Half of the AFLs ruckmen may one day hail from America, the leagues national and international talent manager?Kevin Sheehan believes. ?The AFL last week bade farewell to the latest two imports invited to try out for the Australian sport -- Stanislas Heili and Brandon Nazione, who both impressed at the American draft combine in April this year. ?Frenchman Heili -- who stands a centimetre short of seven feet at 212.3cm, making him the tallest player ever tested for AFL -?played basketball at Lindenwood University in Missouri and Nazione, whose sporting background includes American football, soccer and baseball, played with Eastern Michigan Eagles in college. ? ?The duo was flown to Melbourne to learn more about the chaotic Australian game, as Nazione described it, in the hope of potentially joining a club as a category B rookie. ?The pair trained under the watchful eye of six clubs while in Australia - Port Adelaide, Melbourne, St Kilda, Richmond, North Melbourne and Essendon. ?While neither said they were fully committed to joining a club if offered a contract -- Heili needs to complete the final year of his masters in computer engineering, while Nazione has offers to play professional basketball in Europe -- Sheehan said the AFL was taking a long-term view. ? ?[These guys] were hand-picked for their size. Australia only has 23 million people, and we cant find enough [tall athletes] to fulfil our needs, Sheehan told ESPN. ? ?I think half the clubs would need another ruckman every year, so nine or 10 very big guys who have all the attributes of size, athleticism, courage, eye-hand coordination [are needed each year]. That [need] has been identified and the last four or five years weve worked ... to see if we can address that. ?Weve got [St Kilda ruckman] Jason Holmes, [Collingwoods] Mason Cox through from the small numbers that have come [to Australia] and Matt Korcheck is doing very well at Carlton in VFL in just his first year, so all the indications are that this can work. ?Its early days. Only a handful have ever come out ... but in 50 years or so half the ruckmen in the AFL might well be Americans - thats probably the vision.Theres enormous potential in it. ?Holmes, Cox opened doors for U.S athletes - KorcheckSheehan said he hoped the AFL would soon be viewed as a legitimate option for American athletes who failed to make the top level in their chosen sports. ?We know were in competition with European basketball, other sports and [professional] careers ... we have to compete in that space, he said. ? ?With only about 60 making the NBA each year, theres still some wonderful athletes [available] ... if we can win their hearts and minds and give them opportunities, there may be another Mason Cox somewhere. ?Nazione and Heili view Cox -- who made a dramatic debut for Collingwood in front of more than 85,000 people at the MCG in April -- and Holmes - who became the first born-and-bred American to play AFL late last season - as trailblazers. ?They spent time with Cox, the former Oklahoma State basketballer during their time in Melbourne, picking his brain about his journey, his new sport and living in Australia.The pair also watched several AFL matches during their time Down Under, both men shocked at the running power and physicality on display. ? ?Nazione said he believed many of his basketball skills would translate to AFL if he did eventually take a chance on the sport. ? ?The most translatable skills [are] jumping, cutting from basketball, lots of quick movements which can be used on a footy field, the 198cm?athlete told ESPN. ?Im definitely [attracted to] the chaotic nature of the game - I like how open the game is and the skills are awesome too ... but my family isnt keen about it, because its such a tough sport physically! ?Both said they had plenty to think about during their return flights to America and France respectively. ? ? ?Im up in the air about it, Nazione said. Im not completely 100 percent [certain about, hypothetically] if I get an offer today, Ill sign. ? ?Itll be something Ill have to discuss with my family and, with basketball, Ive got opportunities to play professionally - I actually signed with [German second-tier club] Bayer Giants Leverkusen. So, Ill definitely do one of the two but it has to be the right situation either way. ? ?Heili said he was also unsure of his intentions. ? ?I need one more year for my masters - I cant do it online, I have to be in France, he said. I also have offers to play basketball in France. ? ?Australia is opposite side of the world to France, so it would be a big decision for me. It could be a great experience here, but Im not 100 percent sure. NFL Jerseys Wholesale .com) - Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer were easy first-round winners Tuesday at the Australian Open. 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He has 19 goals and 24 assists for 43 points in 45 games with the Colts this season. OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As teammates shouted We got your back, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged he was taken aback by comments from former teammate Ray Lewis, who called out the former Super Bowl MVP for a lack of passion for the game.Its a little surprising coming from Ray, Flacco said after Fridays practice. But its been something Ive dealt with probably back before high school. Its just part of my personality. When things are going good, its questioned as if its a good thing. When things arent going as well as you might like them to be, its always a question as to whether my personality is that of one that fits what an NFL quarterback should be. Its not anything Im not used to. But it is a little bit different coming from Ray.On Thursday, Lewis told Fox Sports 1 that Flaccos emotionless approach to football is a reason for the quarterbacks inconsistency. Flacco ranks 29th in the NFL in passer rating (78.3) this season, throwing as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns.Gifted? Absolutely. Passionate about what he do? Ive never seen that, Lewis said. I dont know what that looks like.Lewis comments struck a nerve in the Ravens locker room and seemed to galvanize many players leading up to Sundays high-profile road game against the Cowboys.Safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Jimmy Smith could be heard shouting support in the background while Flacco spoke to reporters. Flacco smiled when he heard the uproar in the locker room.Its just odd that you hear Ray Lewis saying something, Weddle said. Joe Flacco won you a Super Bowl; did you forget about that?Flacco helped Lewis and the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2012 with a nearly unprecedented postseason run. He joined Joe Montana as the only players to produce 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the playoffs.In addressing Lewis comments, Flacco never took a shot at the player who has a statue outside M&T Bank Stadium. Flacco initially didnt see what Lewis said about him, but he decided to watch after coach John Harbaugh brought it up Friday morning.You want to be able to listen to what he says and all that, Flacco said. I know he hasnt been heere for a while.dddddddddddd We want him to feel a part of this place. We want him to come around.Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.?showed respect for the future Hall of Fame linebacker, saying Lewis voice carries weight. But he also pointed out that time has passed and players change.Lewis has been away from the Ravens locker room for four years, which is nearly as long as he was teammates with Flacco (2008-12).You dont play this game this long and be able to accomplish some of the things that Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, all the great guys that have played with the Baltimore Ravens that Ive admired, you dont play this long without having a drive or a passion for the game, Smith said.Weddle was not as restrained when it came to Lewis.We love Joe. Hes our guy, Weddle said. Hes a great teammate, professional, leads, everything you want. Its kind of irrelevant. We dont really care what the outside thinks. For an old teammate to say that, its just like, Dont you have something better to talk about? I guess he didnt.Flacco has often been called Joe Cool for his stoic and quiet demeanor. But members in the organization pointed out that Flacco shows his passion in different ways. He never missed a game until his eighth season, putting together the fifth-longest streak for an NFL quarterback. When he tore two ligaments in his knee last November, he stayed in the game to finish out the final few plays. In getting back from the knee injury, he never missed a day of rehab.I think everybody expresses their passion in different ways, Harbaugh said. Youve got a locker room full of guys and an office full of coaches. Everybody is different. Every personality is different. Every single guy does their thing in a different way, but every single guy here cares deeply and works very hard and wants to be great at what they do.Will Flacco call Lewis to address the comments?Probably not, Flacco said. Me and Ray are going to cross paths again. It might be brought up. It might not. Who knows? 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