31 July 2011

Moments of Glory - ESPN's Countdown

ESPN in their Yards To Glory Series counts down the top college plays in the history of NCAAF. Obviously there are quite a few proCanes involved!

25. Kelly's Throws
Jim Kelly helps upset Penn State in first start
Nov. 3, 1979: After a 3-4 start, Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger made a desperate move, giving freshman quarterback Jim Kelly his first college start at Penn State. Kelly, who was recruited by the Nittany Lions as a linebacker, didn't find out he was starting until moments before the game. He responded by throwing up in the locker room. Kelly also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Jim Joiner in the third quarter, helping the Hurricanes upset the No. 19 Nittany Lions 26-10.

31. Hurricane Willis
Willis McGahee scores school record sixth touchdown
Dec. 7, 2002: With Miami comfortably ahead of Virginia Tech 42-21 in the third quarter, running back Willis McGahee made Hurricanes history when he sprinted into the end zone from 31 yards out to score his sixth touchdown of the day, breaking the school record for total touchdowns scored in a game. McGahee didn't have to do much on the play. He simply bolted through the middle, made a slight cut to the right and jogged in to make it 49-21.

42. Leonard Part 2
Leonard Conley runs Miami past Nebraska in Orange Bowl
Jan. 2, 1989: Miami's diminutive Leonard Conley stood tall in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska, scoring both of the Hurricanes' touchdowns in a 23-3 win. The second score stood out, as he caught a Steve Walsh pass in the flat, juked Nebraska's Lorenzo Hicks and scooted down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown. Miami receiver Dale Dawkins spurred Conley with a crushing downfield block. The catch marked Conley's longest in college as Miami handed Nebraska its first loss of the season.

73. Raising Cane
Michael Irvin's catch-and-run buries FSU
Oct. 3, 1987: In a game that featured two unbeaten in-state rivals, Miami trailed Florida State 19-3 late in the third quarter when Miami quarterback Steve Walsh almost single-handedly changed the game. He threw three touchdown passes in the final 16 minutes, including a 73-yarder to Michael Irvin that gave the Canes a 26-19 lead with 2:22 remaining. Walsh threw the ball into double coverage, but Irvin made the catch and helped preserve a 26-25 win en route to a national title.

80. Reed And React
Ed Reed helps save Miami's title hopes
Nov. 10, 2001: Miami's national championship hopes were on the line when a late defensive stand saved the Canes. Boston College moved to the Miami 9 in the final minute of the game. But Mike Rumph deflected a Brian St. Pierre pass to tackle Matt Walters, who started running downfield. Ed Reed took the ball from him and scored an 80-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left to give Miami an 18-7 win. Miami ended up winning the national title.

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Bruce Johnson suffers ruptured Achilles, Done For Year

The Giants suffered their first serious injury of training camp on Thursday evening, when cornerback Bruce Johnson injured his leg early in practice and had to be carted off the field.

Later on in practice, the Giants announced that Johnson suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. He will undoubtedly be lost for the season.

Johnson was entering his third season with the Giants. An undrafted free agent out of Miami, Johnson appeared in all 16 of the Giants' games as a rookie in 2009, starting in five of them. He had two interceptions that season, including one thrown by the Cowboys' Tony Romo that he returned for a touchdown.

Last season he played in six games before being lost for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

Losing Johnson ratchets up the pressure even more on the Giants to come to an agreement with first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, the highly touted cornerback out of Nebraska. Amukamara is the only first-round pick that remains unsigned at this point in the NFL.

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Darryl Sharpton Sharp

When DeMeco Ryans couldn't practice Thursday morning while his contract was being redone, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips plugged in second-year pro Darryl Sharpton at Ryans' right inside linebacker slot. Sharpton proved up to task and then some.

"He got the chance to go in and run the defensive football team," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Just watching him, I thought he did a helluva job."

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Dwayne Hendricks competing for job in New York Giants training camp

Dwayne Hendricks, a Millville High School graduate, is competing for a job as a defensive tackle with the New York Giants.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Hendricks is among seven defensive tackles at the team's training camp in East Rutherford.

The Giants announced Thursday that they had re-signed Rocky Bernard, whom had been cut last week after having spent the 2009 and 2010 season with the team. With Bernard back in the mix, the Giants' interior defensive line corps also includes Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Gabe Watson, second-round draft choice Marvin Austin and Ibraham Abdulai.

Hendricks, 25, was undrafted out of Miami. He first signed with the Giants in April 2009 but was released that June. New York signed the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder again in October 2009 for its practice squad. At the time, Hendricks had been coaching the defensive line at Millville.

He signed a futures contract with the Giants in January 2010 and played in four preaseson games for them before being released last Sept. 4. The Giants signed him again to their practice squad in November 2010 and to a reserve/futures contract this past January.

Hendricks graduated from Millville in 2004. He was a two-time Press All Star. During his senior year for the Thunderbolts, he made 82 tackles, 13 of them for losses. He also had 6 sacks and caused four fumbles.

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Shawnbrey McNeal Signs

Runningback Shawnbrey McNeal signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Chargers on Thursday. McNeal was on the Washington Redskins practice squad last year but was released by the redskins earlier in the week.

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Cutler says Devin Hester having 'unbelievable camp'

BOURBONNAIS -- Early this offseason, the idea was Devin Hester would lose playing time to Earl Bennett.

Hester was asked about the possibility at the outset of training camp and took the professional approach, saying he knows he’ll make plays when he has an opportunity.

Now with Roy Williams in the mix, it’s going to be more interesting how the playing time is divided for a group the Chicago Bears hope is their best at the wide receiver position in a long time.

But if Hester’s playing time is trimmed from the 66 percent it was at last season as a starter, he looks like he’s going to be a more effective performer. That’s if early returns in training camp mean anything. Hester made a route adjustment on the fly Thursday night, getting open deep when he spotted the safety out of the center of the field. It was a smart move and one he made seamlessly. It’s something that might not have come to him last season, and certainly not in training camp when he was trying to digest the Mike Martz playbook.

“Devin Hester is having an unbelievable camp,” quarterback Jay Cutler offered in an unsolicited comment. “He’s so much more comfortable in the system. He’s not thinking and in this system if you think you’re not going to be very effective. He’s just out there. He’s reacting, he’s running super fast like he always does. I’m happy with him and I think he’s happy where he is at right now too.”

That’s certainly good news for the Bears, especially if Hester can make plays downfield more consistently. Maybe it will be a challenge for how the team wants to deploy the wideouts, more than a challenge to get them to produce like it’s often been in the past.

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

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Ed Reed on the sidelines

Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed missed his first practice at this year's training camp with an undisclosed injury. It doesn't appear serious because he was stretching and doing some exercises in between the practice fields.

This was the first full-team practice of camp. The Ravens delayed practice 2 1/2 hours so everyone could suit up. The league year began just before 5 p.m. when the players union approved the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.

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

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Antonio Dixon Injured

Antonio Dixon, last year's surprise starter, went down with a knee sprain Thursday. (The team said it was "mild" and Dixon thought he'd be back "soon.

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Ray Lewis Uses A Bike To Save His Two Wheels

In the now-famous commercial, Ray Lewis says the animals want to talk so they can communicate with him. But a lot of animals might not be able to catch the future Hall of Famer the way he's pedaling his bike these days.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh says the All-Pro linebacker is in the best shape that he's ever seen him in, and Lewis says that's thanks to cycling.

"I credit a lot of my training to a lot of my cycling," Lewis told reporters, getting more excited by the word. "I did a lot of cycling. I became real big in it. First couple times I went out there I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' I mean, the fatigue that you go through..."

One reason Lewis brought out the bicycle is because it puts less stress on legs than pounding the pavement.

"It's really a mind thing on how you have to breathe and just let your legs keep going, going, going, going," Lewis said. "And then when you get on the field and you go back to running, running isn't the same because you can't take as many steps running as you can cycling. So that's one of the things that really, really helped me out a lot this off-season."

While you won't see Lewis in the Tour de France soon, cycling can be a great changeup to your cardio routine if you're sick of the treadmill or pavement every day.

A stationary bike is great for steady state cardio and may be even better for interval training than the treadmill because of the lack of acceleration and deceleration lag that a treadmill belt undergoes when the speed changes.

If you're looking for sport-specific conditioning, however, cycling may not be your best bet. The best way to train is to replicate movements and the stress your body goes through in competition. While there's a lot of running involved in basketball, for instance, it's nearly useless for a basketball player to run five miles at a steady state to train for the season. When would that ever happen in a game?

Plus, look at it this way: If Lance Armstrong's cardiovascular endurance directly transferred over to running, he'd be a world-class marathoner.
But that's not to say Lewis wasted his time on the bike. Hardly. At 36, his body has been through a lot of wear and tear over 15 NFL seasons. And as we said before, interval training is easily adaptable on a bike. Relatively short bursts of power followed by longer recovery periods are normal in any cycling class.

Besides, one of the most important aspects to any fitness routine is rest. By subjecting himself to grueling, but lower-impact workouts, Lewis says he feels fresher.

At the very least, that means no letdown for fans coming to the stadium to see him dance this season.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Broncos will rely on rookie Orlando Franklin at right tackle

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ryan Harris' departure for Philadelphia makes it even more apparent the team is banking on second-round pick Orlando Franklin to be the starting right tackle, a job Harris held the past three years.

Franklin (6-5, 316) has the size to be a dominating run-blocker, but Harris’ underrated pass protection skills could be missed — especially early on.

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Carolina Panthers Pursued WR Santana Moss

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — With all the offensive focus on the drafting of Cam Newton, the return of disgruntled receiver Steve Smith, the re-signing of DeAngelo Williams and the upgrade at the tight end position, the Panthers' No. 2 receiver position has been overlooked at their training camp in Wofford.

Not by the team's front office, however.

he Panthers agreed to terms Thursday with free agent wideout Legedu Naanee, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Naanee, 27, caught 23 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown in 10 games last year with the Chargers. The 6-2, 220-pound Naanee is another player with ties to former San Diego assistant Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers' offensive coordinator.

Naanee will compete at the No. 2 spot with three second-year receivers – Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards. LaFell and Gettis combined for 75 catches and 976 receiving yards in 2010, but both are currently sidelined with hamstring injuries. Naanee's arrival could speed the healing process.

Gettis is faster than LaFell and could be a better fit in Chudzinski's West Coast offense, which will feature a lot of vertical stretch routes.
Edwards, the former Appalachian State quarterback who struggled mightily as a rookie, has been of the biggest camp surprises. But coaches want to see how Edwards performs in preseason games.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Rocky McIntosh moves back into lineup

Newly re-signed Redskins ILB Rocky McIntosh was immediately re-installed as a starter at his first practice of camp Thursday.
Perry Riley and H.B. Blades moved down a notch. Though McIntosh wasn't effective on the field last season, he did post a career-high 110 tackles as the inside 'backer next to London Fletcher. He's very much on the IDP radar, and the Skins will hope for improvement in his second year of Jim Haslett's scheme.

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jason Fox Number One on the Curiosity List for Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions have been in training camp for almost a week now, and I’m just itching to hear some news about some of the new guys who might be playing a big role during the 2011 football season. There has never been a more anticipated year for the Lions than the one they are embarking upon right now, and now that they have the pads on, I want to know what’s what with some players.

The Lions are the new hotness, and everybody knows the basic story lines for the honolulu blue and silver for the upcoming season. Can Matthew Stafford stay healthy and can the Lions turn last season’s great ending into a great start this year?

They have already suffered a set-back with prized first round pick Nick Fairley sidelined for up to 3 or 4 weeks, but the rest of camp has been going pretty smoothly. Strange to say for a team that only a couple of years ago couldn’t win a game to save it’s life, but this team is set at almost every position. The only question really is going to be who will start on the other side of the field opposite Chris Houston at cornerback. It remains to be seen who will win that position, but with the way the other teams are cutting players to get under the salary cap, the person who starts for the Lions might still be on another team, waiting for the axe.

Aside from the Suhs and the Johnsons who have national commercials, I want to know about a couple of players who could play a huge role this year, but we really don’t know yet. The first three draft choices are pretty well known commodities. The following is a list of five players I’ll be eyeballing closely this preseason.

1. Jason Fox. This could be the eventual successor to the much maligned Jeff Backus. Being the draftnik that I am, I was ecstatic to get a solid tackle in the fourth round last year who, if it wasn’t for an injury, might have been a second round selection. The injury kept him from performing until the last game last year, but nobody benefited more from the layoff than this guy. He claims to be 100 percent now and after a year of waiting, the Lions will finally see what he brings to the table.

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Tavares Gooden Signs & Practices

Linebacker Tavares Gooden, who signed last week but was forced to watch, was delighted to be back in pads.

"It felt good, I was able to release some frustration," he said. "It was fun being out there. I hated to see my teammates out there working hard and I couldn't be out there."

It was, however, worth the wait.

"Yeah, they had to make sure both sides were equally favored. That's what we were waiting on," Gooden said. "We're all happy they were able to get that deal done today."

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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James Jones not looking overseas

Joe Bell represents Heat free-agent forward James Jones and said there have been no overseas explorations with the 3-point specialist.

Jones is secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association and has been named as a defendant in a motion brought by the NBA against the union.

"He's neck-deep in the union stuff, how can he go overseas?" Bell said. "James isn't going anywhere."

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Q&A with Cleveland closer Chris Perez

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez has posted 22 saves and a 3.11 ERA this season so far.

He is one of the more entertaining players in Major League Baseball.

Check out the video of him a few posts down.

Here are some other questions I asked him:

Smitty: Do you know whether a pitch will be a strike or not immediately after you release the baseball?
Perez: On most days, I do know whether it’s going to be a strike or not when I release the ball. But sometimes, you release the ball and you just hope it’s going to go in there. I’m sure every pitcher has gotten into one of those stretches, where your location — you just kind of lose it for a little bit. And you’re just feeling your way through and hoping the ball gets into the strike zone. But for the most part,when it leaves the hand, you kind of know. It feels like it’s going to be a strike.

Smitty: If you could talk pitching with anybody, who would it be?
Perez: Talk pitching or hitting?

Smitty: Either.
Perez: Hitting-wise I’d probably want to talk to somebody like a Tony Gwynn or a Wade Boggs or somebody like that who hit for a high average because obviously that’s more difficult to do. Power hitters are special … but to hit for a high average — maybe like Pete Rose who’s the all-time hits king — you have to be a pretty smart hitter, have a good idea, have a good approach and kind of know how the pitchers are going to try to attack you. Somebody like that, I’d like to try to pick their brain and see what kind of approach they took, especially late in the game because that’s when I pitch. I know hitters switch up their approach with a starter compared to a reliever.

Smitty: Any pitcher you’d like to chat with?
Perez: I actually got to talk with Bob Gibson quite a bit when I was with the St. Louis Cardinals and he’ a pretty special guy to talk about pitch with. Just about intimidation and having a presence on the mound. He’s one of the all-time greats of that. I picked up some stuff from him. And It was just cool listening to him and his stories.

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Chris Perez an option in tie games late

Indians manager Manny Acta is not opposed to using closer Chris Perez in the ninth inning or later of a tie game when the Indians are on the road.

He did it once this year on April 13 against the Angels. Perez, with the score tied, 3-3, started the 10th inning and pitched 11/3 scoreless innings. The Indians lost, 4-3, in the 12th when Chad Durbin gave up a run.

The idea of a manager using his closer on the road in a non-save situation is to extend his team's chances of winning the game. If Acta had waited to use Perez against the Angels until the Tribe had a lead, his best reliever would have never left the bullpen.

Acta could have used Perez on Tuesday and Wednesday in the ninth inning against Boston. In each game, the score was tied going into the bottom of the ninth. On Tuesday, he went with Vinnie Pestano, who gave up a walkoff single to hitter Jacoby Ellsbury to beat the Tribe, 3-2.
On Wednesday, Joe Smith took a 3-3 tie into the bottom of the ninth. He retired the first two batters before Ellsbury hit a game-winning homer to straightaway center field.

"I've done it in the past," said Acta. "The majority of the time I do it is when the heart of the order is coming up."

Pestano and Smith faced the bottom of the Red Sox lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"When I use the closer in that situation, I want him to face the toughest part of the lineup," said Acta. "Sometimes if you're saving your closer for just a save situation, there's a chance that if you bring another guy in from the bullpen, he might not survive that inning because you're on the road. Then what are you going to do with your closer?

"We've done it. I'm not afraid to do it. The main thing is to try and win the ballgame."

Acta said he rarely uses his closer in a tie game on the road in the ninth inning. He will wait for the right spot in extra innings.

"I'm not going to save my closer until the 14th inning, just waiting for the save," said Acta. "But in that situation Wednesday night, we'd used Tony Sipp [in the eighth], but we still had Smith."

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After Getting Released Bryant McKinnie Works out With Terrell Pryor


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Santana Moss Training Camp Photo


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DeMarcus Van Dyke Gets His First INT of Training Camp

Demarcus Van Dyke had the first interception on a quarterback I have seen this camp. Hue Jackson has been stressing turnovers so that no doubt made him very happy. It was a high pass by Campbell that he leapt up and plucked out of the air on the sideline.

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Tervaris Johnson Practices

Tervaris Johnson
FB Tervaris Johnson practiced for the first time since last year’s night practice at Spratt Stadium. He was carted off the field with a knee injury that night. Johnson began camp on the PUP list alongside Tony Moeaki. Moeaki continues to work on the sidelines with the Chiefs strength and conditioning staff.

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Rocky McIntosh re-signs

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh re-signed with the Redskins late Wednesday night, a move that is a little surprising. McIntosh had wanted to return, but it appeared the Redskins would move on without him. McIntosh struggled in his first season playing in a 3-4 defense and was considered a better fit as a 4-3 weakside linebacker. However, the Redskins did not have a sound replacement so they brought back McIntosh on a one-year deal.

Second-year 'backer Perry Riley, who had been working with the first team, had his development hurt by the lockout this offseason, preventing him from needed attention from the coaches. Earlier Wednesday, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Riley is trying to learn "the hardest position on the field to learn.” That’s because Riley has to learn both inside positions; if the offense switches formations it also changes the responsibility of the inside ‘backers. He also has to learn the responsibilities of the position in their sub-packages. “He’s a very active kid who can run,” Haslett said. “He just needs time on the grass. The lockout set him back a little bit, not having a full offseason.”

Also, Lorenzo Alexander is learning to play inside, but that transition was hurt as well by the lockout. Horatio Blades also re-signed, but is strictly a backup and special teamer.

McIntosh started 61 games the past five seasons in Washington, the first four of which were spent as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3.

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Rob Chudzinski talks about the new Panthers offense

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Kenny Phillips excited to be key part of team's secondary

The first time Kenny Phillips’ return from injury prompted hyperbole was one year ago, when his arrival on the University of Albany practice fields prompted proclamations from his teammates that “Superman” was back.

Even the soft-spoken Phillips played with the joke, claiming he was Clark Kent working to put on a cape.

It apparently took an entire season for that to happen.

Phillips played all 16 games last year, his first year back from an operation to help repair an arthritic condition in his knee. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell admitted today that he “protected” Phillips in defensive packages to try to ensure he remained on the field.

Phillips often played as a deep safety to avoid major contact. Fewell is expecting Phillips to take a “quantum leap” this season now that the injury is behind him.

“Oh, yeah, it’s got to happen,” Phillips said. “Now, I probably take on a bigger role, as far as getting down in the box and just really be a part of the scheme.”

It’s not just Phillips who will appear different in the defensive backfield. The Giants’ secondary could evolve this season, especially after the team did not re-sign veteran safety Deon Grant and drafted cornerback Prince Amukamara in the first round. That improved the cornerbacks while thinning the depth at safety, a position in which the Giants often played three players at one time last season in an unconventional alignment.

“It changes because the personnel is different,” Fewell said. “You make plans but you can’t employ those plans until you have your entire team together, and then once you have your entire team together, you game plan.”

Antrel Rolle and Phillips will be stalwarts, but they may play in more traditional safety roles compared with the way they played with Grant.

One safety that will not contribute is Chad Jones, whose 2010 car accident kept him out of action last season and will keep him from participating again this year. The team waived/injured Jones today, and upon clearing waivers he will be placed on the non-football injury list for the season.

Jones attended today’s practice, received an ovation from the team and said he’s about 70 percent back to his optimum football shape.

“I still see myself as a New York Giants football player,” he said. “It’s nothing but motivation seeing all these guys out here run around, guys I played with, so I definitely see myself as a football player.”

In the past, the Giants also had the option of moving cornerback Aaron Ross to safety. Even with depth at cornerback, Ross made it clear today he would not be amenable to such a move in 2011.

“I’m not willing to do safety anymore,” Ross said. “Wouldn’t entertain it.”

Help might not be needed. If Phillips plays the way he and the coaching staff think he can, the biggest upgrade will be seen from Phillips, whose “Superman” moniker was issued one training camp too soon.

“I wasn’t as close to as where I thought I would be,” Phillips said. “A lot of guys were telling me it was going to take a year, but I was doing my best to try to prove them wrong. It turns out, they were right.”

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Michael Irvin has some passionate words for DeSean Jackson and his Holdout

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49ers relish return of Frank Gore

Frank Gore did more Tuesday than simply show up for his first practice of 49ers training camp after a four-day contract holdout.

He glided with ease through the 49ers' increasingly makeshift defense. He picked up blitzing linebackers. He instructed and encouraged teammates.

He didn't do any of it out of spite, either, while still awaiting a possible contract extension.

"I felt like a kid out there. I was happy," Gore said. "It's a blessing to come back from the (broken right hip). A lot of people doubted I would be back. I feel good. I feel like a 22-year-old running back out there."

Gore, 28, is entering the final year of a contract, one he wants extended to keep him in a 49ers uniform "forever." He is slated to make $2.9 million in base salary and $2 million in a roster bonus.

"There will be a resolution at some point," coach Jim Harbaugh said of Gore's contract status. "There will be diligent negotiations. We want Frank here, and we want Frank happy."

Gore, who ranks third on the 49ers' all-time rushing list, made a terrific first impression on Harbaugh, especially in terms of communication skills in the huddle and on the field.

After failing to report with his teammates Thursday and missing the first three days of practice, Gore couldn't cope with extending his absence further. He showed up Monday at the 49ers' facility and underwent a crash course in Harbaugh's playbook, spending nearly four hours with running-backs coach Tom Rathman.

"I'm a football player. I missed being out here with my team," Gore said. "I have a new coach and a new playbook I had to learn. Talking to Coach Harbaugh before the lockout was here, he had some good stuff. I told him I would be 100 percent behind him."

That is just how many of Gore's teammates feel about him.

"I was real excited," wide receiver Joshua (no longer just Josh) Morgan said. "I almost hugged him and gave him a kiss, but I tried to play it cool."
Added left tackle Joe Staley: "Frank's a leader on this team. It's good to have him back. The energy is up. Anytime he's back there, you know he's going to take care of business. The linemen especially, we like blocking for him."

Gore liked the way his body felt after its first practice, a frame he said wasn't fully healthy until midsummer.

"I'm 214 (pounds), 215 -- fighting weight. I'm back and ready to go," he said.

After praising the offense's potential and variety of calls, he expressed admiration for rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"What surprised me today is the quarterback,: Gore said. "Man, he's a rookie. He's looking real good. He gets in the huddle, and he's making great reads. I told him, 'Man, you're doing a great job.' "

Gore's upbeat return helped take the sting off nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin's departure for the New Orleans Saints after reaching a one-year deal, according to ESPN. Franklin is the fourth defensive starter to head elsewhere, the others being cornerback Nate Clements (Cincinnati Bengals) and linebackers Manny Lawson (Bengals) and Takeo Spikes (San Diego Chargers). Safety Dashon Goldson remains on the free-agent market.

Harbaugh downplayed those exits and instead relished Gore's vocal leadership and "extremely fast" speed through the line of scrimmage.
"He gives young backs a good example of what a top-notch pro looks like," Harbaugh said.

Second-year running back Anthony Dixon welcomed back the "funny dude" he rotates with in the backfield: "It's good to have him back. Frank brings confidence. He's got great talent."

Gore showed no signs of trouble from the broken right hip he sustained Nov. 29. He did have his left ankle taped 30 minutes into practice but soon was taking handoffs -- from Harbaugh -- in a running-backs drill.

"I felt good out there, and I'm happy to be back," Gore said. "I want to tell my friends I'm sorry about the little holdup. But I'm back and ready to go to work."

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vernon Carey moves from tackle to guard

DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Vernon Carey is moving to guard after spending the past six seasons as a starter at tackle.

Carey lined up at his new position during practice Wednesday, and coach Tony Sparano said he’s there to stay. The change makes newcomer Marc Colombo the favorite to start at Carey’s old right tackle spot.

Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long is back, although he has yet to practice because of left knee and shoulder injuries. The likely interior line starters are Carey and veteran Richie Incognito at guard and top draft pick Mike Pouncey at center.

The 340-pound Carey’s size and experience made him a good candidate for the move to guard, Sparano said, and it will aid Pouncey’s adjustment to the NFL.

“Vernon is a smart player, and smart players are good inside,” Sparano said. “And that is critical right now with Pouncey in the middle.”
Carey has started 92 games for the Dolphins since they selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft. He last lined up at guard for the University of Miami.

“I have no problem playing it,” he said. “I’m playing for the Dolphins, and I’m just happy to be here.”

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson's injured finger worse than thought

Texans WR Andre Johnson's dislocated finger was a little more serious than originally revealed.

Johnson, widely considered the NFL's premier wide receiver, was taken to a Houston hospital Tuesday morning after the bone of his left index finger busted through the skin and caused blood to spurt from the wound, he told USA TODAY on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old Pro Bowler said he jumped in the air for a pass during a drill and the football hit the tip of his finger, dislocating the digit.

"I had a glove on and when I made a fist, my index finger didn't feel right. When I looked at it, it was kind of ugly, so I popped it back into place,'' he said. "I was fine, wasn't in any pain or anything. But the sweat from my glove got in the cut where the bone broke the skin. It started burning. When I took my glove off, that's when the blood started running out.''

Johnson said he went to his receivers coach, Larry Kirksey. "He said, 'What's wrong?' He saw the blood running out and was like, 'Oh, hell, no.' ''
The receiver said he did not need stitches but was told by doctors that the cuts he sustained would need about three days to heal. The finger, resting on a small splint, is heavily bandaged.

"Once the cuts close, I can start practicing again. They say, hopefully, sometime this weekend,'' Johnson said.

The veteran, who was hobbled virtually all of last season with a high ankle sprain, did find some humor in the situation a day later after the accident.

"I was walking by (Texans' running back) Chris Ogbonnaya and he was carrying his sandals,'' Johnson said. "Somehow, his sandal got hooked up with my (injured) finger) and he started pulling me (down the hallway). I was like, 'Whoa, whoa…'' He said, 'Sorry, man, my bad!' We just both laughed about it.''

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

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Leonard Hankerson talks about being with the Redskins

WR Leonard Hankerson, the third round pick of the Washington Redskins earlier this year, has been impressing observers with his size and catch radius. Here he talks to Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet about learning the offensive system, competing with the veteran wideouts on the roster, and more.

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Healthy Kellen Winslow ready for big year

At some point this preseason, I’ll project a breakout player in the NFC South. This guy doesn’t qualify because he’s already a big name, but I’m expecting a huge season.

The guy I’m talking about is Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow.

As Joe Henderson points out, this is a rare August for Winslow. For the first time in a long time, he’s not recovering from knee surgery. Winslow reportedly has had seven knee surgeries and the Buccaneers were very cautious with his practice time last season. He played on Sundays, but frequently didn’t practice on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

When I talked to Winslow at a players-only workout at the University of South Florida back in May, he said his knee was feeling better than it has in years. He also was in a vibrant mood and talked glowingly about the rapport he’s building with quarterback Josh Freeman. Winslow, who usually spends much of his offseason in San Diego, spent a lot of time in Tampa, working out with Freeman this year.

Winslow often was portrayed as a malcontent during his time in Cleveland. In Tampa Bay, he’s stayed quiet, often avoiding the locker room during the period it’s open to the media.

But Winslow was talking -- very pleasantly -- back in May. Since camp has opened, he’s talked to the media several times. It seems like the lack of knee pain has lifted his spirits.

I think it also will lift his play to a new level this season.

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

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Jon Beason: Panthers to blitz often

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- As we’ve already started to see the last couple of days, it really is a new era for the Carolina Panthers with John Fox out as the coach and Ron Rivera in his place.

In the Fox days, players rarely discussed strategy, mainly because they were told not to. And Fox went out of his way to avoid anything he thought might give opponents a strategic advantage. In his mind, that meant just about every topic was off limits.

But just wandering Carolina’s camp at Wofford College the last few days, I got a strong sense that Rivera’s not running a silent ship. Players were talking and they were talking strategy. Middle linebacker Jon Beason was always a pleasant sort but used to play by Fox’s rules. Now that the rules have changed Beason’s not afraid to give a preview of what Carolina’s defense will look like this season.

“It will be a night-and-day difference," Beason said. “If we blitzed 30 percent of the time last year, we’re probably going to blitz 65 or 70 percent of the time this year.

“You look at [defensive coordinator Sean] McDermott’s track record with the Philadelphia Eagles," Beason said. “When you say Philadelphia Eagles, you always think about a very aggressive defense. That’s encouraging. Coach Rivera, having been a player on championship teams, and coaching with some very good teams. That part of it is encouraging."

Heck, Beason is enjoying the new-found freedom of speech so much that he even previewed the offense. Coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Beason were together at the University of Miami.

“I know Chudzinski’s scheme,’’ Beason said. “He’s going to try to mess with you mentally, moving guys around and a lot of shifts. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on our offense to learn it. If they can get it down, it’s going to help us as a defense to get to the point where we can make some more plays."

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

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Vikings camp: Few mourn McKinnie's exit

MANKATO, Minn. -- I came up about, oh, 85 players short Wednesday of talking to everyone on the Minnesota Vikings roster. So I can't say for sure that no one was upset by the decision to release longtime left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who reported to training camp weighing nearly 400 pounds.

Here's what I can tell you, however: Some players would have been upset if the Vikings hadn't released McKinnie.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield, for one, said he thought coach Leslie Frazier would give McKinnie a chance to get his weight and conditioning under control. But ultimately, Winfield agreed, "no one is untouchable."

Winfield added: "We all understood, everyone as professionals, that all we had to do is come in and come in shape. Coaches really had no choice but to do what they did."

The Vikings have a predominantly veteran roster, most of whom went to great lengths to stay in shape during the lockout. Winfield looked as fit and trim as ever. Left guard Steve Hutchinson said he is "in the best shape I've been in the last seven or eight years" after participating in Twin Cities workouts with six teammates. Defensive end Jared Allen, meanwhile, laughed when asked about his approach to working out this offseason.

"My philosophy is this is my job," Allen said. "This is my livelihood. You've got to assume the lockout is going to be done at some point, so it's your job to stay in shape. Everybody can find a gym."

No one blasted McKinnie nor expressed disappointment that he had left them searching for a left tackle in the first week of August. In my opinion, after watching McKinnie's immature behavior and dispassionate play for years, few of them counted him as part of the trusted core of veterans.

"You can't be mad at him," Winfield said. "I'm sure he's disappointed in himself. That's kind of embarrassing. But I think he's going to have to deal with it."

In the offseason, Winfield said, "guys do different things. Some guys relax, some guys travel. Some guys like to party. But you have to be disciplined. All you have to do is go work out, stay in some kind of shape, and perform."

McKinnie wasn't a disciplined teammate or player. That's why I don't think anyone who works as hard as Winfield, Allen or Hutchinson was really ruing his departure.

"Realistically," Hutchinson said, "if you came and showed up at camp with the hope that every player was in tip-top shape, I don't think anybody can whole-heartedly say, 'Yeah, everyone is going to be in the best shape of their life.' I'll admit, as you get older, you're not 23 years old anymore. It's hard to kind of get up maybe sometimes on your own and go run in the heat of the day, and push yourself to do the things that you would do when you're in an offseason conditioning program with all of the guys."

But that's just the point, isn't it? Hutchinson got a group together that included center John Sullivan, linebacker Heath Farwell and linebacker Chad Greenway, among others, to push each other on days when there were no conditioning coaches on top of them and no football coaches getting reports on their progress.

If you are a player who has paid the proverbial price, how much do you care about what happens to someone who didn't? And how would you have felt if that person got a free pass from training camp to do the work he should have done before it started?

You might be upset, and it's a double standard that coach Leslie Frazier avoided by quickly dispatching McKinnie. Frazier wouldn't discuss his reasoning behind the decision while speaking with reporters other than to say: "We made a decision for our organization for our organization that we thought was the best thing as we're trying to bring a world championship to Minnesota."

The Vikings could have left McKinnie on the non-football injury list for a while, hoping he would lose enough weight to regain his effectiveness by the start of the season. Frazier had a choice between extending McKinnie's career-long coddling session or standing up for the veterans who don't need or want to work in that kind of environment.

He chose the latter, and it needs no further explanation.

"Guys need to be on their jobs," Winfield said. "They're not untouchable."

Nor should they be.

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jason Michaels belts sixth double

Astros OF Jason Michaels totaled two hits, including his sixth double, in four at-bats Wednesday against the Reds. Michaels came into the game 0 for 9 in his last eight games.

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Blake Tekotte makes splash in return to San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- Blake Tekotte went 3-for-19 during his first stint in the Major Leagues earlier this season.

In his first game back Tuesday, the Padres rookie outfielder had three hits and two steals in four at-bats in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers.

"Last time [in the Majors], it felt a little overwhelming, maybe," Tekotte said. "I got my feet wet, went back down and knew what I had to work on. I changed a little bit of my swing, just kind of my approach and everything.

"This go-around I feel a little bit more comfortable up there in knowing what I need to do."

Tekotte's big night came against starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched seven dominant innings and held all other Padres hitters to three hits.

"He was just throwing his sinker," Tekotte said. "I was just swinging at good pitches, and luckily I was finding some grass out there."

Tekotte was promoted from Double-A San Antonio on May 23 and optioned back June 8. He was added to the roster on Tuesday to take the place of outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who was traded to the Pirates on Sunday.

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Gaby Sanchez leads NL first baseman in Fielding Percentage

Gaby Sanchez currently leads all NL first basemen with a .997 fielding percentage. Sanchez has not made an error in his last 28 games. The Marlins have never had a first baseman lead the NL in fielding.

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Motte talks about 'message' to Ryan Braun

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals reliever Jason Motte said he was following the calls from his catcher and that it wouldn't have been wise to purposely hit Ryan Braun with the situation the Cardinals were in.

He, like his manager Tony La Russa, insisted that the pitch that plunked Ryan Braun on Tuesday night was not intentional. Saying otherwise would certainly invite punishment and a fine from Major League Baseball.

Regardless, he did offer a look at what the Cardinals, already 3 1/2 games back in the division, did risk by putting Braun on just to prove a point or defend their own.

"It looked bad, but it is what it is," Motte said. "I didn't do it on purpose. It wasn't intentional. Did it look bad? Yeah. We're at their place. I could hear them booing when I walked off the field. I knew what they were booing for.

"It wasn't intentional. In a game that we just came back and tied it in the top half of that inning, to go out there and put a guy like Braun on who has got speed with the guys they have coming up in that lineup -- in those situations, the leadoff guy scores 90 percent of the time. It's one of those things -- that's the last thing I wanted to do."

Motte said that he was following Molina's pitch calls in the at-bat. He started with a cutter that floated away from Braun, and then he struck with the two fastballs well inside of the plate.

"Yadi called fastball in. And I had to try and get the ball in," Motte recalled this morning for reporters. "Then 2-0, he called another fastball in, and I was like, ‘OK. I'll just try to get it in there.' Obviously I got too much in there. I really wasn't thinking about that (the plunking of Albert Pujols in the previous inning). I know what happened the inning before. I wasn't out there trying to hit him. I wasn't out there trying. It probably didn't look good. The truth of the matter is I was trying to get in there, especially 2-0 I didn't want to leave something belt high, up out over. I obviously went in too much."

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Yonder Alonso taking grounders at third base

HOUSTON -- Rookie Yonder Alonso's pregame routine with the Reds has recently gotten a little busier.

Starting on Tuesday, Alonso was instructed to start taking ground balls at third base and to work with coach Chris Speier at that position. Alonso has only played left field and first base professionally.

"Maybe I can get in there and, obviously, it will give me more value to the team if I can do that," Alonso said on Wednesday. "Third base was my position growing up. It comes easier than the other two positions."

With Scott Rolen out up to six more weeks after having left shoulder surgery on Wednesday, the Reds are currently using Miguel Cairo and Todd Frazier at third base. Shortstop Paul Janish can also play there. Third base prospect Juan Francisco is currently on Triple-A Louisville's disabled list because he had right knee surgery on July 8.

While at the University of Miami, Alonso was taken as a first baseman by the Reds with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Since he's blocked there by Joey Votto, he began playing left field last season.

"When I got to college at Miami, Ryan Braun was at third base. That's why I moved to first base," Alonso said. "I started playing third my sophomore year and Danny Valencia came. He's now with Minnesota. Those were two pretty good third basemen."

Since his big league promotion on July 26 after the Reds traded left fielder Jonny Gomes to Washington to clear a roster spot for him, Alonso hasn't played much. His only start was in left field on Monday vs. the Astros, and he was not in the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Alonso, 24, entered Wednesday hitting 3-for-8 (.375), after he batted .296 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs in 91 games for Louisville.

"It's part of the process, I guess. My time will come," Alonso said. "I will pretty much stay with it, work every day and prepare myself for whatever that role may be. If I start, I start."

Alonso felt like his one start was successful, as he made one catch. But he also looked tentative on another fly ball that dropped in front of him. That, he said, was because he feared the ball getting by him had he made a diving attempt.

"I thought I played pretty well," Alonso said. "There were a couple of balls that kind of dunked in there. I caught a fly ball, hit my cutoffs and had good at-bats. It's just one start. It's not like it's the 100th start in the big leagues. I take it for what it is, and try to grasp as much positive as I can and move forward with it to the next start."

Alonso made a pinch-hitting appearance in the ninth inning of Wednesday's game and delivered an RBI single in the Reds' eventual 5-4 loss to the Astros.

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Vikings Release Bryant McKinnie

MANKATO, Minn. - The state of the Vikings' aging and regressing offensive line was a major story entering training camp. Bryant McKinnie's release Tuesday deepened the intrigue.
The Vikings ran out of patience with McKinnie, the former No. 1 draft pick whose difficulty maintaining a reasonable weight had become an issue with the front office since he arrived in Minnesota last week.
Coach Leslie Frazier is showing his muscle early in his tenure, but with the move comes risk.
A team already facing injury problems up front just gave up one of its most talented, though underperforming, pieces. Despite playing at close to 360 pounds at the end of last season, McKinnie started 131 of 132 games since being selected seventh overall in 2002 and made a Pro Bowl in 2009.
McKinnie told celebrity gossip website TMZ after being released: "I'll definitely be ready for next season. That's not even a question."
McKinnie also told TMZ that he was placed on the reserve/non-injury list Monday after doctors said his cholesterol was too high and he had to lose weight. He spent his two days in camp doing conditioning drills on the sidelines with guard Anthony Herrera, who is rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery.
"This decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interests of our football team," Frazier said.

“Its been fun,” McKinnie wrote on Twitter.

Ultimately, dealing with McKinnie was no longer fun for Minnesota. He reportedly showed up to camp “extremely” out of shape and overweight, which forced the Vikings to place him on the “NFI” (non-football injury) list.  He was due $5.6 million in total pay for 2011 and his play had fallen off quite a bit in 2010.

Recently acquired Charlie Johnson is poised to replace McKinnie at left tackle later this week, although the Vikings might be in the market for more depth.

Fourteen unrestricted free-agent tackles remain on the open market, including Alex Barron from the Cowboys, Sean Locklear from the Seahawks and former Vikings tackle/guard Ryan Cook.

Before making the roster move, Frazier confirmed that Johnson, a former Indianapolis Colts lineman, would start practicing in McKinnie's place Thursday when free agents can start training camp with their new teams.
Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

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FLOWERY BRANCH – Punter Matt Bosher, formerly of Miami,  was a sixth round pick (192nd overall) in the 2011 draft.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Bosher, who’s the favorite in a three-punter race to replace Michael Koenen:

Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: I would have to go with hog snapper. It’s like a  re-fish. You can get them down in the Bahamas, the Keys or South Florida. I dive a lot.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: I like comedies. A lot of Adam Sandler movies. Some of the older ones like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. Something goofy.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: By Dan Brown, Angels and Demons. I read it a couple of years ago before the movie came out.

Q: What’s on your iPod?
A: I have a mix of everything. Every genre you can think of . Classical. Jazz. Hip Hop. New Hip Hop. New Rock. Anything.

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Sinorice Moss ready to return kicks

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Don't blame Sinorice Moss if he wasn't more of a return man while he was at the University of Miami. He returned kicks sparingly because the Hurricanes had future NFL all-pro return man Devin Hester and future Bills return specialist Roscoe Parrish on those teams.

"We had so many different guys," Moss said, smiling. "Team was lit."

But if the Hurricanes needed a guy to go back there, he'd go and perform. That was the first thing the Eagles talked to Moss about before signing him in February, before the league's lockout took effect: Could he be a punt- and kick-returner for the Eagles?

The 5-foot-8 Moss said he's comfortable doing it even though he has been used sparingly throughout his collegiate and NFL careers. After being selected No. 44 overall in the second round of the 2006 draft, the Giants barely used him as a kick returner - he had only 24 returns in four seasons - and even less as a punt returner.

Moss certainly has speed to burn. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the 2006 combine. But he missed all of 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia right before the season.

Now, he said he's 100 percent healed and claims his explosiveness never left as he dealt with the injury. The Eagles offer a chance at redemption for Moss, who played in just 37 games in five years and collected just 421 receiving yards in New York because of a myriad of injuries. Understanding how to return kicks may be Moss's ticket in.

"You definitely have to focus," Moss said. "The first thing is getting possession of the football and catching the football. That's the main thing. Then after that, that's when talent and everything else takes over, knowing when to cut, when to make certain moves, and knowing to block."

The opportunity is there. The Eagles ranked 25th in the league last year in kick returns, averaging 20.5 yards per return, with no touchdowns. And DeSean Jackson could also use a sidekick on punt returns. Moss has a rare opportunity to play receiver for the Eagles, too.

At practice on Sunday, with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both missing, Moss didn't drop a single pass and showed he could be a playmaker. In one instance, Michael Vick found Moss on a route over the middle, and Moss dived to haul in the pass. Moss' next catch came deep down the right sideline, during a 7-on-7 drill.

"There's definitely an opportunity for me and the rest of the other guys to really showcase our talents and show that we can play ball," Moss said. "With those guys being out right now, it's giving us a lot more reps to go out there with the ones and the twos to actually showcase [ourselves]."

Over the summer, Vick called Moss and invited the receiver to work out with him and backup quarterback Mike Kafka as well as a few of the other starting receivers in South Jersey. That's where Moss was able to get used to the way Vick throws the ball.

Jason Avant was at those workouts, too. Moss knows Avant because they both were drafted the same season, so Moss has leaned on Avant to learn the plays and different route combinations. Another teacher who has stayed in Moss' ear is his brother, Santana, a wide receiver for the Redskins.

All their lives, Santana has answered Sinorice's questions. He has watched Sinorice play growing up, critiquing his game. Sinorice has picked his brother's brain about being a receiver and a returner, as Santana, who is four years older, was the Jets' primary punt returner early in his career.

Returning kicks is in Moss' blood. So is being a dynamic receiver, perfect for imaginative offensive schemes.

"When I look at the playbook, man, it's wide open," Moss said. "You see how guys open up. And when DeSean and [Maclin] and Jason are in the slot, they do certain things. And now that I'm here and able to do that, I think it's amazing.

Click here to order Sinorice Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Dawan Landry: "I was whatever Ed (Reed) didn't want to play."

One of the big signings the Jacksonville Jaguars grabbed in free agency was former Baltimore Ravens safety Dawan Landry. Obviously, safety was a giant hole in the Jaguars defense last year, so it was a known need heading into the off-season. Most Jaguars fans were clamoring for top rated safety Eric Weddle, but the rumors of the Jaguars interest in Dawan Landry floated out even while they were supposedly courting Weddle. Reports surfaced that the Jaguars inquired about Weddle, but once they heard his asking price moved on. They never made a formal contract offer, but instead focused their sights on Landry.

"Wherever the coaches put me. I just want to play," Landry told reporters after practice on Sunday. Landry was asked if he played free safety or strong safety with the Ravens, "I played wherever Ed (Reed) didn't want to play. Ed just told me where to go."

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

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Frank Gore returns to 49ers practice

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Frank Gore practiced Tuesday with the San Francisco 49ers for the first time this offseason, breathing life into an offense that has been working this summer without several top players.

The two-time Pro Bowl running back ended his four-day holdout Monday and was back on the field a day later as the 49ers conducted their second padded practice of camp.

Gore was welcomed back by a new coaching staff and several players that have been anticipating his arrival.

"I almost hugged him and gave him a kiss, but I tried to play it cool," wide receiver Josh Morgan said. "It was really exciting to see him."

Gore, who missed San Francisco's final five games last season with a fractured hip, is in the final year of his contract with the 49ers that will pay him $2.9 million this season with a $2 million roster bonus. He is seeking a contract extension.

Gore said the holdout was a mutual decision between him and agent Drew Rosenhaus. But a few days away from the team was all it took to convince Gore to return.

"I love the game and I missed the game," Gore said. "I'm a football player and I missed being out here with my team. I'm here to get better and try to take this organization where it needs to go."

Gore has led the 49ers in rushing every year since being drafted in 2005, including a team-record four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2006-2009. Gore was on his way to extending that string last season before his injury. He finished the season with 853 yards rushing and 46 receptions for 452 yards.

The 49ers are installing a new offense this summer under new coach Jim Harbaugh, and Gore once again figures to be a key component of San Francisco's attack. Harbaugh wasted no time giving Gore extensive duty with the first-team offense during his first day back.

"There's quite a difference in communication when he's in the huddle," Harbaugh said. "I'm very impressed with the way he hits the hole extremely quick and fast. It raises the competition and gives some of our young backs an example of what a top-notch pro looks like."

The 49ers had second-year player Anthony Dixon and rookie Kendall Hunter taking most of the snaps at halfback with the first unit during previous camp practices.

Gore was a welcome addition to an offensive huddle that also has been missing incumbent starting quarterback Alex Smith and No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

Smith and other free agents that recently signed contracts with the team can't practice until Thursday, and Crabtree has a foot injury that could keep him out several weeks.

Gore spent the offseason working out near his home in Miami and did not participate in player-organized 49ers workouts in June that were attended by most of his offensive teammates at San Jose State University.

The entire offensive tempo seemed to pick up with Gore back on the field.

"Frank's a leader on this football team and the energy is up," tackle Joe Staley said. "Any time Frank's back there, he's going to take care of business. Just having him back on the field, his presence, is good for everybody and it raises spirits. The way he prepares and the way he communicates is a standard to live up to."

Harbaugh said "diligent" contract negotiations continue with Gore's representatives and he expects there to be a resolution on a new deal "sooner rather than later."

"Frank's a 49er and we want Frank here," Harbaugh said. "We want Frank happy, too."

Said Gore: "I want to be a 49er forever, and if the contract comes, it comes. I felt like a kid out there today, and I'm just happy to be back. I'm sorry about the little holdup, but I'm back and I'm ready to go to work and get better."

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kellen Winslow Looks Game-Ready

Kellen Winslow is still Kellen Winslow, except maybe better. An off-season’s rest has “K2” souped up like a high-performance sports car. Count on him and Mike Williams to be Josh Freeman’s go-to-guys again this year. Both looked game-ready.

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

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Giants looking for safety Kenny Phillips to take a 'quantum leap' this year

As a rookie, the Giants kept the reins tight on Kenny Phillips because he was too inexperienced. The next season, they loosened them and he played two of the best games the team has gotten from a safety since the early part of Shaun Williams’ career.

But two games was where Phillips’ 2009 season ended, and he landed on an operating table to help repair an arthritic condition in his knee. Last season, though he played in all 16 games, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell played him in the deep-safety spot (the “post&rdquoWinking to keep his knee away from contact.

This year, the Giants believe it’s time to loosen the reins once again.

“Oh yeah, it’s got to happen,” Phillips told reporters today. “It’s time to get more involved in the defense, just to do whatever it takes to help this team win. … Last year, a lot of times I was in the post mostly the whole game. Now, I probably take on a bigger role, as far as getting down in the box and just really be a part of the scheme.”

Fewell agreed that’s the plan.

“I’m looking for him to take a quantum leap,” Fewell said. “After coming off his injury and playing in the 2010 season, as a coach, I will admit that I protected him a little bit. I wanted Kenny to be on the field, I wanted him to play for us.

“Football is a violent game and I tried to minimize the collisions that he encountered last year. He showed his football intelligence in the two days of camp. He’s ready for that bigger role as we have talked. I ‘m looking for big things.”

In addition to an increased role in the game plans, Phillips pointed to a more well-rounded training program as a reason he might have a breakout year. Whereas last offseason he was working simply to rehab after surgery, this year he went through the usual work to get into top form.

Phillips is hopeful the subpar form he showed last year is behind him.

“I wasn’t as explosive as I thought I would be,” he said. “A lot of guys were telling me it’s going to take a year. I was doing my best to try to prove them wrong, but it turns out they were right.

“But fortunately, I was able to finish the season. I had a few nicks here and there, but I was happy I got through it.”

And the knee now?

“It’s fine,” Phillips said. “It’s been a while since I even had to see the doctor. Everything’s great. … I feel normal, I feel pretty good. The knee is not an issue.”

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Reggie Wayne says he'll wait for new contract

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Reggie Wayne's contract issue apparently is no issue at all.

"If it was an issue, I wouldn't be here," the Indianapolis Colts five-time Pro Bowl receiver said Monday. "It is what it is. I've got about seven or eight months left on this contract. I guess we will wait until the season's over and figure out what the rest will be."

Wayne, along with defensive end Robert Mathis, boycotted all team-related functions last year before reporting to training camp. They withheld their services to show displeasure over the team's refusal to address their contracts.

Each again is at camp. Each is signed through this season.

Vice chairman Bill Polian said Mathis and Wayne will be priorities after this season.

"I've got to honor (the final year)," Wayne said. "Ain't that what they say? 'Honor your contract?' I'm honoring it, so go from there."
Wayne, 32, is in his 11th season. How much longer does he hope to play?

"Man, they've got to put me out. Take me out back behind the barn," Wayne said. "I haven't felt this good in years. I felt so good I cut all my facial hair.

"I feel young. I feel like the old 2001, 2002 Reggie."

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

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Phillip Buchanon suspended four games by NFL

The Redskins quietly re-signed cornerback Phillip Buchanon Monday.  The veteran didn’t have much of a market in free agency, and we now know one reason why.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan informed reporters Tuesday that Buchanon will be suspended for the first four games of the season by the NFL.

For now, the Redskins aren’t saying what the suspension is for.  We should find out soon enough.

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jon Beason (Achilles) placed on NFI list

Panthers placed MLB Jon Beason on the non-football injury list with tendinitis in his Achilles.
Coach Ron Rivera insists it's just a precautionary move to give Beason a chance to reduce swelling in his heel. Beason can be removed from the NFI list any time, and Rivera suggested it will be sooner rather than later.

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

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Andre Johnson embracing more vocal role

In jest, he referred to himself as "the old vet," but the tag does fit. This is Andre Johnson's ninth training camp, all with the Texans. Among teammates, only Neil Rackers (11 seasons), Damione Lewis (10) and Brad Maynard (14) have been in the NFL longer, while fellow wide receiver Kevin Walter and guard Wade Smith have stuck just as long.

One of Johnson's discoveries is that the nicks not only last longer now but they also occur more frequently than before. On Tuesday, he dislocated his left index finger during a one-on-one drill with rookie Roc Carmichael, but the injury isn't major.

It won't linger into the regular season, during which Johnson — at 30 and after a nearly decade-long playoff drought — insists he's maintaining a singular focus.

"There's nothing else," Johnson said. "I've been All-Pro, been to Pro Bowls and had 1,500-yard seasons. All it's about now is winning Super Bowls. That's the reason why I play. That's my goal.

"I'm going to do everything to help this organization get there."

This is a serious matter because Johnson, beyond his excellence on Sundays, is noted for his silence. He is quiet by nature, not loud with anything besides his statistics. He is not a self-promoter, which makes sense because he's arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL — and aren't actions supposed to speak louder than words?

Has anyone adhered to that axiom/cliché more than Johnson? Well, not anymore. He's speaking up. Johnson revealed Sunday he chatted with free-agent acquisition Johnathan Joseph in the offseason at a wedding for Fred Bennett, a former Texan and South Carolina alumnus (like Joseph).

"He just told me what a great organization it was here and how much I would like it here, the city and fans and that's what you want to be part of in this league," Joseph said.

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Jason Fox wants to win starting job with Detroit Lions

ALLEN PARK - Detroit Lions tackle Jason Fox certainly hopes his teammate Jeff Backus returns healthy from his chest injury but, really, there's no reason for him to hurry back.

While Backus is sidelined, Fox is getting all the reps at left tackle with the No. 1 offense. That isn't expected to change much when the veterans are allowed to begin practicing on Thursday.

Regardless, Fox wants to get the most out of all the snaps he can.

"Absolutely. It's an opportunity to get reps with (the No. 1 offense) and I've got to take advantage of it and do the best I can,'' Fox said.

A fourth-round pick last year, Fox is finally healthy after two seasons of battling a sore knee. He played hurt in his final season at Miami and didn't play in the bowl game so he could have surgery.

"That whole year, I played injured and then I battled it last year,'' Fox said. "I told a couple of people that this is kind of a new feeling, it's been awhile since I've felt like this. I'm not trying to think about last year, this year is a new year and I'm just trying to improve every day and go out and compete.

"I'm feeling good. Now it's time to go out and get better every day and compete with these guys and, ultimately, win a spot.''

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Andre Johnson dislocates finger in practice

HOUSTON -- WR Andre Johnson was forced from the Texans' Tuesday morning practice after what appeared to be a dislocated left index finger.
The finger, injured in a one-on-one drill, was put back into place and wrapped before Johnson was taken off the field on a cart. The five-time Pro Bowler was not expected to participate in the afternoon session.

"We'll have to wait and see,'' said coach Gary Kubiak, hopeful the injury was merely a dislocation. "I have a big lump in my throat like everybody else, but hopefully he'll be fine.''

Johnson, 30, played through a high ankle sprain for most of last season but still caught 86 passes for 1,216 yards and eight TDs. He has led the NFL in receiving yards per game three of the past four years.

In an offseason survey of players conducted by the NFL Network, the highest-paid receiver in history was voted the league's seventh-best player, regardless of position, and its No. 1 wideout.

Since the merger, Johnson is the only receiver other than Hall of Famer Jerry Rice to lead the NFL in receiving yardage in back-to-back seasons (2008-09). Johnson and former Colt Marvin Harrison are the only players to ever post consecutive 1,500-yard receiving seasons.

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Dolphins Ask Carey To Take Pay Cut

MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Dolphins want to add more pieces to their roster for 2011, but need more salary cap room. So, the Fins have turned to their offensive line for some salary cap relief.

According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, right tackle Vernon Carey has been asked to take a pay cut. If Carey doesn’t take the pay cut, the Fins have told him he will be released.

The Fins told Carey the reason for the pay cut was so the team could make additional moves, according to the Herald. The additional moves could be in the form of trades or free agent pickups, though most of the best free agents have already chosen other squads.

It’s possible the Dolphins could be clearing cap space to make a run at Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton again, but he won’t come cheap either in draft picks or salary.

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Anthony Reddick plays mind games with Buono

No teammate would dare admit as much, but Anthony Reddick recently was the envy of everyone in uniform on the B.C. Lions, or any other working stiff for that matter. He got to hit his boss. In fact, Wally Buono told Reddick to hit him hard, too.

A hairline arm fracture has been bothering the sophomore defender. But in an attempt to convince him he could play with the injury supported by a cast, Buono told Reddick to give him a shot so the player could determine whether it hurt enough to play.

Reddick returned to the defensive unit briefly in Winnipeg last week, and judging by the amount of package work he is receiving this week, he'll play a greater role Friday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"[Buono] was just trying to get into my mind and it's true, your mind controls your entire body," said Reddick.

If Reddick didn't make an appearance soon Buono would eventually have to find someone who could take the field. He was needed Tuesday. When Davis Sanchez was absent a second straight day because of his elbow and J.R. LaRose was dealing with a family tragedy, Reddick had a few reps at safety, which he played effectively in college at Miami.

Buono also has had to be parental in order to get another sophomore, linebacker Joe Henderson, on the field. He tore his hamstring injury the first day of training camp, and has only played two games since September.

"If I come back too early, I'm done for the season. Wally knew that," Henderson said. "He helped me to get my mental trust back in my leg."
It took awhile, but Henderson will replace Adam Bighill Friday and make his season debut. The only difference is he didn't get to hit his coach.

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James Jones named in NBA lawsuit vs. players

MIAMI— Miami Heat free-agent forward James Jones is one of 13 NBA players named as defendants in a class-action complaint for declaratory relief filed by the NBA in U.S. District Court in New York.

The action was one of two taken Tuesday by the league amid rancorous negotiations with the players' association during the NBA lockout.

James was among the players listed because of his role as secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association.

Of the action, the NBA said in a statement, "The federal lawsuit seeks to establish, among other things, that the NBA's lockout does not violate federal antitrust laws and that if the Players Association's 'decertification' were found to be lawful, all existing player contracts would become void and unenforceable."

The NBA also filed an unfair-labor-practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board, asserting that "the Players Association has failed to bargain in good faith."

"These claims," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, "were filed in an effort to eliminate the use of impermissible pressure tactics by the union which are impeding the parties' ability to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement."

In response, Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, issued a statement that said, "The litigation tactics of the NBA today are just another example of their bad-faith bargaining and we will seek the complete dismissal of the actions as they are totally without merit."

For his part, Jones has consistently downplayed decertification as a bargaining option, referring to it only as a means of last resort.

The NBA regular season is scheduled to open Nov. 1, with training camps opening a month earlier, a schedule imperiled by the lack of a collective-bargaining agreement.

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Can Yonder Alonso make an Impact

With Yonder Alonso getting his first big-league start in left field for the Reds Monday night, I started wondering about his fantasy prospects.
Is he worth the add?

I was impressed with how he snagged three hits in his first four at bats (spread through four games), but was unimpressed with how he went 0-4 against as seemingly Triple-A Astros’ club.

Fortunately for big leaguers and fantasy owners, one game does not make a career.

We could look at his short stint with the club last season for indicators of success, but I don’t think it holds much merit. Last season was for getting his feet wet, and that’s what Alonso did in 2010, striking out 10 times in 29 at bats.

So Alonso’s minor league history is pretty much all we have to use to gauge his potential success. From looking the numbers, you have to be impressed with his Triple-A stats.

He was around .300 and had 12 home runs with 56 RBIs. His slugging percentage was .486, the highest it’s been since he posted a .497 percentage playing A-ball for Sarasota in 2008.

So would I add him?

Only if you’re desperate. Rookie position players, especially those that are called up midseason, usually don’t make much of an impact.
And his playing time is not necessarily guaranteed, although it wouldn’t make sense for the Reds to call him up so he could ride the pine.

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Scott Maine Continuing To Perform Well

Scott Maine: The left-handed reliever was one of the bright spots for the I-Cubs this month. Although he had one bad game at New Orleans, he was not scored upon over his last five appearances in the month. In eight games and 9.2 innings, Maine only allowed two earned runs and one unearned one for a 1.86 ERA. He struck out 14 batters and only walked three.

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Purchase Pat Burrell's Rittenhouse Penthouse Apartment

You'll probably never get to man left field at Citizens Bank Park, or hit for the numbers that Pat Burrell did at the Irish Pub, but you can live in the former Phillies star's Penthouse apartment just off Rittenhouse Square for the cool price of $3 million.

From the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog, Pat the Bat's former crib is on the market and contains "Floating stairs [that] guide you to the master suite with custom bed, oversized shower and Jacuzzi tub."

No word on if Pat left any late-night evening wear in his closet.

The Phillies have a new guy in right field that may be on the market for a new crib, right?

If that's not up your alley, maybe check out the Marley & Me house, which is on the market for $1.25 mil.

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Blake Tekotte had three of the Padres' six hits and stole two

Blake Tekotte had three of the Padres' six hits and stole two bases Tuesday against the Dodgers. That should earn him another start Wednesday. Tekotte is contending with Will Venable, the injured Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham and Kyle Blanks for time in the outfield corners for the Padres.

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Leonard Hankerson At Redskins Practice

Here is Leonard Hankers in his Redskins Jersey at practice on Monday August 1st.


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Phillip Buchanon re-signs with Redskins

The Redskins and veteran cornerback Phillip Buchanon have agreed to terms on a deal that will bring the cornerback back to Washington for a second season.

Buchanon, a 10th-year veteran, announced, on his twitter account that he was returning to the team.

“D.C. I’m on my way... #HTTR...#NFL #LetsGo,” Buchanon tweeted.

Terms of the deal were not immediately known.

Buchanon last season served primarily as the Redskins’ third cornerback, but he did make five starts in place of Carlos Rogers when Rogers was injured. Buchanon recorded 49 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

The Redskins last week signed former Maryland standout Josh Wilson, who presumably will start at the cornerback position opposite DeAngelo Hall. Buchanon and Kevin Barnes likely will compete for the third cornerback spot.

“It’s great,” Hall said of the signing. “It’s another guy that’s been to war with us, has a lot of experience in the league and that’s what we need.”

The Redskins entered free agency with 12 players up for new contracts. They now have re-signed Santana Moss, Jammal Brown, H.B. Blades and Buchanon and plan to re-sign quarterback Rex Grossman as well.

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Colts ask Reggie Wayne for patience

ANDERSON, Ind. -- After taking expensive steps to ensure the Indianapolis Colts have a roster capable of challenging for a championship by getting unsigned players in the fold, owner Jim Irsay turned his attention to a pair of Pro Bowl players still under contract.

His message to defensive end Robert Mathis and wide receiver Reggie Wayne was about patience. Each player's contract expires at the end of this season, and each wants an extension.

"At this point," Irsay said Sunday afternoon, "I don't anticipate that sort of thing, an extension or anything like that."

At some point, Irsay, vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian will sit down and look ahead to 2012.

"We always talk about next year, where we're going to be with the (salary) cap, what type of situation we're going to be in because it's going to come quickly," Irsay said. "We prepare for next year whether it's Pierre (Garcon), or Robert and Reggie."

Wayne, 32, has a base salary of $5.95 million this year. Mathis, 30, has a base of $2.4 million.

Bill Polian stressed that the Colts have a history of taking care of their own, at the proper time. The team rarely addresses a player's contract until it expires.

"Nothing could underscore that more than (Sunday)," Polian said. "Peyton Manning comes back to finish his career. Joseph Addai comes back. Ryan Diem comes back to finish his career. That's what the Colts and Jim Irsay are all about."

Wayne, Mathis and any other player seeking an extension apparently will have to wait. It's anybody's guess how each will react to the "be patient" message.

"We won't sign Robert and Reggie early," Polian said. "But they will be, along with Pierre probably, the No. 1 priorities next year. And we always achieve those priorities. The fact of the matter is we address them in due course."

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Giants not going to baby S Kenny Phillips in 2011

The New York Giants aren't going to baby safety Kenny Phillips any more.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Monday that he limited Phillips' playing time last season with the former first-round pick coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee and the Giants having the luxury of having veteran Deon Grant on the roster.

That's not going to happen this season.

Grant is no longer on the roster — at least the Giants haven't chosen to re-sign him at this point — and Phillips said his knee is 100 percent.
"I'm looking for him to take a quantum leap," Fewell said of Phillips. "After coming off his injury and playing in the 2010 season, as a coach, I will admit that I protected him a little bit. I wanted Kenny to be on the field, I wanted him to play for us. Football is a violent game and I tried to minimize the collisions that he encountered last year."

Fewell believes Phillips is ready for a bigger role, and so does the 24-year-old who is entering his fourth season.

"Last year a lot of the times I was in the post most of the whole game and now I'll probably take on a bigger role as far as getting down in the box and really being a part of the scheme," Phillips said Monday.

Phillips didn't mind that Fewell played it safe with him last season, noting that the presence of Antrel Rolle and Grant on the field meant there was no slippage when he was on the sideline.

Phillips admits that coming back from the surgery was difficult. Players told him it was going to take a full season for the knee to feel right and he says they were correct.

"Fortunately, I was able to finish the season," the former Miami Hurricane said. "I had a few nicks here and there, but I'm just happy I got through it."

Phillips had a good season, starting 15 of 16 games. His 88 tackles were fourth on the team, only 13 behind cornerback and team leader Terrell Thomas.

After a whole season of rehabilitation, Phillips said his knee never felt better, adding he hasn't seen the doctors about it in a while.

As opposed to a year ago when everyone watched his every step on the field, Phillips is no longer under the microscope.

"I feel good, coming out of my breaks, seeing the field a whole lot better and just being around the ball a lot more," he said.

The only thing that has changed is that Phillips is a little heavier than last season. He weighed in at 215 pounds before lunch.

Fewell quipped that he probably enjoyed too much of his mother's cooking during the lockout.

"I'm not worried about it," said Phillips, who wants to play at between 210 and 215 this season.

Neither is Fewell.

"He showed his football intelligence in the two days of camp," Fewell said. "He's ready for that bigger role as we have talked. I'm looking for big things."

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Graig Cooper Making Good Impressions

Rookie running back Graig Cooper, an undrafted rookie from "The U," made some nifty runs and caught some screens. With no true No. 2 right now in camp behind LeSean McCoy, Cooper is making good impressions.

Cooper looks like an early threat to Eldra Buckley.  Cooper will have to show he can play special teams in the preseason games, but the ability as a runner/receiver is there.

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Dolphins sign Marc Colombo, leave Vernon Carey in limbo

DAVIE— The Miami Dolphins appear to be in the process of changing the team's starting right tackle.

On the same day the Dolphins signed offensive tackle Marc Colombo to a multiyear deal, the incumbent, Vernon Carey, received an excused absence from Monday night's scrimmage.

Carey participated in the morning walk-through.

Carey has been a starter since the Dolphins made him a first-round selection in 2004. He knew he was on the hot seat coming into camp because of his bloated salary, which pays him $4.15 million in 2011, and nearly $16 million over the next three years.

However, the Dolphins wouldn't confirm he had been released as of Monday night. It's possible the Dolphins could ask Carey, a Miami native who played at the University of Miami, to restructure his deal. It's also possible Carey could have been asked to move to guard, where the team needs to add depth.

Carey missed the final four games of the 2010 season with a knee injury.

Colombo, a 10-year veteran who spent the past six years in Dallas, played on the right side of the Cowboys' offensive line. He was coached by Tony Sparano during their time together in Dallas.

"Big, tough, smart, started about 72 games down there," Sparano said of Colombo's career in Dallas. "He's a pretty good player.

"My vision for Colombo is to see where we are in this tackle mix," Sparano said. "This guy has played a lot of football. There is a lot of different formulas right now that can go into the offensive line."

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Damien Berry Put Ball on the Turf

Rookie running back Damien Berry didn't help himself with a case of the fumbles during a full-team red-zone exercise. On back-to-back plays, Berry put the ball on the turf. The first time, defensive tackle Arthur Jones stripped Berry, but he recovered the ball. On the ensuing play, Berry lost the ball, which was recovered by fullback Jason McKie. But outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who served as head official, ruled that the ground had caused the fumble.

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Bryant McKinnie is on the sidelines and not saying why

MANKATO, Minn. - Some of training camp's most pivotal moments will occur away from the action, in an empty end zone where a few orange cones rest.

Bryant McKinnie was working between those cones Monday, and he might be there for a while unless he satisfies what the Vikings are expecting from him.

Those expectations are unclear as the Vikings placed McKinnie on the non-football injury list to make sure he's "ready to play when the season rolls around."

Frazier was vague after practice about whether McKinnie has an injury or if he's concerned about something else. But when asked about the weight of McKinnie, who looks out of shape upon his return from the NFL lockout, Frazier said, "we're working on that. We're working on that."
McKinnie did not practice and spent the last part of practice running sprints between the cones with right guard Anthony Herrera, who's on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in November.

When walking off the practice field, McKinnie said he has "issues" and that conditioning would help those issues. Asked to elaborate, McKinnie said he could not discuss it further.

McKinnie is listed at 335 pounds, but his weight became an issue last season after he admitted he was closer to 360.

For insurance, the Vikings have signed former Indianapolis offensive lineman Charlie Johnson to a three-year contract. Johnson, 27, started 54 games for the Colts since 2006.

Early indications are that the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Johnson can provide depth at tackle or guard, but the Vikings also could be trying everything possible to push McKinnie, who is due $4.9 million in salary this season.

This wouldn't be the first time they tried that since the lockout was lifted in late July. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the Vikings were making a run at New Orleans left tackle Jermon Bushrod, possibly a ploy to motivate, or even release, McKinnie.

With Herrera's uncertainty and left guard Steve Hutchinson approaching 34, the Vikings need a versatile lineman such as Johnson who can play inside or out.

Just in case.

"(McKinnie's) going to be fine," Frazier said. "We've just got to go through some things and get him ready for the things that are ahead."
Meanwhile, another high-profile Viking isn't practicing, but only for contractual reasons.

The Vikings have restructured the contract of wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who caught 28 passes last season and whose salary came with a $6-million-plus cap hit.

Berrian said he's pleased with a contract restructuring that will make him a free agent after the 2012 season. His previous deal, slated to pay him $3.9 million this season, expired after 2013.

Berrian can't practice until Thursday, when the new league year begins, because of the restructuring. Quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose deal was redone after a trade with Washington, and all Vikings free agents must wait until Thursday to hit the field.

"No, not at all," said Berrian when asked if he was upset by the thought of a restructure that often results in less money. "It was kind of up in the air. I knew in meetings they were talking about it, but when I got word from them that's when we went in and met."

Berrian declined comment on the terms of the deal, and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was unavailable for comment.

After failing to score a touchdown for the first time since 2005 last season, Berrian and Frazier met about the possibilities in coordinator Bill Musgrave's new offense.

"I'm convinced that he knows this is the best place for him," Frazier said. "He knows we have some things around him, we have his best interest at heart. And he has a chance to really thrive in our offense."

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Jon Beason back where he's happiest

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Right after the lockout ended, the Carolina Panthers gave linebacker Jon Beason two bits of good news.

Although he had a year left on his contract, they handed him a five-year extension worth a reported $50 million. That was very nice, but the second bit of news made Beason even happier.

As soon as coaches were allowed to talk to players again, Ron Rivera informed Beason he would be returning to his spot at middle linebacker. Beason was forced to move to weakside linebacker last year because Thomas Davis suffered a season-ending injury in a June minicamp. The Panthers put Dan Connor in the middle and James Anderson was on the strong side. The linebackers weren’t a major problem as everything else was going wrong during a 2-14 season. But Beason was almost giddy as he talked about moving back to the middle.

“When I talked to the coaches before the lockout, there were different scenarios because we didn’t know if James and Thomas [both re-signed as free agents] would be back or if Dan would be healthy,’’ Beason said. “That had me worried during the lockout, but all those things are answered now.

“I’m thrilled I can go back to what’s become my natural position. I like to grind a bit. I like having everything on my shoulders. When it’s bad, it’s on me. When it’s good, it’s on me. Being a Mike backer is definitely something I love.’’

Davis is still recovering from the knee injury, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. The apparent plan is to play Beason in the middle with Anderson and Davis on the outside and Connor getting lots of playing time as the top backup.

“If guys are healthy, I think our linebackers can be as good as anybody in the league,’’ Beason said. “We’ve helped ourselves up front and I think we can be scary good.’’

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Reggie Wayne Feeling Young and Healthy

ANDERSON, Ind. — Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne came out of the chute firing and catching Monday as the Indianapolis Colts went to work at Anderson University.

Wayne turned an interview with the media into a series of sound bites on a cornucopia of topics.

Apparently he is feeling very healthy.

“I feel good,” he said. “I haven’t felt this good in years. I felt so good, I cut all of my facial hair off. I feel young. I feel like the old 2001-02 Reggie. So hopefully we can get a glimpse of those fresh legs and make some plays.”

With all of the bumps and bruises the team suffered at wide receiver a year ago, any news of healthy bodies at that position is indeed encouraging.

Peyton Manning’s absence isn’t troubling Wayne at all. He is far from distraught that right now Curtis Painter has the No. 1 job.

“This is business as usual,” Wayne said. “Don’t try to blow this up the wrong way. I’m kind of eager to get in there with Curtis. I’m a Curtis Painter fan. He has been taking some hard hits from the media and from spectators the last few years. But, I’m a big fan of his and am kind of eager to get out there and get some reps with him. Hopefully we can make each other be good.”

It appeared to work that way in the afternoon practice. Painter put a ball out there that appeared it would be just beyond Wayne’s reach. But Wayne got a couple of fingertips on the aerial, pulled it in and scampered downfield. It drew the loudest applause of the practice session.

Make no mistake about it, Wayne is still anxious to get Manning back. He has no doubts that whenever Manning returns, he will pick right up where he left off.

“Hopefully it’s like riding a bike,” Wayne said. “I taught my son how to ride a bike years ago. If I put him on a bike right now hopefully he will still know how to ride it. I’ve been here for 11 years so hopefully what me and Peyton have done in 11 years will be like clockwork. The sooner we can get him out here, the closer we are to finding out, but until then it’s me and Painter.”

All of the player movement since the collective bargaining agreement has also been a source of interest to Wayne.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be a real interesting look for (video game) Madden,” he said. “It’s kind of weird just sitting back, looking at TV and seeing different guys end up in different places so rapidly. I guess it’s been fun because I had no dealings in it. I’m kind of like you guys sitting back being a spectator and just keeping my own two cents to myself.”

Still, the end goal is to end up back at Lucas Oil Stadium for the Super Bowl.

 “Yeah, we’ve got a chance to do something that’s never been done before (playing in that game in a team’s hometown),” he said. “But at the same time we will keep our same focus and that is take care of our division.”

That focus started Monday.

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Tight End Now A Strength For Panthers

It's been since Wesley Walls that the Panthers had a good offensive tight end. Now they have two if Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey can stay healthy, which is no gimme. Shockey signed as a free agent; the Panthers dealt a third-round pick to Chicago for former first-rounder Olsen the other day. Saw Shockey in the student union after lunch today, hunkered down with tight end coach Pete Hoener, working on learning the playbook. I like what they've done there.

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Sinorice Moss Catching Everything

Just the same a couple of new faces to keep an eye on are wide receiver Sinorice Moss (5-8, 185), who spent time with the Giant, and center-guard Jason Kelce (6-3, 282), the sixth round pick out of Cincinnati.

Moss caught almost everything thrown his way in the Monday morning practice. If he can stay healthy, his competition for a roster spot likely will be with Chad Hall, who also looks good.

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Jason Fox plans to fill void with flair

Allen Park— Left tackles not named Jeff Backus haven't seen much of the field for the Lions the last 10 seasons.

That's because Backus has started 160 consecutive games since entering the NFL in 2001, all at left tackle.

So, seeing a number other than 76 starting there during camp takes some getting used to.

"You don't want to see people get hurt, but it's allowed me to get some first-team reps and it's a good opportunity for me," said Jason Fox, filling in for Backus, who suffered a left pectoral injury during the offseason. "I just have to take advantage of it and get better every day."

Coach Jim Schwartz said at the beginning of camp the team had no immediate plans to acquire veteran help to guard against Backus' injury.
So, that means Fox, in his second season, is being relied on.

It's a stark contrast from where Fox was at this point last season. He wasn't competing for much because a right knee injury that bothered him his entire senior year at Miami lingered into his rookie season, limiting him during camp.

This year, it turns out the lockout was a blessing for Fox, in the sense it allowed him to rest his knee and get 100 percent healthy heading into camp.

"I'm just really fortunate this year that the knee isn't bothering me," he said.

Fox, a fourth-round pick, says it's amazing how better prepared players are heading into their second camp.

"Year 1, you are just trying to figure out how everything goes and the schedules and what practice is going to be like," he said. "This year, you know what to expect and you can totally focus on the task at hand."

And it's a large task at that.

With Backus' injury, Corey Hilliard unable to practice until the new league year begins this week and starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus coming off microfracture knee surgery and not practicing much, Fox is being counted on to be ready earlier this season.

"I'm trying to be the most efficient I can at every position," said Fox, who wasn't on the active 45-man roster until the final four games last season. "If they want me to play tackle on the left or the right or even if they want to stick me inside, I'm trying to learn every position and just become the best I can so I can help this team wherever they put me."

Getting to know … Jason Fox
Position: Offensive tackle
Ht./wt.: 6-foot-7/303
Age: 23
College: Miami
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Experience: Second year

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Yonder Alonso starts in left field for first time

HOUSTON -- Since his highly-anticipated promotion to the Reds from Triple-A Louisville on July 26, Yonder Alonso was limited to pinch-hitting duty and entering on double switches. That changed on Monday against the Astros when Alonso made his first big league start in left field. He started three games at first base for the Reds last season.

A smaller left field at Minute Maid Park played a part in manager Dusty Baker's decision to start Alonso. It's only 315 feet to the wall at the foul line and 362 feet in left-center field.

"It's a big difference. That's what I tried to do over the years for Jonny Gomes," Baker said. "There is less ground to cover."

Having less ground to cover in Houston doesn't take away all the issues, however.

"The wall here presents a problem for anybody who hasn't played here. You don't know the caroms," Baker said. "The center fielder has big territory to cover, huge. You need [Drew] Stubbs or a rabbit out there for defense. Especially with Bronson [Arroyo] pitching and a fly-ball pitcher, it's very important that you try to have good outfield defense."

Alonso, who played 62 games in left field for Louisville this season as he converted from previously playing mostly first base, delivered three hits in his first four at-bats but went 0-for-3 in the 4-3 loss on Monday.

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Padres recall Blake Tekotte

SAN DIEGO—The San Diego Padres on Monday recalled outfielder Aaron Cunningham from Triple-A Tucson and outfielder Blake Tekotte from Double-A San Antonio.

The Padres optioned left-hander Wade LeBlanc to Tucson.

Cunningham and Tekotte will join the Padres for the second time this season. In eight games in June, Cunningham batted .167 with a double and two RBIs. Tekotte made his major league debut on May 25 and hit .158 over 10 games.

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Jon Jay Performing Well in the Outfield

Jon Jay, who now figures to get the bulk of the work in center, had 10 Defensive Runs Saved split between all three outfield spots, including +6 in centerfield. Jay's +10 DRS ranks tied for eighth-best among all major league outfielders.

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Allen Bailey's Contract Details

Allen Bailey - 4-years, $2.67M; $555,944 to sign;

Base salaries: $375,000 (2011), $465,000 (2012), $555,000 (2012), $645,000 (2013); $25K w/o bonuses 2012-14

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Damien Berry Practice Photos


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Matt Bosher Performing Well

On punter Matt Bosher Coach Mike Smith said: “I thought that our rookie punter, for the pressure that he’s under right now, in terms of performing, I thought that he’s done very well over the first three days.”

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Brandon Harris Signs His Contract

Brandon Harris, 21, was the second pick in the second round of the Houston Texans. General manager Rick Smith traded to acquire an extra second-round pick to select Harris. Harris signed a four-year contract for $3.299 million, including $1.55 million guaranteed.

The Texans entered the offseason hoping to improve their secondary, especially at cornerback. They drafted Harris in the second round and Roc Carmichael in the third. This week, they signed free agent Johnathan Joseph, one of the top players available.

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Tervaris Johnson Injured

Tervaris Johnson
RB Tervaris Johnson joined TE Tony Moeaki on the Physically-Unable-To-Perform list and did not participate in camp’s opening practice. Johnson spent all of 2010 on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury during a night practice in last year’s training camp. He originally signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (FL) in 2010.

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Jimmy Graham is on the cusp of NFL stardom

One thing has been made very clear during the New Orleans Saints first three days of practice: tight end Jimmy Graham, the second year man out of Miami, looms large in the New Orleans offense.

And Graham appears ready for his starring role. He has added 10 pounds of muscle and now weight in at 265. But he still has his explosiveness and leaping ability, and quarterback Drew Brees has targeted Graham repeatedly in drills.

Graham said that's not surprising - Brees is trying to get him more reps to build confidence in the connection between the two. But with veterans David Thomas and Tory Humphrey still floating in the free agent ether, Graham is unquestionably the man.

"I'm going to have to block a lot more than I did last year so I'm constantly working at that and trying to get better at that," he said. "I'm definitely going to have a lot more responsibility than I did last year and the mental errors I had last year I can't have that."

Fellow Hurricane tight end Jeremy Shockey is gone, let go by the Saints and signed by Carolina. But Shockey still kept his Miami roots close in the off-season, working out back on campus with middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Graham played one year at Miami after exhausting his basketball eligibility and yet still found himself drafted in the third round in 2010.

"It's incredible to think how far I've come in two years and it seems like I'm still taking steps forward," he said.

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Jets Work Out Phillip Buchanon

The New York Jets got rejected by Nnamdi Asomugha in their efforts to sign the star cornerback, so they began working on Plan B -- Antonio Cromartie. While negotiations between the two parties are reportedly heating up, the Jets have decided to keep their options open should Cromartie decide to lend his talents to another team.

Enter Phillip Buchanon.

According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Jets have reached out to the 10-year veteran cornerback from the Washington Redskins. He "worked out" for the team, according to a tweet by Clayton.

The 17th overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, Buchanon recorded two interceptions and 49 tackles in 2010 with the Redskins.

Early in his career with the Raiders, Buchanon occasionally served as a return man -- a position the Jets are looking to fill after the loss of Brad Smith, who signed a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills after the Jets neglected to make him an offer during their attempts to sign Asomugha.

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Willis McGahee happy to help fuel Denver Broncos' running game

With a new No. 23 jersey on his back and a football grasped tightly in his right palm, Willis McGahee shadowed running backs coach Eric Studesville at Broncos training camp Sunday afternoon.

During the 2 1/2-hour practice, McGahee never strayed far from the running backs. And each time starter Knowshon Moreno finished a play, McGahee gave him a high-five or a slap on the shoulder.

Denver, meet your new running back tandem.

"There's no more one-back systems here in the NFL," McGahee said, joking that he and Moreno could be nicknamed "Stallions and Horses."

"I'm just going to come in and do the best I can," said McGahee, 29. "I'm going to help him out, and whatever plays I can make, I'm going to make."

The Broncos signed McGahee, a former first-round draft pick from the University of Miami who played the first eight years of his NFL career with Buffalo and Baltimore, to a four-year contract Sunday morning after he passed his physical. He isn't allowed to practice until Thursday.

"This is a new beginning, a new start," McGahee said. "It's wide open right now."

Broncos head coach John Fox was adamant throughout the offseason that he wanted to add a running back in free agency to strengthen the team's running game. The Broncos hope to have a run-based offense this season, a switch from the pass-happy offense of the past few seasons directed by previous head coaches Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan.

At 235 pounds, McGahee has the potential to complement the newly slim Moreno, who arrived at Dove Valley weighing about 200 pounds. Moreno expects to remain the starter, but McGahee is considered a better runner between the tackles and in short-yardage situations, a serious weakness for the Broncos in recent seasons. Last year with Baltimore, as Ray Rice's backup, McGahee had only 100 carries. But he scored five touchdowns.

One of those touchdowns — a 30-yarder — came against the Broncos.

"Contrary to what people say, it's no indictment on Knowshon," Fox said. "If you've followed my coaching history, you know I've had two first-rounders at running back, and I believe you have to have two backs to be a successful run team, just to keep them fresh and energized and to get through 16 games running as much as we want to run it."

McGahee, who turns 30 on Oct. 21, joked that "30 is the new 20" — quoting the song title by rapper Jay-Z — and said he is in the best shape of his NFL career.

Studesville said the game film the Broncos watched of McGahee, who has rushed for 6,167 yards and 55 touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry during his NFL career, is enough proof that McGahee's legs have plenty of mileage left in them.

"He's a guy who has performed in this league and performed well. He brings depth to the room and he's a little different from Knowshon,"

Studesville said. "Know-shon is more of a slasher, he's quicker, a space guy. He brings a different dimension, which is something you have to plan for."

McGahee said Denver showed the most interest in signing him after he was cut by the Ravens on Thursday, two days after they told him that he would be released. Studesville, who coached him from 2004-06 with Buffalo, was a big part of that. In three seasons together, McGahee averaged 289 carries and 1,121 yards.

"He's probably the only coach that knows me," McGahee said. "He knows what I can do and what I can't do. He knows my attitude and he knows I'm going to prepare for the game. It's like, 'Welcome home.' "

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

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Kelly Jennings Returns To Seahawks

The Kelly Jennings experiment will continue in Seattle. Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports that the cornerback decided to return to Seattle on a one-year deal. Jennings will again test the free agent market in 2012, where he will probably have more suitors now that a great deal of solid cornerbacks will be off the market.

Jennings had a solid season in 2010 opposite Marcus Trufant, and he could very well step back into that role with the relative youth surrounding the two-deep. Walter Thurmond, who has been practicing in Jennings's spot, is only in his second year out of Oregon, and is still relatively inexperienced to the NFL rigors. Jennings shores up a position of need for Seattle, and should hopefully keep their pass defense from totally crumbling (Football Outsiders only had them ranked at 29th last year though, so an even half-decent performance this season would be a big upgrade).

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

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