NFL player ticker

It was a busy spring around the NFL, and with spring minicamps and organized team activities wrapping up throughout the league, here's a look at news, notes and player happenings surrounding some of the more prominent names in the league.

--- CB Nate Vasher's boycott of the Bears' organized team activities continued for a second week, and it appears as though he and the team are a long way from being on the same page. Upset with a contract that will pay him a base salary of $425,000 this season, the two-year veteran has missed seven straight OTAs since participating in the Bears' only full-team minicamp the first weekend this month. Vasher, whose eight interceptions last season were third best in team history, has joined running back Thomas Jones and Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs as no-shows at the voluntary workouts at Halas Hall. All three players attended the mandatory minicamp. "I'm not worried or concerned," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said of Vasher's absence. "I'm disappointed more than anything. It's unfortunate, but these things happen. They don't just happen here, they happen around the league as well. Under Angelo, the Bears have been proactive in re-signing many of their own players before their original contracts expire. But they have almost always done that with just one year remaining on the current deal. They made an exception with Brian Urlacher, redoing his first contract with two years remaining. But he had already played three seasons and been a Pro Bowl pick each year. There is not a Bears precedent for reworking a contract so soon. "Not two years into their careers," Angelo said. "That's what our philosophy has been, and I made (Vasher) mindful of that."

--- RB Shaun Alexander was a no-show for the second week of Seattle's recent voluntary minicamp. Attendance was otherwise strong. Alexander appeared on a national cable television show in Los Angeles while his teammates were sweating it out at team headquarters. "He was doing the Best Damn Sports Show," Holmgren said. "As long as they talk to me about it ahead of time, which is what they do, then sometimes things happen and I'm OK with it. "Shaun was also very involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he had some speaking things in that regard in North Carolina. Our attendance and our offseason this year has been excellent. We've had a lot of people participate. That's what happens when you have a good season the year before, and you go to the Super Bowl and you're close."

--- RB Willis McGahee lives. After skipping new coach Dick Jauron's entire off-season of voluntary organized team activities, the mercurial running back took part in the Bills' recent three-day mandatory mini-camp at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills won't gather again until July 28 in Rochester when training camp kicks off in Rochester, N.Y. The Bills tried to downplay McGahee's absence for most of the off-season but it concerned them enough to send assistant coach Eric Studesville to visit McGahee in Miami to touch base and check up on him. McGahee said he was working diligently with other former teammates at the University of Miami, and judging by his trim, lean body, he wasn't lying. McGahee lifted his shirt for reporters to show off an enviable, flat, ripped stomach, the proverbial "six pack of abs" of late-night commercial fame. "I'm lighter and leaner," said McGahee, who last season played at 240 pounds, a weight he said made him feel sluggish. McGahee wouldn't say how much weight he has shed but it appeared to be at least 10 pounds. His goal is to be more explosive into the hole. At times last year, particularly when he failed to gain 100 yards in seven of his last eight games, he lacked acceleration into the hole and didn't seem to have the quickness he had the season before in getting around the edge. "I want to do better than I did last year, so there's always something to prove," said McGahee.

--- QB Daunte Culpepper's improving health was the highlight of the team's recent three-day minicamp. Culpepper showed how far along he is in his recovery from three torn knee ligaments with his drop-backs and mobility. Culpepper even dove on a fumbled football during a two-minute drill. "For the most part, physically, I feel great," Culpepper said. "I'm coming along, moving along. It's a day-by-day process and it's a lot of work. But I'm just glad to be able to go out, go through practice and not have any setbacks so far." Culpepper, though, is still unwilling to promise that he will be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh. "That's the perfect world," said Culpepper, who tore three knee ligaments last October while playing for Minnesota against Carolina. "I would love that, but at the same time, Coach (Nick) Saban and I are on the same page ... We just need to take this stuff day-by-day. "I'm not making any predictions. That's my goal, but like I said, there are limitations with an injury like this. I have to continue to work at it. It's a work in progress everyday."

--- QB Steve McNair has a month and a half to digest the team's offensive system after a later-than-usual trade. McNair was acquired from the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a fourth-round pick on June 8. "It's going to be a challenge for me," McNair said of learning the new playbook in a short period. "I have taken the challenge in the past and whatever it takes for me to get this game plan down, (whether it's) flying here two or three times a week, that's what I'm willing to do because I know what this team is capable of doing." With the playbook in hand for a few days, McNair ran the first-team offense in the Ravens' final minicamp. The stalemate in trade talks forced him to miss the previous four weeks of spring workouts, including 12 practices. That's why there is little time to waste. When McNair first met Jim Fassel, the offensive coordinator broke out a calendar and told McNair to cross off the days they definitely couldn't meet. So as the rest of the players and coaches started their extended vacation, McNair and Fassel will be hard at work for the six weeks leading up to training camp. "It's a bit of a cram course for Steve," coach Brian Billick said. "He's been through this transition before so I'm very optimistic that he'll pick it up quickly."

--- QB Carson Palmer threw against defense for the first time Thursday. At the end of the afternoon practice, Palmer participated in 11-on-11 team drills against a soft pass rush. "Overall, it's a great day because I wasn't bored watching practice," Palmer said following the afternoon workout. "I actually got to do some things. It wasn't a good practice as far as I'm concerned. I felt rusty, awkward and off-balance, but that stuff will come." Wearing gray sweat pants, which concealed his knee brace, Palmer moved with just a slight limp. He dropped back and threw a 45-yard completion on a fly pattern to Chad Johnson. "Nothing happened to his arm," the wide receiver said. Right tackle Willie Anderson said the entire offense got a lift with Palmer. "When he got back in the huddle, his presence, his command of the huddle, you would never know he hadn't been there," Anderson said. "It's a good sign. It gives everybody hope that he's going to be able to play in the first game." Palmer worked with trainers after the morning practice. "I think it's something in the back of my mind," Palmer said when asked if he thought about the knee during practice. "It's the first day. I sensed there was something else. Normally I'm out there making my point in the protection and making my reads. But there was something in my mind that made me slow down a little bit. And as soon as I feel my body is ready take over and I'm ready to play, I need to wipe all that out and just play football."

--- QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected by the team to recover from his motorcycle accident injuries in time to participate in training camp and start the season at quarterback Sept. 7 against Miami. "I want to assure everyone I am committed to a complete and timely recovery," Roethlisberger said. "I look forward to being at training camp in Latrobe and to winning football games this season." Roethlisberger left the hospital two days after he ran into a car June 12 in downtown Pittsburgh. He was not wearing a helmet. During seven hours of surgery, his jaw, broken in four places, was put back together with small titanium plates and screws. Because it was not wired shut, oethlisberger will be able to eat solid food and not lose the kind of weigh associated with broken jaws. "This technology allows us to have a more predictable outcome that usually does not require any additional major reconstructive process," said Dr. Daniel W. Pituch of Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Doctors expect a complete recovery and he should be healed within six or seven weeks, just in time for the Steelers to report to Latrobe, Pa. for their July 28 start of training camp. Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, already is picking up a new nickname, from Big Ben to Lucky Ben. He not only survived having his face glance off the windshield of a car, he came through without any significant injuries to his arms, legs or hands.

--- RB Michael Bennett, who the Saints are interested in trading. has drawn interest from Houston among other teams. New Orleans is in no hurry, though. Reggie Bush missed some of the offseason with injuries and Deuce McAllister is still rebounding from last season's injury, leaving Bennett to take the majority of repetitions in practice with the first team. "We've talked to them over and over again," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "At this point, they aren't just going to let their starting running back go." "I think teams know that we've got an abundance at that position, that we signed Michael under different circumstances than ultimately we ended up with and that we'll talk about him," Saints GM Mickey Loomis said. "I've told Michael and I've told his agent that if we can find the right situation for him, and it is the right deal for us, that we'd consider that. We haven't gotten to that point yet. "Michael, to his credit, has been nothing but professional. He worked hard in the off-season, worked hard at the mini-camps, looked really good. We were excited and are excited about Michael Bennett, but we haven't gotten an offer that says to us, 'Hey, we need to make this deal.'" Bennett was excused from the final week of the Saints' organized team activities following the death of his father.

--- RB Reggie Bush and the Saints are still in the early stages of contract negotiations. While it's early, Bush remains adamant -- as he has been since being drafted second overall by the Saints on April 29 -- about being on the practice field when camp begins. He denied rumors, however, that he or his agent is demanding he be paid like the top pick in the draft. "Obviously, I would like to be in training camp on time," Bush said. "At the same time, that's the difference between college and the NFL. It's a business now, and that's the way you have to look at it. "Obviously, in a perfect world, I would love to be in camp on time with a great contract and all that. I'm sure the Saints would, too. Hopefully, we can come to an agreement soon and get past that and play some football." "These negotiations are always hard," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "Every guy asks for a lot of money. But we'll get it resolved. It will take some time, but we'll get it resolved. He wants to be in camp on time, and we want him here on time."

--- WR Donte Stallworth is not on the trading block, according to Saints GM Mickey Loomis. "I've gotten a couple of calls, I think as a result of the rumors more than anything else," he said. "But we're not looking to trade Donte Stallworth. He's an integral part of our team and we're expecting a big year from him."

--- QB Chad Pennington threw during the first day of the Jets' formal mini-camp, as did the other three quarterbacks in camp -- Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger and rookie Kellen Clemens. In fact, Clemens took the reps with the first team in the morning practice, the first organized practice of the Eric Mangini era that was open to the media. Of course, Pennington was asked about that when he met with reporters after the morning practice. "I knew you guys would say that," Pennington said with a grin, but also an edge to his voice. "We've had a rotation every day ever since the beginning of spring practice. It's split down the middle, everyone gets reps. It's an equal opportunity for everybody." "You should not read into it one bit," Mangini said. "I didn't script the rotation based on (the media's) visit here today, it's the way that it fell. You'll see throughout the weekend each guy will work with the various groups." Pennington admitted that he is on a "pitch count," and while Mangini wouldn't admit that, he didn't dispute it either. "I know you guys want to see long balls, and my goal is not to come out here and prove that I can throw the long ball," Pennington said. "I would love to throw the long ball five, six times a day if it's there but I'm going to work within the offense. That's what coach wants us to do. When the read calls to make the throw, I'll make the throw."

--- RB Curtis Martin, who is trying to come back from knee surgery in December, was overlooked Friday by most of the media as they flocked to talk to Chad Pennington about his rehab from shoulder surgery. Martin, too, is trying to make a full recovery from injury and regain his form after an injury-plagued 2005 in which he finished with only 735 yards, the first time in his career he didn't reach the 1,000-yard mark. The Jets finished 4-12. "Yeah, it was a frustrating year," Martin said, "but more so because we lost, not because of the yards or anything but because we weren't winning games." When asked if this was another challenge, he responded, "I don't even consider it a challenge. I just consider it something that I'm going to do. I've been through this a million times and it's just a matter of working as hard as I can like I always do. The routine doesn't change for me." Martin participated in most of the drills on the first day of mini-camp, but much like Pennington, he appeared to be somewhat limited. Of course, new coach Eric Mangini didn't talk much about Martin's rehab status, just as he didn't give many details about Pennington's limited practice throwing reps. "Curtis is involved in all of the drills," Mangini said. "We're monitoring him as well. But he is taking part in all the drills and he is a guy that we are watching and making sure that it's within the framework of his rehab."

--- LB LaVar Arrington was on the field for the Giants' minicamp practice Wednesday. "Since he has become a Giant, he has been here every day," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He has been in the offseason program. He has been in all of the OTAs. So he is starting to get a better handle about what we are going to ask him to do. This is his first opportunity with a full defense out here. And so it is good."

--- TE Jeremy Shockey showed up to minicamp with a black (left) eye, but when asked whether it was acquired in a fight down in south Florida, where he spent his off-season working out with the University of Miami camp, he laughed. "I wish," he said. "At least that would be a good story. I hurt myself in the weight room." coach Tom Coughlin said a full-scale investigation was not planned.

--- TE Jermaine Wiggins won't say how much weight he has lost since the end of the season -- he continues to be listed at 260 pounds by the Vikings -- but the tight end appears to have shed significant weight from his 6-foot-2 frame. That's not a bad move considering Wiggins is hoping to be a focal point in coach Brad Childress' West Coast offense. Wiggins has displayed good hands since joining the Vikings as a free agent in 2004, leading the team in receiving each of the past two seasons. (He had 71 catches in 2004 and 69 last season). His conditioning, however, was another matter and a source of plenty of good-natured jokes in the locker room. Although Childress likely found nothing funny about his top pass-catching tight end being soft in the middle, Wiggins claims the weight loss was his idea. "It's just something that I did on my own," he said. "I feel like I want to get to that next level. I wanted to come in (to camp) in the best possible shape. I know this offense is going to get the ball to the tight end and have a chance to make plays. That has been my mindset. I want to help this team get to that next level, which is winning a championship." A speedier Wiggins certainly has a good opportunity to become a main target for quarterback Brad Johnson as the Vikings make the transition from a vertical offense to one that will rely on plenty of short passes to move down the field. "I think it's a key to any offense," Wiggins said.

--- RB Edgerrin James, who stunned a great many people when he signed on as an unrestricted free agent, was given permission to do the bulk of his off-season work at home in Florida. So when he made his debut in Tempe, Ariz., this week during the final team organized workouts, it was akin to a visit by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. James seemed to understand the giddiness of a team with one winning record in the last two decades, due in no small part to a consistently lousy running game, and he took the fuss in stride with a bit of amusement. No one, at this point, seems to be complaining about special treatment for a four-time Pro Bowler who has rushed for more than 4,300 yards the past three seasons. The past three seasons, the Cardinals COLLECTIVELY rushed for just more than 4,300 yards and ranked 29th, 22nd and 32nd in the NFL. James was paid $30 million over four years to turn that around, and if he can do it by working out on his own, the Cards are willing to let him. "I was telling the guys I earned it," James said. "I've been playing well in the last couple years. That's part of it. You can come out and prove to everyone that if you take a week or two off it's not going to hurt your performance and everyone knew that. As far as other players, I can't speak for them. They have to get up to speed and get on the same page."

--- RB Corey Dillon was feisty in his first meeting with the media since rookie Laurence Maroney came on board. "I feel real disrespected" by anyone who believes Maroney will be the starter sometime this season, Dillon said. "I feel like I have accomplished zero, not even a grain of salt in this league. And that's terrible for a guy of my status. I've been doing this for a long time." Dillon has rushed for 10,429 career yards, the 17th best total in NFL history, but he was hurt and ineffective last season when he ran for just 733 yards. With Maroney in the mix and Dillon's age (he turns 32 in October) a popular topic of conversation among his doubters, Dillon altered his offseason conditioning program. "I switched up a little bit," he said. "Honestly, I'm getting a little bit up there (in age), and those are things I understand. So I wanted to switch it up and do something different and just try to get my body in the best shape possible and come here this year and perform well." Dillon joked that the specifics of his new workout regimen were "top secret," but he said they've paid dividends already. "To be honest with you, this is the best I've felt at this point in time in the last three years," he said. "I feel good about where I'm at. I'm still not close to where I want to be. I'm going to get there, and hopefully by training camp I'm going to be ready to go."

--- WR Derrick Mason injured himself while making a diving catch in the end zone in one of the final plays of spring camps. He limped off the field before practice ended and seemed to be favoring his ankle. Team officials did not express concern for their leading receiver. "How many times do I tell them about not going to the ground?" coach Brian Billick said. "He'll be all right."

--- QB David Carr drew praise from coach Gary Kubiak. "I think he's the most improved player from this offseason," Kubiak said. "From the day we walked out here until today, I really thought he was the most improved. Yet, he still has a long way to go. "The key to David, like any other player, and I've already spent a ton of time with him, but David's got to come back and pick up right where he left off. We can't go back and work on things that we were trying to clean up. Nobody's worked harder."

--- DE Robert Mathis has agreed in principle on a five-year contract extension with the Colts that will keep him with the franchise until the 2011 season. The deal, however, won't be signed until sometime this week. Financial terms were not disclosed. Mathis had signed a one-year free agent qualifying offer of $2.093 million this past spring.

--- RB Maurice Drew is scheduled for arraignment on assault charges on June 21, the final day of the workouts. Chicago Bears defensive back Ricky Manning and former UCLA player Tyler Ebell and Drew have been charged with one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily harm for allegedly beating Soroush Sabzi, 25, outside a Denny's restaurant near the school's Westwood campus according to police. Drew has admitted he was at the restaurant but he continues to deny any involvement in the incident, which allegedly stemmed from the players making fun of Sabzi for using a laptop computer. The victim's lawyer has said that three witnesses have come forward to say that Drew participated in the beating. Even if Drew is convicted, he could be placed on probation, but then he would face a possible suspension from the NFL. He is currently free on $30,000 bail. The incident, which occurred right before the draft, raised questions about the Jaguars' decision to draft the 5-foot-7 Drew. The Jaguars said that Drew told them about it and they were satisfied with his denial that he was involved.

--- S Sean Taylor met the media Friday for the first time since avoiding up to 46 years in prison by pleading guilty to two misdemeanors on June 1, but the Redskins' free safety was no happy camper. "I think it was best to put (the legal situation) away and let me focus on football ... be here for these three days so you don't have to ask me why did you miss camp again when I show up for training camp, butcher me," Taylor said. Taylor had been excused from last year's minicamp after being charged with assault and battery stemming from a June 1, 2005 incident in Miami. "I would've been here last year for the offseason if I could've, but with some complications I really couldn't," said Taylor, who not only skipped the entire 2005 offseason prior to his arrest but wouldn't even return coach Joe Gibbs' phone calls. "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion as far as the offseason goes. Some people believe in participating. Some people believe in resting. As long as you're here from the end of July (when training camp starts) to whenever the season ends, that's all your team really cares about." Assistant head coach defense Gregg Williams demoted Taylor for the first week of training camp last year as punishment for blowing off the offseason and did so again Friday with veteran backup Pierson Prioleau joining new strong safety Adam Archuleta in the starting lineup. "Sean's behind because of a lot of the stuff he's missed," Gibbs said. "That's tough for us and for him."

--- QB Patrick Ramsey, obtained in a trade with the Redskins, realizes he has a chance at the starting job because of Chad Pennington's status. Plus, everyone, including holdovers such as Pennington and Brooks Bollinger, is learning a new offensive system. "It puts everybody on an even slate," Ramsey said. "Everyone's trying to learn the small intricacies of what we're doing." Ramsey, who has a stronger arm, looked impressive during the first day of mini-camp, but was a bit erratic the next morning, and also showed his tendency toward quickly escaping the pocket when the rush gets close.

--- LB A.J. rejoined the team June 12 after being away for more than a month because of school commitments at Ohio State. Hawk completed his course work to earn an undergraduate degree in criminology in four years. The graduation ceremony was June 11, but Hawk purposely skipped it so he could get back to Green Bay a couple days earlier. He took a crash course in studying everything he had missed before taking to the field again in organized team activities. "I don't have to worry about writing papers; it's all football," Hawk said. "I know it's all-day football, but I know there are a lot of people who would love to be in this situation. So, I'm going to try to make the most of it." Hawk's introduction to pro football after being taken fifth overall in the draft was fleeting. He participated in the team's three-day post-draft minicamp, then was barred by league rule from a second minicamp later in May and the first seven of 14 OTAs until school was out at Ohio State. Despite being away for an extended time, Hawk didn't miss much from a schematic standpoint. The second minicamp was a review of the first for players. Linebackers coach Winston Moss sent Hawk a DVD with footage of those practices and kept in regular contact with the prized newcomer. "I had to break down all the plays and see the defense we put in and really go through and get it down on paper," Hawk said.

--- RG Shawn Andrews has signed a seven-year extension with the Eagles. Terms of Andrews' deal weren't released, but his agent, Rich Moran, said his client is "set for life." Andrews is expected to receive between $11 million and $12 million in bonuses and salary in 2006 as a result of the extension. Andrews, the Eagles' first-round pick in the '04 draft, has been the team's starting right guard since his rookie season, though he missed almost all of his first NFL campaign after breaking his leg in the season opener. "I'm going to be here for a long time," Andrews said. "This is where I want to be, and this is where I'm going to be." Andrews played tackle at Arkansas and is expected to eventually move outside after Runyan, the team's 33-year-old right tackle, leaves. Runyan, who had been a free agent, re-signed with the team in April. The Eagles' biggest concern with Andrews is his weight. It ballooned to over 400 pounds his senior year at Arkansas, and was up over 380 most of last season. Andrews acknowledged that he often had difficulty getting down in his stance because of his ample belly, and was frequently fatigued during games. But he has shed more than 25 pounds in the offseason and has trained as hard as he ever has in his life. "I feel a ton better," Andrews said. "Last year at this time, I was around the 380s with no pads on. It was very uncomfortable. Now, I am able to last throughout the whole play."

--- T Kyle Turley (released by Rams on June 6, 2005) signed with Kansas City. After two years of inactivity while fighting back problems, a slimmed down, 275-pound Turley gave up his idea of playing tight end and signed on with the Chiefs, who plan to return him to his right tackle position. The prospect of Turley just that, even at a reduced weight, became better when, just three days after he joined the Chiefs, veteran right tackle John Welbourn announced his intention to retire. Having chosen to lose weight rather than undergo a second back surgery when the initial operation failed to relieve his back problem, the once 310-pound tackle weighed as little as 235 when he began talking about returning to football as a tight end. He worked out at the position as an unsigned invitee to the Dolphins' mini-camp, but began bulking back up when the Chiefs approached him looking for either a veteran right tackle or someone who could back up Willie Roaf at left. If he has no further problems with his back, he now appears the leading contender for the right tackle position.

--- WR Roy Williams says he will have to practice some self-denial if he is going to return to training camp July 27 at the 209-pound weight limit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz has set for him. "I'm 215 right now, they want me at 209," Williams said at the wrapup of the Lions' OTAs. "I don't know if I'm going to get there in this four or five-week period but I'm going to try my best. "You've got to be in really good condition here. We did a two-minute drill today and we know what kind of condition we have to be in. We're not there yet." The solution? "I guess cut back on my cookie-dough ice cream and Doritos and things of that nature," Williams said, laughing. "And try to eat more grilled chicken. I haven't been 209 since my junior year in high school." Williams said he started the 2005 season at 212 pounds and finished at 217. Although the weight reduction won't be easy, he is enthused about getting into the best possible shape for the upcoming season. "Last year I was excited to play this game but this takes it to a whole other level," Williams said. "This offense that we're running, the team we're capable of being, with all the weapons we have, it gets you really excited. I wish the pre-season started next week."

--- WR Michael Clayton is trying to rebound from a sophomore NFL season that was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness. After leading all rookies with 80 catches in 2005, Clayton had just 32 receptions last season. "Once you're out for so long ... you kind of lose what you came from," Clayton said. "My basic goal is to get back to what I was."

--- QB Matt Leinart seems to be picking up the system after a mini-camp, rookie camp and team organized workouts. "I think for a first-year player he is farther along than most first-year quarterbacks would be," coach Dennis Green said. "He has worked with the two-minute offense and he has done a lot of the things we are doing. Part of that is that he comes out of a good pro passing system and part of it is that he was a very talented player when he was in that system. But he is a quick study."

--- RB Marshall Faulk worked to stop the speculation about his future when he appeared at his annual charity golf tournament June 12. When asked about talk he has decided to stop playing, Faulk said, "That's second-hand. It didn't come from me. There's no timetable." Concerning the problem with his knee, Faulk said, "I'm kind of a foreigner to my own body. I thought I knew this piece of work here. As you get a little older, you kind of become a little distant with your body. You wake up, and things don't feel the way they used to. "The thing that I'm not doing that I used to do is accelerate it, do more to get back quicker. I've done that. I've had surgery in the season, come back and played. I don't think I could do that right now. I'm really taking my time with it and allowing it to let me know, 'We can go,' or 'We can't.'" While the Rams apparently haven't pushed Faulk for a decision, it makes sense the team would like to know in time for the first training camp practice on July 27. But Faulk said that might not be possible. "I don't know if you can say, 'Hey, knee, you've got to be ready by camp,'" he said. "What do you do? How do I tell it that? If that was the case, I'd have told it to be ready six months ago." Faulk does acknowledge that thoughts of retiring have been in his head for a while. If he plays, Faulk will be a backup to Steven Jackson. He can handle that, but he also wants to feel comfortable that the team has a chance to be successful.

--- OL Floyd Womack, 27, has the size and talent to start at any position on the line except center. The Seahawks would like to plug him in at left guard after losing three-time Pro Bowl choice Steve Hutchinson to Minnesota in free agency. But as the Seahawks moved into the second week of their recent passing camp, Womack felt soreness in his left triceps tendon. Womack injured the tendon shortly before last season, costing him the starting job at right tackle. Sean Locklear took his place and played better than anyone expected, winning the job for the long term. Womack was the odd man out when he returned from injury during the season. Now he is simply out, period. While the team was holding him out of drills only as a precaution, the soreness was another reminder that Womack could go down at any time. Womack has missed games and/or practices because of injuries to his quadriceps, triceps, calf, heel, toe, knee, ankle, hip and hand. He has also been sidelined by a concussion. With Womack unavailable at the recent minicamp, and with rookie guard Rob Sims mourning the death of his father, the Seahawks tried former Patriots right tackle Tom Ashworth in the left guard spot.

--- OL Tom Ashworth is not comfortable at guard yet, where he saw time in minicamp with LG Floyd Womack sidelined. "He's still a work-in-progress type of guy," line coach Bill Laveroni said. "But having experience helps. He understands the tempo and the speed, and realizes with the position change that you have to be more acute to your technique than you would be if he was still playing tackle." The team wants Ashworth to learn the guard position in case he is needed there, but the hope is that Womack will be the starter.

--- DL Johnathan Sullivan, acquired in a trade that sent WR Bethel Johnson to the Saints, said he was glad to get a second chance with the Patriots. However, Sullivan, the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft, just shrugged when asked if he was relieved to be out of New Orleans. "I was happy in New Orleans," he said. "I'm happy here." Sullivan played as a defensive tackle in the Saints' 4-3 system. With the Patriots, who are mostly 3-4, he is backing up NT Vince Wilfork. At the minicamp, Sullivan also saw time at defensive tackle when the Patriots went to their 4-3 look. The Saints were unhappy with Sullivan's conditioning, but he declined to discuss that topic with the media at the minicamp, saying, "I left that in New Orleans."

--- WR Chris Henry of the Bengals was arrested again June 14 after turning himself into police in Covington, Ky. He was charged with three counts of unlawful transaction with a minor for allegedly providing alcohol to three underage women at a hotel on Covington's riverfront.Henry, 22, of Florence, was arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Kenton District Court. Kenton District Judge Douglas Grothaus ordered Henry, who has a drunken driving charge pending in Clermont County, to not drink any alcohol as a condition of his bond. Henry was also ordered to have no contact with minors. Prosecutor Ken Easterling said the case is still active and additional charges against Henry, and the others present at the hotel, are possible. Henry remains free on a $2,500 cash bond. A pretrial hearing is set for June 29 in Kenton District Court. The Bengals had their standard comment about Henry's latest alleged legal transgression. "We don't comment on something when it's just in the stages of charges," Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan said.

--- QB Charlie Frye is ready to answer his critics who say he doesn't have the arm strength to be a big-time NFL quarterback. A rookie in 2005 who didn't get his first start until the 12th game, Frye is the undisputed starter now. Frye has been a weight room rat this offseason. He put on 15 pounds under the guidance of strength coach John Lott. He is delivering passes with more velocity than he did a year ago. "His arm strength has improved, which is a pleasant surprise," General Manager Phil Savage said. "The mobility, his moxie, the toughness -- those are his characteristics and those have continued to shine through." Inexperience and a supposed weak arm were the two question marks dogging Frye after the Browns traded veteran Trent Dilfer to San Francisco May 4. Only time will eliminate the inexperience; Frye was 2-3 in his five starts.

--- DE John Abraham has blended in smoothly with new teammates and entering his seventh NFL season, he feels no pressure to prove himself. Abraham's statistics, 53.5 sacks in 73 career games, speak for themselves. His other big number is $15 million, the minimum that he's guaranteed, over the life of a six-year contract. He credited the Jets, who drafted Abraham in the first round of 2000 but wouldn't pay him enough to keep him with New York, for letting the 28-year-old play a significant role in dictating his future. Atlanta acquired Abraham in a three-year trade with Denver three months ago that sent the Falcons' first-round pick -- 15th overall -- to the Broncos in exchange for the 29th pick (which was shipped to the Jets) and a high second-round spot that president-general manager Rich McKay used to select cornerback Jimmy Williams. Abraham had a lot of leverage, however, because New York GM Mike Tanenbaum couldn't deal him to a team that knew the player wanted to be somewhere else. "Everyone knew what I wanted," Abraham said. "It wasn't an issue of, 'He wanted to go here or he wanted to go there.' It was, 'He wanted to go here.' They worked it out and they let it happen for us, even with Denver. "Like (Blank) said, it rarely happens. So, I'm very ecstatic that they did that for me.


Niners Digest Top Stories