AFCN News and Notes.

<p>Here is a brief wrap-up of how the Ravens and their AFCN rivals are positioned in preparation for the draft. <p>RAVENS: The Ravens continued to show their strong interest in Kyle Boller this week, when they entertained the University of California quarterback on the first day college players visited the team's facilities. The Ravens have the 10th overall pick in this month's NFL draft and have been linked to Boller in many recent mock drafts.

One of the fastest rising prospects, Boller has been tabbed as the third-best quarterback of the draft behind Southern California's Carson Palmer and Marshall's Byron Leftwich.
   Since Palmer and Leftwich could be taken in the top nine picks, the Ravens are taking a hard look at Boller. He toured the Ravens' training complex Thursday, along with guard Montrae Holland (Florida State), running back Rashard Lee (Middle Tennessee State), defensive end Antwan Peek (Cincinnati) and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (Tennessee).
   Besides this week's visit, the Ravens have seen Boller three previous times. The Ravens talked and scouted him at the NFL combine in February. A month later, Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was among the crowd watching Boller's Pro Day workout in Berkeley, Calif. Then, just two weeks ago, the Ravens had a private workout with Boller.
   "It was awesome," Boller said of his visit. "I love the coaches. I really love the area. I'd love to be a Raven."
   This will not be his only stop, though. Boller has met with the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff and left to meet with the Chicago Bears Friday.
   He did, however, say he formed a connection with Ravens coach Brian Billick after Billick, general manger Ozzie Newsome, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and player personnel director Phil Savage attended a workout on Boller's home campus 16 days ago.
   "It was good to be able to be here. I love Coach Billick," Boller said. "If I can play for him, I feel like I can be happier than ever."
   Chris Redman's successful offseason back surgery is still a concern, so the Ravens are in the market for a young quarterback. Team officials attended a workout for Leftwich on Monday, one in which the quarterback proved he had recovered from a broken leg suffered last season.
   The Cincinnati Bengals, who own the draft's top pick, the Bears and possibly the Dallas Cowboys also are interested in Leftwich, and there is a better chance Boller will be on the board when the Ravens select.
   Boller's senior year, when he threw for 2,815 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, was his only impressive one. While his arm strength is unquestionable (he can throw 70 yards on the run), Boller was 7-21 as a starter, never completed more than 50 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (38) than touchdowns (36) his first three seasons.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
   --The Ravens became more optimistic about their chances of signing free agent linebacker Jamir Miller this week after Miller's other suitors, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signed high-profile defensive players to contracts. The Chiefs signed pass-rushing end Vonnie Holliday to a five-year deal, and the Buccaneers signed linebacker Dwayne Rudd to a two-year contract.
   The only other option for Miller is to return to the Cleveland Browns, who don't have the salary cap room at this time to competitively pursue him.
   Miller, 29, visited the Ravens' complex a week ago and spoke highly of the coaching staff and its plan for him within the defensive scheme. The Ravens would likely drop Miller to defensive end in obvious pass-rushing situations, a position at which he says he registers most of his sacks. Miller will also have the chance to compete with Cornell Brown as a starter.
   "We're in very strong, active negotiations with Jamir," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's just a matter of what the structure looks like, which is a good sign."
   --The Ravens have retained their top six linebackers from last season after re-signing backup Bernardo Harris to a one-year, $680,000 contract.
   It was an offer that was on the table several weeks for Harris, who will have to play under a one-year contract for the second straight season. Harris, 31, started 10 times last year in place of Ray Lewis, who missed each of those games with a shoulder injury, and recorded 73 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
   --The Ravens are impressed with Byron Leftwich and weren't dissuaded after the recent workout by the Marshall quarterback. The big question mark on Leftwich has been his health, but he showed no effects from an injury-hampered senior season, one in which he played with a broken leg.
   "He looked healthy, and that's the big thing we were looking for," Billick said. "We didn't want to see him go out there and limp around. >From that standpoint, he passed the test."
   --Ravens officials expect a decision by the end of next week from free-agent receiver Frank Sanders. Although negotiations have dragged since he visited the Ravens three weeks ago, the team is content on keeping its offer on the table and not setting a deadline for his decision.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a good kid, very talented, and we'd be lucky to have him if it turned out that way." -- Coach Brian Billick on University of California quarterback Kyle Boller.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
   NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: DL -- The thinnest group on the team has only two draft picks among the mix and needs to upgrade at nose tackle.
   QB -- The team is looking to add another quarterback through free agency and is uncertain about the medical status of Chris Redman.
   WR -- The team failed to land free agent David Boston and is now left with Travis Taylor and four second-year players at receiver.
   FRANCHISE PLAYER: CB Chris McAlister (tendered at $5.9M).
   TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
   UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Jeff Ogden (expected to retire from football); CB Robert Tate (will not be re-signed after rocky year); CB James Trapp (solid nickel back doesn't fit into team's youth movement).
   RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE John Jones (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; special teams player who fell to No. 3 on depth chart with emergence of Terry Jones); S Anthony Mitchell (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; could battle for starting job that he lost in training camp); DE Dave Nugent (tendered at $605,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation; would only play as part of team's rotation); QB Chris Redman (tendered at $1.318M with 1st-round pick as compensation; could compete for starting job if fully recovered from back surgery); DE Adalius Thomas (tendered at $605,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation; flashy talent could start at end or outside linebacker).
   EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: OG Bennie Anderson (tendered at $375,000; expected to start at right guard for a third straight season); OT Damion Cook (tendered at $375,000; has potential to develop into serviceable backup); S Will Demps (tendered at $300,000; starter for most of the season until hitting the rookie wall); NT Kelly Gregg (tendered at $450,000; starter at nose tackle might be better suited as backup); CB Alvin Porter (tendered at $375,000; has struggled in limited starting time but has cover skills); FB Alan Ricard (tendered at $375,000; looked strong in first year as starter); OT Lawrence Smith (tendered at $300,000; fringe lineman who is still developing); OL Jason Thomas (tendered at $375,000; versatile backup can play anywhere on line); WR Milton Wynn (tendered at $375,000; marginal receiver could have tough time returning).
   PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OT Ethan Brooks (UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown); LB Cornell Brown (UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown); DE Marques Douglas (ERFA; $450,000/1 yr); LB Bernardo Harris (UFA; $680,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); WR Randy Hymes (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OG Edwin Mulitalo (Potential UFA, $15.5M/7 yrs, $4M SB); DE Riddick Parker (UFA; $530,000/1 yr, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); S Raymond Perryman (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); QB Anthony Wright (RFA; $605,000/1 yr).
   PLAYERS ACQUIRED: OT Orlando Brown (FA; $1M/1 yr, SB unknown); FB Harold Morrow (FA Vikings; $2.08M/3 yrs, $100,000 SB; 2003 cap: $688,333); CB Corey Fuller (FA Browns; $4.5M/3 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2003 cap: $1.25M).
   PLAYERS LOST: QB Jeff Blake (UFA Cardinals; $7.5M/3 yrs, $1.5M SB); FB Sam Gash (UFA Bills; terms unknown); WR Brandon Stokley (UFA Colts; $2.9M/2 yrs, SB unknown); LB Shannon Taylor (RFA tender of $605,000 withdrawn/Texans; terms unknown).
   MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


==================
CINCINNATI BENGALS
==================

INSIDE SLANT
   After 22 years as a college and NFL assistant, Marvin Lewis walked onto a football field for the first time Friday as a head coach.
   The Bengals rookie coach presided over his first two minicamp practices at the team's facility adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium.
   "Now to pay attention to the offensive players and how they prepare and what they do in individual period, that's the biggest difference," said Lewis, a defensive coordinator with the Ravens and Redskins the past seven years. "Knowing when we call a play on offense, knowing what it is and understand who is supposed to be where. That part has been fun.
   "I've enjoyed, since I've been head coach, learning our offense, learning what they're supposed to do ... and hopefully adding some insight to what the defense is seeing. Hopefully, I've been (a help), and not in their way that way."
   The practice was crisp. Lewis moved from field to field and watched individual position groups. He then stood off to the side, injecting from time to time, during team drills. He let his coordinators, Bob Bratkowski on offense and Leslie Frazier on defense, run the plays.
   Wide receiver Chad Johnson, in his third season, observed a difference between the Lewis practice and the ones he participated in under former coach Dick LeBeau. Johnson also got some advice directly from Lewis and a constant reminder from tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes.
   "He was talking to me about using my speed more, instead of sitting at the line and making a move, just basically saying I don't have to do that, don't waste time," Johnson said of Lewis.
   Hayes told all offensive players to "get a block" after every pass completion in seven-on-seven or full-team drills.
   "He's not going to play any games out there," Johnson said of Hayes. "Defensive coaches are getting on the receivers. It's good. Everybody's working as a whole out there."
   Lewis also had to address the absence of Corey Dillon, the only signed player missing from the voluntary camp. Lewis' mandatory camp will be in June.
   "It's voluntary. We want to have our guys here. But we'll be fine. We're going to move forward and on," Lewis said when asked about Dillon after the afternoon practice. "I probably had a pretty good feeling where he'd be.
   "We cannot require people to be here. We're right where we need to be. We'll move forward. His teammates are moving on and working and we'll fit the next guy back into the fold, whoever it is, from this point on."
   Dillon, a three-time Pro Bowler, and linebacker Kevin Hardy, are the only all-stars on the roster. Hardy was a Pro Bowler while playing for Jacksonville.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
   --Friday's minicamp practices were an NFL first for linebacker Brian Simmons. They were his first without his former teammate, fellow first-round 1998 draft pick and close friend Takeo Spikes.
   Spikes last month signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills, an offer sheet the Bengals chose not to match.
Simmons, a good friend off the field with Spikes, downplayed Spikes' departure.
   "Once you get out there, that's the guy you're going to sweat with, cry with, bleed with," said Simmons, has moved outside to make room for middle linebacker Kevin Hardy. "That's where your focus has to be. You can't worry about who used to be there."
   --Bengals president Mike Brown did not attend practice. He was in Chicago at services for former Bears chairman Ed McCaskey, who died Tuesday at age 83.
   --Second-year punter-kicker Travis Dorsch is no longer a kicker.
Dorsch, the team's fourth-round draft pick in 2002, spent last season switching between punter and kicker and saw action only as a punter in Game 13 at Carolina. He also held for kicker Neil Rackers.
   "I didn't have any direction," Dorsch said of his rookie season. "From week to week, it was like those guys were telling me something different, based on what those guys were doing on the field. Now I have some direction."
   Dorsch said he spent 30 minutes during the morning practice working on holding with special teams coach Darrin Simmons.
   "No one ever told me how to hold," Dorsch said. "They just told me to hold. I'm still basically a rookie and I have a lot to learn."
   Nick Harris is the incumbent punter and holder.
   --Bengals kicker Neil Rackers made a free agent visit to Seattle on Tuesday, April 8. He was one of three kickers to kick for the team.
   Rackers, who is unsigned as a restricted free agent, was 15 for 18 on field goals last season. The Bengals have rights to match any offer Rackers would receive as a restricted free agent.
   "It was a good visit," said Rob Roche, Rackers' New Jersey-based agent. Asked if Rackers would get an offer from the Seahawks, Roche said he would know more within 48 hours.
   Kicking on what is widely considered one of the NFL's worst free playing fields at Paul Brown Stadium, Rackers has made 23 of his last 28 field goal attempts. He made 8 of 10 to close out 2001. Rackers led the Bengals with 75 points in 2002.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
   NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The Bengals top three needs are defensive line, cornerback and the interior of the offensive line. The defensive line and cornerback have been addressed, to a point, in free agency. The team was thin on the defensive line, especially at tackle, where the return of starter Oliver Gibson is unsure because of Achilles' tendon surgery. Cornerback has been a problem area for several seasons, and despite the development of Artrell Hawkins, the signing of former Bills/Colts cornerback Jeff Burris last season was not successful. There are concerns about the health and durability of center Rich Braham, and right guard Mike Goff was pushed around in more than one game last season. The Bengals appear to have put themselves in a position to draft the best player available with the first overall pick, even if that player needs a year on the sidelines to develop.
   FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
   TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
   UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Jason Perry, safety (late-season pickup to replace safeties on injured reserve; new coaches have no interest in bringing him back); OT Jamain Stephens (under-achieving former first-round pick sees days of easy paycheck with Bengals coming to an end); DT/DE Bernard Whittington (valuable, intelligent swing man is entertaining interest from other clubs but won't rule out a return to Cincinnati).
   RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: C Rich Braham (team has refusal rights and would like to keep him at reduced price); WR Ron Dugans (tendered at $605,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation; improving receiver, key special teams player); WR Danny Farmer (tendered at $605,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation; plays well when healthy, injury-prone, could be let go by Lewis) PK Neil Rackers (tendered at $605,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation; revived career with strong third year, will be back).
   EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
   PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: LS Brad St. Louis (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); LB Armegis Spearman (RFA/matched Packers offer; $2.675M/3 yrs, $550,000 SB; 2003 cap: $541,667).
   PLAYERS ACQUIRED: FB Mike Green (waivers Titans); LB Kevin Hardy (UFA Cowboys; $14.4/4 yrs, $3.5M SB; 2003 cap: $2.975M); CB Tory James (FA Raiders; $13.575M/4 yrs, $3.6M SB; 2003 cap: $2.9M); TE Reggie Kelly (UFA Falcons; $6.8M/4 yrs, $2M SB); DL Carl Powell (UFA Redskins; $1.73M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB; 2003 cap: $780,000); DT John Thornton (UFA Titans; $22.5M/6 yrs, $$3.75M SB/$1.25M RB; 2003 cap: $2.875M).
   PLAYERS LOST: DE Vaughn Booker (cut); QB Gus Frerotte (UFA Vikings; $1.9M/2 yrs, no SB/$700,000 base guarantee); S Cory Hall (UFA Falcons; $12.25M/5 yrs, $2.75M SB); FB Nicolas Luchey (UFA Packers; $6M/6 yrs, $1.1M SB); FB Lorenzo Neal (UFA Chargers; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1M SB); LB Takeo Spikes (TFA Bills; $32M/6 yrs, $9M SB/$1.5M option bonus '04); OT Richmond Webb (cut).
   MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


================
CLEVELAND BROWNS
================

INSIDE SLANT
   One of the defining moments of Tim Couch's 2002 season came when the Browns lost to Baltimore on a Sunday night.
   The team did not play well, and at the time the Ravens were not considered a strong team. Couch struggled in the game, like the rest of the team, and in the fourth quarter he took a blow to the head trying to recover a bad snap deep in Cleveland territory.
   As he lay on the ground trying to shake out the cobwebs, Couch heard cheers.
   Whether fans were cheering his injury or the fact that backup Kelly Holcomb was warming up -- backup quarterbacks, after all, are the most popular players on the team -- is not known. What is known is that Couch thought fans were cheering the fact he was hurt.
   In an emotional and tearful postgame interview, Couch lambasted fans he thought were cheering.
   The team grimaced, but Couch stuck to his guns. Even the next day when he backed off a bit he still said he'd treat every home game like an away game.
   The Browns privately were not happy. The last thing they wanted was for the fans to turn on the quarterback and vice versa. But criticism was muted -- until this offseason, when the team started to assess the damage caused by Couch's comments.
   "I'm sure he has some regrets," coach Butch Davis said at the NFL's annual meetings. "Everybody does stuff that you wish you would have phrased or said differently, and I'm sure in hindsight he wished he would have never said it."
   However, team president Carmen Policy also said he should share in the blame. Policy said Couch should never have been allowed to talk to the media because he had a slight concussion.
   "He felt it was his obligation as the quarterback, especially in light of what happened, to not duck the responsibility he had as the quarterback, which was to face the ladies and gentlemen of the media and answer their questions," Policy said. "I should not have let that happen. Because of a mistake I made he has suffered from it."
   Davis, though, said there were other factors that went into Couch's statements.
   "The passion he plays the game with is the passion he answered the question with," Davis said. "He was hurt. And you have to take into context where that kid had been."
   Davis went on to point out that Couch had been "the savior in the state of Kentucky."
   "He was Mr. Basketball, Mr. Football, Mr. Whatever," Davis said. "He goes to the University of Kentucky and he's God's gift, the savior of the football program. He gets them into bowl games when they have no talent, no ability. And so he's been the favored son at every level."
   Including the pros. Couch was the first pick in the draft in 1999, and he was basically given the starting quarterback job in the second game of the season. His status as the No. 1 quarterback in Cleveland has never been challenged -- until Holcomb emerged last year.
   For the first time, Couch heard boos -- and calls for someone else to take the job he had always owned.
   Davis likens Couch's development to Troy Aikman's. Aikman struggled early in Dallas but grew as the team improved.
   "Tim came to a situation in Cleveland that was worse than the 1989 Cowboys," Davis said. "They had some guys that had been in NFL games and played in Super Bowls.
   "It's a tough transition. I just think he spoke from the heart out of frustration."
   Which makes the upcoming training camp all the more interesting. For the first time in his life, Couch is not being perceived as the savior. Instead he and Holcomb enter on equal footing, with the job going to the best man.
   The Browns seem anxious to see how Couch reacts to competition, whether a challenge brings some mental toughness out of him that has not yet been seen.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
   --Guard Shaun O'Hara took a visit to Buffalo. O'Hara is a restricted free agent, but the Bills would not have to give the Browns any compensation if they sign him. If O'Hara were to sign and leave, it would be a significant loss on the offensive line. He is a versatile player who could start at guard or center.
   --West Texas State linebacker Chaun Thompson has been chronicling his pre-draft experiences in the Dallas Morning News, and the Browns figure prominently. Thompson has written more than once that the Browns are very interested in him. Seems like the team is thinking of him as a second- or third-round pick.
   --The Browns' obvious draft need is defense, but there is some thinking the team may take an offensive lineman with the 21st pick, then turn to the defense in later rounds. Two tackles seem to intrigue the team -- Stanford's Kwame Harris and Hawaii's Wayne Hunter.
   --The Browns need linebackers, but the position is not considered the draft's strongest. Butch Davis' thoughts? "Everybody says every draft stinks. Last year everybody said it was a horrible year for linebackers, and in the fourth and fifth rounds we got three guys (Kevin Bentley, Andra Davis, Ben Taylor) that I'm thrilled to death with. If that's a bad draft, I'm glad we're having another bad draft."
   --Several Browns players noticed that Dwayne Rudd has signed with Tampa Bay. That led to the question: How can a guy be good enough to start for the Super Bowl champs, but not for us? The answer: The salary cap and the fact that Rudd's helmet toss in the opener cost the Browns a win.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "Tim is difficult to explain because everyone in the organization respects and admires him. We feel he's talented and we are firmly of the opinion that the Cleveland Browns do not get to the playoffs last year if not for Tim Couch. Yet we believe things have happened unfortuitously -- and perhaps because Tim has been trying so hard to provide this team and this area what it wants so badly -- that it hasn't come together for him. Because we think so much of him and because there's a major investment, you become fans wishing and hoping and cheering wanting it to happen for him."-- Club president Carmen Policy, on Tim Couch.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
   NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: Defense, defense, defense. With the loss of four linebackers and a starting safety to free agency, the Browns need to add defense. The priorities will be on a pass rusher, a cornerback or, if none are available, an offensive lineman.
   FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
   TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
   UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Devin Bush (fell out of favor in 2002 and tenure in Cleveland probably is over); LB Darren Hambrick (signed when Jamir Miller was hurt and probably won't be back); RB James Johnson (suffered serious neck injury in preseason and career probably is over); LB Lenoy Jones (late-season fill in will only return as special teams player).
   UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): TE Chris Eitzmann (not tendered as ERFA); CB Earthwind Moreland (not tendered as RFA).
   RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: G Shaun O'Hara (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation; started all of 2002 season and may intrigue teams looking for versatile guy who can play guard and center); TE Aaron Shea (tendered at $605,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation; plays hard but is way too injury prone to draw much free-agent interest); RB Jamel White (tendered at $1.318M with 1st-round pick as compensation; tender severely limits his free-agent options).
   EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: S Michael Jameson (tendered at $300,000).
   PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: TE Steve Heiden (Potential UFA; $1.625M/2 yrs, $375,000 SB; 2003 cap: $762,500); S Earl Little (UFA; $7.5M/5 yrs, $480,000 SB; 2003 cap: $625,000); DT Alvin McKinley (RFA; $2.825M/4 yrs, $200,000 SB; 2003 cap: $500,000); CB Lewis Sanders (RFA; $605,000/1 yr).
   PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Barry Gardner (UFA Eagles; $1.7M/2 yrs, $470,000).
   PLAYERS LOST: S Chris Akins (UFA Patriots; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB); WR Abram Booty (cut); TE Mark Campbell (traded Bills); CB Corey Fuller (cut); LB Earl Holmes (cut); LS Ryan Kuehl (UFA Giants; $3.62M/5 yrs, $325,000 SB); LB Jamir Miller (cut); LB Dwayne Rudd (cut); QB Kevin Thompson (not tendered as ERFA/Vikings; terms unknown); C Dave Wohlabaugh (cut).
   MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


===================
PITTSBURGH STEELERS
===================

INSIDE SLANT
   Jerome Bettis is well on his way to returning to play for Pittsburgh in the 2003 season.
   The Bus has been shedding weight during offseason workouts and has been given a good report by team doctors following knee surgery several days after the Super Bowl.
   Coach Bill Cowher raised doubt whether Bettis would be back with the Steelers in 2003 during his season-ending press conference. At the time, he singled out Bettis and Kordell Stewart as two "high profile players" they would have to make decisions about.
   "We have to sit down again and look at what the options are and the direction we are going as it relates to our roster and the cap," Cowher said.
   But several things have occurred since then that bodes well for the return of the Bus. First, Bettis is rounding into good shape and his knee has responded well. Second, they did not sign safety Dexter Jackson after offering him $12 million. That saved them some cap room. They did sign tight end Jay Riemersma, which means they likely will release tight end Mark Bruener in June and save $2 million under their cap right there. They also reworked a few other veteran contracts to make room under their cap, so they no longer need the savings they could get ($2.75 million) if they released Bettis in June.
   The plan, when Bettis signed two years ago, was to get three more seasons out of him to make it worthwhile to them. They would like to get that third season and they think they can, with their new emphasis on a passing offense, do so. They will use Amos Zereoue much more next season as a receiver and a runner.
   Bettis has missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons after going through his first eight NFL seasons as an iron man. It's possible that, at age 31, he's breaking down; at the least, he cannot recover as quickly from injuries. Even if he comes to camp in the best shape of his life, he will not get anywhere near the number of carries he is used to.
   That's OK with Bettis. He's willing to play a complementary role with Zereoue or even Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.
   "He's on track, rehabbing," Cowher said. "He ought to be able to do some things by our June minicamp. He's been there and he's making very good progress. I'd like to think [he'll be 100 percent]. He's not able to recover from injuries as quickly as he has in the past but when Jerome's been healthy, Jerome's very, very well."
   One thing could change all of this. If the Steelers draft a running back on the first round - or on the first day - they might cut the cord with Bettis after training camp. They would prefer to draft another position, but if a stud like Larry Johnson is available to them, they might just snap him up.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
   --The Steelers met with safety Sammy Knight in Pittsburgh on Wednesday but have not opened negotiations with him. They are looking for someone to replace Lee Flowers, who will leave as a free agent, although they might try to fill the position in the draft.
   --A citizen's group has filed a suit to try to prevent the Steelers owners, the Rooneys, from building an outdoor amphitheater next to Heinz Field.
   --QB Tommy Maddox will begin working out in Pittsburgh on Monday. He has not worked out at their facility since the end of the season. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch has been working out in Pittsburgh on occasion.
   --The staff has been working on its defense, trying to find a solution to all the passing yards they gave up last season as offenses went to spread formations more often against them.
   Said Cowher: "Going into the Cleveland (playoff) game they were just going to spread it out and try to wing it. If that's how people want to play us, fine. We'll have a better sense of it this year. We'll be better prepared for it and hopefully we'll address the speed element in our secondary one way or the other."
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It would probably be a great fit. I'm an aggressive guy, this is an aggressive defense." -- S Sammy Knight on his visit to Pittsburgh Wednesday (April 9).

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
   NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: DB, LB, QB. 1. Defensive back (either corner or safety, they need younger, better, faster). 2. Linebacker (They need a strong backup on the outside), 3. Quarterback (The last young quarterback they developed was Kordell Stewart).
   FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
   TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
   UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE John Allred (not a priority); S Lee Flowers (they will not try to re-sign him); LB Mike Jones (they aren't interested in him); WR Terance Mathis (unlikely to return); P Tom Rouen (was an injury replacement and won't be back).
   RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Clark Haggans (tendered at $605,000 with 5th-round pick as compensation); FB Dan Kreider (tendered at $605,000 with no compensation); CB Hank Poteat (tendered at $605,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation).
   EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
   PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: QB Charlie Batch (UFA; $2M/2 yrs, $470,000 SB); DT Kendrick Clancy (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); TE Matt Cushing (UFA; $530,000/1 yr; 2003 cap: $450,000); TE Jerame Tuman (UFA: $3.3M/3 yrs, $600,000 SB; 2003 cap: $730,000); OG Keydrick Vincent (Potential ERFA; $375,000/1 yr).
   PLAYERS ACQUIRED: OT Todd Fordham (UFA Jaguars; $2.4M/3 yrs, $470,000 SB); LB Clint Kriewaldt (UFA $2.38M/3 yrs, $420,000 SB; 2003 cap: $670,000); TE Jay Riemersma (FA Bills; $3.95M/3 yrs, $850,000 SB).
   PLAYERS LOST: TE Marco Battaglia (UFA Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown); OT Wayne Gandy (UFA Saints; $25M/6 yrs, $5M SB); PK Todd Peterson (cut); QB Kordell Stewart (cut).
   MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


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