CB Champ Bailey
Washington CB Champ Bailey got a trio of B's as he continued coursework at Georgia to complete his psychology degree. The Pro Bowl cornerback, who is set to be a free agent in 2004 and command a signing bonus in the range of $15 million to $20 million, remains one semester from graduating. Although he doesn't have any plans to become a psychologist after departing the NFL, he is intent on finishing his classes.
"Getting a degree is just a personal goal of mine," Bailey said. "I got three years in before I left, so I had to go ahead and finish it up. I didn't want to start it and not finish it."
His interest in psychology blossomed from some basic coursework in his early years at Georgia, as well as a desire not to fill the athlete stereotype.
"When you go to school they always assume what you're going to major in, because you're an athlete," Bailey said. "Everybody was majoring in 'Family Development,' stuff like that. I was like, 'I've got to do something different.' Psychology was the most intriguing thing I had."
The bonus he acknowledged is that understanding psychology sometimes gives him an edge on the field.
S Matt Bowen
An offseason spent boosting the speed on coach Steve Spurrier's offense didn't overlook the Washington Redskins' defense. Now expected to start on the back line for that unit is safety Matt Bowen, who has looked sharp in offseason practices and appeared every bit as fast as some of the Redskins' new skill players. In workouts so far, Bowen could be seen matching paces with running back/kick returner Chad Morton deep into the secondary or giving wide receiver Laveranues Coles blanket coverage on an inside pattern.
Both Morton and Coles were pried from the New York Jets for their blazing speed, and Bowen seems to have a bit of that himself. "I talk about, he has good football speed," defensive backs coach George Catavolos said. "I don't know exactly how fast he is, but I know he does a good job of closing."
Personnel director Vinny Cerrato said Bowen indeed can run the 40-yard dash with some of the faster NFL players, timing 4.46 seconds at the 2000 NFL Scouting Combine and at just under 4.4 in a later individual workout at Iowa. Cerrato added that Bowen increases his game speed by taking proper angles and paying close attention to on-field details.
"He practices like a pro," Cerrato said. "He practices like he's playing a game. He gets in position. He sprints to the ball. He's a perfectionist on the field. He wants to know how to do everything perfect." Bowen served as a spot starter in Green Bay last season, drawing the attention of Washington's scouts with an interception that was called back in the Packers' win over the Redskins, and then with 15 tackles in a postseason loss to Atlanta. His speed was never questioned in Green Bay, but it was unclear whether he could be a solid, every-down safety. Now he has the chance to prove himself just that, and in the process emerge as a safety prototype for the evolving look of the NFL--as defenses try to match offenses that are focusing more and more on speed.
RB Charles Stackhouse
Look for more blocking assignments and less pass-catching responsibilities for Giants' second-year fullback Charles Stackhouse, who along with newly signed fullback Jimmy Finn will be asked to make up for the loss of tight end Dan Campbell's blocking. "Stackhouse can block," coach Jim Fassel says. "We just have to make sure he understands what his responsibilities are."
C Dusty Zeigler
From all indications, veteran center (and sometimes guard) Dusty Zeigler will be released on June 1, severing a three-year relationship with the Giants after signing on as an unrestricted free agent from Buffalo in January of 2000. Zeigler, a 6-5, 305-pound veteran from Notre Dame, finished his eighth year in the NFL on the bench, virtually inactive in 2002 because of slow-to-heal, slow-to-rehab microfracture knee surgery.
He saw action only in two games when he filled in at right guard for Jason Whittle, who subsequently signed on with Tampa Bay as an UFA. When it became obvious that Zeigler wasn't going to be able to make it back at center last summer, offensive line coach Jim McNally moved reserve tackle Chris Bober, who was scheduled to compete with Mike Rosenthal for the right tackle job, into the center position. He played so well that he is now entrenched there, and the team is projecting seventh round pick Wayne Lucier as the backup.
Releasing Zeigler after June 1 will save the Giants approximately $1.8 million on the salary cap.
S Rashard Cook
The Eagles have the best free safety in the game in Brian Dawkins, and second-year man Michael Lewis will be a younger, faster upgrade over last year's starting strong safety, Blaine Bishop. But right now, their only backup is rookie sixth-rounder Norman LeJeune. Re-signing Rashard Cook, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, is a possibility. But there still are questions about his season-opening readiness.
LB Justin Ena
The Eagles didn't re-sign linebacker Levon Kirkland or his backup, Barry Gardner. Kirkland will be replaced by much faster -- but also much lighter -- Mark Simoneau, who was acquired in a March trade with the Atlanta Falcons. But the 234-pound Simoneau has a history of injuries, which puts in doubt his ability to withstand the rigors of a 16-game season. Right now, his backup is Justin Ena, an '02 undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young who had just one tackle last year. Look for the Eagles to add a veteran backup there.
QB Donovan McNabb
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has spent much of the offseason in Phoenix where he has been training with Warren Anderson of makeplays.com. This is the fourth year that McNabb has gone to the desert to train. "This is an important year because of how far we got to last year," McNabb said.
"I wanted to put extra effort out there in Arizona and start early. Because I want to take that extra step (to the Super Bowl). I can see us taking that extra step. In order for us to do that, maybe I need to focus on maybe doing the extra, or maybe doing something a lot of (other) people wouldn't do." McNabb also admits that he likes the peace and quiet that Arizona offers compared to Philadelphia where he can't go outside his house without being hassled.
"It's quiet out here," he said. "You don't have to worry about people being in your business. You don't have to worry about going out and being harrassed as much. You can sit out in your yard in a lawn chair and read a book."
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