NFL Notes & Quotes

Bears rookie RB Matt Forte is ready for a big debut ... Miami and Denver's head coaches size up their opponent's top rookies ... Big injury news out of Baltimore and Cincinnati, while things are looking up for San Diego ... And how much is Jason Peters' absence weighing on the minds of the Bills?

Chicago Bears: When the Bears host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, 2008 second-round draft pick Matt Forte is expected to become the first Bears rookie running back since Hall of Famer Walter Payton to start a regular-season opening game. Ironically, Payton got his rookie start against the Baltimore Colts. But Forte, a hard-charging and versatile back out of Tulane, undoubtedly is hopeful that he'll have a better night against Indianapolis than Payton's debut of zero yards on eight carries back in 1975.

Miami Dolphins: As Tony Sparano gets ready for his regular-season debut as Miami's head coach, he shared his admiration for Jets rookie tight end Dustin Keller, who will be making his NFL debut this weekend against Sparano's Dolphins. The former Purdue tight end was the 30th overall pick in April's NFL Draft.

"I think he is a threat and I think that he's an interesting guy because the more tape I watch, the more I see them try to use him in different critical situations, if you will," Sparano said. "In third down situations, he's out there. Some of the red zone stuff; you'll see him out there. So, I see him out there and in the mix so we're going to have to be very aware of him.

"He's a talented guy. We've seen that in the draft. He's very athletic, can run, that can cause a mismatch sometimes."

Sparano's keeping his cards close to his chest regarding whether Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams will be the starting running back against the Jets. When asked if Williams would be the starter, the Dolphins' skipper told the media, "You'll have to buy a ticket and see."

Buffalo Bills:  With a season-opener against the Seahawks just days away, Trent Edwards says that the Bills aren't the least bit preoccupied by the continued absence of offensive tackle Jason Peters, who missed the team's entire training camp and preseason while holding out for a new contract.

Trent Edwards
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

"I'm going to be very honest with you guys. It doesn't even come up all that often," the Bills' second-year quarterback said on Wednesday. "I mean guys mention things here and there about trying to be in contact with him, but there are so many guys that are so focused on the Seattle game that you guys are trying to make it a bigger deal than it really needs to be.

"I know there are a lot of guys in there that are excited about being a member of this football team, making the 53-man roster, then we bring up all of these issues that are focused on the Seattle Seahawks and it's not on the priority list up there for a lot of guys in this locker room and the same goes for me. I'm not really thinking about him, I'm only thinking about things that are within my control and I'm sticking with those."

San Diego Chargers: Although linebacker Shawne Merriman and defensive tackle Jamal Williams are both listed on the Chargers' injury report this week with knee problems, both players got a full practice in on Wednesday, as did tight end Antonio Gates (toe). That leaves offensive tackle Marcus McNeil (neck) as the only starter who is still sidelined as the Chargers prepare to host Carolina this weekend.

Denver Broncos:  Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan showed his respect for rookie running back Darren McFadden, another first-round pick who will showcase his skills on Monday night when Denver pays a visit to the Oakland Raiders.

"He is averaging over five yards a carry, I think 5.4. He has had a good preseason," Shanahan said. "They have given him a lot of reps and he is a weapon. He has great speed and everybody knows what he did in college. He is going to try to do that at the pro level.

"They are very coordinated in their offensive line. They went from 29th in the NFL in 2006 to sixth in 2007 (in rushing). That's a big, big jump. There is no other team that made that type of jump. They are running the zone blocking scheme very, very well. They have a lot of confidence in it and they are very well-coordinated, so he is going to a system that gives him a chance."

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals' offense took a hit this week when it was revealed that starting fullback Jeremi Johnson was being placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Johnson suffered a knee injury during Monday's practice, and head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters on Wednesday that second-year player Dan Coats would be the new starter as the team heads to Baltimore to play the Ravens this weekend.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens announced some bad news as well on Wednesday as they placed backup quarterback Kyle Boller on injured reserve due to a shoulder problem. Although rookie Joe Flacco had already been tabbed as the starter for this weekend's home opener, the loss of Boller, coupled with Troy Smith's tonsil infection, has left the team dangerously thin at quarterback.

As a result, Baltimore signed 10th-year veteran Todd Bouman after working him out on Tuesday along with former Falcon Joey Harrington and former Buccaneer Chris Simms. But Bouman will need a crash course on the Ravens' playbook between now and Sunday if he'll have any hope of adequately filling in for Flacco, should the need arise.

Click the stories below for more from Ed Thompson...

- 7 Points: Eli Has Something to Prove

- The 2008 NFL Ironman Team: Offense

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

Bengals Insider Top Stories