Allen Hurns looking like a 'diamond in the rough'

Lost in the shimmering glow radiating from Blake Bortles' preseason performance has been the play of another Jacksonville Jaguars rookie: Allen Hurns.

Twelve receivers were taken in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, including two in the second by the Jags themselves in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. The undrafted Hurns has outperformed them all.

In three preseason games, Hurns has 13 catches for 230 yards (leading all receivers) for a 17.7-yard average. Playing with the starting unit in last week's preseason game, Hurns looked fantastic, going for 113 yards on seven catches and a touchdown.

"He has good instincts and is really driven," Bradley said, per The Florida Times-Union. "We saw it in OTAs -- some of the quarterbacks said they really like him. They felt like this guy is a diamond in the rough. Just trust us on this. He has some talent. I think the cool thing for him was it was against the ones. He went out there and performed at that level."

While preseason stats and hype mean nothing once the real games start, Hurns has shown he should be on the field from the jump. Considering the Jaguars' injury concerns and the lack of a No. 1 playmaker, Hurns has displayed a rapport with his quarterbacks, an ability to run NFL routes and make catches in traffic.

In an offense full of youth, Hurns already looks like a keeper.

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Jonathan Vilma Rips Former Bucs O-Line

Former Saints Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma (2008-2013) looked into a national TV camera the other day and stomped on the reputations of Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah, Demar Dotson and other former Bucs offensive linemen.

Listening to Vilma, it’s a wonder Tampa Bay won any football games.

Speaking on  NBC Sports Network, Vilma was asked about facing the old Bucs offensive line versus the current bunch.

“You know, they were definitely at the bottom of the pack as far as O-lines that we faced. We looked at them, we said, ‘Athletically, they weren’t there. They’re communication wasn’t there. The leadership wasn’t there,’” Vilma said.

“We would do simple stunts, move a defensive linemen, cross games, they didn’t ‘have an answer to it. So finally you get a guy like [Logan] Mankins with the ability, with the knowledge, with the veteran leadership he should bring, and they should shore up some of those issues.”

Man, talk about kicking a unit in the balls. Vilma laid some low blows there.

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Allen Hurns impressing Gus Bradley with his maturity

Five receivers were selected in the first round of May's draft.

None are having as productive a preseason as Jaguars undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, a former Miami standout.

Actually, no receiver in the NFL can touch Hurns' preseason output. The 22-year-old Hurns has caught 13 passes for a league-best 230 yards and one touchdown through the first three preseason games. He's averaging 17.7 yards per catch. Hurns has 45 more receiving yards than any other player in the league.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has been impressed with Hurns' play, but also the manner in which he has handled his early success.

"Really good," Bradley said. "I just talked to him in the locker room [Sunday]. He just feels that there are so many other areas that he can get better at. I think for him he just wants to do everything right, not to let his teammates down. He goes out there at practice. He wants to be perfect. He doesn't want to be in the wrong place and almost a perfectionist in many ways."

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hurns shined in the third preseason game at Detroit on Friday, catching seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Most of his production came against Detroit's first-team defense.

"He has good instincts and is really driven," Bradley said. "We saw it in OTAs – some of the quarterbacks said they really like him. They felt like this guy is a diamond in the rough. Just trust us on this. He has some talent. I think the cool thing for him was it was against the ones. He went out there and performed at that level."

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Warren Sapp joins fantasy sports start-up Rivalry Games

Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp has invested in and accepted a position at a fantasy sports start-up located in Santa Monica.
A friend of a friend introduced the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle to Rivalry Games, said Justin Bauer, the chief executive of the start-up.

Sapp has promoted or offered social-media advice to other tech companies, including video app Viddy, image-sharing app Momentage and education nonprofit But the role of co-founder and vice president of business development at Rivalry will be his deepest involvement yet. His stake in the company is similar to that of co-founders Bauer and Nathan Leland.

“I knew the moment I met Justin that together we could bring Rivalry Games to the next level by developing cutting-edge fantasy sports products that make every game better,” Sapp said in a statement announcing his role Wednesday.

Rivalry’s app is aimed at fantasy sports players who care more for the thrill of the competition than betting big sums and amassing huge returns. It’s one of several companies offering “daily” action, meaning players draft new teams each day rather than just once at the beginning of the season as in traditional fantasy sports setups. Branded as games of skill, not chance, the daily betting hasn't faced legal scrutiny yet.

The expanding market emerged a few years ago as avid fantasy players such as Bauer grew frustrated that friends stopped paying attention late in the season because their teams were struggling. But the most well-known places for daily fantasy games, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, are too geared toward “hard-core gamblers,” Bauer said. Other competitors include DailyMVP and DraftDay.

In Rivalry's app, users can bet virtual currency or real money on games. Rivalry takes a cut of 8% to 12% of real-money games and could turn to advertising and sponsorships to make money from the free games. Opponents can be friends or strangers. The game, available only for iPhone or iPad, has been in testing mode, but it's hitting prime time with football season beginning. About 25,000 downloads have been logged so far.

“This is a big moment in our company because football is Christmas for the fantasy sports world," Bauer said.

The hope is that if the app catches on, Rivalry will be able to close its first round of fund raising by mid-2015.

Sapp first met with Rivalry at the beginning of the year -- about the time that the company moved to Santa Monica to join the MuckerLab accelerator program. Mucker Capital co-founder William Hsu said he and co-managing partner Erik Rannala had an eye out for mobile-centric companies.

“This is about entertainment, with money as the cherry on top,” Hsu said.

Sapp encouraged Rivalry to allow trash-talking between players. He’s also helping with outreach to media partners to help build awareness. Having built up more than 1 million followers on Twitter, Sapp is lending  insights on social-media tactics, too.

“He’s our chief evangelist,” Bauer said. “For Warren, what really matters to him is the game play being legitimately very little commitment and the social aspect.”

Sapp, who filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 after a real estate development deal turned sour, joins an exclusive list of celebrities -- NBA star Carmelo Anthony and actor Ashton Kutcher among them -- willing to take on the risky investment in start-ups. 

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Jon Beason resumes training after bout of food poisoning

Giants linebacker Jon Beason says his toe injury is recovering just fine. But he admitted Wednesday that his overall health took a hit last week.

During a Duracell event, the linebacker said he got only limited rehab done last week, due to a serious bout with food poisoning.

"I was sick last week," Beason told the News. "I got a little food poisoning. I was under the weather. I couldn't train. I was feverish."

Beason said he is feeling much better now, and he looked it during the Duracell event at MetLife Stadium, where he helped the company showcase the power of its batteries. An amazing 650 batteries help power every NFL game on Sundays and Beason noted that he has one in his helmet.

He expects to don that helmet soon, too, and said he will be coming off the physically-unable-to-perform list soon. He said it will take time for him to "transition" into "elite" shape but he is still on pace to play against the Lions in the season opener.

"I'm looking to come off PUP in the next couple days," he said. "I'm doing everything to make sure my conditioning is up to par.

"I feel good. I feel confident that I will be able to go out and contribute on Sept. 8."

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Rathman on Gore’s workload: ‘We need to manage him’

The 49ers have tried to manage running back Frank Gore’s workload in recent years to keep him fresh for the latter stages of the season.

And those attempts, the statistics suggest, have been largely unsuccessful.

Last year, for example, certainly wasn’t a smashing success. Gore, 31, had 146 carries in the first eight regular-season games, 130 in the final eight games, ranked eighth in the NFL in rushing attempts and didn’t finish with a flourish. He averaged 4.2 yards a carry in the first eight games, 3.9 in the final eight and that number dipped to 3.4 in the postseason, which ended with an 11-carry, 14-yard performance in the NFC Championship Game.

Since 2011, Gore has had 424 carries and averaged 4.8 yards a rush in the first half of the season. He’s had 392 carries and averaged 3.8 yards in the second half.

On Tuesday, 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman said the team has closely monitored Gore’s workload “in the last three or four years.” And they’ll try again in 2014.

“We need to manage him,” Rathman said. “We need to keep him (fresh) from Week 1 to the Super Bowl. So that’s going to be the biggest challenge. He’s ready to go and he’s right where he needs to be.”

Second-round pick Carlos Hyde could help the 49ers succeed where they’ve fallen short in the past. At 230 pounds, Hyde is significantly bigger than Kendall Hunter, Gore’s primary backup since 2011 who will miss 2014 with a torn Achilles.

That is, Hyde could be better equipped to handle assistant bell-cow duties, which could entail 10 to 15 carries a game. He’s had 88 yards and averaged 5.9 yards a carry in the preseason, which could earn him a 50-50 split if that carries over into real games.

In addition, LaMichael James, a rumor since he was drafted in 2012, could receive more action after he flashed vastly improved pass-blocking skills in his 2014 debut on Sunday against the Chargers.

Gore’s brilliant pass blocking and pass-catching ability explain why it’s been hard for the 49ers to take him off the field. However, the do-it-all Gore isn’t as useful if he’s worn down during the stretch run, as the numbers suggest he was at the end of 2013.


Gore’s numbers in the first half of the season, second half of the season and playoffs since 2011:

First eight games: 146 carries, 618 yards, 4.2 average
Final eight games: 130-510-3.9
Playoffs (3 games): 48-164-3.4

First eight games: 119-656-5.5
Final eight games: 139-558-4.0
Playoffs (3 games): 63-319-5.1

First eight games: 159-782-4.9
Final eight games: 123-429-3.5
Playoffs (2 games): 29-163-5.6

* The 49ers had first-round playoff byes in 2011 and ’12.

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Drafting Reggie Wayne could pay off late in the season

Time for another buy-low asset from the Indianapolis Colts. Ahmad Bradshaw was the first subject; now, Reggie Wayne.

Before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Wayne was on pace for about 87 catches and 1,150 yards last year. Though the five-touchdown projected result would've been another disappointing total, the first two categories are ripe for point-per-reception utility.

Consider history: From 2009-2012, Wayne averaged the seventh most points per game (15.7) among wide receivers in PPR formats. He basically was continuing that excellence before hitting the sidelines.

In preseason action Saturday, Wayne had two catches taken back because of penalties. That plus the fact he was on the field for the first time in 10 months say he could show his vintage form sometime in October.

Don't overpay for a football player that turns 36 in November and is coming off a knee procedure. Wayne's current ADP of 33rd among non-PPR wideouts and 34th among PPR is a tad rich.

However, depending on how far he falls, those placements aren't outlandish. He's a borderline WR3 best drafted as a fourth.

Hakeem Nicks could steal a lot of Wayne's thunder early on. But if Wayne regains his stride, Nicks would more firmly inhabit the role of wideout No. 3 and have to compete with the tight ends, who remain a big factor for Andrew Luck.

If someone else takes Wayne and he tanks in the first half of the season, calling his frustrated owner would be a good idea. As his leg strength comes back, he could rack up receptions once again for one more useful fantasy stretch.

What this means for daily fantasy

At a $5,200 FantasyScore cost (10.4% of cap), Wayne is priced to play. Unfortunately, his knee probably won't be up to par yet, so he won't capitalize on the attractive Denver Broncos matchup. You're better off picking someone who's 100 percent.

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Jonathan Vilma on Swearinger Hit: 'The Hit Was Perfectly Clean, Perfectly Legal'

Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger's concussion-inducing hit on Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has become a controversial topic.

Was Swearinger's hit illegal? Did Peyton Manning make a mistake by giving him an earful? How hard is it for a defensive player to adjust to the NFL's tackling rules?

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with Jonathan Vilma and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above. 

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Despite new deal, Sam Shields looks to stay grounded

Green Bay — The financials had finally been agreed upon. The ink on Sam Shields' new four-year, $39 million contract had barely dried.

And Shields made a beeline for his Realtor.

The house his parents — Sam Jr. and Michelle — lived in was certainly serviceable. It was the house where Shields was raised in Sarasota, Fla.

But as Shields put it: "The house was getting old."

So Shields bought his parents — who have been together since junior high school — something nicer. Same town, different digs.

"It's a nice two-story house, nothing fancy," Shields said. "That was my goal, especially for my Mom, to get her something new."

After that, Shields was done spending.

No indulgences for himself. No splurging on anyone else.

You see, Shields — the Packers' fastest player, but an undrafted free agent back in 2010 — reached this point through hard work and by bucking the odds. Now, even though Shields is one of the NFL's highest paid cornerbacks, he wants everything in his life to remain the same — or as close to it as possible.

"If you just go and do the same thing you've been doing, staying humble, staying the person like you've been and keep making plays, doing what you're supposed to do, things will work out," Shields said. "I don't want anything to change, really. I don't want it to be different, even though the money is different."

Tramon Williams can certainly relate.

Williams himself went undrafted in 2006, then traveled a long and bumpy path to NFL stardom. Williams was eventually given a four-year, $41.25 million contract extension that ends after this season.

Despite the big money, Williams did all he could to keep his life as similar as possible.

"From my standpoint, when I went through it all, I don't think anything really changed much, and that was a good thing," Williams said. "All of my friends, all of my relatives, everyone close to me, everyone's doing stuff for themselves so it was never to that point with me where I had to worry about outsiders.

"If you're asking me can he still live the same way he has? Yes he can."

That would bode well for the Packers, who have watched Shields go from a training camp long shot in 2010 to their fifth-highest-paid player today.

There are obviously more zeros on Shields' paycheck these days than there were four summers ago. But the 26-year-old Shields is doing all he can to stay as humble and grounded as the player who surprised many by simply making the roster back in 2010.

"Those were nervous times," Shields said. "I was really nervous, but I just kept faith. Just kept going, doing what I was supposed to do, making plays.

"That's the main thing coaches want to see is guys making plays, making things stand out. That was my whole focus that year, just making something stand out to the coaches. I did that in the preseason games that year and just kept the faith. They made a good decision and, hey, it worked out good."

It sure has.

Shields made six starts as Green Bay's nickelback his rookie year and played in 14 games altogether. Then in the NFC championship game, Shields had two interceptions, a sack and forced a fumble.

Shields took a step back in 2011, struggling with tackling and allowing 4½ touchdown passes. The former wide receiver at the University of Miami was clearly at a crossroads in his young career.

But Shields responded in a big way.

In 2012, Shields missed six games with an ankle injury, yet still finished second on the team with five interceptions. Shields' tackling improved dramatically, and he allowed just 2½ touchdown passes after giving up nine total during his first two seasons.

Then a year ago, the Packers felt comfortable enough with Shields to have him shadow standout wide receivers such as Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Shields also had a memorable interception in Dallas that might have saved Green Bay's season.

He finished the year with four interceptions, 16 passes defensed and 61 tackles. Shields still cheats too much, and gets caught peeking in the backfield. But his remarkable closing speed bails him out of trouble others could never escape.

"It's been a long road getting here, definitely tough," said Shields, who has three children back in Sarasota. "But I stuck through it, definitely fought and never gave up. There were some bumpy roads, but I got through those bumpy roads. Just never gave up and kept going."

Now, as Shields goes into his fifth season, he'll be counted on more than ever.

Today, Shields is the NFL's eighth-highest paid cornerback. And Green Bay needs him to play to that level.

The Packers ranked 24th in passing defense last year and 25th in total defense. Shields is one of the building blocks Green Bay is counting on to reverse those numbers.

"He's definitely a guy we're counting on for great things," Williams said. "He's still a young guy who's only going to get better. That's exciting for everyone."

Shields would prefer things don't change outside football. And perhaps they won't.

On the field, though, Shields knows he still has room to grow. And if positive changes keep coming, there's no telling what the future might bring.

"I think I've got a lot of great football in front of me," he said. "But I just need to be smart and do things the way I've always done them."

"Make sure I don't get in trouble in the off-season, just staying clean all the way around. If I keep doing that, keep making plays and helping this team win, everything will be fine."

Which would be music to the Packers' ears.

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Troy Vincent explains Redskins’ Brandon Meriweather’s suspension

In the course of strongly defending suspended teammate Brandon Meriweather this week, Washington safety Ryan Clark also took a jab at Troy Vincent, the longtime defensive back who’s now the NFL executive vice president of football operations.

“It’s tough,” Clark said, via “You get a guy who played ball, even though I think Troy Vincent played it softly, he didn’t play as aggressive and violent as Brandon. Maybe that’s part of it, not having that mind-set. It’s just sad.”

Is it smart to take a personal shot at the guy responsible for judging future Redskins hits? That’s for wiser minds to decide. Regardless, Vincent — who spent the last year of his career playing for Washington — went on NFL Network on Tuesday to explain his Meriweather decision. And he was asked if it’s hard for him, as a former defensive back, to come down on defensive backs.

“It’s not difficult for me,” Vincent said. “I believe that I have the [wherewithal], the professionalism and the athleticism at the time — a good understanding, a practical understanding of what it takes to play the position. And again, I’m going back to 2009 in Brandon’s situation — and just looking at the progression, what we’ve seen, there has been no altering in his play, his style of play.

“And frankly, some of the acts are impermissible: the helmet-to-helmet blows, hitting in that head, that shoulder and neck area, are impermissible,” Vincent said. “We want to remove that from the game, and we want to protect Brandon himself, and we want to protect his opponents from unnecessary risks.”

In explaining how the decision was made, Vincent said that officials viewed footage of Meriweather both from this month and from the past.

“Brandon has been someone that has been in this particular [situation] multiple times,” Vincent said. “We’ve just cited the four or five most recent. But in this particular case, Brandon hit a player in that area that we consider a very sensitive area, which is that head and neck area. So we went back from 2009 to current, and this is technique that we want to remove from the game.”

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Jonathan Vilma Would Welcome Richie Incognito in Locker Room 'With Open Arms'

Richie Incognito has been cleared by the NFL, per Marc Sessler of, and visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.

Would Incognito be welcomed back into an NFL locker room? 

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with free-agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above.

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Olivier Vernon living his dream with hometown

For a Dolphins team that desperately wants to connect with its community, Olivier Vernon is marketing gold.

He’s local. He has a great smile. And he’s really good.

While Pitbull has gone worldwide, Vernon is truly a man of the 305. Born in Miami. Prepped at American High. Played his college ball at the University of Miami.

Smartly, the Dolphins have made him a face of the franchise. They recently released a promotional video starring Vernon — both from today and from long ago.

In the ad, Vernon holds an aging snapshot taken of him in the grandstand of the team’s training facility in Davie; more than a decade before the Dolphins drafted him, he was a camper at their summer academy, learning the basics of the game.

Vernon had dreams of one day playing for his hometown team, but said, “I didn’t think it would be possible. What are the chances of being in Miami, playing for UM and staying in Miami and playing professional football? The odds are pretty slim of that.”

Probably at least as long as the odds of Vernon being the most productive member of the Dolphins’ loaded defensive line a year ago. After a mostly quiet rookie season, Vernon emerged with a team-best 11 1/2 sacks.

And despite questions about his size — he’s listed at 268 pounds — Vernon proved plenty capable of playing every down. And he nearly did. Vernon had more snaps in 2013 than any other defensive lineman on the roster — including Pro Bowler Cameron Wake.

“I think he kind of evolved to be honest with you, and I think probably what happened a little bit is his productivity kind of maybe took off a little bit as well,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We were comfortable with him being on the field in critical situations.

“Maybe one of the things initially as we went into it was, ‘Well, is he going to be able to hang in there against the run? Is he big enough against the tackle-tight end combination schemes?’ And all of that stuff. He kind of proved he could do that. Then he proved that he could get involved in the pass rush and have an impact there.”

The better Vernon played, the more responsibility the Dolphins gave him. He even proved he could drop into coverage — often the biggest challenge for pass rushers.

“It wasn’t like Week 1 we said, ‘Hey, he’s going to be our guy,’ but the more we watched, the more we liked,” Philbin said.

Same goes for the people of Miami. He’s gracious with an autograph, no matter what the jersey — Dolphins, Hurricanes or even American High Patriots.

But Vernon hasn’t let his recent fame swell his head.

When asked what he plans as an encore to his breakout season, Vernon said he just wants to play his role.

Mentioned as the possible heir to Wake, now 32: “I never heard that one. I’m not even thinking about [it],” he said.

And how about when the Dolphins traded up to draft Dion Jordan, who plays the same position, last year?

“It didn’t push me at all. It just added more talent to the D-line, more depth,” Vernon said. “Dion’s a hell of a player.”

It’s apparent that Vernon would rather show you what he can do than tell you. And both he and Philbin believe he can do more in 2014.

“There is always more you can add to your arsenal in terms of pass rush, and then there are still things in the run game, from a technique standpoint, a discipline standpoint, that he can improve upon,” Philbin said. “But the one thing that was clear when we watched the film was the pursuit and the effort that he plays with was really outstanding last year.”

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Michael Irvin on mistakes, redemption, new mission

The Playmaker, former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, admits he was a playing as much off the field as he was on the field.

"Football brings about a lot of noise in your life," he said. "You have the football; you have the finances; you have the females. Everything is running around you, and there is a lot of noise in your life, and it can fool you that that is living."

Irvin was living in the fast lane and making headlines with his wife and children at home.

But he said he had an epiphany on the day he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007. He walked off the stage, saw his sons, and decided it was time to change.

"I shared from my heart. I shared where I felt I had failed my sons as a father, and openly prayed for God to help me never fail them again," Irvin said.

He said the new road hasn't been an easy one; there have been missteps. But he said he turned to God, and his life began to change.

He became close to Bishop T.D. Jakes and started turning his life around.

"This has to be God, because that guy we knew named 'Michael', he could not make this change on his own," Irvin said.

Now he says he feels called to take his mistakes and turn them into something positive. He wants to minister to men about fatherhood.

"When you say, 'I have made mistakes,' some people might look at Michael Irvin and say, 'Why should we see him as role model? A man speaking on fatherhood and as a mentor?' I asked the same question. 'Why, God? Why do you have me doing this?' I was making bad decisions and I almost lost my family and God shared with me, 'I see you.'"

Irvin said he is redeemed, and wants to speak to the millions of children who have no fathers in their lives.

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He points to the NFL athletes who get into trouble. He said many never had a father around.

"It's not about making money, because these guys are making millions and millions of dollars living in mansions," Irvin said. "And they are still talking about the pain of their father not being there."

Irvin came from a family of 17 children. He was number 15.

He said his father was around, hard-working and caring, and on his death bed he was more concerned about how his children's feelings and how they were handling his illness.

"And I thought, 'Wow, here is a man that is in his worst state and overtaken with pain, and all he is thinking is about the well-being of his family.' Now that is man."

So Irvin is taking what he learned from his father and teaming up with former Oakland Raiders player and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown to minister to men. He said it is about strengthening men and empowering them to be better husbands and fathers.

"To be sure we don't lose hope, because when we lose hope, we make it hopeless for our kids," Irvin said.

Irvin and Brown will speak at the Potter's House of Dallas on Friday, August 29 at 7 p.m. for Friday Night Lights Men.

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James Jones reflects on leaving Heat, Ray Allen, Erik Spoelstra

MIAMI— A month after joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, forward James Jones said Wednesday it wasn't a matter of turning his back on his own hometown team or jumping from a sinking ship.

Jones instead told the Sun Sentinel that in the wake of James' free-agency move to the Cavaliers, and with the Heat talking of going with a younger roster, it simply was time to move on after six seasons in South Florida.

"We talked. There were discussions," he said of his end game with the Heat. "But at the end of the day, a lot is predicated on the direction of the team, personnel and style of play. With LeBron leaving, that was a big factor. There was interest on both sides, but at the end of the day, wanting to assess what was best going forward for me, it seemed like the better fit. It was really about fit."

Jones said he doesn't expect an "exhale" from the Heat in the wake of James' decision to play closer to his Akron, Ohio, roots. Instead, the former University of Miami star and South Florida native said he has been impressed with an overhaul that has included the additions of Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and other veteran free agents.

"They have D-Wade, they have U.D.," he said of Heat co-captains Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. "They have two champions. They have some great talent that they've added. They don't need to exhale. They're just going to continue to contend.

"That's what they've built. I think the game changes and you have to adjust, but when you have guys of that competitive nature, the guys that are there, exhaling is not what they want. What they want to do is they want to take a deep breath and go back at it."

Shortly after the season, Jones, Heat free-agent guard Ray Allen and their families went on a Caribbean vacation with James' family. But Jones said it was a phone call from Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin, who he knew from their time together with the Phoenix Suns, that initiated the discussions with Cleveland.

Jones said he has stayed in contact with Allen, who also has been linked to the Cavaliers.

"I don't recruit guys," Jones said. "That's one thing I refuse to do. It's a decision he has to live with, and I can't promise him a situation would turn out right or would be the best situation. I talk to Ray, but it's about family, about life, just to see how he is doing."

Should Allen join the Cavaliers, it could leave Jones in the same position as two years ago, caught behind both Allen and swingman Mike Miller, who joined the Cavaliers the same day as Jones. In addition, the Cavaliers in recent weeks have added Kevin Love and Shawn Marion, who also possess 3-point range.

"I never worried about my competition," Jones said. "If that was the case, I would have left Miami a long time ago."

Jones stressed, as James did in his departure letter, that the decision to move on had nothing to do with ill will with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

"I had an opportunity to grow a lot and learn a lot in Miami," he said. "It was tough not playing, but that's Coach's job. And, honestly, I respect the job he has to do. So it's never great for either side.

"No player ever gets exactly what they want and no coach gets exactly what he wants. But, at the end of the day, we won two out of four championships. It's always tough not to play, but I respect it and I can understand it. So me and Erik will always be good. I'll never let that professional difference damage a personal relationship, because it's not what it's about."

In recent years, Jones spoke of a goal of retiring in Miami with the Heat, having moved to Southwest Ranches. Instead, he will return to AmericanAirlines Arena on Christmas Day in visiting colors.

"It wasn't an easy decision," he said. "I mean, it was the toughest professional decision I've had to make. But sometimes you just have to move to grow. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone.

"And the opportunity with the style of play, and the opportunity and the chance to possibly play was a big factor in my decision. And I'll always be thankful for the opportunity to play in Miami and to compete on the highest level."

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Yonder Alonso needs surgery to “re-attach a ruptured tendon to the bone”

Rather than try the rest-and-rehab route after being shut down for the season with what was initially called a “strained forearm,” Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso has opted for surgery to “re-attach a ruptured tendon to the bone.”


Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that the recovery timetable is expected to be 5-7 weeks, so he’ll have plenty of time to be ready for spring training.

Alonso is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason coming off a career-worst season in which he hit just .240 with seven homers and a .682 OPS in 84 games. He’s yet to hit even 10 homers in a season, which obviously isn’t ideal at first base, but prior to this year Alonso was consistently an above-average hitter once you factor in the pitcher-friendly environment in San Diego. Presumably the Padres will stick with him for at least one more season.

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Lingering hand injury leading to plate adjustments for Ryan Braun

MILWAUKEE -- The lingering nerve issue in Ryan Braun's right hand and thumb has been well-documented.

Until a solution is found -- if one ever is found -- the Milwaukee Brewers right fielder is going to have to deal with the injury the best he can. It is obvious when the thumb is flaring up on Braun, as his swings become defensive and he lacks an ability to drive the baseball.

Braun is hitting just .239 with six homers and 22 RBI since the All-Star break, causing his batting average to slip to .279, 30 points below his career average of .309. The 30-year-old has finished a season hitting under .300 just twice -- hitting .285 in 2008 and .298 last season when he was suspended for the final 65 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's still there, but physically, I think he's OK," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Braun's thumb. "He just continues to swing at bad pitches. Some of it, he feels like he has to start a little earlier because of the hand and that causes you to chase."

The numbers back up Roenicke's assertion that Braun is swinging at more bad pitches than he ever has. According to, Braun has swung at 40.8 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, far above his career chase-rate average of 33.3 percent.

Braun is swinging more in general and has the highest swinging strike rate of his career at 10.9 percent. He's also making contact on 69 percent of the pitches outside of the strike zone he swings at, which could lead to the assumption that Braun is getting himself out quite a bit.

"It is a combination of a lot of things," Braun said of his chase rate. "But more than anything, when I swing at strikes I put myself in a better position to be successful."

Roenicke, while acknowledging Braun isn't the only player on the Brewers with the habit of swinging at bad pitches, used a specific example to show the impact chasing can have. With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning Saturday, Pirates right-hander Edinson Volquez jammed Braun on a pitch way off the plate inside. The result was a weak pop up, as Milwaukee ended up leaving the bases loaded.

With Braun often times taking an opposite-field approach at the plate this season, pitchers have routinely tried to get him out with pitches off the plate inside.
"They're pitching him in more, and he's chasing it more inside," Roenicke said.

Despite a dip in batting average, Braun has still found a way to drive in 74 runs thus far, which puts him in the top 10 in the National League in that category. But he's on pace to finish with 21 home runs and 91 RBI on the season, both numbers being career-lows outside of the year he was suspended.

There's no question the Brewers will need Braun to be an offensive force in the middle of their lineup in order to make the postseason and make a run in the playoffs if they qualify.

Since taking a day off in Chicago to rest his thumb after hitting .217 over his first 12 games in August, Braun has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, including three home runs.

"I feel OK," Braun said. "It has kind of been a grind physically, so I've tried to make adjustments. I'm trying to make sure I swing at good pitches to put myself in position to be successful. I feel alright."

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More NFL proCanes Cut

In addition to third-year NFL proCanes DL Marcus Forston and WR Tommy Streeter who were cut earlier this week by the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively, rookie DL Justin Renfrow has been cut by the Arizona Cardinals, third-year pro Adewale Ojomo was cut by the Dallas Cowboys and veteran LB Spencer Adkins was cut by the New York Giants.

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Giants cut Spencer Adkins

Naples High School graduate Spencer Adkins was waived by the New York Giants on Tuesday as the team cut down to 75 players.

Adkins had signed with the Giants in the offseason. He was cut during camp last year by the Baltimore Ravens.

The University of Miami graduate played in 24 games for the Atlanta Falcons from 2009-11, and the Falcons cut him at the end of training camp in 2012.

Adkins had seven tackles in the Giants’ two preseason games, and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown against Indianapolis.

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Allen Hurns shines with Jacksonville Jaguars

Of course Allen Hurns was mad.

Hurns thought he would be selected somewhere in the middle of May’s NFL Draft after finishing his senior season at the University of Miami with the school’s single-season receiving record (1,162 yards). But as he sat at home and watched the three-day event, he saw 33 other wide receivers get drafted instead of him.

He grew upset as the sixth round went on, but hoped nobody picked him in the seventh and final round. Going undrafted would mean he could choose which team he would play for, and that might mean reconnecting with former UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.

After the draft, Hurns received offers from other teams, including Dallas and Houston, but signed with the Jaguars. He knew the offense there, and he had noticed that their roster was lacking in established veterans at the position, increasing his chances of making the team.

Going undrafted motivated Hurns, and it allowed him to select the perfect place for him to channel his frustration.

And choosing Jacksonville turned out to be an even better decision than Hurns could know. Second-round pick Allen Robinson and Cecil Shorts III have been sidelined with leg injuries, while Ace Sanders has been absent from camp and is suspended for the first four games of the season. That has meant more opportunities for Hurns, and he has taken advantage.

Through the first three exhibition games, Hurns has 13 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s unfortunate the injuries we had at wide receiver, but because of that, it creates opportunity,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley told the media earlier in training camp. “Allen Hurns got reps with the ones, and you saw him go against our corners and he caught our eye, and now he’s really catching our eye.”

Hurns said other players have come to him during camp to ask about the playbook, and added that his experience with the scheme has helped him be more versatile.

“At any time, I could play all three [wide receiver] positions because I was in Coach Fisch’s offense,” he said. “I feel like coming in knowing the playbook takes a lot of pressure off.”

Hurns survived the first round of required cuts Tuesday, as Jacksonville released receivers Lamaar Thomas, Ramses Barden and Kenny Shaw to get down to 75 players as the NFL requires. All teams must announce their final 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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Torrey Smith didn’t think Brandon Meriweather should have been suspended

Brandon Meriweather’s teammates were displeased with Monday night’s news that the Redskins’ safety would be suspended for his hit on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith on Saturday. That’s not surprising.

More surprising, perhaps, was that Smith also said he wouldn’t have suspended Meriweather.

“No need I’m straight,” Smith wrote on Twitter in response to the news. “Buttt since it was illegal he can donate to my foundation haha.”

Later, Smith expanded on his thoughts, writing that he wouldn’t have suspended Meriweather if he were in charge.

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Titans place LB Colin McCarthy on IR

Nashville, TN ( - The Tennessee Titans placed linebacker Colin McCarthy on injured reserve among other roster moves on Tuesday.

McCarthy underwent shoulder surgery earlier this month and is expected to miss a significant amount of time.

The 26-year-old, who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Titans in 2011, has played in 36 games over the past three seasons, making 19 starts and compiling 161 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles with a touchdown.

The Titans signed quarterback Dominique Davis, who has seen action in one game over the past two seasons with Atlanta.

Tennessee also waived linebacker David Hinds and wide receiver Isaiah Williams and waived/injured offensive lineman Gabe Ikard.

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Santana Moss has more to achieve in 14th season

ASHBURN — This offseason would have marked a natural time for Santana Moss to retire.

During his 13 seasons in the NFL, he’s accumulated more than 10,000 receiving yards, been to a Pro Bowl and been a part of one of the most memorable games in Washington Redskins history.

When the Redskins changed coaches, and added receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, it seemed Moss might not have had a job, even if he wanted one.

But Moss, a first-round draft pick in 2001, reported for duty.

“I told myself I’m not going to count myself out,” he said. “I’m going to go as long as I can go. I didn’t have this dream as a kid to be in the NFL just to say one day I’m going to pack it up. I’m going to go until I can’t go no more.”

Moss wasn’t guaranteed a job by new coach Jay Gruden, but has won Gruden over with his work ethic and attention to detail.

“He’s fun to be around, he’s fun to watch, he knows every position and he’s making big plays out there,” Gruden said. “He looks like a young kid. He’s got energy, and he’s a great leader. If he drops a pass, he holds himself accountable. If the quarterback misses him, he’s like, ‘Let’s get on to the next one.’

“I like having guys like that — veteran guys who are great examples for rookies and also can help you win in big games. You know the game’s not too big for them, because they’ve been there and done that.”

Moss’ career started with the Jets, but he’s been with Washington since 2005. In his first season, he caught two touchdown passes in the final two minutes of a game to beat the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Since then he’s been a Redskins fixture, and one of the players most associated with the team.

He’s also a wealth of knowledge for younger players, and isn’t afraid to share — he tells rookie receivers he’s always available to chat.

“These guys that come in every year keep me young,” he said. “I see them and the things they do, and it’s getting me hungrier to go out there and work harder.”

Finding a way onto the field will be a challenge for Moss, given the other talent the Redskins have at the position.

“How much he is going to be used? I don’t know,” Gruden said. “Right now, I like what he’s doing. I don’t think he’s lost a step. I think he’s still quick. I think he still knows how to run all the routes, which is good because he’s run them all.

“[For all the receivers,] I don’t exactly know how we are going to use them, how much we are going to use them, when we are going to use them, but I like the fact that [Moss] is a Washington Redskin.”

Moss is enjoying it too. He said when he eventually does retire, he’d like to try his hand at coaching.

He’s getting practice at that. He’s worked with practice squad receiver Nick Williams over the past two years, and has worked with Jackson and Roberts on their route-running.

That coaching career is on hold, though, while Moss works to find himself on an NFL roster for the 14th time.

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ACCDN Brings Back Clinton Portis

Charlotte, N.C. - The ACC Digital Network (ACCDN) announced its fall programming, revealing the return of Football Analyst, Clinton Portis and their plans to spotlight ACC member schools through extended coverage this football season. The ACCDN, the official home of ACC Game Highlights and Must See Moments, takes another step towards providing ACC sports fans with even more fun and interactive video features to take their enjoyment of college sports to the next level this fall.  

The ACCDN fall lineup, highlighted by its expansive Saturday coverage of ACC Football on, will keep fans up to speed and entertained all week with Clinton Portis’s unique personality and Jeff Fischel’s inside access.  Fans will see the return of popular segments such as Ram Power Plays, CP’s Top 3, Are You Serious?, and the addition of a video feature to accompany the Weekly ACC Power Poll, Jeff Fischel’s Power Poll, beginning September 2.  The ACCDN also brings back its in-depth look into the elite soccer conference every Wednesday with ACC Soccer Weekly.  In addition to these weekly features, fans can count on ACC Now, the ACCDN’s daily trending show, to deliver up-to-date conference and sports news.   

"The ACC Digital Network continues its commitment to keeping fans informed, engaged and entertained," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. "This fall is no exception as the ACCDN will once again deliver first-class programming that highlights all 15 ACC member schools."

“Fans know they can count on the ACCDN to bring them video highlights, Must See Moments and unprecedented access all season long,” said Executive Producer Andy Siegel.   “We also know our fans crave the unique features we do about their favorite team, so I think ACC football fans are going to absolutely love what we're offering this fall.”

On a weekly basis, the ACCDN will select specific ACC member institutions and provide additional feature content such as unique storylines, one-on-one interviews and classic games that will appeal to sports fans across the country.   The first school under the spotlight is Clemson University.  With a huge rematch against Georgia coming up on Saturday, the ACCDN is getting fans hyped up with its feature Hype Video, and One-on-One Interviews with Dabo Swinney and Cole Stoudt.    On Thursday, Clemson fans can relive the 1987 Clemson vs. Georgia game with a condensed throwback version.

Fans are encouraged to follow the ACC Digital Network’s unique video, photo gallery, and commentary on twitter and instagram at @theACCDN as well as with the broadcast team @JeffFischel and @TheRealC_Portis.

All ACCDN video on demand segments are viewable at, through the Official ACC App for mobile phones and tablets, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, as well as affiliate partner websites, and connected mobile and TV devices.

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Antrel Rolle upset with release of Charles James II

Antrel Rolle does not make front-office decisions for the Giants, but that doesn't mean he won't disagree with one every now and then. Tuesday was one of those times.

The veteran safety took to social media to voice his displeasure with the team waiving second-year cornerback Charles James II. James was one of 12 players waived or waived / injured Tuesday to trim the roster to 75 players and he was the only one who was a member of the Giants in 2013.

"In this league, you witness many things," Rolle wrote on Instagram. "Something you agree with and some you don't but no matter what, you have to keep fighting and keep driving to be the player you can be and the best teammate you can be. BUT THIS ONE HURTS! Charles James has the heart of a lion and is exactly what any organization should have on their team. Eight interceptions in OTA and training camp I think speaks for itself. The best training camp amongst cornerbacks in my eyes but today he was released."

Rolle went on to post more thoughts, mostly inspirational for James.

James was a feisty player who was often at the center of the team's pregame huddles and broke down the defensive backs after practices. He was an energizing player on the field who always seemed to be around the ball, but though he made the plays more exciting, he rarely just made the plays. He gave up several catches against the Jets on Friday.

"Charles obviously was a guy that did a good job this fall in the gunner position," Tom Coughlin said of the player's special teams contributions, "but needed some improvement in some other areas that we thought were going to be a little more productive."

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Chase Ford Skittish About His Chances Making Roster

Anxiety was thick Monday morning in the Vikings locker room, even among the survivors of the preseason's first roster cuts.

Tight end Chase Ford was activated from the physically unable to perform list and cleared to resume practicing after being sidelined with a broken left foot. Even he was skittish to talk about the good news.

"It feels good to be back. That's about all I can say," Ford said sheepishly.

Strong safety Jamarca Sanford is battling to retain his starting job, and incessant injuries that have marginalized the six-year veteran at the worst possible time.

Groin and back injuries limited him early in training camp, and Sanford missed his second preseason game Saturday at Kansas City, this time because of a quadriceps issue.

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Steelers' Sean Spence downplays knee injury

PITTSBURGH -- Sean Spence said the injury he sustained in the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles is only a minor setback and that he hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Spence sprained the post collateral ligament (PCL) in his right knee last Thursday night and the injury will prevent the third-year man from playing in the Steelers' final preseason game.

But Spence said he will sit out the Steelers' game Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers only as a precaution.

"It's not a very serious injury. I should be good," Spence said. "I'm going to sit out this week and try to give it a go next week."

When coach Mike Tomlin announced last Thursday that Spence had been hurt in the Eagles game it resonated with fans because of what the 2012 third-round pick has overcome just to get back on the field.

Spence shredded his left knee two years ago in the Steelers' final preseason game, tearing all of the major ligaments and dislocating his kneecap. Spence also sustained nerve damage and the injury almost ended his career.

Spence has made it all the way back from that devastating setback, and he is a lock to make the 53-man roster.

The 5-11, 231-pounder said the severity of the injury he suffered two years ago let him know that he didn't experience anything close to that last week in Philadelphia.

Spence actually returned to the game briefly after hurting his knee.

"I went out there and did another play and it just didn't feel right," Spence said. "It's smart that I did stop because I didn't want to make it worse than what it was."

Neither Spence nor starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds practiced on Monday, Tomlin said.

Worilds also hurt his knee against the Eagles but Tomlin said it is not a serious injury.

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Brandon Meriweather suspended two games for helmet hit

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will miss the first two games of the regular season after being suspended by the NFL on Monday for a helmet-to-helmet hit he made against the Ravens on Saturday.

According to the league, Meriweather's hit on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was his 'sixth violation of unnecessary roughness rules relating to hits to defenseless players and impermissible use of the helmet.'

The two-game ban marks the second straight season that Meriweather has been suspended for a hit. The Redskins safety was also suspended one game in 2013. Last season's suspension was originally a two-game ban, but Meriweather got it reduced to one game.

As for this season, should Meriweather have been suspended? You can judge for yourself below (via @CJZero).

Forget about the suspension for a second though because after the game, Meriweather said he didn't even think he should have been flagged. The Redskins safety was asked directly if he thought he should have been penalized.

"No, I don't," Meriweather said. "But at the same time, I'm not the one who wrote the book on penalties. I tried to aim at his numbers. I kind of seen the pass go, and I went in and aimed low, and I hit him with my shoulder. I did everything my coaches taught me to do, and I got the flag."


Redskins teammate DeAngelo Hall doesn't think Meriweather did enough to warrant a suspension.

Fair is Fair. I can't speak on @BMeriweather31 past hits but from what I saw that hit was not malicious. @nfl please review your decision
— DeAngelo Hall (@DeAngeloHall23) August 25, 2014

As things stand, Meriweather is eligible to play in Washington's final preseason game, he's also allowed to practice with the team from now until the preseason's over. The 30-year-old's suspension will begin on Sept. 1 and Meriweather will be eligible to return to the Redskins' active roster on Sept. 15.

Under terms of the CBA, Meriweather has three days to appeal the suspension.

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Check out Jimmy Graham pitching Degree deodorant ad

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is now a pitchman for Degree men's deodorant.

Graham tweeted out a link to a 30-second commercial that was posted to Youtube on Monday. Graham is also featured prominently in visual advertising on Degree Men social media profiles.

In the ad, Graham says, "Everything can be improved. Every block can be stronger, every catch harder to defend. We all do things we love, and when we improve the way we do them, it feels amazing."

Degree, in case you missed the connection, is improving its deodorant. The narrator takes a swipe at Old Spice just as Graham is dabbing his underarms with Degree.

Graham is part of the brand's "DO:MORE" campaign, and he was featured for his "relentless drive to always improve and do more."

Graham signed a four-year contract with the Saints last month that included a $12.5 million signing bonus. His hobby of flying was featured on the cover of Men's Journal.

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Greg Olsen taking time to tend to son

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is taking some time off from practice to deal with a personal matter.

Olsen's son, T.J., was scheduled to undergo open heart surgery on Monday for the third time after being born in 2012 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Olsen was scheduled to be away from the team "until things kind of settle down'' to be with his family.

Here's what he wrote on Twitter:

The team showed its support of Olsen, huddling to pray for his son and family after Sunday's practice. "Any time you're dealing with open heart surgery on a child, it's pretty delicate and scary in itself," Olsen told reporters. "We're unfortunately getting used to this. It's the hand he was dealt, it's the hand we were dealt, and we'll take it on like we have the last two and just hope for as fast a recovery as he can.''

As for the Carolina offense, Olsen believes it will recover from Friday night's 30-7 exhibition loss in which quarterback Cam Newton suffered a hairline fracture to a rib in the second quarter. Newton will miss Thursday night's exhibition finale against Pittsburgh and his status for the Sept. 7 opener at Tampa Bay remains unclear.

Olsen isn't worried his time away will be an issue. He said many of the problems that limited Carolina to 94 yards and no points in the first half when the starters -- minus a few injured players -- played the entire way were addressed on Sunday.

"The world's not coming to an end,'' said Olsen, who led Carolina in receptions last season with 73. "That's the biggest thing, we need to understand that game doesn't matter. It's going to have zero impact on the Tampa game. That's where all of our efforts are towards.''

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Frank Gore makes #NFLRank at No. 42

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- This season could well be Frank Gore's swan song with the San Francisco 49ers.

Gore has had what some view as a Hall of Fame career; but the reasons he may be near the end in San Francisco are threefold. He turned 31 in May, he is entering the final year of his contract, and Gore's heir apparent, second-round pick Carlos Hyde, has looked fantastic in training camp and in the preseason.

If this is it for Gore, who is 33 yards from breaking the 10,000-yard career rushing mark, he has not gotten the memo. Gore is not about to concede playing time in San Francisco.

As he reported for his 10th NFL training camp, Gore was asked whether he was concerned about the presence of Hyde and Marcus Lattimore, a fourth-round pick last year. Gore just laughed and reminded anyone within earshot that he is a product of the University of Miami. Competition doesn’t scare him.

ESPN’s panelists who selected the NFL’s top 100 offensive players agree with Gore. He is ranked No. 42 on the list. That’s high praise for an over-30 running back. The respect and expectations for Gore are not without merit. He hasn't showed signs of slowing down and continues to be a major cog in the 49ers’ run-heavy offense. He had 1,128 yards on 276 carries (the third-highest total in his career) last season.

Even with the youngsters in camp, Gore has made his presence known. Fullback Bruce Miller said Gore looked like he was in midseason form the first week of camp. Fellow 30-something receiver Anquan Boldin said it is obvious Gore is fueled by talk of his pending demise and looks determined to star again.

The 49ers' coaches sense it, too.

“Frank loves the game of football, and he loves being a part of a team, loves overcoming,” San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It’s just been the story of his career, so why would it be any different now?"

Added 49ers general manager Trent Baalke: “Father Time is having a hard time catching up to him.”

The real question about Gore: Will he be ranked higher than No. 42 on next year’s ESPN list?

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Santana Moss' Continued Adaption Results In Touchdown

Fourteen-year veteran Santana Moss approaches each game with the same mentality, regardless of what is role is going to be on that particular day.

“I’m one of those guys, that when opportunity knocks, I just try to be there,” Moss told Larry Michael, Voice of the Washington Redskins, after the Redskins’ Week 3 preseason game vs. the Baltimore Ravens. “My role is changing year after year, and (I) just try to make sure that I’m in it and know that, when I’m out there, I have to be accounted on.

“I always tell myself, regardless of my role, I think like a No. 1 (wide receiver.)”

Moss gave the Redskins their first touchdown of the night midway through the third quarter, nabbing a Kirk Cousins pass for an 11-yard touchdown.
Lining up in the slot, Moss took a sharp cut on an in route, creating separation from his man, and scampered past three Raven defensive backs into the end zone for the score.

In total, the two-time Pro Bowler logged three receptions for 27 yards.

While all three catches came in the second half, Moss doesn’t concern himself with the amount of playing time he’s getting -- or when he’s getting it.
“I think like a guy that’s been out there the whole game,” he explained. “Because it’s easy to get cold and not be ready, so I always try to be ready.”

His experience rubs off on some of his younger teammates, as Cousins remarked that having Moss play with the second-team “gives him a lot of confidence.”
“It’s fun when you go in with the twos and you have a guy who’s played 14 years in there with you,” Cousins said after the game. “It gives you a lot of confidence as a quarterback, and he showed again tonight why he’s on our team and why he’s Santana Moss.”

Moss, along with five-year veteran Andre Roberts, is listed as a second-team wide receiver behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson on the unofficial depth chart.

But his value goes far beyond where he’s placed on that list.

“He is a very valuable asset to this football team not only from an experience standpoint (but) from a leadership standpoint in that receiver room when you have young guys looking up to some veteran leadership-type guys,” first-year head coach Jay Gruden said during training camp. “Santana is a perfect guy to look at. ... Right now, I like what he’s doing. I don’t think he’s lost a step. I think he’s still quick. I think he still knows how to run all the routes, which is good because he’s run them all.

"I like the fact that he’s a Washington Redskin.”

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Yasmani Grandal homers, drives in four to top D'backs

Yasmani Grandal homered and had four RBI, and the Padres beat the Diamondbacks 7-4 on Sunday.

Grandal drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning before swatting a three-run homer in the fifth. The home run was his 11th of the season. Despite the occasional power, it's been a forgettable year for the 25-year-old, who is hitting .204/.302/.376.

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Jon Jay delivers late as Cardinals rally past Pirates 3-2

PITTSBURGH — Jon Jay already had a bat in hand before St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny even called his name.

A minute later the veteran outfielder was standing on second base after his pinch hit tied the game. Jay didn't stay there long, racing home with the go-ahead run on Matt Holliday's sharp single in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

"He just sensed," Matheny said of Jay's precocious grab of the bat. "We hadn't had any interaction at that point. He's smart, he knows the game."

And the Cardinals know a thing or two about coming through late. St. Louis scored all three runs off reliever Jared Hughes (6-4) with two outs in the seventh inning to back John Lackey and send the scuffling Pirates to their seventh loss in 10 games.

Lackey (2-1) worked out of trouble early to last seven innings in his second victory for the Cardinals after arriving in a trade from Boston on July 31. He was 11-7 with the Red Sox.

Trevor Rosenthal gave up a leadoff home run in the ninth to Andrew McCutchen but held on to earn his 39th save.

"I think guys know when we have a pitcher like Lackey on the mound, he's going to keep us in the game," Matheny said. "We've just got to keep fighting and figure out a way to get something going."

Pedro Alvarez hit his 18th homer in the second off Lackey, but the Pirates managed little after that to fall further behind St. Louis and first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central race.

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano overwhelmed St. Louis for six-plus innings before leaving after Kolten Wong's infield single led off the seventh. Hughes came on and promptly picked off Wong.

Things didn't work out so well for the normally dependable right-hander, however, when he went to the plate.

Tony Cruz started the game-changing rally by turning an 0-2 count into a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sharply hit single by Jay. Holliday then gave St. Louis the lead with a grounder past shortstop Jordy Mercer. St. Louis has 209 RBIs this season with two outs, tops in the National League.

"It was just a night where (Hughes) couldn't get the ball where he wanted to go," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The cushion was more than enough for Lackey, who had little trouble after navigating a choppy second inning. Alvarez hit a long home run to center with one out, and infield hits by Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer followed. The runners moved up on a sacrifice by Liriano, but Josh Harrison's sharply hit fly to left went right to Holliday.

Lackey settled down following the reprieve, not allowing a runner past first base over his final five innings. He walked one and struck out three to improve to 3-0 against National League teams this season.

"I think Tony and I made some good adjustments after the first time through the lineup," Lackey said. "The last three innings were as good as I felt."

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Watch Allen Hurns on the Sunday Sports Zone

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Tommy Streeter among Bucs' cuts

TAMPA, Fla. -- Wide receiver Tommy Streeter, one of the stars of training camp for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn’t make it past the first round of roster cuts.

Streeter was one of 12 players released Sunday as the Bucs started trimming their roster. They now are down to 78 players. Rosters have to be down to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon and to 53 players by Saturday.

Streeter had looked good early in camp and caught a touchdown pass in the preseason opener. The coaching staff had been very complimentary of Streeter. But he seemed to disappear recently and likely was hurt by the fact he wasn’t viewed as someone who could be a regular on special teams.

“It’s always tough when you’ve been with a group of men throughout the offseason and training camp,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. "But eventually the roster has to get down to 53 with 10 practice squad guys. That’s just part of the business.’’

In another minor surprise, the Bucs released veteran long-snapper Jeremy Cain. That means Andrew DePaola will be the long-snapper.

Also waived by the Bucs on Sunday were defensive tackle Euclid Cummings, guard Jace Daniels, wide receiver Skye Dawson, offensive lineman Jason Foster, defensive end Ryne Giddins, guard R.J. Mattes, receiver Eric Page, defensive end Chaz Sutton, quarterback Alex Tanney and fullback Ian Thompson.

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Bills coach praises rookie Seantrel Henderson

Bills coach Doug Marrone raved about the play of rookie Seantrel Henderson and confirmed he expects Henderson to be the Week 1 starter at right tackle.
"We have an opportunity now that if (Henderson) keeps coming along to maybe have the best tandem in the league," Marrone said. "He’s been everything that people obviously didn't say about him when he was coming out which is why we were able to get him in the seventh round." Cordy Glenn (illness) returned to full team drills last week and will play in Saturday's preseason game, so the Bills are moving Henderson to right tackle. Erik Pears is starting at right guard. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio was drafted to be Buffalo's right tackle of the future, but still needs time to develop.

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Sean Spence expected to be fine

Steelers ILB Sean Spence is expected to be "okay" after being diagnosed with a sprained PCL.

Spence has a history of bad knee injuries, but escaped a multi-week ordeal after exiting Thursday night's preseason game. A third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Spence projects as Pittsburgh's No. 3 inside linebacker this season.

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WATCH: LaRon Byrd Makes Spectacular Touchdown Catch

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Santana Moss scores impressive touchdown from Kirk Cousins pass

Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss is 35 years old and has played in the NFL for 14 years. But the guy can still play and he proved that once again with a nice catch-and-run score in Washington’s third preseason game versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Watch the video of Moss’ touchdown (coming via a Kirk Cousins pass) with 3:23 left in the third quarter below:

The catch was one of three for Moss on the evening. He has 27 yards total, 11 of which came from his touchdown. The score cut the deficit to 13-10, though Baltimore would add another touchdown soon after to push it back to 20-10 in favor of the Ravens.

Moss caught 42 passes for 452 yards and touchdowns last season during Washington’s 3-13 campaign.

Cousins has also put forth a nice effort for the Redskins versus the Ravens. He has 76 yards and the touchdown on 8-11 passing, good for a 121.8 passer rating. Unfortunately for Washington, their starting quarterback didn’t fare as well. Robert Griffin III threw for just 20 yards on 5-8 passing.

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Another suspension could be coming for Meriweather

Washington coach Jay Gruden has said he’ll yank safety Brandon Meriweather from practice if he hits teammates too high.  When it comes to opponents, the league office will now decide whether Meriweather will be removed from play.

After Saturday night’s penalty for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, some league insiders believe Meriweather will face another suspension.  One league source predicted that Meriweather will get a multi-game ban.

“I tried to aim at his numbers,” Meriweather said after the game, via John Keim of  “I kind of seen the pass go, and I went in and aimed low, and I hit him with my shoulder. I did everything my coaches taught me to do, and I got the flag.”

Whether he gets a fine or worse will be determined by the league office, subject to appeal.  Given the NFL’s system of progressive discipline, Meriweather’s one-game suspension in 2013 makes him susceptible to a multi-game suspension in 2014.

“I don’t know,” Meriweather said regarding whether further discipline is coming.  “That’s not for me to judge. That’s for the NFL. . . .  I’m trying to do what the NFL asked me after going through the offseason, and working on the things I need to work on, and the first chance I get, it seems like I failed.”

Last year, Ted Cottrell reduced Meriweather’s two-game suspension to one game via the appeal process.  Meriweather could soon by relying once again on Cottrell or Derrick Brooks imposing something less than what the league office initially does.

Meriweather has an extensive history of illegal hits against receivers, including a helmet-to-helmet hit on former Ravens tight end Todd Heap on October 17, 2010, a day that included a trio of helmet-to-helmet hits throughout the league in real time, prompting the NFL to enforce the rules regarding hits against defenseless pass-catchers more aggressively.

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Jimmy Graham fined $30,000 for crossbar dunks

The so-called "Jimmy Graham Rule" already has taken money out of the pocket of one player: Jimmy Graham.

The NFL has fined Graham, the New Orleans Saints all-pro tight end, $30,000 for twice dunking the ball over the crossbar after touchdowns in last week's exhibition against the Tennessee Titans.

The dunk has been Graham signature touchdown move, but the NFL outlawed it in the offseason, citing the possibility of further delays after Graham knocked the goalposts and crossbar out of alignment by hanging on it after one of his dunks last season in Atlanta. That game was delayed for nearly a half hour.

Graham also was assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after each infraction last week. Saints coach Sean Payton wasn't happy, and Graham acknowledged this week he has to stop.

The fine won't make much of a dent for Graham, who got a $12 million signing bonus on the four-year, $40 million contract he signed in July.

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Jon Beason turns up heat on rehab

The dichotomy between Jon Beason's rehab slate and Odell Beckham's was something to behold on Sunday afternoon. The two were working on the same side field but couldn't have looked more different after their workouts.

Jon Beason was going full speed. He was tracking down balls, doing some intricate agility workouts and breaking out into sprints.

Beckham, on the other hand, jogged around the field at 1/4 speed, caught some jogging routes and did some upper body work with a thick set of ropes near the indoor facility.

Needless to say, there seemed to be more optimism about Beason suiting up in the next two weeks than Beckham. Tom Coughlin sounded like a coach at the end of his rope when asked about Beckham possibly being saved up for the regular season at this point.

"I would like the next time someone asks me that to have him out there practicing so I don't have to answer," he said. "You know as much as I do! You're out here watching him every day too! That's all I can tell you. I would like to see the young man practice before he got into the regular season. That would certainly be a good thing."

On Beason, Coughlin says he hasn't gotten any recent updates.

"I don't ask (the medical staff) every day," Coughlin said. "They don't tell me every day. He works on the side and occasionally I'll be close enough to ask him how he's doing or in a meeting I'll say something to him, but his responses are all positive. I feel good. I'm going to do this and this today. Only one time did he say he was a little sore. Everything else has been stuff you would find encouraging."

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Lamar Miller starts, rotates with Knowshon Moreno

Lamar Miller started the Dolphins' third preseason game, rushing for 34 yards on seven carries and catching two passes for three yards.
Despite the start, Miller rotated fairly evenly with Knowshon Moreno throughout the first half. Moreno ran well on Saturday night, but Miller put in a good showing as well. Miller may lose some work to Moreno, but he will remain an important part of the Dolphins' offense. Miller has 76 total yards on 20 preseason touches.

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Greg Olsen quiet against the Patriots

Greg Olsen caught 2-of-4 targets for 21 yards in the Panthers' third preseason game Friday night.

It could have been a much bigger night. Olsen was wide open with room to run down the seam early in the first quarter, but the pass from Cam Newton was behind him. Olsen has four catches for 43 yards this preseason. He is currently being drafted in the 8th round.

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Bill Belichick pleased with Vince Wilfork recovery

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has revealed that he is pleased with the recovery of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

The 32-year-old sustained an Achilles injury last season which ruled him out for the majority of the 2013 campaign.

Wilfork has looked sharp on his return to the Patriots in their pre-season matches as he looks to find the form that saw him named as an All-Pro in the 2012 season.

Belichick told reporters: "Vince has done everything pretty much since the last week or so of OTAs. He's done everything with the team, no real restrictions. He hasn't really missed any time or anything.

"He's been out there and worked hard. He's getting himself ready for the season as he should be. He's done a solid job of getting himself back and getting ready to play football this year.

"We'll see how it goes going forward. I have no issues with him, I think he's worked very hard coming back from the injury he had last year and be ready to go this season."

The Patriots reportedly cut three defensive players as part of their roster cutdown on Sunday.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick looks for Andre Johnson early, often

DENVER – For years, Matt Schaub’s go-to receiver and in-game security blanket was wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Ryan Fitzpatrick kept the Johnson connection in vogue Saturday, during the Texans’ preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.

With Johnson making his first start of the exhibition season and Fitzpatrick seeking his second consecutive strong outing, the Texans’ starting quarterback targeted No. 80 three times on the team’s opening offensive drive, connecting twice for 15 yards.

On the Texans’ second drive, Fitzpatrick threw high to Johnson on second down for an incompletion. Four of Fitzpatrick’s initial eight passes were intended for Johnson.

The veteran receiver missed the initial portion of training camp due to a hamstring strain. He had a strong week of practice against Denver, though, and was announced as being active about 90 minutes before kickoff.

Johnson returned for the Texans’ first scoring drive, pairing with receiver DeAndre Hopkins along the left side as the Texans took a 7-3 lead with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the second quarter.

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Reggie Wayne Returns To Game Action

INDIANAPOLIS – The anticipation began building about 90 minutes before kickoff when Reggie Wayne’s name did not appear on the Colts “Will Not Play” list.

Through pre-game warmups and player introductions, the building grew as the thousands began to pour into Lucas Oil Stadium.

And finally the crescendo came when No. 87 ran out with the first team offense to mark his return to the playing field, 10 months removed from tearing the ACL in his right knee.

“It was good to see some real live bullets flying,” Wayne said after the game, with the normal media hoard back around 87’s locker.

"This is what all that hard rehab work was about, to get back out there with my teammates."

Wayne’s return lasted seven snaps on Saturday night as the 35-year old receiver got word from Chuck Pagano on Friday that his debut would come against the Saints.

A pair of catches by Wayne were nullified due to penalties, but he certainly didn’t show any limitations in his 2014 game action debut.

Andrew Luck knew during offseason work that whenever Wayne got back on the field, No. 12 would be looking his way on that initial snap.

“I had a really good idea on Thursday night there was a chance of that,” Luck said of his first toss going to Wayne on Saturday night.

“He always has that great look in his eye when he’s on the football field. It’s very, reassuring might not be the right word, but it’s great to play with.”

The small sample size for Wayne on Saturday night provided a brief glimpse of what the Colts offense hopes to look like come September 7.

A play like Coby Fleener’s touchdown, with the tight end running free down the middle of the field, shows the type of attention defenses will have to pay towards Wayne and the other Colts receivers.

The impact of Wayne’s return was felt during pre-game, too.

The 65,565 fans inside of Lucas Oil Stadium weren’t the only ones rejoicing at the return of Wayne.

When Wayne was introduced last on Saturday, the defensive starters were waiting at midfield for their leader.

“It was good to see the old man back,” Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said after the game.

“I had chills before waiting for them to call his name. To see him back, we ride off his energy and you know his energy is never down.”

In typical Wayne fashion, the Colts 14-year receiver ran towards the north end zone after being the final starter announced on Saturday.

Wayne thanked the fans at each corner of the end zone while they rang down with chants of “REG-GIE, REG-GIE.”

What has continued to drive Wayne during his ACL rehab is how much he valued being able to ring the bell for 189 consecutive starts.

To have the game he loves taken away from him, put into perspective what nights like Saturday mean to one the NFL’s most prolific receiver.

And to do it at home, made it all the better.

“I’ve always loved Indy,” Wayne said in thanking the fans.

“They’ve showed me nothing but respect, always treated me like this was home for me. I want to do everything I possibly can to show that respect back to them.”

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Sam Shields wants to play at higher level

Green Bay — This one play defined Sam Shields' 2013 season and, really, his career.

He was beat. The goat. Wide receiver Miles Austin had a step on the Green Bay Packers cornerback with nothing but green acreage and a key NFC win ahead. Shields closed, picked off Tony Romo and the Packers completed the comeback.

So it begs a financial question: If Shields does surrender that touchdown, if the Packers do lose that game, does he get every penny of that four-year, $39 million deal that came three months later?

"I don't know about that," Shields says, smiling. "Luckily, it didn't happen. Because they would have got a first down and all that bad stuff would have happened. I made a play, something to help us win and that's what we needed."

He made the play and got paid. Now, the Packers are banking on more.

In a half-decade, Shields has evolved from ex-college wide receiver to undrafted postseason hero to the 2011 scapegoat of Green Bay's tackling woes to maturing into one of the league's top cover corners. The challenge is sustaining this all after cashing in — staying hungry.

After his best season as a pro — 61 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions in 14 games — containing Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Jennings and rising Cordarrelle Patterson in the NFC North starts with Shields.

"I'll just keep playing how I've been playing," Shields said. "Everybody says that's something on me. I just let that go and keep playing how I've been playing."
Through the contract. And through what may be a new age in the NFL.

Ed Hochuli and his officiating crew littered Ray Nitschke Field with laundry on their Green Bay camp stop, making it clear that the league is cracking down even harder on illegal contact. That could mean trouble for pro cornerbacks, a position already fighting an uphill battle in this ratings-driven, player safety-driven, fantasy football-driven NFL.

Funny thing is, Green Bay's cornerbacks didn't change a thing. They stayed aggressive and Shields isn't flinching.

One reason he's not too concerned is his game isn't based on clutching and grabbing at the line. He relies on speed.

"Like I tell the guys in there, don't think about it. Just play," Shields said. "Play how you've been playing. Don't change up anything because that'll mess you up. You can't really focus on what they're going to change.

"My speed helps me out a lot. They say they're going to be tough on it but I don't get into it. Just keep playing what you've been doing."

Shields points to the undrafted fire (still) burning inside. He carries that with him to this day, remembering that he was once a needle in the camp-roster haystack.

Teammate Davon House brought up a recent conversation he had with Shields. The two discussed "playing forever." Greatness. He doesn't see Shields' getting complacent.

"He still has the mentality of being a free agent," House said. "With his talent, his mind-set, he wants to be the best in the league."

House points out that Shields is "still raw," too. He was predominately an offensive player his entire life, right up to that final year at Miami (Fla.) in 2009.

In a league full of shutdown cornerbacks, House can't think of another player with the 0-to-60 closing speed to make the play Shields did at Dallas.

"Some of the things he does, you can't really explain," House said. "He's truly blessed."

Shields is years removed from the hapless tackling efforts in 2011. Just watch one drill with position coach Joe Whitt Jr.

The next step for him is understanding what the other 10 players are doing on the field to better position himself for splash plays. He's fast, naturally. Now he wants to play fast, mentally. Veteran Tramon Williams helps with this.

"He's been in the league a long time," Shields said, "as far as seeing different things, as far as formations, route recognition. That comes in the film room, watching film, studying other guys, other receivers. Talking to him, it's been real helpful."

Life sure has changed since he signed that mega-deal and became the NFL's eighth-highest paid cornerback.

Suddenly, Shields has many more, ahem, "family" members.

"Not so much my teammates," Shields said. "They clown a lot as far as who has the most money. But family members change. They ask you for this. That's the biggest thing. You get a lot more calls."

And that cellphone will keep ringing, too. For four more years. Along the way, the Packers need Shields to keep ascending as a player.

impact fact
Last season was Shields' best as a pro, with 61 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions in 14 games.

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Jon Beason wants to tackle everyone

Jon Beason wasn't just rehabbing this summer. He was researching.

He wanted to find out the Giants' single-season record for tackles and who held it. It seemed like a simple task. With 89 years of franchise history he was certain he'd come across a mythic number attached to a mythic name. Sam Huff. Lawrence Taylor. Harry Carson. One of the all-time greats.

What he found, though, is that the queasy nature of the stat meant the Giants' official records don't go back very far. Only to the 2000 season. And the king of the list isn't exactly Giants royalty. As far as the team is concerned, the unofficial record is held by Micheal Barrow who had 148 in 2003, but it's not even listed in their media guide or on their website.

Not exactly Roger Maris' 61 in '61.

"I was told it doesn't exist," Beason said of the benchmark, which the Giants virtually ignore.

He seemed disappointed. But no matter. He plans on topping the list soon enough, even if he has to create his own to do it.

"If that's what it is, then that's the mark," Beason told Newsday with a shrug this week. "One hundred and fifty, I think, is obtainable. I don't think it's anything that is far-fetched to be honest."

Not if he plays like he did with the Panthers early in his career and in part of last season with the Giants. When the Panthers credited him with 160 tackles as a rookie in 2007 (ironically breaking the team record that was held by Barrow as well), he didn't even know he was setting a new mark. The next year he had 159, then in 2009 had 169 followed by 162 in his final fully healthy season in Carolina.

"It became a kind of competition," Beason said. "You always want to do better. So you break it the next year, break it the next year, and you keep setting the standard."

Last year he had 93 tackles with the Giants, but that was playing linebacker in just 11 games after he was acquired in a trade. Prorated to a full season, it's about 135 tackles over 16 games. Beason tacks on a few extra because he was only playing in the base defense early in his Giants tenure.

"It would have put me at about 135 or 140," he said. "Then I was coming off the [knee] injury, I know I wasn't in great shape, and having to learn a new scheme. There were some games I felt like I could have played better in. I want to have more of those big tackle games like I did [with 17] against Washington where you're kind of just blinking. Before I got hurt I would have four or five of those a year where you have 13-, 14-plus tackles."

Which would, of course, put 148 within his sights.

"You look at stats for a guy who is a pretty good linebacker, he'll make 100 tackles," Beason reasoned. "You make 100, you're averaging seven or eight tackles a game. If you play every down, that's a good number. Then based on how you go about your business, the extra effort, the want-to, that's when you get to nine and 10 a game. If you hit that number, now you're the best in the league. It's amazing that the margin is just one or two plays."

There are obviously peaks and valleys, though. Beason said he thinks he can reach the not-quite record even if he misses a game or two. He's still on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) with a foot injury, remember, and hasn't even practiced this training camp. Earlier this week, he ramped up his rehab on the side.

"As far as I know, he's done well," Tom Coughlin said of Beason's response to the added grind. "He's done everything they've asked him to do. The movement on the field and what he's done on the field has been good."

Beason appears close to hitting his targeted date and returning for the Sept. 8 opener against Detroit. Even if he doesn't, he'll still have the tackle goal.
"You don't have to play every game," he said. "When I did the 160, I had games with four or five tackles, but then you have a game where you get 16 or 17. The objective is to do your job."

The objective becomes subjective very quickly, though. Beason's astronomical tackle numbers from Carolina are a bit of a canard. The record-setting stats in the 160s are referenced in the team's media guide and on its website, but they are based off coaches grades and film evaluation. Official NFL stats, which are recorded during the game from the press box without the benefit of a rewind button, credit him with far fewer tackles. Never more than 141 in 2009, in fact. Over the four-year period of Beason's prime in Carolina, the difference between his official tackle numbers and his team-recognized tackle numbers is a staggering 110.

Which is right? Which is more accurate? It's hard to say. But when a player is not credited with a sack or a half-sack during the game, the team can petition the league to have the statistic changed. The same with offensive stats that are routinely corrected. Tackles, though, are written in stone and not reviewed.

"I don't know why they don't do it with tackles," Beason said. "You go back and you had 160-plus for four years but then you end up with 140, 130, 120. One year they were 40 off. It really upsets you. But that's what the stats are."

To whatever extent the Giants do recognize tackles as a statistic, they go by the NFL's numbers and not their in-house tallies. Which will make it more difficult for Beason to break the team's quasi-record. He thinks he can, which is why he went digging for the information in the first place.

"Anytime you do anything," he said, "you want to know who was the best at it."

Beason expects to be the best for the Giants. Even if it doesn't actually count.

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Ryan Braun's struggles due to high chase rate

MILWAUKEE -- Thanks to a .221/.268/.377 slash line through the first 19 games of August, Ryan Braun entered Sunday with a .275 batting average. For Braun, that number is notable. He's only finished two seasons in his career with an average below .300, finishing at .285 in 2008 and .298 in his suspension-shortened 2013.

While Braun has admitted to still being bothered by a lingering nerve issue in his right hand, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Braun's recent struggles have been more due to a lack of selectivity at the plate.

"It's still there, but physically, I think he's OK. He just continues to swing at bad pitches," Roenicke said. "They're pitching him in more, and he's chasing it more inside."

According to's plate discipline data, Braun has swung at 40.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone this season, easily the highest rate of his career and far above his lifetime average of 33.3 percent.

While Roenicke acknowledged that Braun's not the only Brewer with an abnormally high chase rate, he conceded that the issue is particularly concerning with Braun, one of the team's best hitters.

He pointed to Braun's at-bat in the fourth inning of Saturday's 10-2 loss to the Pirates as a prime example. He came to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out, but Pirates righty Edinson Volquez jammed Braun inside with a 95-mph pitch, and Braun popped out weakly to the second baseman.

The Brewers didn't score after Aramis Ramirez struck out in the next at-bat, and the missed opportunity created a momentum swing in the game.

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Jon Jay proving last year was a fluke, not the start of a trend

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballSTL) -- From the day Jon Jay was drafted out of the University of Miami in the 2nd round of the 2006 MLB Draft he did nothing but hit.  It wasn’t flashy.  It wasn’t the type of swing where you’d drop your jaw and think you were watching the next Albert Pujols or even Jim Edmonds.

But he hit.  He hit .300 practically with his eyes closed.  And his defense was almost always above average.  Jay played a large role in the Cardinals trading Ryan Ludwick back in 2010 and Colby Rasmus in 2011.  

2012 was Jay’s breakout season.  He hit .305 in 443 at-bats with a .373 on-base percentage and a career high 3.2 WAR (wins above replacement).

Then 2013 happened.  It was bad.  The numbers (.276 average with a 1.5 WAR) don’t tell the entire story.  Jay got worn out by year’s end.  His defense, particularly in the postseason, was atrocious.  The downward spiral the Cardinals took offensively had as much to do with Jay’s performance as it was anyone else.  Fans were ready to exile him to Siberia in favor of almost anyone else.

Well, they got their wish in the offseason when the Cards traded for Peter Bourjos from the Angels.  That was supposed to be it for Jay.  Bourjos was going to come in and be the speedy center fielder who would at the very least play defense like Jim Edmonds and steal bases when he got on.

Something unexpected happened right out of the gate, however, in spring training.

Jay bounced back and outplayed Bourjos.  And it wasn’t even close.

This year the 29-year old from Miami is having a year that’s rivaling that breakout 2012.  Through 300 Abs he’s hitting .313 with a .385 on-base percentage and already is worth 2.5 wins above replacement.  He’ll never hit for a whole lot of power (just 15 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs) and he doesn’t steal bases (just 6).  

But Jay is playing terrific defense again and he’s provided some stability to center field.  That’s something this team hasn’t had since, well, his 2012 season.

Unfortunately, due to Jay’s lack of power and stolen base ability he’ll always be someone the team looks to improve upon if it can.  Should a top flight center fielder become available on the free agent market the Cards could be interested due to their flexibility with the budget.

A power hitting center fielder or at least one who steals 30-40 bases would really be nice to have.  And at Jay’s best, he’s never going to be that.  If he was going to become that he would have already by the age of 29.  

But in the time it takes the Cardinals to locate and actually pull the trigger on someone who can become the next star out in center, Jay is proving he can be a very nice complementary piece to this team.  

He’s been doing it – save for one bad season in 2013 – for a half decade.

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