The NFL has officially kicked off it's off-season as minicamps shift info high gear. Reports are filtering in on which players look good, which don't and some who are in danger of being cut. News and notes from around the league on veteran players and their off-season progress including some former AFC East players, and those who may be targets in free agency.
DT Sam Adams was released by the Bengals. Adams, who will turn 34 in June, had started all 16 games for the Bengals in 2006, his first season of a three-year contract. The termination of his contract at this time saves the Bengals an estimated $1.2 million in salary cap space. Adams was due to make a base salary of $1.5 million with another $500,000 in various roster and workout bonuses. His $2.4 million salary cap number would have been the 13th largest on the roster. Word around the locker room was Adams had not been around consistently in the offseason strength and conditioning program and was still carrying too much weight. He was listed at 350 pounds on the roster, which was kind, to say the least. Adams had to play his way into shape in 2006 and was largely a non-factor until later in the season.
QB Brett Favre reported to Packers minicamp and insists he did not request a trade -- contrary to some reports -- following the Packers' failure to trade for WR Randy Moss. "I do want to clear up this trade issue, non-issue as I call it," Favre started. "Never was a trade ever mentioned, requested. I just don't know where it came from. That's not true." Moss wound up being dealt from Oakland to New England on Day 2 of the draft. Favre, who received some heat for considering skipping the mandatory minicamp in order to plan his daughter's high school graduation party, conceded before stepping out on the indoor practice field May 18 and picking up a football for the first time since the end of last season that he had no other choice but to show his face. Otherwise, "it becomes even a bigger issue. To be totally honest with you, 17 years (of playing in the league), I just really didn't want to come. ... They're kind of boring," Favre said of minicamps. "What has been said and done is over. I think the best way to do that is to move forward. There's no hard feelings. I want to win, regardless of who's on this team or not on this team. Hopefully, we're all in this together.
Broncos TE Tony Scheffler will be sidelined for the next two months after breaking his foot on May 18. Scheffler is not expected to miss the start of training camp in late July. Meanwhile, free agent Daniel Graham will fill in the the injured Scheffler.
Cowboys WR Terrell Owens was the surprise of last week's minicamp. He caught passes and participated in all the workouts for the first time since having two offseason surgeries to repair a torn tendon in his right ring finger. The Cowboys would have understood if Owens sat out. They didn't expect him to participate until training camp because of the injury. Ironically, last year Owens did everything to not practice. He skipped the offseason program and missed much of training camp with a suspicious hamstring injury. Now, he is practicing when he doesn't have to. That was a testament to Owens' new attitude heading into the 2007 season. "He could have sat out and we would have understood," owner Jerry Jones said. "I think it was really important to Terrell." Owens caught almost everything thrown at him -- not bad for a receiver whose up and down season in 2006 featured 85 catches for 1,180 with a league high 13 touchdowns. He also led the league with 17 dropped passes, partly because of the torn tendon. The Cowboys still don't know if Owens will regain use of the finger despite the surgery. But owner Jerry Jones has said he expects a better season from Owens either way. Jones has already committed to paying Owens a $3 million roster bonus in June to guarantee his $5 million salary in 2007. "It wouldn't surprise me at all for him to have the resolve for him to do better," Jones said. "I am surprised (Owens is practicing) but I can understand why he wanted to come out here and get caught
Steelers G Alan Faneca is not expected to attend the Steelers next 14 OTA sessions, which begin Tuesday, May 222. OTAs are technically voluntary, but few players typically miss them. Faneca remains upset about his contract.
Steelers LB Arnold Harrison went through a full minicamp six months after surgery to repair a torn ACL. "Six months to the day." Harrison proclaimed. "That's real good, to practice full after six months. I feel good and I guarantee I'll be 100 percent for training camp." Harrison is the Steelers' only backup outside linebacker with any NFL experience.
Colts DE Dwight Freeney is skipping the on-field aspects of this weekend's OTAs while the Colts attempt to work out a long-term deal with Freeney and his agent. Freeney, who the Colts placed their franchise tag on, will be present for practice sessions and position meetings, but will skip out on all drills
Bears LB Lance Briggs didn't attend the Bears' most recent minicamp. Briggs is dissatisfied with his status as the Bears' franchise player and the $7.2 million salary that comes with the designation, and is threatening to stay away as long as it takes to get a multi-year deal or a trade.
Cincinnati's CB Deltha O'Neal was one of two projected Bengals starters not on the field for the first organized team activity day, May 15. O'Neal had told head coach Marvin Lewis he would be there. O'Neal and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh were the only two projected starters missing. "T.J's absence was not a surprise, but Deltha told me he would be here today, so..." Lewis said after the Bengals practiced for almost two hours at mid-day Tuesday. O'Neal struggled last season and had just one interception, after grabbing 10 and tying for the NFL lead in a Pro Bowl 2005 season. The Bengals, meanwhile, have spent their last two first-round draft picks on cornerbacks -- Johnathan Joseph in 2006 and Leon Hall in 2007. O'Neal is a projected starter opposite Joseph, who will replace free-agent departure Tory James. "Obviously, in his case, (O'Neal) has an opportunity to re-start himself, and this is good work for him to put his best foot forward," Lewis said. "He is missing out on an opportunity to do that."
Cleveland's C LeCharles Bentley is scheduled to have surgery June 4 to repair his left patellar tendon, originally torn on the first day of training camp last year. Bentley is still weighing the possibility of forgoing the surgery and trying to play this year.
Dolphins RB Ricky Williams reportedly failed another drug test for marijuana, which would force him to wait until September before being able to petition for re-entry into the league. In a statement issued through agent Leigh Steinberg, Williams didn't admit to drug use but said there were "a few things I needed to iron out about myself" before returning to the NFL. "When the time is right, God willing, I will be back on the field scoring touchdowns for whatever team is fortunate enough to believe in me," Williams said. "I appreciate all the support I have received from my fans and I assure all others that I am strong, clean and happily preparing myself for a triumphant return to the NFL." Unfortunately, it's hard to take Williams at face value considering his drug history. Williams was suspended for all of the 2006 season following a fourth failed test under the NFL's substance-abuse program.
Houston LB Kailee Wong will not return as a Texan in the 2007 season. "It's a scary transition, because you kind of get the rug pulled out from you," Wong said. "But as much as you can prepare -- as much as you can talk about it -- it's still quite a shock as the reality sets in." Wong has told his agent not to pursue job offers from other NFL teams, but he's not ready to make any definitive statements about his future. He said he is considering retirement, but he is also not ruling out playing in the NFL next season. The Texans plan to either release him outright or place him on Reserve Retired.
Redskins RB Clinton Portis, already recuperating from shoulder surgery last winter, has developed tendonitis in a knee. Portis flew to Birmingham, Al. on May 16 to see surgeon James Andrews about the knee. "Clinton's coming back from his shoulder and I think we are in pretty good shape there," coach Joe Gibbs said. "(But) he had some soreness in his knee. Last week it bothered him so we decided to have Dr. Andrews look at it just to make sure we are on the same page. That has held us up with his running."
Vikings NT Pat Williams, who was placed on the physically unable to perform list last summer after arriving at training camp weighing 337 pounds, said he is currently at 327 and needs to lose only two more pounds to get to the weight the Vikings want him at for the start of training camp.
Falcons WR Brian Finneran re-injured the right knee in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last preseason. Finneran, who missed all of last season, re-injured his knee while doing some light running at minicamp. The severity of the injury was to be determined be team doctors and an outside specialist this week but early indications are that Finneran could be lost for some time. If he re-tore or severely injured the ACL again, his career could be in jeopardy.
Philadelphia DE Jerome McDougle may be looking for a new home before the preseason is done. The Eagles had high hopes for McDougle when they traded up 16 spots in the first round of the '03 draft to take the University of Miami defensive end. But McDougle has been too often hurt and hasn't been productive when he's been healthy. He's still on their roster, but the chances of him making the team this year, particularly with the addition of second-round pick Victor Abiamiri, seem very slim. "I can only do what I can control, and that's go out there and practice hard," McDougle said. "I'm just trying to be in the best physical shape I can be in, make sure I'm healthy and keep doing what the coaches ask me." McDougle, who played sparingly last year even though he was healthy, has just two sacks in four NFL seasons.
Eagles DE Jevon Kearse reported to the Eagles' minicamp lighter than he's ever been in his career. The 6-4 Kearse, who sat out most of last season with a knee injury, claimed to be 245, but didn't look a pound over 230. His normal playing weight is about 260. Kearse blamed the weight loss on all of the cardio work he's been doing to get his knee right. He insisted he'll have his weight back up for the start of training camp in late July. "I feel like I need to be healthy enough to get on the field and play," he said. "My weight has never bothered me or stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. I've got two more months until the season starts. So I'll be where I want to be."
Lions OL Damien Woody said he weighed 338 pounds. That means he has lost 40 pounds this off-season but still has 23 to go to reach his goal of 315. He says he's eating a lot of fruit and vegetables. "I think the most important thing is, I feel good," Woody said. "I feel good about where I'm at and the direction I'm going. I'm just going to continue to work." He'd better. He is competing not just for a starting job, but for a spot on the roster.
Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis returned to the practice field this week after missing the start of the Organized Team Activities and all of the weekend minicamp due to a strained quad muscle. Mathis hurt his quad while participating in some of the activities leading up to the Pro Bowl in February in Hawaii. Mathis said he could have returned sooner, but didn't want to chance re-injuring it and stayed on the sidelines until he was fully healthy. "I felt good out there," Mathis said. "(I'm) trying to get back to one hundred percent. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm close to it."
Cowboys SS Roy Williams will play linebacker on some passing downs in an attempt to accentuate his strengths and hide his weaknesses. After watching the Pro Bowl safety struggle covering the deep middle last year, the Cowboys have been adamant about playing Williams close to the line of scrimmage as much as possible. Blitzing and making plays is considered his strength. "Some people call it a linebacker, some people call it a dime back," Phillips said. "Whatever. But he's not playing deep half or deep quarter or anything like that. He's playing short zone and blitzing."
Dallas G Leonard Davis signed a $16 million signing bonus to join the Cowboys but he is still a work in progress. He is making the transition to guard after playing mostly tackle in Arizona. And he is not yet comfortable at the new position. "It's a difference in tempo," Davis said. "You are playing in space at tackle. Now I am playing in tight quarters. I need a little time. But I will get it right." The Cowboys and Davis believe he will be dominant when he gets it right. "Because guys have to take me on," Davis said. "Defensive tackles have to take me on, especially in the running game. They can't just jump around me. I can lean on guys more now. That is what I do best."
Seattle K Josh Brown has no problem being the Seahawks' franchise player. Sure, he'd like a long-term deal, but the $2 million franchise tender is good money for a kicker, or anyone. "Where else am I going to go at the age of 28 and somebody is going to guarantee me $2 million?" Brown asked. "Nowhere." Brown is coming off his finest season. His four game-winning kicks made headlines, but 12 touchbacks showed overall improvement. That figure matched his career total for three previous seasons. "I changed my leg speed to the ball," Brown said. "I felt in previous years I was getting under the ball and kicking it up. So, I just swing earlier, putting my leg in front of me. I don't have the 4-second-plus hangtimes but we're 3.8s and we're close and we're getting 8-10 more yards."