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SWATS co-owner: 'Not some quack' peddling products

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SWATS co-owner: 'Not some quack' peddling products

FULTONDALE, Ala. (AP) The owners of the little company that stirred up the Super Bowl controversy with deer antler spray and other performance-enhancing products don't like being labeled snake oil salesmen.

There was plenty of activity Thursday at the modest, one-story building that houses Sports With Alternatives to Steroids after a Sports Illustrated article linked the company to college and pro athletes - including Baltimore's Ray Lewis. At the facility located in suburban Birmingham, phones were buzzing in one room while muscular young men were pumping iron in another.

SWATS co-owners Christopher Key and Mitch Ross bristled at the magazine's depiction of them.

``I'm not just this quack peddling these stickers,'' said Key, who received a bachelor of science degree from Alabama in 1996. ``This was my life work.''

His work - and his aggressive way of promoting it - has been in the spotlight before.

Ross' email signature ends with:

``If you ain't chippin, you must be trippin''

``If you're still cheatin, you ain't competin''

Auburn's Dr. Frederick Kam, director of the AU medical clinic, Michael Goodlett, team doctor for the Tigers' football squad, and David Pascoe, a professor of the university's kinesiology department, gathered for a meeting requested by Key to demonstrate SWATS products about two years ago.

Goodlett and Pascoe weren't interested in the products.

Kam, who said he has no scientific evidence that SWATS' products work, described Key as ``very fast-talking, salesy.''

``One of my clinicians says he is the P.T. Barnum of the present time,'' Kam said, while adding he knows people who have claimed benefit from similar products.

Key's tactics are working - for SWATS at least.

His phone goes off frequently during Thursday's 45-minute interview with The Associated Press and while Key doesn't give specifics, it's pretty clear the attention this week has been good for business.

``It's been good crazy,'' Key said. ``It's been the best thing that could have happened. It's been fabulous.''

Just not for everybody.

The apparent link to the company has led Lewis to spend part of the week leading to the final game of a brilliant 17-year NFL career addressing questions about SWATS. He denied ever using any of the company's products.

Key and Ross declined to discuss Lewis in the interview. Ross said he planned to hold a news conference in New Orleans on Friday, two days before the city hosts the Super Bowl.

Still, Lewis' poster is among those lining the walls in the front room with apparent testimonials promoting SWATS beneath the pictures. The message on Lewis's poster contends that pain in his lower back disappeared after he used one of the company's chips in 2008.

``I will never compete without them,'' it says.

Key said the company has had dealings with players from five Southeastern Conference football programs - at least three of which have asked them to stay away. Ross said players from LSU, Mississippi and in the SEC championship game wore the chips during their games with Alabama.

He said he provided the chips for free to four Alabama players who went on to the NFL during the 2008 season. The two have said 20-plus Alabama players used it during the 2009 national title season and others from Auburn used it en route to the championship a year later.

While there may be legitimate questions about their products, Key and Ross say they're just passionate about products that he believes work. He angrily holds up the magazine page with the words ``Snake Oil Salesmen.''

While Key acknowledges the company is benefiting from all the publicity, Ross said this ``this is different'' and vows he'll explain why on Friday.

``I've been working with professional athletes since 2006. Reggie Bush. Terrell Owens. We can go on and on,'' said Ross, a former male stripper who frequently cites his religious faith. ``But I signed up for this? Really? Who would do that? I signed up for my company to be what's out there. This is all about helping people. God just put me in a sports world and everything that's happened this week and every bit of this story, God knew it was going to happen.

``And He allowed it to happen the way it happened.''

The two maintain that the deer antler spray is natural and won't lead players to fail drug tests.

Ross, 45, has had at least one prominently dissatisfied client.

St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora was awarded $5.4 million in June 2011 against Ross's former company, Anti-Steroid Program LLC of Key Largo, Fla. Vobora was suspended for four games in 2009 after testing positive for methyltestosterone, a banned substance, after using the company's ``Ultimate Sports Spray.''

Ross's take is ``that clown spiked my bottle of spray. That bottle went through four hands in three states.''

Nowadays, Key isn't complaining about claiming some of the spotlight ahead of a game featuring coaching brothers Jim and John Harbaugh and Lewis's finale.

``Right now, we have what's supposed to be the biggest game ever,'' Key said. ``You've got two brothers playing each other, you've got the guy who's about to retire and right now, what are they talking about? They're talking about SWATS.''

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Ravens Roundup: Robert Griffin III on track for Week One return

Ravens Roundup: Robert Griffin III on track for Week One return

Trace McSorley dominated the Eagles in Week 3 of the preseason, but the favorite to back up Lamar Jackson against the Dolphins in the season opener remains Robert Griffin III. 

Here are the latest news and notes on the Ravens.

Player News:

Coach John Harbaugh confirmed Saturday that QB Robert Griffin III is still on track to return to the field in time for week one of the regular season. The backup QB hasn't played since early in training camp due to a thumb injury.

LB Paul Worrilow agreed to terms with the Ravens on Friday, but changed his mind and decided to retire on Saturday. Per reports, Worrilow is stepping away to spend time with his pregnant wife.

Looking Ahead:

Preseason Week 4: Thursday, August 29 at Washington Redskins

Week 1: Sunday, September 8 at Miami Dolphins, 1 PM

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Marshal Yanda returns to Ravens practice as offensive line picture slowly takes shape

Marshal Yanda returns to Ravens practice as offensive line picture slowly takes shape

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens offensive line is finally beginning to take shape. 

Right guard Marshal Yanda returned to the practice field Saturday, 15 days before the team’s regular season opener in Miami. He missed the last two weeks of practice. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley also returned from a left ankle injury.

Now, it’s a matter of getting the starting unit together.

“They’ve been practicing all along,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Marshal’s missed the last week or so, but he’s the one guy that can afford it. That was an opportunity to give those other guys a lot of reps. They’ve filled right in today. It’s time to go.”

With Yanda and Stanley on the offensive line, fourth-fifths of the starting unit was present at practice Saturday. The lone holdout was Jermaine Eluemunor, the presumed starter at left guard, who missed practice.

That leaves some inside spots open for competition, where Ben Powers and Bradley Bozeman have been looking to shore up the depth. 

“It’s good, every game, every Thursday you go out there and you get things you’re happy with that you’ve corrected over the course of the week, and you get things you need to address the next week,” Powers said. “Going into it every week, it’s just football.”

Powers, who mostly played left guard at Oklahoma, spent the majority of his snaps Thursday in Philadelphia at right guard. He took a few game reps, however, so the position isn’t completely foreign to him. 

Bozeman has also played reps at center and guard, so the interior offensive line has some versatility. Paired with Patrick Mekari and Patrick Vahe as well, the Ravens offensive line has depth up the middle.

“The inside did really well,” Harbaugh said. “The three young guys that you’re referring to I thought played very well. They all put themselves in contention, we’ve just got to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Aside from the offensive line, which should see some significant reps next Thursday in Washington, none of the Ravens starters will play. Harbuagh will decide how much key depth players like quarterback Trace McSorley will play on Monday.

And with roster cut downs a week from Saturday at 4 p.m., any playing time for depth players is crucial to earning their spot on the 53-man roster — in Baltimore or elsewhere. 

On the injury front, there was a noticeable lack of defensive backs present. Five missed practice, though there isn’t a cause for concern.

There were 12 players missing from practice Saturday morning: Randin Crecelius, Greg Senat, Jermaine Eluemunor, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maruice Canady, Earl Thomas, Iman Marshall, Jaylon Ferguson, Nicholas Grigsby, Paul Worrilow and Gerald Willis.

It was later announced by Ian Rappoport that Worrilow, one day after signing with the Ravens, decided to retire at age 29.

According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, he left the Ravens stay at home with his wife, who is eight months pregnant. He’ll re-evaluate his NFL future at a later time.

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