Around the league

News and notes from Wednesday and other things you want to know from around the NFL:

RB Lee Suggs is listed as 'day to day' with a neck injury. Suggs was hurt in practice last Wednesday when he fell over a lineman. He did not play Friday against the Bears in the final preseason game, nor did he practice Monday.

The Browns had Tuesday off. It might be squinting to read between the lines, but William Green, the other half of the one-two punch at running back, did not play against the Bears, either. The Browns might have used the opportunity to showcase James Jackson for trade, but the other possibility is Suggs won't be ready for the Ravens Sunday, and coach Butch Davis didn't want to risk getting Green hurt, too.

Suggs was reluctant to talk Monday, and a member of the Browns media relations department shielded him for most of the locker room session with the media.

"I feel good," Suggs said quietly, though he winced pulling up a pair of shorts.

Asked whether he'll play against the Ravens Suggs answered: "It's not up to me."

SS Lawyer Milloy (broken forearm) isn't likely to open the regular-season Sunday. The coaches are leaving the decision on playing with the injury up to Milloy but he hasn't been able to practice since the injury and game planning is underway for the Jaguars with backup Coy Wire in the lineup.

CB Terrence McGee (leg contusion) continues to work his way back but is questionable for Sunday. He's the team's primary nickel back. He'll be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

RB Travis Henry, who missed the final two preseason games recovering from bruised ribs, is healthy. He is back practicing and will start the regular-season opener on Sunday against Jacksonville.

WR Josh Reed held off the challenge from first-round pick Lee Evans to remain a starter. Reed will shift to the slot during three-wide sets; that was the position he was very effective in during his rookie campaign.

QB Brooks Bollinger will likely begin the season as the Jets backup to Chad Pennington. That's based on his exceptional play in the preseason finale. However, once Quincy Carter, signed just a few weeks ago, becomes more comfortable in the Jets offense, he will be elevated to the backup role and Bollinger will be the third quarterback.

WR Wayne Chrebet (groin, calf and knee) will return to practice this week. Coach Herman Edwards described Chrebet as 50-50 for the season opener. Rookie Jerricho Cotchery would start in Chrebet's place as the No. 3 receiver.

CB Donnie Abraham returned to practice after missing the preseason finale with a knee contusion. He is expected to start the season opener against the Bengals.

FS Jon McGraw is doubtful for the season opener with a pulled abdominal muscle. If he can't go, veteran Reggie Tongue will start at strong safety and rookie Erik Coleman will move from strong safety - where he started three preseason games - to free safety.

MLB Sam Cowart has headed off the challenge of first-round pick Jonathan Vilma. He retained his starting job in the middle. Vilma is the eventual successor but his presence helped rejuvenate and push Cowart, who has underachieved the last two seasons and hasn't been the impact player he once was. Cowart had 145 tackles but made few impact plays. He'll continue to rack up tackles but the Jets want to see Cowart come up more in big spots, especially against the run.

DE Bryan Thomas has been nursing a sore hamstring but will likely play in the season opener. Thomas has gotten bigger and it's slowed him down some. But the Jets will use him mostly is pass coverage and when they drop back five in pass coverage, Thomas will be one of them. He will also play some at tackle.

DT Josh Evans is questionable for the season opener with a stiff lower back. Second-year player Dewayne Robertson will retain the starting role but Evans was to play prominently in the defensive tackle rotation along with Jason Ferguson, James Reed and possibly Bryan Thomas.

WR Jonathan Carter has been bothered by a sore knee but is probable for Sunday's season opener. He will play as the fourth or fifth receiver and will also return kicks.

RB Jerome Bettis will not open the season as the starter for the second straight year. Last year, Amos Zereoue beat him out, but after six games lost the job back to Bettis. This time, it's Duce Staley.

LB Kendrell Bell is questionable for Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. It prevented him from playing in the final three preseason games.

KR/PR J.J. Moses did not have a fumble in 94 chances on kickoffs and punts last season. There had been some speculation the Texans might look elsewhere, with coach Dom Capers stressing the importance of players being able to contribute to other areas of the team. Moses is designated as a receiver but he was rarely used in that role and did not have a reception in 2003.

"I just thought that after watching us go through preseason, we're getting ready to play for real," Capers said. "We're not experimenting anymore. J.J. is a guy (about whom) I have confidence in catching the football.

"The opportunities J.J. had, he did well. He went out and answered the challenge. We really limited his opportunities because we felt we knew more about him. It helped our team because we know we have a little more depth in some situations. I'm just not quite ready to jump out there and put it in somebody else's hands."

RB Domanick Davis should benefit from the Texans' switch to a zone-blocking scheme this season. He had 1,031 yards in only 10 starts this season and has set a early goal of 2,000 for this season. Durability, however, continues to be an issue.

QB Byron Leftwich was bothered the last two preseason games by a bruised thumb. It seemed to be affecting his throwing in the final two preseason games. He'll have to cope with the injury against Buffalo. He's also suffering from a head cold.

RB Fred Taylor carried the ball only six times in the preseason. He missed the last two games with a foot strain, but says he'll be ready for the regular season.

TE George Wrightster missed much of the preseason with a foot injury, but hopes to be ready Sunday. If he's not, Todd Yoder will start.

RB Dorsey Levens could re-sign with Philadelphia after Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Levens, who was signed three weeks ago after Correll Buckhalter went down with a season-ending knee injury, was cut Sunday when the club reduced its roster to 53 players.

Because of injuries at the linebacker position, coach Andy Reid ended up going with seven linebackers, which is one more than usual, and just three running backs -- starter Brian Westbrook and backups Reno Mahe and rookie Thomas Tapeh. Westbrook is the only one of the three who's carried the ball in a NFL regular-season game.

But once his linebackers get healthy, he'll likely cut one -- probably Jason Short -- and re-sign Levens.

"There's a possibility that Dorsey comes back," Reid said. "We had to do what we had to do to fit the roster for this week and for this coming game. We'll just see what happens in the future."

LB Nate Wayne is nursing a hamstring injury, but expects to practice this week and start Sunday. He will be on the weak side against the Giants. If he reinsures the hamstring, Keith Adams will replace him.

LB Caleb Miller would start at weak-side linebacker if Brian Simmons can't go. Simmons had arthroscopic knee surgery last week and is trying to come back.

C Rich Braham is recovering well from arthroscopic knee surgery last week. The Bengals remain hopeful that he can play in the opener against the Jets. If Braham can't go, Larry Moore will start at center.

LB Brian Simmons had arthroscopic surgery a week ago and is progressing well. Well enough to play Sunday? Coach Marvin Lewis said he hopes so and will provide an update Wednesday. If Simmons can't play, rookie Caleb Miller will start.

WR Peter Warrick has returned successfully from nagging knee pain. It kept him sidelined most of the preseason. He had five receptions in his first game, the finale against Indianapolis, and said he experienced only minor pain.

LB Kevin Hardy moves back to strong-side linebacker, his natural position. That's after working as middle linebacker in 2003. His switch outside is expected to help the rush defense and provide an effective pass rusher on third down.

QB J.P. Losman (broken leg) is up walking with a protective boot and crutches. The team's first-round pick out of Tulane is projected to be sidelined the first half of the regular season and during a visit to practice on Monday acknowledged that he's facing a long road back. "It's going to be tough," he said. "(But) ... you've got to bounce back. Anyone who hangs his head isn't going to last long in this league."

RB Joe Burns' preseason was marred by an assortment of aches and pains. He didn't have a single carry in four games but made the final roster based on his past performance as the team's No. 3 back and the fact he can also play fullback and back up Daimon Shelton.

QB Drew Bledsoe was sacked three times in 16 possessions during the preseason. Like last year, the immobile Bledsoe was an easy target sitting in the pocket. He was much more effective using a 3-step drop and hitting his receivers quickly in the West Coast style attack the Bills' new coaches have formulated.

QB Shane Matthews has a job for 2004 as Drew Bledsoe's backup. The 11-year veteran, signed by the Bills last Monday after a knee injury to Travis Brown, was assured a roster spot for the entire year when the team placed Brown on season-ending injured reserve.

RB Willis McGahee led the Bills in carries (51) and yards (167) during the preseason. How much work he gets when the regular season opens Sunday against Jacksonville is a mystery, however. It appears he will be featured on third downs and goal-line plays and also as a pass receiving option when he and Henry line up in the same backfield. McGahee showed a great nose for the end zone during training camp (seven TDs in goal-line situations counting a scrimmage vs. Cleveland).

WR Eric Moulds led the Bills in receiving in the preseason with eight catches for 116 yards. That was including a long of 35. He is fully recovered from the groin injury that slowed him most of 2003 and is poised for a big year.

WR Lee Evans caught just two passes for 12 yards in four preseason games. The coaches, more concerned with establishing the ground game and getting Willis McGahee on track, held Evans back and he should be allowed to use his speed and stretch the field as planned once the regular season opens on Sunday.

TE Mark Campbell had a quiet preseason with two catches for 12 yards. But he remains the team's No. 1 tight end who should post some big numbers given the team's switch to a West Coast style, possession-passing attack.

PK Rian Lindell had a solid preseason making 8 of 9 field goals.

DT Sam Adams is lobbing for more playing time in 2004. He got frustrated with the rotation system used last year that left him on the sidelines at key times. The 340-pound Adams can look exhausted but he's a player who is also able to tap his reserve tank and make a play when it's needed. With a year together, line coach Tim Krumrie may be more in tune with Adams and keep him on the field more.

LB Takeo Spikes, who had two sacks last season, hopes to raise that number in 2004. The Bills still do not have a dominant front four that can rush the passer and will have to manufacture pressure with the blitz. That's where Spikes comes in. He has 16.5 sacks in his six-year career and once registered six for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001.

CB Troy Vincent opens his 13th NFL season on Sunday against Jacksonville. He is looking to build on an impressive career line: 174 games, 858 tackles, 42 interceptions, 177 passes broken up, 14 forced fumbles, 4.5 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries. The Bills need Vincent to play man but also use a ton of cover 2 so he won't always be left on an island like he has been for most of his career.

QB Chad Pennington did not have a great preseason. That was mostly because he never got to work with the team's top three receivers at one time because of injuries to Santana Moss and Wayne Chrebet. Yet he's poised to start his first season opener for the Jets in his fifth season with the team. If he stays healthy, it will mark Pennington's first full season as the Jets' starting quarterback.

RB Curtis Martin had one of his heaviest workloads this preseason (22 carries for 92 yards). He is determined to turn those extra snaps into a faster start. Martin didn't get his first 100-yard game until the seventh game of the season last year.

RB LaMont Jordan worked his way out of coach Herman Edwards' doghouse to secure the backup spot. The Jets want to give Jordan more carries but it may take a game or two for Jordan to get back into peak condition.

WR Santana Moss played in just one game and didn't catch a pass in the preseason. That was because of a hamstring injury but he's ready to assume his role as the No. 1 receiver. While Moss isn't one of the league's top five receivers, and maybe not even in the top 10, he has tremendous speed and big-play capability once he gets in the open field.

WR Justin McCareins is coming off a great training camp. But without Santana Moss or Wayne Chrebet around much in the preseason and in practice, he didn't do much in preseason games (three catches). At 6-2, the Jets want to use McCareins a lot in the red zone, giving them a gig target - particularly in the end zone.

TE Anthony Becht may lose a few catches to Chris Baker as the Jets go to a two-tight end set more. Becht isn't a great blocker but still hasn't mastered catching the ball. He still drops too many and doesn't gain any yards after the catch. Baker is very athletic and the Jets think he can be used in the offense more.

PK Doug Brien was 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this preseason. He remains one of the league's most accurate kickers within 40 yards. He's weak on kickoffs though and the Jets may use punter Toby Gowin there.

DE/LB John Abraham is poised for a big season and it seems personal. Abraham was suspended for one game because of a DUI arrest early in the season and finished the season on the injured reserve because of a groin injury that some thought wasn't so serious. After critics painted him as overrated in the offseason, Abraham seems determined to get his career back on track in the final year of his contract. Always a pass-rushing specialist, Abraham will now spend half the time as a stand-up linebacker, which should boost his sack totals.

CB Ray Mickens will miss the season opener against the Bengals because of a sprained left knee. Rookie Derrick Strait would replace Mickens as the nickel back and undrafted free agent Roderick Bryant would play in the dime.

FB Dan Kreider again will be the only fullback on the roster. TE Matt Cushing will serve as the emergency backup.

QB Tommy Maddox solidified his hold on the No. 1 job with an outstanding preseason. He compiled a 112.3 passer rating.

QB Ben Roethlisberger was impressive in training camp but he hit a wall in his final two weeks. He finished with a 71.4 passer rating.

WR Plaxico Burress had the best training camp of his career and looks prepared for a big season.

WR Hines Ward can make it four 1,000-yard seasons in a row. No receiver other than him has ever had more than two in Pittsburgh.

WR Antwaan Randle El is the emergency No. 3 quarterback. The Steelers have decided to go with only two on the roster.

TE Jerame Tuman beat out Jay Riemersma as the starter. He's their best combination receiver/blocker.

K Jeff Reed made 3 of 4 field goal attempts in the preseason. He held off a challenge from Rob Bironas for his job.

QB David Carr admits being more comfortable during his third season compared to his rookie year. "If someone had asked me my first year, I would have said, 'Yeah, I know what I'm doing.' But I had no idea. Now, it's a confidence thing. You see something bad happening, and you know how to fix it."

QB Tony Banks did not take a snap in his first two seasons with the Texans. But that wasn't the case last year when he made three starts in place of injured starter David Carr. Banks led the Texans to victories over NFC champion Carolina and Buffalo.

RB Tony Hollings got plenty of work in the preseason with Domanick Davis nursing minor injuries. The Texans would like to get Hollings between 12 and 15 carries per game this season.

WR Andre Johnson spent most of the offseason working on keeping his hands on the football. Johnson set team records for receptions (66) and yards (976) last season.

WR Corey Bradford is someone the Texans want to get more involved in the passing game. Bradford averaged 19.2 yards per catch but finished with season low 24.

WR Jabar Gaffney will work mostly out of the slot position this season.

TE Mark Bruener's signing became even more crucial with Bennie Joppru out with a groin injury. Bruener is regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL.

K Kris Brown has converted 72 percent of his field goal attempts (65 of 90) the past two seasons.

DL Jerry DeLoach could get the starting nod at nose tackle for the season opener. That's while Seth Payne recovers from major knee surgery. Deloach has made 32 consecutive starts at defensive end for the Texans. "If we start Jerry, that's no reflection on Seth, it's just that Jerry's had an awful lot more work than Seth," coach Dom Capers said. "We like the track Seth is on. He's come a long way. I expect him to play a significant amount of time Sunday, but Jerry Deloach has stepped in and done a nice job."

NT Seth Payne played about 25 snaps in the pre-season finale against Tampa Bay. It was his first game action in nearly one year. The Texans are expected to wait until Friday to determine whether Payne or backup Jerry Deloach will start the season opener.

LB Kailee Wong has the ability to play inside and outside. That likely had an effect on the Texans' decision not to keep Shantee Orr on the season-opening roster. Wong worked at inside during training camp as an insurance policy if one of the regular inside linebackers - Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman - are injured during the season.

QB David Garrard made a remarkable recovery from surgery for Crohn's Disease in the offseason. He is ready to step if Byron Leftwich is injured. He had an 87.7 quarterback rating in the preseason while Leftwich struggled at 57.6.

RB LaBrandon Toefield missed much of training camp with a high ankle sprain. He suffered it in a scrimmage and didn't play until the final preseason game when he had five carries for 30 yards, but the Jaguars hope he'll be ready for the regular season.

WR Jimmy Smith looks like he's ready for a big year at age 35. Although he only caught four passes for 51 yards in the preseason, he had a touchdown catch called back by what appeared to be a bad call.

WR Reggie Williams, the team's top draft pick, struggled in his first camp. However, he caught five passes for 75 yards in the preseason. He lacks speed and had too many drops in the preseason.

WR Troy Edwards lost the starting job to Reggie Williams. That's because he didn't make much of an impact in training camp although he caught five passes for 66 yards. The Jaguars are hoping he's a better fit as a third receiver.

TE Kyle Brady (finger) will miss the first four games. That's after undergoing surgery on the middle finger of his right hand with a torn tendon.

MLB Mike Peterson is the team's leading tackler and has emerged as a team leader on defense.

DT Marcus Stroud was the team's only Pro Bowler last year and is the best defensive player. He's one of the main reasons they were No. 2 against the run last year.

CB Rashean Mathis will step into Fernando Bryant's old job at left cornerback. He is hoping to play at a Pro Bowl left in just his second season.

QB Donovan McNabb never has had a 60 percent completion percentage in his five NFL seasons. That's despite playing in four Pro Bowls. But with the addition of Terrell Owens, he's got the best arsenal of pass-catching weapons that he's ever had.

QB Koy Detmer played in just one preseason game because he was recovering from knee surgery. But his familiarity with Andy Reid's system and the fact that he's kicker David Akers' holder was why he will be the No. 2 QB and Jeff Blake will be No. 3.

RB Brian Westbrook averaged 13.1 touches per game last season. But with the departure of Duce Staley and the season-ending injury to Correll Buckhalter, that number is expected to increase to about 20 this year.

RB Reno Mahe will be the club's backup running back Sunday against the Giants. That may change later on, though, when the club is expected to bring back Dorsey Levins, who was cut Sunday. Mahe also will be the club's primary punt returner.

WR Terrell Owens likely will be seeing a lot of double coverage Sunday. The Giants will try to make Donovan McNabb use his other receivers.

WR Todd Pinkston managed to hang on to his starting job despite his poor play last season. That was particularly true in the NFC Championship Game against Carolina. The Eagles are hoping the crackdown on contact outside of the five-yard chuck area will benefit the toothpick-thin Pinkston.

WR Freddie Mitchell had a solid preseason and outplayed Todd Pinkston. But coach Andy Reid wants to keep him inside, where he has developed into a solid slot receiver who has earned Donovan McNabb's trust.

TE Chad Lewis still is listed as the club's starting tight end. But the Eagles will use much faster second-year man L.J. Smith more in passing situations.

PK David Akers booted a 54-yard field goal last week in the Eagles' final preseason game. He struggled occasionally last year with the wind at Lincoln Financial Field.

DT Paul Grasmanis still is battling an Achilles tendon injury that could keep him out Sunday. He didn't practice Monday. The Eagles have just three other tackles on their roster, and two of them -- Hollis Thomas and Sam Rayburn -- also are coming off injuries.

LB Dhani Jones is expected to start on the strong side Sunday against his former team. That's even though he missed most of the preseason with a high ankle sprain and still isn't as familiar with the defense as he'd like to be.

WR Quincy Morgan is philosophical about opening against the rival Ravens. "We need to win this game," he said. "If we don't, that's not how we're going to be the rest of the season. But I could tell you if we do win, that is how we'll be the rest of the season."

K Phil Dawson's kickoffs were consistently inside the 5-yard line in preseason. That's the deepest they've been in his six years with the Browns.

MLB Andra Davis made 14 tackles in the first game against the Ravens and nine in the second on '03. Jamal Lewis rushed for 295 and 205 yards in those games respectively.

QB Carson Palmer will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Jets. He has shown maturity and a willingness to check down on pass routes, resisting the pull to force the ball into coverage with his strong arm.

QB Jon Kitna did not look good in the preseason. However, he was playing with third- and fourth-string players most of the time. Lewis credited Kitna for continuing to act like a coach on the field.

RB Rudi Johnson has looked quick on his feet and in sync with his offensive linemen. He hits holes in the right time at the right place.

RB Kenny Watson could play ahead of rookie Chris Perry because of Perry's minor hamstring injury. Watson is a solid receiver who gives the Bengals some of what they get with Perry -- a safety valve on third down.

WR Chad Johnson wants to join Jerry Rice as the only players with 1,800 receiving yards in a year. He says he studied film of every game last season and needs to make just one more play each game to reach his goal.

WR Kelley Washington is an effective third receiver who can work the middle of the field. Washington is 6-3, 218.

TE Reggie Kelly is an effective blocker. He's one of the reasons the Bengals improved in red zone offense in 2003. He returned at the end of camp from a right thumb injury caused by a detached tendon.

K Shayne Graham was perfect in seven preseason field goal attempts. That was after setting a franchise record with 88 percent good in 2003. Graham has the total confidence of the offense and quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer says he knows to throw the ball away if the offense is inside the 30-yard line because of Graham's accuracy.

DT Tony Williams is playing for a new contract in Cincinnati or somewhere else. He was annoyed by talk of Daryl Gardener unseating him. Gardener was supposed to sign with the Bengals in June but couldn't because of a back injury. Williams had a good preseason.

CB Tory James will have to raise his game a notch after his lukewarm preseason. He is being counted on to cover the other team's best receiver.

Niners Digest Top Stories