Week 4 NFL []_[] Matchups

Week 4 NFL U Matchups 2012

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PHOTOS: Warren Sapp Sapp Attack Book Signing at All Canes


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Patriots Release Marcus Forston

The New England Patriots announced today that DL Terrell McClain has been signed. Terms of the contract were not announced.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced today that DL Terrell McClain has been signed. Terms of the contract were not announced.

In addition the Patriots announced that rookie DL Marcus Forston has been released.

McClain, 24, is in his second NFL season. The 6-foot-2, 291-pounder joined the NFL as a third round draft pick (65th overall) of the Carolina Panthers out of South Florida in 2011. Last season with the Panthers, McClain started in 12 games and finished the season with 19 total tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. He was released by Carolina on Sept. 2, 2012.

Forston, 22, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2012 out of Miami. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder, was inactive for the first two games of the 2012 season before making his NFL debut last Sunday night at Baltimore with action on defense as well as on special teams.

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It's 'all systems go' for Willis McGahee

Willis McGahee's return to practice for the Broncoson Wednesday was uneventful, which is exactly how he wanted it after a painful Sunday in which he suffered a rib cartilage injury.

"All systems go on my end," said McGahee, who worked on a limited basis during Wednesday's practice.

McGahee, whose 50 carries this season are twice as many as the rest of his teammates combined, said he isn't sure when he suffered the injury Sunday, but he only carried the ball once after halftime before returning to the bench.

"I got hit one time, and it felt like my whole world ended," McGahee said. "I'd rather try to be healthy for this game coming up."

McGahee said he might wear extra protection around his ribs but that his decision would be based on how he felt after practice the next two days.

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Travis Benjamin Brandon Weeden's Favorite Deep Target

Golf might be Brandon Weeden’s second-favorite sport.

In agreeing that he needs to start connecting on some deep balls, Weeden said he can’t throw the bomb the way Brandt Snedeker hit his tee shot on the 18th hole Sunday.

Tens of millions of NFL fans might not even realize Snedeker was leading the PGA Tour Championship tournament Sunday in Atlanta when he sailed his tee shot on the 18th hole into a grandstand.

But Weeden knew all about it Tuesday, while agreeing that he needs to start connecting on some deep throws.

“We’re getting close,” Weeden said, promising he will keep taking shots.

Rookie speedster Travis Benjamin has emerged as Weeden’s favorite long-ball target.

“I’ve never had a guy who could stretch it that well,” Weeden said of Benjamin’s ability to get down the field in a flash.

That includes his Oklahoma State teammate Justin Blackmon, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Weeden said he is learning to shorten his steps and let the bomb fly with no hesitation when Benjamin is the target.

“I’ve gotta let it rip,” he said.

Weeden said Benjamin, a fourth-round pick, is “playing really well.”

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Andre Johnson limited on Wednesday

Andre Johnson and Arian Foster were limited for rest purposes in Wednesday's practice, and will return to full sessions on Thursday.

The engines of the Texans offense needed a breather after Sunday's physical tilt with the Broncos. Foster's 294 rushing yards are sixth in the league through three weeks, while Johnson's 212 receiving yards are 26th. Johnson could be in for a breakout week against the Titans' 30th ranked pass defense.

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Adewale Ojomo Practices In Full

New York Giants WR Domenik Hixon (concussion), DE Adewale Ojomo (hamstring) and CB Corey Webster (hand) practiced in full Wednesday, Sept. 26.

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Reggie Wayne off to fastest start of storied career

A former teammate knows where Reggie Wayne belongs: in the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor.

“Put (Wayne’s name) right beside me, man,’’ Edgerrin James said prior to joining the team’s elite group Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “That’s my boy.”

Wayne smiled when informed of the endorsement by his ex-teammate and long-time friend.

“Tell him don’t be rushing my career,” he said.

Wayne, 33, is the longest-tenured Colts player — he was the 30th overall pick in the 2001 draft — but there’s little evidence of his talent declining. Wayne’s 23 receptions are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL, and the most he’s had after three games in his 12-year career.

“Not surprised at all because Reggie puts in the work,” James said. “Reggie don’t take no days off. Reggie is going to train. Reggie is going to do everything that it takes.

“And then Reggie is smart so Reggie understands what it takes to play at a high level and then he takes care of his body.”

Wayne’s offseason workout regimen rivals what James used to do. He lives in Miami, is an early riser and a tireless worker. It’s no coincidence Wayne has started 148 consecutive games and appeared in 169 straight, both first among active receivers.

While Wayne’s game-day presence continues to elicit Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie chants from Lucas Oil Stadium crowds, he nearly found himself caught up in the Colts’ massive offseason makeover. He was an unrestricted free agent and his cell phone was active.

“I was close. Very, very close,” Wayne said of signing with another team.

There were serious discussions with at least two teams, although Wayne’s keeping the names to himself.

“But just one team, probably two teams, Colts fans wouldn’t have liked,” he said, grinning.

It’s believed New England was one of the teams. Also, perhaps one of the Colts’ AFC South rivals?

“I’ll never tell,” Wayne said.

Wayne was on the verge of leaving his home in Miami and signing with another team when he checked in one last time with the Colts.

“I promised (owner Jim) Irsay and I promised Chuck (Pagano) that before I did anything, I’d give them a call,” he said. “I did and I didn’t walk out the door. I sat back down in my office.”

Wayne re-upped the Colts in March with a three-year, $17.5 million contract that included a $7.5 million signing bonus. It was a wise investment for the Colts, considering they were transitioning from veteran quarterback Peyton Manning to rookie Andrew Luck.

But Wayne said the decision wasn’t driven by money.

“It’s fair to say I left money on the table … probably a minimum of $3 million,” Wayne said, adding he knew he was “taking a leap of faith” by returning to the Colts.

“Oh, yeah, I knew I was,” he said. “I knew it was going to be like this, me and a bunch of new faces. Once we released all the guys that had been here for years, I knew it was going to be weird.”

Occasionally, it still is. Thirty-one of the 53 players on the active roster are in their first year with the team. That includes eight of the nine receivers and tight ends.

“Sometimes I walk in this locker room and I’m like, ‘Wow,’” Wayne said. “But I knew what I was getting myself into. I would never have any regrets. I’m going to use this and run with it.”

The Colts made an attempt to re-sign receiver Pierre Garcon, but dropped out of the bidding when Washington offered him $42.5 million over five years.

An argument can be made that retaining Wayne was more important. He would serve as a calming presence amid the upheaval, and a reliable target for Luck.

Luck’s 122 pass attempts are tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Wayne has been targeted a league-high 40 times. Donnie Avery, a veteran free-agent acquisition, has been targeted 27 times. No other player has had more than 16 passes thrown at him.

It’s not a matter of Luck forcing the football to his most experienced receiver.

“He gets open,” Luck said. “He has an uncanny knack for, when it’s a zone, (knowing) where the hole is going to be based on where the other routes are running. When it’s man, he’s got all the tricks up his sleeve.

“It’s an honor for me just to throw the ball to him.”

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Andre Johnson lights up the Broncos

During the Texans’ 31-25 win over the Broncos on Sunday, Matt Schaub used boot action to target Andre Johnson down the field for a 60-yard TD. Today, let’s look at the “All-22” coaches film to breakdown the route, coverage and get into some coaching points.

Texans vs. Broncos Personnel: Ace (2WR-2TE-1RB) Formation: Bunch Route scheme: “Swap” Boot


- Before we get into the Xs and Os of the route, check out the field position. 1st and 20 situation (following a penalty) with the ball on or near the 40-yard line. This is prime field position to take a vertical shot.

- WR Splits always tell you a story from a defensive perspective. Look at Johnson to the open (weak) side of the formation. He is in a “reduced” (or “nasty&rdquoWinking split. With the bunch to the closed (strong) side, this is an automatic alert for a boot concept.

- In a “Swap” Boot, the offense will bring a player back under the line of scrimmage to work to the open side flat. With “Ace” personnel on the field, the Texans use closed side run action and roll Schaub weak.


-This is multiple breaking route from Johnson. The WR will take a hard inside release, push up the field, stem to the 7 (create separation vs. the CB playing with an outside shade) and then work back to the 8 (post).

- The technique (and depth) of the FS is crucial. It’s tough when you are a middle of the field defender to stay away from the “bait” underneath (TE on intermediate crossing route). However, with No.1 (Johnson) working up the field, you have to keep your depth and only drive downhill on the throw from the QB.


-The open side CB, Tracy Porter, is beat. Because of the stem from Johnson, we now see Porter stuck low and to the outside in a “trail position” vs. a deep inside breaking route (Post). 

- Focus on the FS, Mike Adams. If he maintains his depth and uses a “open angle” technique (open hips to the receiver), he can turn and run to match Johnson down the field. However, when Adams breaks downhill to the TE on the underneath crossing route, Porter is hung out to dry.

- This is an easy read for Schaub off the boot action. With Adams now removed from the deep middle of the field and Johnson stacking on top of Porter, the Texans’ QB can target the WR on the post. Another example of why the discipline of the FS is key to seeing success in any single high safety defense.


Antrel Rolle limited by knee

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Safety Antrel Rolle was limited in practice as his bruised knee continues to bother him.

Tom Coughlin has repeatedly praised Rolle for his toughness and ability to play through pain. But Rolle is still feeling discomfort with the knee, which he banged against a television camera in the corner of the end zone last Thursday in Carolina. It's a situation to monitor as the week progresses.

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Ray Lewis' hits leads barrage of Baltimore blitzes

First-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been waiting for some of his young linemen to develop into good pass rushers, but he appears set to move on and blitz as much as possible.

The strategy worked in the second half of the New England game Sunday night, and Pees will employ it again Thursday night when the Ravens host the Browns.

The Browns run a variation of the West Coast offense and start rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Ravens will throw a lot of different pressure packages at Weeden, and they love to bring pressure off the perimeter using cornerback Lardarius Webb and safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. The Ravens have also been moving inside linebacker Ray Lewis outside to rush on third-and-long situations, and have blitzed outside linebacker Darnell Ellerbee more.

Pees knows he won't get much pressure from his front four, so if the Ravens are going to lose, they will lose gambling instead of waiting and hoping.

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Andrew Luck denies that he's forcing it to Reggie Wayne

Andrew Luck said he's not forcing the ball to Reggie Wayne despite a league-high 40 targets.

Wayne's 40 targets are 13 more than Donnie Avery and 24 more than Coby Fleener. "He gets open," Luck said. "He has an uncanny knack for when it's zone, where the hole is going to be based on where the other routes are running. When it's man, he's got all the trick up his sleeve about how to get open." Volume will sustain Wayne as a WR2.

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Find Your Greatness: Jack McClinton

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Ryan Braun shouldn't be penalized in MVP vote

When it comes time for the ballots to be cast for the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player Award, Ryan Braun should receive exactly the same level of consideration as any other candidate.

What shouldn't happen is a hangover effect from a 2011 positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. And here is why:

Braun's 2012 performance speaks forcefully against the notion that he was on a PED last year. The 2011 season was an impressive campaign, as Braun led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title in 29 years and he was named the NL MVP. But this season he has been even better in some regards, and there have been no reports of failed drug tests in the process.

Braun has a career-high 40 home runs through Monday and leads the league in that category. He also leads the NL in slugging percentage and OPS and is tied for the lead in RBIs. He is performing above his career norms in most offensive categories. This is not the record of a man who had an MVP season while on PEDs and then tailed off markedly in the subsequent year.

On the issue of guilt vs. innocence, there has been an almost willful refusal in some quarters to acknowledge that the appeal process following the positive test exonerated Braun.

It is often stated by Braun's detractors that he "got off on a technicality." No. His test sample was ruled invalid because of serious irregularities in its handling. This was not a technicality. By a 2-1 vote, the panel hearing Braun's appeal voted that this test sample could not be considered valid, and therefore, Braun could not be considered guilty and could not be suspended for 50 games.

There have been other journalistic analyses of this case that have tried to make a mountain out of a semantic molehill by focusing on the difference between not guilty and innocent. Again, not quite. Braun won the case. He prevailed. He was the first player known to have successfully appealed a positive test. The arbitrator agreed with his position. The positive test was ruled invalid. And if you looked at the chain of custody for the evidence in this case, a different outcome would have been difficult to imagine.

Even beyond this, nobody outside the testing program should have known that there was a positive test in the first place. The entire process is supposed to be confidential. The positive test in Braun's case was not supposed to be public knowledge, but it was leaked to the media. Had this not happened, nobody would have known about the appeal hearing, either. And, in the absence of a finding upholding the positive test, nobody outside the process should have known about any portion of this case. The only time that any of this is supposed to become public is at the very end of the process, when the guilty party is named and the penalty is imposed. Since Ryan Braun was never found guilty, he and his reputation should have been spared this entire ordeal.

I'm not making an argument about the relative merits of the National League MVP candidates, other than to note that Braun obviously should be regarded as a legitimate, untainted candidate. If a long, objective, dispassionate look at the candidates convinces a majority of the voters that, for instance, Buster Posey of the Giants is the 2012 MVP, then so be it.

But the candidacy of Braun shouldn't be preempted because of a drug test that went through the duly appointed process and was found to be invalid. This is assuming guilt on the part of Braun that the process clearly failed to establish.

The process found that on the issue of this test you can regard Braun in one of two ways: innocent or, if you absolutely insist, not guilty. Either way, this episode is not one that can be fairly held against him.

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Bucs sign Roscoe Parrish

The Buccaneers are shaking up their receiving corps once again.

Jordan Shipley, whom the Bucs picked up just last week, has been waived. His roster spot will be filled by signing free agent receiver Roscoe Parrish.

For Shipley, it’s the latest setback in a career that looked highly promising just a couple years ago: A 2010 third-round pick of the Bengals, Shipley had 52 catches for 600 yards as a rookie. But in 2011 he suffered a major knee injury, and he is still apparently not all the way back.

Parrish has played seven NFL seasons, all for the Bills, and has big-play ability as a return man. Parrish’s average of 12.0 yards per punt return ranks him seventh in NFL history among players with at least 75 returns. He has also played well at times as a slot receiver, although last year he was phased out of the Bills’ offense. This year Parrish spent time briefly with the Chargers and Raiders but was released before the start of the regular season.

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Warren Sapp at AllCanes TODAY


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Lamar Miller "still doesn't know the playbook"

Rookie RB Lamar Miller "still doesn't know the playbook well" and is "raw as a pass blocker," according to the Palm Beach Post. Miller rushed nine times for 48 yards (5.3 average) with a 22-yard run but was the reason for a busted play on Sunday.

Miller is clearly a better pure runner than Daniel Thomas. But he doesn't have the trust of the coaches yet and therefore the two figure to share the load while Reggie Bush (knee) is sidelined. We still prefer Miller as the better fantasy play. He actually has the burst and speed to do damage when he does get touches.

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Vinny Testaverde knows about phantom TDs

Vinny Testaverde knows all about bad calls in games involving the Seahawks, and he believes the Monday night debacle was worse than the blunder he benefitted from in 1998.

"A lot of people think the play back in '98 was responsible for bringing in instant replay," the former Jets QB told ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday night. "Well, even with instant replay, these guys got it wrong (Monday night). It's pretty bad when you can't get it right with instant replay."

Testaverde scored on what is remembered as The Phantom Touchdown, a 5-yard sneak in the final minute that lifted the Jets to a 32-31 win over the Seahawks. The ball never crossed the goal line. The officials blew it, thinking Testaverde's helmet was the football. If there had been instant replay, he would've been ruled down at the 1.

It was costly for the Seahawks, who finished 8-8, barely missed the playoffs and fired coach Dennis Erickson.

Testaverde said he bumped into Erickson recently at the Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton. Testaverde, who was there to support former teammate Curtis Martin, said the infamous play came up in conversation.

"He's still bitter about it, to say the least," Testaverde said. "He laughed about it a little, but not as hard as I was laughing."

Testaverde said "the players who lost Monday night" -- the Packers -- "aren't laughing at all. This is their livelihood. Careers are at stake and guys get fired. That's the shame of it." He agreed with the rest of America, claiming the officials blew it. He blamed the league and the owners.

"The NFL should be at their best at all times and, clearly, these aren't the best (officials)," he said. "I don't blame the replacements, I blame the league for putting them out there. Roger Goodell is taking his orders from the owners, so I blame them, too. We need people to step up and get on the owners. The only way to get their attention is to not go to the games. That'll get them to listen -- empty seats."

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Colin McCarthy (ankle) has resumed light running

Titans MLB Colin McCarthy (ankle) has resumed light running.

McCarthy has missed the last two games and sounds unlikely to play against the Texans in Week 4. "He's running a little bit, doing things like that," coach Mike Munchak said. "It's just a matter of how he progresses the next three or four days as he’s doing football-like activities." Will Witherspoon has 20 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble as the fill-in middle 'backer over the last two weeks.

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Cowboys need ‘all hands on deck’ to stop Bears’ Devin Hester

IRVING – With Bears’ ace returner Devin Hester coming to town, one of the burning questions facing the Cowboys this week is whether they will use Danny McCray on special teams if he is called on to start at strong safety.

McCray’s special teams’ involvement was limited in the second half of Sunday’s 16-10 win over Tampa Bay after fellow safety Barry Church suffered a season-ending injury. McCray and Church had been sharing snaps at strong safety, while cornerback Brandon Carr got most of the snaps at free safety with Gerald Sensabaugh out with a calf injury.

Sensabaugh’s status for the Monday night game against Chicago is uncertain. The Cowboys reportedly are eying five free agent safeties, a sign that Sensabaugh could miss another game.

“We certainly want him on special teams,” coach Jason Garrett said of McCray, who led the team in special teams tackles last season. “He’s probably our best special teams player and has been for the last couple years. Devin Hester is a big-time returner. Everybody knows that. He might go down as one of the greats ever in this league. So, it’ll be a real challenge for us. We’ll need all hands on deck. I don’t know how much that affects Danny to play on defense. We need him on defense, too. They’ve got some weapons on their offensive side of the ball. We’ll address that as the week goes on. We’ve got to make sure we control Hester the best we can.”

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Ed Reed says Thursday Night Football 'all about money'

Ed Reed's never been one to shy away from publicly disagreeing with the NFL.

With the Ravens playing this Thursday night, which will make it four games in 17 days, Reed voiced his displeasure with the NFL's Thursday night showcase, especially since it's now every week of the season and not just after Thanksgiving.

"I never liked the Thursday night games, even when they came out," Reed said. "It's all about money. Like I said, it's out of our hands."

Reed was also critical of the league in reference to Monday night's Seattle-Green Bay game, which saw the Seahawks win 14-12 thanks to a controversial touchdown.

Again, Reed disapproves of how the NFL is handling this situation.

"We all saw that (Packers CB M.D. Jennings) had the ball," Reed said. "They should've called pass interference. But that's what's been going on with these refs. It's an integrity part of the game, that they expect the players to uphold and protect the shield, so to say. But they don't protect the shield when it comes to owners and everybody else getting the money."

A lot of Ravens players are catching up on rest, having played a game past midnight Sunday night and then immediately began studying for Thursday's contest. Coach John Harbaugh said he only got two hours of sleep after Sunday night's win over New England. Meanwhile, safety Bernard Pollard he didn't fall asleep until 5 a.m.

Linebacker Jameel McClain insinuated the short week's schedule makes it hard for the players to physically prepare for these games on such short notice.

"There are a lot of tired players," McClain said. "But the other team is tired too. We have to do our job to get it done. But it doesn't make the most sense to me."

Not every Ravens player is opposed to Thursday night games, however.

"I tell you what, it's a really crazy turnaround, it really is," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It's quick to play on Sunday and then on Thursday. But I kind of like them. It gives us a short week, and it forces you to do the things you're good at and play a football game."

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Willis McGahee list as “day to day”

DOVE VALLEY — When John Fox comes to his Monday press briefing and announces he has no update to the injury report, that means none of the players injured in the previous day’s game suffered season-ending injuries.

Fox said today that running back Willis McGahee (ribs), tight end Jacob Tamme (groin), linebacker/special teamer Nate Irving (concussion), wide receiver/special teamer Matt Willis (hamstring) and cornerback Tracy Porter (knee bruise) are all considered “day to day.”

Fox added a little clarity to McGahee’s injury, saying it involved cartilage. Fox said Porter “re-tweaked” a bruised knee on a hard fall while covering Kevin Walter on Walter’s 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

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Matt Bosher talks about no longer being a rookie

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Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne build quick Colts rapport

Reggie Wayne went to five Pro Bowls with Peyton Manning putting the ball in the air in Indianapolis. So, what was his first advice for the new Colts quarterback Andrew Luck? Throw it to the open guy. Oh, and I'm always open.

Luck and Wayne have been plenty productive together. Wayne ranks No. 4 in receptions (23) and No. 5 in reception yards (294). The quarterback reminisced about his first meetings with Wayne.

"I don't do it perfectly, but I try to have an open mind when meeting any new teammates, any new person, try to avoid using early judgment before meeting someone and judging their character or who they are," Luck said. "There's definitely a worry of 'There's Reggie Wayne, a big-time receiver, is he going to be hard to relate? It's going to be impossible to talk to him' which definitely isn't the case. He's quiet. He sort of just goes abut his business.

"I think he expects everybody else to go about their business with as much attention to detail and focus as he does. I've said it earlier, but I think it's great for this locker room, especially these young guys. I'm continually impressed by him every day. The work ethic he brings, the nice, calming influence he brings as well."
But Wayne did say he's always open, right?

"Absolutely," Luck said. "Even as a Pop Warner kid, you knew that the receiver that was, and I don't want to say complaining, but maybe lobbying for the ball.
"He's deserved that right. It's an honor for me just to throw the ball to him."

Luck hasn't had to force the ball to Wayne, though at 33 years old, most receivers are on the backside of their careers.

"He gets open," Luck said. "He has an uncanny knack for when it's zone, where the hole is going to be based on where the other routes are running. When it's man, he's got all the tricks up his sleeve about how to get open, and when he's covered, someone else is open. When you put too many guys on him or send a couple of guys towards him, someone else will be open.

"He means so much to this offense."

That's been one of the first steps of a fairly smooth transition into the Luck era. Any concern whether the rookie and veteran would click has been quickly put to rest.

Next step: Offensive line.

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Jack McClinton Works Out For Heat

The Heat auditioned former UM guard Jack McClinton on Monday and reportedly will work out former San Diego State power forward Malcolm Thomas this week. Thomas appeared in three games for the Spurs last season. Juwan Howard and Nigerian national team swingman Chamberlain Oguchi also continue to work with the Heat, hoping to land the two remaining spots on the training camp roster. Miami has 18 under contract and can bring 20 to camp.

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Ryan Braun commiserates with Rodgers

Cincinnati - Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun, as might be expected, talked to close friend Aaron Rodgers via telephone on Tuesday about the controversial ending to the Packers' game Monday night in Seattle.

Braun said he felt particularly bad because one game means so much more in an NFL season than in major league baseball, when you play 162 games.

"It's the equivalent of 10 games for us because it's a 16-game season. One game for them is like the difference in us going 10-0 or 0-10," said Braun. "It means so much more. When you think about that, it doesn't seem fair. It doesn't feel right. Everybody was mad, angry, disgusted.

"We all watched the game. We saw the same thing everybody else saw. Everybody knows what happened."

Braun said he was "not going to get into a personal conversation" with Rodgers but made it clear that the quarterback was frustrated both with the final controversial TD call as well as the Packers playing poorly enough to be in that situation.

"He felt like they shouldn't have put themselves in that position," said Braun. "He wished they had played better. But they'll be all right."

Of the entire spectacle after the game, as well as the NFL's use of replacement refs, Braun said, "It was an embarrassing scene. You want the guys who are most qualified out there with a game on the line.

"This is our livelihood, this is our profession. We take a tremendous amount of pride in what we do, and you want the people who have the best chance of getting the calls right to be making the calls. It makes me appreciate we don’t have to deal with replacement umpires at this level, because I can only imagine how frustrating it would be.

"You know they're going to do their best to make the right calls. I'm just glad we've never had to deal with replacement umpires. I can appreciate (the NFL players') frustration. Ultimately, as a player, we just hope they get the call right. It's all we've talked about today."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who has met Packers coach Mike McCarthy, said he empathized with having to accept that kind of loss.

"If you look at the replay, I don't get it," said Roenicke. "That's one thing. When we look at replays here (on border calls), they never get it wrong (after reviewing it). I haven't seen one play that they got wrong after they went in and looked at it. So, come on. Once they go in and look at the replay, they always come back with the right call. Every single time. So, how do you go and look at the replay and come back with that?"

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Chris Perez, Indians hold on to deal White Sox 4-3 loss

CHICAGO — Chris Perez held on in a shaky ninth to give the Cleveland Indians a satisfying win over the AL Central-leading White Sox.

He gave up a homer to Paul Konerko to open the ninth inning, but Gordon Beckham hit into a game-ending forceout with the potential tying run on second base, giving Cleveland a 4-3 win on Tuesday.

“We had a rough time and we’re just thinking about winning games,” manager Manny Acta said. “The last thing in our mind is to hurt somebody or knock somebody off. It’s just nice to win after what we’ve gone through the last two months.”

Chicago’s loss gave Detroit an opening to tie for the division lead later Tuesday night against Kansas City.

Russ Canzler had three hits and homered for the second straight game and Cory Kluber (2-4) shut down the White Sox for seven innings.

Down 4-0, Chicago closed when A.J. Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo hit consecutive fifth-inning home runs off Kluber and then pulled within a run when Paul Konerko homered off Chris Perez leading off the ninth.

In the rocky ninth, Perez walked a pair of batters with two outs, and Beckham grounded to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw to second baseman Jason Kipnis for the force. Perez earned his career-high 37th save in 41 chances.

Chicago (82-72) has held sole possession of the division lead since Sept. 3.

Kluber gave up four hits in a career-high seven innings, retiring nine of his last 10 batters. Vinnie Pestano and Perez completed the six-hitter.

Kluber ran into trouble in the fifth inning. Pierzynski extended his career-high with a solo homer leading off the fifth, his 27th of the year. Dayan Viciedo followed with his 22nd homer to cut Cleveland’s lead to 4-2.

“I made a couple bad pitches and they took advantage of them,” Kluber said. “For the most part, I hadn’t left too many balls over the middle. That’s what I kept telling myself, ‘Keep executing your pitches.’ ”

Beckham reached on a one-out walk after the home runs, but Kluber struck out Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis to retire the side.

“He grew a little as a pitcher today,” Acta said. “That was a well-pitched ballgame, a crucial situation for those guys. It’s a meaningful game and after starting a little shaky with his command in the first inning, he was really good.

“He had a good slider and his pitch count was unbelievable, very efficient. He gave up those two homers. He just settled down and continued to pound the strike zone and gave us seven solid innings of baseball.”

Pestano redeemed himself for blowing a two-run lead in Monday’s 5-4 loss with a scoreless eighth inning. He got De Aza to ground into his first double play of the season before he struck out Adam Dunn to end the inning. Dunn stunned the Indians with a late three-run homer off Pestano on Monday.

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PHOTOS: proCane Richard Gordon's First NFL TD

proCane Richard Gordon #82 of the Oakland Raiders catches a one yard touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his first career touchdown, during the third quarter of an NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2012 in Oakland, California.

proCane Richard Gordon #82 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after he scored his first career touchdown after catching a one yard touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter of an NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2012 in Oakland, California.

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Ed Reed Puts A Big Hit on Deion Branch

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MUST SEE VIDEO: Jon Jay Catch of the Year

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Leonard Hankerson leads Washington wideouts

Washington Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (neck, back) posted 56 yards on four receptions in the Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals to lead the team's wide receiver corps. WR Joshua Morgan hauled in two receptions for 22 yards, while WR Aldrick Robinson managed just one catch for 12 yards.

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Lamar Miller without a fourth-quarter carry

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller got all of his 48 rushing yards on nine third-quarter carries in Week 3. He did not receive a carry in the fourth quarter as the team opted with RB Daniel Thomas, even though he had a fumble. 'We wanted to give Lamar an opportunity once we thought Reggie couldn't play effectively,' head coach Joe Philbin said. 'We have two guys, we think a lot of both and we think they're both capable of playing. Some of it was dictated by situation, but some of it was spreading the carries around.'

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Willis McGahee leaves game with rib injury

Willis McGahee was forced from Denver's Week 3 tilt with the Texans with a rib injury, and is questionable to return.

McGahee went out midway through the third quarter, and returned for one play before checking out again. It's quite possible his afternoon is through. With Knowshon Moreno a healthy inactive, rookie Ronnie Hillman will carry the rushing load if McGahee is indeed done for the day. McGahee had just 36 yards on 12 carries before departing, adding one catch for six yards.

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Reggie Wayne goes for 88 yards in Week 3 loss

Reggie Wayne reeled in eight catches for 88 yards in the Colts' Week 3 loss to Jacksonville.

Although Wayne managed no receptions beyond 16 yards, he was Andrew Luck's favorite target again and continues to be a target monster. Austin Collie's potentially serious knee injury should lock Wayne into the latter role over the rest of the season. The Colts have a Week 4 bye before a Week 5 date with the Jets.

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Dedrick Epps Talks About Sparano's Revenge

Say this for Rex Ryan: The Jets coach has a flair for the dramatic.

Two years ago, when Jason Taylor helped the Jets beat the Dolphins, Ryan was among those dumping the Gatorade jug on the ex-Dolphin.

Sunday, after Tony Sparano's offensive calls helped the Jets to a 23-20 overtime win over the team that fired him a little over nine months ago, Ryan gave the floor to his former coaching rival in the winning locker room.

"He came in here and said it was a team thing," said Jets backup tight end Dedrick Epps, the ex-UM standout who played for Sparano with the Dolphins. "It wasn’t just him. It wasn’t just the offense, It was the special teams, the defense, the coaches. It took everybody to get this done."

While Ryan himself brushed aside suggestions of this being a special win for Sparano -- "I think Tony's a Jet. He's happy to get the victory for the team, not just himself," Ryan said -- another ex-Dolphin didn't even try to hide that aspect of the afternoon.

"I’m sure he went through a lot more [emotions] than I did," said former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell, who had seven tackles. "I don’t think he was too happy abaout the way he was done here. To get some revenge I’m sure was sweet for him."

More emotional than for Bell, who had spent his entire career with the Dolphins before being cut loose last offseason? The former winner of team awards for courage, leadership and cooperation with the South Florida media nodded and said that was definitely the case.

"I’m real happy for him," Bell said. "I know he wanted this one. I know it’s big for him. Just for him to come back and kind of get some revenge for the way they treated him and things, I know he’s happy."

Bell said he hadn't spoken privately to Sparano yet, but planned to talk with him on the way back to New York.

"I’m sure I’ll see him on the plane and we’ll chat it up a little bit," Bell said. 

Bell was among the Jets' pregame captains, along with Epps and another Dolphin castoff, receiver Clyde Gates. More proof of Ryan's sense of drama.
Sparano refused comment as he left the Jets locker room after Sunday's win, but Epps said that probably was for the best as well.

"He might get a little choked up in one of his interviews," Epps said. "It might bring a tear to his eye."

And what did Epps say to Sparano after this one?

"Congratulations, coach," Epps said. "Good job."

On this emotional Sunday, at least, there was no denying that.

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Champ Bailey Talks About Andre Johnson

Edged by his opponent on the scoreboard for the second straight week, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey knows full well that his defense desperately needs to tighten things up going forward in order to win games. The 11-time Pro Bowler made it quite clear to DenverBroncos.com that big plays in the passing game continue to serve as the team's Achilles' heel at the moment.

"We’ve got to start faster," Bailey said. "I felt like the first five minutes, we were good. Then all of a sudden, they throw two balls over our head. We can’t live with that."

Although Bailey and company were able to limit Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson to just two receptions on the afternoon, a key catch by the superstar wideout over the outstretched hand of Bailey ultimately allowed the Texans to kill much of the clock late in the fourth.

"I was right there," Bailey said. "It’s just two good players making plays. Once I started following [Johnson] around, he didn’t have a catch in crunch time. He made it happen. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that."

While it's hard to believe that leaders like Bailey and quarterback Peyton Manning won't find a way to turn their respective units around in the coming weeks, Bailey is spot-on in his assessment of how debilitating Denver's slow starts have been this year. Eager to claw their way back to .500 with a win, the Broncos should have an opportunity to turn things around in Week 4 against an Oakland Raiders team still trying to find its identity despite a last-second win over the Steelers on Sunday.

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NFL seeking to block Jonathan Vilma's request for evidence

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL has asked a federal judge to block Jonathan Vilma from demanding evidence in the league's bounty probe related to the New Orleans Saints linebacker's defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The league says Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsburg, has this month subpoenaed the NFL, Goodell, NFL investigator Joe Hummel, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints defensive assistant Mike Cerullo.

Ginsberg has demanded documents and sought to schedule depositions, including a deposition of Goodell on Oct. 23.

The league says demands for evidence are premature because its motion to dismiss the lawsuit is still pending. The NFL's motion asks U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to rule on whether to enforce a stay of discovery by Oct. 10.

Vilma's lawsuit says Goodell publicly prejudged Vilma without sufficient evidence.

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Brandon Marshall rips Warren Sapp

Brandon Marshall recorded a video criticizing former NFL player and current television analyst Warren Sapp for ripping the Chicago Bears receiver during a radio interview on Friday.

Marshall, who has disclosed publicly that he has received treatment for borderline personality disorder and anger management, responded Monday morning with a video that appears to have been shot by a camera mounted on his vehicle's dashboard.

"I got a really disturbing heads-up on something Warren Sapp said, called me retarded. That's really disappointing to hear that from an NFL legend, but I'm going to take this as a lesson, and I think we all can learn from this," Marshall said in the video posted online. "Be very careful who you take advice from. You want to surround yourself with good people, godly people. When I look at Warren Sapp, I can't go to him and talk about finances because he filed for bankruptcy. I can't go to him and talk about my marriage because he filed for divorce. I can't go to him and talk about being a father because one day I'm going to have children because he's not active in his children's life."

Sapp, an NFL Network analyst and 13-year veteran who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders sent a message to the Chicago Tribune later Monday apologizing.

"I want to apologize to all those who I offended with my poor choice of words," Sapp wrote. "I certainly meant no disrespect to those who have some type of disability or special needs."

Sapp was asked on Friday's "Dan Patrick Show" for his reaction to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrating his touchdown with his team down 23-0 in the third quarter of a 36-7 loss to the New York Giants.

"These kids that play the game today have no relevance for the past, have no conscious of what it is ... I mean Brandon Marshall talking about Shannon Sharpe ... 'Who is he to talk?' He's the first 100-catch receiver (tight end) back to back, retard," Sapp said. "What you just did in Denver for three years. You don't know this? Of course he doesn't because it's not about Brandon Marshall. It ain't about the past, it's about me because it's about personal success, pay me and now I'll think about being a team guy."

It appears Sapp was actually referring to Shannon Sharpe's brother, NFL Network analyst Sterling Sharpe, who criticized Marshall for his play during a loss to the New York Jets in 2010 when Marshall played for the Miami Dolphins. After hearing of the criticism, Marshall at the time questioned Sterling Sharpe's playing credentials but two weeks later retracted his comments and praised Sharpe's career.

"The lesson that we all should learn here is surround yourself with good people and be careful who you take counsel from," Marshall concluded in his video. "I'm not saying he's been there on my side giving me counsel, but that's not a guy that I can go to. Football doesn't make us. There's more to life than just playing football, so make sure that you have a great balance in your life, surround yourself with good people, and guys like Warren Sapp I feel sorry for. Hopefully one day he will change his life, we'll pray for him, and instead of using words to destroy he may use words to uplift. God bless you guys and have a great day."

Marshall later posted a second video on Monday morning and expounded on his intentions behind his message.

"All we can do is try to encourage him to be better, but at the same time we're going to hold you accountable, Warren," Marshall said. "Just like I'm held accountable. I've made my share of mistakes, and I'm going to continue to make my mistakes, but I'm never going to put myself on a platform or a podium where I think I'm invisible, untouchable.

"Warren, take this as words of encouragement and not words to criticize you or destroy you. This is out of truth and love."

Marshall, in his first season with the Bears after being traded by the Dolphins, has 16 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown this season.

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Wilfork: 'You have to review' field goal

BALTIMORE -- The New England Patriots' loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night ended just as it played out, with a controversial call.

As time expired, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker's game-winning 27-yard field goal appeared to sail over the right upright. It was close enough for a furious Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to rip off his helmet and sprint toward the two officials who made the call in the back of the end zone.

"They have to (review that)," Wilfork said after the game. "You have to. In a game like this you have to. They ran off the field, so it is what it is. I'm not going to sit here and pick a fight with those guys.

"From my angle, it looked very close," Wilfork said. "I was frustrated at that, but there were a lot of things I was frustrated about."

Shortly after the game ended, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira tweeted the following, explaining that the call was not reviewable:

"A (field goal) that goes over the top of an upright is not reviewable because you cannot determine when exactly the ball is directly over the pole," Pereira wrote.

Wilfork wasn't the only one who thought that Tucker's kick was close to falling in New England's favor.

"I couldn't see from the sideline," head coach Bill Belichick said. "It looked close. You should talk to the people who made the calls. I'm just trying to coach the game."

"From my angle, it was tough to see. The ball was right by the goal post so I couldn't really tell," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "It looked close. That's all I have to say."

The last time the teams played -- in last season's AFC Championship game -- the Patriots won when Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide with 11 seconds left in the contest.

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Shenise Johnson, Riquna Williams follow dreams to Europe

Riquna “BayBay’’ Williams, fresh off her rookie WNBA season, is packing up her belongings in Tulsa, Okla., this week and heading to her new job in Kosice, Slovakia, a town known for the world’s second-oldest marathon and a 14th-century Gothic cathedral.

Shenise “Moe’’ Johnson, the San Antonio Silver Stars’ first-round pick in the April WNBA Draft, will soon be off to Sopron, Hungary, the birthplace of famous composer Franz Liszt.

Life as a professional basketball player is about to get really interesting (and a bit scary) for the former University of Miami stars.

Neither player has ever set foot in Europe. Each will be the only American on her team. Both expect to be homesick. But the financial reality of women’s basketball leaves them little choice if they want to pursue their passion.

The average WNBA rookie salary is $36,570, the league minimum for a veteran is $54,000 and the maximum is $105,000. The NBA league minimum, by comparison, is $473,604 and the average NBA salary is $5 million, compared with $72,000 for the WNBA. The WNBA season lasts only four months, so the vast majority of the players head overseas to make the bulk of their annual income.

Twenty-eight WNBA players spent last winter in the Turkish league. Other popular destinations for WNBA players are Israel and Russia. The European league pays American players a sixth-month salary ranging anywhere from $40,000 to $500,000 for superstars such as Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker.

Those paychecks come with a price, however. American players have to leave the comfort of their country to play far away from family and friends. They are typically the only American on their team, so there are language and cultural barriers to overcome. And there are long bus rides. Lots of them.

Williams admitted last week she knows nothing at all about Slovakia or her new team. In fact, she didn’t even know the name of the team. Turns out she is playing for the Kosice Good Angels and is listed as the starting point guard on the team’s website. She will be playing alongside complete strangers named Lucia Kupcikova, Beata Jaoscikova, Tijana Krivacevic, Miljana Borjoric and Helena Sverrisdottin. Two are from Slovakia, two from Serbia, and one from Iceland. Williams has no idea if any of them, or their coaches, speak English.

“This is what I have to do to follow my dream,” Williams said. “At some point, if you’re a woman playing basketball, you have to go overseas. We really have no choice. I’m nervous, definitely. I have no idea what to expect. But I hear they take care of you, give you a nice apartment. I signed for only three months instead of six in case I get too homesick.”

Williams grew up in Pahokee and was known to get homesick during her four years at UM. Getting acclimated to life in Tulsa was no easy feat, but at least they have Applebee’s, Olive Garden and a cozy soul food place named Sweet Lisa’s. Slovakia will feel like Mars.

Johnson has traveled to Thailand with USA Basketball but never to Europe. She is joining a Sopron team whose roster includes Zsofia Fegyverneky, Sara Krnjic, Fanni Szabo, Vivien Borondy and Zsófia Licskai. The club finished runner-up in the Hungarian playoffs last season. That’s about all Johnson knows.
“I’m sure it will be rough the first couple of weeks, and I’ll feel really far from everything I know, but I’m excited to embrace the culture and learn,” Johnson said. “I’ll find a way to adjust. I’m a chameleon.”

That said, Johnson wishes she could stay on U.S. soil.

“Nobody wants to be forced to go live so far away,” she said. “It’s also hard on our bodies to have to play all year-round. We don’t get a four-month break like the guys do. But I’m doing what I love, and I’ll go wherever I have to.”

Williams and Johnson have both struggled at times this summer as they adjust to the WNBA game and new roles. Johnson started only one of 34 games for San Antonio (20-13), averaged 17.1 minutes, 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds. Williams started three of 33 games for the Shock (9-25), averaged 20.3 minutes, 10.5 points and 2.1 rebounds.

“I haven’t been playing my best basketball at all, and that’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “I’m not playing as confident or as free as I did at UM. I have never had to come off the bench in my whole life, so that’s new.

“I’m also being asked to be a spot-up shooter here, and I’m used to creating. So I have to adjust to that. The half-court game is quicker in the pros. My coaches and teammates have confidence in me, so I have to try to relax and have fun and my game will come back.”

Johnson speaks to UM coach Katie Meier every few weeks and gets encouragement from those conversations.

“She tells me I’m at my best when I’m smiling and loose, and she says I look too quiet out there, she doesn’t see me being a leader,” Johnson said. “Being a rookie, I don’t want to step on any toes. I’m sure with time I’ll get more comfortable.”

Williams had a rough first half of the season but came around after the Olympic break.

“I’m not the superstar I was at Miami, I’m a rookie,” Williams said. “The game is faster, more intense and physical. My role at UM was to score. Now, it’s different, and it took time to get used to it.”

Tulsa assistant coach Kathy McConnell-Miller said the staff is very impressed with Williams and had no reservations drafting the feisty guard, who was suspended from the UM team for the 2012 NCAA Tournament for behavior detrimental to the team.

“I was very familiar with BayBay as a college player and know what her potential is,” McConnell-Miller said. “We did our homework, she took ownership of her behavior, and there hasn’t been a single incident on or off the court with us. Nobody outworks her, especially this last month. She is in the gym an hour before practice, and an hour and a half after. She is on the first bus over on game days. And she is practicing at game speed, which she wasn’t doing before. She is loved by her teammates. I’m really proud of her.”

Williams left the UM team on bad terms, and does not keep in touch with Johnson. They have seen each other when their teams played, said quick hellos, but that’s it.

“It’s a job,” Williams said. “I can’t get caught up in the Miami stuff. We’re definitely not friends. We’re two different people, always were, and that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me. She does her thing, I do mine.”

Johnson said she tried to reach out, but Williams wasn’t interested.

“I have no ill will toward her,” Johnson said. “I think it’s sad how things ended. It would be nice if we could talk some time because we’re both probably going through the same rookie frustrations, but she obviously doesn’t want to have a relationship with me, so I have to treat her like just another player.”
One to Slovakia. One to Hungary. It’s a job.

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Aubrey Huff hopes he still can produce

The Giants were blowing out the hapless Rockies late last week, completing a four-game sweep and putting the Dodgers so far back in the standings, you couldn't read their license plates.

San Francisco's September sky was doing its usual impression of a perfect spring day when Ol' Aubrey Huff walked up to the plate in the sixth to pinch hit.
You remember Huff. The redhead with the red thong. The heart and soul patch of the 2010 champs.

Yup, Aubrey's still fighting as his career winds down, hobbled by personal problems and a balky knee. He has taken a couple of major breaks in the schedule as a result this season. But now that the division's clinched, and the regulars are getting a rest, it's time to think about Huff and his postseason status. It's time to remember what this man did for the team last time it reached the postseason.

The fans at AT&T Park sure remember. They gave him a nice hand when he strode to the plate Thursday. And he made manager Bruce Bochy look smart when he pulled a liner past the first baseman. As Huff limped up the line, the ball rattled around in the bullpen corner, looking more double-ish by the second.

Huff turned it up a notch as he rounded the bag, hesitated awkwardly, then continued to second. He was looking over his shoulder the whole time, clearly afraid he'd get nabbed at second. The crowd seized on the moment, rising to cheer him.

At 35, Huff isn't half the player he was two years ago. More quarter-Huff than half-Huff.

He finally arrived at second base, safe, if not sound. As Bochy quipped after the game: "Huff did a great job turning that double into a double. For a second there, I think he thought it was illegal to go to second."

Upon his arrival, a standing ovation erupted as Huff stood on the bag. A pinch-runner was dispatched post haste, and Huff jogged into the dugout, showered in applause.

"What great fans; what a great atmosphere," said Huff, after the game. "What is it? A Thursday afternoon day game? The place was absolutely packed. This place is amazing."

The savvy denizens of AT&T remember what Huff did for this town and this team two years ago. That appreciation isn't lost on the first baseman in the waning days of his career. By any measure, it has been a fabulous ride for Huff. He was the stitching on a team that won it all. He did so with his best buddy from college, Pat Burrell. And he did it all wearing a red, satin thong.

The fans' recognition of Huff was a touching, insider moment. They were acknowledging a man on his last leg who was still fighting. It has been an odd finish for Huff, who had to leave the team in April because of a bout with anxiety. He then hurt his knee celebrating Matt Cain's perfect game in June.

All that was forgotten as Huff stood on second, soaking in what might be one of his final ovations.

Beyond the good feelings and nostalgia, Huff is hoping the final chapter is still unfolding. And who knows? Maybe he has another big hit in his bat this postseason.

"I'm just trying to get my timing down. Trying to make an impression down the stretch here so that I can get a playoff roster spot," said Huff, who should get some more at-bats now that the Giants have clinched. "I played a big role in 2010, and I hope to play a role again this year."

He has gotten Bochy's attention, among others. Before the crack about his baserunning, Bochy talked about the good swings Huff has been taking. "He's getting a few hits here," said Bochy, referring to Huff's pinch-hitting duties. "His experience as a DH in the American League has helped."

Indeed, Huff is 5-for-9 with two walks since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. That's a nice rebound from what has been a rough year for Huff, who's batting .200 in only 70 at-bats.

My colleague and Giants beat writer Henry Schulman says the playoff matchup will play a big role in Huff's inclusion or exclusion from postseason play.

Every championship team could use an experienced lefty bat to face late-inning relievers. But Cincinnati, a possible first-round opponent for the Giants, features a lefty setup man and closer, which does not bode well for Huff's chances. Washington and Atlanta have multiple left-handed starters but use righty closers.

And that's when the Giants might need Ol' Aubrey one more time.

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Ryan Braun says this is his best season, but is it enough to make him the MVP again?

WASHINGTON -- Ask Ryan Braun if he's having a better year this year than last year, you'll get an answer.

"I'm probably having my best season," Braun said.

Ask Ryan Braun whether that means he should win a second straight MVP, good luck getting an answer.

Braun will praise the other contenders. He'll tell you that Buster Posey of the Giants "deserves the utmost credit." He'll say that Andrew McCutchen "has carried the Pirates on his back for a lot of the season."

But he won't even address the issue of whether the Brewers' late-season recovery helps his own chances of repeating. And don't even try to get him to say whether last winter's failed drug test and successful appeal will have any impact on the vote.

My own view: No matter what your view of the drug issue, it's crazy to carry it over to this year's MVP race. The award is about this season, not last year. This isn't like the Hall of Fame, where we're asked to assess careers. This is simply about who was most valuable in the 2012 season.

That said, if the race is close, it could take only one voter deciding to leave Braun off his ballot completely (voters pick 1-10 in the MVP race) to affect the result.

Now, is Braun the best candidate?

Again, the race is close. Whether he'll say it or not, the Brewers' revival has to help him. Voters who chose Braun over Matt Kemp last year because Kemp's Dodgers weren't contending could hardly have picked Braun if the Brewers had remained under .500 all season.

It could turn out that the failed drug test that hurts Braun isn't his own, but instead Melky Cabrera's. Posey's candidacy was certainly helped by the way he carried the Giants after they lost Cabrera in mid-August.

Whether Braun wins or not, he has definitely proved wrong those of us (me included) who predicted this spring that he was headed for a tough season. He may even be correct when he says he's been better in 2012 than he was in 2011.

"It's the consistency," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Ryan's had a great year, but Ryan hasn't had the type of month he had the first month or last month of last year."

Last year, Braun's month-to-month OPS went from a high of 1.181 in April to a low of .796 in May. This year, he hasn't been below .941 or above 1.009 in any month.

Overall, he's ahead of 2011 in home runs (40, up from 31), RBI (108, up from 104) and slugging percentage (.601, up from .584). He should end up higher in runs and stolen bases, and for now is close to even in on-base percentage.

He leads the league in home runs, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS, and is tied for the lead in RBI and extra-base hits.

He topped 100 runs scored on Sunday, making him the only player in the major leagues with 100 runs and 100 RBI each of the last four years.

It's an MVP-type season, whether or not he actually wins the award again.

Is it his best season?

Judge for yourself, but Braun thinks it is.

That question he'll answer.

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PHOTO: Travis Benjamin Scores His First NFL TD


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Edge feels the love as he goes into Ring of Honor

Edgerrin James was about to be introduced for his halftime induction into the Indianapolis Colts' Ring of Honor on Sunday when an old buddy came sprinting out of the Lucas Oil Stadium tunnel.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, still in uniform but sporting a Colts baseball cap instead of a helmet, took his place at midfield alongside retired Colts favorites Tarik Glenn, Gary Brackett and Ryan Diem.

"I almost missed it, but got there," Wayne said of honoring James, the Colts' all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards from 1999 to 2005. "I wish he would have given a longer speech though."

James had promised he would be understated in the tradition of the eighth Ring of Honor inductee, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who uttered "thank you" five times in a Nov. 28, 2011, acceptance speech that took about 20 seconds.

Colts owner Jim Irsay handed the microphone to James, who said, "It was an honor (that) I played for the Colts, and I want to tell everyone thank you."

Surrounded by his six children, James received a standing ovation as he exited to the tunnel.

"They told me I could just say, 'Thank you,' so I went over," James said, laughing, about his word count.

He enjoyed the video highlights on the stadium's large screens.

"Oh man, it's good (for my kids)," James said. "They get to see that I know what I'm talking about. I wish I could still move like that."

Eden, James' 8-year-old son, was impressed.

"He's a 'playa!' He's a 'playa!'" the boy repeated.

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Travis Benjamin gets his first TD

Travis Benjamin caught two passes for 44 yards with a touchdown in the Browns' Week 3 loss to the Bills.

Benjamin's first career touchdown was a pretty 22-yard strike over the middle that brought the Browns within three points in the third quarter. However, he continues to play behind Greg Little, Mo Massaquoi and Greg Little. There's no real upside here.

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Andre Johnson goes for 72 yards, TD in win

Andre Johnson caught two passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in Houston's Week 3 win over the Broncos.

Johnson schooled Broncos RCB Tracy Porter on the game's second drive, getting behind the entire defense for a 60-yard touchdown. Johnson was targeted only four times, but came within inches of another long score early in the second half, barely losing a one-on-one battle with Champ Bailey in the end zone. Johnson has now been limited to two catches in back-to-back games, but it's been primarily a function of the Texans taking the air out of the ball as they nurse big leads. With 212 yards and two touchdowns through three weeks, he's still locked and loaded as a WR1.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Contract Details

Since the Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke a few weeks ago, several have asked me how long his contract was for and the total amount of the deal. A source has informed me today that it was one-year deal worth $465,000 and that it did not include a signing bonus.

Assuming that Van Dyke last the entire season on the 53 man roster, he should be an exclusive free agent after the end of the year and thus easily retained with an exclusive rights free agent tender offer of $555,000 that he must accept if he wants to play in the NFL next season.

The Oakland Raiders former third round pick has a been a big contributor on special teams through the first two games of the season and is considered a project cornerback moving forward by the coaching staff. With Keenan Lewis scheduled to an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season, the Steelers would still have three young cornerbacks under contract next season, along with veteran Ike Taylor, should Lewis wind up signing elsewhere.

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Life after the NFL: Edgerrin James finds meaning as father, mentor

ORLANDO — His welcome mat reads: The Property.

Edgerrin James relaxes on the back porch overlooking the lake on the sprawling 5-acre estate. It's 11 a.m. and the former NFL star just rolled out of bed. Who can blame him? At 34, he's retired.

But James doesn't lounge around all day. Instead, the former Immokalee High standout will be father to more than his children, whose mother died three years ago.

James entertains, coaches and mentors more than 100 underprivileged children for eight weeks every summer.

There is a wrought-iron gate at the driveway at The Property but the camp is open to any kid. It's free. The kids have nothing and the camp is everything. A punt, pass and a kick from Disney World, it is filled with instruction on football, basketball and life.

James says it's better than any amusement park.

"Once we took about 50 kids to the Disney parks, and that's not cheap, and in a couple of hours they were bored," James said. "They never get bored here."
James isn't your typical camp organizer. The plausible future Hall of Famer ranks 11th all-time in NFL rushing with 12,246 yards. As the first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, he made an immediate impact. He became the first player to lead the league in rushing his first two years. The Indianapolis Colts will recognize his talents today by inducting him into their Ring of Honor.

James says he doesn't miss football. He does miss the love of his life, Andia Wilson, who died in 2009. In her memory, he tackles society's stereotypes of being a black father and an athlete.

"Everything I do now I want to do forever," said James, who still lives in Naples full-time while spending the summers in Orlando. "I was on the clock for football. There's no way I would want to do it forever."

In the camp's three-year history, James said he's only missed one day. This past summer, he had to be in Atlanta for business on a Monday evening. He flew out after the football drills and back the same night on the redeye to be at camp the next day.

"This is who he is," said Evan Wilson, a camp counselor and uncle of James' children. "He is all about the kids."

Continuing reading here

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Kenny Phillips tops Week 2 fines

Safety Kenny Phillips has been fined $30,000 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness, one of four New York Giants disciplined for their conduct in last Sunday's win against Tampa Bay.

Phillips, a repeat offender who also was fined last season, drew this fine for striking defenseless Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson on a pass play. No penalty flag was thrown.

Other Giants disciplined were running back Andre Brown, $15,750 for a horse-collar tackle on Brandon McDonald during an interception return; and offensive linemen David Baas and Kevin Boothe, fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness at the end of the game when the Buccaneers plowed into the line as QB Eli Manning was taking a knee.

Fined $21,000 were Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons for helmet-to-helmet contact with Jets QB Mark Sanchez; Patriots LB Jerod Mayo for hitting defenseless Arizona WR Early Doucet in the head and neck; and Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy for the same offense against Chiefs TE Kevin Boss.

Seattle receiver Golden Tate drew a $21,000 fine for an illegal blindside block on Dallas LB Sean Lee. Tampa Bay LB Mason Foster's hit on Domenik Hixon that resulted in a concussion for the Giants receiver -- he missed Thursday night's game at Carolina -- cost Foster $21,000 for striking a defenseless player in the neck and head area.

Jets safety LaRon Landry said he will appeal his fine by the NFL of $15,750 for a horse-collar tackle against Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown.

Landry has three personal foul penalties in two games, and says he needs to be more "strategic," especially on plays near the sideline.

"I'm not trying to injure a guy, and not trying to play dirty," Landry says. "I'm just trying to make a play."

Redskins WR Josh Morgan was hit for $7,875 for throwing the ball at Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The resulting 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced Washington to try a 62-yard field goal in a three-point loss.

Also from that game, Washington LB Lorenzo Alexander was fined $15,750 for a horse-collar tackle of receiver Danny Amendola, and Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins got the same amount for unnecessary roughness against tight end Fred Davis.

Also fined $15,750 was Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson for his late hit on Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer. New England safety Steve Gregory was docked $7,875 for a late hit on Cardinals TE Todd Heap.

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Edgerrin James says Indy was perfect fit

Coming out of college Edgerrin James didn’t know which NFL team would draft him.

He didn’t care, either.

“It didn’t matter who drafted me,” James said. “I just want to be on a team.”

The Indianapolis Colts selected James with the fourth pick in the first round of the 1999 draft.

Now, he cares.

James played seven seasons in Indianapolis. He finished as the team’s all-time rusher. He combined with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to form a winning foundation.

He went on to play for two other NFL franchises — Arizona and Seattle — in his 11-year career but James isn’t shy about his loyalty.

“No matter where I go or what I do, I’m always a Colt,” says James, who will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor today. James joins owner Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Chris Hinton, Jim Harbaugh, Ted Marchibroda, the 12th Man, Tony Dungy and Harrison in the team’s unofficial hall of fame.

James’ journey from Immokalee to Indianapolis is one some football experts didn’t see coming.

Three quarterbacks — Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith — were taken to start 1999 draft, and Texas standout and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams appeared to be the obvious choice for the Colts. The team needed a running back to replace Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.

Colts running back coach Gene Huey said he remembers watching film of both Williams and James before the draft and realized James’ talent “fit the system.”
“There was no doubt in my mind he would be a better choice,” Huey said. “Edgerrin was an all-around back, a strong runner with good hands and a solid pass blocker. He had all the tangibles we were seeking.”

Straight from the University of Miami, James made the Colts look like geniuses. He led the NFL in his first season in rushing, tallying 1,553 yards and was named the Offensive Player of the Year. He topped his marks in year two, totaling 1,709 yards, to become the last player to lead the NFL in rushing in his first two seasons.

“I wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke,” James said about the motivation behind his second season in Indy. “I didn’t want people to say I was a one-year wonder. Proving people wrong always inspires me.”

James became the unheralded versatile back, setting the team record for rushing yardage (9,226) in a career while being the ultimate compliment the Manning-to-Harrison aerial attack. Huey described him as a Jim Brown throwback who used his body and the lost art of the stiff-arm to pick up extra yards and punish defenders. Huey said James didn’t go down easy and proved it in his second season by picking up 500 of the 1,700 yards after contact.

“He was a machine,” Huey said. “He had great strength and grace as a runner and determination to get the most out of every carry. He certainly didn’t go down easy.”

Manning said defenders got tired of trying to tackle him.

“They didn’t understand just how strong and stout he was,” Manning said. “His playing weight was around 215, and linebackers, corners and safeties in the fourth quarter got to saying, ‘Enough’s enough.’ He started turning 6- to 7-yard gains into 20- to 25-yard gains.”

But Manning appreciated James for more than just carrying the ball.

“Edgerrin was one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” he said. “I always felt real secure with him back there in the backfield behind me or standing next to me in the shotgun. He was an extremely smart player. He was unbelievably well-conditioned. He had incredible strength and balance, along with excellent hands, and he was an outstanding blocker.”

And it’s blocking James is most proud of. He says it’s the skill that doesn’t show up in the stat charts that should get him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He says his numbers — No. 11 all-time in rushing with 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns, complied with his four 1,500 rushing seasons (tied for second-most in NFL history) while having 433 receptions for 3,364 yards and 11 touchdowns — should be enough to punch his ticket to Canton, Ohio.

But he hopes the Hall of Fame voters consider the team he played on, the fact he never came out of the game even on third down and that he was willing to sacrifice his body to protect Manning.

“If you look at all of the guys on the list in front of me, none of them played for passing team like the Colts,” said James, who was named to four Pro Bowls. “I took a lot of pride in blocking. I was willing to do whatever was needed to win.”

James’ presence definitely translated into wins for the Colts.

In 1998, the Colts won only three games, finishing with 13 losses. But with James providing balance to Manning’s arm the Colts’ record went to 13-3. At the time, it was the greatest one-season turnaround in NFL history.

James said being drafted by a team with a losing record gave him motivation.

“I wanted the challenge. I wanted to prove they made the right choice and I could make a difference,” James said. “I always like to take the hard route. It’s boring if you don’t have a challenge.”

With James in the lineup, Indianapolis compiled a 70-26 record in seven years. Sure, the Colts also had Manning and Harrison but when James missed 10 games in 2001 due to a knee injury, they posted only a 3-7 record in his absence.

“He was huge to the club’s winning tradition,” Manning said. “I certainly never took Edgerrin for granted. I knew how special he was.”

James’ most significant contribution came in the locker room. Manning said James was liked and respect by his teammates. James was unselfish, too, Manning said.

He proved it in 2004 when Manning headed toward breaking Dan Marino’s single-season mark for touchdown passes. James was supposed to catch the record-tying 48th TD. Instead, he switched positions with backup James Mungro to allow him to catch the 3-yard shovel pass and share in the glory.

About Mungro’s moment, James said, “You don’t want the spotlight just to be on you, or on just one player. You have to spread it around so everyone has something to hang their hat on. James (Mungro) for the rest of his life is going to remember that play, how it exactly went down.”

“As a teammate, Edgerrin was the heartbeat of our locker room,” said Tarik Glenn, former offensive tackle and teammate with the Colts. “He made playing football fun. As a player, Edge was a blue collar, hard worker that loved to let his playing do the talking.”

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne also called James a great locker room guy who didn’t say much, if anything, on the field.

But when James did talk, people listened.

In 2003, a majority of the Colts players were not fans of the outdated pregame music. James took their concerns to management. The next week, the Colts were warming up to the most current hip-hop tracks and making other teams jealous, James said.

“I didn’t mind being the voice of the team,” James said. “I had a comfort zone in the locker room because everything the owners and the management did in Indy was about winning.”

James still raves about the Colts owner Jim Irsay calling him the best in the NFL.

Irsay proved it by awarding James a Super Bowl ring even though James left for Arizona the year before the Colts won it all.

James says he appraises the ring at $1 million. That’s what the gesture and the Colts organization means to him.

“I’m never surprised by anything that happens in that organization,” James said. “They’re all about doing the right thing, all about doing whatever it takes to win. The Colts have always been and always will be nothing but first class.”

James may have not cared who drafted back in 1999 but he’s forever thankful it turned out to be the Indianapolis Colts.

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Vince Wilfork on officiating: ‘I know what the rules are, but hey, it’s not up to me’

Whether it was Bill Belichick targeting referee Bruce Hermansen after the game, or Vince Wilfork blowing his top at the officials following the final field goal, or any number of Patriots or Ravens putting their palms in the air after a flag, there simply weren’t any happy people in regard to tonight’s officiating.

It wasn’t an issue of the players thinking the crew was out to get their team. Rather, they were just peeved that the calls completely lacked consistency.

“I know what the rules are, but hey, it’s not up to me,” Wilfork said. “I’m not throwing the flags. I’m the one playing.”

The Ravens were flagged 14 times for 135 yards, and the Pats were whistled 10 times for 83 yards, including three times during the Ravens’ final two touchdown drives.

“It’s very frustrating,” Wilfork said. “We’re an aggressive defense. It takes away from your aggressiveness at times, the things we’re trying to do, and it takes it away.”

This has turned into an NFL-wide issue, as players and coaches alike have had their problems with the replacement officials.

“This is not going to be the first game it’s happened,” wide receiver Deion Branch said. “I’ve been in games in the past. It happens on both sides of the ball. There were some calls with them that they didn’t like and some calls with us that we didn’t like. That’s why we’ve got to go out and do a better job of doing what we do best and taking it out of the refs’ hands.”

Belichick wouldn’t elaborate on his exchange with Hermansen.

“I’m not going to comment about that,” Belichick said. “You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in the game?”

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Edgerrin James Joins Ring of Honor: Five Best Players in the History of the Indianapolis Colts

The official website of the Indianapolis Colts reports Edgerrin James, running back from 1999-2005, will be inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor this Sunday, September 23, 2012. He is just the fifth player to be so honored in the 29-year history of the Indianapolis Colts since they moved from Baltimore in 1984. James was the fourth overall pick of the 1999 draft out of Miami, FL. He burst on the scene by winning rushing titles in his first two seasons, 1999 and 2000. Playing for the Colts from 1999-2005, he rushed for 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns and caught 356 receptions for 2,839 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Colts won four division titles and made one AFC Championship game during the James era. The only year the Colts had a losing record during the James era was 2001, when the team was 6-10 overall and 3-7 during James' absence with a knee injury.

Aside from James, who are the five best players in the history of the Indianapolis Colts? (Note: This article focuses on Indianapolis and does not refer to the storied history of the Baltimore Colts).

Peyton Manning must top the list of the best players for the Indianapolis Colts. Manning was the quarterback and No. 1 pick for the Colts and played every game for the Colts from 1998-2010 until neck problems forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. ESPN reviewed his career when the Colts released him in March, allowing him to sign with the Denver Broncos. The Colts went to the playoffs every year Manning was quarterback except his rookie year and in 2001. They won seven of the first eight AFC South titles from 2002-2009 and the AFC East title in 1999. The Colts went to the Super Bowl in 2006 and 2009, winning it in 2006. In the victory over the Chicago Bears, Manning won the Super Bowl MVP award. Manning broke every passing record for the Colts. Manning is a certainty to be the sixth player to join the Ring of Honor after he retires.

Marvin Harrison must be mentioned at the same time as Manning and James. Harrison completed the triplets for the Colts as wide receiver. He leads the Colts in all-time yards from scrimmage: 14,608 (James is second with 12,065). In almost a quarter of the games that Manning, Harrison and James played, Harrison and James both had 100-yard games. The Colts were 19-3 in those games. Pro-football-reference.com shows all of the career statistics of Harrison while playing for the Colts from 1996-2008. Harrison caught 128 career touchdowns. He led the league in receptions and reception yards twice.

Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of the Colts from 1994-1997, right before the Manning era. Harbaugh led the league in 1995 and 1997 with the lowest interception rate. The most successful year of the Colts during this time was 1995 when a dropped Hail Mary pass kept the Colts from going to the Super Bowl.
Bill Brooks was a wide receiver for the Colts from 1986 to 1992. Brooks also returned punts in his first two years. Brooks caught 411 passes for 5,818 yards during this tenure with the Colts before he shuffled off to Buffalo, then Washington.

Chris Hinton was a left guard and left tackle for the Baltimore Colts in 1983 as a rookie. He then moved to Indianapolis with the Colts in the middle of the night where he stayed until 1989. He started 92 games for the Colts and played in two others during those years.

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Danny Valencia Coming Along at the Plate After Rollercoaster Season

BOSTON –– Danny Valencia has endured a trying season. He rotated from the Twins, to Triple-A and back to the Twins before being traded to the Red Sox in August.

Even with a new organization, Valencia was forced to dabble in Pawtucket prior to receiving a call-up this week. The string of adversity made Saturday's game much sweeter. In his first major league start in over a month, Valencia blasted a two-run home run over the Green Monster, his first as a member of the Red Sox. "It was great," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He came back with a different swing. [PawSox manager] Arnie [Beyeler] and crew down there worked with him pretty rigorously. When he was here last time, remember, he hadn't played very much. He was in limbo or something for a while.

"His swing wasn’t what it should be, and it looked much different when he came back in batting practice and it looked much different in the game. He’s still getting into the routine of feeling good about himself." In 13 games with the PawSox, Valencia showed strides at the plate, hitting one home run with eight RBIs.

He also batted .306 as he keyed the team's run down the stretch to the Governor's Cup. "He had a unique situation," Valentine said. "Getting traded, that’s tough, and then not playing, then going to the minor leagues, then coming here and not playing, then going back to the minor leagues -- he’s been on a tough ride. More unique than usual." Making his second straight start at third on Sunday, Valencia is trying to highlight his value.

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Aubrey Huff speeds toward playoff roster spot, etc.

SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Crawford wore a puzzled expression as a reporter approached him Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t play today,” he said.

Well, sure he did. He pinch-ran for Aubrey Huff. There’s a special kind of pressure and preparation that comes with that, isn’t there?

“I only had a minute to prepare,” Crawford said. “But even if I didn’t have a minute, I’d still be faster. You can quote me. I’m sick, unprepared and with a semi-tight hamstring, and I’m still faster.”

When it comes to comedy gold, Huff’s balky running is 24-karat. He wears a T-shirt under his batting practice jersey that says, “FASTER THAN ____.”

He turned another double into a single Sunday, hitting a shot off the right field bricks in the ninth inning.

But no joke: There's little doubt Huff would be on the playoff roster if Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to pick his 25 guys today.

“Well, you have to like his at-bats,” Bochy said of Huff, who is 5 for 9 with two walks and just one strikeout as a pinch hitter since coming off the DL on Sept. 1. “He’s doing a great job with that. It’s so valuable for a club to have a good left-handed pinch hitter, especially against a closer with the game on the line.”

The Giants don’t have to make decisions until they know their opponent in an NL Division Series, and that will have some influence. The Cincinnati Reds have a left-handed closer in Aroldis Chapman, as well as a left-handed setup man in Sean Marshall.

Then there is the question of a pinch runner. Huff might require two roster spots, since his knee – which he injured June 13 when he tripped over the dugout rail in the immediate wake of Matt Cain’s perfect game -- continues to be an issue.

“There may be times I don’t pinch run for him,” Bochy said. “But we have a nice quality at-bat when he goes up there, and that’s something we’ll have to think hard about.”

The Giants know better than to give up on a gimpy veteran. If they ever happen to forget, Edgar Renteria can haul out his World Series MVP trophy as a reminder.

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Danny Valencia working to regain past form

BOSTON -- The Danny Valencia of 2012 hasn't looked much like the Danny Valencia of 2010, when he was an American League Rookie of the Year candidate.

But that doesn't mean the latter has been lost.

The Red Sox acquired Valencia from the Twins in early August, sensing the need for another third baseman with the departure of Kevin Youkilis.

But Valencia isn't proud of what he has shown in his brief stint with the club.

"Definitely not up to my standards," Valencia said.

But his two-run blast to give the Red Sox a temporary lead over the Orioles in an eventual 9-6 loss on Saturday, when he kept his weight back and smashed a curveball well over the Green Monster and into the adjacent parking lot, was a glimpse of how the 28-year-old used to play.

"It was great," manager Bobby Valentine said.

Valencia joined the Twins in 2010, and over 299 at-bats, he was everything they could have hoped, with a .311 average, a .799 OPS and a decent glove at third base.

Although his defensive ability drew questions early on, he's worked to a point where he's comfortable with his play at the hot corner.

It's his offense that's struggled.

He isn't making excuses, but with the year he's had -- bouncing between Minnesota and Triple-A Rochester, being traded to Boston, and again going back and forth between the Minors and Majors -- he collected more plane tickets than home runs.

"He had a unique situation," Valentine said. "Getting traded, that's tough, and then not playing, then going to the Minor Leagues, then coming here and not playing, then going back to the Minor Leagues -- he's been on a tough ride."

The hardest part has been trying to find consistency at the plate. In 130 at-bats in the Majors this season, Valencia has hit .188 and drawn just three walks while striking out 32 times.

"I'll tell you what, I was thinking about that earlier this year," he said. "And I've been a guy that's drawn some walks, but this year has been awful for me. I haven't drawn any walks at all and [I'm] striking out more than I should.

"I mean, on-base percentage is something that is important, something you should pride yourself on and something that's gotten away from me this year, and I have to get better at it."

After hitting just .250 in almost 300 plate appearances with Triple-A Rochester, he found a groove at Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .306 in 49 at-bats while helping the PawSox win the Governor's Cup.

And after working with Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, Valencia is starting to once again show the promise of the player who finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010.

"He came back with a different swing," Valentine said. "Arnie and the crew down there worked with him pretty rigorously.

"When he was here last time, remember, he hadn't played very much. He was in limbo or something for a while. His swing wasn't what it should be, and it looked much different when he came back in batting practice, and it looked much different in the game. And he's still getting into the routine of feeling good about himself."

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Ryan Braun might be left off MVP ballots

More than one national baseball columnist has speculated that voters for the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player award might hold something against the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun.

The reason? His positive drug test from last October. The one that Braun got overturned on appeal. The one that was supposed to be confidential shy of a guilty verdict by an arbitrator. The one that has nothing to do with the 2012 season, when Braun has passed every drug test administered.

A sticky wicket, wouldn't you say?

The logic - if you can call it that - behind that line of thinking is that Braun was exonerated with a chain-of-command defense, considered by many a technicality. The test itself reportedly was not challenged, only the manner in which it was collected and delivered. Braun's camp, of course, contended those issues invalidated the test itself because tampering could have occurred with his urine sample during the delay in shipping.

Braun proclaimed his innocence from the very start but never revealed what he often referred to as "the true story." Some even suggested his 2011 NL MVP award be taken away, though his positive test was in October - for an extremely high level of testosterone - after ballots were cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for the regular season.

Voters are going to do what they're going to do. But if any leave Braun off their 10-man ballot completely there will be some explaining to do because his offensive numbers absolutely make him a leading candidate to claim MVP honors again.

Beyond Braun's tremendous production, his candidacy is boosted by the Brewers' charge back into the playoff picture. In July, when the team was foundering and showing no reason to believe a charge was coming, Braun's numbers were not as compelling in an MVP sense.

Should the Brewers pull off their improbable push to the second wild-card berth, Braun's chances of winning will increase even more. But, just being in the chase makes him a bona fide MVP candidate.

Braun conceded after winning the award last year over Los Angeles' Matt Kemp that he was greatly aided by the Brewers winning the NL Central crown while the Dodgers went nowhere. How a team fares often plays a role in the voting when candidates are close because players are given credit for performing with more at stake.

Which brings us to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, who has been gaining steam in the MVP debate. The Giants are safely on top in the NL West and Posey has been a big reason for that status as a dynamic offensive player in an otherwise mundane lineup.

Posey is a shoo-in for NL comeback player of the year after suffering a devastating leg injury last year in a collision at the plate. That factor, along with playing the key role of No. 1 catcher, will boost his candidacy.

But how does Posey's offensive production compare with Braun's? He has a big lead in batting average - .335 to .315 entering Saturday - but Braun had better numbers in nearly every other category: 40 to 23 in home runs, 107 to 96 in RBI , 332 to 272 in total bases, 98 to 74 in runs scored, .599 to .545 in slugging percentage, .989 to .954 in OPS and 29 to one in stolen bases. Posey had a .409 on-base percentage to .390 for Braun.

On numbers alone, Braun has the edge over Posey. He leads the league in homers, RBI, slugging, total bases and OPS. Accordingly, if Posey gets much stronger support than Braun in the BBWAA balloting, something else likely is in play. That scenario would indicate some voters believe Braun escaped a 50-game suspension to start the season merely through good lawyering. And MLB did him no favors by firing arbitrator Shyam Das in outrage after the verdict.
Anyone who has watched Braun over his first six seasons in the majors realizes he doesn't need artificial help in pummeling pitchers. Aramis Ramirez, who bats behind Braun in the Brewers' lineup, recently gave his teammate a ringing endorsement.

"He's the best player I ever played with," Ramirez said. "It's not because of the homers. It's everything. He can steal a base whenever he needs to. He plays good defense.

"I don't know about being a better hitter (than in 2011) but he's having a better year. He has hit 40 home runs and over 100 RBI. He's going to score over 100 runs again. He can do everything."

While Braun's candidacy has been bolstered by the Brewers' run, Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has been harmed by the Pirates' folding act down the stretch. Had the Pirates marched into the playoffs as they once appeared destined to do, McCutchen likely would have been the MVP favorite.
McCutchen certainly has the credentials for strong consideration - a .338 batting average entering Saturday, 30 home runs, 92 RBI, 102 runs scored, .408 OBP, .567 slugging percentage, league-best 186 hits.

There has been some talk about St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina being in the discussion. He is having a fine season but nothing like Braun, Posey or McCutchen. It's a three-horse race, and Braun's numbers should have him in the lead by at least a nose.

Two baseball writers representing each NL city vote for the NL MVP. The  ballots are due before the postseason but the results are not announced until after the World Series.

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Yonder Alonso leads Padres past Giants 6-4

SAN FRANCISCO — Yonder Alonso's two-run single in the seventh inning snapped a tie and helped the San Diego Padres beat the San Francisco Giants 6-4 on Sunday.

Mark Kotsay hit a home run and Yasmani Grandal also drove in a run for the Padres, who had lost four of their previous five games. Everth Cabrera had four hits, walked and stole three bases in five plate appearances.

Xavier Nady, who had two hits, Eli Whiteside, Emmanuel Burriss and Buster Posey each drove in runs for the Giants, who rested their regulars a day after clinching the NL West Division title.

Eric Stults (7-3) worked six-plus innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, to win his sixth in seven decisions. He struck out four and walked one.

Yusmeiro Petit made his Giants' debut, allowing two runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out one.

Clay Hensley (4-4) took the loss after giving up Alonso's hit.

Huston Street pitched the ninth for his first save since Aug. 10, his 22nd of the season and 200th of his career. His scoreless streak ended at 21 2/3 innings.
It wasn't easy.

Pinch hitter Aubrey Huff singled to lead off the ninth. Street got pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval to fly out to right but then walked pinch hitter Hunter Pence and Hector Sanchez to load the bases. Posey grounded out, driving in his 98th run of the season before Ryan Theriot lined out to center field to end it.

Petit made his first major league since Sept. 6, 2009 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks as the Giants had their six-game win streak and seven-game home win streak stopped.

The Padres scored their first run in the second when Theriot threw the ball into left field trying to catch Alexi Amarista off second base following a sacrifice fly.
Nady doubled home a run and Whiteside hit a sacrifice fly to put the Giants up 2-1 in the fourth.

Grandal's single tied it in the fifth and Alonso's hit put San Diego ahead in the seventh.

Burriss hit an infield grounder to score a run in the seventh.

Kotsay hit his pinch hit home run in the eighth. Cabrera followed with a walk, stole second and third and jogged home when Hector Sanchez's throw went into left field.

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Ryan Braun playing through injuries

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke confirmed that Ryan Braun is playing through "a couple of groin issues."

"He's just OK," Roenicke said. "He's going out there because he knows we need it. It's easy during the season; you just give him a day off. It's a little difficult right now to say that." Braun, who's looking to repeat as the National League MVP, was spotted noticeably limping after Friday's game. With the Brewers back in playoff contention, however, he’s not likely to miss any time.

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