July 19, 2012
By BARRY WILNER, Associated Press
Ray Rice and Matt Forte got what they wanted July 16: long-term contracts that sometimes elude NFL running backs.
Neither Rice nor Forte was enamored of playing under the franchise tag tender in 2012, and negotiations went down to the wire. Then Rice scored big with the Baltimore Ravens, getting $40 million for five years, while Forte took a four-year, $32 million deal with the Chicago Bears.
Also getting a longer contract just before the deadline was Jacksonville placekicker Josh Scobee, who will stay with the Jaguars for four years and $13.8 million.
Rice led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage in making his second Pro Bowl. He helped the Ravens to their second AFC title game in his four pro seasons.
"Ray has been an integral part of us earning the playoffs in each of his four seasons," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "His production on the field speaks for itself, and his leadership in the locker room is outstanding."
Although his numbers aren't quite at Rice's level, Forte is just as significant a contributor in Chicago's offense. Had he stayed healthy in 2011, he might have matched Rice, too.
Forte made the Pro Bowl for the first time, finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage, 997 rushing. He missed the final four games after spraining his right knee in a loss to Kansas City. The Bears lost all but one of those games, falling out of playoff contention.
Each of them would have played for the $7.74 million franchise tag — the average of the five highest-paid players at running back — had they not gotten the new contracts.
"I'm proud to be a Chicago Bear and excited to be here for another four years," Forte said in a statement released by the Bears. "I've been working hard this offseason and am looking forward to joining my teammates at training camp next week. I'm glad the business part is done and we can all turn our attention to football and our goal of winning a championship."
Scobee's tender would have been worth $2.88 million for 2012. His new deal is worth $3.45 million annually, with $4.75 million guaranteed. There are $400,000 worth of incentives Scobee could reach.
Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski ($4 million annually) and Phil Dawson ($3.81 million) are the only kickers scheduled to make more than Scobee in 2012. His new deal tops recent ones signed by Tampa Bay's Connor Barth ($3.3 million) and Denver's Matt Prater ($3.25 million), who both were franchised.
Players who are stuck with their one-year tenders are Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, $10.6 million tender; Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, $10.2 million; Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, $9.5 million; Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, $8.8 million; 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, $6.2 million; Redskins tight end Fred Davis, $5.446 million; Browns placekicker Phil Dawson, $3.8 million; and Bengals PK Mike Nugent, one year, $2.6 million.
None of them will be a pauper in 2012.
Altogether, 12 players landed long-term contracts, led by the Saints giving quarterback Drew Brees the richest annual deal in NFL history. The 2011 Offensive Player of the Year signed a five-year, $100 million agreement; only Buffalo DE Mario Williams has gotten that much money, and his deal is for six years.
Arizona DE Calais Campbell received the next most lucrative deal (five years, $55 million), followed by Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson (five years, $51 million). Colts defensive end Robert Mathis got a four-year, $36 million deal, with Titans safety Michael Griffin getting the same amount over five years. Raiders safety Tyvon Branch was next at four years, $26 million.
Then came Scobee, Barth, Prater and Giants punter Steve Weatherford (five years, $12.75 million).
The NFL and the players' union have agreed on funding of benefits to widows and other survivors of players from before 1993, an extended package worth $15.2 million.
Called Legacy Fund benefits, the league and union say eligible beneficiaries will receive an increase in the amount they were receiving retroactive to Aug. 1, 2011. Funding will be split as it is for other beneficiaries of the Legacy Fund: 51 percent paid by the NFL and 49 percent by the NFL Players Association.
Widows and survivors qualifying for the benefit will begin receiving their retroactive checks within the next two weeks. They will begin receiving their monthly benefits beginning Aug. 1.
July 12, 2012
By TIM REYNOLDS |
MIAMI (AP) — Rashard Lewis has decided to join the Miami Heat, becoming yet another shooting option for the reigning NBA champions.
Agent Tony Dutt said the free agent forward and the Heat agreed to terms on Tuesday, and Lewis is expected to sign his contract Wednesday in Miami. Lewis’ decision comes just four days after Ray Allen agreed to accept an offer from Miami.
Allen and Lewis were Seattle teammates for five seasons, from 2003 through 2007 — and both figure to fit perfectly into Miami’s plan to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with even more shooters who can stretch defenses.
Allen’s 2,718 made 3-pointers are the most in NBA history, and Lewis ranks fifth among active players with 1,690 makes from beyond the arc.
Lewis will make the veteran minimum from Miami for this coming season, worth about $1.3 million. He’s picking up another $13.7 million because the final year of his most recent contract — a $118 million, six-year pact — was bought out earlier this offseason by New Orleans, who acquired the 6-foot-10 forward in a trade with Washington and then waived him.
Allen and Lewis are both likely to be introduced by the Heat on Wednesday, once procedural matters like physicals and paperwork are completed. Teams may start signing their free agents when the league's moratorium officially ends at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Slowed by left knee problems this past season, Lewis averaged 7.8 points in 28 games for Washington. For his career, he’s averaged 16.1 points per game with Seattle, Orlando and Washington.
Lewis’ numbers in field-goal percentage (.385), 3-point percentage (.239) and scoring this past season all were the second-lowest of his career. Only his rookie season of 1998-99, when he appeared in 20 games, was less productive.
Still, he was someone the Heat targeted early in free agency. Lewis met with the team this past weekend, had interest from several other clubs — New York and Atlanta included — before eventually deciding that Miami would be the best fit.
Lewis did not play after the All-Star break this past season, sitting out Washington’s final 33 games.
By Kam Williams
LAWT Contributing Writer
One of the most prodigious pugilists of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on May 17, 1956 to Cicero and Getha Leonard. The fifth of seven kids, his family moved to Washington, DC in 1959 before settling down seven years later in Palmer Park, Maryland where his father was employed as a supermarket night manager and his mother as a nurse.
Though shy as a young child, Ray followed his brother Roger’s footsteps into boxing, ultimately eclipsing his elder sibling in terms of potential and finding fame by capturing the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He went on to become the first fighter to earn over $100 million over the course of an enviable career, winning world championship titles in five different weight classes while squaring-off in classic showdowns with such formidable opponents as Roberto “No Mas” Duran, Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Wilfred Benitez.
Ray retired from the ring in 1997 with a record 36-3-1, with 25 of those wins coming by knockout. Today, he lives in California with his wife, Bernadette, and their children, Camille and Daniel. Here, he discusses his moving memoir, “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.”
LAWT: It is widely known that it is very difficult for men to talk about sexual abuse. What made you decide to go public with your story, and was it a cathartic and healing experience to write about it?
SRL: It was cathartic. I only wish that I had had the courage and the knowledge to have gotten that out of my system, out of my mind or my heart years earlier. But there is no book, there is no manual to tell you how to deal with sexual abuse. I saw Todd Bridges talk about being abused on Oprah. Something that he said, or an expression that he made that gave me that little boost I needed to be open about it and to talk about it as transparently as I did. When I told my wife, she couldn’t believe it. She was petrified, because it’s such a no-no, taboo, a hands-off subject. But I’d have to say hearing Todd Bridges on Oprah was my watershed moment.
LAWT: Kate Newell says: I saw you on Stephen Colbert and loved it. She was wondering why a movie hasn’t been made about your life?
SRL: Being on Colbert was a real treat for me, too. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it turned out to be pretty cool. In terms of a movie, we’re talking about it. It’s on the table but, as you know, Kam, that type of thing doesn’t just happen overnight, unfortunately. But I do look forward to seeing the story of my life onscreen someday.
LAWT: Boxing fan Mike Ehrenberg asks: Was Wilfred Benitez the best pure boxer you ever faced?
SRL: Yes, without question. He was a mirror image of what I considered myself as a boxer. That was one of my toughest fights, by far. It’s sad that he’s not mentioned in the same breath as Hearns, Hagler and Duran. It always bothered me that he wasn’t considered in our league, the reason being that he never beat any of us. But he should be right up there.
LAWT: Mike also asks: Was the Dicky Eklund knockdown, highlighted in the movie “The Fighter,” legit?
SRL: It was legit that I was knocked down, or pushed down. [Chuckles] But I remember that fight like it was yesterday because that guy, Dick Eglund, was so unorthodox. And it was the first time in my life I really experienced racial hatred from the fans. We’re talking about Boston back in ’78.
LAWT: I lived in Boston from ’75 to ’78. It’s the most racist city I ever experienced before or since. You couldn’t step foot in white neighborhoods… they wouldn’t serve you in some restaurants… and you couldn’t go to Fenway Park or the Boston Garden.
SRL: I can believe it. When I arrived at the airport, I had a priest or a pastor greet me with, “Hey boy, welcome.”
LAWT: I could go on and on about Boston.
SRL: I could, too. That’s what it was like back then.
LAWT: When I interviewed Governor Deval Patrick last year, I told him I never would’ve believed that Massachusetts would ever elect a black governor after my experiences in his state. Mike has one more question: Do you regret coming out of retirement past your prime to fight Terry Norris and Hector Camacho?
SRL: Do I regret it? Yeah, I do, but it took that to wake up to the fact that my time was over, my time was gone. Sometimes it just takes that kind of beating, if you will, to wake up. It does. I didn’t want to take it. I took it in intervals. The first time was in ’91. I retired and came back in ’97. Woo! I mean, come on! I don’t know, man. A six-year layoff? That was crazy! My career was relatively short, whether you look at either its length in years or the number of fights I had. But it was brutal.
LAWT: That’s because it was the Golden Age in terms of welterweights and middleweights.
SRL: Exactly! You couldn’t mess around in that era there.
LAWT: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: With mounting medical evidence that contact sports aren’t providing ample equipment to mitigate against cerebral concussions, how would you feel about boxing associations mandating protective headgear for fighters, not just for sparring, but also during bouts?
SRL: I’m not in favor of that because we learn as amateurs how to protect ourselves. And that’s why there’s a third man in the ring, the referee. And that’s why there has to be a very strong boxing commission that doesn’t allow guys in the ring who don’t belong there. Look at football, where you still have injuries no matter how much they improve the helmets and other equipment. Boxing’s a poor man’s sport. We can’t afford to play golf or tennis. It is what it is. It’s kept so many kids off the street. It kept me off the street. What’re my options?
LAWT: Yale grad Tommy Russell says: I really respect your admission about battling drug abuse during the tough times of your professional life. What is the most important thing you have learned from that experience?
SRL: I learned that I had character defects, that I was allergic to alcohol and drugs, and that I had an obsession with all the bad stuff. But thank God that I woke and that I had good people around me to support me. There’s not much more I can say about it. You have to want to be a better person.
LAWT: Larry Greenberg says: On Celebrity Ghost Stories, you appeared with one of my favorite young ancestresses, Leila Jean Davis, and you shared some very personal experiences. How did you like being on the show?
SRL: I enjoyed it. I never thought in a million years that I would tell people that I saw a ghost. And I’ve seen a lot of ghosts. [Laughs]
LAWT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
SRL: Yeah, how’s your day? [Chuckles]
LAWT: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SRL: Yes, we all are afraid of something. We might not admit it, but we are.
LAWT: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
LAWT: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
SRL: Just now. [Chuckles]
LAWT: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
SRL: It used to be a pint of ice cream in bed.
LAWT: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SRL: “The Big Fight.”
LAWT: What inspired you to write the book?
SRL: To be honest, I don’t know. I started one back in 1982 or ’83 when I first retired. But I was only 25 or 26 and not ready to write my memoirs.
LAWT: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music have you been listening to?
SRL: “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross.
LAWT: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SRL: I’m pretty good with oatmeal.
LAWT: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
SRL: Success. But not necessarily monetary success.
LAWT: Judyth Piazza asks: How do you define success?
SRL: Success is attaining your dream while helping others to benefit from that dream materializing.
LAWT: Dante Lee, author of “Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made?
SRL: Remaining conservative.
LAWT: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
SRL: At about 6, seeing my mom and dad kissing and understanding it.
LAWT: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
SRL: It made me realize how much I loved that person.
LAWT: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
SRL: You don’t play boxing. [LOL] You really don’t. You play golf, you play tennis, but you don’t play boxing.
LAWT: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
SRL: As someone who had an impact outside the ring.
LAWT: Thanks again for the interview, Ray, and best of luck with the book.
SRL: Thank you, Kam.
July 07, 2012
By MAE ANDERSON | Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is launching a sports clothing line called V7 that will be sold exclusively at East Coast sporting goods chain Modell’s.
The line is the latest image-restoration move for Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison after being convicted of bankrolling a dogfighting ring and was released in 2009. He is now among the highest-paid players in the NFL, and recently married longtime fiancée Kijafa Frink. Vick has re-signed with Nike and added other endorsements for companies such as MusclePharm Corp.
He has also since spoken out about animal cruelty.
The line includes technical athletic clothing such as T-shirts, shorts and tank tops. Prices are $12.99 for children’s clothes and $19.99 for adult clothes. Part of the proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia.
It was developed in a licensing partnership with celebrity clothing-line mogul Ruby Azrak and former ICM talent agent Brian Sher, Modell’s confirmed.
Vick led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-6 record and an NFC East title in 2010, and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He faced injuries and inconsistent performance in the 2011 season. The 2012 NFL season begins Sept. 5.
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