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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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Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

OWINGS MILLS - One of Marshal Yanda’s top priorities is to make sure the offensive line does its best to keep Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco healthy, unlike 2015, when Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury. Having made five straight Pro Bowls as a right guard, Yanda is beginning his 10th NFL season, and his ninth season with Flacco as his quarterback. Yanda knows that much of the Ravens’ offensive success depends on Flacco staying healthy.

“We haven’t really talked about it specifically,” Yanda said. “But obviously, you know as an offensive line, we talk about it, and you coach it. You’re going to keep your guys as far away from the quarterback as possible. Obviously, there is probably more emphasis this year with the knee.”

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When Flacco sees game action for the first time this season, Yanda doesn’t expect his quarterback to play tentatively due to his knee.

“He’s going to have to make his read,” Yanda said. “We have certain plays where he is going to be on the move, no matter what. We know about it: it is conscious in my mind; it is conscious in the offensive line’s mind and his mind, too. I feel like he just has to play through that. I had a knee (injury) once before, and he just has to get reps and get comfortable with the way it is feeling now. It will always feel a little different. That is just normal. It will continue to get normal as he keeps playing.”

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Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp:

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1. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro had an impressive day.

— Campanaro consistently got open making decisive moves and catching the ball cleanly, whether lined up wide or in the slot. Injuries have been the main stumbling block during Campanaro’s career. But there is no doubt he can make plays if he makes it to Week 1 healthy. Unless he suffers another injury, I think Campanaro is on the 53-man roster, especially since he can also return punts.

2. Joe Flacco showed no discomfort practicing on his surgically-repaired knee for a second straight day.

— Flacco throw the ball crisply, he moved well in the pocket, and he smiled when on the sideline. If Flacco was thinking at all about his knee, he disguised it well.

3.  Rookie cornerback Tavon Young is a player to watch.

— Young made several nice plays on the ball, including an interception in which he showed good technique and ball awareness. A fourth round pick from Temple, Young is making a bid to earn playing time as a nickel corner. Jerraud Powers missed his second straight practice (failed conditioning test), and Young took advantage of the extra reps. It will be interesting to learn more about Young’s tackling ability when the Ravens begin practicing in pads.

4. Rookie fourth-round pick Chris Moore looks like a potential playmaker.

— Ravens corners are having trouble keeping up with Moore when he goes deep, including Jimmy Smith, who saw Moore race by on his way to a deep reception. With left tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Kamalei Correa, Young, and Moore, the Ravens have the potential for an instant-impact draft class.

5. There is no getting around Stanley’s importance as a rookie.

— Stanley needs to continue looking good when the Ravens go to pads Saturday, and whenever linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil return from PUP. A potential Ravens deal with veteran left tackle Jake Long fell through Friday. The Ravens will be counting on Stanley, not only to start but to play well.

 

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Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

OWINGS MILLS – Veteran left tackle Jake Long won’t be joining the Ravens after all. A potential deal between Long and the Ravens fell through Friday, leaving Long a free agent according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, and confirmed by CSN.

The issue was Long’s right knee. He tore his ACL in both 2013 and 2014, leaving concern about how his knee would hold up if he returned to action. Long went to see Dr. James Andrews after taking a physical with the Ravens on Wednesday. According to a source, while Long was healthy enough to play, the Ravens were not comfortable being financially liable if Long’s knee failed to hold up.

The Ravens targeted Long as a potential backup for rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley. While Stanley has looked solid during practice, the Ravens have been searching for veteran insurance in case Stanley suffered an injury. Long is a former No. 1 overall pick (2008) and has more experience than James Hurst, who is currently the Ravens’ backup left tackle.

Now the Ravens have a roster spot available, which they may use to sign another offensive lineman, or to address depth at another position.

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