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Volume 6, Issue 97 (Sunday, July 24th)

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Hi Folks,

Thanks for the emails ribbing me about working on the update from the bar of the Mellow Mushroom Pizza Kitchen last night. Back for round two tonight. I have the laptop working but I hate the thumbpad pointer thing so I use an external trackball mouse. A pretty blonde girl just commented that was a pretty big mouse I had. I smiled and told her I was from Texas…

On to business, thanks to our Mike Brown for rounding up these stories tonight. Training Camp is upon us and the news will be heating up hot and heavy. We'll keep distilling the key stories down for you and sending along each day along with what we think they mean for your Fantasy Team. I hope you have a great Monday, and let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


1. MIA RB R. Williams: Return Is Already Dividing Locker Room
2. GB WR Walker: Team Prez Understands Contract Situation Is 'Part of the game'
3. NYG QB Manning: It's His Team Now, Just the Way He Likes It
4. FA WR K.Robinson: May Have Violated Probation
5. CAR RB Foster: Enters Camp As Unquestioned Starter
6. CAR RB S.Davis: Agent Says He's Almost Ready To Go
7. CLE WR A.Davis: GM Doesn't Deny Trade Talks
8. ATL QB Vick: Vows To Be a Better QB In '05
9. NE RB Cobbs: Could Be On Roster Bubble
10. HOU: Team Will Throw Fewer Deep Balls
11. IDP: FA Law: Offers And/Or Strong Interest From Six Teams
12. IDP: SD LB Merriman: Chargers Don't Expect Much From Rookie
13. IDP: FA LB Boulware: Browns Pass On Signing Him - For Now

1. MIA RB R.Williams: Return Is Already Dividing Locker Room

Clipped from: New York Daily News article by Gary Myers 7/23/05

When Ricky Williams walks into coach Nick Saban's first team meeting today at 1 p.m., he should not anticipate a welcome back chant of "Ricky, Ricky, Ricky," from his jilted Dolphin teammates. The red carpet is rolled up and in storage.

Even if the old Ricky shows up - assuming he doesn't change his mind - and busts one between the tackles on his first carry at practice tomorrow morning, the clock is ticking on his bizarre Dolphins career.

It seems clear that Saban, a Bill Belichick no-nonsense disciple, has made a business decision by embracing the return of Williams to restore his value as a football player so he can be traded. Whether that happens before the Oct. 18 trade deadline or after the season, Saban is taking a huge risk.

Even if he can eventually get a second- or third-round pick - unlikely considering the Colts couldn't get a No. 2 for Edgerrin James - it will not be worth the daily distractions the Ricky Williams Circus brings to town and the animosity it causes within his team. How team leaders Jason Taylor (who dressed up as Williams at teammate Sam Madison's Halloween party last year) and Zach Thomas greet Williams after his sudden exit last summer led to a 4-12 season will set the tone.

"It's already dividing the locker room," one GM said. "Nobody wants him."

Williams will be allowed to participate in training camp and Miami's five preseason games, but then must serve his suspension the first four regular-season games. Miami's bye comes in the fourth week, which means Williams can't return until Week 6, giving him just one regular season game before the trading deadline to show that he can still play.

One GM predicted that Saban will run Williams hard this summer to showcase him and if he can't trade him before the season opener, he will cut him.

Can Williams be the same player who rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his two years with the Dolphins? He was listed at 226 pounds last year and reportedly was around 195 not long ago. Supposedly, he's now around 215. He still has some bulking up to do and some relationships to repair.

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

The Dolphins would love nothing more than for Williams to come into camp in shape and ready to roll, just so they could show him off for teams and then deal him. While HC Nick Saban can say he wants Williams to help the team, we don't see a good situation in which Williams and Ronnie Brown can coexist and succeed. Not to mention that most of Williams' Dolphins teammates won't exactly be welcoming Ricky back with hugs and kisses. With the Jaguars having lost out on the Travis Henry sweepstakes, and clearly in need of a productive back, keep an eye out for possible trade talks between the Jags and Dolphins. Of course, the Jaguars wouldn't be the only interested party should Williams become available, because front offices have a habit of looking the other way with off-field problems when the player possesses talent. If nothing else, the soap opera that will be Dolphins training camp should keep us all plenty entertained as the August weeks go on.

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2. GB WR Walker: Team President Understands Contract Situation Is 'Part of the game'

Clipped from: article by Mike Vandermause 7/24/05

Faced with the threat of a training camp holdout by Javon Walker, the Green Bay Packers appear to be taking a firm stance against renegotiating the wide receiver's contract.

"You've got to remember this: every contract you do, the other 52 players on your club are looking at it," Packers President Bob Harlan said.

"If you start doing things with one, you've got to be careful what it's going to lead to with the other 52."

While Harlan was speaking only in general terms, it's clear the Packers don't want to set a precedent with Walker that could come back to haunt them.

Walker has two years remaining on his contract, and the Packers generally have refused to renegotiate deals with that much time remaining.

Walker's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said last week his client wouldn't report to training camp unless the Packers promise to give the Pro Bowl receiver a new contract.

Another Rosenhaus client, cornerback Mike McKenzie, staged a holdout during training camp in 2004 and eventually was traded by the Packers to New Orleans.

When asked if Walker is heading down a similar path as McKenzie, Harlan said: "I would certainly hope not. I think Mike McKenzie and Javon Walker are totally different personalities, and I would hope it would come to a different conclusion."

Harlan negotiated contracts for the Packers from 1971 to 1985 and ran into his share of difficult agents who threatened holdouts.

"I guess I got used to it," he said. "It's never pleasant."

Walker signed what was in effect a five-year, $6.7 million contract as a rookie in 2002. He is scheduled to earn $515,000 this season and $650,000 in 2006.

Walker hired Rosenhaus earlier this year after earning his first Pro Bowl berth and didn't attend the Packers' two spring minicamps.

"I'm sorry we've got the contract confusion we have, but that's just part of the game and you learn to live with it," Harlan said.

"The agents have a job to do and we've got a job to do and we're going to move on."

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

Very smart of the Packers, in our opinion. You can't cater to Javon Walker, and then tell guys like Ahman Green that there's no money for him - not after Walker has had exactly one prolific season. While we don't blame Walker for wanting to capitalize on his recent success, he does still have TWO years left on his deal, not one. And keep in mind that it's not as if Green Bay's wide receiver stable will be barren without Walker, as they still have Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson ready to line up for Brett Favre. Walker's leverage is much lower than he likes to think, and it would probably be wise of him to either renegotiate for something less than he wants, or drop the holdout negotiating tactic altogether. The Packers, meanwhile, don't want to send the wrong message in catering to a player after one great season, and seemingly are taking a very hard-line approach with regards to Walker. While holdouts generally don't last into the season, it wouldn't be unprecedented. The longer this goes on like this, the less confidence we have in Walker getting into a rhythm and preparing to repeat his 2004 numbers.

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3. NYG QB Manning: It's His Team Now, Just the Way He Likes It

Clipped from: Hartford Courant article by John Altavilla 7/24/05

The real change comes with the commitment to Manning as the quarterback.

"After a year, you kind of know what to expect," Manning said. "You know what you're coming here to do. You know the rules and the way it's going to be."

After losing his first six starts, sometimes clumsily, Manning engineered a last-minute drive to beat the Cowboys in the season's final game. The victory fueled Manning's off-season study that included a lot of film work and conversation with quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride.

Manning's seven career starts almost equal the combined starts (eight) of his current backups, Jesse Palmer and Tim Hasselbeck. But that's just a statistic. No longer is there any doubt about who is in charge of the team.

"You can see Eli's confidence," Tiki Barber said during minicamp in June. "He's not guessing, `Am I going to be the backup? Am I going to be the starter?' He knows he's the starter."

Said Manning: "That's the way you want it. You want to come in having it be your team. The whole off-season has been devoted to getting to that point. I've been getting the guys together to throw, working in the weight room, watching film and finally getting back to them to relay what I feel they need to do to help us get better."

To help Manning, the Giants signed Plaxico Burress, who will combine with Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey to give the team a potentially elite receiving corps.

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

To begin, Eli Manning is not Peyton Manning. There has been some talk this off-season about how much Peyton improved from year one (26 TD, 28 INT, 3,739 yards) to year two (26 TD, 15 INT, 4,135 yards), and some folks are expecting the same sort of dramatic improvement from Eli. For starters, Eli doesn't have the offensive weapons around him that Peyton had and has. While Burress and a healthy Shockey/Toomer will certainly help, let's not confuse the Giants and Tom Coughlin's offense with an all-out aerial assault. Still, we like Eli's chances for some improvement in year two. He closed out 2004 on a high note, and we project him as a borderline #2 QB in redraft leagues. Dynasty leaguers will hold him in significantly higher regard, because his future is seemingly very bright. He has embraced his role as a leader this off-season, and appears well on his way towards a solid NFL career.

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4. FA WR K. Robinson: May Have Violated Probation

Clipped from: Associated Press article in Seattle Times 7/24/05

Former Seahawks receiver Koren Robinson spent a little more time in jail than had been ordered after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

Robinson, 25, struck a plea bargain with prosecutors Monday, pleading guilty to DUI. Kirkland Municipal Judge Albert Raines ordered Robinson not to touch alcohol while on probation.

But when Robinson reported to the Kirkland city jail on Wednesday, two officers said they could smell alcohol on his breath. Kirkland police booked Robinson for investigation of violating terms of his probation. He was released early Friday.

Robinson is scheduled to appear in Kirkland Municipal Court on Aug. 4, when a judge will decide whether there is evidence of a probation violation.

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

Koren Robinson has run the gamut of drawing emotional responses this offseason. He has gone from being a laughingstock to simply a sad story. If Robinson can't avoid alcohol between waking in the morning and going down to a courthouse, as the article mentions, then his problems go far deeper than playing football. He needs to get his life in order before he can even consider making a meaningful impact in the NFL. We never like to hear about off-field problems such as this one, and we wish Robinson well in straightening himself out.

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5. CAR RB Foster: Enters Camp As Unquestioned Starter

Clipped from: Herald article by Darin Gantt 7/24/05

DeShaun Foster enters training camp next weekend as the unquestioned starter, since Stephen Davis isn't 100 percent back from knee surgery and Eric Shelton's a rookie.

Of the group, he clearly has the most to prove -- starting with staying on the field. The talented former second-round pick has a total of 684 yards on 172 carries (3.98 yards per carry) in 18 games. Of course, that's over three seasons, since his career has been marked as much by his time in the training room as his highlight-film potential.

A knee injury kept him off the field his entire rookie year and slowed him into 2003. Last year, he had a chance to shine without Davis in the lineup, but suffered a broken collarbone which ended his season.

He's in the tricky spot of having one year to prove himself, with only his reputation as a player and financial future at stake.

Typically, the Panthers have been proactive in signing their young stars, and they still think Foster's going to be one. The silence regarding his situation has been deafening.

No one from Foster's camp is talking, but the hope is that he could become this year's version of former New York Jets running back LaMont Jordan, who parlayed flashes as Curtis Martin's backup into a $27.5 million contract from Oakland.

The problem is, Foster's equally close to becoming the next Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who teased the Panthers with potential for six years before injuries ended his career.

It's a risky hand of poker for sure, but it appears Foster's going "all in" on himself this year.

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

We're guessing Foster will have his deal worked out sooner rather than later. There is no shortage of incentive for Foster to produce. He's got a fat payday in his near future if he can A) Remain healthy, and B) Produce while healthy. Those two things have pretty well eluded him thus far in his NFL career. Between knee and shoulder injuries, Foster has been unable to remain on the field long enough to showcase some of his incredible skills. But we think this could be the year. Tread lightly with Foster, and keep an eye on Eric Shelton, who we think could cut into Foster's playing time in a significant way.

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6. CAR RB S. Davis: Agent Says He's Almost Ready To Go

Clipped from: Herald article by Darin Gantt 7/24/05

The agent for Stephen Davis said last week he thought his client "sounds like he's ready," to practice, though that probably won't happen for several more weeks.

David Canter said he speaks with Davis regularly, and his rehabilitation from last November's microfracture surgery on his right knee has gone well.

Still, the Panthers are unlikely to let him do much for the first few weeks of camp, since they've exercised patience throughout his rehab. The situation's almost identical to Foster's in 2003, when they brought him back slowly from 2002 surgery and enjoyed good results later in their Super Bowl run.

Canter said while he doesn't expect Davis to practice from the start of camp, he said he thought it was realistic that Davis could play in one or two preseason games.

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

IF Davis does indeed make it back, it will be in a very limited capacity. As you have read above, DeShaun Foster is the starter heading into camp, and after him it is quite likely that Eric Shelton (and possibly Nick Goings) would get the second crack at the job, well before Stephen Davis would be considered. In fact, it's likely that with his recent injury history, Davis is now unable to be an NFL feature back. While he is attempting to come back from the same surgery as Foster already did, the big difference is the ages at which they underwent the procedures. Don't expect much from Davis in 2005, because his days as a major fantasy contributor are, in all likelihood, over.

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7. CLE WR A. Davis: GM Doesn't Deny Trade Talks

Clipped from: Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Tony Grossi 7/24/05

GM Phil Savage would not deny he had a casual trade conversation about receiver Andre Davis with the Seattle Seahawks. "There are always things you talk about with other teams," he said. "There was nothing formal." Savage said he intends for Davis to be a factor in the Browns' offense and return game.

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

Far be it from us to tell Phil Savage how to do his job, but if he plans on making Davis an integral part of the offense, then why exactly is he not publicly denying having trade talks regarding Davis? With rookie Braylon Edwards unsigned, and Kellen Winslow done for the year, Davis represents one of the only experienced receiving options the Browns have. We don't like his (or any Cleveland receiver's) chances for fantasy stardom this year, however.

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8. ATL QB Vick: Vows To Be a Better QB In '05

Clipped from: Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Steve Wyche 7/24/05

The Falcons had the NFL's top rushing offense last season, but they have to improve in the passing game to remain among the league's elite. Vick said incorporating the wide receivers more into the offense is vital, and it is up to him to make things happen. He has put more pressure on himself to produce.

"I can't even explain how big a difference it is this year from last year as far as understanding the game in this offense," Vick said. "[That includes] where I have to go with my reads, what guys are going to be in this spot or are supposed to be in that spot. I've spent a lot of time this offseason working, putting time in the [playbook]. When I step on the field, there's not much doubt where I'm going with the ball now. You'll never be perfect - no one is - but you can always make sure you try to be the best you can."

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

Our Footballguys Staff members are all over the map with our rankings on Vick, from a high of the #3 QB to a low of #16 on the most recent set. Quotes like this one, however, "I can't even explain how big a difference it is this year from last year", tend to make us lean higher rather than lower regarding Vick's 2005 outlook. His skill level is obviously off the charts, and the only thing preventing him from joining and possibly surpassing the elite class of QBs in the league are his accuracy and ability to read defenses properly. If, as he says, he has made great strides in those areas, then the sky is the limit for Vick in 2005. If he has merely put in extra practice work but that doesn't show up on gameday, then we can expect him to be a good, but not great, fantasy quarterback. The thing with Vick is that in either case, he'll need to be drafted as if he's already elite because of the immense potential he possesses, even though he hasn't joined that group yet.

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9. NE RB Cobbs: Could Be On Roster Bubble

Clipped from: Boston Globe article 7/24/05

With Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk a solid 1-2 punch, Cobbs may have to improve his value as a special teamer to make the squad. The second-year pro from Arkansas should feel the squeeze from recently acquired Chad Morton, an excellent kick returner, for No. 3 on the depth chart.

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

Bigger things were expected of Cobb than he has thus far delivered. This news comes as a bit of a surprise, as the Patriots wouldn't normally give up so soon on someone that has good talent. Cobbs really has his work cut out for him, with veteran presences all around him. Still, we see it as very unlikely that the Pats would give up on a young RB like Cobbs, especially with the ages of the runners they would be carrying (Dillon - 31, Faulk - 29, and Morton - 28) if they let Cobbs go.

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10. HOU: Team Will Throw Fewer Deep Balls

Clipped from: Houston Chronicle by Megan Manfull 7/24/05

There is one key focus of the Texans' new offensive scheme: Get rid of the ball quick. The idea isn't just to keep Carr from getting sacked but to keep him from getting hit. The drops will be shorter and the routes will develop much quicker. Carr will still throw an occasional pass down the field, but it won't come as often. The Texans will keep more receivers in to block.

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

This is better news for the Texans offense than it would appear. More quick passes and fewer deep balls at first may set off alarm signals that it will detract from the values of Andre Johnson and David Carr. On the contrary, we see it as a positive in that Johnson will now see a greater number of passes in his direction, as he is one of the top wideouts in the league at going across the middle. Likewise, his ability to run after the catch means that his big-play capability will remain fully intact. Besides, with more underneath routes, that could very well help spring Johnson for the big-gainer MORE frequently, because it will catch defenses more by surprise. As for Carr, we like that it'll enable him to play more quarterback rather than home run derby all the time. The big plays will be there, but the offense needs to get more rhythm and sustained drives, and this is certainly the best way to go about it.

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11. IDP: FA Law: Offers Or Strong Interest From Six Teams

Clipped from: Boston Globe article by Nick Cafardo 7/24/05

According to his agent, Carl Poston, Ty Law either has offers or drawn strong interest from six teams. Poston said New England isn't one of the six, but that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has placed calls to Law trying to gauge his interest in returning to New England.

Poston said he would be "surprised" to see the Patriots re-sign Law and thought it would be "unlikely."

"In the end, it's Ty's decision," Poston said. "I don't know exactly what Belichick and Ty have discussed, but I have not received a proposal from the Patriots."

Poston was mulling through offers that have come into his office over the past few days.

"Some are hamburger and some are filet mignon," he said.

Poston said some of the teams have asked to work Law out again, and he's scheduled to return to Detroit tomorrow for a second look.

Asked whether it was conceivable Law could get an offer similar to the four-year, $24 million deal he turned down from the Patriots last season, Poston said, "That's hard to say right now. We haven't really started negotiating. I told some teams to give us their numbers and some have, but we haven't negotiated yet."

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

We know, we're just as tired of Ty Law updates as everyone. But still, we'll have to deal with these daily blurbs until something concrete happens. Law will try and show teams that he is 100% and hopefully have a contract in hand early enough in training camp to involve himself with the defense and learn the nuances of whatever system he ends up joining.

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12. IDP: SD LB Merriman: Chargers Don't Expect Much From Rookie

Clipped from: San Diego Union-Tribune article by Kevin Acee 7/24/05

Merriman will be the consuming story until he arrives - and even thereafter, until he actually shows what he can do.

He was drafted with the idea he would play outside linebacker opposite Steve Foley and chase down the quarterback and other ballcarriers with abandon.

Now, thanks largely to his not appearing at any of the team's offseason workouts due to concerns over being injured before signing a contract, Merriman might not be such a major contributor early on.

"If and/or when we reach agreement with Merriman, I'm not sure what kind of opportunity he's going to have," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He's going to have to make a statement because of the fact he hasn't been here . . . Shawne has excellent skills to be a pass rusher. As I look at it, whatever we can get out of Shawne Merriman will be nothing but a bonus."

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

Well, you can cross Merriman's name off your IDP draft list at least for now. Unfortunately for Merriman and the Chargers, the Postons seem to have struck again. This time, it'll likely cost Merriman an opportunity to make a significant impact in his rookie year. The Chargers appear ready to move on without him. While his presence could certainly have helped the team this season, their defense was markedly improved last season. While we don't expect them to be amongst the league's elite, this news about Merriman doesn't affect our thinking one way or the other about them.

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13. IDP: FA LB Boulware: Browns Pass On Signing Him - For Now

Clipped from: Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Tony Grossi 7/24/05

Forget about Peter Boulware joining the Browns - for now.

"We haven't closed the book," General Manager Phil Savage said. "I told [agent Roosevelt Barnes] that we're still open to it, but down the line. We're not signing him now. If we did anything, it wouldn't be for a couple weeks."

Savage wasn't overly impressed with Boulware's private workout earlier this month. He doesn't think the veteran linebacker is sufficiently recovered from knee and toe surgeries to be able to participate at 100 percent in training camp.

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

Expect Boulware to find a team during training camp, or at the latest, just at the start of the regular season. Clearly, if the Browns are passing on him, then they don't feel confident in his ability to remain healthy just yet. With a little more time to rehabilitate his leg injuries (not to mention players currently on rosters getting hurt), Boulware will be well worth the potential upside and teams will take the risk on signing him. In fact, the fact that the Browns are publicly leaving the door open still means it bodes well for him to eventually end up in Cleveland. There'd be no reason to say they were still considering him if it weren't true.

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


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