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Volume 6, Issue 102 (Friday, July 29th)

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. TB - Rookie RB Williams Signs Contract
2. HOU - Rookie RB Morency Signs A Three-Year Contract
3. DEN - Rookie RB Clarett Signs An Incentive Based Contract
4. DEN - Footballguys Training Camp Report
5. SF: Rookie RB Gore Signs Three-Year Contract
6. TB - WR Michael Clayton Proclaims Himself Ready To Go; WR Galloway Being Worked Back In Slowly
7. BUF - Rookie WR Parrish Signs Four-Year Contract
8. NOS - Rookie OL Brown Signs To A Five-Year Contract
9. SD - Teammates Firmly Behind Holdout TE Gates
10. NYJ - QB Pennington Back In Charge Of Jets Offensel
11. IND - RB James Views "Franchise Tag' The Colts Slapped On Him As An Insult
12. CHI - To WR Muhammad, The Bears Of 2005 Offer Him A Sense Of Deja Vu
13. HOU - WR Gaffney's Rehab Is Top Priority
14. CHI - Receivers Berrian, Gage and Rookie Bradley Battling It Out For Starting Job
15. PIT - WR Ward's Contract Situation Getting Ugly
16. IDP: PHI - DE McDougle Shot In Attempted Armed Robbery
17. IDP: NE - LB Vrabel And DE Green Sign Contract Extensions
18. IDP: DET - Rookie DT Cody Agrees To Deal On A 4-Year Contract
19. IDP: GB - NT Jackson To Packers, "Trade Me Or Cut Me"
20. IDP: NO - DT Sullivan Down To 320 Pounds And Ready To Contribute

1. TB - Rookie RB Williams Signs Contract

Clipped from: Buccaneers.com

The Buccaneers and rookie running back Carnell 'Cadillac' Williams agreed to terms on a contract and he was able to report to the Buccaneers first official practice. Eschewing the notion that nothing would get done until Ronnie Brown and/or Cedric Benson signed with their respective teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rookie running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams reached contract agreement on Friday. The deal was not struck until several hours past midnight; details were not disclosed.

The contract agreement was a home run for both sides in that it allows Williams to hit the practice field at the same time as the rest of his teammates. The Buccaneers hope that Williams will make a significant difference in their 29th-ranked rushing attack, and any extended training camp holdout would have made that difficult.

The Buccaneers began their first practice of camp at 8:35 a.m. on Friday morning. Williams was on the field and in uniform. On Thursday, as the rest of the team arrived at camp headquarters for check-in, Gruden expressed his hope that Williams would make it to camp without missing too much time. Both sides of the negotiations were clearly striving to meet that goal, but Friday's development was even better than most had hoped. Gruden is thrilled to have Williams in the fold to start camp.

"To be honest with you, I think he's a heck of a football player," said the coach. "I think he's a great kid. I think he has something this football team desperately needs."

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

This is huge news for the Buccaneers going forward. Williams has a ton of natural skill but it's a serious transition for running backs from the collegiate game to the NFL due to an increased responsibility when it comes to pass blocking and route running. Getting him into camp on time is a major victory for the team and it will help him be that much more effective out of the gate this season. Expect to see a lot of him this season with veteran Michael Pittman catching passes, lining up in the slot and doing other things to help the team win. Great news and he should bump up your cheat sheet.

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2. HOU - Rookie RB Morency Signs A Three-Year Contract

Clipped from: AP

The Houston Texans signed Vernand Morency on Thursday, leaving first-rounder Travis Johnson as their only unsigned draft pick with training camp two days away. Morency, a running back, was chosen in the third round with the 73rd pick.

Houston has conditioning tests Friday and opens camp Saturday. Defensive tackle Johnson, the 16th overall pick, cannot participate in training camp until he's under contract.

Morency rushed for almost 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior at Oklahoma State in 2004.

Morency, at 5-foot-9 and 212 pounds, signed a three-year contract with a $567,000 signing bonus, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus. Morency will make $230,000 this season, $310,000 in 2006 and $385,000 in his third season.

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

It is good news for the Texans to get Morency signed and into camp on time. He needs some work in perfecting his craft but has a lot of natural ability and should make an impact in limited duty in backing up starter Domanick Davis. If Davis suffers injury problems, expect Morency to be able to move into the starting lineup and run the ball hard.

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3. DEN - Rookie RB Clarett Signs An Incentive Based Contract

Clipped from: ESPN.com article by John Clayton

Maurice Clarett who legally challenged the league for early entry, still hasn't given up the thought he should have been a first-round choice in the NFL.

Instead of suing the league, Clarett came up with a novel approach. He is putting his money where his mouth is. On Thursday, he signed a four-year contract in which he gave up the $410,000 of guaranteed money in order to secure an incentive-laden deal that could eventually earn him $7 million.

The complex contract, which includes more than $5 million of performance escalators, forced the Broncos and Clarett's agents to negotiate well into Wednesday night. Clarett was the last pick in the third round of the draft.

Specifics of the contract are sketchy, but it works something like this. If Clarett gains 1,000 yards, he could hit an escalator worth more than $1 million, almost three times what he would have made in a signing bonus given to him by the Broncos. The more he rushes for, the more he makes. He can max out at around $7 million.

This was Clarett's gamble. He has the confidence he can gain the yards and hit the $7 million figure. Rollovers give him a chance to make the big bumps in salary if he doesn't do it as a rookie. To further show his commitment, he accepted no guarantees. The $410,000 the Broncos were willing to give him Thursday was put into workout bonuses in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Clarett wants to prove he's a first-round talent. If he runs like a first-rounder, he could be paid like a first-rounder instead of a third-rounder.

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

While some may call this a foolish move by Clarett to forego some guaranteed money for an opportunity for more if everything breaks right for him, I applaud him for his believe that he can perform at a high level in the NFL. He has a ton of competition for touches in Denver including veterans Mike Anderson and Quentin Griffin, young back Tatum Bell and former great collegiate runner Ron Dayne and it won't be easy for him to even see the field, let along get enough touches to get 1,000 yards rushing. This contract will push him hard to improve though and when it comes to the Broncos rushing attack, who knows? Perhaps Clarett will be the surprise of the season. After all, Mike Shanahan has been able to plug in new running backs into his system with great results.

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4. DEN - Footballguys Training Camp Report

Our Footballguy Staff Writer Cecil Lammey is flashing his press credentials and brings us the inside scoop from the Bronco's Training Camp. These are his takes on what he saw today at camp.

The story of the day was Jerry Rice. This guy is a pro's pro, but we all knew that. He ran through every route and sprinted all the way to the endzone, no matter how short the route was. He ran great routes and set up defenders well. He looks to be a great addition to the Broncos. He caught nearly every ball thrown his way. Towards the end of practice I did see him get jammed up by some of the younger DBs. I personally think he ran out of gas, because he started out like gangbusters.

Rod Smith was awesome as well. I didn't see him drop a pass and he made several spectacular catches. He made Champ bite on a couple of double moves. Champ would be visibly mad, and then go jam up some young WR. One of the funniest things I saw was Rod blocking Jerry Rice in a blocking drill. These two guys showed why they've had so much success.

Ashley Lelie looks like he just expects the #2 spot to be his. He gave virtually no effort on the plays he wasn't the designated receiver. I even saw him JOG on a go route. After every route he would come back and get some water. He dropped several passes and looked very lax in his effort. I saw him cringe on a route over the middle (there's no hitting) and thus he dropped the ball. He also sat on the water cooler any chance he got. I did see him dig in on a fade stop. Basically the guy is a 2 route WR, the fade and the fade stop. It looks like Lelie might not be more than a decent #2 in this league.

Darius Watts looked fantastic. He was running crisp routes and basically emulating Jerry Rice. After he caught the ball, he too would run to the endzone. He was always hustling, and he put a WICKED move on Champ Bailey that would have been a touchdown if it wasn't for Danny Kanell overthrowing him. Wide open for 6, and Danny misses him. Watts also caught a go pass for 50 yards that was tipped by Roc Alexander. Darius kept his concentration and cradled the ball in running for six. The highlight of the day was his over the shoulder, one hand, LEFT HAND, touchdown catch from Matt Mauck. This kid looks like he's very hungry and could end up #2.

Triandos Luke had a great day except for one play. Let's start with the bad first...Roc Alexander jammed him up and threw him to the ground out of bounds. Just tossed him like a rag doll. Other than that Luke was great. He was running great routes, really flattening out and giving his QB a great target to throw to.

Jeb Putzier was running good routes and catching passes consistently. Stephen Alexander is a great physical specimen, if he can stay healthy he could contribute. He made some nice catches as well. Wesley Duke is a project. I expect him to maybe make the Practice Squad this year.

Mike Anderson was running with fire again. He is very determined to hold onto the starting job, no matter what it takes. He caught the ball consistently.

Tatum Bell was AWESOME running the ball. Unfortunately for him I saw him drop 3 passes. He did make one nice catch, but those 3 drops were easy ones. He will need to upgrade those hands significantly if he wants to make a big impact. Running the ball he is far superior to anyone on this team. He could be a MONSTER.

Quentin Griffin looked about the same. Fully healed from that leg injury, but someone you can stop really easily.

Maurice Clarett impressed me today. He was running with intent and showed good short area burst. He did try to reverse his field once, which made me chuckle because he can't do that at the pro level. He showed average hands, often catching the ball with his body. He did bobble a touchdown pass in drills, but he ended up catching it.

Ron Dayne will not make the final roster unless every other back is injured.

Jake Plummer looked good. He was throwing quite a bit to Rod, who was putting on a clinic.

Danny Kanell looked horrible. He started out slow last year, but ended up winning the #2 job. We'll see if that holds true this year.

Matt Mauck looked great today. He was throwing a really nice ball with great touch and accuracy. He looked comfortable back there, making good decisions. However, he did not handle the blitz well.

Bradlee Van Pelt will be flipping burgers, or making a position switch soon. Every pass except one was fluttering after he delivered it. He was making poor decisions and throwing a lot of balls high. Leaving your receiver open to big time punishment won't make him very popular in the locker room. He threw a slant route where he stared down his receiver the whole way. Ball was snapped and Van Pelt stared right at Triandos Luke. He let him run a little bit and threw it to him. I think the cornerback was in shock because he was all over it. Maybe Van Pelt is using a reverse psychology thing. Make 'em think you're looking 'em off, then throw right where you're looking.

Chad Friehauf was a nice surprise. He is WAY taller than any other QB. He threw a nice, catchable ball.

Champ Bailey looked good except for a couple of bites.

Roc Alexander played aggressively, even getting Romar Crenshaw to push him in frustration.

Darrent Williams had better be the reincarnate of Brian Mitchell returning kicks because he was getting burned all day.

The entire LB corps looked good. I think "smoke dog" Al Wilson wanted to hit Clarett. Just a little love tap.

Courtney Brown looked decent. I think if healthy he could contribute opposite of Trevor Pryce.

Pryce looked like he was slimmed down quite a bit. That might help his back injury.

More insight straight from Broncos Camp tomorrow!

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

Well, this is sort of "our view" as these were Cecil's impressions from the day. We'll see how this goes but may make it a regular feature in the updates. The Denver running back situation is one of the most interesting camp battles in the league. Also keep an eye on that #2 WR slot.

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5. SF: Rookie RB Gore Signs Three-Year Contract

Clipped from: SF 49ers.com newsroom

The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to terms on contracts with its three remaining unsigned draft selections, David Baas, Frank Gore and Adam Synder, it was announced today.

This is the first time since the salary cap began in 1994 that San Francisco has had 11 picks that were signed before camp.

"We are excited that all 11 draft picks will be at camp on time," Head Coach Mike Nolan said. "It took a lot of hard work by our front office to make this happen and they should be commended for a great job."

Gore (5-9, 217), the team's first selection in the third round (66th overall), tallied 1,975 career rushing yards at the University of Miami. The Coral Gables, FL product had 17 touchdowns in his three years and was a multiple threat, adding 23 receptions for 225 yards (9.8 avg.).

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

Frank Gore is an intriguing fantasy option in this and future seasons. He had the potential to be more dynamic than Clinton Portis coming out of high school but serious knee injuries dropped him down the ranks. By all accounts he was super in minicamps and will compete with the underachieving Kevan Barlow for playing time this season. He may not beat out Barlow but Gore will certainly get a chance to showcase his talents on the field as a rookie this season and may surprise a lot of folks with his burst and explosiveness.

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6. TB - WR Michael Clayton Proclaims Himself Ready To Go; WR Galloway Being Worked Back In Slowly

Clipped from: Buccaneers.com

The Bucs intend to be cautious with Michael Clayton, who was slowed during the offseason by minor knee surgery, but the second-year wide receiver participated in almost all of Friday morning's drills and proclaimed himself full speed at the end of the workout. He is eager to get in as much work as possible in July and August because he wants to improve on what was one of the best rookie seasons ever by an NFL receiver. Some of that improvement will be the result of improved conditioning.

"That's going to be a big factor," said Gruden. "Although he was healthy and played in every game last year, I think he realizes the tip-top shape you've got to be in throughout the fourth quarter in a two-minute drive, especially at home in the hot sun. He's going to be a work in progress to get into tip-top shape. He might tell you he's in pretty good shape, feels okay, but I did see his tongue hanging out towards the end of that workout."

Clayton did more than fellow starter Galloway, but that was the plan. The Bucs are going to work the veteran receiver only once a day in the early going in an attempt to ensure his health and freshness for the regular season. He isn't the only veteran working under those conditions.

"Joey Galloway's on a program where he'll work most of the time in the afternoon," Gruden explained. "In the morning he'll go through the individual type work and we'll monitor what he does. He's a guy who will be on a one-a-day routine.

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

One of the biggest surprises of the 2004 season was the success of rookie WR Michael Clayton. Not because nobody expected he could be successful in the NFL but just how quickly he became one of the better receivers in football. It is great to hear that he is 100% and ready to go this year and he could be able to at least match his tremendous numbers from a year ago. Galloway on the other hand is being eased back into the picture. As a veteran, he doesn't need a lot of training camp work to be ready to start the season but it would be nice to see him get a lot of work so we can properly gauge his progress. We will keep an eye on both players throughout the preseason.

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7. BUF - Rookie WR Parrish Signs Four-Year Contract

Clipped from: AP

Wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, the Buffalo Bills' second-round draft pick, agreed to terms of a four-year, $2.7 million contract Friday.

The contract includes a $1.32 million signing bonus and features performance incentives that could increase the worth of the deal, Parrish's agent Drew Rosenhaus said.

Parrish led the Hurricanes with 43 catches for 693 yards and led the ACC with eight touchdowns last season.

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

It's always nice to get your draft picks signed on time and having Parrish attending camp in a timely fashion will help him to make a strong push for serious playing time in 2005. The top two receiver slots are taken by Eric Moulds and Lee Evans but Parrish has a really good shot at replacing the disappointing Josh Reed as the # 3 guy for the Bills. Not a lot of fantasy value for Parrish this season but he may put up decent numbers if he can win the # 3 job.

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8. NOS - Rookie OL Brown Signs To A Five-Year Contract

Clipped from: Clipped from: ESPN wire

New Orleans' top draft pick, O-lineman Jammal Brown was signed to a five year contract on Friday. The signing was just in time to ensure the rookie doesn't miss any practices.

Banner declined to respond yesterday, through an Eagles spokesman.

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

This is a really big signing that many football fans may not even pick up on. Jammal Brown is expected to win the starting right tackle position. He has good technique, footwork and tenacity and he continues to add both power and size to his frame. He should immediately slot in as a starter and add more toughness to this group. He can be a great run blocker right out of the gate.

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9. SD - Teammates Firmly Behind Holdout TE Gates

Clipped from: AP article by Bernie Wilson

TE Antonio Gates is holding out out for a large payday and if his teammates support means anything, he should have a new deal soon. "He was here the whole offseason and they still didn't get a deal done," Tomlinson said. "Obviously he had to resort to another tactic."

While making $305,000 last year, Gates had 13 touchdown catches to set the NFL single-season record for tight ends, breaking a mark shared by Mike Ditka, Wesley Walls, Todd Christensen and Jerry Smith. He was a big reason the Chargers went 12-4 and won the AFC West, with a team-high 81 catches for 964 yards.

It's hard on people who don't get drafted," Tomlinson said. "They're obviously behind the 8-ball with guys who are drafted and they're looking for a fair deal. A lot of times guys tend to do whatever it takes to get a fair deal. Antonio's situation is no different."

Tomlinson entered the league as the No. 5 pick overall in the 2001 draft and held out for most of his rookie minicamp. In his first regular-season game, he rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

QB Drew Brees had this to say about his star tight end ""I think he's got a good case," Brees said about Gates. "I'll just leave it at that."

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

Nobody can deny that Gates deserves a huge raise after emerging from obscurity to become one of the best tight ends in football. He means a lot to the Chargers offensive attack and the Chargers will likely do their best to get him signed and playing shortly. Look for this to happen soon.

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10. NYJ - QB Pennington Back In Charge Of Jets Offense

Clipped from: ESPN wire

The moment arrived for Chad Pennington to take his first snap under center in six months. Pennington took the snap and threw to Justin McCareins off a play-action pass. McCareins made a one-handed grab, and fans shouted, 'Nice, Chad!' Not bad for his first practice since offseason shoulder surgery.

"It's pretty amazing but it's the first time in three years I haven't felt anything as far as throwing the football," Pennington said.

Surgery seemed to fix those aches. The franchise quarterback played in pain after injuring his shoulder Nov. 7 against Buffalo. It was clear he was different: His throws lost velocity and distance. Pennington had surgery Feb. 8 and missed minicamps and offseason training activities while rehabbing.

Though Pennington says he is 85 percent, he looked pretty good during his first full-fledged practice. He went 7-of-10 during team drills, with his longest pass going 30 yards. He also went 7-of-8 during 7-on-7 drills in which there are no linemen. There was nothing in the game plan Friday for Pennington to throw over 30 yards. But on those long passes, there were moments of curiosity. "I know everybody's worried about me throwing deep," Pennington said. "I don't know why they're worried, they've always said I could never throw deep so why would they expect me to do it now?"

Pennington was on the field with his teammates for the morning practice, but lobbed only a few balls during individual drills and worked on handoffs. The next test comes Saturday, when Pennington attempts to throw on consecutive days for the first time since his operation. After practice ended Friday, his shoulder was wrapped in ice, and he headed to the locker room for more treatment.

"I'm just happy to be out here with my teammates," Pennington said. "For the first three or four months of rehab you don't even feel like an athlete, it's hard to even brush your teeth. I'm just happy to be out here, be in the huddle, and be with the guys I love playing with."

The season hinges on his arm. Though the Jets have NFL rushing champion Curtis Martin in the backfield, Pennington makes everything work.

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

Chad Pennington is definitely the key to the Jets making a Super Bowl push in 2005 and if his shoulder is 100% he could be a surprising fantasy performer due to a new attacking philosophy in place this season. We will know more in the next week or two but Pennington will make a strong backup in fantasy football this season and it sounds like his shoulder is better than it has been for years now. You can start creeping him up the rankings again.

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11. IND - RB James Views "Franchise Tag' The Colts Slapped On Him As An Insult

Clipped from: Wishtv.com article

Edgerrin James made it on to the field for the Indianapolis Colts' first training camp practice Thursday. His appearance followed months of speculation about whether the two-time NFL rushing champion would report to camp by Wednesday's deadline amid his push for a long-term contract.

Instead of driving into the players' parking lot at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, James sneaked into camp undetected for the second straight year. Later on, he had some choice words about his franchise tag.

"After everything I've done, what more can you ask for? What more can you do? You know, you come, you play, you fight back from an injury. You do everything you could possibly do, and it's still not good enough," said James.

That's it in a nutshell. The Edge doesn't feel appreciated, and after watching two high-profile teammates, Brandon Stokley and Marvin Harrison, sign multi-year deals last season, Edge says the franchise tag is basically an insult.

"Once I got tagged, I knew it was over. It's over. You know you don't have a shot," said James.

James, a three-time Pro Bowl player, became a free agent in February. The Colts then placed the franchise tag on him, and in March, James signed a one-year deal worth slightly more than $8 million US. From that point on, agent Drew Rosenhaus said James wanted a long-term deal and even had permission to seek a trade.

Also over are his chances at being traded. He calls that wishful thinking. "One thing about me, I try to make the best out of any situation. There's a lot of things I probably don't agree with or whatever, but I'm not gonna sit around here and walk around with it on my face. I'm just gonna try to make something out of nothing."

"Edgerrin is very focused on having a great year and he's gonna do that and we feel good about all of our guys having a big year but I think Edgerrin especially is gonna be fine," said Coach Tony Dungy.

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

It is true that Edgerrin James is very unhappy with the Colts slapping the franchise tag on him (Or at least as unhappy as one can truly be when forced to suffer through an $8 million, one year contract.) but it appears it has fueled him to be very motivated this season and he could be in for a big 2005 campaign. This franchise tag situation is no reason to downgrade James on your cheat sheet as he appears ready to put up big numbers for the club.

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12. CHI - To WR Muhammad, The Bears Of 2005 Offer Him A Sense Of Deja Vu

Clipped from: ESPN wire

To Muhsin Muhammad, the similarities are striking. He looks at the Bears and sees the Carolina Panthers of a few years ago, which is one reason the All-Pro wide receiver signed to play in Chicago.

"Not really an established quarterback, pretty decent running game," Muhammad said Thursday, listing the similarities. "Great defense. Just needed a couple elements to put them over the top."

Carolina made an unexpected run to the Super Bowl two years ago. And if the Bears get there this season, it would be, well, unexpected. They were 5-11 a year ago, ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball. But the signing of Muhammad, a two-time Pro Bowl selection during nine seasons with Carolina, is one reason the Bears believe they can turn things around. He's coming off a season in which he caught 93 passes and led the NFL with a career-high 1,405 yards. And the Bears believe Muhammad will draw double teams and take the pressure off other receivers.

"Muhsin is going to be so valuable you can't really understand it until it happens," receiver Bobby Wade said.

Still, the Bears have an unproven quarterback in Rex Grossman, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 last season. They started seven combinations on the offensive line because of injuries and allowed a franchise-record 66 sacks.

His nine years with the Panthers were filled with highs and lows. There were Pro Bowl selections in 1999 and 2004, and the run to the Super Bowl. And last season, as the No. 1 receiver after Steve Smith broke a leg early on, although Carolina stumbled to 7-9.

Muhammad has been criticized for dropping passes. He said his goals this season are to catch 90 percent of the balls thrown his way and set an example for the other receivers. He embraces the role of veteran leader.

"You would expect an old veteran guy like that to come in, chill out during practice, because he's already been there and done that," safety Mike Brown said. "But everyday, he's out there busting his (butt). It rubs off on the younger guys."

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

The Bears are certainly an interesting team this season and it is easy to see the parallels between the Panthers of 2003 and the Bears of 2005. However the Panthers had a lot of things break right for them in their Super Bowl season and there are no guarantees that similarities will breed equal results for the Bears. However it sounds like Muhammad has grown into a strong, veteran presence for the Bears and he is obviously doing a good job to this point with the club. Many expected him to tumble back down to earth this season but perhaps he has another surprising campaign in him this season.

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13. HOU - WR Gaffney's Rehab Is Top Priority

Clipped from: Houston Chronicle article by John McClain

Making sure wide receiver Jabar Gaffney is healthy before the regular-season opener at Buffalo is one of the Texans' top priorities entering training camp.

Gaffney's recovery from shoulder surgery is paramount to the success of an offense that must find receivers to help take pressure off Andre Johnson, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season and will draw double coverage on most pass plays.

The coaches, doctors and trainers will monitor closely Gaffney's rehabilitation from surgery on his left shoulder. When rest and rehabilitation failed, his rotator cuff was surgically repaired in early March.

"I hope to be ready by the first preseason game (Denver) so I can get into a groove," Gaffney said Thursday when the players reported to camp. "I'm ready to get to work, take some licks on it and make sure I'm 100 percent. I'm ready to do everything until they pull me back."

There's no rush in training camp to get back Gaffney, who had 41 catches and established career bests with 632 yards and a 15.4-yard average per catch. He'll be listed as limited when the Texans begin two-a-day practices Saturday.

"He's worked hard and made a lot of strides, but we don't want him to have any physical contact early in camp," coach Dom Capers said. "Early on, we thought he might not be able to go (when camp started). Right now, he'll be able to run routes and catch the ball. We'll just be cautious of taking the physical part of the game away from him in camp until we see how he does."

Although he knows how much quarterback David Carr needs him, Gaffney isn't concerned that he'll try to return to contact drills too soon.

"I'd never had a serious injury, but yes, I can be honest with myself," he said. "As I begin to get ready, I'm going to get more involved and just keep going at that pace instead of jumping all the way (back) into it and reinjuring it."

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A healthy Gaffney would be a big plus for the Texans heading into the season. The Texans are not that far away from being a contending team but must get consistent receiver play out of their # 2 guy and that responsibility has to be filled by Gaffney who is the most talented of the receivers after # 1 option Andre Johnson. If Gaffney is 100% heading into the season he will help to alleviate pressure off of both Andre Johnson and the running game and Carr and company will do much better as a result. His fantasy value is likely limited but he could be a decent backup for your squad if he can go right out of the gate.

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14. CHI - Receivers Berrian, Gage and Rookie Bradley Battling It Out For Starting Job

Clipped from: Chicago Sun-Times article by Mike Mulligan

Second-round pick Mark Bradley has received unsolicited compliments from the coach in each of his four news conferences since the start of training camp. The same guy deemed a bust in minicamp -- minicamp, for crying out loud -- now is being hailed as a bona fide stud.

"We talk to the guys about making plays, and every day he has made a play,'' Smith said. "The guys who make plays are the ones I will continue to talk about.''pc

Bradley was noticed for all the wrong reasons at minicamp, dropping seven passes at one point and fueling the belief he was drafted too high considering a lack of production in college at Oklahoma.

The guy was so dismissed in some circles that Sooners coach Bob Stoops, disturbed by Internet reports, actually placed a call to Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake to reassure him that Bradley can play. He needn't have bothered because Drake is a big believer in Bradley and feels strongly enough about the player's talents to guarantee he'll have success.

"I assure you he will be a force before this season is over with,'' Drake said. "I will assure you of that."

The receiving corps was upgraded significantly in the offseason thanks to the acquisition of free agent Muhsin Muhammad, who will attract double-coverage on one side of the field. The question now is who will start opposite him, with Bernard Berrian and Justin Gage battling for that right.

Berrian is a speedy guy who can make plays downfield, but he may lack the strength to get off the line. Gage has the strength to get off the line, but he lacks the pure speed to be a consistent deep threat.

Bradley combines speed and strength like no other receiver in camp, even if he's raw in a lot of areas. Berrian looks like a strong bet to be the starter with Gage yet to make a move in camp. Bradley might not break into the starting lineup, but he has proven he can make big plays.

"I know they are saying I'm a work in progress, but I'm coming in and trying to show I can be a starter early on,'' Bradley said. "I appreciate them giving me time to develop, but I am trying to become a starter.''

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

There could be some fantasy value that will emerge from the Bears # 2 receiver slot this season but it is important to target the right guy. Despite all the positive praise, it is very unlikely that Bradley will be ready to have a big impact this season. He could see the field in three and four receiver packages but his fantasy worth will be small. That means it is between Berrian and Gage and at this time it appears that that quicker, more explosive Berrian is ahead of Gage. If you do wish to roll the dice on a Bears receiver besides Muhammad, we think Berrian is the more valuable guy. Although it's a long training camp so we'll watch this one closely for you.

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15. PIT - WR Ward's Contract Situation Getting Ugly

Clipped from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Ed Bouchette

Hines Ward, the Steelers' Pro Bowl wide receiver, threw one of his famous downfield blocks on his own team yesterday when he proclaimed he will not report to training camp -- or show up at any point this season -- until he receives a contact extension on the one year left on a contract he signed in 2001. He said he's prepared to sit out the entire season if there's no new contract.

"I just want my fair market value, that's all I can ask for," Ward said yesterday afternoon before an autograph appearance at the Sprint PCS Store at the Waterfront complex in Homestead. "I'm not asking to break the bank or anything. I just want compensated."

He then made comments to the media on hand that were directed to the Steelers and referred to president Art Rooney's 2004 promise to make him a priority in contract discussions this year.

"Last year, you told me to wait, which is understandable; I had two years left on my deal and I went about it. I reported to everything you wanted me to do; I've done everything you asked me to do. You said you want to make me first priority, now here it is a couple days from training camp and we're still negotiating. But I think everything will work out; there's nothing personal, it's a business."

Ward will remain in town at least for the next few days in case a contract agreement is reached. The four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, however, acknowledged there has been little progress and the two sides have barely talked over the past month.

"They haven't even talked to my agent but once, as of Monday," Ward said. "They made an initial offer, my agent countered it. And that was it, there was no more negotiating after that."

The Post-Gazette reported yesterday the Steelers' offer would make Ward the highest-paid player in their history. Ward said his main aim is to receive as much guaranteed money as he can because in the NFL, players can be released with years left on their contract and the club is not obligated to pay any of it.

The Steelers' offer includes more than $8 million in a signing bonus and might be closer to $9 million. Many receivers over the past five years have received signing bonuses of more than $10 million, but many washed out after signing those contracts. Most notable among the failures was Joey Galloway, who received a $12.5 million signing bonus from the Cowboys in 2000, even though he never made a Pro Bowl. Ward might have in mind the kind of deal that Muhsin Muhammad received this year from the Chicago Bears. Muhammad, 32, received a $12 million bonus.

Ward said if there is no contract extension, "I won't be there" at training camp in Latrobe. He said he will stay out "as long as it takes."

Ward said he's in the best shape of his life and, at 204 pounds, the lightest he has weighed in a long time.

He said he's eager to reach camp and catch passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and that he does not want to hold out.

"I don't want to see it come to that. I love playing football, I love putting on the black and gold, but what's fair is fair, and that's all I can really ask for."

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

Holdouts are always frustrating for everybody involved. It puts pressure on the decision-makers of the team which they do not care for, it is tough for the player doing so as he knows he is hurting his team in which he works so hard for and it's tough for fans as it potentially takes away one of their heroes from playing on Sunday. It also can play havoc with a fantasy football squad as the player may or may not be there at the start of the season. In this case, you can't really blame Ward when he was told the team would negotiate with him this year after he put it on the back burner a year ago and he is certainly worth compatible money to what Muhammad, an older, less effective receiver than Ward throughout most of his career received. Hopefully this will be resolved shortly as the Steelers know the importance of Ward on the team and especially so without Plaxico Burress catching passes on the other side in 2005.

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16. IDP: PHI - DE McDougle Shot In Attempted Armed Robbery

Clipped from: AP

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle was shot in the stomach by armed robbers, police said Friday. The team said he was in good condition after surgery. He originally was listed in critical condition. However, Derek Boyko, the Eagles' director of media operations, said McDougle had spoken to team officials and was walking around his hospital room.

"Our understanding is that Jerome is in good condition after undergoing surgery," the team said in a statement. "At this time, we are still in the process of gathering the facts of his situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jerome and his family."

McDougle, who played at the University of Miami, was due to be in the team's camp Monday, the reporting date for Eagles' veterans. Rookies reported Friday. McDougle, 27, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he underwent the surgery.

Three armed robbers approached McDougle at his silver Mercedes coupe late Thursday, police said. The suspects demanded the car, then fired their weapons, police said. McDougle was shot once in the stomach. The robbers, who police said were likely teens, fled on foot and remain at large.

It wasn't clear whether McDougle was in his car or near it when he was approached, police said.

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This is certainly a case when the fantasy football impact takes a backseat to something bigger. We at footballguys.com wish Jerome McDougle a full and speedy recovery and hope he is able to overcome his injuries. It sounds like it isn't as serious as originally thought which is great news.

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17. IDP - NE - LB Vrabel And DE Green Sign Contract Extensions

Clipped from: Boston Herald article By Michael Felger

The sudden exodus the Patriots have experienced at inside linebacker will not trickle to the outside, where defensive end Jarvis Green and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel have agreed to terms on long-term extensions with the Pats. Sources say Green's deal will be for five years and worth between $12-$18 million depending on how many incentives he hits. Green is also expected to receive a signing bonus in the range of $3.5 million, with a roster bonus next year of around $2 million. Terms of Vrabel's deal were not available.

Green, who did not receive any offer sheets as a restricted free agent this spring, was slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

While Vrabel had three years left to run on his current deal, the final two seasons in 2006 and 2007 were ``dummy'' years (at $5 million per season) meant to facilitate restructurings. In other words, Vrabel was entering a de facto contract year, and he would have become a free agent after this season had he not restructured with the Pats.

``Mike was given an unbelievable opportunity when he came to New England four years ago,'' said Vrabel's agent, Neil Cornrich, speaking of the linebacker's move from Pittsburgh, where he was a backup for four seasons. ``He wanted to show his appreciation for that, pass up an opportunity to go to free agency and finish his career a Patriot.''

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It was a shrewd move by the Patriots to sew up the services of these two players for the next numbers of years. Both are playmakers on the field and bring hustle and enthusiasm to the defense.

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18. IDP: DET - Rookie DT Cody Agrees To Deal On A 4-Year Contract

Clipped from: AP

The Detroit Lions have signed second-round draft pick Shaun Cody to a four-year contract. Cody, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive tackle from Southern California, was drafted as the 37th overall pick of the 2005 draft.

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

Good news for the Detroit Lions to get Cody signed early on. He is a talented defensive tackle who should see a good amount of playing time in 2005. He has great hustle and his engine never quits. He should help make the Lions defense that much stronger in this season and beyond.

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19. IDP - GB - NT Jackson To Packers, "Trade Me Or Cut Me"

Clipped from: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article by Tom Silverstein

The Green Bay Packers will have every one of their signed players on board when the first full-squad training camp practice commences Friday, but it doesn't necessarily mean all of them will have grins on their faces. The first to express his public displeasure with management was nose tackle Grady Jackson, who reported for a mandatory meeting Wednesday night but in a Thursday meeting with general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finance Andrew Brandt said he didn't want to play here anymore.

"I just told them I want to be cut or traded," Jackson said as he departed Lambeau Field after his meeting with the two executives. "I just talked to them and told them how I feel."

Asked what response he got, Jackson said: "They said they aren't going to do it, it's not going to happen. I wish it happened because I feel like if they don't want me here, then they should get someone else who they think can do the job."

"They act like they don't want to respect me," Jackson said. "The simple fact is that if I'm ranked in the top 20 or top 10 of run-stoppers, then I feel like they need to honor that. They're not honoring that. I feel like, get someone else to do the job, let him do the job and let me go."

Jackson, who is scheduled to make $665,000 this year, $65,000 of which was advanced to him earlier this year, said he didn't feel a connection with WR Javon Walker because he has only one year left on his contract and thinks it is not out of line to reward him for his services. Last year, Jackson missed five games because of a dislocated kneecap but returned to play in 10 others and was a solid contributor when in the lineup.

Since he joined the team on Nov. 4, 2003, the Packers are 15-6, including playoffs, when he has played and 2-4 when he hasn't.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not unhappy with the Packers," Jackson said. "It's with upstairs, it's not the Packers. (It's) the business side I'm unhappy with. It's not my teammates and this and that. It's just from the business."

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

This has been the most turbulent Packers offseason in recent memory with one problem after another rising up. Perhaps quarterback Brett Favre is wondering why he decided to come back this season with so many distractions taking place in Green Bay. It sounds like Jackson has already cut bait and the team will likely be wise to honor his demands to trade him to a new team or give him a pay increase.

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20. NO - DT Sullivan Down To 320 Pounds And Ready To Contribute

Clipped from: ESPN Wire

Defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan, trying to shake the label of first-round bust, weighed in for camp at 320 pounds, down from nearly 350 pounds at some points last season. Sullivan, entering his third year, was the sixth overall pick in 2003 and had a solid rookie season. But he did not play last season after reporting out of shape and failing to make it through the first practice in the south Louisiana heat.

"I feel better than last year. I finished the practice," Sullivan said. "I just realized it's time to grow up, be a man, take some responsibilities for my actions."

Sullivan said he spent the past couple weeks in Florida, working out three times a day and trying to learn to eat better, cutting back on fast food.

"It's tough. Everywhere you're at, you see a McDonald's," he said.

He said he hopes to get his weight down to 310 or lower in the next two weeks. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said team officials are pleased to see Sullivan's weight down but was cautious in his praise.

"I don't put too much stock in that he's coming in at a good weight," Loomis said. "He's got a chance to rebuild his career with us and become the kind of player we know he can be and I think he's off to a good start. ... Training camp's a lot different than the offseason conditioning program. Now is when he really needs to show us."

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

It is nice to see Sullivan finally taking the honor of playing professional football seriously. He has the talent to start and do well for the Saints and perhaps his new found maturity will help him to become a force on game day. Obviously he was too heavy last season at 350 pounds and he will certainly have more quickness to help his game in 2005.

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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.

J

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