Whispers Around the NFL
Whispers from around the NFLPro Football Weekly
Reports to halfway house in Atlanta
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Word from Seattle was the Seahawks were a bit leery about paying the asking price of former Ravens defensive end/linebacker Peter Boulware, a player who missed the entire 2004 season after microfracture knee surgery. Should Boulware significantly lower his price, the Seahawks might seriously consider adding him to the roster.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ A source close to the Steelers believes the team might not have much leverage in any contract extension talks with wide receiver Hines Ward, who has produced consistently on the field and is popular in Pittsburgh. After declining to sign wide receiver Plaxico Burress to an extension, the Steelers will have to give Ward a lucrative deal to keep him around. Ward is entering the final year of his contract.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear Patriots safety Rodney Harrison is dissatisfied with his contract situation, having outperformed the six-year deal he signed as a free agent in 2003. Word is, it had been intimated to Harrison that the team would sit down with him if he performed well, something he certainly has done as the unquestioned leader of a young secondary.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers is said to be in the best shape of his career, and blew everyone away by running his post-workout wind sprints ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ a total of 200 yards ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ in the same time range as the defensive backs and receivers.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Don't be fooled by the fact Mike Anderson was listed as the No. 1 running back in a recent mini-camp in Denver. The Broncos are excited with the way Tatum Bell has committed himself to the weight room (adding 10 pounds of bulk) and to learning the playbook, and he's all but certain to be given the first crack at the starting job.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Word from South Florida is Dolphins 2004 first-round pick Vernon Carey looks like a different player altogether and has the inside track at the outside left tackle spot ahead of Damion McIntosh. Observers say it's obvious that O-line coach Hudson Houck is pressing the buttons with Carey that Tony Wise didn't in 2004. We hear Carey is in better shape and more confident, and held his own against Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor during spring practice.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Giants observers have marveled at the praise handed down by head coach Tom Coughlin toward his players. The normally reserved Coughlin was especially complimentary of second-year linebacker Reggie Torbor, linebacker Carlos Emmons and cornerback Will Allen, a player who found himself in Coughlin's doghouse by the end of last season.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Niners outside linebacker Julian Peterson, who is coming back from a torn left Achilles tendon, told our sources in mid-June that if there were a regular game scheduled in three weeks, he would be ready to start.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Sources say Chargers wide receiver Reche Caldwell is running as fast this summer as he was before the anterior cruciate ligament tear that cut short his breakout 2004 season.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear running back Cadillac Williams is the front-runner to be the Buccaneers' featured back in Week 1 despite head coach Jon Gruden's reluctance to rely on rookies.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Patriots' signing of running back/return specialist Chad Morton brings into question free-agent signee Tim Dwight's future status with the team. Dwight, who turns 30 in July, was hampered by a foot injury in the team's June mini-camp, and concern over the injury might have pushed the Patriots to close the deal for 28-year-old Morton.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Although Seahawks wide receiver Darrell Jackson's absence from the team's voluntary camps this offseason rubbed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck the wrong way, we hear the team isn't worried about any letdown in the No. 1 wideout's performance ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ at least in the short term. There is some concern, though, that unspecified commitments Jackson says were made by former team president Bob Whitsitt, most likely of a financial nature, could come back to haunt the team at a later date.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear the Jaguars are hopeful rookie second-round pick Khalif Barnes will emerge as the starter at left offensive tackle. Mike Pearson, a second-round pick in 2002 who started 11 games as a rookie, is recovering from a severe knee injury suffered in October and continues to be limited.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ There have been mixed reviews of Packers rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers in mini-camp. Offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said the team will take its time since there is no pressure to play Rodgers immediately. For now, the coaching staff won't tinker with Rodgers' mechanics. He had happy feet and made late decisions because of unfamiliarity and a lack of comfort with the offense during mini-camp. However, the Packers believe most of Rodgers' high throws were a product of learning a new offense and making late decisions.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Falcons rookie wide receiver Roddy White has been so impressive that he could step in as the No. 2 receiver on Day One of training camp.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Observers say Bears left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye has been extremely cautious in returning from offseason ankle surgery. Moving well after returning to practice for the first time June 15, Ogunleye says he's 100 percent and ready to rebound from a poor first season in Chicago.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Bengals running back Chris Perry (sports hernia) didn't practice in the team's June mini-camp. We hear Perry could earn a role in the Cincinnati offense with his speed and pass-catching ability, but he will need to be medically cleared for training camp. Perry was the team's first-round pick in 2004.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Lions intend to continue working toward a long-term agreement with return specialist Eddie Drummond even after the restricted free agent refused to sign a one-year, $1.43 million tender offer. Under league rules, the Lions could have lowered Drummond's offer to $455,000 on June 15, but they chose not to in the interest of keeping negotiations positive.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Also on June 15, Detroit quietly paid quarterback Joey Harrington the $3 million bonus he was due from his original contract. Harrington has two years remaining on the contract he signed as a rookie in 2002.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear that if the Dolphins decide to add a cornerback via free agency, it will be on the cheap, particularly if they decide to spend a high draft pick on former USC defensive tackle Manuel Wright in the mid-July supplemental draft.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Team observers in Chicago were wowed by second-year cornerback Nathan Vasher at the close of spring practice sessions. Vasher's knack for making big plays doesn't appear to be a one-year deal.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Although Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice has hinted at retirement, saying he has other things he wants to do with his life, we're told Rice won't be going anywhere before the end of his current contract, which runs through 2007.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Titans general manager Floyd Reese confirmed to PFW that agent Drew Rosenhaus has sent the club a request for an extension for center Justin Hartwig, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season, but that no further discussion took place. Reese expects the two sides to continue talking later in the summer.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Chiefs' right offensive tackle job might not belong to Jordan Black automatically just because he finished last season there. Kevin Sampson, a second-year option out of Syracuse, was splitting time with Black at a recent mini-camp and might be given a good look in August before a decision is made. Black also filled in at left tackle when Willie Roaf was absent from practice, and the Chiefs aim to get him some exposure there, as well, for the future.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Saints cornerbacks Fahkir Brown and Mike McKenzie are grumbling about their contracts and are posturing to get new deals.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Panthers linebacker Will Witherspoon has started to hint that he might stage a holdout if he doesn't get a contract extension before the start of training camp July 29.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Chiefs had first-round pick Derrick Johnson listed second on the depth chart at the strong-side linebacker spot, but we're told he'll easily be starting by the preseason after several standout plays during offseason practices. "There's a whole lot of talent there," observed one source. In a bit of a surprise, Kansas City had new addition Kendrell Bell manning the weak side and previously struggling Kawika Mitchell starting in the middle at the last mini-camp. It was previously assumed Bell would be in the middle and Johnson would roam the weak side.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The way we hear it, it wouldn't be surprising if Ravens tight end Todd Heap missed all of training camp as he recovers from shoulder and ankle surgery. Heap signed a lucrative contract extension with the club in June.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Team observers and even a few Bears players have not been impressed with second-round pick Mark Bradley. The wide receiver wasn't catching the ball cleanly in practices, and some believe Bradley to be more of a project than even management might have anticipated. On the other hand, Bernard Berrian appears to be super quick and Justin Gage is well ahead of where he was last year.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Eagles have paid close attention to the Bears' signing of second-round wide receiver Mark Bradley (39th overall pick), the highest-drafted player to sign as of June 26. A high-ranking Eagles official told PFW that the team will use Bradley's deal as a potential measuring stick in its dealings with first-round defensive tackle Mike Patterson (31st overall) and second-round wide receiver Reggie Brown (35th overall). A source close to Patterson said that the Bradley deal is merely one minor element of the negotiations and that he expects Patterson to be in camp on time.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear Dolphins fourth-string cornerback Reggie Howard, a disappointment after signing a big free-agent contract in 2004, turned down a request by Miami to restructure his contract. Barring a much-improved performance in '05, Howard likely is playing his last season with the Dolphins.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Denver's coaching staff has spent a fair bit of time analyzing wide receiver Darius Watts' play as a rookie, when he caught 31 passes as the team's No. 3 wideout, and despite some typical first-year mistakes by Watts, the Broncos like what they saw and envision a bright future for him. In other words, don't expect to see the Broncos impede his progress in exchange for keeping Jerry Rice happy.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Eagles team president Joe Banner told PFW the team's stance on disgruntled wide receiver Terrell Owens hasn't changed. "We're in the same boat as everybody else [as far as knowing T.O.'s plans]. Our conditions are not going to change. We've been quite clear in that regard. We hope he comes back. If he does, we're a better team."
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ There's a good chance the Chargers could work some packages that include pint-sized but explosive rookie running back Darren Sproles into the game plan this fall. According to team observers, the 5-foot-6 former Kansas State star made a few moves in mini-camps that would have made every highlight show.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Based on offseason workouts, it appears the Chargers are set to open training camp with cornerback Drayton Florence and free safety Jerry Wilson ahead of Sammy Davis and Bhawoh Jue, respectively, on the depth chart.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Although Niners center Jeremy Newberry seems determined to make a comeback from his latest knee injury in time for the regular season, we hear the odds are very much stacked against him. Fortunately for the Niners, they feel fourth-year pro Eric Heitmann is quite capable of moving from right guard to the starting center job, our sources say. We hear Heitmann, who agreed to a four-year contract extension June 2, was one of three players who showed up every day for the team's offseason activities (wide receiver P.J. Fleck and quarterback Ken Dorsey were the others).
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Saints are willing to go into the upcoming season with Wayne Gandy at the starting left offensive tackle spot, although Gandy has refused to take a pay cut. But we're told they hope third-year veteran Jon Stinchcomb will take over the position in 2006.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The way we hear it, Ravens right offensive tackle Orlando Brown is still not at full strength due to knee problems. The team hopes Brown can team with rookie Adam Terry at right tackle.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Although the Falcons claim linebackers Demorrio Williams and Ike Reese are battling for the starting strong-side job, we hear the position is Williams' to lose.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ After looking awful in the Seahawks' post-draft mini-camp, rookie quarterback David Greene made huge strides in the team's mid-June get-together, we're told. At that same mid-June mini-camp, word has it, veteran tight end Itula Mili appeared considerably slimmer after reporting to the previous camp at a whopping 290 pounds.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ We hear Cardinals fourth-round rookie Elton Brown is far behind incumbent Jeremy Bridges at the left guard spot after suffering an early offseason hamstring injury. Unless Brown comes on like gangbusters in training camp, it's pretty much a given Bridges will be the opening day starter.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ After being considered even with Marcel Shipp at one point in the Cardinals' competition at running back, Troy Hambrick faces a major uphill climb even for a roster spot should he ever decide to show up at camp, our sources say. Don't be surprised if Hambrick meets the same fate as center Pete Kendall, who was cut on the eve of training camp last season.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Bengals signed former Bears quarterback Craig Krenzel to compete with Casey Bramlet and Josh Haldi for the No. 3 job. As a source close to the team pointed out, the winner of this competition could have a shot at being Carson Palmer's primary backup in 2006, as veteran Jon Kitna enters the final year of his contract.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Newly signed Browns quarterback Doug Johnson has a good shot at beating out Josh Harris for a roster spot. A source close to the team says Harris will need to improve his play to have a shot at staying on the roster.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ After the Giants passed on Chad Morton, expect them to search for a punt returner in July and August. It's the area Coughlin said he'd like to upgrade right now.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ There could be a training camp battle for the Bengals' starting middle linebacker job between Landon Johnson and rookie Odell Thurman, but Johnson (offseason shoulder surgery) will need to be medically cleared for camp. Johnson was impressive in the middle toward the end of last season, and Thurman's athleticism has drawn rave reviews.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Since spraining his ankle on a plastic cone May 21, tight endDesmond Clark hasn't participated in the Bears' on-field practice sessions. Clark has not been the impact player some felt he could be since joining the team in 2003. The Bears have used Dustin Lyman with the first-team offense and shifted former Ravens wide receiver Ron Johnson to H-back. Johnson, a 6-2 225-pounder, caught 11 passes in 22 career games with the Ravens. The former fourth-round pick didn't have the speed to separate at wide receiver.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Word from South Florida is defensive tackle Tim Bowens will hold off on filing retirement papers with the league in the hope that a year out of football will allow his back to be healthy enough to return to the Dolphins in 2006. Bowens will turn 33 in February.
RE: Whispers Around the NFL
Thanks for the ESPN Insider sw... I still haven't gotten it yet.
Lazy or cheap? :wink:
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