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TE Graham says Gates' success paved way for him

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TE Graham says Gates' success paved way for him

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham traces the beginnings of his NFL career back to the success Drew Brees had with Antonio Gates in San Diego more than a half-decade ago.

``Without him, I wouldn't have even been given this opportunity, or even been given the opportunity to play in college,'' said Graham, who played four years of basketball at Miami and one year of football. ``He paved the way for me. I know that.''

Gates played basketball at Kent State and had not played football since high school when the Chargers decided to give him a look at tight end in 2003.

``He was an experiment. I was like, `This guy will never make the team,''' Brees said while recalling Gates' arrival in San Diego. ``Midway through the season we had a bunch of injuries at tight end and he ends up starting, and the light bulb came on and you were just like, `Wow.'

``I see a lot of similarities between him and Jimmy in just how much basketball can help them in regards to the body control and body position and suddenness and going up and attacking the ball, just like you would in the paint in basketball.''

Gates is San Diego's career receptions leader with 603 and has been to eight straight Pro Bowls.

Graham, a surprise third-round pick in 2010, had his breakout season in 2011 with 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 TDs.

On Sunday night, they'll both be in the Superdome when the Saints (0-4), desperate for a victory, host the Chargers (3-1).

Gates said he knows little about Graham's basketball background, but is well aware of Graham's work on the gridiron.

``He's a phenomenal tight end,'' Gates said. ``He plays the ball in the air really well. He reminds me a lot like a young Tony Gonzalez, maybe more athletic, the way he uses his body - big target, they throw it to him, jump balls in the red zone, etc.''

Likewise, Chargers coach Norv Turner has been impressed with Graham's development, and views Sunday night's game as one featuring two of the best tight ends in the NFL.

``Obviously Drew was here at the beginning of Antonio's (tenure) when he got rolling, and I see them using (Graham) in a similar way,'' Turner said. ``Those guys with a basketball background know how to use their body and shield guys off their body to go up for balls, and then as they continue to grow and grow as route runners it just becomes crazy.''

Graham was gratified to learn that Gates knew little about his basketball background and more of him as a football player, but he also was not surprised, noting, ``I wasn't a really good basketball player anyway.''

``Most people would have called me the enforcer. I was the kind of guy who just went in the game and, you know, just got a lot of fouls, got stuff started, dunked on people, so for the most part, I guess he's right,'' Graham said.

``I was always trying to change the image and not to be called a basketball player anymore, so that's an honor that he says that he just knows me as Jimmy Graham the tight end. That's pretty cool.''

When asked about the success both he and Gates had making the transition from basketball to football with Brees as their pro quarterback, Graham was not about to dismiss it as mere coincidence.

Graham said that from the moment he arrived at Saints headquarters, Brees would talk to him about the success he had in San Diego with Gates.

``He said, `Listen, I remember where Gates was when he first got into the league and I was there for his first start. And I'm going to work with you every day. I'm going to work with you as much as I can so that we can try to get that connection because I think you're going to be a special player. You're a special athlete and I believe in you,''' Graham recalled.

``So that was my first day of work. I remember he always used to just compare certain things to Gates and how I should do things - you know, `Gatesy did this and Gatesy did that.' I heard that like every other day.''

When Philip Rivers took over for Brees as San Diego's starter in 2006, he, too, quickly came to rely on Gates, and said he's not surprised the Saints looked to help Brees develop a similar target in New Orleans.

``You really see how the basketball benefits them ... in this game at that position from a route-running standpoint, body position and I know I've certainly thrown Gates a lot of high balls he's gone up and gotten,'' Rivers said. ``I've seen Drew do the same to Graham. I've seen him go up and get a bunch of balls and obviously his body position and ability to go up and do that gives us confidence to throw those types of balls that otherwise you might not throw.''

Notes: Five Saints players sat out Thursday's practice: WR Lance Moore (right hamstring), DT Brodrick Bunkley (illness), DE Turk McBride (left ankle), LB David Hawthorne (right hamstring) and RB Travaris Cadet (right shoulder). S Roman Harper (right hip) and LB Jonathan Casillas (neck) were limited.

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AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this story.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon, or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Anthony Santander has a huge outing in blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Anthony Santander has a huge outing in blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox

Check out the latest news and notes on the Baltimore Orioles

Player Updates:

Even in a loss, the night belonged to OF Anthony Santander who went 4-for-5 with a homer, triple and two runs scored. Santander tripled and scored during the Orioles' five-run rally in the third inning. He then tagged Rick Porcello for a solo shot in the fifth that pulled the Orioles to within 10 runs at 16-6. It was the first four-hit game of the young outfielder's career. 

SP Thomas Eshelman had a rough day on the mound giving up nine runs (five earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander also issued three walks while striking out three. He struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark in this one, giving up home runs to Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts before departing in the fourth. 

Due to Pedro Severino's illness, the Orioles optioned C Austin Wynns to Triple-A Norfolk. He has played in 16 games for the O's this year with a .233 batting average, zero homers and three RBI in 47 plate appearances.

Injuries:

C Pedro Severino: Illness, Day-to-day

SP Dylan Bundy: Knee, 10-day Injured List

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, 10-day Injured List

OF DJ Stewart: Ankle, 10-day Injured List

SP Alex Cobb: Back, 60-day Injured List

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 60-day Injured List

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-day Injured List

Coming Up:

Sunday 7/21: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 1:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Monday 7/22: Orioles at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field

Tuesday 7/23: Orioles at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field

Source: Rotoworld

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