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Volume 6, Issue 98 (Monday, July 25th)

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Hi Folks,

Thanks to our Marc Levin for rounding up these stories tonight. Training Camp is here. 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 Tuesday, and let's get to it.

Joe Bryant

A. (Premium Subscribers) - Deep Looks at Training Camp Questions
Our Jason Wood takes a detailed look at the questions you want answered as we head into the most important part of the Summer. I've had people tell me this feature alone was worth the subscription price and I agree with them.


1. SF - QB Smith: First Big Name Rookie To Sign
2. MIA - RB Williams: Williams Apologizes and Gains Some Forgiveness From Teammate
3. CHI - QB Grossman: Q&A With Chicago Quarterback
4. MIN - Rookie RB Fason Signed
5. ATL - WR Jenkins Starting Ahead of Price
6. CHI - RB Benson's Contract Negotiations Not Moving
7. IDP: NEP Linebacker Battle Brewing to Replace Bruschi
8. IDP: DAL - FS Reese Has Inside Track On Starting Spot
9. IDP: PHI - DE Patterson Signed

1. SF - QB Smith: First Big Name Rookie To Sign

Clipped from: article by Jay Glazer, 07/25/05

The 49ers have agreed to terms with their top pick, and the top overall selection, Utah quarterback Alex Smith. The deal exceeds the total the Giants gave to Eli Manning, last year's No. 1 pick.

Smith's six-year contract is for $50 million and includes $24 million in bonus money, the most guaranteed money given to a rookie in the history of the NFL.

The signing of Smith is significant, as nearly every other draft pick has been waiting for the No. 1 pick's deal to get done in order to base their deals upon that contract.

Smith is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Niners this year ahead of last year's starter Tim Rattay and was signed to be the cornerstone for the next generation of 49ers football.

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Expect many of the first round picks to now start falling in line. Everyone has been waiting for Smith to set the standard by which all other first round contracts will go. It is great that Smith is signed before training camp starts so he will have the maximum time to get comfortable with the other players and the playbook.

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2. MIA - RB Williams: Williams Apologizes and Gains Some Forgiveness From Teammate

Clipped from: AP wire by Steven Wine

With an apology to fans and teammates, running back Ricky Williams returned from retirement and joined the Miami Dolphins for their first training camp practice Monday.

Lining up for his first play since the 2003 season, Williams took a handoff from Gus Frerotte and ran 20 yards to the end zone. But there was no defense on the field, and Williams is sure to meet stiffer resistance in the weeks to come as he tries to regain favor and reclaim a starting job.

At a team meeting Sunday after players reported for camp, Williams spoke briefly and apologized for the impact caused by his retirement a year ago. The Dolphins went on to finish 4-12, their worst season since the 1960s.

Williams reiterated his comments at a news conference after the first practice.

"There were things about life that I wanted to explore outside of football, and I had never had the chance," he said. "I realize by making that decision, I affected the team in a negative way and upset a lot of fans. I'm very regretful that people were hurt in the process of me doing that. I do realize that to a lot of people it comes off as being very selfish. So I do offer an apology to all the people who were negatively impacted."

Williams said he no longer smokes marijuana but declined to discuss the subject further. He faces a four-game suspension at the start of the season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.

His apology seemed to satisfy teammates, including center Seth McKinney, who a year ago called him a quitter.

"In the team meeting, he did what he had to do," McKinney said. "He's a man about it. We're all being men about it. Nobody is holding any grudges. We all want him back. He's a great player."

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Well, currying favor with his teammates is the most important thing Ricky can do right now. If his teammates are ready to accept him and forgive him, it shouldn't be too long before the fans lose some of their skepticism. At this point, we aren't doing anything other than giving Williams the benefit of the doubt and watching to see how he does. An excellent summer for him could mean he'll be running the ball effectively come week 5. Whether it's for the Dolphins or not is another question. Rookie and number two overall selection Ronnie Brown still must sign a contract and prove he belongs in the NFL (which we certainly think he does - but still, he needs to show it). Meanwhile, a player the team traded for last year in Lamar Gordon will still try to stake a claim to the starting job. Between those three players, the Miami Dolphins actually may have one of the deepest and most talented backfields in the league. The problem will be figuring out, by your draft day, if one of them will be receiving the bulk of the running back work ot if a committee approach will exist. We'll be doing all we can to help. At this point, with the team seeming to welcome Williams back, there is a definite mess for fantasy purposes. At least for now.

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3. CHI - QB Grossman: Q&A With Chicago Quarterback

Clipped from: by Larry Mayer

After spending most of last season as a spectator while recovering from knee surgery, Rex Grossman is thrilled to be back quarterbacking the Bears offense.

With the arrival of coordinator Ron Turner, receiver Muhsin Muhammad and linemen Fred Miller and Roberto Garza, Grossman said during a training camp interview that he's excited about what the Bears can accomplish this season.

Q: Is the most common phrase you're hearing from Ron Turner "get rid of the ball"?

A: No. The most common phrase I hear is, "We're going to do what we do and we're going to get good at something before we move on." Last year the volume of our offense was huge. Now we're just going to get good at something and then move on to another play and move on to another package and I think that's a comfortable approach for everyone here.

Q: How will the absence of unsigned first-round pick Cedric Benson hurt?

A: I think he'll be fine. He's eventually going to get here and he'll fit in as soon as he gets here.

Q: What are your impressions of prized free agent signee Muhsin Muhammad?

A: He's a great player. He runs great routes and catches the ball. It really helped me in the minicamps and the OTAs just having a go-to receiver and someone that I can trust on every play. He's really been a great addition to our team already.

Q: How do you develop a rapport with a new receiver?

A: Just create the timing at first. The rapport comes from trusting that he's going to get open and catch the ball and be where he's supposed to be and give you that target that you need. When there's a defender there, he'll always make sure the ball doesn't get picked off and that will build the trust in me to maybe anticipate a little sooner and throw the ball a little sooner and with more confidence. That's where my side of it comes where I can trust a receiver like that. We have great receivers on our team other than Muhsin and they're just waiting for their chance. I think that they're going to benefit from the addition of Muhsin as well.

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A healthy Grossman throwing to last year's number one fantasy receiver might turn a few heads, given that this is Grossman's second year in Lovie Smith's system. The Bears also should feature a run-based offense given the presence of Thomas Jones and high first round pick Cedric Benson, but don't completely overlook the fact that the Bears can pass the ball, too. While high fantasy marks are not expected from this team, Grossman may hold decent value in dynasty leagues. It is interesting that the team did not concentrate on upgrading the quarterback position and the Bears seem satisfied rolling with Grossman for the next few years.

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4. MIN - Rookie RB Fason Signed

Clipped from: Pioneer Press by Sean Jensen

Fourth-round pick Ciatrick Fason and seventh-round selection Adrian Ward agreed to three-year deals with the Vikings.

The Vikings traded up to select Fason, a key decision in retrospect because Onterrio Smith was suspended for the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

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The Vikings backfield is always an annual struggle for fantasy players. But, expect Fason to be in the mix somewhere. As mentioned in the article, the team traded up to get Fason and, ultimately, the move is paying off as Fason has some of the same skills that suspended RB Onterrio Smith has. We hope the Vikings backfield pans out into one back taking the bulk of the carries, but with current starter Michael Bennett's injury history and HC Mike Tice's penchant for trying new backs in starting roles, any Vikings back should be somewhere on your fantasy radar.

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5. ATL - WR Jenkins Starting Ahead of Price

Clipped from: / AP story

While the Atlanta Falcons await the receiver they drafted in the first round, 2004 top pick Michael Jenkins opened training camp as a starter over Peerless Price.

When quarterback Michael Vick stood behind center for the first snap of team drills Monday, Jenkins and Dez White were the first-team receivers. Price and Brian Finneran worked together as the second group of receivers. Roddy White, this year's first-round pick from Alabama-Birmingham, has not yet signed.

Jenkins said he was told "a couple of days ago" that he would open camp as the starter.

"That's what we're going with so far," Jenkins said. "It's early right now. We'll see how it goes.

"I just want to come out here and continue to work and keep learning from the best and try to help this team as much as possible."

Jenkins did not have his first catch in his rookie season until Week 8 and he finished with only seven receptions for 119 yards. But the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Jenkins made a big impression on the coaching staff both with his audition at receiver and his work on special teams as a rookie.

"One of the reasons Michael Jenkins is getting the look he is getting is he demonstrated to us on special teams he is a tough guy and he will play aggressively and he will fight people," said coach Jim Mora.

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The message from Mora to Price is pretty clear - "Get tougher and fight harder or watch the rookie do it". It's a long ways to fall for Price but he's been given plenty of chances to produce and simply hasn't delivered. Part of the blame can be placed on growing pains from Vick as he learned the passing game but Price has to shoulder the vast majority of the blame. I like what I'm seeing from Jenkins a lot and will be watching very closely to see how quickly he can make the jump to this level. One thing is certain though, Peerless Price is in real trouble when it comes to playing time.

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6. CHI - RB Benson's Contract Negotiations Not Moving

Clipped from: / AP

Jerry Angelo painted a darker picture Monday of contract negotiations with running back Cedric Benson, the fourth pick in the draft.

The sides have not spoken since the start of training camp, Angelo said.

"We're certainly on top of this," Angelo said. "We're very motivated to get him into camp. We made a very, very strong offer -- something we felt should have gotten it done. Obviously, they didn't think that. We have to respect their side, obviously. We'll just wait and see what the next step is."

Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, did not return a message left at his office Monday afternoon. San Francisco's agreement with quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the draft, on Monday is expected to set off a run of signings among first-round selections. Philadelphia defensive tackle Mike Patterson and New England offensive lineman Logan Mankins, the final two picks of the first round, are the only first-rounders to sign so far.

"We haven't talked; we're waiting to hear from them," Angelo said. "We'll just let it run its course. That's really about it. (There's) nothing imminent at all."

Monday was the Bears' first practice in pads. The first preseason game is Aug. 8 against Miami in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, and the season opens Sept. 11 at Washington. There's plenty of time to fix the flaws. At the moment, there's no shortage of optimism coming from the Bears' camp -- even though Benson remains unsigned.

Coach Lovie Smith is downplaying his absence, but what if negotiations drag on?

"I'm a day-to-day kind of guy," Smith said. "He's not here today. Hopefully, he'll be here tomorrow. We'll just deal with it as it goes. We have so much going on on the field right now, we really can't think and talk about Cedric until he gets into camp."

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Just don't forget about Thomas Jones. We expect everything to be fine with Benson but keep Jones on the back burner in case things go off track here. With Alex Smith signing, the negotiations for other first rounders will likely pick up the pace now. Don't be surprised to see Benson miss a few days but then come in and produce.

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7. IDP: NEP Linebacker Battle Brewing to Replace Bruschi

Clipped from: by Peter King

Bruschi played 86 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps last year, which is above the average for an NFL defensive starter. But he also participated in 40 percent of the Patriots' special-teams snaps in 2004, an absurdly high percentage for a starting player -- especially such a valuable one. A regular on the punt team and kickoff-return team, Bruschi was as intense on those jobs as he was in the middle of the defense.

The Patriots have worked outside linebacker Mike Vrabel on the inside during spring minicamps. They've signed inside linebacker Monty Beisel (Chiefs) and the versatile Chad Brown (Seahawks) in free agency. Bruschi's 86 percent will be shared, in some combination, by those three players.

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Replacing LB Teddy Bruschi - the heart and soul of the Patriots defense - will be a story to follow this training camp. But, if there is ever a team that showed both the NFL and fantasy players that the replacement can be nearly as good as the former starter, it is the Patriots. They just keep on rolling. Bruschi is a great player, probably the most valuable on the team after Tom Brady. But it's a great system too. So watch very closely who the Patriots use to replace Bruschi. All three of the possible replacements discussed above - Vrabel, Beisel, and Brown - have demonstrable skill and are landing in the perfect situation to make plays.

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8. IDP: DAL - FS Reese Has Inside Track On Starting Spot

Clipped from: Clipped from: Star-Telegram by Clarence E. Hill Jr.

Jerry Jones said finding a replacement for Darren Woodson at free safety was the least prioritized goal of the off-season. He said the team would find someone to play opposite strong safety Roy Williams. (Izell) Reese is the favorite because he's done it, starting 16 games the past two seasons with the Bills. Jones said the Cowboys know Reese can run and cover and he can tackle.

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Count on Reese to win the start. He was very good as a safety for the Buffalo Bills. At free safety across from stud Roy Williams, Reese might actually see more passes his way and be responsible for more tackles as folks run plays away from Williams. With the NFC East a division that still predominately likes to run the ball, and with a favorable schedule, the Cowboys' free safety could see some decent fantasy numbers.

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9. IDP: PHI - DE Patterson Signed

Clipped from: CBS wire reports

The Philadelphia Eagles signed first-round pick defensive end Mike Patterson to a five-year deal on Monday.

Though Patterson might not immediately step into a starting spot, he probably will get significant action because the Eagles like to rotate their linemen, especially the tackles.

Patterson will compete for playing time with Corey Simon, Darwin Walker and Hollis Thomas.

Patterson's assets are his strength and quickness, while his size was considered a weakness by some scouts.

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Since the Eagles rotate their defensive linemen, this may not be the biggest news to hit, but another first round selection signing - and an Eagles defender - is important fantasy news.

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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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