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Volume 5, Issue 59 (Thursday, June 24th)

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Looking for a league where you can compete for great prizes? Don't have the cash to travel to Las Vegas? Here is the perfect opportunity. Emil Kadlec of WCOFF.com and Ryan Houston of FantasyAsylum.com present FantasyFootballMasters.com!

FantasyFootballMasters.com allows anybody with an internet connection to participate in a high stakes league with an array of exciting prizes, including: $50,000.00 Grand Prize, Airfare and Accommodations for two to Jacksonville for Super Bowl XXXIX Festivities and Award Presentation, Official Fantasy Football Masters Green Jacket and Extensive Early Bird Prizes!

Recently Fantasyfootballmasters.com announced that San Diego WR Kevin Dyson has officially registered to participate. We believe this is the first time an actual NFL player will participate in a public fantasy football event. We are excited to be the first league to offer this opportunity.

FantasyFootballMasters.com is THE league to play in 2004 with 25 percent of our 408 spots already filled!

See for yourself why people are excited at www.fantasyfootballmasters.com

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Hi Folks,

Hope you've had a great week. It's been a fun one here as we keep hammering on the site for you. This is already shaping up to be a fantastic 2004 and we thank you for being a part of it.

Thanks to our Maurile Tremblay for rounding up these stories today. And also congrats to Footballguys General Manager, Clayton Gray as he became a proud Dad today. Baby and Mrs. Gray are doing great.

Now let's get to it.

Joe

*******************
Joe Bryant
Owner www.footballguys.com
Why Subscribe to Footballguys.com?

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Site News:

A. HTML Mail Links - For the last few days, we've implemented a new formatting for our mail where we're using html and the links are embedded. This is a much cleaner way to do things. The only problem is that many of our AOL readers have had trouble receiving this format. Tonight's email is back on the old style plain text while our David Dodds and Keith Overton figure out the AOL problem. We'll be back on the html style here soon. So hang tight. I know you like it better - we do too.

B. New Projections Released - Our newest set of Stat Projections are live and ready. Check them out here. We'll continue to update as the Summer goes on so you'll always have the most up to date information available. Let your competition draft from a magazine with 6 week old information while you use projections that are 6 hours old.

C. New VBD App Released - New Projections mean a new VBD App.

D. FBG Stat Book Ready for Shipping - We're excited about this project as we branch out into the print world. We've built the book and CD that we'd want for ourselves.

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News and Notes:

1. Troy Hambrick Medley
2. Ravens' Backup RBs To Get More Touches This Year
3. Raiders' QBs Comfortable With Their Roles
4. Bucs WR McCardell Ready To Sit Out Entire Season
5. Titans Trio Hopes To Replace TE Wycheck
6. Eagles' Secondary In Capable Hands
7. RB Antowain Smith Works Out For Bucs
8. RB George's Future With Titans Still Uncertain

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1. Troy Hambrick Medley

Additional Articles:

Article 2
Article 3
Article 4

From the SFGate.com article:

The man who replaced Emmitt Smith in Dallas was waived this spring after a talk with coach Bill Parcells led Hambrick to start skipping offseason conditioning workouts. He wanted a fresh start, and three days after hitting the free agent market, Hambrick was signed by the Raiders to compete with Tyrone Wheatley, Justin Fargas and Amos Zereoue for the starting tailback job.

"He is a very physical back with good vision," Raiders coach Norv Turner said. "He's not in as good of condition as we'd like him to be. He needs to have a great month."

Hambrick, who rushed for a career-best 972 yards and five touchdowns last season but averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, said Turner doesn't have to worry about him. He did miss Tuesday's practice for personal reasons, but Hambrick said he has hired a personal trainer and will come to training camp in top shape.

"And it's not like if I ran some more right now, I would die on him on the field or anything," Hambrick said.

Oakland lost starting running back Charlie Garner to Tampa Bay through free agency, and Turner would like one back to emerge and take 250 to 300 handoffs.

Wheatley is the favorite. He ran for 678 yards on 159 carries (4.3 average) last season and Turner said he has had "a very good offseason." Turner also praised Wheatley's "great quickness in the hole."

Fargas ran for 203 yards on 40 carries (5.1 average) and Zereoue ran for 433 yards on 132 carries (3.3) before Pittsburgh waived him after signing Duce Staley.

*

From the Alameda Times-Star article by Bill Soliday:

Remember Jon Gruden's running back by committee? You may now forget it. It's not what Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner has in mind.

The Raiders want to unearth one featured running back and let him do the vast majority of the pounding this season.

"That is how I would prefer to do it," Turner said. "In my experience, when we had the best success that's the way we've done it. It's the way the runners would prefer it.

"It's hard on everyone when you're shuttling guys in there. You can make it work. Teams have done that. But we're trying to go the other way."

The trouble is, Turner doesn't know yet who will be the feature back.

It could be Tyrone Wheatley, who became the Raiders' go-to back in the second half of last season, rushing 124 times for 541 yards and a 4.4 yard average over the last eight games.

It could be Justin Fargas, who in his rookie season had 40 carries for 203 yards before his season ended with a knee injury. He had rushed 43 times for 215 yards in preseason, but a worrisome number of fumbles.

Or it could be one of two free agents the Raiders picked up in the off-season who were starters elsewhere -- Amos Zereoue in Pittsburgh or Troy Hambrick in Dallas.

*

From Contra Costa Times article by Jennifer Starks:

Raiders running back Troy Hambrick isn't one to mince words. Asked about the end of his stay with the Dallas Cowboys, Hambrick had this to say: "It was like being a nun at a nightclub."

Loosely translated, Hambrick didn't fit in with the Bill Parcells regime and wanted out.

"I didn't feel the energy," Hambrick said. "I just said to my agent, 'You know, after going through a Bill Parcells training camp, I think it might be time to go to a more veteran squad where they treat the players better.' Training camp with Parcells is rough and ragged."

*

From the Mercury News article by Darren Sabedra:

If new Raiders running back Troy Hambrick wants playing time this fall, he might have to spend all of July in a gym.

After missing mini-camp practices Tuesday for personal reasons, Hambrick reported Wednesday in less than ideal shape -- which Coach Norv Turner noted.

"He's got a month before we go to camp, and it's something we're going to emphasize to him, that he needs to have a great month to come back," Turner said.

Told of the coach's comments, Hambrick, who was 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds last season, said he had hired a trainer in Florida and would travel there soon after mini-camp ends today.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

So to sum up some points from the four articles: 1. Norv Turner would prefer to have a featured running back instead of using a committee approach at the RB position. (Times-Star.) 2. Tyrone Wheatley is the current favorite to become that featured back. (SFGate.com). 3. Troy Hambrick is in "less than ideal" physical shape right now. (Mercury News, SFGate.com). 4. Hambrick vows to get in shape before training camp starts (Mercury News), but one of the reasons he wanted out of Dallas was to avoid going through another physically exhausting Bill Parcells training camp (Contra Costa Times).

The competition for the Raiders' starting job at tailback is wide open, but if Hambrick doesn't get into shape before training camp starts, he will have very little chance to win it, and could end up being cut.

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2. Ravens' Backup RBs To Get More Touches This Year

Clipped from: The Official Website of the Baltimore Ravens (Adam H. Beasley):

Before Matt Simon rushed out the door for a date with a herd of mountain goats, the Ravens' running backs coach took a second to discuss the team's pack of runners.

Simon, who was in the office Wednesday before taking his family on a hiking trip through the Canadian Rockies, said the terrain was smooth and steady at the team's final minicamps last week.

Joined by 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis for the first time this offseason, the group was "on top of [its] game" during the mandatory non-contact practices, Simon said.

"I think it's very apparent that it was great to have Jamal back," Simon said. "Musa [Smith's] development is moving along smoothly. Chester Taylor, I think, had an exceptional camp. I think that if he can just be the steady performer that we think he's capable of being all the time, the sky's the limit for that guy."

During Lewis' remarkable 2003 season, when he rushed for 2,066 yards - second-most in NFL history - the Ravens reinforced their reputation of winning through smash-mouth means.

Lewis earned his first Pro Bowl berth and his jersey ascended even higher. The Pro Football Hall of Fame requested his uniform from the game in which he broke the league's single-game rushing mark, churning out 295 yards in a victory over Cleveland on Sept. 14, 2003.

As a team, the Ravens led the league in rushing, and Lewis did not do it alone. Taylor, who was the team's third-down back in 2003, and Smith combined for more than 300 yards.

To keep Lewis fresh this season, those numbers could double.

Simon said the steady improvement of Taylor and the vast potential of Smith will allow the Ravens to switch up its rotation at running back this year. The team would prefer Lewis to have fewer than the 387 carries he totaled in 2003, and hope to do so by using Taylor and Smith more in their base offense.

Simon's praise for both players - and Taylor in particular - was effusive. He said the former sixth-round draft pick has the feel of another Raven tailback that was unheralded when he entered the NFL.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

The Ravens had Musa Smith ranked as one of the 20 best players in last year's draft, and were thrilled to draft him in the third round. Both Smith and Taylor have been impressive in offseason workouts this year, but we must note that the players haven't put on the pads yet, and all drills have been non-contact. The Ravens' backup RB situation bears watching because of the chance - even it if currently appears remote - that Jamal Lewis will miss the season because of his legal troubles. (He has been indicted on charges of conspiring to sell drugs and is facing a possible August trial date.)

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3. Raiders' QBs Comfortable With Their Roles

Clipped from: Mercury News (Darren Sabedra)

If anything, Rich Gannon has gotten stronger and more confident since the Raiders' first mini-camp nearly two months ago. Sharing plays with new quarterback Kerry Collins, Gannon was on target with most of his passes Tuesday and said he plans to take all the snaps this season.

He apparently will not get an argument from Collins. The former New York Giants quarterback stayed clear of controversy, reiterating what he said after signing with the Raiders last month.

"I certainly feel that I'm a starting quarterback in this league, but that's not my role here," Collins said as the Raiders began their final mini-camp.

Marques Tuiasosopo, the backup entering last season, also said the right things, though he stands to lose the most by Collins' presence. When Gannon suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder last season, Tuiasosopo had a shot to make his case to start but suffered a season-ending knee injury in his first game as a starter.

Now he is a third-stringer.

"It's something that is pretty much out of my control," Tuiasosopo said. "I just got to focus on getting better and keep playing. This is the NFL, and guys come here and there all the time.

"Of course, it would be nice to have it the other way around. But that's not the way it is, and I'm fine with it."

Gannon has done little during the off-season to make anyone doubt his commitment. Eight weeks ago, he showed onlookers that he was well on his way to recovering from shoulder surgery. Tuesday, he looked even better, throwing deep passes with plenty of zip and accuracy.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Gannon had surgery to repair a tear in his right shoulder last November. Following his surgery, he is reportedly throwing the ball with more zip than he has in the past several years. Just two years ago, Gannon earned league MVP honors when he led the NFL with 4,289 yards passing and broke the league completions record with 418. As a fantasy prospect this year, he is a high risk, high reward option who could be a top 5 fantasy QB, or he could be a second-string NFL QB and have no fantasy value at all. So pay attention.

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4. Bucs WR McCardell Ready To Sit Out Entire Season

Clipped from: The St. Petersburg Times (Roger Mills)

The agent for receiver Keenan McCardell said Wednesday there appears to be a stalemate in resolving the contract dispute that is keeping the Bucs' leading receiver from minicamp.

Responding to statements made by general manager Bruce Allen on Tuesday, Gary Uberstine said the 12-year veteran is prepared to not only miss training camp but part, if not all, of the season. "There is and will be no resolution in sight until some point during the regular season, at which point everyone loses," Uberstine said. Uberstine said McCardell is resolved to stay away until the Bucs make him a better offer. "If it's gone six months with no progress, there's no reason to think that the next six months are going to be any different or better," Uberstine said. "I'm certainly hopeful and optimistic that something can bridge the difference between now and then, but I have no reason to believe that."

McCardell, due to make $2.5-million this season and $2.75-million in his final year, has asked for a deal close to the average of the top receivers in the league. Those who are not in their rookie contracts average $4.4-million.

Uberstine was particularly concerned about Allen's comments that the dispute was based on money.

"Most things in life and business contain some financial component, and that doesn't make them dishonest, selfish or unreasonable," Uberstine said. "I'm certain if the team had its way it would pay players as little as possible." Uberstine said McCardell is in elite company with 410 catches and 5,052 yards the past five seasons. Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Rod Smith and Jimmy Smith are the only other receivers to accomplish that feat.

The Bucs said they have no plans to negotiate a new deal and pointed out that McCardell is under contract for two more years.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Last season, McCardell led the Bucs with 84 receptions, 1,180 yards and eight receiving touchdowns, but the team is hesitant to reward the 34-year-old receiver with a long term contract. He has 724 career receptions and five 1,000-yard seasons; but despite McCardell's contention that he just gets better with age, he will be on the downside of his career soon enough, if he isn't already.

McCardell's threat to sit out the season is most likely a bluff. To waste a season sitting on the sidelines when he may not have many left makes little sense. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are fairly deep at WR even without McCardell: Joey Galloway, Joe Jurevicius, Michael Clayton, and Charles Lee would make for a competent group in their own right.

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5. Titans Trio Hopes To Replace TE Wycheck

Clipped from: CNN/Sports Illustrated

How well the Tennessee Titans can play without Frank Wycheck, the franchise's third all-time leading receiver, will depend on a trio of tight ends.

Erron Kinney, Shad Meier and rookie Ben Troupe each hope to step in for the recently retired Wycheck, who led the team in catches for five consecutive seasons.

"We've got some young guys who are going to try to take his place and keep this thing going," quarterback Steve McNair said.

Four-year veteran Kinney has the advantage because of his experience. When Wycheck missed six games with a concussion, Kinney took over as the top option at tight end and responded with a career-high 41 catches for 381 yards and three touchdowns.

Head coach Jeff Fisher said Kinney brings a consistent approach to practice and games, but there are no guarantees.

"He can't just assume that because Frank's gone he's got to be the guy now and step up," Fisher said. "He just needs to do what he's been doing."

Kinney, a third-round pick in 2000 out of Florida, is working to do just that, driven by the memory of six dropped passes last season.

"It's one thing I learned from Frank. I don't really remember all the good catches or the big catches. I can remember the drops like they were yesterday, and I want to eliminate that, eliminate all the drops," Kinney said. The Titans, on the field Wednesday for their final minicamp that concludes Thursday, also need consistency from Meier, a third-round pick in 2001 who showed flashes of promise last season with 13 catches for 159 yards.

Troupe was the Titans' first draft pick in April out of Florida.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Frank Wycheck missed six games last season after suffering a concussion; Erron Kinney, meanwhile, started all 16 games and had a career-best 41 catches for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Wycheck's retirement, Kinney becomes the most proven and most experienced of the Titan tight ends. Rookie Ben Troupe should make an immediate impact, but we expect Kinney to get the majority of the looks at the TE position.

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6. Eagles' Secondary In Capable Hands

Clipped from: The Official Website of the Philadelphia Eagles (P.J. Mullen)

The torch has been passed on and now Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are ready to carry it. Drafted with the team's first two picks in the 2002 Draft, the duo was tabbed as the eventual replacements for veterans Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent. Now is their time.

The young defensive backs have had the opportunity to learn and engage themselves in the intricacies of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's defense over the past two seasons and are ready for the challenge ahead.

"This is what we've been working for since day one," said Sheppard. "You come to the NFL to be a full-time starter and this is our opportunity. We're going to make the most of it."

Both have made the most of their reps over the past two seasons, particularly in 2003, as they saw extensive playing time when injuries sidelined Taylor for nine games and Vincent for three contests.

Brown and Sheppard each registered 55 tackles during the 2003 regular season. Brown recorded a sack, three quarterback hurries, an interception, 10 knockdowns and forced one fumble. Sheppard led the team with 15 knockdowns, and added three quarterback hurries, one interception, and also forced one fumble.

The second-year defensive backs played well at times, but have lined up together as starters just once. Between them, they have 13 starts, including playoffs.

Now they represent the one-two punch at the cornerback position.

But being full-time starters will not be a completely new task for Brown and Sheppard. Both players played and started for successful Division 1 football programs -- Brown for South Carolina and Sheppard for Florida.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Sheppard and Brown both have good speed and playmaking ability. They lack experience, but going up against WR Terrell Owens every day during training camp should help immensely in that department.

Here is the scouting report on Sheppard and Brown from our Philadelphia Eagles Team Report: "Both Sheppard and Brown have excellent athletic ability, good coverage skills and are willing run supporters. Neither has the size of Vincent or Taylor and neither has great ball skills, something that Vincent and Taylor both excelled at."

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7. RB Antowain Smith Works Out For Bucs

Clipped from: TBO.com (Roy Cummings)

The Bucs' three day mini-camp came to an end Thursday, but their search for talent continued as the team ran former Bills and Patriots running back Antowain Smith through a tryout at One Buc Place.

Smith, 32, is a seven-year NFL veteran who played a significant role in each of the Patriots' two recent Super Bowl runs. He started 15 games and ran 287 times for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2001, then played in 13 games and produced 734 total yards last season.

Bucs officials would not say a signing is imminent, but Bucs coach Jon Gruden hinted earlier in the week that the Bucs may soon add another running back.

With Michael Pittman suspended for the first three regular-season games, the Bucs could use some insurance at the position.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

If the Bucs sign Antowain Smith, he will be their fourth RB acquisition this offseason, joining Charlie Garner (Raiders), Brandon Bennett (Bengals), and Jamel White (Browns). (And that doesn't count Greg Comella [Houston] since he's a fullback.) While the Bucs' backfield already appears crowded, we expect Charlie Garner and Mike Alstott to get the majority of the touches among the team's RBs whether or not Smith signs.

Antowain Smith, who has rushed for 5,713 career yards on 3.8 yards per carry, became an unrestricted free agent earlier this offseason when the Patriots chose not to exercise their option on him.

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8. RB George's Future With Titans Still Uncertain

Clipped from: The Associated Press (Teresa M. Walker)

The Tennessee Titans finished their final minicamp Thursday with Eddie George's future with the team still unsettled.

Coach Jeff Fisher is confident the team's career rushing leader will be on the roster when the Titans open training camp July 30.

"I think everyone expects it to be resolved by then," Fisher said.

The Titans have wanted to rework George's contract since February, but he declined and was paid a $1 million bonus in March. He agreed to talk after a meeting in June with Fisher and general manager Floyd Reese.

George is due $4.25 million in base salary this season, counting $7.3 million against the cap. The Titans need at least $3 million in salary cap space to sign their rookie class.

The Titans haven't been in any hurry to finalize details with George because they typically don't start signing their rookies until July. This year's draft class has 13 players.

George said Tuesday that his agent knows what salary he will accept, and he was waiting to hear a proposal from the Titans.

"We have no deadline. We are facing some issues potentially of being able to sign our draft choices and things like that. Both sides are communicating. Eddie left very positive about the situation, and he has confidence that it's going to get worked out."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

George has been unable to participate in the team's offseason workouts while healing from surgeries on his right knee and left ankle. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2003. While George is expected to remain with the Titans this year at a reduced salary, if he is released, he will be the fourth Titan salary cap casualty of this year, following DE Jevon Kearse, DT Robaire Smith, and WR Justin McCareins.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Friday and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

Joe

*******************
Joe Bryant
Owner www.footballguys.com
Why Subscribe to Footballguys.com?
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