22 May 2011

Photos from the Santana Moss Signing at All Canes

Check out our exclusive photos from the Santana Moss Autograph Signing Session at All Canes last Saturday. To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Go to www.allcanes.com where you can still purchase some Santana Moss autographed memorabilia while supplies last! Also check out All Canes Radio where you will hear yours truly’s special interview with Moss where he talks about his UM days, the current state of Hurricane football and much more!

To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Hankerson Can't Be Called "Hank" Yet by Redskins Teammates

So, London Fletcher has said rookies don’t get to pick their own nicknames just yet.

“We had Leonard Hankerson out here talking about ‘Yeah, call me Hank,’ ” Lorenzo Alexander told reporters. “[Fletcher’s] like, ‘Man, no, your name is Leonard. You don’t get no nicknames until you earn ‘em.’ So he’s definitely putting them in place, making sure they get here early, lay out the equipment, clean up, picking up all the bottles and stuff afterwards.”

“After that first play being made, I’m sure they’ll be calling me Hank,” Hankerson said.

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2011 NFL Breakout Players

Sam Shields, CB, Packers
The Packers have found their eventual successor for Charles Woodson in an undrafted free agent with remarkable speed and athleticism. Shields rose from the bottom of the depth chart to become a key contributor in the team's sub packages. With few cornerbacks capable of matching his speed and natural ball skills (four interceptions in 2010), he is poised to have a big second season.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints
Sean Payton letting Jeremy Shockey go was largely due to the development of Graham. The former basketball standout quickly became one of Drew Brees' favorite red-zone targets. With more opportunities to snag balls as the No. 1 tight end, Graham could see his numbers double in his second season. At 6-8, he creates big problems for cover players, and should be huge in the red zone. It will be a shock if he doesn't catch 70 passes.

Antonio Dixon, DT, Philadelphia Eagles:
The undrafted Dixon was a surprise starter in Philly last season after being claimed the year before on waivers from the Redskins. He is a powerful man who holds up against the run, but also can push the pocket. With the experience he got last year, he should be ready for even more.

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Kellen Winslow's knee pain free for first time in years

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow was missing one thing as he caught passes from quarterback Josh Freeman this week.

Winslow ran several patterns with precision and ease. He visualized defenders and fought them off before hauling in one catch after another. There was nothing Winslow could not do during a practice organized by Freeman to keep players sharp during the NFL lockout.

For the first time in years, Winslow was without pain in his right knee.  

"I feel good," Winslow said. "Last year, I was hurting for whatever reason. I know how to rehab my knee better. I feel good now. I feel as ready as I can be right now."

Winslow's knee feels so good, he did not have it scoped this offseason. The last time he went without that traditional offseason procedure, he thinks, was in 2008.

One reason for Winslow's newfound health is his learning to use a knee simulation machine more effectively.

"I was using it the wrong way, so it was affecting my knee in a certain way," Winslow said. "That was what was going on last year when I was hurting and why I wasn't practicing in training camp.

"I was hurting, but I've learned how to basically use the machine better, so my knee feels better."

Winslow had 66 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns last season despite knee problems. Freeman looks forward to seeing what his tight end can accomplish while being pain free.

"He's a good team guy," Freeman said. "He's a great guy to have on your team. We're training and getting together a lot. It's great to see him."
Winslow could have trained in San Diego, where he resides, to prepare for the upcoming season, but committed to working out with Freeman this offseason.

In the future, Winslow plans to work out at the University of Miami with several alumni, including Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis), Andre Johnson (Houston) and Jeremy Shockey (Carolina). Winslow is trying to convince Freeman to take the trip with him because he loves the close relationship they are developing.

"I'm in the perfect place," Winslow said.

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

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Redskins hope it's 'Hank Time'

He thought of the name in high school, then used it to create a website. His new Redskins ballcap had that address written on the side (www.hanktime.com). There's also a tattoo on his right biceps with the same moniker, Hank Time, with a football in between. Redskins rookie receiver Leonard Hankerson is not shy about sharing his self-confidence.

Just don't expect him to be another prima donna receiver.

"I have fun, but I don't do much," he said. "I just go out and play the game."

Not that teammates would mind if he played with a little extra personality.

"The No. 1 thing that sticks out is the kid wants it," quarterback John Beck said. "He wants to go extra. I love people that want to put in extra time. If he has swagger with him, that's great. You have to be like that."

Hankerson indeed worked out with Beck for parts of three days in San Diego earlier this month. Hankerson went early so he could get time in with Beck. After the Redskins' minicamp workout Wednesday, he caught passes from Beck for another 10 or so minutes.

He might not want to display that swagger, but he's happy to show his hands -- largest in the draft, according to coach Mike Shanahan. They measure 10 5/8 inches. And they allowed him to palm a ball starting around age 10.

"That's my patented move, catch the ball one-handed," Hankerson said. "I love to do it. I work on it in practice. There's nothing better than catching the ball one-handed."

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Glad to be working out, Eagles' Avant is joined by Sinorice Moss

Nobody knows how much NFL play will suffer from a locked-out spring, but after running pass patterns for about an hour yesterday at a South Jersey high school with a dozen or so teammates, Jason Avant said he really needed the work.

"It's a very tough thing for my position," the Eagles' slot receiver said. "What you see on Sundays in October is [the result of] a lengthy rehearsal throughout the summer for the performances during the year. Getting timing down is the hardest thing. You need timing, with bodies."

Avant said workouts like the one Michael Vick organized yesterday in Burlington County help, but "you need to be able to have guys' hands in your face." The players have decided against anything resembling full-squad workouts right now because injuries suffered in this setting could void contracts, they said. But Avant said if the lockout continues, at some point such risks will be necessary.

"This is the offseason where you have to depend on guys' work ethic," Avant said. "Those teammates that don't work, this offseason will show that, more than any other year," absent the usual push from coaches at minicamps and OTAs.

"We've all called each other, tried to get more guys, but you can understand - if a guy says, 'I'm in California, and I've paid a trainer,' you can't get on a guy for something like that," Avant said. "We just have to go with the numbers that we have."

Those numbers were enhanced yesterday with the arrival of Sinorice Moss, the former Giants wideout the Eagles signed in January. Moss, a second-round Giants selection in 2006, reached an injury settlement with the Giants last season after suffering a sports hernia, his third major injury.

Moss said the lockout has made changing teams a bit tricky. He was meeting several of his new teammates for the first time yesterday, trying to pick up what he could about the Eagles' offense. Moss quickly attached himself to Avant, whom he knew from being in the same draft class.

"Just being out here with him, him telling me what I need to know as far as some of the routes and depths, some of the key things I need to know so that when we do get a chance to return, I can be on top of my game," Moss, 27, said when asked what he got from the session.

Click here to order Sinorice Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Registration open for Edgerrin/Javarris James camp July 25

Registration is now open for the third annual Edgerrin and Javarris James Youth Football Camp on Monday, July 25 at the Immokalee Sports Complex.

The inaugural camp in 2009 drew 400 youngsters. There were 500 last year. Registration is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The free camp is in conjunction with Collier County Parks and Recreation, as well as the Edgerrin James Foundation. The camp is from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and for ages 6-18. Instructors include some of the best players from college and the NFL, as well as members of NFL coaching staffs.

Among those who have helped out over the past two years are sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, former NFL players Robert Bailey, Jammi German and current running back Clinton Portis.

The camp's structure is designed to actively engage every participant. Each camper will be placed in groups based on similar age, size, and/or experience level. The camp emphasizes the basic fundamentals and skill development essential to improving football performance. Campers will receive instruction on technique enhancements, teamwork, sportsmanship, and educational life skills.

Visit www.edgerrinjamesfoundation.org. Click on programs, then football camp to print off a registration form. Forms can be submitted to the Immokalee Sports Complex in advance or the day of the camp (forms must have original signature).

Click here to order Edgerrin James’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Yasmani Grandal going strong

Bakersfield catcher Yasmani Grandal earned a Major League contract from the Cincinnati Reds for the power-hitting skills he showed at the University of Miami. Grandal slugged 31 home runs over his last two seasons with the Hurricanes and is a power threat for the Blaze with a .298 batting average and eight homers in 37 games.

Grandal's path to the Majors began long before the Reds made him the 12th overall pick in last year's Draft. He was born in Cuba and came to the United States with his mother when he was a child.

"It was an experience I won't forget," he said. "It was tough getting here and not knowing anybody. Once you look back, everything plays out."
Grandal had to leave most of his family behind to have a shot at better opportunities in Miami. His father still lives in Cuba and he calls his relatives there when he can.

The Reds have a recent Cuban connection. Four of their top 30 prospects were born in Cuba. Pitcher Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Felix Perez defected from Cuba and guys like Grandal and Triple-A Louisville first baseman Yonder Alonso came from Havana to Miami as children.
Grandal and Alonso were college teammates and Grandal is looking forward to playing alongside Alonso again in Cincinnati.

The Reds have another top-rated catching prospect ahead of Grandal. Devin Mesoraco was the team's 15th overall pick in 2007 and is the immediate future behind the plate.

Grandal is used to competition at his position. Jason Hagerty was a star catcher at Miami when Grandal joined the Hurricanes. Grandal played so well that he pushed Hagerty to first base.

"I had to fight to get that spot," he recalled.

Grandal has high praise for Mesoraco, adding, "I think competition within the organization is even better."

The 22-year-old is developing his skills behind the plate in Bakersfield, focusing on working with a staff of pitchers he'd never seen before this season.

"[I'm] trying to call pitches better and trying to get a feel for that," he said. "So far, it's going well, especially with the starters."

Grandal sees competition from college as well as from his Team USA days. Last week, he went up against Stockton outfielder Michael Choice, who went 10th overall to Oakland in last year's Draft. Both played for Team USA in 2009.

The Reds surprised Grandal with their Major League contract offer.

"I was just trying to get drafted in the first place," he said. That focus has allowed him to hone his game without giving in to the pressure that accompanies high expectations.

"I think every first-rounder is going to feel pressure because they're expected to put up numbers and develop quickly," he said. "Just because they offered me a MLB contract, it doesn't mean they're going to put more pressure on me. If you play ball under pressure, you're not going to get too far."

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Photos from the Santana Moss Signing at All Canes

Check out our exclusive photos from the Santana Moss Autograph Signing Session at All Canes last Saturday. To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Go to www.allcanes.com where you can still purchase some Santana Moss autographed memorabilia while supplies last! Also check out All Canes Radio where you can hear yours truly’s special interview with Moss where he talks about his UM days, the current state of Hurricane football and much more!

To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Kellen Winslow working out with teammates

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow has been working out with his teammates and said his knee is feeling good. "The knee is feeling really good," Winslow said. "I just love the game so much. This is all I've ever wanted to do. I was born and bred for this. It's all I want to do. I just want to get back to playing football."

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

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Clinton Portis interested in joining Giants

Clinton Portis would love to have a chance to play his former team, the Washington Redskins, twice a year.

And the free-agent running back says he wouldn't mind doing it as a New York Giant.

In an interview on Sirius XM radio with Brian McGovern and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Portis talks about joining forces with Eli Manning.

"To go to the Giants and get to play the Redskins twice a year after them feeling I wasn't capable any more, I think that would be outstanding," Portis said, according to a full transcript posted on RealRedskins.com. "I forgot to even mention Eli Manning and the great line of the Giants always seems to have and the model of them pounding the ball. I would love that opportunity, too."

One of the Giants' top priority once free agency begins is to re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw, who will either become an unrestricted or restricted free agent.

Both sides have said they want to work out a deal. Bradshaw recently hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Rosenhaus also is Portis' agent.

The Giants have Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware and seventh-round pick Da'Rel Scott as well. Jacobs will make $4.65 million in 2011 and $4.9 million in 2012, a good chunk of change.

Portis would likely need either Bradshaw or Jacobs to depart to have a shot at potentially becoming a Giant. And something tells us that Tom Coughlin might not be a huge fan (even though we are) of Southeast Jerome, Sheriff Gonna Getcha and Coach Janky Spanky –- some of the characters Portis has dressed up as for news conferences in the past.

“There are opportunities out there, I just need to be able to come out and show what I'm capable of," Portis said. "If you look back the past two years in D. C., even when I was healthy I was getting six or seven carries a game. I might get two carries in the first quarter, a carry in the third so, you know, I think I just kind of fell out of favor in that organization.

"For myself I think it's revitalizing to have an opportunity and still have the drive and still have the hunger to go out and prove people wrong. Like I said, when you’re 77 yards away from 10,000, I think that's joining an elite bunch and I'm looking forward to it."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Colin Cowherd stands by his Sean Taylor critique

Remember what ESPN radio noisemaker Colin Cowherd said about Sean Taylor after his death? If you need a reminder, here you go:

Sean Taylor, great player has a history of really really bad judgment, really really bad judgment. Cops, assault, spitting, DUI. I’m supposed to believe his judgment got significantly better in two years, from horrible to fantastic? ‘But Colin he cleaned up his act.’ Well yeah, just because you clean the rug doesn’t mean you got everything out. Sometimes you’ve got stains, stuff so deep it never ever leaves....Just because somebody cleans the rugs doesn’t mean there aren’t stains. No matter what those commercials, OxiClean, tell you on cable TV, some stains you can’t get out. And if you have bad judgment for 23 years of your life, even if you clean it up, your judgment doesn’t get great over night.

Now, a few days after this speech, when it became clear that in this particular case Sean Taylor had not done anything wrong at all, Cowherd returned to the topic, and seemed to sort of admit he had been wrong

We are always opinionated and always aggressive and we think, on Sean Taylor, absolutely reasonable, though clearly at this point to some degree, wrong. And I’ve got no problems saying it. Well, I do have a problem saying it, I hate being wrong. Who likes being wrong? I don’t like being wrong.”

A good many Redskins fans, of course, never forgave Cowherd. But I always figured this was pure radio shtick, an effort to be typically controversial just to get people talking about him, even if it was in outraged tones.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe Cowherd really believes in stains so deep you can't get ‘em out. Because he discussed the issue at length in the new ESPN oral history book, and he’s back to defending his original point of view.

“Now with the Sean Taylor thing, my superior, Mo Davenport, an African American, listened to it and had no problem with it. A lot of it was turned into a racial issue. ‘Insensitive.’ And I would say it again. Sean Taylor came out of the University of Miami with a reputation. I really leaned on African American journalists — Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon — who were critical of him. This is a guy who had an SUV riddled with bullets several years earlier. His best friend told him, ‘Stay out of Miami.’ If you listen to my commentary and go to the Internet, it was warranted, it was reasonable, and yes, it could have been wrong. But I’m not in the business of reviewing everything before I talk about it. I’m in talk radio. A story breaks, I need an opinion. I’m not ESPN News.

I came out later and said, ‘Here are the facts. Here is the truth.’ I never really apologized. I came on the air and said, ‘Many of you were offended. You were offended by my tone or tenor. I understand it. That’s my Colin tenor. Some people love it. Some people hate it. But I’m not going to apologize for my tone. Go back and look at exactly what I said.’

One of the comments that bothered people — people said, ‘He turned his life around.’ And I came out and said, ‘Hey, a lot of times you clean the carpet, but you don’t get all the stains out.’ And people are like, ‘What does that mean?’ Well, just because you turn your life around doesn’t mean everybody else is going to accept your apology. I mean, Sean had made a lot of enemies in his life apparently.”

So, with three years to think about it, that’s what Cowherd came up with. Sean had made a lot of enemies in his life apparently.

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

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Clinton Portis on his late-career running style

Remember how fans and media members spent the last two seasons wondering why Clinton Portis perpetually ran with two hands around the ball, hunched over, and willing to pitch forward for an extra half-yard rather than attempt to break outside for a touchdown? Yeah, that was deliberate.

“I mean, for an older running back, once you’ve been in this league you get wise enough to know every carry not gonna be the big one,” Portis said Tuesday on Sirius XM’s Late Hits with MJD. “You look at a young Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson and hard they run and how tough they run, play-in, play-out. That’s the early years. You know, I can look back at my highlights, and when I touched the ball I was running just as hard and just as fast. It was all-out. But at the end of the year, you’re still pounding out 1,500-1,800 yards.

“And I think for an older back, once you get wiser you know it’s moving the chains, protecting the ball, protecting yourself, staying on the field, and staying above 4 yards [per carry], trying to keep your average up to 4 and 5. You know, you get opportunities to go out and take a chance, but you put that ball out there and put it on the ground, now you’re prone, oh, fumbleitis.”

The thing is, moving the chains but not getting points seemed not to work for the Redskins. Anyhow, Portis then launched into a discussion of his role in the offense. Apparently, it wasn’t what he might have liked it to be.

“It’s kind of hard to go into the third quarter and you’ve got 6 or 7 carries and they’re like ok we’re gonna feature you now, and you’re like ‘We’ve got 2 quarters left. What you gonna do, give me the ball every play? We’re only gonna have a good 30 plays this half.’

“So it’s kind of frustrating. And I think you’ve just got to be strong enough to keep the mentality, stay focused. And I think for myself last year, [I was] battling with just the focus. It seemed like the last two years we wanted to throw the ball, and I was the designated sixth lineman, because all I did was block. And we’re running the ball for two plays, there was somebody else jogging onto the field. It was kind of frustrating, but I never really pouted or never got down, and always tried to help Torain and Keiland Williams out, tell ‘em whatever I could just to go out and win the game.

“I think they wanted to see my attitude change and didn’t want me to be selfish. I think you’ve got to play football with a selfish mentality. You know, it’s not about me and oh rah rah and look over here, but I think you want to feel as if you’re part of the game. You know, saying Jones-Drew going to go in the game and he gonna be ok with getting 12 carries or 15 carries? For myself, when I [asked for the ball] it’s oh, he’s selfish, he think he can do everything. Then when I say ‘Ok, I’m gonna play the role you want me to play,’ it’s like well he don’t care about what’s going on. So you can’t win.

“Basically you’ve got to have a selfish mentality and a selfish attitude, and just try to do whatever’s asked of you.”

Portis also said that his practice habits had frustrated Redskins coaches as far back as 2006, when Al Saunders arrived.

“I don’t think Al Saunders system fit me,” the back said. “I think me and Al kind of clashed when he was in D.C. I’m not sure he was a big fan of mine and the practice habits, but I think so many people formed an opinion and it became practice practice practice. When I wasn’t practicing, I was coming out producing 100 yards week in and week out, and all of a sudden it turned to I give you everything during the week, and then I get banged up the last two years after practicing every day in practice.”

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Pat Burrell realistic about time on bench

Burrell making best of his time on bench

Pat Burrell provided one of the more heartwarming stories of the offseason, when his love of being a Giant was so great that he practically signed a blank contract with no guarantee of playing time.

The reality of being glued to the bench is much different, though. Burrell has started just five of the past 14 games. Is he pining to get off the pine?

"It's been all right. I signed up for it," he said. "There was no guarantee for me last year, either. And really, there shouldn't be for anyone on any team. If you play well, you're going to play. If not, you more than likely won't."

Burrell entered Wednesday with a .233 average and 39 strikeouts in 116 at-bats, although his .346 on-base percentage was more respectable. He also was 0 for 6 as a pinch hitter but drew an important walk in the ninth to load the bases and sustain a rally Tuesday night.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Burrell stopped by his office Tuesday afternoon to remind Bochy that he was a .375 hitter against Florida Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. But that's as far as Burrell will take his lobbying efforts.

"He's been one of the best I've seen, considering his track record in this league," Bochy said. "He's such a great teammate. When he's not in there, he's in the dugout pulling for guys and helping them. He's understanding of our situation, and he stays ready."

During last year's run to the World Series, Burrell helped to keep the clubhouse from tensing up. He is preaching calm now, even though the club has scored the fewest runs in the National League.

"Last year at this time, I was just getting here," said Burrell, who was released by the Tampa Bay Rays before signing a minor league deal with the Giants last season. "From everything I hear, it was pretty similar. We'll find our stride."

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Yonder Alonso on a Hot Streak

Yonder Alonoso has cooled off a little bit in his last ten games, but still has a line of .341/.422/.580 with 3 HR, and 16 RBI in May. Alonso has 15 multi-hit games this season and had a 12-game hitting streak from May 5 – May 17. And he’s slowly but surely getting better in left field. He’s still a little slow getting a jump on the ball, but he does seem to be getting better. I say give him a few more weeks and we’ll be discussing his call-up to play LF.

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Photos from the Santana Moss Signing at All Canes

Check out our exclusive photos from the Santana Moss Autograph Signing Session at All Canes last Saturday. To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Go to www.allcanes.com where you can still purchase some Santana Moss autographed memorabilia while supplies last! Also check out All Canes Radio tonight where you will hear yours truly’s special interview with Moss where he talks about his UM days, the current state of Hurricane football and much more!

To see the full gallery of photos click here.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Reggie Wayne Worked Out in Indy Last Weekend

Here's a paste from Reggie Wayne's Blog page posted yesterday (May 23, 2011) “WHAT’S UP WORLD..... 
Haven't said what's up in a minute, so I'm stopping by to say what's up. Went to Indy this past week to workout with the players and do a few drills. I must say it was still a little cold out there at this time of the year. We had a pretty good turnout. I believe we had somewhere between 40 to 50 guys in attendance. Guys were excited to see each other and we all are looking forward to coming together and having an outstanding season. And playing in our own back yard for the Superbowl. GO COLTS!!!!

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Demarcus Van Dyke & Richard Gordon Participate in Raider Workouts

The Raiders have gone down to Georgia, with the goal not of stealing souls but getting in shape for football, whenever it returns.
According to Jerry McDonald and Ben Beitzel of InsideBayArea.com, 34 players showed up for workouts in Duluth, organized by quarterback

Jason Campbell and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.  Seymour, who signed a lucrative new contract before the lockout, is paying the travel expenses of his teammates.

At least three rookies participated in the workouts:  Center Stefen Wisniewski, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, and tight end Richard Gordon.  The session was described as demonstrating “moderate” intensity.

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Ravens want Willis McGahee back at lower rate

The Ravens reportedly want Willis McGahee to return as Ray Rice's backup if they can get him at a reduced rate.

McGahee will want to explore free agency after he's released, but a return to Baltimore shouldn't be ruled out. In a depressed running back market, McGahee is unlikely to land a starting job or the contract that goes with it.

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

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Jason Fox says right knee has fully healed

Lions OT Jason Fox says time off during the lockout has allowed his troublesome right knee to completely heal.

Fox had surgery on the knee as a rookie and didn't play until Week 17. "I was so anxious to play last year that I probably didn't give it the rest it needed during OTAs," said Fox. "... I kind of rushed it a little bit." Fox will compete to be the Lions' swing tackle behind Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus.

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Kubiak thankful for Andre Johnson’s connections

One of the curiosities to develop during the locked-out NFL offseason is star players lobbying for other players who will eventually become free agents to join their teams. The latest such campaign came from Andre Johnson, who reportedly has lobbied Nnamdi Asomugha to join the Texans.

Asomugha, as you are likely well aware given all the conjecture, is the consensus top player available in what will be the free-agent market. So while Texans coach Gary Kubiak isn’t allowed to comment on free agents, he indicated during an interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen he’s appreciative of Johnson’s networking skills.

“We obviously have to continue to get our football team better. I’m glad Andre has some great friends out there, so we’ll see what happens,” Kubiak said with a laugh.

While it’s difficult to handicap the Houston’s chances of landing Asomugha, it’s worth noting both Vic Carucci (story here) and Jason La Canfora (report here) have suggested the Texans will be legitimate suitors. But Johnson might have his work cut out for him.

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

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Joe McGrath Released

Right tackle Joe McGrath was synonymous with a second-half turnaround by the B.C. Lions last year. But it brought him no guarantees for the 2011 CFL season, a fact of business life borne out by his official release Tuesday along with veteran wide receiver O'Neil Wilson.

For McGrath, the move had been anticipated since the Lions signed import free-agent left tackle Ben Archibald and coach Wally Buono suggested that sophomore pro Jovan Olafioye would be moved over to play McGrath's right-tackle spot.

"It's business, it's football, and it happens all the time," McGrath said. "You can be a rose one day, a dandelion tomorrow. But it wasn't like the decision caught me off guard. We've [McGrath and Buono] been talking about my situation for a while. No, I wasn't surprised."

McGrath and Wilson were part of a spring house cleaning which also swept out import defensive end Jeremy Geathers, who tore his ACL in his CFL debut last season and never did complete a full game with the Lions.

McGrath, 30, signed with B.C. on Aug. 19 last year after being released by the Edmonton Eskimos and took some satisfaction in making his former coach, Richie Hall, eat his words. Hall deemed McGrath "too soft." But the former Miami Hurricane was a bulwark on the offensive line as the Lions went 7-3 over their final 10 games -with the Moose Jaw native starting at right tackle -to qualify for the playoffs.

With Buono's attempts to trade him bearing no fruit, McGrath feels his release will make it easier to catch on with another CFL team. The newlyminted free agent has spent time with every one of the four teams in the West Division during his eight-year career.

"Being a free agent is nice," McGrath said. "It means the next step is somewhat in my control, where I go. I still have a lot of my football career left. Unfortunately, it won't be with the B.C. Lions. We really bonded at the end of last season. They have a great coaching staff and great players."

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James Jones Battling Foot and Toe Injuries

James Jones Could See Limited Playing Time Throughout Rest of 2011 NBA Playoffs

The Miami Heat are doing pretty well for themselves so far in the 2011 NBA playoffs, and it's mostly thanks to the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Thanks to their efforts, the Heat are just two wins away from the NBA Finals.

However, the Heat have also been getting solid contributions here and there from certain role players. Udonis Haslem came up with 13 big points in the Heat's win over the Bulls in Game 2, and let's not forget James Jones' huge 25-point effort back in Game 1 in the conference semis against the Boston Celtics.

Speaking of James Jones, you might be wondering what's happened to him. He has played just 26 minutes in the series against the Bulls, 24 of which were in Game 1.

Apparently, part of the reason Jones has disappeared is because he's injured.

This is the word from Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who reported via Twitter that Jones is battling foot and toe injuries.

There's more to Jones' lack of playing time than just his injuries, though, as Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said that Jones' "limited playing time is 'situational.'"

That makes sense. The Bulls don't exactly have a Ray Allen that Jones can guard, and the fact that the Heat got blown out in the one game that Jones played in probably doesn't bode well for his playing time in the rest of the series. Spoelstra is likely to stick with rotation he's established in the last two games.

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Darius Rice heroics lift Manama

DARIUS Rice torched champions Al Ahli for 51 points last night to lift Manama to a dramatic 107-101 overtime victory in the Zain Bahrain Basketball League play-offs.

Rice took command in the game's extra session, when he scored 17 of his season-high output and helped seal their resounding come-from-behind win. He took advantage of the absence of Ahli professional Lamond Murray, who had fouled out of the game late in regulation.

Rice had actually put on his hero's cape earlier in the contest, when he helped Manama rally from 10 points down, 78-68, with only two minutes left to play.

The six-foot, 10-inch American made back-to-back three-pointers to bring Manama to within four, and after Ahli court general Hussain Shaker made one of two free-throws for an 85-80 lead and 15 seconds on the clock, Rice raced down the court and buried another trey to make it 85-83 with just seven seconds remaining.

Maytham Jameel then missed a chance to ice the game for Ahli after clanging a pair of charity shots. Manama guard Bader Abdulla Malabes made him pay after being fouled with 1.6 seconds left. Malabes connected on two pressure-packed free-throws to tie it at 85-apiece and send the game into overtime, when Rice carried his team the rest of the way.

"Darius won the game for us," Malabes told the GDN. "He made some unbelievable shots near the end of the fourth quarter, and then he was unstoppable in overtime.

"Now we're almost sure of making it in the Golden Square after this win. We have three games left, and at least one more victory will put us safely in."

Ahli had a slim chance of completing their own comeback after Shaker made a trey to cut Manama's lead to 104-101, but it was too late as Rice and Malabes pegged the final score with another three charities in the closing moments.

Ahmed Mutawa added 21 points for Manama before fouling out while Malabes chipped in with 16.

The win was their second in a row in the six-team play-offs, which is being played in a single round-robin. Ahli, on the other hand, suffered their second straight defeat and are now in danger of missing the final four.

Shaker finished with 30 points to lead all Ahli scorers in the loss. Jameel added 27 and Murray had 20, before both fouled out.

Ahli led 43-40 at the half, and they even extended their advantage to 65-57 when Nedhal Abbas buried a three-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer. That, however, set the stage for Manama's late-game surge.

Meanwhile, Al Hala picked up their first win of the play-offs following a mind-boggling 137-45 humiliation of lowly Nuwaidrat in yesterday's other game.

Veteran forward Ahmed Malallah and American big man Patrick Simpson combined for 50 points - already outscoring their rivals' entire game total by themselves.

Malallah had 26 and Simpson 24 to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists, as he took advantage of Nuwaidrat's overmatched roster and the absence of an opposing professional player.

Five others scored in double figures for Hala in the nearly 100-point victory. Abbas Jawadi contributed 17, Ahmed Jamal 15, Ahmed Haji and Abdulla Al Khaja 12 apiece and Ahmed Ali Hussain 10.

Nuwaidrat remained winless after two games.

Play-off action continues on Friday with Ahli taking on Nuwaidrat at 5.30pm, followed at 7.15pm by Manama locking horns with Isa Town.

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Gaby Sanchez knocks in three runs

Gaby Sanchez had three hits and three RBI Tuesday in the win over the Giants.

All of the runs batted in came on his bases-loaded double off Matt Cain in the third. The All-Star candidate had slowed down a bit of late, but he's back in the top 10 in the NL in RBI now with 30.

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Ryan Braun ejected for slamming helmet after being called out at first

MILWAUKEE — Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was ejected in the third inning of Milwaukee’s game with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night after slamming his helmet in frustration over a call at first base.

Braun believed he had beat out an infield single, just ahead of second baseman Danny Espinosa’s throw to first. He even made the safe sign as he touched the bag.

First base umpire Adrian Johnson didn’t see the play that way and called Braun out.

Braun slammed his helmet with two hands and was immediately ejected.

Braun came in on a career-high 13-game hitting streak. He finished 0 for 2, dropping his average to .299.

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Yonder Alonso getting dialed in at new position

NORFOLK, Va. - Since being selected with the number seven overall pick in the 2008 draft, expectations have remained high for Cincinnati Reds' prospect Yonder Alonso. In just over two professional seasons, however, the 24-year-old Alonso has done nothing to disappoint Reds' brass, steadily moving through the team's farm system and even earning a September call-up to the Reds in 2010.

To start 2011, Alonso, who has played the bulk of his career at first base, has added versatility to a repertoire that has always included outstanding offensive numbers. While Alonso has still logged some starts at his natural first base position, the former Miami Hurricane has spent the bulk of his time in left field with the Louisville Bats, making 24 starts at a position he rarely played before this year. The unfamiliar territory hasn't fazed Alonso, however, as he has yet to commit an error this season, while also registering two outfield assists.

Although Alonso, who has played in 41 of the Bats 45 games this year, may be spending his practice time learning a new defensive position, his production at the plate has not suffered. In fact, his numbers thus far in 2011 have him on pace to enjoy the best offensive season of his young career. The left-handed hitting Alonso's .323 batting average ranks fourth in the International League, while his 15 doubles and 51 hits also rank among the top-five in the IL.

Alonso has really gotten it going offensively since the calendar flipped to May, hitting .361 with a .443 on-base percentage for the month. Alonso reeled off a 12-game hitting streak and 19-game on-base streak earlier in the month, forming a potent combination over the past few weeks with fellow hot-hitting teammates Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco in the middle of the Louisville batting order.

While leading the team in batting average and hits, the steady Alonso has been one of the Bats' top home run (5) and RBI (23) men, while also ranking second on the team in walks (18). Although never having the reputation as a huge threat on the base paths, Alonso has become a legitimate threat to steal over the past few seasons, swiping five bases thus far in 2011 and 13 last year.

After starting last season at double-A Carolina, Alonso quickly worked his way up to Louisville and was a stalwart for the Bats as they made their run for their third straight division crown. Between the two levels, the six-foot-two, 240-pound Alonso hit .290 with 15 homers, 69 RBIs, and 36 doubles in 132 games. This marked the third time in three pro seasons that Alonso has finished the season hitting above .290. After the Bats' season concluded, Alonso made his big league debut, appearing in 22 games as the Reds came down the stretch to clinch their own division title.

Offensive production such as this is what has entrenched Alonso as a valued prospect, rated in MLB.com's top-50, and earning a spot in the 2010 Futures Game that took place all-star weekend. According to Baseball America, he came into 2011 as the Reds' fourth-best prospect.
With Alonso growing more and more comfortable in left field, the likelihood of him getting a big-league call up have increased exponentially. Since 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto is manning first base with the Reds, it would take an injury for Alonso to see much big league time at that position in 2011. With left field being a less settled position, however, Alonso's hot hitting could put him in play for an opportunity if the Reds need a spark or suffer an injury.

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Blake Tekotte sits against Cards after call-up to San Diego

Blake Tekotte did not play in the San Diego Padres’ 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last night, which saved his friends back in Columbia the trouble of rooting against their favorite team.

“All my friends were telling me to take it easy on the Cardinals, and I told them, ‘I don’t think I can do that,’ ” Tekotte told MLB.com.

Tekotte, a 2005 Hickman graduate and a third-round pick of the Padres in 2008, learned he was making the leap from the Double-A San Antonio Missions to the big leagues late Sunday night. Tekotte replaced Will Venable, who was demoted to Triple-A.

Manager Bud Black told reporters the Padres liked Tekotte’s ability to defend, among other things.

“We lost an outfielder, so we’re going to bring in another outfielder,” Black said. “He can play all outfield positions, he can steal the bag. He’s a flexible player.”

Black said Tekotte, a left-handed hitter, would be an extra outfielder and get some spot starts in center field.

“Our minor league people said he was the guy,” Black said, adding that General Manager Jed Hoyer agreed. “We saw enough of Blake in spring training to know what we needed at this point. Right now he fits that bill.”

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Sapp: It’s ‘not even close,’ Ed Reed is NFL’s best safety

NFL Network’s “The Top 100″ includes six safeties among the 100 best players as voted on by the players. Four of those safeties — Nick Collins (No. 96), Eric Berry (93), Adrian Wilson (89) and Antrel Rolle (68) — have already been revealed, leaving two players at the position most would presume to be Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.

Who should be rated higher among the two players widely considered the best safeties in the NFL?

We already know Cameron Wake gave his vote for the NFL’s best player — nevermind just at his position – to Polamalu. Check out the video above to see why Jamie Dukes and Warren Sapp give the designation to Reed.

“It’s not even close,” says Sapp of the debate. “When you’re a safety in the NFL there can’t be a blueprint of where (offenses) want you on the field. If you spread the Steelers out and put him on the hash back there, (offenses) have them where they want him. I’ve never heard that about John Lynch, I’ve never heard that about Ronnie Lott and I’ve never heard that about Ed Reed. The only thing I hear about Reed, from the best quarterback that I think is in the game, Peyton Manning, is ‘How did he do that?’”

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

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Leonard Hankerson Gets Some More Redskins Gear

Almost from the moment he was drafted in the third round, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson has been tweeting pictures of himself in Redskins gear. It was a cool story, interesting enough that I talked to the longtime friend who provided Hankerson with the burgundy and gold accoutrements, but apparently a few twitpics of himself wearing borrowed clothes wasn't enough for Hankerson: late Sunday, the former Miami wide receiver tweeted a picture of himself in a pretty authentic-looking Redskins uniform.

Before I re-post Hankerson's picture, let me make it very clear that no uniform numbers have yet been issued; as far as I know, Mike Furrey is still on the roster and is still the person who would officially be wearing 85. [UPDATE: Furrey is apparently no longer on the roster; according to his website, he's the head coach at Kentucky Christian University. Still, no numbers have been issued to draft picks that I know of, so that point remains accurate.] THIS IS NOT OFFICIAL IN ANY WAY. That said, it still looks pretty freakin' cool.

Based on the background signage, it looks like this shot comes from a photo shoot for a Topps football card -- presumably something to do with the one from the company's high-end "Inception" line that Hankerson tweeted on Wednesday. Here, look:

Here's the description of the Inception line, from sports card industry mag Beckett:

As the 2011 video card war rages on, Topps is talking about its new football line - 2011 Topps Inception - dreamed up for a rare early season high-end release. Due out in early July, the premiering premium product will be rookie heavy, mostly defined by top draft picks and supplemented by established stars.

The description goes on to say that the rookies will appear in "airbrushed uniforms," which doesn't do much to explain the clearly non-airbrushed picture at the very top of this post, but the most interesting thing to me is the "defined by top draft picks". It's not every day that a third-rounder gets called a "top draft pick," and it serves only to reinforce the high expectations that Hankerson is going to be facing in his rookie year.

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Ken Dorsey Assisting Cam Newton Through Chudzinski Connection

A couple of weeks ago, former Cleveland Browns quarterback Ken Dorsey retired from football. One of the thing he has been doing since then? Training with rookie quarterback Cameron Newton, the first overall pick of the draft for the Carolina Panthers.

When Dorsey was with the Browns, fans often said that it seemed like he was a good mentor and that coaching could be in his future. In Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback, he discusses the Rob Chudzinski connection between Dorsey and Newton.

There's a good reason Dorsey and Newton have become workout and classroom partners. In 2001 and 2002, Dorsey, at Miami, was coached by Hurricane offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. In 2007 and 2008, Dorsey, with the Cleveland Browns, was coached by Browns offensive coordinator Chudzinski.

Newton was able to get a Carolina playbook, with Panthers offensive coordinator Chudzinski’s encyclopedic offense, to take with him during the lockout, and Dorsey spent last week instructing Newton in the finer points of the offense, in addition to telling him the expectations and coaching methods of Chudzinski. “The best way to describe it,” said the quarterback coach who readied Newton for his pre-draft workouts, George Whitfield, “is it’s like an old pilot grooming a new pilot to take over his plane. The old pilot’s teaching him about every one of the controls in the cockpit.”

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Can Ray Lewis help end the lockout?

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is one of the most influential players in the NFL. But until his recent interview with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Lewis had not commented publicly on the league's work stoppage.

Lewis has a unique perspective on the troubles between the NFL and NFLPA. He believes huge egos from both sides are getting in the way and crime could rise in our country if a full season is lost.

"Do this research if we don't have a season," Lewis told Paolantonio. "Watch how much evil -- which we call it crime -- watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game."

Lewis has not participated in mediation sessions but said the "time is coming." Could Lewis be the right voice to help end the lockout?

The future Hall of Famer is well-respected on many different levels. Lewis is closely in tune with the players and common fans, while his name and star power also are enough to grab the owners' attention. This might be the proper combination to bring the two sides closer together.

Lewis' intense pre-game speeches to help motivate the Ravens have become famous to football fans. But if Lewis can find a way to motivate the owners and NFLPA to put pride aside and reach a new collective bargaining agreement this summer, it could be Lewis' biggest speech of all.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Devin Hester wants to inspire more young dads

We all know the stereotypes about professional athletes: They're not family men. They're showboaters. They're not good role models. The antics of players like the New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie, who has nine children by eight different women, don't do much to promote the idea of an NFL star as a family man.

But for every stereotype, there's someone who sets out to bust it, and Devin Hester has been running through walls most of his five-year, record-setting career with the Chicago Bears.

So when he sat in a meeting last year with a sports marketing team to plan out his future off the field-what sponsorships he wanted to pursue, what type of work he wanted to do outside of football-he came up with an idea of his own.

He was a new father-he and his wife, Zingha, had just welcomed their first child, a son named Devin-and he wanted to be a role model for young dads. He wanted to show fans that for every Cromartie, there's a dad like him, who changes diapers and takes their kids to Yo Gabba Gabba!

And he wanted to start with a parenting magazine in his adopted hometown of Chicago.

You'll find the third installment of that column on page 12 of this issue. "Hangin' with Devin" is a color commentary of Hester's outings around town with 18-month-old Devin. But it's other things, too: a pushback against a stereotype and a playbook of sorts for fathers everywhere to get involved in their kids' lives.

"You don't have to be rich, you don't have to be a star, you just have to be there," Hester says. "It's not about the money. It's about the time you put in."

A role model

Hester's own parents divorced when he was a toddler. But rather than having an absent father figure, Hester says he had two: his own father, who was active in his kids' lives before dying of cancer when Hester was a teenager, and his stepfather, who raised Hester and his brother like they were his own.

Many kids whose stories start with a broken family aren't so lucky, something the Hesters know.

"Devin has some friends who didn't have their fathers around, and he was able to see some of the trouble they had," Zingha says. "He could see for himself the difference it makes to have that man in a young guy's life."

Growing up in a fatherless house has been linked to behavioral problems, struggles in school and run-ins with the law, says David Klow, a psychotherapist with Northwestern University's Family Institute specializing in men's issues. 

"Fathers give us guidance, direction, stability, model a way of living in the world, and without that presence, kids are often left to look for that inspiration out in the world," he says. "Sometimes they get lost."

Klow says he's inspired by Hester's high-profile daddy duty.

"He's really showing what he's about is about family, that he's not into crazy partying, that he's not out getting into trouble," he says. "That's a choice and it can be a hard choice for someone who's that famous and who's pulled in a variety of directions. It takes a certain strength and sense of self to say, 'That's not what I'm about.'"

Instead, Hester is, in his own words, a man focused on family. He and Zingha met during his final year at the University of Miami and married last summer.

"I'm a family guy, a one-lady kind of guy, and I think having strong father figures in my life … it was never going to happen that I was going to be an absent dad," he says.

Zingha says Hester is hands-on when it comes to Devin, who goes by D.J. at home.

"He's excited to be a dad and it shows," she says.

'A different kind of responsibility'

Some dads can point to a singular moment when their fatherhood hit them. No so for Hester-not when Zingha told him she was pregnant, not when he saw the ultrasound, not even when he met his son for the first time. Instead, it was over the first few weeks of his son's life that the feeling crept in, during late night feedings or when young Devin would cry and reach out to him.

"For me, it was realizing that this is someone depending on me, actually reaching out to me, needing my help, needing love, needing me to be a father figure," he says. "That was real."

Not that Hester is a stranger to responsibility. When he lines up to receive a kick, he knows he carries the expectations of himself, his team and his championship-hungry city. But fatherhood is, pardon the pun, a whole different ballgame.

"It's a different kind of responsibility," he says. "When I'm on the field, I'm a football player and I've got guys who count on me to make the play. But when I leave the locker room, it's family time. I've got a kid counting on me to bring groceries home and spend time with him. He doesn't care about any of that other stuff."

And while the uncertainty of the NFL upcoming season has Hester a little on edge these days, he's enjoying the time off with his son. So far, the pair have hit Navy Pier, KeyLime Cove and the aquarium.

"I love Chicago, and you get to see a whole different side of it with a kid," says Hester, who says Bears nights out don't often include cotton candy and Ferris wheels.

If he sounds like he's having as much fun as little Devin, that's because he probably is. In a lot of ways, Hester is still a kid at heart. He has a young boy's love of cars and motorcycles; he restores old cars in his free time. He was one of the first people in line to test out the new Microsoft Kinect video game system when it debuted at the Oakbrook Microsoft retail store last year.

And when he returned a punt 64 yards into the endzone at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, becoming the NFL's leader in punts returned for touchdowns, he wanted to thank the 10 guys on the field who blocked his path into history. So he bought them remote-controlled cars.

"I just like to have fun, and to me, there's nothing better than running around with my little man," Hester says. "He's getting big so fast and he's always on the move."

And if genetics have anything to do with it-or if our cover photo shoot is an early indication-little Devin might give his father a run for his money one day.

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

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Chris Perez Gets 13th Save

Chris Perez earned his 13th save retiring the Sox in the ninth after allowing a one-out single to J.D. Drew and a single to Jed Lowrie. With runners at first and third. Carl Crawford knocked into a 4-6-3 double-play to end it.

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Blake Tekotte on top of the world after first callup

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't difficult to spot Blake Tekotte in the Padres clubhouse before their 7:05 p.m. game on Monday.

He was the one with the Major League smile.

The Padres selected Tekotte, who turns 24 on Tuesday, from Double-A San Antonio with a corresponding move that optioned Will Venable to Triple-A Tucson.

"It was a surprising call last night at about 11 o'clock," the outfielder said. "We had an early game so I already got back to my apartment after eating with some of the guys and Dougie [Dascenzo, manager] told me that he had something important to tell me, and that I had to pack my bags.

"I asked him what for and he said I was getting on the first flight out to San Diego the next morning. I kinda said, 'What?' And he repeated himself and then it finally kind of set in. It was just an indescribable feeling."

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Tekotte, the Padres announced they designated right-hander Samuel Deduno for assignment.
Tekotte was batting .291 (43-for-148) in 39 games with San Antonio with 24 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .410. Sixteen of his 43 hits went for extra bases, including six home runs.

Manager Bud Black said the Padres liked Tekotte's ability to defend, among other things.

"We lost an outfielder, so we're going to bring in another outfielder," Black said. "He can play all outfield positions, he can steal the bag. He's a flexible player."

Like Venable, Tekotte is a left-handed batter, which was of huge consideration for the Padres. San Diego had other options in the Minor Leagues in Triple-A. Outfielders Cedric Hunter and Luis Durango seem to also fit what the team was looking for. Hunter is a lefty and Durango is a switch-hitter.

Black said the team looked at them, but in the end, Tekotte was who they wanted.

"Our Minor League people said he was the guy," Black said, adding that general manager Jed Hoyer agreed. "We saw enough of Blake in Spring Training to know what we needed at this point. Right now he fits that bill."

Tekotte follows infielder Logan Forsythe as the second member of the Padres 2008 Draft class to reach the Major Leagues.

Black said outfielder Chris Denorfia would get more starts now, but that Tekotte may get a spot start here and there.

Of interest, Tekotte grew up about an hour and a half from St. Louis, where he grew up watching the Cardinals -- the visiting team at PETCO Park on Monday night.  

"That was another bizarre thing about the whole thing, so that's pretty cool," Tekotte said. "All my friends were telling me to take it easy on the Cardinals, and I told them, 'I don't think I can do that.' "

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Ryan Braun hitting like he's 80

There is nothing sweeter in baseball scouting than the phrase "80 raw." It means the highest grade for raw power, the pure ability to hit a ball a country mile. It is also the most elusive tool in baseball, and finding players with the natural hand strength, quickness, bat speed and hip torque to make launching batting-practice balls into the overpriced cheap seats look easy is no easy feat. Back in the good old days, when the Angels actually had power, early comers to Angel Stadium could watch Vladimir Guerrero’s "80-raw" demonstrations, when he liked to hit balls off the rock pile in left center somewhere between 400 or 500 feet.

You have to wait for other teams to come into Anaheim or Los Angeles these days to get a real idea of what consistent 80 raw looks like. Because of the very nature and scarcity of 80 raw, a lot of people mistake good (that’s 60 raw for those scouting at home) with 80. You might get yourself a 70. You want to be careful with the 80. If you scout amateurs, that one high school boy might flash it, or that one college boy might tempt you. But more often than not, it’s not 80 raw. You have to watch big league hitters to properly judge it, and you need to see it in person, not believe secondhand information that distorts player performance. If you don’t see it, don’t believe it.

Last week, with the Milwaukee Brewers in Los Angeles and the Atlanta Braves visiting Anaheim, it was enough to remind one of the Milwaukee Braves and their 80-raw tandem, Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews. There are two 80-raw kind of guys just like Aaron and Mathews were. There is the guy who hits the ball on a hard line drive that keeps rising. Then there is the guy who hits the majestic towering shots that hang in the sky like a summer moon. Each is an 80-raw guy, but the fun part is deciphering how each can create a different trajectory. Enter Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, Milwaukee baseball descendants of a different time, when 80 raw was legit, the only drug was a bottle of Miller High Life, and Aaron and Mathews routinely did at 5 p.m. when Braun and Fielder do today.

Fielder is so round, he looks like he could eat a tree, and Braun is so narrow, he could be hiding inside of one. Fielder is the Mathews of the pair, the left-handed hitting boomer with a long weight distribution, the gift of keeping his hands back and a violent sweeping uppercut tailored for pull power. Fielder and Mathews are similar in this regard, though Fielder can’t compete with the all-around athlete Mathews once was. In either case, Fielder’s BP results in balls blasted from Chavez Ravine to Waukesha, Wis., unless they hit the side of a building in Victorville first.

Braun is the Aaron. I’m not the first guy to go here, but the lean, loose, almost diminutive body type betrays the true quickness in Braun’s hands. This is the rarest kind of 80 raw -– not the booming majestic type like Fielder’s shots -– but the rocket that climbs on a line drive and accelerates as it rises. It doesn’t hang in the sky. It punches a hole in it. Old-time scouts will tell you to listen to the sound of contact. Experienced scouts who believe that the only way to judge true raw power is to see a guy hit with wood will tell you that you can’t give a guy 80 raw, and if he’s not born with it, he can’t find it in an alley somewhere.

In the meantime, I’ll watch the swings in the big leagues and then head back to the bushes to find that next guy who will show me real 80 raw. Before anybody jumps off a bridge and claims I’m making career comparisons for Braun and Fielder, don’t go there. Potential is nice. But until you bring your 80 raw into a game for 20 years, then you’re just another BP legend.

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Ray Lewis says crime will increase if there's no football

Although there's no scientific evidence to suggest a lack of NFL football having a measurable negative effect beyond the economy, Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis believes that crime will increase if there's no season due to the labor dispute.

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

Lewis wasn't referring to the mounting amount of arrests by NFL players during the lockout.

Lewis said he thought there would be an uptick in crime simply because, "There's nothing else to do."

Lewis made another point when it comes to resolving the work stoppage that has lasted three months.

"It's simple, we really got to remove pride," Lewis said. "Seriously. There's no other reason the issue is going on. That's why I don't get into words and all that other stuff, because it takes away from life ... itself. There's people who are really struggling for real. There's real struggles out there."

Lewis said he has been communicating with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.

"Tell me when you're ready for me to come speak," Lewis said. "Because I'm not speaking about all, oh I want this, I want that."

And Lewis may speak out soon regarding the labor impasse, saying, "Oh, the time is coming."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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PFT Live: Talking with Jonathan Vilma

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Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

In the second segment of PFT Live, Mike Florio speaks with New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Vilma talks about the Saints' charity which gives four fans the opportunity to practice with the New Orleans Saints. Vilma also gives his prediction on whether the Saints will actually be on the field for opening night in Green Bay.

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

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Greg Olsen sheds some light on offense's workouts

When I spoke to him eight days ago, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler indicated that the offense would have some workouts, but he didn't offer much insight on them.

Players have been largely mum on the topic, but Bears tight end Greg Olsen offered some insight to me Sunday during the First Responders Bowl at St. Rita's High School, where he served as an honorary captain.

"It's been great," Olsen said. "You can train and do all your drills. But you can't substitute actually getting out there and running around and catching the ball."

Cutler and veteran backup Caleb Hanie was joined for three workouts by Bears receivers, tight ends and running backs. It's not entirely clear who showed up and who didn't but attendance was apparently pretty solid.

"We kind of said, 'If you want to be here, you'll make a way to be here, if it's important enough to you,' " Olsen said. "We had such a great turnout, and we have such a good group of guys.

"We don't have to beg anyone to come."

Olsen said it was helpful to get everyone together but he also didn't overplay what took place.

"It was a good start, but it wasn't anything major, and we didn't break any records," he said. "We'll correspond again, and come up with a string of days that works again."

Olsen said he and his teammates aren't worried about how little or much any other clubs are doing. The New Orleans Saints, for instance, reportedly hold workouts for 35 plus players, four times a week.

"Everyone has their own way of doing it. Everyone has a way that works. I'm sure the Saints feel great about the way they're doing it," Olsen said. "But we feel the way we're doing it is best for us."

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

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Andre Johnson Talks Lockout

Normally this time of May Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is busy with OTA's along with his annual 1st and Ten football camp. The NFL lockout however has opened some extra time for Andre as he was able to return to town to host his camp Saturday afternoon.

"This is fun, I always enjoy helping to teach the kids," Johnson told KPRC-TV in Houston Saturday at the camp site in Sugar Land. "It's a little hot our here but we've had a nice turnout and are having a great time."

While Johnson was joined by Texans teammates David Anderson and Vonta Leach and former Texan Travis Johnson, the subject of football and state of the NFL quickly came up as it seems it always does according to Johnson.

"I hope that it gets done because we all love this game of football," Johnson said.

The lockout has been in place since March and currently both sides are not scheduled to resume talks until early June. While players aren't complaining one bit about missing OTA's or Mini-camps, they would like the business of football to be resolved.

"I answer that question just about every day. No one wants to go home without football. It's a game that everyone loves so hopefully we can get it done."

Johnson admitted to KPRC-TV Saturday, questions are coming from all directions.

"My family, friends, you can just be in a restaurant or something and somebody is going to come to you and ask you if football is going to be played next year. Everybody wants it so hopefully we'll have something done."

Texans fullback Vonta Leach was a guest instructor at Johnson's camp. He remains uncertain if he'll remain with the Texans.

"It's tough because as long as this lockout goes on, there's no decision," Leach said. "I definitely want to be here but it's a business and as soon as an agreement is done, the pace is going to be fast."

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

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Yonder Alonso making strong case for callup

CLEVELAND -- Reds prospect Yonder Alonso has been on a tear at Triple-A Louisville. One has to wonder if he could soon force the club's hand for a promotion, especially as it searches for production in left field. General manager Walt Jocketty is watching Louisville play in Norfolk this weekend.

Alonso entered Saturday batting .333 with a .398 on-base percentage in 38 games. The lefty slugger has five home runs and 22 RBIs and came in batting .405 (17-for-42) over his previous 10 games.

With Joey Votto blocking him from his primary position at first base, Alonso has been getting most of his playing time in left field and has made 23 starts there. The organization first had him try left field last season and again this spring.

Although he's far from exceptional defensively, Alonso's work ethic is often praised, and reports indicate he's performing OK in the field and showing improvement. He has two assists and has yet to make an error.

As a September callup to the Majors last season, Alonso batted .207 in 22 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter.

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Gaby Sanchez tags dominant Shields for two hits

Gaby Sanchez picked up two of just three Marlins hits in their 4-0 loss to the Rays on Sunday.

The two-hit day was Sanchez's first eight games, and came against Rays starter James Shields, who was absolutely dealing. He did strike out to end the game, however. For the month of May, Sanchez is now batting .342 with four home runs and 17 RBI.

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Chris Perez needs to be crafty with lefty hitters

CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez knows that his troubles against left-handed hitters this season begins and ends with him. The Indians closer had a similar issue early on last season and the solution was simple.

The problem stems from where the catcher is set up behind the plate.

"It's not their fault," Perez said on Sunday. "I haven't told them to do it yet."

Last season, Perez realized that his fastball would often tail off the plate when the catcher was set up over the outside corner. When the catcher would set up down the middle, the pitcher's heater would break over the corner for a strike -- one hitters are hard-pressed to handle.

"I just need to start picking up my sights differently," Perez said. "I need the catcher to start setting up just down the middle, so when I come through and I pick up my sight, he's down the middle and I can throw it to him and let the movement take it to the corner."

In Saturday's 2-1 win over the Reds, the issue was on full display. The right-hander walked the left-handed-hitting Joey Votto -- the reigning National League Most Valuable Player -- with one out and later walked lefty-swinging Jay Bruce with two outs. Perez said those two free passes were more about the situation.

"Sometimes you live to fight another day by walking a power hitter in a one-run game," Perez said. "In that situation, we had a chance to win that series right there. It was a big game and a one-run lead with the MVP coming up and their team leader in homers coming up right after that.

"Once I fell behind, I wasn't going to give in to give them a cookie so they could tie the game up, that's for sure. So I took my chances."

It worked out. Sandwiched between the walks was a double-play groundout off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Then, with two outs, Perez struck out Scott Rolen to seal the win and his 12th save of the year. Still, the two walks were part of a larger problem.

Entering Sunday, Perez had issued 12 walks in his 19 innings pitched for Cleveland. Of those free passes, 10 came within the 44 meetings with left-handed hitters. By comparison, Perez had walked two right-handed batters in 34 meetings.

"He's struggling a little bit right to throw strikes to left-handed hitters," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "But he's pretty tough. He stays out there and works himself out of trouble. He's going to get into a groove again where he's going to be able to dot that fastball to lefties."

Perez echoed that sentiment.

"I'm not worried about it yet," Perez said. "It hasn't come back to bite me yet in the games -- knock on wood. But it is something I want to change and I'm confident I can."

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Ryan Braun's triple leads Brewers to win

Ryan Braun's two-RBI triple in third inning would prove to be the difference in Milwaukee's 3-1 win over the Rockies on Sunday.
Although Braun got credit for just two RBI on the hit, he also managed to score the Brewers' third and final run on the play, as he reached home on an error. Through his first 177 at-bats this season, Braun is now batting .299 to go along with 12 home runs and 37 RBI.

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