Center Mark Fischer and fullback Bryan Johnson entered training camp as reserves. They might not end it that way. Both players are in fierce battles to earn starting jobs, something few gave them a chacne to win three weeks ago. But Fischer, who started at center last season for the injured Cory Raymer, has impressed new coach Marty Schottenheimer.

''Mark has had the best performance of any offensive lineman in the two
preseason games,'' Schottenheimer said. ''He is challenging [Raymer].''

Fischer started when a knee injury sidelined Raymer for all of last season.
But he finished poorly and Raymer entered camp as the starter.

''This is the first camp where I've been competitive,'' Fischer, entering his
fourth season, said. ''Every other camp it was known: Cory was going to be
the starter and my role was backing him up. It feels good.''

Johnson has split time on the first unit with Donnell Bennett. Johnson's
block helped spring Ki-Jana Carter for a 38-yard touchdown Friday. Bennett,
meanwhile, has been unimpressive.

''Bryan has been very impressive,'' Schottenheimer said. ''The interesting
thing is he really catches the ball extremely well. His run blocking is very
good, but he needs work in pass protection.

''Bryan has been very competitive and there's no doubt in anyone's mind
around here that he is a smart, tough guy who loves to play the game and it's
really important to him. Those are all qualities that we look for.''

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