Week 5 NFL []_[] Matchup Guide

Week 5 NFL U Matchups 2012

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PHOTO: Calais Campbell vs. Dolphins

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) tries to block the throw of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz.

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Lamar Miller makes early good impression with Dolphins

PHOENIX — Running with the football has always come easy to Dolphins rookie running back Lamar Miller. Even at the NFL level he’s having immediate success, with 119 yards on just 13 carries (5.9 average) this season, with a touchdown and another 22-yard run to his credit.

The Dolphins made him inactive for the season opener, but Miller played well enough to earn carries in a crowded backfield the past two games. Miller should continue to make a bigger impact today against the Cardinals, especially with Reggie Bush not 100 percent with a knee injury.

“That’s what I expected of him. He’s very talented,” said defensive end Olivier Vernon, a fellow rookie and former teammate at the University of Miami. “Every time I see him, he’s running full speed everywhere. He’s a horse, man. He never gets tired.”

Miller’s performance through two games has his old coaches and teammates with the Hurricanes buzzing with excitement.

“It seems like he’s got his burst, and he’s getting the edge in the NFL, which is really hard to do,” Hurricanes coach Al Golden said. “He’s not a guy who left with 40 starts and X amount of carries. His odometer is down, and if he stays healthy, his trend is going to be positive.”

But as Miller also is quickly learning, there’s more to playing running back in the NFL than just carrying the football. He rushed for 1,918 yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons with the Hurricanes but caught just 15 total passes and almost always came out on third down, so he never had to worry about pass protection.

Now the playbook is thicker, the audibles at the line of scrimmage are more complex and the Dolphins want him to be a complete player, including a contributor on special teams. All of the closest people around Miller – running backs coach Jeff Nixon and teammates Bush and Daniel Thomas – work with him daily to help him improve.

“Just letting me know where I’m supposed to be at all times and just trying to get (me to be) more physical in pass protection,” said Miller, born and raised in Miami and a former star at Killian High. “You have a lot of responsibility at this level.”

Miller, like most rookies, is a work in progress. He’s still learning how to dance less in the backfield and hit the holes harder. Coach Joe Philbin told Miller this week he needs to get more yards when running near the sideline instead of heading out of bounds.

Miller had an effective 48 yards on nine carries in last week’s loss to the Jets but also missed one of Ryan Tannehill’s audible calls and ran the wrong way on a handoff, forcing Tannehill to scramble for a 3-yard loss.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman not-so-subtly reminded Miller this week that “he’s now being paid to play football, and it’s inexcusable to make those type of mistakes.” Miller didn’t need to be told.

“That was my rookie mistake,” said Miller, 21. “It happened so fast, and I just went the wrong way. I know it’s something I’ve got to get better at.”

But there’s no question that the Dolphins are impressed with Miller’s running ability, the main reason they traded up to the 97th overall pick to select him in April’s draft. Philbin said Miller’s gaffe last week won’t affect his playing time and said he’s “showing some real positive qualities.” Bush said he’s been impressed with Miller’s toughness.

“I think he had an adjustment period, as we all do when we’re rookies,” Bush said. “But I think he’s doing a great job now at finishing plays, finishing runs, and I think you saw in the last game that he made some really good runs for us.”

Sherman said his playcalling didn’t change much last week when Thomas and Miller replaced Bush in the second half.

“We expect those guys to step in and do certain things,” Sherman said. “Obviously, the young guys aren’t quite at Reggie’s level, but as far as playcalling, it didn’t affect it whatsoever.”

Sherman also has been impressed with Miller’s attitude.

“He’s a very smart football player, takes the coaching real well,” Sherman said. “He wants to be great and he wants you to tell him how he can get there. He’s been very receptive.”

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Boxing great Lewis goes toe-to-toe with ex-Giants star Shockey in 'bubbly battle'

New York, Oct 2(ANI): Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and former New York Giants player Jeremy Shockey were up against each other in a champagne bottle.

According to the New York Post, a source at Bellagio club Bank saw a huge crowd around their table and Shockey and Lewis at the center of the celebration being served 6-liter bottles of champagne, including a Dom Perignon costing over 20,000 dollars.

Both of them were partying after Hublot's "A Legendary Evening" gala where Shockey was outbid on several of the dozen timepieces of former champs up for auction, the paper added.

Others at the event included Mike Tyson (in a neck brace after surgery for an old injury), Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman, the paper concluded. (ANI)

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Ray Lewis on his conditioning and the Texans

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Leonard Hankerson helps in areas besides pass catching

Washington Redskins wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan both had active games Sunday, helping the team to a 24-22 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hankerson, a second-year pro out of Miami, had a season-high seven catches for 57 yards. Morgan – a free agent signing last spring — had four catches on four targets and recorded a season-high 62 yards (three of his catches for 49 yards came in the second half).

 Redskins coach Mike Shanahan called Sunday Morgan’s best game as a Redskin, and praised Hankerson’s development as well.

 But what pleased the coach just as much as the wideouts’ pass-catching ability was their blocking. Both displayed a willingness to get physical with opponents in the run game. Hankerson had a downfield block that helped running back Alfred Morris make it to the end zone on a 39-yard run.

Redskins coaches have stressed the importance of receivers contributing with strong blocking, and the wideouts have bought in.

 “They have to understand that that’s part of their responsibility, is to block,” Shanahan said. “Every receiver likes to catch, we know that. But when you have guys like Pierre [Garcon] and [Morgan] coming in and [Hankerson] has gotten so much better here in the last couple games where he’s becoming a total player, that they understand when it’s time to block you have to block and when it’s time to catch you have to catch. When you have that mindset, you have a chance to do something special as an offense. Everybody has a role and everybody has to play for each other.”

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Ray Lewis loving Ravens' transition to an offensive team

The voice of Ray Lewis on my telephone Tuesday was unmistakable.

Lewis sounds the same, but he has a new look. He’s lost at least 20 pounds since last season to increase his quickness at age 37.

“I like the way I look, love the way I feel,” Lewis said. “Definitely something I’m comfortable with.”

The Ravens have a different look, too. They’re still winning, with a 3-1 record heading into Sunday’s road game against the Chiefs, but they’re winning in a different way.

Look at the NFL statistics. Has somebody reversed the Baltimore's numbers? The Ravens are ranked 23rd in total defense but No. 2 in total offense, trailing only the Patriots. The Ravens have made the transition from a team led by its defense, to a team fueled by the offensive production of quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.

Lewis says he loves watching Flacco run the no-huddle, watching Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith make big plays, watching the Ravens morph into a more explosive team.

“The teams that go places at the end of the year have balance,” Lewis said. “You’re running it, you’re throwing it, you’re playing good D. Those are the teams that are around at the end. That’s what we’re becoming, that total team.”

Lewis said he wasn’t worried about whether the Ravens would pick things up defensively. Teams are throwing more against the Ravens, who are giving up just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt, which is tied for third best in the league.

It will be interesting to see if Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles can have a big Sunday against Baltimore. Running the football and butting heads with Lewis and star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata generally is not the best way to attack the Ravens. Better to spread them out and make them defend the pass, especially since the Ravens have just nine sacks in four games.

The Ravens expect their pass rush to pick up whenever linebacker Terrell Suggs (torn Achilles’ tendon) returns. They hope to get him back in either November or December.

Lewis can hardly wait.

“We’re 3-1 without the reigning defensive player of the year,” Lewis said. “That’s the plain truth. Some of our younger guys are getting experience, and then you bring ‘Sizzle’ (Suggs) back into the mix. Now the whole team is back and we’re clicking on all cylinders. That’s when you should be most dominant. None of these other teams want to talk about that.”

Plenty of people are talking to Lewis about his hit Visa commercial, where a little girl at a press conference peppers him with questions like “What’s your favorite color? What’s your bedtime? Do you believe in space aliens?”

It’s part of a promotion (Visa NFL Fan Offers) that gives fans a chance to win prizes and interact with players. Lewis said he had never met the little girl before the commercial shoot, but that he loved doing it.

“It’s a cute spot, no doubt,” Lewis said laughing. “I’ve gotten so much feedback from it.”

It shows another side of Lewis, which is fitting. Because this season, Lewis and the Ravens are showing a different way to win.

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Santana Moss says he’s making most of new role so far

Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss says he thinks it has been so far, so good in his new role with the Washington Redskins, lining up in the slot in three-receiver formations.

“I feel it’s gone as good as it can go,” Moss said Monday. “I’m out there. I’m out there making plays…. Thus far, I’ve been handling it well.”

Moss has 10 catches for 97 yards and one touchdown in the Redskins’ first four games of the season. He had three catches in Sunday’s triumph at Tampa, with two of them coming on the Redskins’ final drive that culminated with place kicker Billy Cundiff’s game-winning field goal to beat the Buccaneers, 24-22.

“I’ve been a guy that came in on third downs before earlier in my career,” Moss said. “Sometimes you have to just go back and think about what you did in those situations. That’s basically what I’m doing. But I’m more mature. I’m more able to handle this because I’m not young and I know this game.

“The thing I like about it the most is it’s not something that I can sit and hang my hat on. I know deep down inside if they need me to go outside, I can go out there and beat guys any day. That’s the thing that I’m fortunate to be able to do. A lot of guys may get to where I’m at in this game, their role is reduced [and] you think their role is reduced because they can’t handle the pressure on the outside. That’s not my case. This is a situation they want to put me in to make me better to be able to give them a little more.”

Moss, who’s in his 12th NFL season, was a 1,100-yard receiver for the Redskins as recently as two years ago. His production dipped to 46 catches for 584 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games last season, and the Redskins signed free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in the offseason in a bid to bolster their receiver corps.

Through four games, the Redskins are ranked third in the league in total offense and fourth in scoring offense. Their record is 2-2 after the last-second win in Tampa.

“For so long, I’ve been doing it and didn’t have the help,” Moss said. “Now you have so many guys out there that can help you, you sit back and kind of say, ‘Hey, when my time comes, it comes.’ I’ve never been a guy that worries about how many [catches] and all that type of stuff because I feel like whatever your team gives you to be successful, that’s all you can really accept. Therefore I take it in stride. I want to win more than anything. So when something was brought upon me like that, the first thing I said was, ‘If that’s going to help the team, I’m all for it.’ ”

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Ed Reed disagrees with fine, says NFL is 'changing the game'

Ed Reed once again spoke out against the NFL, this time in reference to its decision to fine him $21,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Patriots receiver Deion Branch.

Reed has appealed the fine, which came after Baltimore's 31-30 win over New England in Week 3.

"They're changing the game," Reed said. "You don't see the NHL changing the game. They're letting those guys play. You obviously need to police the injuries as far as head shots and stuff like that. But some stuff is just a given. I didn't think my [play] was that bad. I had a lot of people saying it was legal."

Reed hit Branch in the helmet late in the third quarter, drawing a personal foul.

Reed said he shook hands with Branch and told him he didn't intend to hit him as high as he did. But he said he's still unsure why the NFL, which has made a point in recent years to fine players who make contact with an opposing player's head or neck regardless of intent, levied this fine against him.

"It seemed to me it looked like [Branch] dropped down," Reed said. "What do you do? He's dropping down, who's wrong there, him or me? It's just a tough situation."

Reed, the coach: Reed appears to be preparing for life after football already.

On Tuesday, the veteran safety said he has plans to become a high school football coach when his NFL days are over. If he has it his way, he'll coach his son once he's ready to play as a freshman in high school.

"I've come to know that I want to coach," Reed said. "I love helping kids. I have my camp (in Owings Mills, Md.), I have my camp in Louisiana. I was always around that. Coaching is in me. It's part of why I study the film the way I do."

Part of Reed's motivation is to make up for lost time spent on his football career. But once his son, who turned 4 in April, finishes high school, Reed said he wouldn't be opposed to coaching at a higher rank.

"Right now it's just high school because I want to be around my son," Reed said. "I'd love to coach at [the NFL] level at some point, or maybe college. I feel like you can get the kids when they're young and still give them information. I'm not sure now, but I want to coach somewhere around my son because he's growing up and I don't want to lose the time that I've lost with my family, being in college and being in the league."

With his son plenty of years away from high school, his potential coaching career isn't a sign he's ready to hang up the cleats. Reed is in the final year of his contract and has previously stated he thinks he has more years left in him to play.

"We, as football athletes, we beat down on our bodies so much," Reed said. "Me, being 34, I'm bouncing back great right now. I'm doing all the things to help the body recover."

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Colin McCarthy practiced in full

Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who missed the last three games with what he called a high-ankle sprain, said he’s on track to play against the Vikings on Sunday.

The second-year pro returned to limited practice on Wednesday and said he would be “good to go” barring a significant setback.

“It felt good out there,” McCarthy said. “I did individual (drills), did all the team periods, so we’ll see what progress there is tomorrow and see how it feels. But again, I’m just happy to be out there, to get the defense going and be ready for Sunday.”

Coach Mike Munchak said he expects McCarthy to see a lot of action against the Vikings. That’s good news for a unit that’s second-to-last in the NFL in total defense, last in first downs allowed and tied for second-to-last in turnover ratio.

“We haven’t been getting turnovers the way we usually get them. Third downs are key for us, too; we have to be able to get off the field,” said McCarthy, one of two defensive captains. “I’m the middle linebacker — I’ve got to get everybody lined up, and me not being there causes confusion. I think today with me being out there, guys felt more comfortableicon1, happy to have me back.

“I’m happy to be back, just preparing and getting ready for Sunday.”

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Kenny Phillips to miss only 3-6 weeks

The Giants got the best bad news they could have hoped for in regard to Kenny Phillips' knee injury.

The safety sprained his right MCL, which likely will sideline him for several games while he is listed as "week-to-week." He should be able to return in three to six weeks. An MRI showed the sprain Monday morning after the Giants feared that the injury might have been to Phillips' ACL, which would have required season-ending surgery.

"It's still unfortunate, but we've got to keep his spirits high and let him know everything is going to be OK, we're going to hold it down until he gets back," fellow safety Antrel Rolle said.

Tackle David Diehl suffered a similar MCL injury in Week 2 and is expected back in practice this week. But, as Tom Coughlin pointed out, they play very different positions with far different stresses on their knees.

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Travis Benjamin Remains Out

The good news: Josh Cribbs returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Monday with concussion symptoms.

The bad news: Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin are still out.

The hamstring injury pestering Massaquoi and an undisclosed injury Benjamin sustained last Thursday in Baltimore leaves the Browns thin at wide receiver despite Cribbs returning. Benjamin had his knee wrapped last week, and he sat out practice, however, head coach Pat Shurmur wouldn't give the reason for Benjamin sitting out of practice.

Josh Cooper could be activated from the practice squad before Sunday when the Browns play the Giants on the road, but that move probably would not happen until later in the week.

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Ray Lewis says Chuck Pagano is a “man of men”

Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network features an interview of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.  Among other things, Ray is asked to share with football fans something they should know about former Ravens defensive coordinator and current Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who is fighting a treatable form of leukemia.

“That he’s a man of men,” Lewis said.  “He’s a man that people want to aspire to be like.  That when you grow up as a man, that when you’re around Chuck you realize that, you know what, if life offers nothing else it offered me the opportunity to be around a man.  A true man.”

Ray’s full response appears below.  His full interview appears in roughly two hours, on the show that airs starting at 5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
And if you’d like to share some thoughts with Coach Pagano, you can send them to P.O. Box 535000, Indianapolis, IN 46253.

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Bears aim to keep Hester involved on offense

After not catching any passes in the previous two games, Devin Hester helped spark the Bears offense Monday night in Dallas with a diving 34-yard touchdown reception from Jay Cutler.

"It helps whenever Devin is involved, period, with anything," coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. "We thought he had a couple opportunities in our return game to get him going more, but he has a role [on offense]. He's one of the most exciting players in the NFL with his hands on the ball. That catch he made, it's what he's capable of doing. We'll continue to find ways to get him the ball."

Hester has been sharing time at the split end position with Alshon Jeffery, a 6-3, 216-pound second-round draft pick who leads all NFL rookies in receiving yards with 164.

"I really feel like we have an explosive player there [in Hester], and when we're going to get certain coverages we need to take advantage of that with him," said offensive coordinator Mike Tice.

"We have two very good receivers playing the same position right now and we're trying to make sure that each guy gets a bit in it. There are certain things that a big-body guy is going to do better than a double-moves type guy, and we want to make sure that we get each guy a taste and each guy a chance.

"Certainly for me as a coordinator, as a play-caller, my vision I have with Devin is going to be explosive plays, chunk plays. If I want to go out there and throw a six-yard hitch, then put the [6-3] guy in there. It just makes more sense to me."

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Frank Gore welcomes backfield party

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers rushed for 245 yards on Sunday, getting positive yardage from nine different players.

With so much diversity out of the backfield, starter Frank Gore still carried the ball 21 times, but it was hardly the workload he's grown accustomed to as the 49ers' only featured back of the past.

What does he make of the crowd?

"I don't like it at all," Gore said before laughing. "It's cool. Show different schemes, it probably makes it easier for me, you know?"

Gore is averaging 81.5 rushing yards per game, and he has scores in three of the 49ers' first four contests. Even though his longest run this season went for just 23 yards, Gore is 14th in the NFL averaging 4.94 yards per carry. Kendall Hunter is right behind him, ranked 20th with an average of 4.62 yards per carry.

It all makes the 49ers third in the NFL in total rushing yards (as well as third from the bottom in passing), but their next opponent is equally impressive on the ground. The Bills are ranked fourth -- right behind the 49ers -- and C.J. Spiller's 8.32 yards-per-carry average has a lot to do with it.

But the 49ers have explosive players of their own.

Kyle Williams was one of those nine contributors, as he took a toss nine yards to set up Colin Kaepernick's rushing touchdown.

Whether or not Gore likes it, the 49ers' dynamic ground game is developing, and there's one reason to suggest it will continue to expand under offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

"We've got playmakers," Williams said.

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Willis McGahee nominated for weekly honors

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Willis McGahee are candidates for the best passing performance and rushing performance, respectively, of week 4.

Manning, who threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against the Raiders is nominated for the FedEx Air award. McGahee, who rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, is a candidate to win the FedEx Ground award.

Fans can vote for Manning and McGahee through Friday afternoon.

Manning’s competition is Tom Brady and Matt Ryan; McGahee is up against Brandon Bolden and Chris Johnson.

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Ryan Braun falls short in RBI chase as Padres beat Brewers 7-6

MILWAUKEE –  Ryan Braun admits this was not an easy season for him.

The Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun went 1 for 4 in a 7-6 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. He led the NL with 41 homers and 108 runs, and also ranked first in extra-base hits, slugging percentage and total bases. Braun was second in RBIs with 112 and third in batting at .319.

Braun won the NL MVP last year when he hit .332 with 33 homers, 111 RBIs and 109 runs. He faced a 50-game suspension after testing positive for elevated testosterone, but the players' union appealed and the test result was overturned by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das.

"I knew from the beginning it was going to be challenging, and it certainly was," Braun said. "For the most part, I feel like I've handled everything well, I was able to keep my composure, compete every day and ultimately contribute to a lot of our success as a team."

Travis Ishikawa drove in four runs for Milwaukee, including three with a double in the third that made it 6-0. The Brewers went 83-79, a drop of 13 wins after reaching the NL championship series last year.

Since Aug. 20, Milwaukee's 29-13 record was tops in the majors. The Brewers got within 1½ games of St. Louis in the chase for the second wild-card berth, but that was dashed with a 3-6 stretch in late September.

"It's always disappointing when you don't make it to the playoffs when you figure you have a team that is championship caliber," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "The whole season? A disappointment. "But when I look back at where we were and where we ended up, I'm really happy with where we went."

Chase Headley drove in two runs, finishing the season with a league-leading 115 RBIs — three ahead of Braun.

"It was on my mind, but you couldn't think about it too much," Headley said. "To go out and compete against a guy like Ryan Braun, I was a little nervous, but everything turned out great.

"It's just neat. It's a tremendous honor."

Headley doubled home a run in the fifth inning, moments after his drive down the right-field line was called a home run but reversed when the umpires looked at a video replay.

Headley hit an RBI triple in the seventh and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Yonder Alonso.

Headley also drew two walks and finished with a .286 batting average. His previous RBIs high was 64 in 2009.

"For Chase to hang on to the RBI lead was a great thing," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "It was awesome. That RBI thing was real. Our guys felt it. And looking over at their side, I think they felt it, too. They were sensing what was going on."

San Diego improved by five wins this year and wound up with a 76-86 record. The Padres won only five of their last 15 games.

Cameron Maybin hit a two-run homer for San Diego, and five relievers held Milwaukee hitless in the final six innings.

Tommy Layne (2-0) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the victory and Luke Gregerson earned his ninth save. Jim Henderson (1-3) gave up two runs in the seventh.

"I think ultimately we'll look back on the season as a positive," Braun said. "At the beginning of the year, if you would have told us we'd miss out on the postseason, I think we'd all be disappointed. But at the same time, you have to reassess your goals when you consider everything we've dealt with as a team.

"Injuries, trades, new guys coming up, 12 games under .500. To finish over .500 is definitely an accomplishment. Getting back into the race, playing meaningful games in September up until the last three games is something we're really proud of. Hopefully we can build on this heading into next year."

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Chris Perez talks manager change

CLEVELAND -- Outspoken closer Chris Perez thinks the Indians need a more intense manager and better players.

Perez said Tuesday that Cleveland's second-half collapse was embarrassing and the laid-back approach of former manager Manny Acta didn't help.
"August wasn't baseball, it was pathetic -- in all aspects," Perez said about Cleveland's 5-24 slide that came after losing nine of its last 12 games in July.
Acta was fired Thursday and replaced by bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. on an interim basis.

"I'm not saying that a change earlier would have done anything," Perez said. "But sometimes we pressed the panic button. Why? A lot of things left you kind of scratching your head."

Alomar doesn't mind Perez being outspoken and said the right-hander's occasional outbursts are not detrimental if you understand his mindset. Alomar pointed out that Cleveland had controversial players while winning five consecutive AL Central championships in the 1990s.

"That's what drives him," Alomar said. "He's an All-Star player and in the clubhouse he's everybody's friend, always talking. On the field, it's a little different."
Alomar said Perez's passion to win sometimes leads him to go overboard. He would not want to douse that competitive fire.

That's fine with Perez, who hopes whoever is hired as manager will match his own intensity. He said either Alomar or Terry Francona, who led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, would be a better fit than Acta. Alomar is due to interview for the full-time job on Thursday; Francona on Friday.

Perez suggested that watching Acta not argue with umpires or get angry with underperforming players led to his own frustrations boiling over in comments to the media earlier this season.

"A lot of that went out the door last week," Perez said. "The Manny you see and the Manny we see are different."

Perez insisted he likes and respects Acta, but disagreed with some of his decisions. Most of all, he wanted him to take a stronger stand in the dugout and the clubhouse.

"He's not very confrontational," Perez said. "We are men, we can handle it. Last year, he had two speeches -- on Opening Day and the last day.

"It's not like we (he and Acta) had yelling matches. Actually it went the other route -- seven, eight, nine days not even talking."

Despite Cleveland's horrible second half, Perez thinks the Indians have a good foundation on which to build. They led the AL Central for 40 days, until June 23. A gradual fade turned into an all-out collapse to last place.

"We kind of fell off the cliff," he said. "We are better than this."

Perez said he had a "very professional" conversation with general manager Chris Antonetti and came away with a better understanding of the organization's plans. He said he wants to stay in Cleveland and be part of a winner.

"If I didn't want to play here, the easiest way to get out was to tank," Perez said. "I didn't.

"They have control of me (under contract) for two years and while I'm here I want to win."

Perez doesn't anticipate being traded, but said that is beyond his control.

"I got the impression we're going to build upon our very strong bullpen," he said. "We were not in first place on luck. We have some good players here. Not enough, obviously, because we're not in the playoffs.

"I can't see these same players jumping over four teams in our division, but we can get better."

Perez doesn't want veterans added just for the sake of getting experienced players, and he wouldn't mind seeing the Indians push younger players as they did with right-hander Cody Allen, who moved up four levels to Cleveland this summer.

"Talent plays, whether it is 18 years old or 40," Perez said. "Baltimore called up a Dylan Bundy at age 19 because he can pitch."

Perez pointed to that decision helping the Orioles clinch a playoff berth after a decade and a half of losing. He thinks a new manager can do what Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore.

"It took a couple years, but he definitely had an impact on team chemistry and camaraderie," Perez said.

Alomar said he is confident he can do that. The longtime Cleveland fan favorite as a player and coach acknowledged that Francona does, too.

"Anybody would want Terry," Alomar said. "What's not to like? I respect him, but I feel I am ready, too."

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Ryan Braun to chair AIDS Walk Wisconsin

Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun would much rather be participating in the playoffs this weekend but one benefit of the team not making it that far is that he gets to attend in person the Aids Walk Wisconsin on Saturday at the SummerFest Grounds.

Braun already had volunteered to be the Honorary Chair of the event and had a videotaped message ready should the Brewers still be playing. Instead, he will be on hand for the fundraiser that raises money to stay in state and support HIV prevention as well as care and treatment services including the ARCW Medical Center.

"First and foremost, it's a very worthwhile cause," said Braun, who follows past Honorary Chairs such as Bud Selig, Paul Molitor, Clay Matthews, Magic Johnson, Daryl Hamilton and Al Gore. "I think it's important for all of us to continue to raise awareness and raise money for research, prevention and treatment."
Braun said his mother often participated in AIDS fundraisers and wanted to follow in her footsteps.

"At a young age, she instilled in me the importance of giving back and how important this cause was, and how many people were affected by this disease," he said. "So, finally I have a chance to do my part and I'm excited about it.

"I think everybody knows or has heard of someone affected by AIDS. Growing up a Laker fan in Los Angeles, I remember seeing Magic go through it. And one of my mom's best friend's brother has AIDs. So, I have known people who have fought it."

As for the AIDS Walk Wisconsin, Braun said, "We hope to get as many people to come out as possible. People can still register. They can go to the Web site,, or call 1-800-348-WALK and still show up on Saturday and participate. The more involvement we have, the better. In the state of Wisconsin, the number of cases has increased 19% with new IV infections, so the more people involved to fight it, the better.

"I would have preferred that the Brewers made the playoffs, but I'm excited that I'll have an opportunity to actually be there on Saturday. I hope as many people as possible can come out there."

Walker registration begins at the SummerFest Grounds at 10 a.m., with opening ceremonies at noon and the 5K walk beginning at 12:30 p.m. AIDS Walk Wisconsin is the state's largest AIDS fundraiser and has raied more than $11 million over 22 years.

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PHOTO: Tavares Gooden Recovers Blocked Punt


Tavares Gooden #56 and Eric Bakhtiari #96 of the San Francisco 49ers and celebrate a blocked punt in front of Eric Smith #33 of the New York Jets during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 30, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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Vince Wilfork Drops Into Coverage, Delivers Brutal Hit on Bills' Donald Jones (Video)

Vince Wilfork may have a career in professional wrestling once he retires from football, because the spear he delivered Sunday was right out of former WCW champ Goldberg's book. Wilfork delivered a brutal blow on Bills wide receiver Donald Jones in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 52-28 victory.

Wilfork read the Bills' play perfectly, dropped into coverage when he saw Ryan Fitzpatrick's eyes looking at Jones, and looked better in coverage than any Patriots defensive back has looked all season when he jarred the ball loose with the hit.

Wilfork may be a 325-pound defensive tackle, but he can move and has some of the best instincts in the game.

Watch the video of Wilfork's hit below.

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Greg Olsen, Heart Of The Matter

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife Kara learned that their unborn child will be born with a heart defect. They hope a series of surgeries will save his life.

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Lamar Miller Needs To Improve On Boundary

A team-provided transcript of Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin's news conference on Wednesday:

(On what five different running backs scoring touchdowns this season says about the depth of the position) -  “That’s a stat that you pulled out on me. It’s a new one that I wasn’t really aware of, but yeah I think it’s a deep position. I think we have guys that are capable of running the football there is no doubt about it. I like the guys that we have; hopefully they can continue to get better and develop and make some big plays. I told Lamar Miller on the field today to do a better job next time he gets to the boundary or near the boundary to get some more yards and things along those lines. So it’s a good group of guys. They have a long way to go, but I think they’re a good hardworking group and they’ve made a nice contribution so far.”

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Kenny Phillips has sprained MCL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips has a sprained MCL in his right knee and is considered "week to week," coach Tom Coughlin said Monday.

Phillips likely will miss next Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns and may be sidelined a few weeks.

"Right now, it is an MCL and will end up being a week-to-week thing," Coughlin said.

New York can use Sash since Phillips and other secondary players are banged up, including cornerback Jayron Hosley (hamstring), safety Antrel Rolle (knee), cornerback Michael Coe (hamstring) and cornerback Corey Webster (broken bone in hand).

Phillips is a key component in the defense and had been playing well and looking more like the player he was prior to undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2009.

"Naturally, (Phillips) is upset about it," Rolle said. "It's still unfortunate, but we've got to keep his spirits high and let him know everything is going to be OK. We're going to hold it down until he gets back.

"We know it's going to be a big loss for our defense. But we're going to do the best we can to keep things moving and try to get back on a positive track."

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Devin Hester capitalizes after voicing his concern

ARLINGTON, Texas. – Devin Hester’s comments last week about wanting an increased role in the offense did not fall on deaf ears.

Three days after telling he wanted the ball more in the wake of catching just two passes for 27 yards in the first three games of the season -- all the receptions happened in Week 1, Hester was told by Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice the team wanted to use him more frequently on offense Monday night.

The end result was a three-catch performance on four targets, including an important early third quarter 34-yard touchdown reception that quieted the Cowboys Stadium crowd.

“Mike Tice came to me and said I was going to be one of the stars of the game and pretty much let me know he was going to give me an opportunity to make plays," Hester said. "How I handle it is on me. Sometimes you just have to voice your opinion.

"I know that in certain situations you go over plays during the week that are designed for you, but sometimes in a game situation you can’t call those plays. I understand that situation. But at the same time I just felt it I got a few more opportunities to make plays I could make them. That’s the most important thing about making plays is getting the opportunity to make them. Once you get the opportunity you got to take advantage of it."

Hester said he appreciated Tice being sympathetic to his concerns, even though the wideout did fail to capitalize on a few chances, including a potential touchdown grab in the end zone, in each of the previous two games.

“We joked about it all week but at the same time we both understand each other," Hester said. "That’s the great thing about coach Tice, he’s a coach that’s willing to drop his ego. Just because he’s the offensive coordinator he’s still willing to drop his ego and communicate more with the players. When you have a coach like that, players are willing to do whatever it takes to keep you successful. The road he’s going down by communicating with players and asking them what do you feel more comfortable with, he’s going to get a lot of guys on his side to fight for him when things aren’t going right."

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Reduced Role, Responsibilities Not A Concern For Santana Moss

ASHBURN – When Santana Moss was first approached with the idea of serving primarily as the Washington Redskins’ slot receiver this season, he thought about the players before him who had too much pride to agree to such a change.

“I feel like whatever your team gives you to be successful, that’s all you can really accept, and so therefore, I just take it in stride,” Moss said. “I want to win more than anything, so when something was brought upon on me like that, the first thing I said is, ‘If that’s gonna help the team, then I’m all for it.’”

Moss led the Redskins in receiving yards each year from 2005-10, serving almost entirely as their No. 1 receiver. With the offseason acquisitions of Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan and an expanded role for second-year receiver Leonard Hankerson, Moss has been shifted more to playing exclusively in the slot.
Through four games this season, Moss has caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown while playing just over half of the Redskins’ offensive plays. A year ago, when he caught 46 passes for 584 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games, he was on the field roughly 80 percent of time.

“I feel it’s gone as good as it can go, you know?” Moss said. “When I play football, I play football. I don’t look at it as just making catches, [but] as being a football player. My job is to go out there and block. My job is to go out there and clear out sometimes. My job is to go out there and catch the balls when they come my way, and thus far, I’ve been handling it well.”

Moss made an effort to get in greater shape during the offseason, shedding nearly 15 pounds to get his playing weight in the low-190s. He wanted to feel quicker and more explosive in the new role, which has seen him running more crossing routes and catching more passes underneath.

But his veteran presence and ability was known Sunday in the Redskins’ 24-22 victory at Tampa Bay when quarterback Robert Griffin III found him for a crucial seven-yard gain with approximately 10 seconds remaining to set up a the game-winning 41-yard field goal.

“This is a situation where they want to put me in to make me better, to be able to give them a little more, so when you have that situation, you take it with a smile and you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been doing it for so long, let me go out there and do it and then have the help,’” Moss said. “Now you have so many guys out there that can help you, you kind of sit back and say, ‘Hey, when my time comes, it comes.’”

Even when considering his pride – a 12-year veteran in his eighth season with the same team – Moss doesn’t feel slighted.

“It’s a blessing to be able to still be playing and to go out here and compete at this level the way I can compete,” Moss said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys that came in with me, seen a lot of guys that did it before me, that can’t compete at this level right now and that’s not here at this level playing. When you want to think about pride, you put all that to the side, because you’ve seen how those guys handled their situation.

“That’s the best way I look at it. I learned from other people’s mistakes and you know, there’s only a few of us that are fortunate enough to keep going, and I consider myself one of those guys. At the end of the day, you know, if somebody brings something to you and it’s gonna benefit you, you take it and not try to throw it back at them because you know what the outcome could be.”


Coach Harbaugh lauds Reed's high level of play, work as leader

OWINGS MILLS — He had interceptions in each of the Baltimore Ravens’ first two games, nine tackles in last week’s win against the New England Patriots and three pass deflections in Thursday’s victory against the Cleveland Browns.

Ravens safety Ed Reed has still been productive in recent seasons, even while battling a nerve impingement in his neck that has made him a more tentative tackler, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Reed’s play through the first four games of this season is the best he’s seen from the safety in several years.

“He’s playing as well as I’ve seen him play since im’08, and he’s played really well all those years,” Harbaugh said. “He’s playing as well or better than I’ve seen him in the last couple of years.”

Harbaugh also praised Reed for his work as a leader among an otherwise young group of defensive backs.

“I just think the world of how he’s playing and how he’s leading,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been leading us in the meeting room, locker room, training room. He’s just been a great leader.”

Earlier in the day, cornerback Lardarius Webb said Reed is serving as a teacher for the other defensive backs “more than ever.”

An 11-year NFL veteran, the 34-year-old Reed has 59 career interceptions, the most among active players.

“He is into that [play]book,” Webb said. “He is making sure we know exactly what we are doing so we can go 110 percent. He is in it this year. All the other years, he would teach us a little something here and there, but this year it’s all 110 percent. He is teaching us everything that he can possibly know, and I am happy for it.”

Reed has 18 tackles and leads the Ravens in both interceptions (2) and pass deflections (7).

But it’s the job he’s done as a teacher that Webb says has been even more valuable.

“Ed is playing great on the field, but he’s better, right now, at his preparation, getting us prepared,” Webb said. “He is teaching us some things that we’ve never learned before about film watching, studying the other team. He is Hall of Fame at that right now. That’s what he is showing us — how to prepare for these guys. We just have our ears open and are trying to learn from the greatness.”


Santana Moss thinks Bucs sabotaged Redskins' headset on final drive

Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss served as the conspiracy theorist in the Washington Redskins’ locker room Monday, one day after rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III orchestrated a game-winning drive in Tampa without a working radio receiver in his helmet.

“The only thing that might be surprising to you all is that he’s young and it happened to him,” Moss said. “I mean, I’ve been in plenty of games that when we’re away, we can’t hear the call, especially on the last part of the game. So I’m almost thinking that that’s something that they do in stadiums to say, ‘Hey, you know, let’s make it little harder for them.’ ”

Griffin led the Redskins down the field Sunday at Raymond James Stadium on a drive in the final two minutes that culminated with a 41-yard field goal by place kicker Billy Cundiff with three seconds left that beat the Buccaneers, 24-22.

Griffin said after the game that he’d been forced to call some of the plays on the drive because the electronic device in his helmet that connects him to Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan wasn’t functioning.

“The funny thing was that the headset did go out on that drive and that’s why I was having to run back and forth to the sideline,” Griffin said Sunday evening. “I had to call a couple of my own plays…. You don’t want that to happen. But I was pleased.”

NFL folklore is filled with stories of home teams allegedly using improper tactics to jam the signals of visiting clubs’ electronic communications devices. Such tales haven’t been substantiated and seem to have a certain legendary quality to them.

In the aftermath of the “Spygate” videotaping scandal involving the New England Patriots in 2007, the NFL toughened its anti-cheating policies. Teams must sign annual statements saying they have complied with all competitive rules, and the league leaves open the possibility of unannounced inspections of teams’ facilities and stadiums.

Moss’s comments Monday came amid the general raving about Griffin’s exploits.

“You put him in a game-time situation, that critical, game on the line, it makes it a little more, ‘Wow,’ ” Moss said. “But other than that, as a player you know that that’s what he’s there for…. I’m glad we have a guy that, even though we’re dealing with his youth of him not being here, he doesn’t play like his age or his coming into the league this young. He doesn’t approach the game that way. He approaches the game like he’s been here before.”

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Jets waived/injured TE Dedrick Epps

The Jets waived/injured Dedrick Epps Monday afternoon in order to clear a roster space for Berry. Epps suffered a hyperextended knee in Sunday's 34-0 loss to San Francisco after catching Tim Tebow's only pass of the afternoon.

Analysis: Epps' departure is an encouraging sign the Jets could welcome starting tight end Dustin Keller back into the lineup for Week 5 against Houston after he missed the previous three games. He'll clear waivers and go on injured reserve. Epps, 24, made the Jets' roster as a former seventh-round pick out of Miami. He had one catch for nine yards.

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Lamar Miller: Dolphins will decide No. 2 back by game plan

Coach Joe Philbin said Monday that the Dolphins will decide on a No. 2 running back based on game plan moving forward.

Both Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas received four carries in Week 4. Miller is a better runner, but can't pass block and Thomas can. "It’s by game plan more," Philbin explained of the No. 2 running back rotation. "We have confidence in both of those guys. Both have skill. Both do some very good things."

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Limited practice a possibility for McCarthy

The Titans are hoping to at least see middle linebacker Colin McCarthy and wide receiver Kenny Britt back on the practice field this week. McCarthy has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and Britt missed Sunday’s game with a less severe ankle injury.

“I think McCarthy will be able to practice on Wednesday as far as at least going out and doing individual (drills) and see how his ankle responds to doing football stuff,” coach Mike Munchak said. “And then the same thing with Kenny, it’s kind of wait and see. But obviously we’re more optimistic this week he’ll have a shot. It’s just a matter of seeing how his ankle comes along once we start working out.”

The Titans worked Britt out Saturday with the outside chance he could play against the Texans. “He wasn’t ready to play,” Munchak said. “He’s playing the position that he has to do a lot more cutting and things like that high speed.”

The Titans face two games in 10 days: at Minnesota on Sunday and vs. Pittsburgh at LP Field on Oct. 11.

As for what Britt and McCarthy mean to the lineup, Munchak said: “They’re two of our best players. We need to have our guys back. It’s a big part. If we’re going to win these next two we’re talking about … we need both those guys back.”

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Jonathan Vilma 'anxiously awaiting' NFL ruling; 'no decision has been made' on lawsuit

Jonathan Vilma is "anxiously awaiting" a second ruling from the NFL on the Saints bounty scandal, Vilma's attorney told CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora and, at this moment, "no decision has been made" on Vilma's lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

After receiving a season-long suspension for his role in the bounty scandal, Vilma filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Goodell. Vilma's suspension, along with suspensions for three others -- Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- recently were reversed. But the ruling also opened up the door for Goodell to reissue punishments against the "Bounty Four."

A source close to the situation tells La Canfora that Vilma is likely to continue and pursue the legal action against Goodell unless Goodell decides to drastically reduce the punishment he originally issued.

As such, Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said the linebacker is holding the course on his current lawsuit.

"Nothing has been decided in any regard, and we are anxiously awaiting the commissioner's decision," Ginsberg told La Canfora.

Vilma is currently on the Saints PUP list and has been vehement in his denials of the NFL's accusations.

Earlier this month, after the suspensions were overturned, Vilma met with Goodell during a lengthy conference. Fujita recently had his meeting with the league canceled, but it's expected that it will be rescheduled.

There have been conflicting reports about whether or not Vilma would be willing to settle his lawsuit. The NFL called reports of a settlement "completely inaccurate."

Whether or not those reports become a reality likely depends on how much punishment Vilma is given this time around.

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JohnSalmons dealing with a hip injury, still

John Salmons admitted on Monday that he's still dealing with his hip injury from last season.

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VIDEO: Brandon Meriweather Injured in Freak Accident Before Game on Sunday

In a freak accident, the Redskins lost two players before the kickoff of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Safety Brandon Meriweather and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson collided with each other in the end zone while attempting to catch a pass during pregame.

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PHOTO: Rocky McIntosh Intercept A Rusell Wilson Pass


ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Rocky McIntosh #50 of the St. Louis Rams returns an interception against the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome on September 30, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.

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PHOTO: Matt Bosher Celebrates Game-Winning Fieldgoal


Atlanta Falcons holder Matt Bosher (5), reacts along with kicker Matt Bryant (2), after Bryant's winning field goal kick against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of their NFL football game in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2012.

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Leonard Hankerson Leads Redskins in Receptions

Leonard Hankerson caught seven passes for 57 yards in the Redskins' Week 4 win over the Bucs.

Pierre Garcon hogged the X receiver snaps, but Hankerson was promoted as a starter ahead of Josh Morgan on the opposite side. He responded by consistently going over the middle without fear and getting separation on slant routes. Hankerson saw 11 targets, clearly earning the trust of both Robert Griffin and the coaches. He's on pace for only 52 catches, 724 yards and four touchdowns, but his arrow is pointing straight up.

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Greg Olsen leads Panthers with 89 yards, TD

Greg Olsen led the Panthers with 89 yards and a touchdown on six receptions versus the Falcons in Week 4.

Olsen had seven targets, leading the team for the second consecutive week. With Steve Smith drawing attention away, Olsen was left open for a 17-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the first quarter. On pace for an 80/1,024/4 stat line, Olsen has earned TE1 consideration heading into Week 5 versus the Seahawks.

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Dedrick Epps Injured

The Jets began the day without their best tight end (injured Dustin Keller) and closed it with backup Dedrick Epps on crutches. After catching Tebow's only pass (a 9-yarder) in the second quarter, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson slammed into Epps' knee. He fumbled, one of the Jets' four turnovers. Epps wouldn't speculate on the severity of the injury before his MRI Monday.

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Kenny Phillips sprains right knee

Giants SS Kenny Phillips was forced from Sunday's game against the Eagles with a sprained right knee, and is doubtful to return.

Phillips' knee buckled as he tried to make a play on a juking LeSean McCoy. It looked gruesome, but Phillips did walk off the field under his own power. The "doubtful" designation bodes poorly, however. Nickel CB Will Hill has been shifted to strong safety.

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Lamar Miller rushes 4 times in Week 4

Dolphins rookie RB Lamar Miller rushed four times for 13 yards in Week 4 against the Cardinals.

Miller saw the same number of carries as Daniel Thomas, suggesting the Fins would turn to an even timeshare if Reggie Bush ever got hurt again. Bush looked healthy against the Cardinals, getting the start and rushing 17 times.

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Kellen Winslow wanted more playing time

So why did tight end Kellen Winslow want out of New England?  Per a league source, Winslow wanted more playing time.

If that’s the case, he could have gotten more playing time this weekend, given that receiver Julian Edelman (hand) is out, and tight end Rob Gronkowski is surprisingly listed as questionable with a hip injury.

On Friday, coach Bill Belichick told the media during a press conference that Winslow was cut for “personal reasons.”

“Yesterday I had a discussion with Kellen and at the end of that discussion, we talked about several different things, at the end of that discussion, I felt that it was best that we release Kellen for personal reasons so that’s what we did,” Belichick said in comments distributed by the team.

So the “personal reasons” apparently were that Winslow is personally looking for more playing time. It’ll be interesting to see whether he gets that opportunity elsewhere.

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Ed Reed Fined $21,000 For Hit On Deion Branch

BOSTON (CBS) — Ravens safety Ed Reed has been fined $21,000 by the NFL for hitting a defenseless player in the head/neck area on Sunday night.

Reed drew the suspension for his hit on Deion Branch in the third quarter Sunday in the Ravens’ game against the Patriots. Branch came ran his route and broke toward the middle of the field. A split-second after catching the ball, Reed lowered his head and delivered a heavy hit on Branch. Branch did appear to duck as he braced for impact.

Branch dropped the pass, but Reed was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Branch shook hands with Reed shortly after the play and stayed in the game.

Reed also delivered a hard hit to Julian Edelman in the end zone earlier in the same game, but was not flagged or penalized for that hit.

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Travis Benjamin played 45-of-71 snaps

Rookie WR/KR Travis Benjamin played 45-of-71 snaps (63 percent) versus the Ravens in Week 4. Greg Little played 64 while third receiver Josh Gordon played 30.

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Pats re-sign Marcus Forston to practice squad

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots on Friday announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Marcus Forston to the practice squad.

In a corresponding move, the team released safety Cyhl Quarles from the practice squad.

Forston, an undrafted free agent from Miami, made his NFL debut on Sunday night in Baltimore, but was waived on Tuesday. Quarles had signed with the Patriots on Sept 12.

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Warren Sapp nominated for Hall of Fame

TAMPA — DT Warren Sapp and S John Lynch were among the reasons the Bucs defense of the mid 1990s through the turn of the century was the best in the NFL.

Thursday, they were among 127 nominees for the Hall of Fame. Also nominated were ex-Bucs receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell.

Sapp, 39, was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and part of the team that won Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. He played nine seasons with Tampa Bay and four with Oakland and recorded 96½ sacks.

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Bill Belichick: Kellen Winslow cut for 'personal reasons'

Blink and you might have missed Kellen Winslow's tenure with the New England Patriots.

The one-week stay ended Thursday in somewhat mysterious fashion. It was widely reported that Winslow requested his release from the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick supported that notion Friday, saying the release was for "personal reasons."

"We talked about several different things," Belichick said, according to The Boston Globe. "At the end of that discussion, I felt that it was best that we release Kellen for personal reasons. So that's what we did."

It's possible Winslow just didn't feel healthy enough to continue, even though he wasn't on the Patriots' injury report. Maybe he realized he didn't want to be a No. 3 or No. 4 tight end after such a productive career. Perhaps the Patriots are just doing Winslow and his agent a favor by saying it was Winslow's choice to leave. (This happens more than you think.)

No matter what the reason, Winslow's tenure in New England is over. The only question is if the former top-10 pick will get another chance in the NFL.

UPDATE: Winslow tweeted his thanks to the Patriots.

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Devin Hester frustrated with role

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With two catches in three games, receiver Devin Hester said Friday he is frustrated with his role in the Chicago Bears' offense.

"It's hard being one of the top electrifying players in the league and you're not able to get your hands on the ball as much as you want," Hester told before Friday's practice.

In addition to his two catches for 27 yards, Hester has two rushes for 4 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. Through three games last season, Hester had seven catches for 139 yards.

Hester almost had his first touchdown Sunday, but he couldn't come up with a pass from quarterback Jay Cutler in the end zone during the fourth quarter of the Bears' 23-6 victory over the Rams.

"We try to get him the ball. It doesn't always work out, like that one in the end zone (against the Rams on Sunday) that was designed for him," offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Thursday. "Basically it was a one-man route. We're trying to find ways to get him the ball. Sometimes the coverage dictates we're going to go to him, sometimes it doesn't."

Cutler acknowledged Thursday that he could have thrown the ball a little lower. On Friday, Hester took the blame.

"I was very excited that I knew the ball had about 75 percent chance of coming to me," Hester said. "I ran the route fine, I got open, I just have to find a way to make that."

Hester isn't sure why he's not seeing the ball more. In fact, he was on the field for just 11-of-69 offensive snaps against the Rams.

Asked if making plays -- like the one he missed against the Rams -- will earn him more touches, Hester said: "They know I want the ball. I just have to keep working at it, keep my head up, and get better every day. And don't let it distract me."

Of course, Hester made his name in the NFL as a dynamic return man, and he came close to breaking a touchdown return in the first two games. His next return for a TD will tie him with Deion Sanders for the most combined return touchdowns in NFL history.

Hester's 27.3-yard career average on kick returns is ninth in the NFL, as is his 11.1-yard average on punt returns.

Receivers coach Daryl Drake said the Bears have a plan for Hester, the receiver, every week.

"I mean, it's just a matter of we don't know what's going to happen during the course of a game," Drake said recently. "We go in with a plan -- sometimes those plans are determined by what happens to us defensively -- but we have a plan for him every week. And then you have to adjust depending on what's happening in the game."

The Bears have struggled to find a way to use Hester consistently in the offense since they committed to him as a receiver in 2008. He had career-highs of 57 receptions for 757 yards in 2009, but his catches have dropped to 40 and 26 the past two seasons.

He hopes the "Hester package" of plays that was talked about in the offseason and during training camp will be used soon.

"Hopefully it'll come one day, but for right now I'm in the same boat as you guys," Hester said. "I'm trying to figure out when it's going to come. It's a disappointing feeling. I know what I'm capable of."

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Goodell-Vilma ruling next week

A judge said he will rule next week on Roger Goodell's request to stop Jonathan Vilma's lawyers from deposing the NFL commissioner and obtaining documents related to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Vilma has filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Goodell in connection to the league's handling of the bounty scandal. Peter Ginsburg, Vilma's lawyer, has subpoenaed Goodell, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo.

U.S. Magistrate Daniel Knowles III said late Thursday that he will rule on whether Ginsburg and Vilma's other attorneys can proceed with all of those requests next week.

Earlier Thursday, Ginsberg appeared before Knowles to address the timing of discovery in the lawsuit, arguing that Vilma's team had the right to collect the information in a timely fashion.

Goodell is contending he has the right to resist a requested deposition until after U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan rules on his motion to dismiss the defamation action. Vilma and Ginsberg contend that neither the law nor justice tolerates any further delay.

Vilma and Ginsberg also contended that Goodell has neither standing nor basis to stop requests for information from Williams or Cerullo.

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, meanwhile, is expected to meet Friday with Goodell. Fujita is the last player from the bounty scandal to meet with Goodell after the appeals panel made its decision to lift the suspensions of the four players punished in the bounty scandal.

When the appeal panel vacated the suspension of players in the Saints bounty case on Sept. 7, Berrigan issued an order saying she would take no action on pending matters "at this time." After that order, Ginsberg began sending out subpoenas demanding documents and depositions related to Vilma's defamation claims. Ginsberg has asked to depose Cerullo on Oct. 9, Williams on Oct. 15 and Goodell on Oct. 23.

Knowles suggested the court will resolve the dispute expeditiously.

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Vince Wilfork: Showed 'heart of a champion'

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- After falling behind 14-7 at halftime in their Week 4 matchup with the Buffalo Bills, Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said there was no panic despite the sloppy start.

"We kept our poise. We know coming here was going to be a tough game against a division team; the Buffalo Bills always plays us tough, especially the first game," he said. "So, we just kept our poise, stuck together, we didn't panic, and we just executed well and that's one of the things coming into this week was executing."

With their "backs against the wall," (Wilfork's own words), Wilfork echoed Bill Belichick's belief that improved execution in the second half, not major adjustments, played a pivotal role in the team's turnaround.

"Continue to execute," Wilfork said of the second-half performance. "We were giving up big plays and we were shooting ourself in the foot offensively and just going out in the second half, we just wanted to play better football for 30 more minutes and got it together. Like I said, we just kept our poise, and I think we showed the heart of a champion today. Being down on the road, dropped two in a row, backs against the wall and everybody kept their composure."

The nose tackle said his team didn't need any sort of pump up speech at intermission to swing its second-half fortunes.

"We felt that we were doing a pretty decent job, the plays that we gave up we thought that we gave them, we just needed to be better on the plays but we kept to our game plan and we executed well," he said. "So, there wasn't a big rah-rah speech, it was just executing well."

Despite squandering a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter a week ago, Wilfork said after the game that holding on to today's lead was not about proving something to anyone other than themselves.

"Our goal is to play well every week," he continued. "We knew coming here we had to play well to win this ballgame, we don't have to prove nothing to nobody but ourselves, but we know what we have in here and as long as we stick together we'll be ok."

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Travis Benjamin born on fast track to NFL

BEREA, Ohio -- If Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden didn't know the legend of "Muck City" before arriving in the NFL, he's receiving an education in it, courtesy of teammate Travis Benjamin.

Nicknamed for its fertile black soil, Belle Glade, Fla., and neighboring Pahokee produce sugarcane, sweet corn, peas and pro football players in abundance. Benjamin is among the natives who grew up chasing rabbits from the burning fields of cane at harvest time, a pursuit that strengthens legs and sharpens instincts.

Like many pro players from the rural parts on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, the wisp of a receiver is blessed with quickness. While rookies must adjust to the speed of the NFL, the NFL sometimes need to adjust to the speed of the blazers from Muck City.

"He's the fastest guy I've ever played with," said Weeden, who has underthrown a sprinting Benjamin on at least three occasions in the first four games. "He can really fly. I'm throwing routes to him where I have to shorten my drop to get it to him. I've never had a guy who can stretch it vertically that well. I'm not going to lie -- it takes some getting used to."

The Browns are hoping Benjamin becomes the latest from Belle Glade and Pahokee to excel in the league. The two towns, whose combined populations don't exceed 25,000 residents, are home to Santonio Holmes, Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, Andre Waters and Pro Football Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson. Benjamin's alma mater, Belle Glades Central High School, has placed 30-plus players in the NFL.

"The competition level is so high there," Benjamin said. "When we weren't in school, we were playing football or basketball from sunup to sundown. We'd go 'cross town and play the kids over there.

"When I went to [the University of] Miami and was playing against Florida State, I was facing some of the same kids from back home."

Belle Glade is two hours north of Miami and nearly as far from the trappings of pop culture. Belle Glade Central football coach Roosevelt Blackmon, who had a brief NFL career, said the nearest movie theater and mall are 30-plus miles away.

A sign welcoming visitors to Belle Glade reads: "Her Soil Is Her Fortune." Blackmon disagrees. He believes it's her people, a statement Benjamin co-signs.
"We always had players coming back telling us we could make it," Benjamin said. "I've talked to Santonio Holmes and Fred Taylor a lot. They gave me the mind-set and the words I needed to get to the next level."

Hair-raising speed
When Benjamin reaches full flight, his long dreadlocks dance on end. He's a Medusa in an orange helmet and a scary sight for the opposition.

The Baltimore Ravens got a peek Thursday night as Benjamin -- who hasn't cut his hair since middle school -- raced 40 yards on a fourth-quarter punt return in place of a concussed Josh Cribbs. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said jokingly the rookie will catch grief from teammates for allowing himself to get knocked out of bounds by the punter.

But the coaching staff continues to find ways to incorporate his speed into a lineup with a dearth of playmakers. Benjamin has run a few reverses, including one that carried for 35 yards. He also has five receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. His snap count has risen dramatically in the past two games, and opponents must account for his big-play potential.

"There's a little bit of a fear factor with him," said Browns quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who served as Benjamin's offensive coordinator for two seasons at Miami. "Nobody likes to get beat deep. You see the way they play him, there's a respect factor there."

At 5-10, 175 pounds, Benjamin gives away an inch and 25 pounds to Browns place-kicker Phil Dawson. His 12-year-old sister Chasaty stands 5-8. His older brother Troy is 6-2. If Benjamin is bothered by his stature, he doesn't show it.

"God gave me the speed I needed," Benjamin said. "I'll take the speed over the height any day."

Playing in Belle Glade plied him with the confidence he could compete at the college and pro levels despite his slight build.

How good is the quality of Muck City football? Benjamin won a state title in 2006, but so did almost everyone else in the surrounding area. Pahokee, Belle Glades Central and Belle Glades Day -- located within a 10-mile radius -- all won championships in the same season.

Three years later, Holmes, of Belle Glades Central, and Boldin, of Pahokee, met in Super Bowl XLIII as Pittsburgh defeated Arizona, with Holmes capturing MVP honors.

"There is a great sense of pride in those communities," Whipple said. "They like to say they've come from there, and the legacies that have been passed on over the years are special."

The soil might be Belle Glade's fortune, but few residents share in her wealth. Poverty and crime are prevalent. Prior to Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes told reporters of his youth: "Either you're going to sell drugs or play football. Play sports or stand on the corner."

Benjamin said his mother, Cynthia Stewart, raised a family that stayed out of trouble. She sometimes held multiple jobs to provide for her three kids. Stewart continues to work, he said, as a deputy office for Palm Beach County.

Her son was a model high school student, Blackmon said, and that his biggest error in judgment has been accepting $140 in extra benefits from a former Miami booster that cost him a one-game suspension last season.

"My mother is my inspiration," Benjamin said. "She gave me a mind-set that the only way you get where you want is with hard work. We never wanted to let her down."

Rabbit season
Benjamin doesn't believe he owes his quickness to rabbit hunting in the smoke-filled sugarcane fields, but he's one of the countless numbers to partake in a tradition that dates at least to the 1940s.

He lived about a five-minute walk from the fields and estimates he caught 10 rabbits over the years. Benjamin said he knows of at least one teen who bagged 30 in a day. Some believe the ritual is the secret behind the success of so many players. Benjamin concedes one needs agility and timing to capture the darting bobtails.

"It is a special feeling when you catch that first one," he said.

Benjamin ran track in high school and college, but Whipple contends the Browns' receiver is "football fast." It's about more than accelerating in straight lines -- Benjamin did run a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine -- it's about making tacklers miss.

He is one of six Hurricanes to finish his career with more than 2,000 yards in receiving.

"Everyone talks about being fast, but you've got to make plays, and Travis made them at Miami," Whipple said. "He had that ability to make big plays in big games using his speed."

Whipple recommended the Browns draft Benjamin not only for his ability, but his character and unselfishness. A kid who grew up chasing rabbits didn't mind serving as one at Miami as his deep speed opened up intermediate routes for others.

It's too early to say whether Benjamin develops into a dependable pro. Receivers of his proportion must demonstrate their durability at every level. He must also be able to catch balls in traffic as well as beat defensive backs along the sidelines.

Lots of kids from Muck City have proven they can reach the NFL. Benjamin wants to show he can stick.

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Coach: Good Devin Hester wants ball

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said following Saturday's practice that he had no problem with wide receiver Devin Hester saying he wants the ball on offense.

Hester was on the field for 11 of the team's 69 offensive snaps in last weekend's 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams. On the season he has two catches for 27 yards and two rushing attempts for 4 yards.

"As a receiver, you better want it (the ball)," Drake said. "If you don't want the ball I don't want you. If you don't want the football what good are you? If you don't want the football what kind of competitor are you? So every receiver that I've ever known in all the years that I've been a part of football have wanted the football.

"When I was playing as a receiver I wanted the football. Those that don't, they don't need to be playing receiver."

Hester expressed disappointment in his limited role through three weeks prior to Friday's practice.

"It's hard being one of the top electrifying players in the league and you're not able to get your hands on the ball as much as you want," Hester told's Jesse Rogers.

However, there have been opportunities on which, for whatever reason, Hester has failed to capitalize. Hester dropped a pass in Week 2 versus the Green Bay Packers, then nearly scored his first touchdown of the season last week in the fourth quarter when he ran a nice route to get open on the right side of the end zone. But Hester failed to come down with the football as the pass sailed through his outstretched hands.

Quarterback Jay Cutler later acknowledged the throw to Hester was a little high, but Drake felt the receiver still needed to make the play.

"I thought it was tough, but one he has to make," Drake said. "But it was a tough catch. It was high, it was up. But every ball is not going to be perfect. Every one is not going to be perfect. Here is our philosophy: Make the ones that you're supposed to make and make the ones that you are not supposed to make. The average ones, catch all those, but those that are not, catch those too because that's what separates you. That's what he was told, and that's what they are all told."

The Bears have struggled to find a way to use Hester consistently in the offense since they committed to him as a receiver in 2008. He had career-highs of 57 receptions for 757 yards in 2009, but his catches have dropped to 40 and 26 the past two seasons.

Still, Drake remains committed to getting Hester involved in the offense after the organization spent the offseason touting the existence of a "Devin Hester package" of plays that was designed to get the ball into the hands of the Pro Bowl return man.

"We're not going to give up on him," Drake said. "We're going to keep sawing wood and keep trying to get better. Have those opportunities been perfect? No. But when opportunities present themselves, we have to make those plays. The same with all of them. When the ball comes to Brandon Marshall, he has to make that play. When the ball comes to Alshon Jeffery, he has to make that. When the ball comes to Earl Bennett, he has to make that play. So it's no different with Devin. It's no different with any of them. When the ball comes to Kellen Davis, he has to make that play.

"When guys don't make it, we have to find out a reason why they didn't make it and make sure when they get that opportunity again they make it."

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Jon Vilma posts phone number, email address of ESPN “character study” producer

With the lockout of the officials reaching a full boil, it's easy to forget the pot that's bubbling over on the back of the NFL's stove. Bountygate lingers, and a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that ESPN plans to televise this weekend a "character study TV feature" on Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. ESPN has contacted players via letters signed by Barry Abrams, a Feature Producer.  Abrams invites players to call and "chat . . . for 10 minutes or so" on the subject, explaining that the story will run on September 29 or 30. It's unknown whether ESPN is hoping to demonstrate good character or bad character.  Based on the recent Outside the Lines profile of coach Sean Payton, chances are that Abrams isn't hoping to dig up marshmallows with his shovel. Thereafter, Vilma posted a copy of the letter on Twitter, along with Abrams' phone number and email address. "Why is ESPN secretly conducting a character study on me?" Vilma asked on Twitter.  "They really think I wouldn't find out?" Vilma's Twitter timeline since last night has some funny stuff, including messages encouraging Saints fans to contact Abrams. We wonder whether Vilma's reaction will now be used as part of the character study.  In the end, that may be all the dirt they manage to dig up.

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Reggie Wayne’s getting older, but playing some of his best football

Reggie Wayne admits he was close to leaving the Colts, and that he left money on the table to stay.

But even though the veteran wide receiver was retained to be a security blanket for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, he’s still getting it done on the field.

The longest-tenured Colt has been targeted a league-high 40 times this season, and his 23 catches are the fourth-most in the league and the most he’s had at this point in the season in his 12-year career.

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

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

But staying in Indy was far from a given for the 33-year-old wideout, who had plenty of offers, and said he left “probably a minimum of $3 million” on the table.
“I was close. Very, very close,” Wayne said of leaving. “But just one team, probably two teams, Colts fans wouldn’t have liked.”

It’s thought one of those was New England, but Wayne grinned and said: “I’ll never tell.”

The three-year, $17.5 million contract, which included a $7.5 million signing bonus, might not have been the biggest he could have gotten, but there’s no place he’d have gone where he’d have been so needed.

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

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

And he’s still running, and catching, at a pace similar to when he played with another top-picked quarterback.

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D.J. Williams meets with NFL about further discipline

Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams had an appeal hearing with the NFL on Wednesday in New York regarding his recent conviction on a driving while ability impaired charge, according to multiple league sources.

Williams, 30, is likely to receive an additional two- to three-game suspension, according to the sources, on top of the six-game suspension he now is serving for violating the NFL's performance enhancement policy.

Last week, the NFL levied a three-game suspension against San Francisco 49ers linebacker and former Colorado State star Clark Haggans for a DUI conviction, his second such offense as an NFL player.

Williams also is a repeat offender; he was arrested on a DUI charge in Douglas County during the 2005 season.

Williams tweeted a picture of himself in formal attire while walking in downtown New York on Wednesday.

A starting linebacker since he was the Broncos' first-round draft pick in 2004, Williams was found guilty by a Denver jury on Aug. 15 on a charge stemming from an incident in which he drove away from a downtown nightclub with his lights off at 3 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2010.

At the time of his trial, Williams had already received the six-game suspension for providing a "non-human" urine sample during a drug test following the league's 2011 lockout.

Williams has sued the NFL multiple times for its finding, but the first two courts dismissed his case without a hearing. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet been addressed.

The Broncos are 1-2 without Williams this season, losing to Atlanta and Houston after beating Pittsburgh in the opening game.

He will not play in the Broncos' upcoming games Sunday at home against Oakland, Oct. 7 at New England and Oct. 15 at San Diego.

If he is suspended three more games, Williams would also miss a home game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, plus road games against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals and against the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers.

The Broncos can't take any action against Williams while he is on the team's reserve-suspended list.

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Eli Manning still remembers that Jerome McDougle hit

It was the low point in one player’s brilliant career and the high point in another player’s non-descript career.

Opening day 2004, and the Eagles were in the closing stages of a 31-17 win over the Giants at the Linc.

In his first game with the Eagles, Terrell Owens had caught three touchdown passes from Donovan McNabb, and with the Eagles up 31-10 in the fourth quarter, the Giants removed starting quarterback Kurt Warner from the game and inserted rookie Eli Manning for his NFL debut.

With 21 seconds left, the Giants had a 3rd-and-12 on the Eagles’ 19-yard line. Manning dropped back and was standing at about the 20-yard-line looking for a receiver when he started drifting to his right.

Manning looked left and drifting right and didn’t see that Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle was bearing down on him from the right at full speed.

McDougle put his helmet down, and drove himself into Manning’s midsection before Manning even saw McDougle.

As Manning’s head snapped viciously to the left, he was hit again by linebacker Keith Adams and then slammed to the turf by defensive tackle Darwin Walker as the ball popped free.

It was a while before he moved.

“I thought he was dead,” his dad, Archie Manning, told reporters after the game.

The careers of McDougle and Manning headed in somewhat different directions after that play.

McDougle, the 15th pick in the 2003 draft, recorded only two more sacks the rest of his career. On one of them, against the Buccaneers in 2006, he was called for 30 yards of penalties on the same play as the sack.

All Manning’s done since then is win two Super Bowls. On Sunday night at the Linc, he’ll make his 19th career start against the Eagles.

But he’ll never forget that hit from McDougle, who actually finished his career with a brief stint with the Giants in 2008, where he and Manning exchanged pleasantries about the hit.

“Yeah, that was definitely the hardest hit I've taken in my career,” Manning said Wednesday in a conference call with Philly writers.

“My coaches and even my brother said, ‘At least you know you can take any hit in the NFL. That won't be a problem. You won't have to be nervous about that.’

“I got that one out of the way in my first NFL game, kind of my welcome to the NFL, I guess. Fortunately, that's been the biggest one that I've taken in my career.”

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Ed Reed: 'We don't get treated the way we want to get treated' by NFL

When Ravens safety Ed Reed wants to make a point, he's going to make it.

And with the regular referees returning Thursday night, Reed voiced his opinion again.

Reed again took issue with the NFL and how it treats its employees, saying there are a lot of unseen issues that take place behind the scenes. When asked about the officials reaching an eight-year deal and returning to the playing field, Reed unleashed new material for the powers that be in the NFL, and here it is in its entirety:

“We don't get treated the way we want to get treated. When we speak out and say the things that we should say, or the truth that we speak, we get criticized. It is what it is. I'm glad those guys got back on the field, and got what they deserved. People are going to be people. They're going to judge you the way they judge you. You guys are going to write what you want to write.

"You're going to say Ed Reed is whining but I'm the one out there playing my heart out and not getting what I deserve. I know the business and you don't see the work that we put into it. You don't know the investment that we put into our bodies. You don't know how we get treated and talked to. You don't know the behind the scenes of what those referees were going through being locked out.

“But we think that regular old Joe, division two and division three guys can come in here and do a good job. There was a lot of pressure on those guys, and I commend them, that they came in and did what they did. Not every call is going to be a great call, even the guys that were out there today didn't make every call. It's good to see those guys back out there. I shook a bunch of hands tonight and had a lot of jokes. It felt good having those guys out there again just talking to us.”

Point made and point taken.

Reed and Ray Lewis both walked up to head referee Gene Steratore during pregame warmups, welcoming him back to the NFL playing field.

“I think they understood how much we were fighting for them as players and how much we really respected their jobs and what they do,” Lewis said. “So I think having the guys back there was more real conversation between each other. Whether the calls were good or bad, you were really able to relate what was going on.”

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Warren Sapp's advice working out for McCoy

TAMPA -- Bears WR Brandon Marshall spoke a little too late for Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy on Monday when he urged his NFL brethren to avoid taking advice from one-time Bucs player Warren Sapp.

In this case, though, later was better, because the advice Sapp offered McCoy during a chat at One Buc Place a few days prior to Tampa Bay's game at Dallas last week proved immeasurable.

As he sat with McCoy studying tape of the Cowboys, Sapp referred to the Bucs' previous game in which the defensive scheme called for McCoy and the other defensive linemen to run a series of "stunts'' or "games'' against the Giants.

A stunt is a planned maneuver in which two lineman switch positions after the snap, usually by one looping around the another to confuse and ultimately slip through the offensive line.

It's a tactic used at every level of the game, but not necessarily the best tactic for players such as McCoy, whose explosive first-step quickness is by far his best weapon against an offensive lineman.

Sapp carried the same first-step quickness in his quiver, and when he saw how poorly the tactic worked against the Giants, who barely allowed a quarterback pressure against the Bucs, he urged McCoy to challenge his coaches.

"You've got to go into the man's office. Tell him, 'We've got this,' '' Sapp said.

Sapp did that frequently, he said, with former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

"I'd tell him, 'I'll try it your way this time, but if it don't work, then we're going to do it my way.' I told (McCoy) the same thing. I told him, 'You can mess around on first and second down, but third down has to be (your way).''

Urged on by Sapp, McCoy took advantage last week the open-door policy of coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, asking that the line eliminate the stunts from the game plan for the Cowboys.

"Being one of the defensive captains, I represented the D-line to the coaches and said, "Hey, give us a chance to go straight ahead more instead of going sideways on all these stunts,'' McCoy said.

"I said, 'If it don't work, then it don't work and we'll go back to doing whatever. Just give us this one opportunity to do this again,' and they did and we took advantage of it.''

They took advantage of it both against the pass and the run. The Bucs sacked Cowboys QB Tony Romo four times – McCoy and LDE Michael Bennett had two each – and knocked him down four more, three by McCoy.

Tampa Bay also recorded 11 tackles for loss against the run, including two for McCoy, two for Bennett and one each for DT Roy Miller and RDE Adrian Clayborn.

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Brett Romberg settling into life after pro football

Football provided centre Brett Romberg with an athletic scholarship to the University of Miami, a rock-star college lifestyle and a lucrative NFL paycheque for nine seasons.

But it did so at a price.

Romberg willingly left football this off-season to work with former Hurricanes offensive linemates Joaquin Gonzalez and Toronto's Sherko Haji-Rasouli at a Miami tire distribution company. But the 32-year-old native of Windsor, Ont., is convinced the years of 'bangin' ' have left him with a degree of brain trauma.

"There's no doubt in my mind," Romberg told The Canadian Press via telephone from Miami recently. "Honest to God, I can't remember so many things.

"Game scenarios? Don't remember them. I have few memories of high school or playing junior football for AKO Fratmen (in Windsor), my memory is foggy about stuff like that. Times in college, games we went to, bowl games . . . I don't even remember.''

And that includes how Miami systematically dispatched Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl to capture the U.S. college football title.

"All I remember about the Rose Bowl is walking off the field with a Canadian flag stuck in my shoulder pads," Romberg said. "For Christ sake, my whole family went out for that game and I don't remember being with them, nothing.

"So there's no doubt in my mind there is some damage. I can't pinpoint it, obviously.''

Lawsuits from thousands of former NFL players have been filed south of the border this year against the league accusing it of hiding information linking football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries.

Romberg has experienced more than just memory loss.

"Yeah, I go through states of depression too,'' he said. "I don't know whether that's common and everybody goes through it or is it something that is related to football?

"I have no clue. There has to be something going on. Regardless of how many concussions you've had, I think that does have an impact on your head with all that bangin'.''

Surprisingly, that's what Romberg misses most about being out of football.

"It's drudgery when you're playing and it's tough to go out in full gear Wednesday and have to hit after a Sunday when you got the crap kicked out of you," he said. "As much as you hated it, though, you definitely liked to get that feeling when you're popping somebody in the mouth because there's really nothing like it.
"The locker-room comradery is also something you can't find in corporate America. I got involved in this (with Gonzalez and Haji-Rasouli) because it's probably the closest thing I can get to a locker-room without getting a sexual assault charge or some kind of HR problem.''

Romberg was among Atlanta's last cuts last year but rejoined the club shortly afterwards and completed his second season there. While convinced he can still play — he said he has fielded offers from several clubs — Romberg felt it was time to get on with life after football.

"My wife ended up staying in Miami and working last year and it was tough having her fly every weekend to wherever we were at to see me for a few hours, then go back about her business here,'' Romberg said. "It was crazy.

"I also ended up missing my brother's wedding in Windsor and had to have the Falcons film crew do like a nice film that they ended up playing at the reception.''
The challenge of a new career — running the Canadian division of Tire Group International — and being able to settle into a new house with his wife, Emily — a corporate real estate lawyer in Miami — with plans to start a family soon made it easy for Romberg to turn his back on the almost US$1 million he'd earn this season as a 10-year NFL veteran.

"Yeah, it's a lot of money but I just realized after taxes and everything, $500,000 isn't worth disrupting what I have going on now for maybe a year and burning any bridges I might have in the business world,'' Romberg said. "And then there's possibly scrambling my eggs worse than they are, blowing a knee out and being in a cast and going through rehab and never having the same feeling in my appendages.

"And then, obviously the older you get the more painkillers you have to take and the more and more you rely on the pills and drugs to kind of get you through the week as opposed to your body the way it felt when you were a lot younger.

"A half-million bucks isn't going to change the way I'm living. I'm going to be 33 years old and if you had told me 10 years ago that I'd be playing in the NFL until I was 32 I would've kissed you.''

After a stellar tenure at Miami, Romberg signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, spending time on the practice roster before being promoted to the active roster.

Romberg remained with the Jaguars until 2006 before joining the St. Louis Rams and playing there until 2009 when he signed with Atlanta. Overall, he appeared in 44 NFL games, starting 18.

In college, Romberg helped Miami reach two NCAA title games, winning one, and also received the Rimington Trophy as the NCAA's top centre. He was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the top lineman, and was named a consensus first team all-American in 2002.

He started his final 37 college games and never surrendered a sack. Off the field, Romberg was a larger-than-life figure for his punchy anecdotes to reporters, gregarious personality and willingness to do just about anything once, including pinching opponents' bottoms during games.

Prior to Ohio State's 31-24 double overtime Fiesta Bowl win over Miami in the NCAA title game Jan. 3, 2003, Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN The Magazine called Romberg "the best Canadian import since a case of Labatt's Blue.''

Teammates weren't immune, either, as Romberg earned a well deserved reputation of being a practical joker.

"Oh yeah, I had a lot of fun but life is so much bigger than football," Romberg said. "Life in the NFL is phenomenal, it's a great life and I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

"But it's a fairytale, an absolute fairytale. The reality check you get when you're done is a little bit different.''

Two years ago while with Atlanta, Romberg remembers experiencing a reality check in Tampa while out for dinner with the other offensive linemen.
"We're playing credit card roulette for a $1,500-$2,000 meal and it's no big deal,'' Romberg said. "I'm sitting there looking at the young waiter serving us who couldn't have been more than three or four years younger than me and this guy is making a living doing what he needs to do in order to survive.

"Now, we're not necessarily lucky because we did sacrifice a lot to get to where we were but I put my knife and fork down and was like, 'Do you guys realize that: How does what we do change anybody's life? You have doctors who save people's lives, you have policemen, firemen and military people who are putting their lives on the line for us and we're playing a game, we're getting paid more than any of those people and getting paid and we're not really doing anything more than giving that guy who works 40-50 hours a week something to watch Sunday.'

"It's a Catch-22 in my eyes.''

There's plenty the six-foot-three, 260-pound Romberg — down roughly 40 pounds from his playing weight — doesn't miss about football, like training camp and the physical toll it takes on one's body.

"I might be 32 but I don't have an average 32-year-old's body," Romberg said with a chuckle. "I've got problems with my shoulders, my back and my ankles.''
But all that pales in comparison to Romberg's disdain for the politics of the game.

"These GMs have to justify their (draft) picks," Romberg said. "Be that by giving a free-agent guy one or two reps in a pre-season game but giving a third-rounder a couple of quarters because they have to find a way to make it a reality that this guy has to be on the team because he was drafted.

"And it happens more than the public knows. Hell, half the centres that were drafted in my year were gone after the second year. It's a numbers game and you look good on paper and that's what brings you in the door and then your draft year keeps you there for a year or two depending on how high you were. After that you kind of become a lost commodity.''

Romberg admits the business side of the game has drastically diminished his love for it.

"I think it probably gutted it the moment I got into the NFL," Romberg said. "There's no doubt in my mind the business aspect of football just tears at the fun because it's no longer a game.

"It's actually your job, it puts food on your plate and young guys don't realize that until their third or fourth year when they start getting cut because they can get a younger guy who's a little bit cheaper and you have to do something pretty productive or pretty special that the young kid can't do.

"Luckily I always had a good offensive line coach for the majority of my career. My big slogan by the time I was in my sixth year was, 'You're only as good as your coach wants you to be.' ''

However, Romberg remains very appreciative of the opportunities football has afforded him.

"It's definitely a blessing,'' he said. "The doors the NFL has opened for me, the friends I have now in the music business and in Hollywood is all stuff a kid from Windsor would never, ever get an opportunity to do outside the fairytale of being in the spotlight and is very special.

"It's been a relatively smooth transition being able to basically end it on my terms and not because of a devastating injury. And with my job I've been to Canada more in the last five months than I have the last five years and it's good to see my family more often.

"I know I could still play and do what many of those guys are doing Sunday. But the question is: Does my body want to do it and do I really want to do it anymore? I have that opportunity in my life to do something with my mind rather than my body and possibly get my family started and settle down. That's more of a priority.''

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Warren Sapp's house is up for sale in 'The New York Times'

If you woke up Sunday morning and thumbed through The New York Times while sipping on your morning coffee, you may have been able to find your new Tuscan style two-story estate that no doubt includes the words "QB Killa" etched into various places.

Warren Sapp's house that has nearly 10,000 square feet is up for auction as part of an agreement stemming from the dismissal of his bankruptcy case this week. An advertisement appeared in Sunday's Times. Include in Sapp's filings were a lion skin rug, 240 pairs of Air Jodans and a signed Muhammad Ali boxing glove, reports TMZ.

The house is the crown jewel. What can you get at Sapp's house?

A custom Tuscan style two- story estate home on Lake Butler in the Exclusive "Reserve at Lake Butler Sound" Gated Community. Designed by renowned architect Terry Irwin and custom built by Akers Custom Homes, the home boasts a total of 15,162± SF with 9,880± SF of living area on 2.90± acres. The estate has 500± feet of combined frontage on Lake Butler with a covered boathouse with dock, a boatlift and 2 personal watercraft lifts. In addition to the elegant custom swimming pool with built-in slide, waterfall and lazy river there is a fully equipped summer kitchen featuring a wolf gas grill with custom vent hood, kohler sink, sub zero refrigerator, and stone surfaces overlooking an expansive pool / lanai area with breathtaking Lake Butler and Nature Preserve Views.

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Ryan Braun makes history by joining 40/30 club

The Brewers lost 7-6 to the Astros last night and now sit five games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with five games left to play. While the Brewers’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, Ryan Braun is busy making history.

Braun doubled in the sixth inning last night before stealing third base. He now has 30 stolen bases on the year to go along with a career-high 41 home runs. This is just the 11th time in MLB history that a player has amassed at least 40 homers and 30 stolen bases in one season.

Here are the others:

2006: Alfonso Soriano – 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases
1999: Jeff Bagwell – 42 home runs and 32 stolen bases
1998: Alex Rodriguez – 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases
1997: Barry Bonds – 40 home runs and 37 stolen bases
1997: Larry Walker – 49 home runs and 33 stolen bases
1997: Jeff Bagwell – 43 home runs and 31 stolen bases
1996: Barry Bonds – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases
1996: Ellis Burks – 40 home runs and 32 stolen bases
1988: Jose Canseco – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases
1963: Hank Aaron – 44 home runs and 31 stolen bases

Braun won the National League MVP award last season by hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 33 stolen bases and a .994 OPS. He has a strong case for the award again this year on pure numbers alone, delivering a .319/.391/.602 batting line to go along with a .993 OPS. His 41 homers and 112 RBI currently lead the National League. Of course, the chances of a repeat are likely pretty slim. The Brewers are almost certainly going to miss the postseason and we’ll probably see quite a few voters dock him for his overturned PED test. Not saying it’s fair, as he should be assessed on his 2012 contributions alone and not the controversy that followed him into spring training, but that’s the reality of the situation.

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What Ryan Braun has proved

There's a speech that Martin Landau's character gives near the end of the darkly brilliant Woody Allen film "Crimes and Misdemeanors" that often comes to mind whenever I see amazing powers attributed to someone's ability to "look you in the eye" and "act as if they're not guilty," as if that's an accurate gauge of whether a person is telling the truth.

And the scene came rushing back to me as the discussion heated up about whether Ryan Braun's second straight MVP-caliber season proves the Milwaukee slugger's assertion that he never used performance-enhancing drugs even more than the fact his positive 2011 test was overturned on appeal.

The movie is about a lot of themes: betrayal, guilt, the human capacity for denial, and our yearning to believe the world is "just." It's also about what happens to a fictional man of great stature and ambition who is tripped up by a personal failing (in this case, Landau's character, Judah, has an affair and then violently disposes of the crazy mistress who threatens to destroy everything he's built). In his big summation near the end, Landau, speaking in a tone of voice that's so matter-of-fact it's haunting, describes how Judah went from panicked to guilt-ridden to relieved when an unexpected exoneration magically came his way: "One morning, he awakens. The sun is shining, his family is around him and mysteriously, the crisis has lifted. He takes his family on a vacation to Europe and as the months pass, he finds he's not punished. In fact, he prospers … What the hell? … His life is completely back to normal."

The point is the actual outcome proved nothing about the truth.

And it seems to me that's a good distinction to keep in mind now that Braun's terrific season seems to be getting freighted with more or less meaning than anyone can be sure it deserves. I'm all for the argument that his thrown-out test shouldn't be held against him in the upcoming MVP vote. But what I can't reconcile is the rush to declare that Braun's numbers categorically prove his claim that "I am an innocent man." Same goes for the rush to put Braun to the eyeball test and rhetorically ask his doubters, "Does Braun look like a guilty man to you?" or turn this into another hackneyed tale of sports "redemption."

A lot of it is based on the assumption that no one in Braun's position would dare do anything wrong again. And that logic might seem reasonable if so many other PED users hadn't looked us right in the eye, too, after being accused. If you want a few laughs, read this funny old Slate magazine compilation of how athletes have explained failed drug tests, "The Dog Ate My Steroids." But if you want a more sobering take, listen to this audio of BALCO founder Victor Conte, taped for San Francisco radio station KNBR after Braun's positive test came to light last year. Conte describes in daunting, rapid-fire detail how many ways tests can still be beat.

Which again pretty much underscores the point Allen's movie made: The outcomes may or may not have anything to do with the truth.

So isn't it better to confine ourselves to what we do know about Braun?

Ryan Braun is an exceptionally good baseball player. So good "it's stupid," Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers said with a laugh earlier this year. "Ridiculous," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke agreed, smiling as well.

Braun has had a hell of a season under trying circumstances. That's a fact, too. His numbers alone deserve to put him in the neck-and-neck race he's in with Giants catcher Buster Posey for the National League Most Valuable Player award. Braun's stats back up his opinion -- expressed most recently to -- that he's played even better this season than he did while winning the MVP award last year. And he's done it without lineup protection from fellow slugger Prince Fielder, who moved on to Detroit this season.

What adds a special dimension to Braun's performance is the personal backstory. He's raised his level after becoming the only major leaguer ever known to have a positive drug test overturned. And if the process had worked the way it should've, none of it -- neither the fact his sample tested positive for five times the admissible level of testosterone, nor that an arbitration panel ruled 2-1 that the sample was mishandled -- would've ever gotten out publicly. Instead the positive result was leaked to ESPN before the appeal was over, in a breach of the program's confidentially provision. Braun was upset about the ensuing damage to his reputation. And he has a right to be. Still.

So Braun deserves praise for how he's handled this year. Even by September, when the Brewers traveled to Chicago to play a series against the Cubs, the New York Times reported Braun was still hearing taunts from fans such as "Ster-oids, ster-oids" or "Hey Ryan, I've got a syringe for you!" But that day -- same as he has all season long -- Braun refused to acknowledge the catcalls, let alone lash back. In the most expansive interview he gave on the topic all season, Braun told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports he truly viewed this season as an opportunity to "continue to do what I've done my whole career. I thought that was going to be the single-most important thing I could do to move forward and to get people to see I'm still the player -- if anything, better -- than I've ever been in the past."

In sum, if the yardstick is performance or personal behavior, it is hard to tell a difference between the Before version of Braun we had come to know -- the five-tool talent, popular teammate and model citizen who had decried PED use in the past -- and the After version of Braun that we've seen since the controversy blew up. He's played terrifically and comported himself even better despite the suspicions that have followed him since his appeal. Those are all facts, too.

So if voters think Braun had a better year than Buster Posey, or that the tiebreaker doesn't have to be that Posey's Giants made the playoffs while Braun's Brewers probably won't, they shouldn't hold the test fiasco against Braun.

They should go ahead and give the man the award.

But beyond that? I don't get the rush to proclaim that Braun's MVP caliber year categorically proves his innocence -- case closed, write it down in ink, call it a wrap.

Ryan Braun is a hell of a ballplayer who performed well enough to win another MVP award.

Leave it at that.

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