Man in the Middle

ENGLEWOOD — Through his trademark dark-tinted visor, D.J. Williams scanned the offense and barked out defensive adjustments like a general heading into battle.

At 6-foot-1, 242 pounds, Williams didn’t look like a player who was still trying to get the hang of things, and he certainly didn’t act like one. But if you ask the fourth-year vet how his transition from strong side linebacker to middle has gone this off-season, the learning curve has been a little steeper than one might think.

“It’s been a daily struggle, but it’s getting better,” Williams said. “Luckily I’ve guys like (John) Lynch and Sam Adams helping me as I go.” As if the move to middle linebacker, often referred to as the quarterback of the defense, wasn’t hard enough, Williams has also taken on the responsibility of filling the void in leadership left by the loss of Al Wilson.

After eight years of anchoring Denver’s defense, Wilson was released in April because of injury and salary cap issues. As a result, Williams, who has played on the outside since his freshman year at Miami (Fla.), was called upon to take over the reigns of the Bronco defense.

Holdout evokes memories of 1996

Jon Beason's holdout is not the nastiest in Carolina Panthers history, but it is the most perplexing. It's less about money than about how the money will be distributed.

The Panthers very much like Beason, a linebacker out of Miami whom they selected with the 25th pick in the draft. They like his instincts and his versatility, like him as a potential starter on the outside and as a backup in the middle.

Beason has missed the first seven days and 11 practices of camp. As of late Friday morning, there was no indication the Panthers were leaving a light burning so he'd know which room was his. There's no indication the holdout is about to end.

But Beason will have to be steadfast to approach the rookie record Tim Biakabutuka set in 1996 -- 27 days and 31 practices.

Biakabutuka says he worked hard during the holdout and thought he was in shape when he finally reported.

Cardinals Still Have An Edge - James certain he remains an elite NFL back

FLAGSTAFF – For a man who gained 1,159 yards rushing, Edgerrin James saw most of his 2006 season as a disappointment.

And so did many others.

The Cardinals’ running back arrived in Arizona owner of a four-year, $30 million contract and as savior to a moribund running game. It didn’t quite work out that way, especially when the team struggled through the first half of the year. He left some wondering if – despite just turning 29 Wednesday – James has what it takes to remain an elite back.

Those are the questions that burn James, mostly because he feels critics are missing the point.

“For the situation I was in, for what I was working with,” James said, “I did pretty good to hold up.”

Michael Irvin enters Hall of Fame, flaws and all

Long path to glory for South Florida inductee

Michael Irvin enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame today as the first inductee from South Florida.

The landmark moment again marks how Florida has risen in prominence in a sport that just several decades ago was dominated by players from Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Midwest.


Cornerback Phillip Buchanon played offense during 11-on-11 drills. Lining up at wide receiver, he caught a short hitch route before returning to defense on the next play.

"He's a guy we're going to work into our offensive plans a little bit," Gruden said. "He's a really athletic guy who can make plays. He's fast and he's got creativity after the catch, so there will be some things that we continue to look at with Phillip."


Nate Webster Update

Webster was with the starters at strongside linebacker. The competition is wide-open, but Webster has received a lot of repetitions with the starters.


Giants' sophomore WR slowed by rookie, cobwebs

ALBANY - When the Giants drafted Steve Smith in the second round in April, it marked the second time in as many drafts that the Giants took a wide receiver with their second pick.

Sinorice Moss didn't have the impact as a rookie last season that Smith hopes to have this year. Like Smith, Moss came in with high expectations of providing a speedy pass-catching option to complement veterans Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey. But a strained quadriceps in the first week of training camp hampered Moss all season, forcing him to miss all but six games.

So now Moss is playing catch-up a bit. He smiles when he hears talk that he's behind Smith on the depth chart at receiver, or that he needs to come out blazing to earn that No. 3 receiver spot. "The key thing for me is just being patient," Moss said. "People will say this or say that. There's competition everywhere. I just have to make some plays and show everyone what I can do."

Preston: Ravens say communication key to secondary success

Five days into training camp, and Ravens secondary coach Dennis Thurman likes everything he sees. But beginning tomorrow with a scrimmage against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium, it could all change.

The Ravens had the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense a year ago, but they also had their share of problems. When the Ravens played any team with a good passing game, there were a lot of nervous moments, and far too many breakdowns. Some were mental and others physical, but the Ravens gave up too many big passing plays.

Stopping those plays has drawn a lot of attention in training camp.

Greg Olsen Might Be The Difference Maker Devin Hester Is Supposed To Be

It seems that everybody has their own opinion on how Devin Hester being on offense is going to change things.  Be it Berrian and Hester having a good ol fashion foot race to the endzone, the one I am fond of, or running a double reverse or just being a decoy everybody expects that defenses will have to game plan him.
In truth though if they will need to game plan for a player who will see the field more, Bears first round draft pick, Greg Olsen is the guy.
G-Reg is already drawing some comparisons to Mike Ditka's work ethic and will give offensive coordinator Ron Turner a lot more options.

Turner can pair Olsen in a double-tight-end formation with Clark, who is coming off a career year, and force defenses to make a decision. If teams view Olsen as a receiving threat and insert an extra defensive back, that opens up opportunities for the Bears' running game.
If teams keep a linebacker on the field in the hope he can cover Olsen, good luck. There are wide receivers in the Bears' camp who would lose a foot race to the 6-foot-5-inch, 254-pounder. One result should be Rex Grossman improving his third-down completion percentage (52 percent) and passer rating (66.4) from 2006.
In a division in which every defense primarily plays the Cover-2, which leaves the deep middle of the field vulnerable, having the second-fastest tight end in the league matters.

"I'm eager to see how teams will handle that," coach Lovie Smith said. "After you see him out running routes outside, you can easily treat him like a wide receiver. He has those kinds of skills."

There are going to be some defensive coordinators spending more time in the film room then they hoped to, now having to insert schemes for when Olsen is on the field as well as Hester.

And if they manage to stop them, I am sure Berrian will be somewhere near the endzone and Muhammad will be his usual steady self waiting for the ball.


Irvin is "humbled" by the Hall of Fame

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Michael Irvin watched the Hall of Fame induction ceremony last year he pondered whether he would ever receive football's ultimate honor.

The man with limitless confidence on the field was riddled with doubts off of it.

"You've got to understand that class," he said. "John Madden, Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, Rayfield Wright, Warren Moon, Reggie White. That's what a Hall of Fame is.

"Those guys were great on the football field and off the football field. So to be honest with you, I doubted that I would ever do that."
Irvin's dream of stepping to the podium in Canton, Ohio will be realized Saturday when the former Dallas Cowboys receiver enters the hallowed hall with five other inductees.

Is this the Season of Sean?

Other than the generosity of Dan Snyder's checkbook, no Washington Redskins topic generates more praise than the performance, future and personality of safety Sean Taylor.

His teammates point to his physical conditioning and mental aptitude as reasons why last year's Pro Bowl appearance is the first of many.

“He's a beast,” linebacker Marcus Washington said.

“On the field, he's an animal,” safety Pierson Prioleau said.

His coaches point to his emergence as a vocal leader and unselfishness to play any role at any place on the field as reasons why he remains the right guy to build a secondary around.

“It's amazing how he's found ways to improve,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said.

Portis Won't Play Against Ravens

ASHBURN, Va. - It is only pre-season and it is only a scrimmage, so Redskins running back Clinton Portis will be a spectator on Saturday when the Redskins and Ravens get together at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Portis has been bothered by tendonitis in his right knee and he has not practiced since the beginning of the week. He has been limited to strength building activities and riding a stationery bike.

"If we had a game I could play. I am not injured," Portis said. "My knee is not even swelling up, it just gets tender. It's fine it just bother me when I make a cut or a sudden move."

While the injury is not serious, the right knee did bother Portis during off season work outs. With Portis out it will allow more time for Ladell Betts who emerged last year when Portis was limited to only eight games because of injuries.


Buchanon To Play Offense?

Tampa Bay re-signed cornerback Phillip Buchanon during the offseason with the intention of having him make a significant impact on defense and special teams.

The former first-round draft pick likely will be Tampa Bay’s nickel cornerback this season, and he’s one of the candidates to earn the punt and/or kickoff return jobs.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has liked what he has seen from Buchanon thus far. In fact, he intends to get the 5-foot-11, 186-pound Buchanon involved on the offensive side of the ball this year.

“You’re going to see more of Buchanon on offense,” said Gruden. “He’s going to play some offense for us. We’ll get him involved in the kicking game. There will be some things that we get to here later in camp.”

Less of him to love: Wife’s support helps Wilfork slim down, live healthier

FOXBORO - Vince Wilfork [stats] recognized the path he was inexorably beating. It led to the cemetery.

He saw firsthand the dire consequences of ignoring the warning signs of diabetes and high blood pressure. The former killed his father, David, in 2002, while the latter helped claim his mother, Barbara, months later.

His parents worked their whole lives to provide for Vince and his brother, but they did so at the expense of their own well-being. Wilfork watched his father shrivel from a powerful man of 280 pounds to one who needed to be carried to the bathroom. When he lost his mother, he was devastated.

Panthers Top Pick Beason Anxious Over Holdout

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Jon Beason wants nothing more than to put on his pads and sweat through two-a-day practices in 90-degree heat.

Instead, the Carolina Panthers' first-round pick is working out on his own, worried about how much he's falling behind as his holdout continues.

"It's been real hard," Beason told The Associated Press Monday in his first interview since the holdout began. "I've been talking to some of the rookies and the veterans on the team, telling them how bad I want to be there and I want to know what's going on.

"Obviously now it's a job, but I've been playing football since I was a little kid and I just love the game. Nothing would make me happier now than practicing in that heat of Spartanburg."

Robert Hite Zensah Babeh Commercial

Notebook: All vets but Franks return to practice

Ten veterans were excused and at least nine players sat out most drills in Thursday's morning practice, leaving the Packers with about three-fourths of a roster.

Coach Mike McCarthy said it's the only time he plans to excuse any veterans during training camp. They had two days off last year, but next Thursday's early practice will be dedicated to game-planning for the preseason opener two days later at Pittsburgh.

"A few guys were disappointed that they weren't on the (excused) list," McCarthy said. "It's not based on their status on the football team. It's clearly based on how many years (six or more) they played in. It's where their bodies are at in their career."

All the veterans except tight end Bubba Franks practiced in the night session.

Franks, on a one-a-day practice schedule because of a troublesome knee, was scratched in the eye during a team drill Tuesday night. An exam Thursday showed the injury is 90 percent healed, McCarthy said, and the team hopes he'll practice today.


Braun taking the big leagues by storm

Former Brevard County Manatee Ryan Braun was named the National League's Player of the Month and the league's Rookie of the Month for July.

Braun, who was called up to the big leagues on May 25, is the first player to win both awards in the same month since the rookie honor was first awarded in 2002.

The Brewers third baseman hit .345 with 11 home runs, 25 RBIs and 18 runs scored in July. He also had 12 multi-hit games during the month.

Overall this season, Braun is hitting .342 with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs in only 60 games.

Robert Hite Update

The Nets will sign free agent guard Robert Hite to a partially guaranteed deal, league sources said. The 6-2 Hite played 12 games for Miami last season and made an impression as a member of the Nets' summer league team.


Braun top NL Player, Rookie for July - Brewers phenom the first to win both awards in same month

Braun won both the National League Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards, becoming the first player to win both awards in the same month since the rookie honor first was established in 2002.

But he got word about the awards only after the Brewers' 12-4 loss to the Mets on Thursday, and he wasn't quite in the mood to revel in his latest achievement.
"It's certainly a great honor, something I'm proud of," Braun said, "but right now, I think the focus is on the team and trying to win games."

Sore legs sideline Giants' Shockey

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey missed two practices with sore legs at the New York Giants training camp on Thursday.

Shockey had complained that his legs were bothering him on Wednesday. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after the morning practice on Thursday at the University at Albany that the six-year veteran had upper leg soreness and would sit out both workouts.

Cornerback Kevin Dockery continues to be sidelined with a concussion sustained over the weekend.

"Last night the doctor said it is probably going to be day-to-day," Coughlin said. "It could be a while or it could be that he wakes up and feels better. But even when he does say he feels better, he is going to have to go through those tests to prove that he is ready to go."


Edgerrin James Update

Coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't sure how much running back Edgerrin James will play in the preseason. James, who prefers to play as little as possible until the regular season, likely will carry the ball more than he usually does because the offense is new and the line has been revamped. But Whisenhunt emphasized that James has been getting plenty of work in practice, too


Rashad Butler Update

With starting left tackle Travelle Wharton getting so much time off to rest his recovering knee, it's a little surprising that second-year tackle Rashad Butler hasn't gotten significant work with the first unit. Butler was a third-round pick last season, and the Panthers are said to think highly of him. It seems the depth on the offensive line might be costing him a closer look.


McDougle still confident he can make plays - Johnson: Oft-injured end 'doing much be

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- During training camp, NFL players are forced to fight for everything. Fight to impress the coaching staff. Fight to move up the depth chart. Fight to survive team cuts.

Jerome McDougle has faced much bigger fights in his life. He has had to fight for his life.

The Eagles defensive end was shot in the abdomen in a car robbery attempt just before the start of training camp in 2005. He sat out the entire season but was able to make a full recovery and play in 2006.

That experience has given McDougle a different outlook on football.

"It puts it in perspective," McDougle said. "When you go through something like that, that's real life. Football is just a part of your life. You still have your family, you still have your loved ones, and after football you're still going to have a life."

Now, McDougle has another fight ahead of him -- the fight for a roster spot.

Hester's fast start hits a speed bump

BOURBONNAIS -- Suddenly, Devin Hester doesn't look so invincible.

When the Bears opened training camp last week, Hester was nearly perfect in making the transition from defensive back to wide receiver. But a right hamstring injury has slowed the second-year man and kept him out of practice the last two days. If the injury persists, the Bears' plan to use his explosiveness in a variety of ways could be affected.

Coach Lovie Smith, who initially downplayed Hester's injury, expressed a bit more concern after Thursday's practice.
"It's a concern the first day he missed," Smith said. "But beyond that, that's how training camp goes, especially with skill guys. You look across the league, just about every team has a guy who is dealing with some things like that. When they get a little sore, you let them sit out for a while." Although not visibly upset, Hester expressed a strong desire to return to practice. He quickly has become one of the team's top offensive threats because he can line up in so many different places. Plus he already has established himself as perhaps the best return man in the league.

Center Battle Still Taking Shape

One of the most watched and talked about debates heading in to this year’s training camp is the developing battle for the starting center job between veteran Andy McCollum and the emerging Brett Romberg.

Six days into camp, it would stand to reason that perhaps one player has pulled ahead of the other and has the inside track on the job. Not so, according to coach Scott Linehan.

“It’s going to be one of those battles that will take place really when we start playing games,” Linehan said. “We evaluate it during practice with all players. But I think when we start playing games it will start to materialize.”

In other words, it’s too soon to come to any kind of conclusion about who will win the job. When McCollum returned from his knee injury early in the offseason, he took most of the repetitions with the first team offense in the full squad minicamp.

But entering training camp, Linehan wanted to have both centers get plenty of work with the first team offense. So, McCollum and Romberg were instructed to police themselves and split the reps.

Camp Day 4: Stylish Webster Pow-Wows 'Backs

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Nate Webster doesn't look like a trash-talking maniac. He's got more of a tranquil style.

He wears his shorts halfway down his calves and his white undershirt hangs eight inches below his jersey in the back. The long white seeves covering his arms give way to bright orange gloves, all of which hang stiffly by his side when he walks instead of swinging. His movements are rounded and slow.

Once he covers his dreads with his helmet, however, Webster mutates into a pretty animated football player.

"On the sideline there's no reason to be vocal," he said, sauntering toward the locker room. "You can't talk about it if you don't do it. You've got to be about it. You show it when you're on the field."

The eighth-year linebacker was all about it Wednesday morning. Just ask Cecil Sapp. The fullback/running back hybrid fired through a gap in the line as a thud ventured from behind a pile of bodies. Webster made it clear who was on the other end of the pad-popping excitement.

"All day!" a helmetless Webster yelled in Sapp's face as he walked back to the huddle. "He don't make it!"

Edge looking to return to winning form

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James was collared by linebacker Monty Beisel as he burst through the line during a non-contact drill.
"Hold up! Hold up!" coaches shouted.

Beisel let go, but James kept churning his legs and didn't stop until he was 15 yards downfield.

James didn't look like a back who had gained 3.4 yards per carry last year, his lowest average in eight NFL seasons. Nor did he look like a back who was planning to coast into retirement any time soon.

"I still feel young," said James, who turned 29 on Wednesday. "I still feel good. If you come out here and just watch me practice, you wouldn't think I've been playing nine years."

Andre Johnson's optimism a good sign

Through all the losing and all the frustration, Andre Johnson never uttered a complaint. If you're interpreting his silence as not caring, you're making a mistake.

He saw all the same things you saw and probably felt the same way you felt about a lot of them. He simply decided to fill no notepads.

"That's not me," he said. "I'm not a guy that needs all the attention. I don't want to be on ESPN on Sunday making a fool of myself. Sometimes, things need to be said. I don't have to be on TV to say it. I can just go up and talk to a teammate or a coach."

Santana Moss Update

Also, WR Santana Moss is being watched ever so closely (I blogged about this a while back when they signed Corey Bradford). There is some concern about lingering groin/hip problems and his workload is being curtailed a bit. Bubba said that Santana has been experiencing discomfort in his groin, based on him compensating. Moss missed much of the offseason with the groin/hip problem. "He feels like he's compensating a little bit on his leg, so he's got a soreness in his groin instead of the hip flexor/abdominal area (which he hurt this offseason. I asked specifically if Santana had been compensating for discomfort in his hamstring - a problem with him going back several years - and Bubba said that Santana was compensating for "his leg in general, the other part, the hip flexor." Could be a case where they rest him in the scrimmage as well.


CP Update (and other injuries, too)

Portis will be working on his conditioning and strengthening the area around his swollen right knee for the time being. Would be very surprising if he were to practice anytime before next Monday and Bubba Tyer, director of sports medicine, laughed when someone suggested Clinton might participate in the scrimmage Saturday in Baltimore.

No way they're going to risk anything there.

So it's a setback, but, the Redskins say, a minor setback and something not uncommon for a football player trying to get back into full playing shape after a lengthy absence due to tendinitis. Once Portis started cutting and turning and exposing the knee to contact, the knee was aggravated and discomfort set in.

There is no set timetable for a return, Bubba said, but he expects it to be a matter of "days" for Clinton to get back, and not "weeks."


Najeh Davenport Update

Parker's replacement at tailback is Najeh Davenport, who's looking more fit, powerful and agile than he did a year ago.

Davenport had some quality years with the Green Bay Packers before they let him go. Tomlin remembers him from his days on the defensive staff at Tampa Bay, and said this Davenport looks like that Davenport.

"He does," Tomlin said. "They just came at you in waves over there at Green Bay back at that time - Ahman Green, Najeh and (Tony) Fisher. You had to get ready for all of them. And he looks like that guy. He gutted us pretty good down in Tampa one year, about 75 yards on 14 carries. I've got a sick memory. I don't know why I remember that."

Close, coach. Davenport gained 70 yards on 13 carries in that 2003 game. He also returned a kickoff 56 yards.


Wayne’s message: Colts are still hunting for title

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Reggie Wayne came to training camp Sunday ready to hunt down another Super Bowl title.

Wearing camouflage gear from head to toe and dropping his mask barely long enough to answer a few questions, the Colts’ Pro Bowl receiver had a message for his teammates: Don’t settle for being the NFL’s target.

"They’re coming after us, so you’ve got to get ready, get after them and be prepared," he explained. "It comes with the territory."

In years past, Wayne’s stylish entrances have been more about comic relief.

He once rode to camp with Edgerrin James in a taxicab, joined James’ bus caravan of school children another year, and last July arrived at camp wearing James’ new Arizona Cardinals jersey to honor the Colts’ career rushing leader who left as a free agent.

Packers: Bubba looks to bounce back

GREEN BAY — Ascertaining exactly what went wrong for Bubba Franks last season is a difficult task these days.

Like politics and religion at a cocktail party, talking about why the veteran tight end struggled so mightily in 2006 is near the top of the list of taboo conversational topics — right below specifics about injuries — around the Green Bay Packers this training camp.

"Last year is last year," tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said after a recent practice. "I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about last year."

General manager Ted Thompson, meanwhile, would only say Franks "would be the first to admit he had a down year last year, and we're looking for a little bit of a bounce-back."


August 2, 2007 -- ALBANY - The obsession about who is not here at Giants training camp was supposed to revolve around Tiki Barber. That storyline was interrupted by a summer held hostage by Michael Strahan.

Strahan's absence and holdout greatly affects the defensive front; Barber's retirement changes the dynamic in the running game and alters the face of the offense. When someone was needed to get the tough yards, pick up the first down, offer a state-of-the-team address or, on occasion, to tweak the coaching staff, Barber willingly moved front and center.

Who fills that leadership void on the offensive side of the ball? Jeremy Shockey has raised his hand.

"I just feel like [Barber] was such a great leader, a great person, obviously you hate seeing someone like that leave, but it's life, he moved on, and this team is going to move on without him," Shockey said yesterday in his first comments since camp began six days ago. "I think we're going to be successful without him. Some guys are going to have to step up and take that leadership role and take command of this offense. It's still early in camp."

William Joseph Update

William Joseph, moved to defensive end because of Strahan's absence, said he probably will play both tackle and end if Strahan returns. "I don't mind that," Joseph said.


Carrying the ball runs in Payton's family

MONTREAL -- As far as Jarrett Payton is concerned, it is fitting the Montreal Alouettes play home games at Percival Molson Stadium, near the top of Mount Royal.

The Payton family has always felt at home on a mountaintop, whether it was National Football League record books or at the precipice of a hill in the Mississippi delta, where Jarrett's late father, Walter, pioneered off-season conditioning en route to missing just one game in a glorious 13-year career.

When he retired following the 1987 season, Walter Payton, who died in 1999 of a rare liver disease, was the NFL's all-time leading rusher. He was also one of the league's best citizens, and that legacy lives on each year at the Super Bowl when the Payton family presents the NFL's man-of-the-year award, which is named after the legendary Chicago Bear.

Bills WR Parrish treated after experiencing dehydration symptoms

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Receiver Roscoe Parrish was treated after experiencing symptoms of dehydration while the Buffalo Bills practiced in 90-plus degree temperatures Wednesday.

Coach Dick Jauron said Parrish was expected to be OK after he was sent as a precaution to a cooling tent located just off the team's practice field.

"I wouldn't say he did overheat, but we didn't want him to, and it was clearly gaining on him," Jauron said. He added the team took extra precautions because of Parrish's slim, 5-foot-9, 172-pound build, which hardly includes any body fat.

"Athletes like that, we've got to watch carefully," Jauron said. "So when he looked like he was starting to get to a point where he might have trouble, we decided to get him out and cool him down."

Parrish made his way to the tent on his own about 75 minutes into practice. Under the supervision of Bills trainers, Parrish spent about a half-hour soaking in a pool before being led to the locker room.

Bryant McKinnie Update

Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie returned to camp. He missed all 9 of the previous practices with hamstring issues. "I worked hard to get back, but it's hard when you see someone else play your position when you feel you can help out," McKinnie said. Head coach Brad Childress noted that McKinnie got beat by defensive end Ray Edwards on a bull rush, and also praised Edwards for having a good camp. Childress didn't seem too worried about McKinnie, however, who clearly needs to shake off the rust, which is normal for any player missing significant camp time.


Shockey speaks . . . but has little to say

ALBANY, N.Y. -- When Jeremy Shockey pops off to the media, it's news. Now, when Shockey doesn't pop off, it's also news.

The Giants' Pro Bowl tight end met with reporters yesterday for the first time since arriving at training camp late last week. And in a surprising development, he said nothing that would grab a headline in 4 1/2 minutes of questioning -- even though he was given the opportunity to comment on Michael Strahan's holdout.

"I don't want to talk about that," Shockey said when asked about Strahan. "That's Mike's business. I respect him, he's a Hall of Fame player. And what he's doing, that's none of my business."

Shockey then cut a follow-up question short by saying, "Again, I don't want to talk about it."

Earful is an eye-opener - Seymour lectures rookie Brown

FOXBOROUGH -- If Kareem Brown didn't grasp the seriousness of being suspended for the first three days of training camp for an unspecified violation of team rules, Richard Seymour, the doyen of the defensive line, made the rookie painfully aware.

"One thing that kind of hurt was Richard Seymour told me that he was disappointed in me and that I should know better," said Brown, who spoke to reporters yesterday for the first time since his suspension was lifted Monday. "Coming from a guy of his status that took a toll on me as a rookie."

Brown, a defensive lineman from the University of Miami, would not go into details about why he was suspended, saying, "It's just something you should know better." The fourth-round pick said he didn't think the team would hold his transgression against him long-term.

"They know me better than that, and if they thought it was going to be a problem they wouldn't have drafted me," said Brown. "It was kind of one of those slap-on-the-wrist, 'Come on dude, you got to do better.' "

RB Gore to miss at least three exhibitions

Frank Gore's broken right hand, although not a big deal as far as injuries go, probably will keep the running back out of the 49ers' first three exhibition games.

"I'd like to see him at least in the last week," coach Mike Nolan said. "I don't want to downgrade the importance of the preseason. It's important. It's to get your timing down. You have to get the feel of things."

Gore broke a bone in the hand in a noncontact drill Monday morning. He will have a cast put on the hand this coming Monday to allow him to practice. He will not practice until then.

In his stead, the 49ers will take a long look at Maurice Hicks, Michael Robinson and rookie Thomas Clayton. The club will probably keep two of three once final cuts are made.

"We know a lot about Michael. We know a lot about Mo," Nolan said. "Thomas Clayton, we'll find out about him. Michael is still developing as a running back (after playing quarterback at Penn State). There's a lot to be gained by giving those guys work."

Kellen Winslow Update

Best Player: There are people in camp that are just going out there and playing tremendous, and one of those men is Kellen Winslow. Amidst all of the drops in camp, Winslow is catching every single ball that is thrown to him, including some of the ones that originally appear out of his each. On Tuesday, he was able to haul on a pass from Frye down the sideline, catching over defensive back Jereme Perry.


Leon Williams Update

Mean Leon: Linebacker Leon Williams will probably continue to replace D'Qwell Jackson this year in nickel and dime packages, as that's what he's been doing in camp so far.


Cleveland Browns offense to see healthy dose of Winslow

Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. played through pain in his right knee last season because he felt he owed the Browns after his season-ending motorcycle accident in 2005.

But he underwent microfracture surgery on the knee Jan. 30 to alleviate that pain and participated in contract drills Saturday just six months after the controversial procedure.

"It's a lot stronger than it was last year," said Winslow in his first interview since the surgery. "It's the first day back, my legs are underneath me and I'm just getting healthy."

Roscoe Steals Show At First Night Practice

The smallest player on the field had the biggest impact at the Bills first night practice of training camp as Roscoe Parrish electrified the crowd in attendance with some big plays in the passing game.

All of them came in the 11-on-11 team work portion of the night practice. After pulling in an intermediate reception on the third play from scrimmage, Parrish went deep two plays later. Lined up as an outside receiver Parrish ran a go route on the fifth play of the series got behind Ashton Youboty and J.P. Losman timed his pass well for a 60-yard touchdown hookup with the ball doing all the work.

The crowd loved it as those in attendance cheered boisterously.

"Well J.P. did a good job throwing the ball downfield and earlier this offseason I said I wanted to help contribute on offense as much as possible this year," said Parrish. "J.P. threw the ball well down the field and that's what we have to continue to do to get better each day out here."

"Some big plays tonight," said head coach Dick Jauron. "It's a controlled practice so you don't know what would occur in a real game, but the timing was good and the throws were good. Roscoe has got unique skills. It was good to see it."

Big strides for humble Hester

BOURBONNAIS — With Devin Hester rapidly approaching rock-star status, there could be concerns that the 24-year-old won’t be able to keep a level head or stay focused.

Not to worry.

Celebrity and hero worship on the football field are nothing new to Mr. Excitement, who is making fans attending training-camp practices at Olivet Nazarene University sit up and take notice every time he lines up at his new position of wide receiver.

At Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach, Fla., Hester was the top-rated recruit in one of the nation’s top producers of football talent, and he was the consensus top defensive back in the country.

Edgerrin James looks to follow Curtis Martin's path

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Curtis Martin never blocked for Edgerrin James, but James sees big things from following in Martin's footsteps.

That path, littered with would-be tacklers, could ultimately lead both to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Martin, 34, retired July 27 as the New York Jets' all-time leading rusher and the fourth-leading rusher in league history. James visited Martin in New York weeks before James began his second training camp with the Arizona Cardinals.

They shared a night on the town and their goals beyond football.

"I made a special trip to New York just to go see Curtis," says James, who turns 29 Wednesday. "I look at Curtis as a mentor. He's one of the greatest players to play the game."

A flawed man of the street, Michael Irvin rises to a flawless finish

PLANO, Texas - Lord knows he's still trying. Even 1,500 miles away. Even a quarter-century removed. Even with all the fame, the fortune, the three children attending the best schools and the 20,000-square-foot home with a movie theater, game room, two garages stuffed with luxury cars and the office he's sitting in now.

Look at him here. See for yourself how hard he's still trying: notebook open, pen in hand, phone to the ear for an hour now with his speech coach — or "voice-awareness teacher" — as Irvin calls him. Today's session involves some detail work on his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech, to be delivered Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

"Per-i-pher-al," Irvin, 41, says over the phone to the man in Los Angeles. "Is that better?"

Panthers' concussion-prone Morgan makes risky return

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Dan Morgan strapped on his extra-padded helmet, adjusted his special mouthpiece and ran onto the field, knowing some people think he's making a horrible decision.

The Carolina Panthers' linebacker is trying to return from at least the fifth concussion of his career, the one that forced him to miss the final 15 games last season.

There are disturbing stories of the long-term effects of multiple blows to the head, from memory loss to depression to dementia. But there was Morgan Saturday morning, running around the practice field in a steady rain, knowing that many think he's putting himself at risk.

"I know everybody thinks that and I know that," Morgan said. "Anybody who steps on the field is at risk, but I am more so because I have had more concussions than the average person.

McGahee has jittery beginning with Ravens

WESTMINSTER, Md. -- Willis McGahee had barely gotten used to his new shoulder pads when it came time for him to start carrying the football.

Eager to impress, McGahee took off around left end. He was met by sixth-round draft pick Prescott Burgess, who showed a bit too much enthusiasm in the no-contact drill by steamrolling the running back and separating him from the ball.

The hit confirmed what McGahee suspected all along: The Baltimore Ravens never let up, even during the first day of training camp practice.

"These guys know how to win. I found that out the first day I ran the ball; my first carry was a fumble," McGahee said Tuesday, the second day of camp. "It doesn't get any better than that. I'm going to have to get my hardhat on and get ready to play."

Winslow cheered for being on field - Browns tight end talks of '06, surgery recovery

BEREA: With a 4-12 season winding down in 2006, Kellen Winslow could have decided to stop playing in pain.

But that thought never crossed his mind, even though the Cleveland Browns' tight end was still feeling the effects of reconstruction of his right knee, which he injured in a May 2005 motorcycle accident.

He practiced sparingly during the season but never missed a game, finishing with 89 catches. That not only ranked ninth in the NFL, and first at his position, but also tied hall of fame tight end Ozzie Newsome's team record for most receptions in a season.

‘‘From the start of the season, it wasn't where I wanted it to be,‘‘ Winslow said of his knee. ‘‘I felt I owed the Cleveland Browns last season. It was very difficult what I went through coming off my injury, but I think I did pretty well.

‘‘This is the game I love to play. This is all I want to do. I love being out there with my team. It's the greatest place to be.‘‘

Q&A with Willis McGahee

Willis McGahee's ability to revive the Ravens running game will be one of the bigger stories of this summer's training camp. After spending the first four years of his career with the Buffalo Bills, McGahee opened his first day of training camp by fumbling after a tackle by rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess. Were there any surprises from the first two days of camp? No surprises. Just trying to get the little jitters out of me, that's all. [It's a] new team. I have to get used to new blocking schemes and all that. So the only thing is the little bit of jitters I've got.

Were you annoyed by Burgess' hit during Monday's practice? No, it didn't annoy me. It taught me a lesson, that's all. Just have to be better prepared. He's just doing his job, so you can't fault him for that. How does training camp in Buffalo compare with training camp here? It's a smarter training camp. [Coach Brian Billick] focuses on making sure we learn. Everyone can go out there and hit, but he wants to make sure we learn and get all the little things down.

Bills aim to launch Roscoe - Speedster presents a big-play threat

PITTSFORD — Each of the three touchdowns Roscoe Parrish scored last year were among the most exciting plays of the season for the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills’ coaches are determined to find a way for him to create more fireworks this year.

“Roscoe is probably the most dangerous player we have on offense right now, because he can do so many things with the ball in his hands,” Bills receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said.

Consider that Lee Evans caught 82 passes last year for 1,292 yards. Parrish caught 23 for 320.

The most dangerous player? Parrish?

Tolbert is by no means discounting Evans’ role as the Bills’ best receiver. His statement is simply a sign of how excited the coaches are about Parrish’s breakaway ability.

Recharged Portis no longer running mouth for others

Clinton Portis says he's a changed man. Clinton Portis says he now lives in the present. Clinton Portis says he's going to worry only about himself, discuss only himself.

"I'm going to keep Clinton Portis out of trouble," the Washington Redskins running back vowed. "I'm going to keep Clinton Portis focused. I'm going to keep Clinton Portis on top of his game.... I don't know how anybody feels. I don't know what anybody's thinking. I don't know what anyone's going through. The only thing I know is what's going on in Clinton Portis' life."

Told about his star running back's remarks, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he couldn't remember Clinton Portis ever talking himself into trouble. Gibbs wasn't at this summer's Beach Blitz in Virginia Beach, when Portis' remarks to a television station supporting Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's right to engage in dogfighting sparked a national backlash that lasted a couple of weeks.

Redskins officials say Portis was bewildered by the firestorm his comments drew from one vocal segment of the public. The remarks were made at the end of a long, playful exchange with teammate Chris Samuels. He'd done nothing but express an opinion, one born out of his rural southern roots. There, he later explained, dogfighting was common.

Bears’ Hester could be mayor of Bourbonnais

RECEIVING LOVE: Bears fans are flocking to Bourbonnais in huge numbers, and the one guy they seem to love the most is Devin Hester.
And what’s not to love?

While returning an NFL-record six kicks for touchdowns last season (and another in the Super Bowl), he was the most exciting rookie athlete to hit Chicago since Michael Jordan. And now, coach Lovie Smith wisely has turned Hester over to offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who so far in training camp is having fun getting the ultra-quick kid.

Hester is lining up in the slot and catching slant passes. He’s lining up wide and beating defensive backs deep. He’s running reverses. Can Hester pass the football?

I’m guessing Turner will find out before the Bears break camp.

Meanwhile, every time Devin touches the football, the fans go wild. During Saturday night’s practice at Ward Field on the Olivet Nazarene campus, Hester actually made a grab while sitting on his keister after slipping. The ensuing ovation was so loud one would have thought he had ridden Evel Knievel’s motorcycle through a ring of fire.

The previous day, he caught a short pass and then juked out safety Mike Brown, who could only shrug and shake his head. That drew cheers and laughter from the crowd.

Don’t worry, folks. Hester is still fielding lots of punts and kickoffs. He knows where his bread is buttered. So does Lovie Smith.


49ers' Gore breaks his hand at camp

Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore could miss all four of the 49ers' exhibition games after breaking his right hand Monday during the team's first padded practice of training camp.

Gore was involved in a non-contact ball-handling drill in the first of the team's two practices when he was injured. Gore left practice to have the hand checked and initially the 49ers believed the injury was only a bruise. But X-rays revealed the fracture, which team doctors expect will take about a month to heal.

The 49ers play their first exhibition Aug. 13 against Denver and open the regular season Sept. 10 against Arizona.

Gore, the NFC's leading rusher last season with a team-record 1,695 yards, will be held out of practice for the rest of this week, Coach Mike Nolan said. A cast will be put on the hand and Gore could resume practicing next Monday, Nolan added.

To ensure his health and readiness for the start of the season, Gore might be held out of all the exhibitions, Nolan said.

"We'll wait and see," Nolan said. "It's a little too early to tell on that. At the same time, we expect him back, but we're not going to do anything with him for the rest of the week. Next week, we'll re-evaluate him and hope to get him out on the field, but he'll probably have a cast on him."

McGahee gets rough welcome at Ravens camp

WESTMINSTER, Md. - The first hour of the first day of training camp had barely passed when a rookie linebacker named Prescott Burgess lowered his head into Willis McGahee's chest.

McGahee, the prized running back going at half speed, fell to the ground and fumbled away the football.

There was a gasp, and not the kind you want to hear in the first hour of the first day of any NFL training camp.

Especially at the Baltimore Ravens' camp, where expectations are higher than normal in great part because of the arrival of McGahee to run the football -- the one that Burgess, a sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan, had just dislodged on the first real hit of training camp.

Beason talks have stalled, agent says

SPARTANBURG --The agent for rookie linebacker Jon Beason said Monday the Panthers are refusing to give his client a reasonable contract.

"If ever a player wanted to be practicing in training camp, it's Jon Beason," Michael Huyghue said. "But there's a business side to it, and I don't think our requests are at all unreasonable.''

Beason, the 25th overall pick in this year's draft, has missed five practices. Huyghue said the sides remain in contact, but there has been no progress in talks. The Panthers do not comment on negotiations. Beason is in Jacksonville, Fla., and working out with a personal trainer.

Huyghue said the sticking point isn't about money, but the way cash is distributed. The agent said the Panthers have refused to include a second-year option as part of Beason's guaranteed money. Huyghue said almost all other first-round picks who have signed have been given second-year options. Instead, he said, the Panthers are offering a bonus in the third year that would not be guaranteed and would be based on Beason reaching certain incentives.

The seven players drafted immediately after Beason have signed and the picks closest to Beason have received five-year deals worth an average of slightly more than $2.2 million a season with about $6 million in guaranteed money.


Kareem Brown returns to action

After serving his suspension for reportedly breaking team rules, fourth-round draft pick Kareem Brown is on the practice field. Brown is hanging out talking with some of the other defensive linemen. Brown is much taller and lankier than guys like Vince Wilfork, Kenny Smith, Rashad Moore and LeKevin Smith. With his frame, I could certainly see Brown playing a Mike Wright role where he splits his time between tackle and end, assuming he makes the team.


Pat Burrell Update

At Philadelphia, Pat Burrell homered and had three RBIs and Jamie Moyer allowed one run in seven innings in Philadelphia's rain-shortened win over Pittsburgh.

The Phillies learned before the seven-inning victory that Chase Utley, their All-Star second baseman, could miss three-to-four weeks after undergoing surgery to have a pin placed in his broken right hand. Utley was hit by a pitch on Thursday.

The game was called after a 61-minute delay following the seventh inning.

Burrell homered in a six-run third when the Phillies sent 12 batters to the plate. Michael Bourn had hits in each of the first three innings and went 4-for-4. Greg Dobbs drove in two runs.

Ronny Paulino had three hits and an RBI for the Pirates.


PATS NOTEBOOK: Meriweather in the fold

FOXBORO - He was drafted as a safety, but Brandon Meriweather's future as a Patriot may take a different course because of circumstances not under his control.

The first-round draft pick from Miami, signed officially Saturday to a five-year contract, made his first appearance on the practice fields as a cornerback - partially out of necessity, partially because it was coach Bill Belichick's plan for him all along.

"We'll work him at both spots," Belichick said after Saturday's practice. "He's played a lot of different positions in college. He's played the nickel position, the corner position, the safety position. We'll use him in some different spots and see how it goes.

"People on our team are going to have to have some versatility and play different spots anyway, so he falls into that category," he said.

3-4 defense finally familiar to Jets' Vilma

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- At times last season, the Jets' 3-4 scheme fit Jonathan Vilma like a glove. He felt he was on the verge of bursting free, being the player he was in the 4-3 alignment, earning NFL defensive rookie of the year honors and a Pro Bowl berth in his first two seasons.

Then, there were times when Vilma felt as though he was lost in the wilderness, playing a game that was foreign to him.

Vilma, who made his mark as a sideline-to-sideline hitting machine, had perhaps the toughest adjustment to the Jets' new defense a year ago. Once able to simply run to the ball and make plays, he had to hold his inside linebacker position and take on centers and guards that outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds.

Now, in his second season in the 3-4 defense, Vilma feels the difficult times are behind him -- and the entire unit.

"I feel light years better than last year," Vilma said yesterday between two-a-day sessions at Hofstra. "This is my second year in it. I'm not just learning the defense, I'm trying to learn ways to improve myself in the defense and improve the defense overall."

Kareem Brown Out

Kareem Brown, the Patriots fourth round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, was suspended until Monday for violating team rules according to a report in the Boston Globe. While no further details of Brown's suspension were available, it could not have been a worse start for the rookie to begin his first professional training camp in the dog house.

Brown is vying for a reserve role on a line filled with first round talent. Although Brown has the same pedigree as nosetackle Vince Wilfork – both attended University of Miami – don't expect any favoritism from the coaching staff just because of Miami's football powerhouse reputation.


Former Chaminade, UM star Jon Beason's holdout continues

SPARTANBURG, S.C. Na'il Diggs feels as though he's contending with the supernatural as he seeks to keep his starting job with the Carolina Panthers.

First-round pick Jon Beason was expected to take Diggs' spot at outside linebacker. But with the former Chaminade-Madonna and UM standout unsigned and holding out, Diggs worked with the first team for the second consecutive day Sunday.

"It's a ghost. Right now, that's what it is. I'm really competing against a ghost," Diggs said. "What I've got to do is keep making plays on the field."

Morgan expects to be ready for opener

SPARTANBURG, S.C. Dan Morgan strapped on his extra-padded helmet, adjusted his special mouthpiece and ran onto the field knowing some people think he's making a horrible decision.

The Carolina Panthers' linebacker is trying to return from at least the fifth concussion of his career, one that forced him to miss the final 15 games last season.

There are disturbing stories of the long-term effects of multiple blows to the head, from memory loss to dementia. But there was Morgan on Saturday morning, running around the practice field in a steady rain.

Hester off to fast start in new position

BOURBONNAIS -- Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner watched another strong practice performance by converted wide receiver Devin Hester, then pondered the question whether he's ever had someone so quick in his offense.

"Maybe one time. I had a guy in an all-star game, the Blue-Gray Game, a guy named Steve Smith," Turner said about the Carolina Panthers star. "Maybe Steve Smith. That might be about the only guy.

"I didn't know much about Steve Smith and I saw him catch a pass in that game, a 10-yard hook. He caught it; the next thing I knew it was an 80-yard touchdown. I said, 'Whoa.' I hadn't seen anything like that before. But (Hester has) got the same kind of explosiveness."

Hester catching on quickly as receiver

Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner watched another strong practice performance by converted wide receiver Devin Hester, then pondered a question about whether he's ever had someone so quick in his offense.

"Maybe one time. I had a guy in an all-star game, the Blue-Gray game, a guy named Steve Smith," Turner said about the Carolina Panthers star. "Maybe Steve Smith. That might be about the only guy.

"I didn't know much about Steve Smith, and I saw him catch a pass in that game, a 10-yard hook. He caught it; the next thing I knew, it was an 80-yard touchdown. I said, 'Whoa.' I hadn't seen anything like that before. But he's (Hester) got the same kind of explosiveness."

Hester caught a few more short passes and broke them Saturday morning. He also displayed a knack for running sharp sideline routes and showed good hands on a well-executed, 12-yard square-out.

Clinton Portis Wants to Turn Training Camp Into a Resort

In 31 NFL training camps, the reporters show up looking for something to write and hoping they can get at least one player to say something more interesting than, "We're just going to take this season one game at a time."

At the Redskins' camp it's different because Clinton Portis is around. Dan Steinberg has a post at D.C. Sports Bog on what Portis said to the media Friday, and it includes more interesting quotes than most NFL players give the media in their entire careers. This is my favorite and, I think, Steinberg's:

"My idea of improving training camp is turning this into a resort, and that's going into the season healthy. I think the more guys you can get into the season healthy, the better chance you have, but Coach Gibbs and them's idea is totally different than mine, and they the rulers of this team. They the people who run this team, so whatever it is, I've just got to buy into it. I can't be an outcast any more, I can't stand up and speak on behalf of the team.

The whole thing is worth reading because Portis has the extraordinarily rare quality of being simultaneously articulate and incomprehensible.


Panthers, Beason far apart

(AP) - It appears one rookie won't be on the field when the Carolina Panthers practice tomorrow.

The team reached a stalemate in negotiations today with first-round pick Jon Beason, making it likely he'll be the team's first rookie holdout in four years.
General manager Marty Hurney says the two sides are, in his words, "miles apart."

Beason is a linebacker from Miami and the 25th pick in the draft. He's expected to start camp working at outside linebacker, but also provide insurance at middle linebacker in case Dan Morgan can't return after multiple concussions.

‘Chud’ leaves big impression - Browns love offensive coordinator

BEREA, Ohio — The Browns’ offensive players compliment Rob Chudzinski even when he isn’t the direct topic of conversation.

When he is, what comes next would make him blush.

Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was asked yesterday how excited he was to be reunited with Chudzinski, the Browns’ first-year offensive coordinator, after working with him at the University of Miami and his rookie year with the Browns. He kept it simple.

“I think he is the best coach in the NFL,” Winslow said.

Winslow feeling good, thinking big

It doesn't take a genius to identify Kellen Winslow as a dynamic, game-changing type of player.

But when new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was told Winslow called him "a genius" after Saturday's practice, Chudzinski graciously accepted such kudos.

"I haven't been called that too much in my life," Chudzinski said. "I'll take it."

Browns fans are hoping the mutual admiration society Winslow and Chudzinski have formed -- both are former University of Miami tight ends now enjoying their third different player-coach relationship -- is just beginning to grow.

Genius calls the plays, star tight end makes them happen. Seems simple enough, doesn't it?

"I think (Chudzinski) is the best coach in the NFL," Winslow said. "He's awesome. He's great to have around."

Portis still talks good game

There were no bold predictions about a long playoff run. There were no specific projections on yards rushing and touchdowns scored. But Clinton Portis, just as he was the day he joined the Washington Redskins in 2004, remains bold and outspoken.

"CP will be CP — I'll get my yards and my carries and I'll get my touchdowns," he said.

With that, Portis was off and running during a long-winded press conference before the Redskins' first training camp practice yesterday.

Portis is healthy — his shoulder, hand and knee are fine.

Portis is happy — he missed football last year.

Portis is at peace — confident that he understands his role within associate head coach Al Saunders' offense.

Payton, Alouettes dump Argos

Call it a sweet debut for Jarrett Payton.

The son of late NFL great Walter (Sweetness) Payton rushed for a team-high 63 yards in his first CFL game to help the visiting Montreal Alouettes to a 26-13 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.

Payton, who missed the first four games of the season after turning an ankle during Montreal's first training-camp scrimmage, made three runs of nine yards or more, including an 18-yard scamper in the first quarter. He was forced out of the game for a stretch in the second half due to leg cramps.

"He ran hard but unfortunately was unable to play four quarters because he cramped up," said Alouettes coach Jim Popp. "But I thought he played well."

Lewis likes new schedule

The grueling practices of training camp are tough on everyone in pads, but perhaps a little more so for the big guys. Guys like Damione Lewis, the 6-foot-2, 301-pound defensive tackle who is entering his seventh season.

Thus the news that the Panthers have altered their training camp schedule this season to incorporate more night practices and fewer two-a-days was like announcing free ice cream for every kid on the block.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Lewis upon his arrival at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC on Friday. “Obviously it’s keeping us out of the heat of the day and giving us a lot longer to recover. And I think that’s a great deal.

“The older you get, the longer it takes to recover. I think it’s going to help the veteran guys a lot. The rookies, it doesn’t matter because it’s the first time they’ve been through it anyways. So it’s going to hurt for them regardless. For us, it’s a big deal.”

Dealing with training camp is something that should get easier with time, but doesn’t necessarily. Lewis, who spent his first five camps with the St. Louis Rams and is now beginning his second with the Panthers, was asked what training camp compares to.

Rams Training Camp Battle: Andy McCollum vs. Brett Romberg

Training camp is finally here and FanHouse breaks down the most important position battles heading into the season, team by team.

Talk about your superstar power. Your household names. I think the question is: who in the world isn't watching the battle for the Rams' starting spot at center?

Sarcasm aside, the showdown between Donut Brother Andy McCollum and Brett Romberg is probably the most important position battle to the team's success this year. McCollum will be without his partner in baked goods, Adam Timmerman, and is coming back from a knee injury that handed Romberg the starting spot for three games at the end of last year. He's fully healthy, and players aren't supposed to lose their job to injury, but there's one problem in McCollum's case: the offense performed much better with Romberg snapping to Marc Bulger.

Romberg's also almost 10 years younger than McCollum. And the Rams can't afford another potential injury on the offensive line -- especially when the defense, with nine starters returning, looks poised to give up close to 25 points a game again. The offense will most likely have to carry the Rams this year, and the perceived stability Romberg brings could be the difference here, especially when so much of the Rams success hinges on the two guys -- Steven Jackson and the newly-minted $65 million Bulger -- that stand directly behind center.


Payton gets shot for banged-up Alouettes

Away from the pressures of home and facing a defence that is vulnerable against the run. Is there a better setting for Jarrett Payton to make his Canadian Football League debut?

Not according to Montreal Alouettes coach Jim Popp, who will unleash the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton against the rival Argonauts on Thursday night in Toronto.

The younger Payton, sidelined since turning his ankle during Montreal's first training-camp scrimmage, should get the bulk of work in the Alouettes' backfield since a healthy Robert Edwards didn't make the trip.

"I've been waiting for this a long time … just to have the opportunity," the six-foot-two, 217-pound running back told the Gazette in Montreal on Wednesday. "Now that it's here, it's like a dream."

Kevin Everett Update

Kevin Everett, tight end - Despite his solid blocking and good production late last season in limited opportunities, there are many in Buffalo who aren't enthralled by starting tight end Robert Royal. That's where Everett, the team's third-round pick in 2005, comes in. The 6-4, 253-pounder didn't have much of a career with the Miami Hurricanes, but he entered the NFL with plenty of potential. However, after missing his first season because of a knee injury, Everett was healthy in time for 2006 but finished the year with just one reception.

If the athletic 25-year-old finally starts to turn the corner this summer, it would provide yet another offensive weapon and a multidimensional threat for Losman (Everett has the speed to get downfield). In the process, Everett would form a very good one-two punch at TE with Royal, who is primarily a short-yardage man. Should Everett remain in neutral, though, he'll likely get his walking papers from Jauron soon enough, thus paving the way for Brad Cieslak and Ryan Neufeld to serve as Royal's backups.


Seesaw: Braun making a name for himself

Rising star Ryan Braun of the Brewers is positively killing it in July. Braun's batting .340 (16-for-47) with seven home runs, 13 RBI and two stolen bases. This rookie star boasts a robust .339 batting average for the season and a stellar 1.062 OPS. He's been a five-category stud for fantasy owners, far exceeding the production of most third basemen this year.


Report: Seahawks agree to terms with Atkins

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) - The Seattle Times reports that defensive end Baraka Atkins, the first of the Seattle Seahawks' 2007 two fourth-round draft choices, has agreed to terms.

The newspaper says Atkins, from the University of Miami, is expected to sign a multi-year deal today.

Atkins joins veteran ends Patrick Kerney, Bryce Fisher and Darryl Tapp as the top four players at right and left defensive end currently on the Seahawks depth chart.
The Seahawks released center Nick Jones last week and kicker Tyler Jones today to make room on the roster for defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and Atkins.

Mebane, the Seahawks' third-round pick from California, signed with the Seahawks today.

Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson, Seattle's second-round pick, is unsigned.

The Seahawks' rookies are scheduled to report for training camp on Thursday. The team's veterans will report for camp on Saturday, with the first practice scheduled for Sunday morning.

Training camp is being held at the team's headquarters in Kirkland for the first time since 1996, after the players and coaches traveled to Eastern Washington University in Cheney the past 10 summers.


Browns Alter Winslow's Roster Status

League sources have informed The Orange and Brown Report that the team has officially changed Kellen Winslow's roster status to "Active/Physically Unable to Perform". 

According to's Adam Caplan, Winslow can be removed from this status at any time up until the point that final rosters are set. At that point, the team would have to remove him from PUP status, or he would not be able to play for the first six weeks of the season.

At present, though, the designation opens up an additional roster spot on the team.  

Speculating, the roster status change likely means that Winslow won't be used in the opening days of training camp, and the Browns wish to use another roster spot either to evaluate a player or bring in another tight end to run plays starting on Friday.

The OBR's Lane Adkins comments that the status change "comes as no surprise, as Winslow was to be limited at best in the beginning stages of training camp".


K. Brown in fold

The Patriots and fourth-round draft choice Kareem Brown have finalized a contract agreement today. Brown's deal is a four-year package.

"We’re happy we got it done," said his agent, Peter Schaffer of Colorado-based All Pro Sports & Entertainment. "Working with the team, we found ways to get him into camp on time, and get the contract we were looking for. It’s a win-win situation."

On a lighter note, the Patriots might have set an unofficial NFL record by signing a Brown in each of the last three weeks. First, Troy Brown. Then, Chad Brown. Now, Kareem Brown.

In addition to Brown, the Patriots announced the signing of seventh-round pick Mike Elgin.

That leaves first-round pick Brandon Meriweather as the lone unsigned draft pick at this time.


Sinorice Moss Update

Sinorice Moss – So much was expected from last year’s second-round pick. The speed, the explosiveness, the famous older brother that’s already accomplished so much in the NFL… But then a quad injury knocked Moss out of the box for basically the whole season. All eyes are going to be on him to see what he can do – and if he can stay on the field. As much as the Giants drafted Steve Smith as insurance against Amani Toomer, you have to figure Moss was part of that decision as well.


Packers preview: End result? More disappointment for Franks

GREEN BAY - We would appreciate it if you would keep reading, but to understand just how meaningless some of the things coaches say in these position-by-position previews leading up to training camp are, one need look no further than at the Green Bay Packers' tight end position in 2006.

Entering camp, veteran Bubba Franks was convinced the tight ends would be more involved in the team's offense, having seen evidence during the club's offseason minicamp and organized team activity practices of the various ways he and his colleagues would be used.

On top of that, Franks was sure he would rebound from a disappointing 2005, when he missed much of training camp while negotiations lagged on a seven-year, $28 million deal and ended up with then-career lows in receptions (25), yards (207) and touchdowns (one) in 10 injury-plagued games. After all, his former position coach, Jeff Jagodzinski, had returned as the offensive coordinator under new coach Mike McCarthy.

"He's going to be more involved. He will be," said Jagodzinski, who coached Franks to the Pro Bowl in 2001 (36 catches, 322 yards, a career-best nine touchdowns), 2002 (career-high 54 receptions for 442 yards and seven TDs) and in 2003 (30-241-7). "Look at when I was here before. See if he was involved. He'll be involved. He doesn't need to worry."


If Sinorice Moss could follow his brother's lead after injuries dogged him as a rookie, the Giants would be ecstatic. After an injury-plagued rookie season, Santana Moss became a solid third receiver in his second season with the Jets, before catching 74 passes a year later.

Sinorice Moss must stay healthy this summer and show he can make big plays, both as a receiver and a returner.