so it’s difficult for me to plant and go. I just have to keep working on it.”

The significance? Had Hankerson not attended the workouts, he would have struggled with this move in training camp. Now, he said, having been tutored on the route by Anthony Armstrong, he can work on it in Miami.

Perhaps the benefits of the players-only workouts are overblown. In some cases that’s probably true. But not in Hankerson’s case, even if this was a glorified passing camp. Considering he’s a receiver, and the Redskins need the young wideouts to help, this sort of setup was beneficial.

“In Miami you don’t have a quarterback like that to throw,” he said. “All I can do is run routes on air or do cone drills. But coming up here and working with the quarterback and running routes and getting that timing down, it’s a good situation. You need that. So when the season comes it’ll be on time when you get there.”

Hankerson received some of the playbook, a seven-day installment.

“But you need the coaches there to take you through everything,” he said. “Without that coach, it’s tough to look in the playbook by yourself and get it all down.”

A side benefit was getting to know some of the other players. Of course, when camp opens there will be approximately 50 or 60 players he hasn’t yet met. But meeting some of the veteran receivers, such as Armstrong, Brandon Banks and Malcolm Kelly, helped.

“They taught me this route and that route and how to run it and where to run it at,” Hankerson said. “The first time I didn’t know all that stuff. I had to learn it first-hand. [Now] the quarterback can call out a route and tell me to run this route and I can be the first one to run it.”

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Reddick still haunted by Orange Bowl brawl

Anthony Reddick can't say much about the Stanley Cup riot that saw louts, low-lifes and middle-class kids from the suburbs find common ground to trash downtown Vancouver last week. But the B.C. Lions defensive back can speak about mob mentality and how rash, unconscionable behaviour can damage and fracture a reputation just as easily as a plateglass window.

Reddick, in the midst of the CFL team's training camp, said he was aware that scores of young men, emboldened by alcohol and egged on by their peers and seemingly solid citizens, went nuts in Vancouver a few nights ago, although he admits his glimpse of the coverage was only fleeting.

Yet, as one of the players at the centre of a vicious and widespread brawl in Miami's Orange Bowl five years ago, Reddick can speak to the subject of embarrassing behaviour, how its implications follow you and how difficult it is to expunge the taint left behind.

On Oct. 14, 2006, the University of Miami's reputation for lawlessness reached a new low when Reddick, his teammates with the Hurricanes and players with city rival Florida International, poured on the field and began waling on each other, in an attempt to settle scores and festering animosities that had existed since high school. Officers from the FIU police and the Florida Highway Patrol had to step in to sort out the mess, which eventually led to the suspension of 31 players. The cameras made Reddick the symbol of the melee, capturing him swinging his helmet, Braveheart-style, at FIU players. Suspended for four games and the publicized object of scorn and condemnation, he just has to click on YouTube to be reminded of the wild scene, and his part in it.

"I think about it," he said. "If the situation were to happen again, and it's happened numerous times, I would react to it differently. I would stay out of it. My teammates are like my brothers. I'm not helping them, if I get caught up in stuff like that and I get suspended. I would react totally different to the situation if it happened today."

Not thinking, out of control, heedless of the consequences. In a misguided way, Reddick agrees he bought into the mentality that he was only protecting his house, the Hurricanes' turf. But what principles were the rioters in Vancouver standing up for? Mayhem, anarchy, stupidity?

"It can happen to anyone, doing things without thinking," said Reddick, speaking from the perspective of a wiser 25-yearold. "I think it can happen to anyone. You should always think before you react. Trouble is easy to find, if you're looking for it. Sometimes, I think it just had to do with the maturity process. If you start thinking before you react, your life will go a lot better. I'm smarter, more mature, I have a bigger view of life because of what happened [five years ago]. I know more of what I want out of life, what I want to be in a couple of years."

As far as football goals go, Reddick would like to progress from backup to Lions starting nickelback, a hybrid defensive back/linebacker position currently held by Korey Banks, an individual who is arguably the best all-around defender in the CFL.

A three-time CFL all-star, Banks is going into his eighth season and turns 32 in August. But Banks led the Lions in sacks (seven), fumble returns (four), made 55 tackles and two interceptions last season and seems impervious to injury. His current consecutive games streak stands at 66, and he sees no reason why he can't push it to the century mark and beyond.

"When I'm ready to leave, he [Reddick] will replace me," Banks said. "But I'm not ready to leave. Even if they cut me next year, I'll play somewhere. No problem. I have another three years to play, at least. And I don't know if you really could replace me, because somebody like me is hard to find. I just feel this way: You'd need a collective group to do what I do."

Banks grew up in Boynton Beach, Fla.; Reddick in Fort Lauderdale, just a little farther south. But their backgrounds and neighbourhoods are so similar, Banks feels as if he knew Reddick even before he really got to know him.

"He reminds me of the guys I grew up with," Banks said. 'He's a humble guy and hardnosed. He's going to do whatever it takes. See how he flies around and hits people? That's why they brought him in to replace Sean Taylor in Miami."

Reddick was issued jersey No. 26 with the Hurricanes, the same number he wears today with the Lions, out of deference to Taylor, the Hurricane who played free safety before him. Known as "Meast" -short for half-man, half-beast -Taylor was voted the hardest hitting player in the NFL, by Sports Illustrated, after he graduated to the Washington Redskins. Taylor died tragically at age 24, however, when the Miami native was shot in the leg and bled to death, the unintended victim of a home robbery. The four male perpetrators, all between the ages of 18 and 20, were later apprehended, convicted and sentenced to life terms in prison.

"More young men making bad decisions that affect them the rest of their lives," Banks said. "All those four guys are locked up now. They should be locked up forever. So stupid, so senseless. Sean Taylor was the best free safety who ever played the game. They walked away with $2,000-$3,000, and they're spending the rest of their lives in prison. Animals, real animals."

That's also what they're saying in Vancouver about the mob that wantonly destroyed property, taunted police and beat up civic-minded individuals who bravely attempted to stop them.

"Do the right thing," Reddick said.

"That's basically what I learned from my experience [at Miami]."

Out of the Cup chaos, one can only hope other young men will acquire the same hard lesson.

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Man Wearing Warren Sapp Jersey Tries To Rob Subway

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies are searching for a man who wore an Oakland Raiders football jersey when he tried to rob a Subway in Boca Raton.

The attempted robbery occurred June 14 at the restaurant on Powerline Road.

Surveillance photographs released by the sheriff's office Monday showed that the man was wearing a No. 99 Oakland Raiders jersey -- the same number worn by former defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Deputies said the man claimed to have a gun, but the weapon was never seen.

Anyone with information about the attempted robbery is asked to contact the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

Click here to order Warren Sapp’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen's Game Improving In Martz' System

No player had more speculation surrounding their concern over the arrival of Mike Martz than Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen had last off-season.  The free agent signing of blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna added even more fuel to the fire.  Whether it was rumors of Olsen's displeasure over his expected diminished role or trade rumors, the attention surrounding the Greg Olsen - Mike Martz "issue" became an important story to watch during the 2010 season.

This morning on the Mully & Hanely show, Greg Olsen talked about how he embraced his new role in the Martz offense in 2010:

"There's a lot of other ways that you can impact the game rather than just catching the ball. I think last year really made that a lot more evident to me than I experienced early on in my career because catching the ball really was my role on the offense. Last year there were some other things that were maybe even more important or just as important as being out there to catch the ball. I did embrace that."

"I think I got better as a football player last year. Granted my catches and stuff went down, but I honestly can say I think I got better and there's a reason for that. Between the coaches and the off-season work that we were able to do, and as you continue to grow and mature as a player, each year you should get better. I anticipate doing the same thing this year."

Being that I have been critical of Greg Olsen's play in the past, I had my doubts as to how Olsen would fit into Martz' system.  As such, I took great interest in following the play of Greg Olsen last season.  I'll say this now as I said throughout multiple games last season, watching Greg Olsen's performance was one of the great surprises and stories that I will remember from the 2010 Chicago Bears season.

While there were occurrences of whiffed blocks in the backfield and miscommunication at times, I can also vividly recall several instances while reviewing the games where I would be pleasantly surprised and literally marvel out loud at the visible progress of Greg Olsen's play.  Along with the occasional growing-pain plays, you would see flashes of growth and progress towards him becoming a more complete tight end.  Whether it was seeing extra effort on downfield blocks, or doing whatever it took to seal a block including a couple of infamous "booty" blocks, Greg Olsen's growth in 2010 impressed me and made me more of a fan of him than I have ever been.

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

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Allen Bailey Ranked the 18th Best AFC West Defensive Lineman

1. Richard Seymour, Oakland: He is the class of the division. He is aging, but he is still a brilliant player.

2. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City: He made great strides in 2010, his third NFL season. He had adjusted well to the 3-4 defense and he is the anchor to a young defense.

3. Tommy Kelly, Oakland: Kelly had his best NFL season in 2010 and he pairs very nicely with Seymour. He is tough when he is motivated.

4. Elvis Dumervil, Denver: Dumervil is back to end in a 4-3 after excelling in a 3-4 defense. He struggles against the run, but he is a force as a pass-rusher.

5. Lamarr Houston, Oakland: I really like this player. The second-year player is a potential star.

6. Antonio Garay, San Diego: Garay had a terrific season in 2010. He is a tremendous nose tackle.

7. Luis Castillo, San Diego: Castillo is a solid player, but I’d like to see more impact plays.

8. Matt Shaughnessy, Oakland: He’s another fine young player for Oakland. He has made the most of his opportunities.

9. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City: Jackson has been just so-so. This is a huge season for the No. 3 overall pick of the 2009 draft.

10. Corey Liuget, San Diego: The No. 18 overall pick of the 2011 draft will start at end and he will get a chance to make an immediate impact.

11. Wallace Gilberry, Kansas City: He’s is an underrated player. He can get sacks in bunches.

12. John Henderson, Oakland: He is aging, but he can still help Oakland as a run stuffer.

13. Robert Ayers, Denver: This is a big season for Ayers, the No. 18 pick in 2009. New coach John Fox likes him, so he’ll get a chance to start.

14. Trevor Scott, Oakland: Scott has a chance to be very good. He has natural pass-rushing ability.

15. Ron Edwards, Kansas City: He’s steady. The Chiefs want more help at tackle, but Edwards is OK.

16. Shaun Smith, Kansas City: The Chiefs need to bring him back. He can make an impact.

17. Marcus Thomas, Denver: Denver wants this free agent back.

18. Allen Bailey, Kansas City: The Chiefs are very excited about this third-round pick. He could play right away.

19. Kevin Vickerson, Denver: Denver re-signed him in March.

20 Vaughn Martin, San Diego: It’s time for this project to make a move.

21. Cam Thomas, San Diego: The Chargers still have high hopes for this second-year player.

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Zach Railey dominates to take Finn lead at Kiel Week

Zach Railey (USA), the 2008 Olympic silver medallist, dominated day three for Finns at Kiel Week with two bullets to take the overall lead, following the eight races that have now been sailed.

Jonathan Lobert (FRA) drops to second, while Ed Wright (GBR) remains in third, but extends on the rest of the fleet.

Day 3 at Kiel Week again brought moderate to strong winds with 12-17 knots, cloudy skies and more tough racing. In the first race of the day, Railey battled against the two French sailors Thomas Le Breton (FRA) and regatta leader Lobert for line honours. In the second race, Wright placed second, while Lobert got another third place finish.

“The weather was better today, with only a little bit of rain and the wind was still strong but shifty coming from the land, Railey said of his day.

“I had a great back-and-forth race with both the French sailors in the first race. I think the lead must have changed 10 times and we all finished within two boat lengths of each other. It was a great race between all of us," he said.

“In the second race, again it was both the French sailors, Ed, myself, Deniss and Björn. I was able to get a lead on the second upwind and held that to the finish. With the wind shifting so much the final results in each race always came down to the end and it's been tight racing.”

Björn Allansson SWE) is in seventh place overall after scoring 8, 4. “Today was another physical day in Kiel. In the second race I was able to take the pin end start and round just behind Le Breton at the top mark, and passed him on the downwind. I finally finished in fourth after Zach Railey, Ed Wright and Jonathan Lobert,” he commented.

“For me, this is a great week and I am learning a lot, both new things as well as being reminded of old stuff. It's close racing with many shifts so I always have to stay 100 percent alert, and try to calculate the next move. I'm having a great time so far.

"It was the right choice to hit the left on five or six of today's upwinds, but the tricky part was to find the perfect time to tack over. The wind was also today like prior days shifty and gusty, but to a lesser extent than the last few days, making the tactics of today slightly easier.”

Two more races are scheduled for Tuesday local time with the final race and the Medal Race for the top 10 on Wednesday.

Results after eight races 1 USA 4 Zach Railey 18 2 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 20 3 GBR 11 Edward Wright 24 4 EST 2 Deniss Karpak 30 5 FRA 29 Thomas Le Breton 36 6 GER 151 Matthias Miller 46 7 SWE 6 Björn Allansson 51 8 AUT 3 Florian Raudaschl 61 9 USA 1140 Caleb Paine 62 10 GER 771 Jan Kurfeld 63

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Tim George Jr. Is The Leader

Things Tim George Jr. likely knew after finishing third at Michigan - his fourth top-five in the last five races - were numerous: that he'd improved from eighth to seventh in ARCA Racing Series points; that he had extended the best stretch of his stock car career; that he'd travel that night to Aspen, Colo. for the Saturday wedding of his best friend Jimmy Marcus; and that he'd be featured by writer Dave Caldwell in The New York Times Sunday.

What George might not have known is that his third-place finish vaulted him into a position as the leading driver in the pursuit of the Bill France Four Crown, an award that represents the series' versatility and gives points on four very different tracks over the course of the ARCA schedule.

George's fourth-place finish at New Jersey and his third-place Michigan effort make him the leading driver through two of four races with 375 points, just ahead of teammate Ty Dillon's 365. Chad McCumbee is third, at 355. Chad Hackenbracht (345) and Frank Kimmel (335) round out the top five.

Filling out the Four Crown schedule will be the August 21 dirt mile race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the September 17 short track showdown at Salem Speedway in Indiana.

George spoke in the Michigan International Speedway media center about another strong finish after the passing of a good friend two weeks ago. Asked to describe how he bounced back, he initially offered a single word - "resilient" - and then expounded on that statement.

"Having the ability to bounce back from a difficult situation is the key to any good champion or great character that you look at in movies or real life," said George. "People really watch you, how you carry yourself, if you hold your head high or low, and what your body language is that following week, especially in a sport like this, or basketball or tennis, anything. I just came back with that same mindset, with a smile on my face. I just kept working hard and that resulted in a win for us at Pocono and another top-five today."

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Kenny Kelly in stable condition after slamming into concrete wall

Kenny Kelly Wall
Road Warriors center fielder Kenny Kelly never broke his stride as he raced across the outfield and onto the warning track to try to catch a deep fly ball hit by the York Revolution's Ramon Castro in the bottom of the first inning Monday.

Road Warriors right fielder Michael Mooney shouted "Wall!" as Kelly stepped on the warning track, but Kelly never slowed down. The ball hit his mitt and popped out when he slammed into the wall, hitting his left shoulder and face against the unpadded concrete wall.

"He was going almost full speed," Mooney said. "It wasn't pretty. He split open his chin pretty bad ... one of the worst I've ever seen."

Mooney noted he once saw a player dive into an outfield wall, which resulted in a ruptured spleen. But Kelly's collision was "the worst" Mooney had ever seen.

Kelly collapsed on the warning track, unresponsive. His eyes rolled back in his head, Mooney said. Mooney immediately motioned for medical assistance. Orthopedic & Spine Specialists athletic trainer Bob Burton raced to the outfield.

Moments later home plate umpire Eric Diaz signaled with his hand and shouted for someone in the press box to call an ambulance, but the call had already been made and the stadium's on-duty White Rose emergency medical services and a doctor on-site from Orthopedic & Spine Specialists hurried to the outfield.

Fitted with a neck brace and placed on a backboard, he was taken from the field in an ambulance.

A league official confirmed Kelly suffered a concussion, facial fracture and needed stitches.

Kelly was discharged from York Hospital late Monday night and returned to the Road Warriors clubhouse.

A two-sport athlete at the University of Miami, Kelly played a combined 17 games at quarterback for the Hurricanes during the 1998-99 seasons.
A second-round draft pick by his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1997 amateur baseball draft, Kelly concentrated on baseball after the 1999 NCAA season. He reached the big leagues with Tampa in 2000 and returned to the majors with the Reds in 2005.

Kelly did not play professional baseball for the last three seasons. Just four games into his comeback with the Road Warriors, he was looking for his first hit. He had never played at Sovereign Bank Stadium before Monday.

The stadium's lack of padded walls has been a concern for players since its opening on June 15, 2007. That weekend, then-York manager Chris Hoiles, wondered why the new ballpark didn't have padding on the outfield walls.

Playing with caution "isn't the way these guys play," Hoiles said in June 2007. Hoiles feared a player could tumble into the wall, possibly hitting his head.

"It might not only end a player's career, it might end his life," he said.

Players, some of them angry, stopped to ask reporters during that first season what the front office had to say about the matter.

The front office maintained it wasn't unusual for minor league walls to remain unpadded. Former York general manager Matt O'Brien also noted that the Green Monster at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field didn't have padding.

And it doesn't sound like the latest incident will change anything about the walls - which feature advertisement banners but no padding.

"I think it's unpleasant to watch in person, but when you look at the number of baseball games played across the country on any given day and the relative rarity of an incident like that, I'm not sure it changes a whole lot," Revs president/general manager Eric Menzer said. "The bottom line is the players are aware of the conditions they're playing in and their style of play."

It's true other ballparks around the Atlantic League don't have padding, but other ballparks in the league typically have chain-link or plywood fences and not concrete walls.

"That's the first time it's happened since I've been here," said York manager Andy Etchebarren, who began managing in York in August 2009. "It's something to look at down the road."

In the franchise's first few seasons, play needed to be stopped after York outfielders Matt Esquivel and Kaz Tanaka came in contact with concrete walls. York's outfielders have learned to help one another avoid bad collisions.

"If someone's getting close, you let them know, even if it's before the warning track," York center fielder Scott Grimes said. "Talking is the key, especially when you're going full speed. We have a better idea than (Kelly) does, because we play here a lot more. But we still need to know where we are at all times.

"(Padding) would help - immensely. I mean, it's still going to hurt (if you run into the wall), but anything would help."

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Chris Perez: Perez up to 17 saves

Chris Perez threw a scoreless inning Sunday in a non-save situation against the Pirates.

Perez walked two but allowed no hits and made it out of the frame unscathed. He earned his 17th save of the season on June 15 and is sporting a quality 2.39 ERA and 1.22 WHIP through 26 1/3 innings this year.

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Rickey Henderson’s take on Jemile Weeks

Rickey Henderson is in town to work with some of the A’s top base runners. “I think now that we really wanna run a little more, I’ll come up and see what I can do for them,” said Henderson, who has worked extensively with the A’s minor league teams since the start of last season. Henderson worked with Jemile Weeks plenty at the Double-A level and thinks a young player with Weeks’ ability provides a spark for an entire team. “I think he’s exciting,” Henderson said. “Usually you get a guy like that just coming up to the big leagues, he’s got a little fire in him. He’s a little hyper out there. It seems like the team picks something up.”

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Jason Michaels plates two in loss

Astros OF Jason Michaels Michaels, who entered hitting .190 with three RBIs in 35 games, drove in two runs Monday against the Rangers. He had an RBI single in the fourth inning and duplicated the effort in the eighth. However, Michaels and the Astros would go on to lose 8-3 despite his 2 for 4 effort.

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Meet new A's rookie Jemile Weeks

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland A's swept the San Francisco Giants in the Bay Bridge series and that sweep gives the A's some hope in what looked like a lost season. New manager Bob Melvin has provided a spark and so has the speedy new rookie, 2nd baseman Jemile Weeks.

He can run, he can field, and he can hit. Since being called up on June 7th, Weeks has been on a tear with a .364 average in his first 12 games.

"I feel great. I mean, this is where I've wanted to be all my life and finally it's here, so it definitely feels good," said Weeks.

Making the big leagues was almost expected of Weeks because baseball has been in his family for generations.

"It's kind of been a part of the family; my grandfather played, my dad played. It went on down to my brother and me being the youngest, I just followed suit pretty much," said Weeks.

In less than two weeks with the club, Weeks has been a game-changer with four doubles, three triples and two stolen bases. Most importantly, the A's are winning.

"It was my opportunity to come up here and try to be a part of this team and help them win. And that's probably the most exciting thing is that we're winning right now and it's me, I'm actually helping out this team win and that's something that I didn't see myself doing so soon in the season," said Weeks.

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Ryan Braun scratched with viral infection

Ryan Braun was scratched from Monday's lineup against the Rays with an upper respiratory viral infection.

He'll probably be good to go in the next day or so. Mark Kotsay will make the start in left field Monday while Corey Hart slides down to the No. 3 spot in the lineup against right-hander Jeff Niemann.

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Jason Geathers Scores Four Touchdowns

The Arizona Rattlers (12-2), narrowly defeated the San Jose SaberCats (5-8) on Saturday night (June 18) coming back from a 14-point second half deficit to win 64-57. With the win, Arizona clinched the West Division of the National Conference at the US Airways Center.

QB NICK DAVILA completed 22-of-33 passes for 270 yards and seven touchdowns, finding WR JASON GEATHERS four times in the endzone. Geathers finished the game with eight catches for 73 yards and the game-winning 12-yard touchdown with ten seconds to go in the game.

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Roscoe Parrish best bet to break through in 2011

Buffalo Bills

WR Roscoe Parrish — The Bills had a breakthrough wideout last season (Stevie Johnson), and it's possible that Parrish could fit that description in 2011. He has been a steady slot receiver for six seasons in Buffalo, but 2010 was his best, and he played in just eight games, catching 33 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns. A broken wrist cost Parrish the second half of the season. The Bills turned into a pass-happy offense last season, especially because they often played from behind. With more attention heading in the direction of Johnson after his 82-1,073-10 campaign, and with veteran Lee Evans' production steadily decreasing, the speedy Parrish is primed to have a bigger role. There is competition, as David Nelson had a solid season in the slot last season, and young WRs Marcus Easley and Naaman Roosevelt should see more time on the field. But Parrish is the veteran, and if the Bills' passing offense improves, he could be a big reason for it. If he stays injury-free, he could finally put it all together for a big season.

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

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Michael Irvin helps 'Makeover: Weight Loss'

NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin has never had a weight problem.

The 45-year-old Irvin -- who played 11 years for the Dallas Cowboys and is now a broadcaster for the NFL Network -- has for years carried about 205 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame.

But these days, Irvin loves to spend time motivating athletes and athlete-wannabes to get into shape and achieve their goals -- on the field and off.

That's why he, along with former Cowboys lineman Nate Newton, started working with James of Fort Worth, Texas, to try to help him shed some of his 651 pounds on Monday's episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition."

"He has just lost hope," said Irvin, who was the 15th of 17 siblings growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before heading to the University of Miami. "Sometimes people see nothing in front of them and they give up and they eat."

"Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" documents the makeovers of eight "super obese" people who, in 365 days, set out to safely lose half of their body weight, guided by trainer Chris Powell.

"This is a brilliant idea for a show. This is so different than the athletes I work with," Irvin said. "I had to find ways to push him. I had to find ways to make him care. The weight is his purgatory."

After James hurt his knee in high school, he gave up hope of playing pro football. He turned his focus to computer work and spent long hours at his computer, consuming unhealthy food. And the weight kept piling on.

"Nate and I wanted to get him back into the game of life. Change comes when you make up your mind," Irvin said. "Too many people look at their body in the mirror for inspiration to keep going. When, in fact, the real inspiration comes from what you can't see. It's in your mind."

Click here to order Michael Irvin’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Give Us Your iPod: Leonard Hankerson

It’s not uncommon to see athletes jamming to music on their headphones. Ask them what they’re listening to and they’ll tell you, but is it actually what's playing?

Here at Capital Games we do it a little differently. We ask local athletes to give up their iPod (or iPad, iPhone, or whatever they use to hold music), and let someone else put it on shuffle to see what comes up.

Sure, they could just tell us themselves. But what fun would that be?

Today we take a look at Redskins' Leonard Hankerson's iPod with some help from fellow draft pick Ryan Kerrigan.
We tried to get Hank to sing for us, but no such luck.

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Devin Hester passionate about role as a father

If there was an instruction manual for dads, it would be thicker than the NCAA rules book.

Infant car seat installation? Page 36. How to coach Little League without teaching new words to the kids? Chapters 30-40. When it comes to raising the kids, dads can be many different things.

Devin Hester, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and father to 18-month-old Devin, knows dads can be something else: absent.

As a kid, most of Hester's friends had just their mothers around.

"You see the outcome of how all of them, not one, but all of them, planned their life without a father figure," Hester said. "It really affects the kids as they are growing up."

This realization, along with being a daddy to Devin, motivated Hester to start thinking about what really matters off the football field. He saw what happened to his friends growing up without a father figure, but it wasn't until he had his own son that he realized just how important a father is to a child's development. This offseason, Hester decided to turn this passion into writing a parenting column for Chicago's award-winning parenting magazine, Chicago Parent.

Hester spends a lot of time visiting places around Chicago with Devin, and his parenting column really captures his happiness of being a father. Even though he has a dream job, Hester looks forward to coming home every day.

"Ya know, it's always the same regardless of how my day is going," Hester said, about the joy he finds in seeing little Devin. "It could be a bad day, or a great day, but his expression on his face seeing me walk through the door -- you have to have a son to experience that situation."

Balance is the key for Hester in spending time with Devin. There's "been a lot more time" this summer with the lockout, but Hester still has commitments to his rigorous offseason workouts.

"The biggest thing I do, the thing that really helps me, is I get up early and do it," Hester said. "The time I'm gone is when Devin is asleep. When I get home he's just getting up and eating breakfast, so it's like the day's just started for him."

The workout doesn't really end when he walks in the door. Chasing a toddler around takes a lot of energy. When playing in the living room together, little Devin is able to pick up the half-his-body-size football and throw it pretty far for an 18-month-old. But, the real question is, how's his catching ability?

"He's got a pretty good catch," Hester said. "It seems like he's more into basketball. He loves basketball."

But little Devin's mom, Hester's wife Zingha, has her own ideas about his sports future.

"My wife wants him to play baseball," Hester said, giving Cubs fans a glimmer of hope. "We'll see how that turns out."

For parents, there is one test to find out just how much of the "dirty" work a dad is willing to do.

"I'm cool with changing [diapers]," Hester said. "If I'm home with just me and him, I'll change him, but if it's me and my wife around, I hand him to her and she knocks it out."

While he has goals off the field as a dad, Hester hasn't stopped thinking about what his goals are on the field. When there's football again, Hester will be ready.

"My biggest goal in life is just to make big plays," Hester said. "I kind of see myself as a big playmaker. Whether it be special teams or offense, just be consistent on making big plays throughout the game."

Hester is a star on the field, but he wants his son to remember his legacy in a different way.

"Dad plays football, but more importantly, he is a better superstar to you off the field," Hester said.

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

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Research group calls out Ray Lewis’ lockout/crime correlation

So … remember when Ray Lewis insisted that the longer the lockout went on, the more crime there would be? Turns out, there's no historical precedent for such a statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's PolitiFact group.

In a recent ESPN interview, Lewis said that "if we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game." Lewis' contention was that the lockout affected the fans as much or more than the players and owners.

"There's too many people that live through us, people live through us," he said. "Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the streets, and I'm not talking about the people you see all the time."

The AJC accepted Lewis' invitation to do that research, contacted the Northeastern's Sport in Society center and was told that "there is very little evidence supporting Lewis' claim that crime will increase the longer the work stoppage lasts."

The AJC cited a similar crime study.

The Baltimore Sun also looked at crime in 1982 and found an increase during the strike in only one category: homicides.

The Sun tried some other methods to tackle Lewis' claim. The newspaper's Crime Beat blog looked at crime data last season when the Ravens had their bye (off) week. The Sun found there was slightly more crime during the bye week.

The Sun looked at crime in Baltimore the four weeks before the season started and the first four weeks of the season. There was the same number of crimes. The Sun also examined the crime rate there at the end of the Ravens' season and what happened afterward. What did it find? There was less crime after the season ended in early January.

The Sun stressed several times that its findings were unscientific.

The AJC then went to look at increases in crime during bye weeks, assuming that the no football/higher crime equation would fit a much shorter time frame. No real evidence was presented that would lead in one direction or another.

One criminologist we interviewed had a different take. Northeastern University professor James A. Fox heard Lewis' comments and did a study. He looked at key FBI data from the last three years available, 2006 through 2008, focusing on the week before the Super Bowl because there were no games that week and there was intense interest in football around that time of the year. Fox, who was referred to us by the FBI, found no increase in crime the week there was no football.

"I took the Ray Lewis(notes) challenge and I don't see any evidence of [a crime increase]," said Fox, the author of several books on crime who also writes a crime and punishment blog for the Boston Globe.

As far as player crime … well, aside from Kenny Britt(notes) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there hasn't been a huge increase during this offseason, and the closer both sides get to a settlement, the more most players will be putting their collective noses to the grindstone, leaving them too busy to get in trouble.

At least, that's one theory we hope will stick.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Tim George Jr.: Manhattan Meets Nascar as Chef Becomes a Racer

Six years ago, Tim George Jr. was working for a Manhattan restaurant that was catering a function at a sports-car race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. As George recalls, the head chef harshly criticized him, in Italian, for altering a recipe. So George, then 24, took a break to watch sleek Ferraris conquer the racetrack.

“When I saw the cars speed on the track with no police officers, I said to myself, ‘This is what I need to be doing,’ ” George said Friday in a telephone interview from Brooklyn, Mich.

George, who grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Rye, N.Y., was no stranger to sports cars. Tim George Sr. said that when his son was 15, the police caught him and a friend on a joy ride in his white Corvette.

Tim Jr. liked what he saw at Lime Rock Park in 2005 and decided to enroll in racing school. He raced sports cars (and still does), but he is focused on climbing the ranks of stock-car racing and driving in the Nascar Sprint Cup Series, which does not attract many drivers from the New York City area.

“Obviously, that’s not a big Nascar demographic,” said Tim Sr., an investment banker.

George, 30, does not fit the demographic of a Nascar driver, either. The oldest of four children, he spent much of his childhood in the Hamptons. He has worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, delivered wine to Sean Combs’s house and worked at the American Ballet Theater. But he joked that he was technically half-Southern because his mother, Ruth, is from Nashville.

George has been racing stock cars since only 2008, but he is driving for Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt’s former team. George is participating in five racing series — most regularly the ARCA Racing Series, essentially three levels below Sprint Cup.

“We’ve put him through some pretty tough stuff to get where he is,” said Childress, whose 18-year-old grandson, Ty Dillon, is George’s ARCA teammate. “To have someone of his caliber and past experience working with younger drivers is valuable, too.”

George seems to be heading in the right direction. He won his first ARCA race in 50 tries at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on June 11. The race was shortened to 59 laps from the scheduled 80 because of fog, but the victory counted just the same.

George dedicated the victory to the memory of Drew Hawkins, a friend who helped him pursue his career when he moved to Charlotte, N.C. George picked up a new sponsor, then moved on to Michigan International Speedway, where he finished third in an ARCA race Friday.

“I think I have to work twice as hard because people expect me to do well right away,” George said. “People race me a lot harder because they know the situation.”

George would not seem to be much like Childress, a 65-year-old North Carolinian, but Childress hired George because it was obvious that he was serious about racing.

“He’s very dedicated in what he wants to do,” Childress said. “With the progress he’s making, we feel like he’ll be ready next year for the truck series. He’s more and more aggressive. He’s constantly, week in and week out, working at what he does.”

Besides competing in ARCA, George is scheduled to drive in three races in the Nationwide Series, the Class AAA of stock-car racing, and a truck series race. R.C.R. also has him racing sports cars and late-model cars to get him accustomed to all the things racecars can do.

George, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Miami, is up for the variety of challenges. He said the other jobs he had provided him with resolve and resilience.

“He’s still got a lot of runway,” Tim Sr. said of his son’s age. He added: “He’s trying to accelerate and make up ground. It’s almost like boot camp.”

George, who is single, recently took up yoga and likes to cook, preferring organic food. His mother went to Le Cordon Bleu in France when he was a child and provided him with the inspiration to pursue a career as a chef. That led him to the Italian restaurant, which led him to Lime Rock Park, which led him to Childress.

George still has aspirations to own a restaurant someday, but he sounds as if that day is long off. He says he has proved that a man who spent part of his life in an apartment on 84th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues can be a good ol’ boy, too.

“R.C.R. is a family deal,” George said, “and if you don’t fit into the family mold they have, that’s it, you’re done.”

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Yonder Alonso hitting his way toward call-up?

Yonder Alonso is batting .316/.371/.502 with eight homers and 39 RBI over 247 at-bats this season for Triple-A Louisville.

Alonso is still learning the ins and outs of playing left field, as he's considered, to put it nicely, a minus defender there. But, his bat will carry him, and he's hitting well enough that the Reds might be willing to deal with shoddy outfield defense. Cincinnati hasn't gotten much production from left field this season and could give Alonso a shot at regular playing time at some point.

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Danny Valencia day-to-day after being injured on throw

MINNEAPOLIS -- Third baseman Danny Valencia exited the Twins' 1-0 win over the Padres on Saturday after the eighth inning with a strained right bicep he suffered while throwing to first base for the first out of the inning. He is day to day.

Valencia, who gave the Twins their lone run of the game with a homer in the second inning, injured himself while throwing to first after bobbling a grounder from Jesus Guzman.

"I just rushed it to get that out and my whole bicep kind of tightened up," Valencia said. "It feels like I'm pretty much flexing my bicep. But they said it should be all right. We worked on it in there and hopefully tomorrow it'll feel better."

Valencia added he hopes to be in the lineup on Sunday, but it seems more likely the Twins will give him a day to rest his arm.

"I don't know," Valencia said when asked if he'll play Sunday. "I'm going to come in prepared to play. I told them [I] think I'll be all right to go back out there, but when it first happened it really bothered me. I never felt anything like it before. So they pretty much said I strained my bicep."

Valencia did make another throw after injuring himself, as he threw out Chris Denorfia at first for the next out. However, he was replaced by Matt Tolbert at third base for the ninth inning.

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