League Wide Issue

Even with reports that Nathan Vasher will return for the Bears last round of organized team activities, Lance Briggs and Thomas Jones are expected to continue to skip the voluntary practices. However, several other teams have had to deal with similar circumstances.

  • RB Shaun Alexander was a no-show for the second week of Seattle's recent voluntary mini-camp. 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 off-season 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.

  • In Green Bay several players have been missing.

    CB Charles Woodson had been traveling abroad but is back in the country. Coach Mike McCarthy said recently that it's "up in the air" whether Woodson will make an appearance before the end of the OTAs.

    CB Al Harris isn't expected by coach Mike McCarthy to show up until the start of training camp July 28. Harris has been boycotting all non-mandatory workouts with the team because he wants a new contract.

    NT Ryan Pickett finally reported for organized team activities June 15 and expressed remorse in the process.

    Pickett, a free-agent acquisition in the off-season, missed the initial eight of a scheduled 14 practices. The OTAs wrap up June 21.

    "I feel like I let my team down by not being here," Pickett said. "It hurt me that I couldn't be here. I mean it. I take it on myself. I want to be a leader and stuff like that. A leader doesn't miss this many days, so I'm kind of hard on myself. But, at the same time, I had stuff I had to deal with."

    Pickett didn't elaborate on what kept him away, only to say he's "been going through a little personal matter."

    Although the OTAs are voluntary, the absences of Pickett, Harris and Woodson have been highly scrutinized.

    "I think it's more important to show your teammates that you're a guy they can rely on. Especially being new like I am," Pickett said. "A lot of these guys don't know me. You want to let them know that you're going to be there throughout the year, thick and thin."

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