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Volume 6, Issue 111 (Sunday, August 7th)

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Hi Folks,

Training camps are rolling and we're here for you to plow through the mountain of news and bring you the key things you need to know. Please check out the site news for our Draftsheets as they're a great addition for your live draft. And our killer "My Team" feature is ready. Thanks to our Mike Herman for rounding up these stories tonight and let's jump right to it.

Joe Bryant


A. Footballguys Draftsheets Are Ready For Ordering
We've been buried with email from folks inquiring about the Draft Boards we did last season. We're glad to say they're back and better than ever. It's a 4 foot by 6 foot draft board with pre printed player labels (color coded by position) that you use at your live draft to track all the players selected. If you've ever seen these in use, you know how much better it makes the draft flow. All this for less than a 20 dollar bill INCLUDING shipping. Draft Night is already one of the best nights of the year. Our Draft Sheets make it even better.

B. (Premium Subscription) My Team Feature Let's You Track YOUR Team
One of the coolest features we've added in quite a while is our "My Team". Click on the link above and you can select up to 25 players that you want to keep an eye on. A great way to watch "your" players.


1. PIT - RB Duce Staley Gets MRI on Bothersome Knee
2. BAL vs. WAS - Scrimmage Notes
3. SEA - WR Jerome Pathon Vies for Position
4. MIN - RB Mewelde Moore Sliding Down the Depth Chart?
5. TB - Offensive Line Ailing
6. NE - WR Deion Branch Makes the Right Moves
7. CIN - WR Peter Warrick Almost Back to Practice
8. NO - OC Mike Sheppard Simplifies Saints Offense
9. TEN - QB Steve McNair Fit & Trim
10. KC - TE Tony Gonzalez's Sore Foot Still a Limitation
11. NYG - RB Brandon Jacobs Running Over People
12. SF - RB Kevan Barlow: No More Boop, Boop, Boop
13. CAR - TE Freddie Jones Retires
14. DAL - DE/LB Demarcus Ware the Next Lawrence Taylor?

1. PIT - RB Duce Staley Gets MRI on Bothersome Knee

Clipped from Associated Press article by Alan Robinson

The Pittsburgh Steelers' two-man running back rotation was missing both of its main components in practice Saturday, and Duce Staley's sore right knee is becoming a concern. Staley missed most of the second half of last season with a sore right hamstring - allowing Jerome Bettis to nearly get another 1,000-yard season - and he has sat out all but one full day of training camp contact work because of the aching knee.

After insisting for several days that the injury wasn't a worry, coach Bill Cowher said Staley will undergo an MRI test Sunday to make sure there's nothing wrong. "We'll kind of go from there, see where he's at," Cowher said. "He still doesn't feel real comfortable."

Staley needed fluid drained off the knee after just one day of practice, a condition that sometimes can indicate a problem that requires arthroscopic surgery. With the regular season more than a month away, Staley has enough time to have an operation and still be ready for the Sept. 11 opener against Tennessee. "We're going to be very proactive, make sure if there's any problems to get them taken care of now because we want him ready to go for the first game," Cowher said.

Bettis, who finished up last season with a minor quadriceps tear, also sat out Saturday, mostly just so he would have two days off in a row before a full week of camp.

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Watch this. At the moment, this appears to be just precautionary, but we'll keep an eye on this story in case it turns out to be something more. Needless to say, if Staley is not good to go for some reason, then Bettis' value rises. It would also likely benefit Verron Haynes, the next running back on the depth chart. Haynes is currently getting more opportunities in practice due to absence of Staley and Bettis. He had knee problems himself last year but appears to be fully recovered. And for a "you heard it here" player, keep FBG favorite Fast Willie Parker on your radar. He's raw but incredibly talented as you saw in some games late last year. We'll watch for you to see how this plays out.

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2. BAL vs. WAS - Scrimmage Notes

Clipped from: Associated Press article by David Ginsburg

The Baltimore Ravens' revamped offense showed more improvement than the Washington Redskins' upgraded attack during a scrimmage between the neighboring rivals Saturday. Neither starting quarterback produced a touchdown, but Kyle Boller got the Ravens a field goal before Patrick Ramsey was sacked four times during his two drives. "We still have a long ways to go," Boller said, "but it was good to get the momentum of taking that first drive down there and getting points on the board."

Baltimore's second unit got a field goal and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Wright to Patrick Johnson. Washington's second team did very little: Mark Brunell threw an interception and failed to move into field goal range.

Baltimore made Jim Fassel offensive coordinator to spice up a run-oriented attack and signed free agent wide receiver Derrick Mason, who last year caught 96 passes with Tennessee. The Redskins, meanwhile, added wide receivers David Patten and Santana Moss to an offense that coach Joe Gibbs hopes will be more inventive in 2005.

It didn't look that way Saturday. After the Ravens got a 38-yard field goal from Matt Stover, Ramsey went 5-for-8 but failed to move the team, mainly because Deion Sanders had two sacks and Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs had one apiece. "Pass protection didn't look good, and we looked sluggish," Gibbs said. "Anytime you don't do well it's a concern, but it is the first time out and we had a lot of people in there."

Tackling the quarterback was not allowed, but Sanders got a kick out of tagging Ramsey before he could make a throw, one benefit of playing in the 46 scheme of new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. "I've never been in a position where I blitzed on occasion, but now I can drop into coverage or blitz," Sanders said. Suggs, the Ravens' primary pass rusher, joked, "My job is definitely threatened. I've got to go back to the drawing board."

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The Ravens opening drive was a microcosm of their offense in recent years: they do a good job of setting up Matt Stover. Fortunately for Patrick Ramsey, the four "sacks" were actually only tags, because he's already taken a beating in his young career. Although in fairness, the Redskins improved in the protection department last year when Joe Gibbs and company replaced Steve Spurrier. The fact that Deion Sanders had two of the sacks is intriguing. Baltimore has been a top defense for several years, and should be again this year. The distribution of the IDP numbers amongst the players however could be impacted by the change in schemes.

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3. SEA - WR Jerome Pathon Vies for Position

Clipped from: Associated Press article, via

Jerome Pathon could prove to be quite a catch for the Seattle Seahawks, who led the NFL in dropped passes each of the past two seasons. Pathon, signed as an unrestricted free agent in April, led all players Saturday with four receptions for 55 receiving yards -- including a 30-yard touchdown catch -- in the team's first scrimmage of training camp.

Pathon is one of 11 receivers in camp. Coach Mike Holmgren has indicated he will likely keep six receivers on the active roster and possibly two on the practice squad. "Eleven strong receivers -- it's ridiculous, but it's good," Pathon said with a smile.

Holmgren said the only receivers guaranteed to stick are Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and injured special teams ace Alex Bannister. Among the others vying for a job are veterans Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Shaw, signed as free agents in the offseason, and the speedy D.J. Hackett. "Some of the young guys are really talented," Pathon said. "It's tough on them when you bring in three veteran wide receivers."

Pathon, who starred at the University of Washington, has caught 259 passes for 3,332 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons with Indianapolis and New Orleans.

He returned kicks regularly in the NFL only in 2000 with Indianapolis, but has looked sharp in the return slot during Seahawks camp. "You get in where you fit in in this business," Pathon said. "If those are the duties and responsibilities they want me to take on, then I will be more than pleased to do that."

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Bobby Engram is expected to fill the WR2 spot on the Seahawks depth chart, following the "departure" of Koren Robinson. The WR3 spot is up for grabs. Pathon and Jurevicius are the two primary candidates to win that role. Seattle has the potential to have one of the better offenses in the NFL this year, so the WR3 should have value, especially in larger fantasy leagues. They also have what should be a favorable schedule, particularly during the typical fantasy playoff weeks.

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4. MIN - RB Mewelde Moore Sliding Down the Depth Chart?

Clipped from Star Tribune article by Kevin Seifert

Several respected football observers consider Moore the Vikings' best all-around running back. A few of them draw their paychecks from the team. Yet in his second training camp, Moore has found himself squeezed out of the team's two-man backfield rotation and is competing for roles on special teams -- and not just as a returner.

As the Vikings concluded their first week of training camp Saturday, there were few signs that Moore -- a fan favorite who averaged 6.7 yards every time he touched the ball last season -- is anything but an insurance policy in their offense. Michael Bennett has been anointed the starter amid coach Mike Tice's prediction of a 1,600-yard season, and Tice has followed through on his promise to use veteran Moe Williams as Bennett's primary backup.

There are plenty of theories about Tice's motives and true plans, especially considering Bennett's injury history. Several people have suggested that Moore is enduring a "toughening" process -- stemming both from his passive reaction to a sprained ankle last season and his inconsistency in picking up blitzes. Tice was referring to both issues Saturday when he said Moore "still has a ways to go with his maturity as a player."

Although Moore disputes some of the assumed facts about the injury, he acknowledges now that "I was in the so-called doghouse" after taking his time in recovery and later struggling against the blitz. Tice said Moore blocked well during an intrasquad scrimmage Friday night but added, "That pass-protection thing is what kept him from even giving us a thought of changing my mind with Moe being the No. 2 guy. We know that Mewelde is going to make a lot of plays for us and have a role. But he needs to continue to mature as a professional."

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At one point it was thought that Moore would compete with Bennett for the feature RB role. Then he was considered the primary backup. Now he's being mentioned as the no. 3 guy. In the end, any one of those scenarios could wind up being the real answer. Take whatever Mike Tice states with a grain of salt, because he doesn't have the best track record for providing information upon which fantasy owners can rely. We expect that Bennett will finish first among the Viking RBs in fantasy scoring, Moore second, and Williams third.

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5. TB - Offensive Line Ailing

Clipped from: St Petersburg Times article by Rick Stroud

Tackle Derrick Deese limped off the field Friday morning after aggravating a foot sprain that had forced him to miss four days of practice. Now the Bucs' entire offensive line seems hobbled.

Right tackle Kenyatta Walker was held out of practice with swelling in his knee, and tackle Lance Nimmo informed the Bucs he no longer wanted to play football and was leaving to accept a business opportunity. Rookie guard Dan Buenning missed practice with a calf strain.

Anthony Davis worked in Deese's spot at left tackle, and right guard Jeb Terry moved to right tackle with center Sean Mahan taking Terry's spot. Deese, 35, injured the same foot during training camp a year ago and needed surgery, forcing him to miss all but the final preseason game.

General manager Bruce Allen said the team likely will sign an offensive lineman or two this weekend.

"I'm concerned," coach Jon Gruden said of Deese's recurring sprain. "I can't really comment on that other than we're doing everything we can to have people look at the MRIs and have people deal with it. He's tried to push himself through it the last couple of days; it's not quite ready to go. We've got to be realistic. The foot hurts, so you probably should get off it. But it is frustrating for him and I know it's frustrating for us. We're concerned, obviously, with the number of men that we have out and the way we want to practice and the work we need to get done."

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It's easy to get caught up in the offensive skill positions on offense when playing fantasy football, but it all starts with the offensive line. Injuries, players shifting positions, and incorporating new players along the line can quickly derail the entire offense. We'll keep a close eye on this, because it will impact Griese, Williams, Pittman, Clayton, and Galloway to name a few.

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6. NE - WR Deion Branch Makes the Right Moves

Clipped from: Boston Herald article by Michael Felger

Deion Branch has had an extremely strong start to camp. The top receiver's footwork is as good as always and his hands are impeccable. Branch's instincts have impressed Belichick.

"He kind of knows the right thing to do without being told," Belichick said. ``He just knows how to get open and he has a good understanding of passing game concepts. He knows where the other receivers are. He understands where he needs to be. And when there are traffic problems, he almost always does the right thing to clear that traffic up, going over guys, going under guys, stopping, throttling down, keeping moving, speeding up, pulling out of routes, sitting down in holes, all those things that. . . . if you run the play 10 times, it could happen differently every time, and he would almost always do the right thing."

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The reigning Super Bowl MVP and top receiver from a team that has been quite successful recently sounds like he should be a highly ranked fantasy prospect. Branch however doesn't even make the top twenty. The Patriots have very effectively spread the receptions around amongst numerous players, thus minimizing their receivers' fantasy impact. Charlie Weis, the architect of that offense, has moved on. He's been replaced by nobody. The Patriots will use an offensive-coordinator-by-committee approach this year led by Bill Belichick, although they plan to keep intact the system that Weis developed.

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7. CIN - WR Peter Warrick Almost Back To Practice

Clipped from: Cincinnati Enquirer article by Mark Curnette

The Bengals' receiving corps is their deepest in years, layered with first-day draft picks and an overachieving seventh-rounder, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Most arm-chair general managers, as they try to figure which of the 12 wide receivers in training camp will be on the opening-day roster, are overlooking one of the league's most singularly talented players: Peter Warrick.

He's working to return from injuries that limited him to four games in 2004. The sixth-year pro is close to practicing for the first time since camp opened July 28. And, if healthy, Warrick has a place in the offense.

Fresh off a pre-practice route-running and pass-catching display Wednesday, Warrick is flashing the quickness and cutting ability that's second to none in the NFL.

Warrick has not been healthy since Dec. 14, 2003, when he tore knee cartilage in a victory against San Francisco. He missed a game after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery but returned for the season finale against Cleveland, in which he had four receptions to bring his single-season career high to 79. He suffered a stress fracture in his shin making a 30-yard catch in the 2004 opener at the Jets.

Entering the final season of his six-year rookie contract, Warrick is considered a possible salary-cap cut because of his mysterious health and $2.28 million base salary for 2005. "I hear it," Warrick said. " 'Do you still want to be in Cincinnati?' What kind of question is that? I gave up my livelihood and hurt my leg trying to come back and help this team get to the playoffs."

If Warrick can't play, third-year pro Kelley Washington is battling rookie third-round pick Chris Henry for the third and fourth receiving spots. Rookie sixth-round receiver Tab Perry and Kevin Walter, a special teams ace, could win the fifth and sixth spots. Cliff Russell and Jamall Broussard also are having strong training camps.

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Just like the Bengals, we'll have to wait and see whether Warrick has recovered. Every year another receiver emerges for the team and climbs over Warrick on the depth chart. If he can regain his form, he should be the number three receiver this year, unless Washington or Henry climbs over him. Similar to Pathon in Seattle, the WR3 could still produce some fantasy value since the Bengals have the potential to be a potent offense this year.

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8. NO - OC Mike Sheppard Simplifies Saints Offense

Clipped from: The Baton Rouge Advocate article by Les East

Mike Sheppard's job this season is simple: take the most productive offense in Saints history and make it more efficient. Sheppard was promoted to offensive coordinator after three seasons as quarterbacks coach to replace Mike McCarthy, who resigned to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator.

Under McCarthy's guidance, New Orleans ranked 10th, 10th, 19th, 11th and 15th in the NFL in total offense, an unprecedented high level of consistency for this franchise. In the offseason, coach Jim Haslett assigned Sheppard the task of streamlining the playbook, simplifying and expediting communication from the sideline to the huddle, and ultimately scoring more points.

The Saints made a similar adjustment on defense during last season and the significant improvement that resulted on that side of the ball was a major reason New Orleans won its last four games.

That identity, which Sheppard said will evolve throughout the season, includes being committed to the running game (and improving it from 27th in the NFL last season) to set up play-action passes and use three-step drops on first and second down.

The Saints' verbose terminology was one reason they had the most penalty yards (1,141) and tied for the second-most penalties (129) in the NFL last season. This year New Orleans has a more succinct way of communicating the personnel group and play call from Sheppard in the press box, to quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert on the sideline, to the quarterback, who will have all the plays written on his wristband, in the huddle.

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The renewed commitment to the run, along with some potential improvement on the offensive line, are two primary reasons we're anticipating a good year for Deuce McAllister. Of course plenty of teams intend to run the ball more, but it doesn't always come to fruition. The Saints should be able meet that goal. The simplified playbook should hopefully help Aaron Brooks most of all. He's been a solid fantasy QB during career, but has taken more than a few criticisms as an NFL QB in the real world.

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9. TEN - QB Steve McNair Fit & Trim

Clipped from: Nashville Tennessean article by Jim Wyatt

Steve McNair stayed away from chocolate shakes and apparently spent a lot less time baking this offseason. But the Titans quarterback, roughly 25 pounds lighter than he was last season, could make up for it this fall when he runs into open field.

McNair said the weight loss has certainly helped his footwork and improved his flexibility, particularly in his hips. But he's not sure if he's any faster because he hasn't been clocked in the 40-yard dash since high school. The 6-foot-2 McNair was listed at 235 pounds going into last season but played at closer to 250.

"I can still run over somebody, but I think I'll be able to lose somebody, too," McNair said. "I can do both. At the same time, I am a smarter runner and more experienced runner than I was in the past."

But why would the Titans take any chances with McNair, who missed eight games last season and spent the early part of this offseason recovering from sternum surgery? For a player who has battled injuries throughout his NFL career, is it worth the risk to run? The coaching staff may not have much say in the matter. "We could tell Steve not to run, but he's not going to listen anyway," quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson said. "He is Steve McNair, and that is how he is always going to be. That is his game - that is what he does. The same can be said for Steve Young when he played and John Elway. I am not going to change his game. He is not going to get to the point where he is going to be a statue back in the pocket. ... Steve McNair is still going to take off when he needs to, and I would think his mobility is going to be better than it's been."

Yet even before his sternum injury last season, statistics suggested McNair was less inclined to run. Johnson said the decrease in rushes, however, has more to do with McNair's development as a passer. McNair is more patient now, Johnson said, so he takes time to find his receivers.

Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said McNair still "has a green light" to run whenever he wants. "When Steve pulls it down he is pulling it down for a reason, and he'll always do that," Fisher said. "I don't know that his loss of weight is going to affect him as an open field runner. We'll see. But what we are going to encourage him to do is get what he can and get down."

While the Titans probably won't have many draw plays in their game plans this fall, McNair said if he sees an opening he's going to take it. "Absolutely. No hesitation. No hesitation at all," he said. "I am at the point right now where I can do it. I am not worried about getting hurt, I am not worried about changing my game where I am going to sit back and just throw the football.

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Playing in only eight games, McNair was the 32nd ranked QB last year, after three consecutive top ten finishes and seven consecutive top fifteens. It may be difficult for him to get back to that tier due to the various personnel changes on the team. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is gone to the Jets, and replacement Norm Chow was wildly successful in the college ranks and will see if he can carry that over to the NFL. There will be many new team mates surrounding McNair, since the Titans had to purge many veterans for salary cap reasons.

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10. KC - TE Tony Gonzalez's Sore Foot Still a Limitation

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article

Not all went well for the Chiefs at their annual Family Fun Night practice Saturday. Tight end Tony Gonzalez left practice early because of what coach Dick Vermeil said was soreness in his foot. Gonzalez had surgery on the foot last winter and missed all of the offseason practices. "I'm concerned about Tony, because he's had a problem with that before," Vermeil said. The Chiefs limited Gonzalez to one practice a day at training camp, a precaution against re-injuring his foot.

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We're concerned too, but probably not quite as much as Dick Vermeil. Gonzalez has played through his foot issues in recent years, and managed nicely. X-rays taken Sunday morning did not reveal a break or anything unusual. Gonzalez will miss some practice time.

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11. NYG - RB Brandon Jacobs Running Over People

Clipped from: article by Aurie Villari

When Brandon Jacobs gets into position for a play, he isn't thinking about the crowd cheering or the opposing players trying to distract him. All he thinks about is his assignment and giving his all. Giants fans have been cheering Jacobs' exploits daily during training camp at the University at Albany. They have gotten louder as Jacobs, the bruising 267-pound running back, has continued to demonstrate that he could be an important contributor to the Giants' offense this season.

During Saturday morning's practice with the Jets, Jacobs had one play that truly stood out to all in attendance. He took a handoff up the middle, the cut to his right, where he collided hard with the Jets' recently-acquired cornerback Pete Hunter, who was knocked back five yards in an impressive display of power. Later, Jacobs was asked why he ran over, and not around, Hunter. "Oh, I could have gone around him, but it was cut and dried for me," Jacobs said. "It was a nice little run and I didn't want to waste anymore energy going around him."

While he admits that a lot of studying and practicing goes into being a great football player, Jacobs still likes to rely on his talent and toughness on the field. "Most of the plays that I make I'm just going with the flow...this was faster a lot faster and they have a good defense," said Jacobs, who is expected to back up Tiki Barber and perhaps be the Giants' primary third down and goal line runner this season. "It was better than I thought it was going to be.

Jacobs has been showing Giant fans a taste of what they hope to see out of him during the season. The fourth-round draft choice from Southern Illinois has been using his power to run over people, as well as using his speed to around them. At 6-4 and 267 pounds, he has an advantage going up against most linebackers and almost all corners and safeties.

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We expect Jacobs will get some short yardage and goal line work during the regular season, and could wind up a several touchdowns, but probably not enough to make a fantasy splash. Tiki Barber should still be the dominant factor in the Giants offense.

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12. SF - RB Kevan Barlow: No More Boop, Boop, Boop

Clipped from: San Francisco Chronicle article by Gwen Knapp

Barlow could be the dynamic rusher of his first three seasons in the NFL, when he backed up Garrison Hearst, or he could be one frustrated and frustrating athlete, as he was last year, his first as the team's designated starter. After signing a five-year contract extension worth $20 million before the season, Barlow started 14 games, compared to four in 2003, yet rushed for 202 fewer yards. His yards-per-carry dropped dramatically, from 5.1 to 3.4. More to the point, he was visibly at odds with his coaches, and it wasn't clear which plummeted further in 2004, his attitude or the 49ers' record. Barlow's interpretation: The 2-14 season dragged everybody down.

"I definitely learned from it, in case I ever go through it again," Barlow said. "Hopefully -- God forbid that ever happens this year -- but if it did, I would know what to expect. I would go about things differently."

He has already started doing some things differently. He went through conditioning workouts at the team headquarters in the offseason for the first time since the winter of 2002. Barlow also added yoga, Pilates, massage and chiropractic care to his routine. The body, he discovered, needs a lot more TLC when it is expected to fill a starting job on the football field.

"I never used to understand all the stuff Garrison Hearst did," Barlow said. "He'd be in the ice tub after practice every day, and I'd get dressed -- boop, boop, boop -- and be out the door. He'd tell me 'You'll see when you're the starter.' Well, I found out what he meant, and now my butt's in the ice tub after every practice."

None of that would have mattered if the coaching staff hadn't changed. Barlow wasn't the only player who became unhappy with the Dennis Erickson administration, but he needed a fresh chance more than just about anyone else. When Mike Nolan was named to replace Erickson, Barlow decided to join the offseason training program, partly to figure out the new direction of the team.

Through the yoga classes, he has learned about meditation. Barlow found an individual instructor, as well as his own massage therapist and a young chiropractor who adjusted him three times a week, sometimes bunking at Barlow's home in San Jose on weekends.

Channeled properly, his emotions can be a big asset to the team. He has to tend them as carefully as his body, which after a long day of interviewing, autographing and attending double practices, was off to the ice tub Friday night.

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Barlow appears to have done his part to put 2004 behind him and focus on improving himself 2005. Nonetheless, the 49ers are probably still faced with a rebuilding year (or years) with a new coaching staff and a young team. Rebuilding usually isn't conducive to immediate fantasy success.

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13. CAR - TE Freddie Jones Retires

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Natalie Obiko Pearson

Carolina tight end Freddie Jones retired Sunday, ending his eight-year career just four months after signing a free agent contract with the Panthers.

Jones spent five seasons in San Diego and three in Arizona and had 404 career catches. He wasn't exactly a fit with the Panthers, who use their tight ends primarily for blocking.

"It was in the best interest of my family that I conclude my career at this time," Jones said. "I appreciate the Panthers signing me. It's a top-notch organization and I'm glad I got a chance to experience it before I retired."

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As the article noted, the Panthers don't tend to use the TE very often as a receiver. Kris Mangum should now return to being their top TE, and Mike Seidman the backup.

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14. IDP: DAL - DE/LB Demarcus Ware the Next Lawrence Taylor?

Clipped from: article by Tom Orsborn

As a rookie in 1999, the Dallas Cowboys' linebacker witnessed the anointing of first-round pick Ebenezer Ekuban as the team's next great defensive lineman. How wrong they were. Instead of becoming a perennial Pro Bowl choice, Ekuban left the team a year ago as a disappointment, taking his paltry 121/2 career sacks with him to Cleveland.

So when the Cowboys drafted Troy defensive end/linebacker Demarcus Ware in April with the 11th overall pick, it would have been understandable if Nguyen had yawned, rolled his eyes and said, "Here we go again." But Nguyen knew better after hearing Cowboys coach Bill Parcells immediately compare Ware to Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor. And after playing next to Ware in practice last week at training camp, Nguyen is confident Ware (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) is the real deal.

"Man, that Ware kid," Nguyen said. "I say 'Be-Ware.' He's unbelievable off the edge. I've never seen anything like it. He's like a freak. The plays he makes sometimes are unbelievable. The ball is snapped, and he's already five yards into the backfield. He's going to be a great player in this league for a long time."

Many people in the Cowboys' organization and around the league agree with Nguyen's prediction. And even Ware figures he won't have much of a problem making an immediate impact as a rookie. "I'm setting my goals high," said Ware, 23. "I am trying to get Rookie of the Year, trying to get Defensive Player of the Year."

Parcells and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will be happy if Ware just puts together a solid season at his hybrid position in the Cowboys' new 3-4 defense. Instead of lining up strictly at defensive end, as he did in college, Ware will play outside linebacker, although he will have plenty of opportunities to do what he does best.

Parcells said Taylor had a similar attitude when he started playing linebacker for the New York Giants in 1981. "I went through this before with Lawrence," said Parcells, who coached Taylor either as defensive coordinator or head coach with the Giants from 1981-90. "You've got to get (Ware) doing what he can do, and then teach him the other stuff as you go and hope it doesn't cost you."

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Every preseason, there is plenty of optimism and hype, and invariably some rookie is compared to the Jerry Rices and Lawrence Taylors of NFL lore. Normally we let it go in one ear, linger for a few moments, and then out the other ear. But this one sounds like one we'll keep in mind a little longer.

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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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