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Volume 6, Issue 83 (Sunday, July 10th)

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Hi Folks,

It was a slow day Sunday for NFL news but thanks to our Mike Brown for rounding up these stories tonight. To keep you going, we have a ton of new articles on the website with details in the Site News below. I hope you have a great Monday. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant

SITE NEWS

A. Rex Grossman Face Off
by Maurile Tremblay and Chase Stuart

B. Michael Vick Face Off
by Chris Smith and Clayton Gray

C. Bubba Franks Face Off
by Will Grant and Chase Stuart

D. Kurt Warner Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Marc Levin and Message board Gurus

E. Domanick Davis Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus

F. Clinton Portis Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus

G. Anquan Boldin Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Chase Stuart and Message Board Gurus

H. Plaxico Burress Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Cecil Lammey and Message Board Gurus

I. Larry Fitzgerald Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Chase Stuart and Message Board Gurus

J. Chad Johnson Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus

K. Hines Ward Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Will Grant and Message Board Gurus

L. Jeb Putzier Player Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Cecil Lammey and Message Board Gurus


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. MIA - RB Williams Return Imminent; RB Brown Unlikely To Report On Time
2. FA - Retirement Looking Like Best Option For RB E. George
3. NE - Patriots Return Nearly Entire Offense Intact
4. Expect Veteran QBs To Start Signing Soon
5. WAS - K Hall Showing Team He Can Stay Healthy
6. WAS - Redskins Defense Could Actually Improve In '05

1. MIA - RB Williams Return Imminent; RB Brown Unlikely To Report On Time

Clipped from: Miami Herald article by Jason Cole 7/10/05

Ricky Williams has gotten his weight up to 215 pounds, but the bigger issue is that Williams and the Dolphins appear headed toward at least one season together, assuming everything goes as planned.

Moreover, the running back likely will get ample opportunity to prove himself after players report to training camp July 24. That's because running back Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 overall pick, probably won't report on time.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, said Wednesday that Williams is up to 215 as he works out in preparation for camp. Steinberg said he spoke with Williams on Tuesday and that Williams sounded "in good spirits and ready to go" after a year away from the NFL.

Williams' weight and conditioning have been an issue since an SI.com article in May had him weighing 195 (he played between 225 and 235 during his first two seasons with the Dolphins).

However, Williams began working out diligently while still in California, according to multiple sources, and has regained much of the weight.

As for Brown, the holdup for him is more about recent history. In the past six years, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft has not signed until after the No. 1 pick.

The last time the No. 2 player signed first was in 1998, when quarterback Ryan Leaf signed with San Diego one day before QB Peyton Manning signed with Indianapolis.

Much of that has to do with the slotting of contracts and how the No. 2 pick should get a deal commensurate with the No. 1 pick. Agent Todd France, who represents Brown, said Tuesday he and the Dolphins haven't had extensive discussions about the contract.

"We've had some talks, but nothing has gotten too specific," said France, who declined further comment.

Ultimately, missing a few days of practice might not hurt Brown much because running back is more of an instinctive position. Brown also is diligent about staying in shape.

However, the issue could be a distraction during the first few days of training camp.

Steinberg said he hasn't formally asked the league to reinstate Williams but will ask that Williams be reinstated in time to attend the opening of training camp.

Officially, league spokesman Greg Aiello has said Williams will have to wait until July 28 to be reinstated or will face a one-year suspension for violations of the league's substance-abuse policy.

However, another NFL source has indicated Williams will be allowed to return for the start of camp, assuming there are no setbacks.

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

And so it goes…Ricky Williams is on the verge of resuming his career, and his situation is just as murky in his return as it was when he walked away. The impact on Ronnie Brown will likely be significant, because teams don't like to pay players millions of dollars to sit and do nothing. Brown, likewise, won't help his cause for being the no-doubt feature back by coming into camp late. Remember, HC Nick Saban has no previous history with Williams' antics, so if he comes into camp in shape and ready to roll, it could put Brown behind the proverbial eight-ball at the outset. We don't think the Dolphins drafted Brown #2 overall just so he could sit the bench, so obviously Brown will get his shot. But there is the distinct possibility that if neither player gets hurt (or in Williams' case, retires or fails a drug test), then they both may do just enough to warrant each guy as unworthy of a starting spot in one's fantasy lineup.

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2. FA - Retirement Looking Like Best Option For RB E. George

Clipped from: Tennessean article by David Climer

As you're reading this, I bet Eddie George is working out, is getting ready to work out, or has just finished working out.

The man is driven, committed, relentless. If running, lifting, stretching or a combination of all three can help him gain one more yard in the NFL, he'll do it.

But with less than a month before training camps open around the NFL, we must wonder how often George is answering his phone. He's rested. He's ready. He's available. He might as well be wearing a sign that says Will Carry The Ball 300 Times For Food.

But is the phone ringing?

These are the times that try veteran running backs' souls. After nine seasons - eight as chief freight-carrier for the Oilers/Titans, one as a bit player for the Cowboys - George is running on borrowed time. He doesn't want to retire. He has said he believes he has another couple of years in him.

Any takers?

A couple of months back, Jeff Fisher floated a trial balloon about the possibility of George being reunited with the Titans as a backup to Chris Brown. It did not get the ringing endorsement Fisher had hoped. Others in the organization deferred and Titans owner Bud Adams went so far as to say he would prefer to acquire Travis Henry from the Bills.

Where does this leave Eddie George? Despite an ESPN report that Jacksonville might be interested, nothing has materialized.

This is the sad side of sports. Over and over, we see players desperately trying to hang on to past glory, unwilling or unable to accept that their skills have deteriorated to the point that they can no longer play at the required level.

They stick around too long, sometimes tarnishing their legacy. The warrior who once plowed through linebackers is instead remembered for stumbling as he takes the handoff.

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

It's all well and good to want to remember players in their primes, but perhaps the player just loves the game and wants to continue playing it. Not many people get to play NFL football, and we see nothing wrong with wanting to continue. Besides, the theory that George is tarnishing his legacy may be a bit flawed anyway. When people think back to Joe Namath or Johnny Unitas, they remember the time with the Jets or the Colts - not the Rams and Chargers. In any case, if George wants to play and is willing to take a severe pay cut just to remain an NFL player, he'll likely find a taker at some point. His days as a starting NFL back have obviously passed. All the evidence you need of that is how terribly George performed last season with Dallas, only to see Julius Jones run for a grand in half a season behind the same offensive line. George is a total fantasy afterthought at this point, and if this is the end of the line for him, we wish the one-time fantasy stud back the best in his post-NFL career.

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3. NE - Patriots Return Nearly Entire Offense Intact

Clipped from: Boston Herald article by Mike Reiss 7/10/05

The Patriots convene for training camp on July 29, and the team's offense should look a lot like last year. Of the 11 players who logged the most starts in 2004, all but left guard Joe Andruzzi (16 starts) and receiver David Patten (11) return.

"It's awesome that we have almost the entire offense back, and I think that showed in our (June) minicamp," said Light, who is entering his fifth season. "It was probably our best minicamp in my time here. Everyone was really on the same page."

Light's comments are telling on two fronts.

First, the impact of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' departure figures to be one of the primary stories of Patriots camp. Second, Light had an up-close view of the offensive player who figures to get the most scrutiny: first-round pick Logan Mankins, who is the likely new starter on the line.

"He's getting the majority of reps there at left guard and he's really jelled well with everyone," said Light, who has primarily worked alongside Andruzzi (2004) and Damien Woody (2001-2003). "The guy knows his offense and he's studied and worked hard. He's in a good position to go out and play good football, so I don't think it's going to be as big a deal as it could have been.

"Don't get me wrong, Joe (Andruzzi) is an awesome player, an awesome guy in the community, and he'll definitely be missed. At the same time, we feel we have enough guys who can share that responsibility in helping Logan out."

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

The Patriots are changing as little as possible personnel-wise because of the major overhaul with both coordinators leaving the past off-season. The theory is that the transition must be as seamless as possible, and so far so good. All signs point to the Patriots offensive philosophy remaining the same as it was last year, which means Tom Brady, Deion Branch, and Daniel Graham will be borderline starters, Corey Dillon is a solid RB2, and Adam Vinatieri should be one of the first kickers gone. Bottom line is we don't see much difference in the Patriots offense on the field this year as opposed to recent previous seasons. What'll be interesting is to see how they deal with the loss of Charlie Weis.

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4. Expect Veteran QBs To Start Signing Soon

Clipped from: Boston Globe article by Jerome Solomon 7/10/05

Time is running short, but teams aren't yet desperate enough to offer contracts to veteran quarterbacks Jeff Blake, Jeff George, Kordell Stewart, and Vinny Testaverde. Expect that to change in the next few weeks, with Testaverde, who started 15 games for the Cowboys last season, likely to be the first in line. Blake (six teams in 13 seasons) saw a little action as a backup in Philadelphia last season, but will probably get a camp invite. Stewart saw even less time with the Ravens. George hasn't taken a snap in a game since 2001, but typically some team (he has seven on his resume thus far) thinks he's matured enough to help.

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

As the blurb mentions, it's only a matter of time before these veterans begin falling into place. There have been rumored job openings in many places, most recently in Seattle to back up Matt Hasselbeck, but with the always-present injury bug waiting to bite someone in August, you can bet that most of these QBs will find a home before the season opener.

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5. WAS - K Hall Showing Team He Can Stay Healthy

Clipped from: WarPathInsiders.com article 7/9/05

John Hall missed just one game during his first seven seasons. He made between 21 and 28 field goals a year and in five of those seasons, Hall's accuracy remained in the 68-78 percent range.

But 2004 was hell for Hall. He strained his right hamstring in the opener against Tampa Bay and the left one the next week against the New York Giants. He converted seven of nine field goal tries through the first five weeks, but he missed his only two attempts past 34 yards. Then Hall pulled his groin in practice on Oct. 14 and missed the next five games. Hall returned on Nov. 29 in Pittsburgh, but was just 1-for-2 in three games before tearing a quadriceps muscle on Dec. 12 against Philadelphia and sitting out the final three games. He finished with eight field goals in eight games.

In response, the 31-year-old Hall ramped up his offseason work in order to show a coaching staff that hasn't seen him stay healthy that he'll be as reliable as ever this season. And that he's the better pick than 26-year-old journeyman Jeff Chandler, who was solid during the final three games of last season.

"I think I'll be better because I've concentrated so much on strength training and being ready for this year," Hall said. "I started getting after it with a specialist in Florida as soon as the season is over. Usually I wouldn't start until the offseason program started in March except for a week or two beforehand running to get my wind ready. I was rehabbing, but I wasn't sitting on a table with ice on my leg. He was putting me through some pretty tough workouts."

As the Redskins prepared for their OTA days, Hall began kicking 10-12 field goals a day, working himself up to 25-35.

"I feel good," said Hall, who claims to have forgotten he was ever hurt. "I haven't had any setbacks. I wasn't too worried when I started kicking again. I had never really had injuries before last year. I don't worry about who's trying to take my job. There's competition everywhere. If I take care of my business, I'll be fine. I'm still the guy. We had success when I was out there. I don't have to prove anything to anybody more than I would any other year."

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

Just keeping you updated on yet another kicker battle going into training camp. We never advocate jumping the gun and taking a kicker too early, but with so many unsettled kicking situations, this may be the year you grab one a round or so earlier just to give yourself some peace of mind. We currently have Hall as our 28th-ranked kicker, most likely not worthy of a roster spot. Should he win the job, he'd move up - but with the Redskins offense not expected to be amongst the league's elite, Hall wouldn't move up very much even if he DOES win the job outright.

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6. WAS - Redskins Defense Could Be Improved Despite Personnel Losses

Clipped from: WarPathInsiders.com article by Rich Tandler 7/9/05

A Redskins defense that was surprisingly the NFL's third-best in 2004 despite playing most of the season without projected starters LaVar Arrington, Phillip Daniels and Matt Bowen returns those three players as well as nine of last year's regulars.

The defense should also be better just because it has the same man in charge, assistant head coach Gregg Williams, for a second straight season for the first time since 1999 (Mike Nolan was succeeded the next year by Ray Rhodes who was followed by Kurt Schottenheimer, Marvin Lewis, George Edwards and Williams).

However, the defense did lose its two most vocal leaders and two of its better players to free agency in middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot. Pierce, who jumped to the NFC East rival New York Giants, zoomed from unheralded backup to top tackler last year while also absorbing the intricacies of Williams' schemes. Smoot, who was probably born yapping, was the only cocky member of the secondary and was a fine all-around corner the past four seasons. He signed with Minnesota.

The Redskins could easily have matched both offers, but chose not to top the deals they have the previous offseason to linebacker Marcus Washington and cornerback Shawn Springs. While admirable in principle, those decisions could prove very costly.

There are eight, count 'em eight, candidates at the moment to replace Pierce, but only 35-year-old Michael Barrow, who missed all of last year and this offseason with a bad knee, has NFL experience in the middle. And while veteran Walt Harris and top draft pick Carlos Rogers will battle to succeed Smoot, Harris probably better suited for the nickel back role he filled last year and Rogers is not only a rookie but will likely be limited when camp starts on Aug. 1 because of a sprained right foot that is currently immobilized.

Then there are the ailing knees of Arrington and defensive tackle Brandon Noble that kept them out of minicamp and much of the offseason program. It's unsure how much either player will be able to do early in camp. Lemar Marshall, who started most of last year when Arrington was hurt, is ready to do so again if necessary.

Second-year safety Sean Taylor boycotted the entire offseason until being excused from minicamp by coach Joe Gibbs in order to focus on his legal troubles. Taylor is facing a felony assault charge and a three-year mandatory sentence if convicted. Trial is tentatively set for Sept. 12, the day after the season opener against Chicago, but will likely be postponed until the offseason. If Taylor is unavailable at some point, Ryan Clark, Andre Lott and former Bill Pierson Prioleau have all started in Williams' system.

The defense added experience by signing cornerback Artrell Hawkins from Carolina and safety Tony Dixon for Dallas as well as linebackers Warrick Holdman (Cleveland) and Brian Allen (Carolina). The departures of reserve tackle Jermaine Haley and backup safeties Todd Franz, Pat Dennis and Jason Doering won't be felt.

Williams and his top-notch staff led by former Bears coordinator Greg Blache and former Chargers coordinator Dale Lindsey showed last year that they can make the best out of what they're given. Whether the wonderful chemistry the defense had last year can be repeated minus Pierce and Smoot is the big question.

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

We primarily take the viewpoint that the Redskins' defense will suffer, at least at the outset, due mainly in part to the losses of such key performers. Opinions on the staff vary widely, from a high of #2 to a low of 16, but just about all of us feel that the Washington defense is a starting caliber fantasy defense in 2005. Once all of the new parts settle in together, and the returnees can prove they are healthy, we see the Skins defense as very capable of producing an outstanding point total in 2005.

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

J

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