2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Surging Saints TE Graham a big concern for Miami

By BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-29 12:22

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Jimmy Graham insists he isn't miffed about his lack of a contract extension, even as his highlight-reel catches and gaudy statistics put him on track to be one of the best tight ends the NFL has seen.

Then again, if Graham were angry, it might not be such a bad thing for the New Orleans Saints.

Graham, who'll seek a third-straight 100-yard receiving game when New Orleans (3-0) hosts the Miami Dolphins (3-0) on Monday night, says he thrives on anger on the field. That would explain the force of nature he's resembled in the Saints' air attack since Tampa Bay's attempts to intimidate him backfired so badly a couple weeks ago.

``If somebody hits me big, you can probably tell I'm probably jabbering a few things back at him, telling him that, `I'm going to be here all day,''' the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham said. ``I find it as a challenge and I invite all of it. ... It gets me angry, which is good.''

In helping the Saints to victories over the Buccaneers and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, Graham made 19 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Much of that production came after Graham was folded backward on a penalized blast to his head by Tampa Bay's Ahmad Black.

What looked at first like a knockout blow produced an opposite result. Now, stopping Graham has become the problem of another Florida team.

``His production over the last two weeks has been off the charts,'' Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. ``He obviously has great size and weight. He seems to be a natural running down the field and going up and catching the ball. He can catch the ball in traffic. He can catch the ball when he gets hit. He has excellent concentration and hands. His size and length are an issue, and it's a concern when you go play him.''

Many Miami sports fans are familiar with Graham's character and toughness. He was abandoned as a child before being adopted by a woman who counseled Graham's youth group at a North Carolina church. The stability his adoptive mother provided helped him earn a basketball scholarship to Miami. He was a physical power forward, and now offers a self-effacing smile while describing himself as a player who had more fouls than points.

He thrived as a student and athlete at Miami, and Hurricanes fans, including university president and former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala, held him up as an inspiration. Football coaches saw his ability to run the floor and grab rebounds, and figured he'd make a great tight end. He gave it a shot in 2009, his final year of NCAA eligibility, and Saints scouts weren't the only ones who noticed.

He could have become a Dolphin if Saints coach Sean Payton hadn't taken Graham off the market in the third round of the 2010 draft. Payton's mentor and former boss, Bill Parcells, was an executive with Miami at the time and had his eye on Graham.

``I do remember 30 seconds after the selection, getting a phone call from Parcells,'' Payton said, adding he could tell Graham was someone Parcells targeted. ``That makes you feel good, rather than him saying, `What did you take him for?' To Jimmy's credit, he's come in and his transition has been fairly quick with maybe the lack of experience that a lot of players would have in college.''

Since 2011 (including playoffs) Graham leads NFL tight ends with 219 catches for 2,808 yards, and leads NFC tight ends with 27 TDs. His numbers might have been even better if not for a wrist injury that led to what would be considered a down year by Graham's standards in 2012: 85 catches, 982 yards, nine TDs.

``It feels good to be healthy. I can't lie about that,'' Graham said. ``This offseason is the hardest that I've worked in not only rehab but just on little things - you know - film room. But I think more than anything, I'm playing with more emotion than I ever have.''

The Saints want to lock down Graham long term, but general manager Mickey Loomis tends to be a deliberate and patient negotiator. The Saints could use the franchise tag to prevent Graham from leaving.

Graham could have held out, but noticed a collective sense of purpose at Saints headquarters as Payton returned from his 2012 bounty ban, and he wanted to be part of it. And like quarterback Drew Brees in 2011, Graham has faith the Saints will ultimately treat him right.

``For me, it really is all football,'' Graham said. ``I'm a very hungry player right now.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Brandon BrownerOct 30 04:32p

New England Patriots DT Alan Branch (non-injury related) and DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Nate Ebner (finger), DL Dominique Easley (knee), OL Cameron [ More ]

Brandon ThompsonOct 30 04:22p

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and OG Kevin Zeitler (calf) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DT Domata Peko (toe) and OT Andre Smith [ More ]

Dwight FreeneyOct 30 04:22p

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot), CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and S Jahleel Addae (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) was limited. CB [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 30 04:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) practiced fully Thursday, Oct. 30.

Terrell SuggsOct 30 04:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot) and LB Terrell Suggs (neck) all did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Marshal Yanda (knee) [ More ]

Brett KeiselOct 30 03:52p

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), SS Troy Polamalu (non-injury) and SS Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Ike Taylor (forearm) and FS [ More ]

Bruce CarterOct 30 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (finger) suffered a broken ring finger during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, but expects to play in Week 9. He will wear a splint on his finger for protection.

Cullen JenkinsOct 30 03:12p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back, hamstring) and P Steve Weatherford (ankle) were both limited in practice.

Brandon BoykinOct 30 03:12p

Philadelphia Eagles FS Nate Allen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. TE Brent Celek (back) and WR Brad Smith (groin) were both limited in practice. CB [ More ]

D'Qwell JacksonOct 30 03:12p

Indianapolis Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson (toe), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), LB Erik Walden (quadriceps) and LB Josh McNary (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Vontae [ More ]

Rashad JenningsOct 30 02:42p

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Jordan CameronOct 30 02:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Anthony CollinsOct 30 02:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Oniel Cousins is working at left tackle with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, because OT Anthony Collins (foot) is sitting out practice.

Doug MartinOct 30 02:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Jason VerrettOct 30 01:52p

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DeAngelo WilliamsOct 30 01:52p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) will start the team's Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, Oct. 30, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 01:42p

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Jaylen WatkinsOct 30 01:32p

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Giovani BernardOct 30 01:22p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

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Trent RichardsonOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Reggie WayneOct 30 12:42p

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Tony RomoOct 30 12:22p

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Dallas ThomasOct 30 11:43a

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Rashad JenningsOct 30 11:12a

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Phil BatesOct 30 10:52a

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent WR Phil Bates (Seahawks) to the practice squad and released CB Marcus Cromartie Thursday, Oct. 30.

Charles SimsOct 30 10:13a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims could have 10 or more touches in Week 9, in the opinion of beat writer Greg Auman.

Ryan MathewsOct 30 09:52a

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) is likely to sit out of the Week 9 game and return after the Week 10 bye.

Dennis PittaOct 30 09:52a

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