Ex-Raiders LB Wimbley close to signing deal with Titans

Ex-Raiders LB Kamerion Wimbley was close to signing a five-year, $35 million contract with Titans, a league source said Tuesday.

The team later announced via a news release that it had agreed to terms with the six-year veteran.

Oakland released him for cap purposes and he received $6.5 million from the Raiders in guaranteed money when the two sides parted ways.

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @JasonLaCanfora.

Jaguars add ex-Giants CB Ross

The Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed to a three-year deal with former New York Giants CB Aaron Ross, according to a league source.

The deal is for three years and is worth up to $15.3 million.

Ross was on two Super Bowl-winning teams in his five seasons with the Giants. He had a career-high four interceptions in 2011.

Free Agency: Twitterverse Chatter

Free Agency Frenzy has begun. Big contracts, surprising moves and some guy named Peyton. We looked at Twitter to see which players and teams are getting the most buzz this week.

(NFL.com Illustration)

Williams’ Buffalo visit extended to Thursday

The Buffalo Bills said the visit by free-agent pass-rush specialist Mario Williams will continue through Thursday. Williams was flown into Buffalo Tuesday when the free-agency period began, toured the facility and underwent a physical, according to The Associated Press. Williams’ fiancee also flew to Buffalo to take a tour of the region.

That Williams’ stay in Buffalo was extended might seem to indicate he is favoring the Bills. But it’s also worth remembering that on Tuesday, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that Williams has a visit scheduled with at least one other team, citing a league source.

Hillis joins Chiefs, leaves up-and-down Browns days behind

Free-agent RB Peyton Hillis found a new home Wednesday, leaving the Browns for the Chiefs, the team announced.

Hillis became a fan favorite with the Browns in 2010, when he led the team with 1,177 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. But he struggled last season with injuries and his perception in the locker room.

NFL stars on a goodwill mission to troops

Over the course of the NFL’s 45-year partnership with the USO, more than 200 active and former players and coaches have traveled to more than 20 countries.

Participating in the 2012 NFL-USO Tour are Browns center Alex Mack, former Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, Texans tackle Eric Winston, Panthers punter Jason Baker and Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes. Jones talks about his experiences on tour with the USO and troops in Afghanistan:

Day 3 – Afghanistan:

We’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple of different bases throughout Western Afghanistan and meet a lot of different troops. Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army, Reservists and National Guard; it’s uplifting for the players because we are trying to give back to everyone out here. These troops are protecting us, and coming over here to salute them is a tremendous honor.

There are tons of football fans out here. I’ve been able to embrace the fans of each of my teams — Giants, Eagles and Bengals. I think the most striking thing has been watching the day-to-day grind that our troops go through. These guys are putting in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week with the sole purpose of protecting our country. Still though, morale seems positive and everyone is focused on the goal at hand.

We’ve been able to fly in helicopters to a couple of different bases. We had a barbecue at Forward Operating Base Farah and everybody came out. We had the opportunity to get to know a lot of guys, and of course thank them for their service.

Probably the best time of all has been simply sharing a meal with the troops. We sit around a big table and go back and forth sharing stories. Hopefully our visit is able to break up the monotony of their day-to-day grind. The USO has done an amazing job supporting the troops out here. We feel privileged to give our time for such a good cause.

— Dhani Jones

Warner: No place for anyone trying to hurt players

Like many, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner believes there’s no place in the game for anyone intentionally trying to injure opposing players.

He also knows it’s not a rare occurrence, and said as a high-profile player at a high-profile position, players tried to knock him out of games throughout the course of his 12-year career. Warner isn’t convinced, though, he was necessarily targeted for injury.

“I don’t want to say that there was an attempt to injure, but I definitely think there were games where I could tell you that it seemed that they went beyond what was normal in regards to when they were going to hit me or how they were going to hit me,” Warner told NFL Network on Friday. “Again, not with the intention, necessarily, of hurting me, but again, knocking me out of my game to get me to think about things differently, and if by chance they hit me and knock me out of the game, maybe that’s a benefit for them.”

Warner was made aware Friday that the Saints were using a bounty system during his final NFL game in January of 2010, when he took a bone-rattling hit from defensive end Bobby McCray, who was with the Saints at the time.

As part of the investigation, Goodell said allegations were made that the Saints defenders had targeted Warner, then with the Cardinals, during New Orleans’ run to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season.

Warner made it a point to say the hit by McCray was legal.

“You go back and look at that hit by Bobby McCray on me, and it was a violent hit, and I felt it for weeks afterwards, but I cannot go back and look at that and say, by any means, that was an illegal hit,” Warner said. The hit, he said, “was in the confines of the rules, that he hit me square on, he didn’t hit me in the head, he hit me in the chest.”

Warner added that he “wasn’t looking and (McCray) got a great shot on me and it was a violent hit, but it wasn’t a cheap shot from that standpoint. So I look at that and say, well, it was what it was. It was part of the NFL, it’s part of the violence of the NFL and the hits that we take.”

When asked if he would have a problem with McCray having been paid extra for the hit, Warner said that he would.

“Whether you get paid or not, I definitely think there’s been players throughout the course of history that have gone out with the intent of trying to hurt someone, and I don’t think that is right,” Warner said. “I don’t think there’s any place in our game for that. You go out, you play hard.”

Young Packers fan a combine star in training

We’d love to hear Mike Mayock‘s take on this.

Grace Trautner doesn’t have the measurables one would expect from a prospect at the NFL Scouting Combine. Of course, she’s 3 years old, so she has time to catch up with the field.

Watch Grace take in NFL Network’s coverage of the combine, then mimic a drill with a level of enthusiasm that makes you wonder if she got into a fresh batch of Pixy Stix. Grace’s father, Duane Trautner, served as cameraman and commentator.

“This started with Grace calling (the players at the combine) with long hair or earrings girls,” Duane, a Wisconsin native and huge Cheesehead, told Shutdown Corner. “Then, she just joined in on the fun.”

Call us softies, but we much prefer this to all the viral videos of children crying over the shortcomings of their favorite NFL team. We thank Grace and her father for trafficking in the world of innocent joy.

— Dan Hanzus

Gronkowski family ‘Dizzy Bat Race’ showdown uncovered

Before he was a record-setting NFL tight end, before he taught us a bad day at the office should never stop you from dancing your heart out, Rob Gronkowski was dropping hints of greatness to come.

Case in point: Shutdown Corner (via Barstool Sports) dug up this YouTube clip of Rob and brother Chris taking part in a “Dizzy Bat Race” during an independent league baseball game.

The clip — uploaded by the Worcester Tornadoes — was taken in 2009. Rob’s brother, Gordie Gronkowski (awesome) was with the team at the time.

You’ll have to watch the video to find out who wins. To spare you the disappointment, we’ll just tell you now that no shirts are removed at any point. Alas.

— Dan Hanzus

Servicewoman asks Tebow to dance


Katy Perry got the cold shoulder and Kim Kardashian the Heisman, but maybe young Jamie Walden will have better luck with Tim Tebow.

Walden, a 20-year-old active-duty member of the Air Force, has asked the Broncos QB to accompany her to April’s 2012 Military Ball in Shreveport, La.

“I would be the luckiest and happiest girl if you were to say ‘Yes’ and be my date,” Jamie pleads in a YouTube proposal that’s pulled in more than 150,000 views in just over a week.

The video missive comes complete with gentle pressure from Jamie’s fellow airmen and — look out — her mother, who makes it clear there’s only one right answer to this question.

“I snagged a few people on their free time just to come out and help me,” Walden told KSLA-TV in Shreveport. “They’re all supportive of it. They know my crush on him.”

Walden told the station that Tebow would be a good match for a military woman because they share the same values: “Integrity, excellence in all we do and service before self — and he portrays that in his character.”

(Side note: If Tebow, for some reason, doesn’t accept, good luck to the guy filling those shoes. Nightmarish friend-zone scenario.)

Tebow wouldn’t be the first celebrity to attend a military hoedown. Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and even Kristin Cavallari have traveled down this road.

Ball’s in your court, Tim.

— Marc Sessler

Remembering Houston’s classic take on anthem

Whitney Houston racked up dozens of awards and sold more than 170 million combined album, singles and videos worldwide during her celebrated career, but the singer — who died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 48 — also left her mark on the NFL.

We’re referring, of course, to her unforgettable rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to Super Bowl XXV between the Giants and Bills. Set against the backdrop of the Persian Gulf War, Houston’s soaring take on the national anthem is now the standard for which all other renditions are judged.

The recording was released as a single in 1991 and reached the Top 20 on the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the song was re-released with all proceeds going to charity.

Houston’s career and personal life spiraled in recent years, but the lasting impact of her Super Bowl performance was on display last Sunday after Kelly Clarkson offered her own goosebump-worthy take of the national anthem prior to Super Bowl XLVI. Clarkson’s performance was roundly praised, though it was universally agreed Houston’s rendition remains unchallenged.

Not a bad legacy to leave.

— Dan Hanzus

CenturyLink Field as you’ve never seen it before

No special effects. No 3-D. No hyper-tedious pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson clanging through a script that brings into question the validity of human life.

The video above — minus the typical glut — was done on the fly, with Seattle’s CenturyLink Field as its star.

Set to a dubstep version of M83’s “Midnight City,” what you see is the creation of Jimmy Diebold, a San Francisco-based director.

Given one night to operate, Diebold and his crew of Seattle-area photographers — many sourced off Craigslist — snapped a bazillion photos of the stadium back on Sept. 6. Diebold then logged thousands of hours in solitude, piecing it all together.

“It was a big trial and error to get the lights to work,” Diebold told seattlepi.com this week. “No one’s done this before and I was figuring it out while I was doing it. When I saw (my first shot) for the first time, it gave me goosebumps. I thought, wow, it really worked!”

“The success of the video has far exceeded our expectations and the two of us just love football and make films for a living and we just wanted to do something for the love of the game,” said Clint Goldman, an executive producer for Bodega Studios who teamed with Diebold on the project.

The video has caused a slight stir on YouTube (250,000-plus views) and caught the eye of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who tweeted: “#SOTD! an awesome music video involving CenturyLink Field with the song ‘midnight lights’… SO COOL.”

— Marc Sessler

Jimmy Kimmel viewers prank friends during Super Bowl

What you’re about to witness above could be misconstrued as cruel and unusual punishment. But, in reality, it’s just late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel having a laugh thanks to some loyal viewers answering his call.

For those who don’t watch “Jimmy Kimmel Live” — and that’s probably a good number of you — he’s been doing this YouTube challenge bit for a little while now. And we like it. (See: “I Told My Kids I Ate Their Halloween Candy” and “I Gave My Kids A Terrible Present”)

This one is called “I Unplugged The TV During The Game”. It’s people unplugging their TVs during a crucial moment of Super Bowl XLVI. Try not to overreact, OK?

Best parts: Most people are sneaky about this, but the guy at 1:58 lingers next to the TV and shamelessly unplugs it in front of everybody at the party; there’s also a pretty funny Christmas tree scene at 2:11.

On a side note: What self-respecting Jets fan still wears a Brett Favre jersey? What the heck?!?

— Simon Samano

Video sheds light on Giants’ celebratory plane ride

Who cares if Andre Brown had very little to do with the Giants winning Super Bowl XLVI?

That wasn’t stopping him from leading the celebration chant/dance on the team plane prior to takeoff from Indianapolis on Monday.

This video let’s us know just how fun the plane ride back to Newark must have been for the newly crowned NFL champions.

Thanks to Mark Herzlich for posting this on YouTube, although the quality leads us to believe he badly needs a cell phone upgrade.

— Simon Samano

The Coaches Show: Super Bowl XLVI preview

Want to know how a coach prepares his team for the Super Bowl? Listen in to “The Coaches Podcast” where Brian Billick and Marvin Lewis have the inside scoop on the Giants and Patriots from Indianapolis, and share their own personal Super Bowl experiences. Hear why the coaches think the Giants’ defensive line will be able to rattle Tom Brady and whether Rob Gronkowski‘s high ankle sprain will be a big factor in the Patriots’ game plan for Super Bowl XLVI.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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