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Saban hosts Peyton in visit of ‘mutual benefit’

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban hosted Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase last week for two days during a visit the Alabama Crimson Tide coach called mutually beneficial.
The presence of Manning struck a cord in Saban, who also said the quarterback was a good example of how athletes at all levels should approach their crafts.

The details of how the meeting came about weren’t clear, but Saban said Manning and Gase were “making some visits” and wanted to stop by Tuscaloosa.
“A lot of people would say, ‘Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, from a career standpoint and about as good as anyone has been in the history of the league,’ ” Saban said. “After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he’s going out to try and seek more knowledge and understudying of the game of football so he can play better.”
The benefit, however, wasn’t entirely one-sided.
Denver likely runs as efficient a no-huddle offense as any in the NFL. Manning, the orchestrator of the Broncos attack, threw for a league-record 55 touchdowns this past season.
Saban, for his part, has struggled some recently against no-huddle offenses. Alabama gave up a record 628 yards of offense in a 49-42 win over Texas A&M last season, and then lost in the final second to Auburn in a game that featured the Tigers running an uptempo attack that yielded 296 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”
Alabama has long hosted athletes and coaching staffs on visits. Earlier this month, Saban hosted a football clinic that included Baylor coach Art Briles, Seattle Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider and Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
Former coaches Joe Gibbs, Gene Stallings and Sylvester Croom were also a part of the clinic.
“Peyton Manning has been a friend and very well respected for a long time, ever since I coached in the league,” Saban said. “We played them when he was at Indianapolis and I was in Miami. His dad [Archie] has been a really good friend of mine for a long, long, long time.”
Saban added that Gates worked for him at Michigan State and LSU.
“To be honest with you,” Saban said, “[Manning] was just trying to learn so he could be a better player.”Covers Alabama and the SEC.Joined ESPN in 2012.Graduate of Auburn University.

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Starting LB Allen among 4 released by Jags

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Starting outside linebacker Russell Allen was among four players the Jacksonville Jaguars released on Thursday afternoon.
The team also cut receiver Jabin Sambrano, defensive end Will Pericak, and defensive end D’Aundre Reed.
The 27-year-old Allen started 29 games over the past two seasons and 44 games in his five seasons with the Jaguars. He has missed just two games in those five seasons and made 331 tackles and had two sacks, one interception, and three fumble recoveries.
Allen made the team in 2009 as an undrafted rookie out of San Diego State. In addition to playing linebacker he has been a key special teams performer (42 tackles).
Allen became expendable when the Jaguars signed free-agent linebacker Dekoda Watson, whom head coach Gus Bradley said will play strongside linebacker on first and second down and the leo position (hybrid end/linebacker) on third down. Allen’s release saves the Jaguars $2.5 million on the salary cap.
Reed played in six games for Minnesota in 2012 and joined the Jaguars’ practice squad last December. Sambrano and Pericak have each been with several teams and have yet to appear in an NFL game.Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
Graduate of Jacksonville University
Multiple APSE award winner

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New Jet Johnson motivated to silence critics

Updated: April 17, 2014, 5:36 PM ET

By
Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

After sitting on the market for 12 days and hearing a year’s worth of whispers about his declining value as a running back, Chris Johnson comes to the New York Jets resolved to prove the doubters wrong.
“I know there’s a lot of people out there who believe in me, including the Jets, that’s why they wanted to bring me in,” Johnson said Thursday on a conference call. “But there are still a lot of people out there who say how they’re going to feel, but I don’t see how you can say some of the type things they say about a guy who runs for almost 1,100 yards on a torn meniscus.

“But [for] a player like myself that has accomplished so much in his career, it’s always great to have things to put a chip on your shoulder, have things to motivate you. I can turn a bad thing that people say into a good thing for me, to get me motivated, keep me hungry and keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong.”
Johnson was signed Wednesday to a two-year deal worth a potential $9 million, a league source told ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter. There have been questions about how productive Johnson can be given his declining production and his surgery in January to a repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
His knee is healing, and Johnson said he would soon be cleared to resume football activities. The Jets begin their offseason training program next week.
Asked if he was concerned about whether he would be ready to participate during training camp, Johnson said he had “no concern.” 
Johnson also denied a report that he had arthritis in his knee.
“No, that’s not accurate,” he said before laughing.
“If they had major concern in my knee, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have passed the physical.”
Johnson spent his first six seasons with the Tennessee Titans and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each, including 2,006 in 2009. Last season, he had 1,077 yards on 279 carries and 42 catches for 345 yards.
“I know the type of player I am, and it’s a situation — once you run for 2,000 yards, you set an expectation for yourself,” Johnson said. “So anytime you don’t get 2,000 yards, it’s a situation where people are going to say, ‘Oh, is he the same guy? Is he this, is he that’? … [Once] you run for 2,000 yards, the whole focus is on you, to stop you.”

When teams key on a player, Johnson said, that player may have fewer yards but he’s more valuable to the offense given that defenses have to commit so many resources to stop him.
Johnson said he picked the Jets after meeting with coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“They know how to win over there, ” Johnson said. “The type of team that they had last year, they got a great defense. Anytime you have a great defense, you give yourself a great chance at winning.
“We know as an organization if we’re able to put up points, then that will give us a good chance at winning. So I felt I would be able to fit that mold and come there and help the offense.”
The Jets still retain running backs Chris Ivory (182 carries for 833 yards in 2013), Bilal Powell (176 for 697) and Mike Goodson (seven for 61). It is unlikely they will keep all four.
Goodson has been a disappointment after being the first major signing of the John Idzik era. The back was signed last March to a three-year deal worth $6.9 million, but soon after that he was arrested after being found unresponsive in the passenger seat of a vehicle stopped in the left lane of Interstate 80 in New Jersey. Goodson has another court date set for May 19 stemming from the resulting gun and drug charges.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2013 season, Goodson played in two games and then sustained a season-ending knee injury.
“They’ll put everybody in the best positions to help the Jets win,” Johnson said. “And that is what really matters and [what] interested me in going to a team that is a winning program and has a chance of being a contender.”

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre’s stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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Jags’ Doss arrested for disorderly conduct

Updated: April 17, 2014, 5:52 PM ET

ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis police have arrested Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Tandon Doss on a disorderly conduct charge, but he will not be prosecuted.
A police report says the 24-year-old Doss was “out of control” and arrested during a disturbance with another man Wednesday afternoon. The report provided no additional details on the incident. Police spokesman Sgt. Kendale Adams said he also had no details.
Adams said the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges.
A Jaguars spokesman said they are aware of the incident but have no comment at this time.
A telephone message seeking comment was left with Doss’ agent, Jared Fox.
Doss was a fourth-round draft pick out of Indiana by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Jacksonville signed him as a free agent last month.
Doss attended Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.
ESPN.com Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.

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Former QB McNabb spends day in jail for DUI

Updated: April 17, 2014, 6:10 PM ET

Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. — Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb has been released from an Arizona jail after serving a one-day sentence for a DUI arrest late last year.
Records released by West Mesa Justice Court show the 37-year-old McNabb served his time Wednesday and was released Thursday morning.
McNabb was arrested Dec. 15 on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. He pleaded guilty on March 27 and nine days of his sentence was suspended.
McNabb’s lawyer Stephen Benedetto didn’t immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.
McNabb played 13 years in the NFL after being drafted with the second overall pick in 1999.
He led the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC championship games from 2001 to 2004 and one Super Bowl berth before retiring after the 2011 season.Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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Hernandez associate accused of lying to feds

Updated: April 17, 2014, 2:08 PM ET

ESPN.com news services

BOSTON — A man has been arrested as part of a gun trafficking probe related to the murder case against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Federal authorities arrested 23-year-old Oscar Hernandez Jr. on Wednesday evening in Florida on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to a federal grand jury. The case is “related” to the athlete’s case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said. 
The men themselves are not related.
Oscar Hernandez is accused of lying to a grand jury investigating the transportation of guns from Florida to Massachusetts. The inquiry was focused on three guns recovered in connection with the 2013 killing of semi-pro football player and Aaron Hernandez associate Odin Lloyd.
Aaron Hernandez and two other men are charged in the June 17 shooting death of Lloyd, who was found dead about a mile from Hernandez’s North Attleborough home.
Oscar Hernandez was to appear in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla., at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday and then will be brought to Massachusetts later to face charges. 
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Ocho Canada: Johnson joins CFL’s Alouettes

Updated: April 17, 2014, 2:07 PM ET

ESPN.com news services

Chad Johnson is headed north of the border.
The six-time Pro Bowl NFL wide receiver signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL on Thursday, the team announced on Twitter.

IT’S OFFICIAL: @ochocinco puts pen to paper with @PoppJim. Bienvenue à #HuitCinq chez les #Alouettes! #CFL #LCF pic.twitter.com/yKkRlBwU7y
– Montreal Alouettes (@MTLAlouettes) April 17, 2014
Johnson, who once changed his last name to Ochocinco could be hearing a lot of “O Canada” this summer.  His signing comes two days after he was with the Alouettes for the start of their three-day minicamp.
Johnson, 36, last appeared in an NFL game during the 2011 season with New England. He was in training camp with the Miami Dolphins — his hometown team — the following summer, but his contract was terminated one day after he was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery.
A plea deal was eventually worked out, but after a probation violation Johnson wound up going to jail for a few days anyway after a judge objected to the way he slapped his attorney on the backside in celebration.
The Alouettes have a history of not judging players by their checkered pasts, as evidenced by how they once gave former Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips a chance on what became a Grey Cup-winning team in Montreal.
The CFL game is very much passing-friendly, and that can be at least partially attributed to several rule deviations from the NFL game.
Teams in the CFL have only three downs to gain 10 yards instead of four. The field is 10 yards longer from goal line to goal line, is about 10 yards wider, and the end zones are 20 yards deep — twice as long as those used in high school, college and pro play in the U.S.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Reports: D-Jax owes Rosenhaus over $500K

Updated: April 17, 2014, 9:43 AM ET

ESPN.com news services

An arbitrator recently ruled that DeSean Jackson owes former agent Drew Rosenhaus $516,415 in unpaid loans and fees, according to multiple media reports.
Yahoo Sports’ reported Rosenhaus originally sought $777,793 for “loans, interest, credit card charges and insurance premiums.”  Rosenhaus filed the grievance in June 2013, shortly after he was fired by Jackson, according to reports.
Jackson intends on appealing the decision that was handed down by arbitrator Roger Kaplan on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
After leaving Rosenhaus, Jackson signed with current agent, Joel Segal, who negotiated his three-year, $24 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) with the Washington Redskins that came days after his release by the Eagles.
Jackson, 27, had 82 receptions for a career-high 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

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Sharper’s attorneys to question Ariz. evidence

Updated: April 17, 2014, 4:00 AM ET

Associated Press

PHOENIX — Lawyers for former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper are questioning the evidence authorities are using to justify keeping him in jail without bail on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted two women.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville began a hearing on the subject Wednesday and is expected to conclude it Thursday afternoon. It’s the latest development in several ongoing sexual assault investigations involving Sharper in Louisiana, California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
Bail in Sharper’s California rape case was set at $1 million, but he was indicted in Arizona last month on charges of sexual assault and administering dangerous drugs, so authorities in California have kept him jailed. The Arizona Constitution automatically denies bail to people charged with sexual assault if the proof against them is evident or the presumption of guilt is great.
The indictment filed last month in Arizona alleges that Sharper gave the sedative zolpidem to three women and then had “sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact” with two of them without their consent on Nov. 21 at an apartment in Tempe.
Sharper has not yet entered a plea in the case, although one of his attorneys has said Sharper will deny those allegations. He has pleaded not guilty in the California case.
Earlier this month, the judge denied a request from Sharper’s attorneys to set bail, ruling that he didn’t have jurisdiction until the former player was in Arizona. But Sharper’s attorneys said the former player is entitled to a hearing to determine whether Arizona prosecutors have enough evidence to deny him bail.
On Wednesday, Tempe police detective Kevin Mace said Sharper’s DNA was recovered from the clothing of one of the two sexual assault victims in Arizona, but none of his DNA was found during an exam of the other woman.
The detective also said a police search of the apartment turned up a shot glass with a white residue that turned out to be zolpidem, and California investigators have discovered Sharper had a prescription for that drug, which is commonly sold under the brand name Ambien.Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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QB Murray: ‘No limitations’ during pro day

Updated: April 16, 2014, 7:05 PM ET

Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. — Quarterback Aaron Murray still has some convincing to do after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in late November.
Even so, Murray believes he alleviated many potential concerns about his health after working out in front of 23 NFL teams at Georgia’s pro day Wednesday.
Murray said he felt “no limitations” despite wearing a brace on his left knee. Murray hopes that some scouts will recommend him as a second-round draft pick after his scripted workout that included 54 passes to several receivers on a windy, chilly morning.
“We did a lot of throws on the run, left and right, to demonstrate my ability to cut off my leg and show everyone that I’m healthy,” he said. “That way these teams don’t have to worry about if they draft me that I’m going to have to sit out or anything like that.”
Murray likewise understands that he could be the ninth quarterback taken and could fall into the fourth or fifth round.
But Murray says that NFL teams are impressed with his resume at Georgia — 52 starts and Southeastern Conference career passing records for yards and touchdowns.
In conversations with former Georgia stars A.J. Green, a Pro Bowl receiver with Cincinnati, and Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions’ quarterback, Murray has been reassured that NFL teams value a successful career in the SEC.
“Obviously it’s not the NFL, but it’s the closest thing to it when it comes to college football,” Murray said. “That helps us after playing against these top (opponents) week in and week out, gets us ready for the NFL.”
Green, among a couple hundred onlookers at the Bulldogs’ practice fields, thought his former teammate appeared sharp, particularly given the severity of his injury and how soon he’s returned to the field.
“He’s doing everything you’d hope to see from an NFL quarterback,” Green said. “He’s going to have a lot of success in the league.”
Tight end Arthur Lynch, who ran a variety of routes for Murray, thought his longtime roommate and close friend “was on the money with all of his throws” even though the session included three drops, two balls caught out of bounds and an incompletion.
“For a guy that had surgery four months ago, he showed that he was strong and didn’t lose any athleticism,” said Lynch, a potential mid-round pick. “If anything he probably got stronger.”
Personal quarterback coach Terry Shea, who directed the workout, has been putting Murray through the same drills for a few weeks.
Every standard passing route was on display.
“Deep outs, comebacks, digs, being able to put the ball (in the right spot) on the posts, the corners, downfield balls,” Murray said. “All the throws you need to compete at the next level.”
Murray returned to Athens two weeks ago to practice the script and get ready. Before that, he was training in Pensacola, Fla., at a facility associated with sports orthopedist James Andrews.
“He’s gotten better with a lot of throws, his consistency, getting the ball up, following through, getting it on time, all those things,” said former Georgia teammate Rantavious Wooten, one of his receivers Wednesday. “He came out and did the same thing that he’s been doing for two weeks.”
The workout also held plenty of significance for Lynch, who like Murray was invited to the NFL scouting combine two months ago in Indianapolis.
Lynch hopes that teams will respect that he played a variety of roles — fullback, wide receiver and special teams — in four years with the Bulldogs.
“I’m not the guy who wows you, but I’m definitely that does things consistently and does everything fairly well,” Lynch said. “More and more tight ends are getting drafted than ever in this history of the draft. Whether I go in the seventh round or the second round, these teams know what they’re going to get, and I think I’ll be able to make a long career in the NFL.”
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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