Players and Positions

The move of Pete Kendall from LG to C could prolong the career of the 29-year old, who is beginning to show signs of wear with frequent injuries.

"There are very, very few backup guards in the league who stick around for a long time," Kendall said. "You are either a backup tackle or a backup center/guard. Not that I'm ready for the transition to elder statesman backup, but it's certainly nice to have that option down the road."

--Vice president of Operations Rod Graves describes a "healthy exchange of thoughts and ideas" with representatives of unsigned first-round picks Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace, but as of Sunday no deal. Bryant, a WR, and Pace, a DE, are potential starters at positions of need.

--What are coaches watching? "Over and over we've talked about this receiver position. We've got some talent at the receiver position. We're extremely young," Dave McGinnis said. "We're going to be very competitive at the linebacker position. That offensive line has got to get itself sorted out. We've got to get our defensive line sorted out. I mean, there's competition on this football team."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: MLB - Veteran Ron McKinnon, who has set several team tackling records despite being smallish, is expected to get a strong challenge from veteran newcomer James Darling, who is bigger and capable of staying on the field every down.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: WR - With David Boston, Frank Sanders and MarTay Jenkins gone as free agents, it might take a week for the pool of 13 candidates just to get to know the names of each other. Only one of them has as many as four years' experience in the NFL. How this group shakes out is critical. Leading WR candidates are rookies Bryant Johnson (still unsigned) and Anquan Boldin.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Emmitt Smith - This man is being counted on heavily to become the glue, on and off the field, on the sideline and in the locker room. He's capable, and so far has shown he's willing. Smith has been mobbed coming off the field and has obliged fans autograph requests despite carrying heavy weight of responsibility with his new teammates.

ROOKIE REPORT: The two first-round picks - WR Bryant Johnson and DE Calvin Pace, remain unsigned. They need to get to work quickly. Both are expected to be starters.

Three veteran players missed the start of training camp. Starting LT L.J. Shelton and backup OLB Greg Jones were placed on the physically unable to perform list. Backup G Raleigh Roundtree has an enlarged spleen.

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