Mikel Leshoure Visits Patriots

Former Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure made a visit to the New England Patriots facilities today, according to a report from Ian Rappaport of the Boston Herald.
Leshoure was a somewhat surprising early entry into the 2011 NFL Draft, but has been steadily climbing up many draft boards of the NFL Draft media members.
A bigger back at 5’11″ and 227 pounds, Leshoure would project to be a brusining 3-down runner for the Patriots a la Corey Dillon. He has some skills in the passing game, but isn’t quite in the same class as Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead.
We’ve compared Leshoure to Laurence Maroney before, which never makes Patriots fans happy. Leshoure has questionable (to be nice) vision in our opinion, and produces too many negative plays. Compared to a Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, i’m not sure that Leshoure would be much of an upgrade.

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NFL owners approve moving kickoffs to 35-yard line

The NFL will move kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line, keep touchbacks coming out to the 20-yard line and allow the number of players in a blocking wedge to remain at two.
Kick coverage players now will be limited to lining up five yards or fewer from the spot of the kickoff.
Team owners also voted Tuesday to make all scoring plays reviewable by the replay official and referee. But they tabled a proposal to ban players launching themselves to make a tackle, and will reconsider it in May.The league’s competition committee proposed placing the ball at the 25 after touchbacks on kickoffs and banning the wedge altogether. Several coaches expressed concern about making too many changes to kickoffs, also saying bringing touchbacks out five more yards would affect field position too much. Coaches worried about an increase in touchbacks from the 16 per cent of kickoffs last season.
“Any time there’s a touchback and now it’s not coming to the 20,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “I think that that probably was the most drastic of the four or five items that constituted one rule.”
Making kickoffs safer was the objective, and Payton believes the owners met it, voting 26-6 for the new rule.
“The bottom line is it’s … the highest risk of injury play,” he said.
Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said coaches were concerned about an increase in high kicks from the 35 intended to trap returning teams deep and severely decreasing the number of returns. He also said the two-man wedge was not a driving force in the uptick in injuries on kickoffs. Indeed, more injuries occur in coverage than on the return squads.
As for the six no votes, McKay said: “The objections were, ‘Hey, you’re affecting my team.’ Clearly, some teams have good kick returners and they said, ‘What if there’s 10 per cent less returns?’
“We have no answer but player safety will always trump any other consideration.”
Yet the two player safety amendments were tabled until the May league meetings. A proposal to outlaw players launching to make hits was deferred, as was expanding the definition of a defenceless receiver.
McKay said joining those two additions to a previous rule caused the tabling. Each of the proposals will be made into separate amendments before being presented again.
“We didn’t feel like there was enough support to get it passed,” said Giants owner John Mara, a competition committee member. “A number of people seemed to be, in my opinion, more concerned about flags being thrown for questionable hits.
“My feeling is, I’m more concerned about needless concussions, so I’m willing to make that trade. But I think we need to go back and just clarify some of the language, maybe to make it a little bit more clear for everybody.”
McKay praised players for avoiding launching themselves during the second part of last season after the league threatened suspensions for illegal and flagrant hits. No suspensions were handed out, but Ray Anderson, the NFL’s chief disciplinarian, said they will be in play from the outset of next season.
The replay change passed 30-2, with one modification: The third coach’s challenge that the competition committee suggested dropping will be kept.
The replay official now can call for the referee to review any scoring play. Previously, replay officials only could order reviews (on any play) in the final two minutes of each half and in overtime.
Coaches pushed for the change in great part because they felt they didn’t get a fair shake in road games.
“It’s a real big competitive disadvantage,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You don’t get that look at it on the road that you get at home; they just don’t show it.”
One proposal was adopted unanimously, giving the commissioner the power to approve or deny requests to change the colour of the playing field from green. Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the concern was that sponsors could approach teams and suggest a deal that involved altering a field’s colour.
As McKay previously noted with a smile, “We don’t want any red fields like at Eastern Washington.”

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Lead negotiator says NFL proposed 10-year CBA

WASHINGTON—Had enough of the he-said, he-said rancor between the NFL and players? Don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.The outcome of the league’s first work stoppage since 1987 could be decided in court; the first hearing on the players’ request for an injunction to block the owners’ lockout was scheduled for April 6. In the meantime, there probably will be more of the same as Monday, when Kevin Mawae — president of the NFL Players Association, the now-dissolved union — accused the league of spreading “complete falsehoods and complete lies.”
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, on the same conference call as Mawae, said the owners’ final offer Friday “was all a front.”
“I think it was all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, other than just to say they made a proposal — that was no different than anything else that they proposed over the last couple years, couple months, couple weeks,” said Brees, a named plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league.
Brees and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, also a member of the players’ executive committee, complained that the players were not given enough time to assess and ask questions about the proposal owners made Friday morning.
“It just seems odd you would wait until Friday to put out a 20-point proposal, when each point has a number of different details in it,” Saturday said.
The NFL’s lead labor negotiator, Jeff Pash, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Friday’s proposal contained various new provisions. He said owners offered a 10-year deal.
“I was frankly surprised that the (owners’ labor) committee supported an offer as forthcoming as that was,” Pash said.
He also said the league would have been willing to agree to a third extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which originally was due to expire at the end of March 3, before two delays. But another extension, he said, “wasn’t really discussed in a serious way, because it was perfectly obvious they weren’t interested.”
By the end of Friday, talks broke off, the union announced it no longer would represent players, Brees and others filed suit, and the owners imposed a lockout at midnight.
“If they were saying they were not going to negotiate, under any circumstance, after 4 p.m. on Friday, don’t you think you have to ask yourself: Who was it who was in Washington putting on a show?” Pash said.
“We answered all the questions they had at the time, and we never put a deadline on it. We’re not the ones who were filing a lawsuit at 5 o’clock,” Pash said.
For all the things the owners and players disagree on, the two main sticking points are clear: how much money owners would get up front before dividing the rest of $9 billion in annual revenues with players, and the union’s demand for full financial disclosure.
“If we’re going to talk about ‘trust,’ maybe you should ask the owners if they trust each other to see each others’ books,” Mawae said. “I think that’s a greater issue than the players trusting the owners.”
Under the old CBA, owners received more than $1 billion to cover certain operating expenses, before other money was split with players. When negotiations began on a new deal, the owners sought an additional $1 billion off the top. Both sides acknowledge there was movement in that area.
But as the NFLPA’s lead spokesman, George Atallah, put it Monday: “The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is we really, really weren’t.”
Because the NFLPA says it no longer is a union, but rather a trade association — a distinction the NFL calls a “sham” — Atallah said any decision to return to negotiations would be up to the lawyers representing the players, rather than NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Asked whether there would be talks before the April 6 hearing, Atallah replied: “As of now, no.”
The league, meanwhile, would prefer to return to the negotiating table. Starting Feb. 18, the sides met 16 times at federal mediator’s office.
“We would get back together with them tomorrow if they wanted to. We’re not the ones who walked out. We’re not the ones who renounced our status. We’re not the ones who filed litigation,” Pash said. “So we would get back together with them tomorrow. And if they have questions about our proposal, we’d answer them. If they have alternatives they want us to consider, we’d consider them.”
Mawae said that if the NFL contends the union walked away from mediation, “that’s a fabrication and a lie. We sat in that room … Tuesday and Wednesday of last week for 16 hours. … We met face-to-face a total of 30 minutes.

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Bears release DT Harris


The Chicago Bears released veteran defensive tackle Tommie Harris on Monday, cutting loose a three-time Pro Bowl player who had struggled in recent years because of injuries.
The Bears also released linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer.
A Pro Bowl pick from 2005 to 2007, Harris was limited by knee and hamstring problems the past few years and never regained his old disruptive form. He had signed a four-year, US$40-million extension in June 2008 and was locked in through 2012, but the Bears decided to cut him after several ineffective seasons.
“We made out determinations on what we need to do, we talked about every player, and when you talk about players, you’re always talking about their contracts, you’re talking about their performance, you’re talking about their attitude and how it applies to the team,” general manager Jerry Angelo said at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
“And those in a simplified way is our formula on what we do with every player, so it’s a filter we go through and then whatever we determine, we’ll announce it at the appropriate time if there’s something to announce.”
Harris’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Harris was a healthy scratch against Green Bay in September and finished the season with 13 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 15 games. He was held out of a game last year and got suspended by the team for one in 2008 because of detrimental conduct.http://sarwary-sarwary.blogspot.com/
In seven seasons, he had 286 tackles, 28 1/2 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and one interception.
Bears safety Chris Harris on Twitter wrote: “Its nature of the business. I wish him the best. He’s a friend.”
Hillenmeyer made 69 starts and appeared in 101 games over eight seasons for the Bears, recording 458 tackles and seven sacks with two interceptions, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He missed almost the entire season after suffering a concussion in the preseason.
Shaffer, a nine-year veteran, made seven starts at right tackle over the past two seasons

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Which teams could be active at the NBA trade deadline?



Here are the teams, other than the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, to come up most frequently in trade talks by looking to land or unload players by Thursday’s deadline:Charlotte   Cheap NFL Jerseys Bobcats— An All-Star last season, F Gerald Wallace has been put on the market. He’s not only a versatile scorer but an excellent defender. They would also like to unload G Stephen Jackson, but he has three years left on a hefty contract.Cleveland Cavaliers— The league’s worst team is having a fire sale. F Antawn Jamison’s $15.1 million salary is there for the taking.Dallas Mavericks— Regarded as the most active team by other general managers for the past month, but they have starting G Roddy Beaubois back from a broken foot and acquired F Peja Stojakovic in a trade last month. They have risen to No. 2 in the Western conference and appear to be back on track. No major shakeups needed here.DEAL DONE: Carmelo moves from Nuggets to KnicksTRADE DEADLINE: Other NBA deals will fall into placeGolden State Warriors— Another guard-oriented team that’s surging, they have enough scorers. They lack big bodies and a shot-blocking, defensive presence inside. They have already reached out to the Nuggets regarding 6-11 center Nene.Houston Rockets— They can score but can’t stop anyone. Their best post players are F Chuck Hayes and F Luis Scola, who stand 6-6 and 6-9. Injuries have decimated a team that could go 10 deep at one point. They have multiple expiring contracts, including C Yao Ming and F Shane Battier. It’s a guard-friendly offense that desperately needs a greater low-post presence, which is why they covet Nene of the Nuggets. G Aaron Brooks’ contract is expiring, too. And aside from falling out of favor with Coach Rick Adelman, G Kyle Lowry was brought in as Brooks’ backup — and on a higher salary — before the season. Lowry has performed well enough to all but seal Brooks’ fate.Los Angeles Lakers— They would really like to get rid of F Ron Artest, but that won’t happen unless they give up more. He has more than $22 million over three years left on his contract and it’s unlikely any team in today’s economic climate will take on that burden and do the two-time defending champions such a favor. Plus, Artest is a disgruntled player in his 12th year showing major signs of slippage. G Derek Fisher’s defense at the top of the key is inadequate, so backup G Steve Blake is starting to log more minutes in the fourth quarter. Very thin at that position, as well.Memphis Grizzlies— They need better guard play behind Mike Conley. This is a better team since G O.J. Mayo was sent to the bench. General Manager Chris Wallace tries to downplay Mayo being part of trade talks, but he is not very effective when not scoring. Whether a team will take a chance on him after his recent incidents — fight on the team plane with a teammate and 10-game suspension by the league for taking a banned substance — is the question.Milwaukee Bucks— Injuries have marred what was expected to be a promising season after 47 wins last year. They have contracts, however, that are too big to move (G John Salmons, F Drew Gooden and F Corey Maggette). They need a backup guard and have expiring contracts for F Luc Mbah a Moute, F Carlos Delfino and G Earl Boykins.   http://sarwary-sarwary.blogspot.com/ The Bucks want to keep Mbah a Moute and F Ersan Ilyasova, whom they regard as “glue” players.New Orleans Hornets— The Hornets have to be frugal while finding a better two-way shooting guard than starter Marco Belinelli and muscle inside to be a better rebounding team. They plucked F Jason Smith and G Willie Green from the 76ers in a trade during the offseason and have their eyes on reserve F Thaddeus Young. The Cavs’ Jamison is of interest, but he’s due $15.1 million next season. That might be too steep for a team in flux with ownership and being run by the league office until a buyer can be found.Portland Trail Blazers— They’re searching for post players. C Greg Oden is out for yet another season and his ability to return is in doubt. C Marcus Camby is aging and injured. There’s a bevy of shooting guards and small forwards on this roster, with G Brandon Roy, G Rudy Fernandez, G Wes Matthews, G Elliot Williams, F Nicolas Batum and G Armon Johnson. Roy, because of the size of his contract and recent knee surgeries, stays put. Batum is in high demand, but General Manager Rich Cho won’t let him go.

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