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Volume 6, Issue 101 (Thursday, July 28th)

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Hi Folks,

Hey Folks. Two big stories today as the Patriots take another hit with Ted Johnson retiring. And Deuce McAllister signed a contract extension. Camps are in play and we're right here for you to sort through the avalanche of news each day and bring you the important stuff you need to know. Thanks to our Maurile Tremblay for rounding up these stories tonight. Also remember our note from Tuesday that is hiring. Check out the site news below if you're one of those guys who reads Fantasy Football information and says, "I can do better than that". We're giving you your chance. Write a great article. And get rich and famous. Well, maybe not rich and famous but we'll pay you and put your material out in front of a zillion hardcore Fantasy Football junkies.

Enough of that - Let's get to it.

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1. PIT - WR Ward Turns Down Record Offer
2. SD - TE Gates Does Not Report To Camp
3. SD - WR Caldwell Back At Full Strength
4. CAR - RB Davis Headed For PUP List
5. IND - RB James Arrives At Camp Wednesday
6. GB - WR Walker's Arrival Eases Tension In Green Bay
7. MIN - Vikings Better Without WR Moss?
8. PHI - WR Owens Talks Some More
9. ATL - TE Crumpler Primed For Another Pro-Bowl
10. NO - RB McAllister Signs 7-year Deal
11. IDP: NE - Patriots LB Ted Johnson Retires

1. PIT - WR Ward Turns Down Record Offer

Clipped from: Pittsburg Post-Gazette article by Ed Bouchette, 7/28/05

Although they have not yet signed Hines Ward to a contract extension, the Steelers at least are trying to fulfill a promise to make their Pro Bowl wide receiver a priority.

The Steelers made Ward an offer that would make him the highest-paid player in their history, a contract that may include their highest signing bonus, according to a source close to the negotiations.

So far, Ward and his agents have turned them down.

The source told the Post-Gazette the offer also would put Ward among a tier of receivers just below several of the highest paid in the league.

The deal would include a signing bonus higher than the $8.1 million quarterback Kordell Stewart received in 1999. Although quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reportedly received a $9 million signing bonus as part of his rookie contract, some analysts peg it closer to $7.8 million in what technically would be a true signing bonus. But even if it were $9 million, the bonus the Steelers have offered Ward is close to it. No other contract details, including length and total, were provided.

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

Ward has one year left (at $1,668,750) on his contract, but has indicated that he will not show up to training camp until he and the team agree on a new deal. Ward will not return to his status as a top five fantasy WR until the Steelers throw the ball more frequently, but he is a top five NFL WR and is in line to be paid like one. The Steelers realize how important Ward is to the offense, so expect a deal to get worked out before any kind of lengthy holdout. We said Tuesday that public opinion would likely be on Ward's side. But that won't be the case for long if he continues to turn down record offers.

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2. SD - TE Gates Does Not Report To Camp

Clipped from: Union-Tribune article by Jim Trotter, 7/28/05

Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates did not report for the start of training camp Thursday because of dissatisfaction with his contract situation.

Gates, who is scheduled to earn $380,000 as an exclusive-rights free agent this season, wants a long-term deal that would put him in the same neighborhood as the highest-paid players at his position.

Baltimore's Todd Heap, Cleveland's Kellen Winslow and Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez lead the group with contracts that include between $10 million and $11 million in combined bonuses.

"He is not signing the third-year tender," agent Andre Colona told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "However we are diligently working on a (long-term) deal."

Asked when Gates will report to camp, Colona said: "When we get a deal. It could happen tonight; we're exchanging proposals but it also could drag on."

Gates, whose 13 touchdown receptions last season broke the NFL record for tight ends, cannot be fined by the team because he has not signed his one-year contract tender.

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

Gates was an undrafted free agent out of Kent State two years ago, and has been playing for the NFL minimum thus far in his career. He showed up to all the voluntary and mandatory workouts this offseason even though he didn't have a contract, and previously indicated that he did not plan to hold out as part of the negotiating process of working out a long-term deal. He and his agent have apparently changed their minds. As with the Hines Ward situation described above, however, both the team and the player would like to get a deal done, and should have one in place sooner rather than later.

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3. SD - WR Caldwell Back At Full Strength

Clipped from: article by Casey Pearce, 7/28/05

Caldwell, who had his season cut short last fall when he suffered a torn ACL in the Chargers Oct. 17 contest at Atlanta, was one of a handful of veterans who joined Chargers rookies and first year players for two days of practice this week before the entire team begins working together on Friday. For the former Florida Gator, the additional work has been invaluable.

"I'm fortunate to have a little extra time to get out there and get my routes down," Caldwell said. "I'm getting to work with the quarterbacks and get our communication in sync. It just feels good to get out there and run around in that heat. I need to get in a little better shape, so it's good for me to be out there early."

Caldwell spent an extensive amount of time with James Collins and the Chargers training staff during the offseason, but he has regained full strength and mobility in knee.

"It doesn't bother me at all. I can run and cut just like before," Caldwell said. "I've still got my speed and quickness. I'm definitely 100 percent. The only thing I have to do now is get a lot stronger and build up my stamina. Other than that, I'm good to go."

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Caldwell, a second-round pick in 2002, had been a bit slow to develop, but finally seemed put it all together last year and was off to a great start before injuring his knee. He is reportedly playing ten pounds lighter this year to take pressure off his knee. Despite the fact that he was the team's top WR at the beginning of last year, he was lining up behind starters Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker during this year's offseason workouts. He will challenge Parker for the starting job during training camp - a battle worth keeping an eye on.

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4. CAR - RB Davis Headed For PUP List

Clipped from: The Gaston Gazette article by Steve Reed, 7/28/05

Stephen Davis' knee is not ready to go.

The Panthers will place the nine-year veteran running back Davis on the active-PUP (physically unable to perform) list by Friday, a sign he may be struggling to make it back from microfracture knee surgery.

The move means Davis will not be allowed to practice with the team.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney confirmed Davis is still rehabbing the knee injury and probably will not pass his physical on Friday when players report to training camp.

"This really wasn't totally unexpected," Hurney said. "It will give him more time to rehab."

Hurney said Davis has not suffered any setbacks in his rehab and remains on schedule.

By placing Davis on the active-PUP list now, the Panthers still have the option of activating him to the roster at any point during training camp.

If Davis still isn't ready to go by late August, they will need to make a decision on whether to put him on the 53-man roster or move him to the PUP-reserve list.

If that happens, Davis cannot practice with the team and will be forced to sit out at least six games. After six weeks, the team would then have three weeks to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster, place him on injured reserve or work out an injury settlement and release him with three years remaining on his contract.

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The Panthers would like to have Davis back as soon as possible, but they have pretty good depth at the position if their other runners can stay healthy. DeShaun Foster has been named the starter, and second-round draft pick Eric Shelton - whose running style is similar to Foster's - will be counted on as well.

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5. IND - RB James Arrives At Camp Wednesday

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Michael Marot, 7/28/05

Edgerrin James still likes playing football. He just doesn't like playing the games that come with it. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champion said Thursday he was ready for another big season - even though he'd prefer to have a long-term contract with the Indianapolis Colts.

"I play football, that's the easy part," he said. "But after everything I've done and you fight back from an injury and it's still not good enough, there's nothing you can do. If you say something you get blasted. But I'm cool, everyone's cool."

James had hoped to cash in on last year's big season as a free agent. Instead, the Colts placed the franchise tag on James, one of the key players in their high-scoring offense.

After rushing for 1,548 yards and nine touchdowns and catching 51 passes for 483 yards in 2004, Indianapolis offered him a one-year deal worth slightly more than $8 million. He signed the deal in March and James' new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, then shopped him in trade talks as he sought a multiyear deal.

When Rosenhaus found no takers, some speculated James' dissatisfaction could lead to a holdout. It didn't. James sneaked into camp Wednesday and participated in the Colts' first practice Thursday morning.

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Seven days ago, James was silent amid speculation that he may hold out from training camp, refusing to comment one way or the other. Now we have our answer: he is in camp, although unhappy with his contract, ready to go to work. We expect another great season from James this year. For all of his accomplishments, he is still just 27 years old, in the prime of his career, and an integral part of one of the most explosive offenses in the league.

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6. GB - WR Walker's Arrival Eases Tension In Green Bay

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Arnie Stapleton, 7/28/05

Now that top receiver Javon Walker has reversed course and reported to training camp, the Green Bay Packers can go about deciding who will be throwing him all the passes.

Brett Favre, who normally takes it easy at camp, needs plenty of work - the three-time MVP quarterback was excused from all offseason throwing to focus on re-energizing his 35-year-old body and his spirit after yet another tumultuous year.

His heir apparent - first-round draft pick Aaron Rodgers of Cal - will be force fed the offense once he agrees to a contract. And last year's backup, Craig Nall, will fight with J.T. O'Sullivan for a roster spot when two-a-day practices start Friday.

"Certainly it is a juggling act for our coaches and myself to make sure we give the guys the exposure that they need to get," coach Mike Sherman said.

At least with Walker in town, training camp might not seem such a circus.

The team underwent medical and conditioning tests Thursday after Walker made a surprise appearance the night before at St. Norbert College, where the veterans had their first mandatory meeting.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said last week Walker would hold out of training camp in an effort to force a trade or a major upgrade to his contract.

Walker, who made his first Pro Bowl in February, wants a hefty pay raise from the $515,000 salary he's due this season in the fourth year of a five-year, $7.485 million deal he signed in 2002.

General manager Ted Thompson, who sent a letter to Rosenhaus earlier this month stating he had no intention of tearing up Walker's contract or talking trade, declined Thursday to say whether he had budged on his stance not to renegotiate Walker's deal this season.

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

Walker's presence at training camp is great news for the Packers. This situation looked like it was on its way to uglyville, and fast. All offseason, Walker had been threatening to hold out, so team officials were admittedly a bit surprised - pleasantly - when he showed up. Neither Walker nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have given a public explanation for the change in their position; but I'm sure the Packers - like all of Walker's fantasy owners - are just glad he's there.

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7. MIN - Vikings Better Without WR Moss?

Clipped from: Star Tribune article by Mark Craig, 7/28/05

The Vikings can win a Super Bowl without Randy Moss. Losing former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is a blow, but not an insurmountable one. And, yes, Mike Tice definitely is the right coach for the Vikings.

At least that's how Vikings Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper felt during a Q & A session with the Star Tribune following a developmental practice earlier this summer:

Q: Without Randy around, do you feel that this is finally your team?

A: I'm the quarterback. I feel like since I became the starting quarterback in 2000 that it's always been my responsibility to be a leader, to be the quarterback and make this my team. That's how I've felt every day. I try to lead by example. As far as this being my team, my feelings aren't any different with or without Randy. I approach it the same way. So I guess I don't understand that when people say it's finally "my team."

Q: Did Randy's presence ever prevent you from being a team leader?

A: Not in my eyes. You could ask everybody else that question. But in my eyes it didn't.

Q: Where does your relationship with Randy stand right now?

A: I'm done talking about that. I haven't talked about that since the Pro Bowl. I don't see any reason to talk about that. I'm not going to talk about that any more in the media.

Q: Is this team better or worse without Randy?

A: I think we're going to do better than we did last year. I'm not going to say it's because he's not here. I think we're going to be better because our defense is better. Offensively, not having Randy just means there's an opportunity for guys to step up.

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

Note that Culpepper said "step up," not us, so you don't get a free tee-shirt for pointing it out. Culpepper went on to say that losing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is a disappointment, but his replacement, Steve Loney, knows the offense and will keep the system in place. (Loney joined the Vikings in 2002) Culpepper has been the top fantasy QB in four out of the last five years. Without Randy Moss it is natural to expect Culpepper's stats to decline a bit this year (and for Kerry Collins' to improve) - but by how much? We think Culpepper will still be a stud, and have him ranked as the #2 QB behind only Peyton Manning.

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8. PHI - WR Owens Talks Some More

Clipped from: Clipped from: article by Les Bowen, 7/28/05

Terrell Owens senses his relationship with Donovan McNabb remains troubled, even though they've discussed the rift, trying to put it behind them.

"Who's to say? I don't really think that it's OK," Owens told the Daily News yesterday, when asked the state of affairs between the wideout and the quarterback, whose partnership keyed the Eagles' drive to Super Bowl XXXIX. "I think he feels a certain way, from what I've seen and heard in the media. When I'm around him, he tries to downplay it, like everything's cool, but I don't know if it is... I'm an honest person. I'll say what I have to say."

Owens was available for just a few questions yesterday following his appearance at the grand opening of Kids Smiles 2, a West Philadelphia nonprofit dental clinic for children, before he had to leave for the airport and his home outside of Atlanta. The brief interview left some questions unanswered - when Owens spoke of being around McNabb, was he talking about their rumored chilly interaction at the ESPY awards ceremony? There was no chance to ask.

Attempts to reach McNabb yesterday, through the Eagles, were unsuccessful. Agent Fletcher Smith said he didn't want to speak for McNabb, but Smith said he feels "that there is no animosity on McNabb's part" toward Owens.

But several things were quite clear, by the time Owens and his handlers left the dental clinic near 58th and Market streets.

One, a source close to Owens confirmed that the wide receiver will report to training camp at Lehigh on time Monday. There was confusion about that late last week, with Owens reportedly telling the Inquirer , "I'll be there, but I won't be happy... take from that whatever you want." Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, then told the Daily News that no decision on reporting had yet been made.

Two, Owens' publicist, Kim Etheredge, said yesterday that the "take from that whatever you want" quote didn't mean T.O. plans to disrupt camp, diss McNabb, or cause trouble within the locker room over his dispute with the front office. (In case you might not have heard, Owens wants his 7-year, $48.97 million contract revised, after one season.) Etheredge said Owens was trying to convey that he remains very disappointed, and still wants a new deal, "but that does not mean there will be any disruptive behavior. He is not a disruptive person." Etheredge said Owens knows that such behavior would mean "they could suspend us or use that against us."

Three, though Owens stressed yesterday that his complaint is not with his teammates, he is very unhappy, not only about the front office's refusal to discuss his contract, but about the way he has been characterized. Owens particularly did not like team president Joe Banner's quote to the Daily News last week about the Eagles being unsure about T.O. reporting because "you're dealing with two people here, who, frankly, don't think in common-sense terms. Anything can happen."

"Some of the comments Joe Banner made, that Drew and I don't have good sense... It's sad that he would have that to say about me," Owens said. "I felt it was disrespectful, particularly after the way I went above and beyond," in playing the Super Bowl with a surgical screw in his right ankle, against his doctor's advice.

Banner declined to respond yesterday, through an Eagles spokesman.

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

Did I just read a quote saying that Owens is "not a disruptive person"? Okay, it was from his publicist, but still. This saga appears to be nearing its end, at least temporarily. Once practices start, we should hear less about Owens' contract - until next offseason.

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9. ATL - TE Crumpler Primed For Another Pro-Bowl

Clipped from: Associated Press article, 7/21/05

Alge Crumpler used his four-year relationship with Michael Vick to offer a brief highlight during another oppressively hot practice.

What began as a simple corner route down the left side evolved into an acrobatic display that Crumpler and Vick have made routine in their career with the Atlanta Falcons.

"It's too early in training camp for vintage Crump. It's too hot, too," Crumpler said. "I'm a goal-setter. I want to have places I can go. When you're perfect early, I mean, what's the point?"

Crumpler, a two-time Pro Bowl tight end, and Vick, a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, showed why their best years could be ahead. Turning around abruptly to his right, Crumpler had to reach back before he could snag Vick's sharp pass.

The 20-yard gain was hardly common. Vick rolled left and evaded a pass rush by firing a low sidearm ball. Crumpler had to adjust accordingly, but their longtime understanding of each other allowed the quarterback to hit his tight end on a route that ended prematurely.

"I had outside leverage, so what I tried to do was stick inside to let Mike know I was pulling up," Crumpler said. "We trust each other completely."

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

There's no doubting Crumpler's athleticism. For a big man, he's surprisingly agile and is a gifted runner after the catch. Moreover, like the other top fantasy TEs in the league over the past few seasons (Gonzalez, Gates, Heap, et al.), Crumpler plays for a team without a below average corps of wide receivers. With a possible starting lineup that includes Michael Jenkins and Roddy White at WR, Crumpler will be Vick's most experienced receiver by far, and will make for a nice security blanket. We expect a good season from Crumpler this year, and have him currently ranked as the #5 tight end.

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10. NO - RB McAllister Signs 7-year Deal

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Brett Martell, 7/28/05

The deal was announced a half-hour before the Saints' first mandatory meeting of training camp. Saints officials did not say how much McAllister would be paid, but the Mississippi native and former Rebels star had said earlier that he expected it to be the second-largest contract awarded to an NFL running back, also making him the highest paid player in franchise history.

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, who has an eight-year, $60 million contract, is the league's highest paid running back.

Entering his fifth season, McAllister has run for 4,194 yards. Most of that came during the past three seasons. He had only 91 yards rushing his rookie season, when he backed up Ricky Williams.

Williams was traded to Miami after that season, and McAllister has not run for fewer than 1,000 yards since.

His best season was 2003, when he ran for 1,641 yards.

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

That was quick. McAllister appears primed for a big season this year. After playing hurt for much of the 2004 season, he returns healthy and has a revamped offensive line in front of him, and an offensive coordinator committed to establishing a strong running game. McAllister should be a top five pick in most fantasy drafts this year.

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11. IDP: NE - Patriots LB Ted Johnson Retires

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Howard Ulman, 7/28/05

Ted Johnson's surprise retirement Thursday opened another big hole for the New England Patriots at inside linebacker. And that may not be the end of their defensive gaps.

Concerned with a series of concussions during his 10-year career, Johnson retired one day before the Super Bowl champions hold their first full-squad workouts of training camp. The announcement came eight days after Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a minor stroke in February, said he would sit out the season.

Defensive end Richard Seymour, meanwhile, could stay away from camp in a contract dispute just as he did for last month's minicamp.

Seymour has two years remaining on a $14.3 million deal he signed in 2001 after being drafted in the first round and wants it renegotiated. His attorney, Eugene Parker, did not return a call seeking comment.

Without Johnson and Bruschi, the top inside linebackers for the team that allowed the second fewest points in the NFL last year are Chad Brown and Monty Beisel. Both signed in the offseason as free agents, but Brown has battled injuries and Beisel started the first game of his four NFL seasons last year. Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel also played inside during minicamp.

Johnson and Bruschi were two of the Patriots' top three tacklers last season and two of their four most senior players.

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Johnson has suffered several concussions over the last few years, and that apparently played a large role in his decision to retire. The Patriots are left rather thin at the inside linebacker position now, and may ask WR/CB Troy Brown to learn the position. (That was a joke.) Monty Beisel was expected to replace Ted Bruschi at one inside linebacker position. That leaves Chad Brown or perhaps Larry Izzo to replace Ted Johnson, unless Mike Vrabel moves inside permanently, in which case Roosevelt Colvin may start outside. The Patriots are the best in the business as filling holes and patching together what's broken. But this is starting to look like a very tall order.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update. Remember to check out our writing opportunities if you're up for it.


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