NFL notes: Bulger threatening holdout?

With a second-year coach who is getting more comfortable in his position and shaping the roster to his liking, it's easy to see why many consider the Rams a sleeper in the NFC. But Scott Linehan's hopes for a breakout 2007 are threatening to evaporate before St. Louis even opens training camp.

First there was quarterback Marc Bulger's interview on Sirius radio in which he said he could not rule out a holdout if he doesn't receive a new contract before training camp. He's due to earn $3.95 million in the final year of a four-year, $19.1 million deal. While Bulger said the Rams have always been fair to him, he added that he would not "rule anything out" should he not see a good offer by training camp.

While Bulger expects the issue to be resolved, the defense took a direct blow when cornerback Fakhir Brown was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse police. Not exactly a household name, Brown was the Rams' most consistent performer on a poor unit in 2006.

St. Louis was counting on the eighth-year veteran opening the season opposite rising star Tye Hill. Now the Rams have to hope someone steps up among the group of Ron Bartell, Lenny Walls, former 49er Mike Rumph and rookie third-round pick Jonathan Wade. If no one emerges to hold down the fort in Brown's absence, the Rams could be out of the running before they hit middle of the schedule.

In other news around the NFL:

--- Dwight Freeney agreed to a $72 million deal with the Colts that includes a $30 million signing bonus, the highest guaranteed payout to a defensive player in NFL history. While there is no doubt that Freeney is the most dynamic player on an otherwise pedestrian defensive, it's an enormous commitment to a pass rusher coming off his worst statistical season -- his 5.5 sacks in 2006 exactly have of his previous low output (11 in 2003 and 2005) during his first four seasons. Granted, Freeney commands almost constant double teams, but he is also somewhat of a one-dimensional threat who struggles to hold up against the run at 6-feet-1 and 270 pounds.

--- The Bengals announced defensive end/linebacker David Pollack has not recovered from his neck injury sufficiently enough to consider returning to the field in 2007. However, Pollack maintains that his goal is to eventually return to the Bengals. If he can manage that feat by, say, 2008, it would be a shot in the arm for a franchise desperate for feel-good stories.

--- Where is Vinny Testaverde these days? Preparing to return for a second season with New England. The 44-year-old told Sporting News Radio that he will report to the Patriots after two-a-days are completed. Not a bad semi-retirement. Testaverde gets to skip the dreaded grind of early training camp and back up Tom Brady, who has started every game since taking over the starting job in 2001.

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