1. There isn't much new to report on the Derrick Brooks holdout front. The delicate situation really boils down to this: the Bucs don't negotiate with holdouts and Brooks won't come back to camp until he has a new contract. That's called a stalemate. The same kind of stalemate that kept Paul Gruber and Errict Rhett out for half a season several years ago.
When will Brooks report to camp? Don't look for it to happen during the preseason. Brooks, who is always in shape, really doesn't need to be there, and the Bucs really don't need him because the games don't count. If there will be a break in the standoff, look for it to happen during the week leading up to the season opener.
How will it all end? My gut feeling is that Brooks will come back to the team before the Dallas game with assurances that he will have a new contract. The contract will probably be signed a day or two later after a serious round of negotiations. It's important for the team that Brooks show up before signing a new deal. The Bucs do not want to set a precedent that they negotiate with holdouts.
Where will the money come from for Brooks' new deal? Someone will have to have their current deal re-structured to help the team's cap room. Although Brooks' demands have not been published, he'll certainly expect at least a raise of $1-2 million per year over the $3 million he's making right now. But with Brooks it is really more about the respect that it is the money.
There are some angered and hurt feelings coming out of the Brooks camp after watching big deals get done for Keyshawn Johnson, John Lynch, Marcus Jones and Brad Johnson among others. While others have hit their jackpots, Brooks has renegotiated his deal twice (in 1997 and 1999), but neither deal was a windfall complete with a huge signing bonus. Brooks was promised a deal time after time, but sources close to him say his loyalty was put on the back burner. With Warrick Dunn needing a new deal before he hits free agency in 2002, Brooks doesn't want to get passed over again.
2. I always get asked "who looks good" at training camp each year. Well, here's a list of some players I have watched closely. These guys have "looked good."
MLB Nate Webster - You can kind of see the writing on the wall. Starting middle linebacker Jamie Duncan will be a free agent in 2002 and the new Houston Texans need a stud Mike 'backer. With tens of millions of dollars worth of salary cap room to play with, Houston will dominate free agency next year. If the Bucs wanted to keep Duncan they couldn't outbid Houston. That's why Webster will get his fair share of playing time this year, even if Duncan holds on to the starting job. The Bucs' front office, who is always thinking ahead, is grooming Webster to replace Duncan. Webster has done his part by being ultra-aggressive and making play after play in practice.
DT Chartric Darby - "Chuck" as the coaches call him, has made a huge jump this offseason regarding his technique. Although he's barely six-feet tall, the muscle-bound Darby is a very active player with a "won't quit" attitude. His specialty is backfield penetration, and looks to have the lead on backing up Warren Sapp at the under tackle position, while James Cannida backs up Anthony McFarland at nose tackle.
CB Anthony Midget - Midget has actually outplayed Brian Kelly in my opinion during the first week of practice. The thing that helps Midget is that when he gets his hands on the ball, he usually comes up with the interception. Due to his average hands, Kelly doesn't. Rookie Dwight Smith is getting a lot of well-deserved attention after the first week of practice, but Smith has generally been running with the third team paired with Corey Ivy, who has also been impressive at times. Midget is backing up Donnie Abraham, while Kelly is No. 2 behind Ronde Barber. If Midget continues his stellar play, he could make the team as the No. 5 cornerback.
WR Frank Murphy - The thing that has been most impressive about Murphy is that he keeps on trucking and plays through pain. I saw him deliver a huge blow to linebacker Marc Cerqua on a kickoff return that damaged Murphy's shoulder. The next couple of days in practice he carried his right arm lower than his left, which is a clear sign that he has a stinger or pinched nerve. Other receivers who aren't as tough, namely Reidel Anthony, would have missed practice for days. Murphy catches more balls than he drops, and he still has a long way to go to learn how to be an NFL receiver. But his effort, determination, speed and raw ability excite the coaching staff.
3. On the flip side of "who looked good" is "who looked bad" during the first week of camp. We won't dwell too much on these guys because there is still plenty of time (including four preseason games) for them to turn things around.
WR Reidel Anthony - Anthony has missed all of the practices recovery from a sprained ankle. That has allowed Frank Murphy to really move ahead of him in terms of reps and developing a rapport with the quarterbacks.
CB Terrance Parrish - Like Anthony, Parrish has been out injured with an Achilles' tendon strain. That's bad news for a cornerback, especially when the team will likely keep five and there are already five good looking corners in practice (Donnie Abraham, Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Anthony Midget and Dwight Smith.
RB Jamie Wilson - Wilson is fighting through a hamstring injury and it doesn't help that Aaron Stecker seems as focused as ever and is turning in a solid camp so far. The fact that the team is enamored with Rabih Abdullah doesn't help Wilson's chances either. He needs to get healthy in a hurry.
DT Terry Jolly - Jolly disappointed the team by coming to camp a little heavy. It is clear that he is the least talented defensive lineman of the bunch, and probably won't make the team. There are times in one-on-one drills where Jolly gets zero penetration past center Todd Washington or any of the guards. Expect Jolly's name on the first round of roster cuts.
DT Mike McKenzie - Hey, it's tough to earn a roster spot on the Bucs' talented defensive line. McKenzie has been labeled a "try-hard guy," which is short for a guy who is short on talent.
4. The most interesting training camp battles might be at middle linebacker, quarterback, receiver and cornerback, but the two tightest battles are at tight end and kick returner. There's a log jam behind Dave Moore at the tight end position with Todd Yoder, Dauntae` Finger, Damian Vaughn, Randy Palmer and David Newman.
But the kick return battle is just as wide open with Aaron Stecker and Frank Murphy leading a pack that includes Karl Williams, Robert Kilow, Pepe Pearson and Dwight Smith. Reidel Anthony is expected to join the fray once he returns from an ankle sprain.
5. And finally, pity FB Mike Alstott. The guy can't seem to stay healthy for an entire training camp. If it's not a pulled groin, a sprained ankle, or a strained hip, it's a pulled hamstring. Look for Alstott to miss more than the two weeks the trainers have listed as his recovery time. The feeling here is that he will return to practice the week before the last preseason game, but will miss all four preseason games. Not etched in stone, but that's what we think will happen.
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