On Tuesday of Super Bowl week, Antwaan Randle El said he hoped the Pittsburgh Steelers would put something special in for him. On Sunday night after the Steelers' victory he confessed.
"It was already in," he said of the trick play that resulted in his 43-yard TD pass to Hines Ward. "I just couldn't say anything."
Randle El, who grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, also couldn't say too much about all the talk he's been hearing about him coming home to the Bears, since he'll be an unrestricted free agent on March 3. It seems everyone in the Chicago area was talking about it, though.
"I know a lot of people are asking me if I'm coming to the Bears," he said, "but that's not my focus now. I have an opportunity when the season's over with. Having them in Chicago talk about it and all the things they hear on the radio, it's flattering in a way.
"They do care a lot about me. I've heard and talked to a lot of people, a lot of family members, a lot of friends, just about the buzz in the city right now. but that's neither here nor there right now."
BEARS MEDICAL WATCH: WR Mark Bradley, who suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 30, has begun his rehabilitation and is expected back on the field sometime in June.
--LT Jeff Backus is tough and hard working, and conceivably would improve with the tougher approach of new OL coach Larry Beightol.
--RB Shawn Bryson gives the Lions excellent depth at running back. He catches the ball well, is the best blocker among the tailbacks and averaged 4.8 yards on 64 carries last year.
--MLB Earl Holmes will be 33 in April but he was the Lions' best run-stopper until he was beset with injuries in the second half of the season. He's a valuable player if the Lions can re-sign him at the right price.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--RB Najeh Davenport could be the odd man out in a crowded backfield that includes late-season sensation Samkon Gado. Durability is a major knock against Davenport, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 5 last year.
--RB Tony Fisher couldn't make the grade when given the opportunity to run as the featured back. His contributions in third-down role, though, make him enticing to bring back.
--DE Aaron Kampman is a must-sign prior to the start of free agency because he will be an attractive sell for teams. He's coming off a career-best season in an every-down role with 105 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks.
MEDICAL WATCH: WR Javon Walker is five months out from undergoing surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and might be able to participate in some of the team's minicamps in May and June. ... RB Ahman Green is in the midst of his rehab from October surgery for a torn quadriceps tendon. He's on track to be ready for the start of training camp in late July, if not sooner.
--SS Corey Chavous is expected to walk after being unhappy about his salary last season. There is an outside chance that front office changes could alter his opinion.
--RB Moe Williams had his season ended because of knee surgery in November and is expected to retire after 10 seasons.
MEDICAL WATCH: QB Daunte Culpepper said in a statement he continues to rehab the three torn ligaments in his right knee in Orlando, Fla., but it's unclear when he might be ready. DE Kenechi Udeze also continues to rehab after having microfracture surgery on his left knee in October.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants need more cap room, and at the moment they are only $3 million or so under the ceiling. They'll need more, lots more, to provide the help they know they must find (including the draft).
So looking long and hard might produce a few surprises - such as veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout. He is scheduled to earn more in base salary this season than any of the team's more visible stars. But is he worth the nearly $6 million he'll cost this season? Probably not, when put in strict monetary terms. But the Giants' only backup tackle is Bob Whitfield.
--RCB Will Allen seems to have outlived his usefulness with the Giants. He covers "soft," didn't have an interception in 2005 and flat-out missed or dropped six sure interceptions. He won't take less money to be a backup, so he has to move on.
--WR Tim Carter has the speed and size but just can't seem to stay healthy. The Giants would like to retain his services but considering his track record, they won't go too high to keep him, dollar-wise.
--DT Kendrick Clancy was signed last year as a free agent from Pittsburgh and played well as the starter on the left side. He will be pursued by other teams but has proven his value to the Giants and they'll do everything they can to keep him.
--WLB/MLB Nick Greisen became a starter and a near-star last season at two positions following injuries, and now wants to be paid starter money. The Giants cannot afford to lose him, but they may not be able to pay him what another team might decide to offer.
Defensive end Greg Ellis and defensive tackle LaRoi Glover see the same writing on the wall. Both could be salary cap casualties in the next couple of weeks.
Ellis is due a $500,000 roster bonus in March, while Glover is due a $1.5 million roster bonus.
Ellis isn't a good fit in the new 3-4 scheme and he lost his job to rookie Chris Canty. Glover is also deemed too small to be a full-time player in the 3-4. That's why the Cowboys signed Jason Ferguson in the off-season and gave him the full-time job.
Glover still has the respect of his peers and was voted to Pro Bowl. In addition the roster bonus, Glover has a $7.2 million salary cap figure.
MEDICAL WATCH: LT Flozell Adams (knee) should be ready for minicamps and the start of training camp. … LB Kevin Burnett (knee) is shooting for the start of training camp. He tore his ACL at end of the season. … LB Dat Nguyen (neck) is expected to retire.
Terrell Owens' days with the Eagles are almost over. Even if they can't get another team to trade for the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, they intend to release him next month when he is due $7.5 million in roster and signing bonuses as part of the seven-year contract he signed with the Eagles in 2004.
The Eagles gave Rosenhaus permission to seek a trade last month. But most of the clubs that have expressed interest in Owens seem content to wait until he is released next month.
--T Jon Runyan. A warrior at RT who has started 144 straight games, the Eagles will let him test the market, but seem interested in re-signing him to a short-term deal. INTERESTING RFA
--S Quentin Mikell has been a competent backup to starters Brian Dawkins and Mike Lewis. Also can play some corner in a pinch and is a solid special-teamer.
MEDICAL WATCH: DE Jerome McDougle missed all of last season after suffering a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The Eagles are hopeful he'll be able to participate in spring minicamps. ... T Tra Thomas appears to making an on-schedule recovery from back surgery. It's uncertain whether he'll be able to participate in spring minicamps.
Washington was roughly $20 million over the expected $95 million cap in January, but only two starters, strong safety Ryan Clark and tight end Robert Royal, are unrestricted free agents, and neither is irreplaceable.
The Falcons might pick a running back with the 15th pick of the draft, despite leading the NFL in rushing over the last two seasons. Warrick Dunn is 32 and T.J. Duckett is entering the last season of his contract as a disappointing former first-round pick.
They might also draft a safety, since both starting jobs are open. The plan is to sign a respected veteran like Tank Williams and let him show the high draft pick how to hit viciously and play the game correctly.
Expect the former starting tandem of Bryan Scott and Keion Carpenter to find little interest from other teams. Scott will be released and Carpenter is a UFA. They have certainly taken their last snap with the Falcons.
DE Brady Smith looks like the most obvious candidate as a cap casualty after he missed 11 games in what would've been his 10th season last year.
--S Antuan Edwards is injury-prone, but coaches never should've waited five games before dressing him. He will begin camp somewhere, maybe with Atlanta, but only as a backup.
The Panthers are likely to replace veteran Brentson Buckner with a free agent defensive tackle who specializes in stopping the run.
Sources around the league say the Panthers plan to go after a starting defensive tackle to pair with former two-time All-Pro Kris Jenkins, who is coming back from a knee injury.
--S Idrees Bashir. Bashir played 10 snaps all season on defense, so that tells you what the Panthers think of him. It's only a matter of time before he's released.
--RB DeShaun Foster. Foster had successful surgery on his broken ankle, but how do they make Foster their franchise back? He's finished three of the last four seasons on injured reserve.
--LB Will Witherspoon. It's likely the Panthers consider re-signing Witherspoon more important than re-signing Foster. Witherspoon is the team's leading tackler over the last four seasons and could be just coming into his prime. A smart guy and a good locker room personality.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Saints owner Tom Benson said last week that he expects to honor the 10-year contract he received from the state of Louisiana in 2001, which calls for the team to receive $186 million in subsidies. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue reiterated what he said in late October: that the Saints have to make it without being subsidized by a state that is reeling economically from two devastating hurricanes - Katrina and Rita.
--C LeCharles Bentley was a Pro Bowl pick for the second time in three years and will test the open market if the Saints don't franchise him.
--WR Az-Zahir Hakim was injured for most of training camp and the regular season and it's not known where he will fit in next season.
--RB Fred McAfee has been a top special-teams player and is a solid locker room guy, but he's probably played his last game considering he'll be 38 when training camp begins.
MEDICAL WATCH: Running back Deuce McAllister continues to make good progress on his rehab following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Oct. 20.
McAllister said in early February that he was about two weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab and expects to be at full speed by the start of training camp in late July.
TAMPA BAY BUCS
--S Dexter Jackson, the former Super Bowl MVP, was limited by injuries and will be replaced by Will Allen at FS. There is limited interest in re-signing him.
--QB Josh McCown is a strong backup who has had good success as a fill-in starter, but is expected to test free-agency market; team likely would re-sign him if he is agreeable, but he wants to start somewhere in the league.
--RB J.R. Redmond missed the year to injury but can be a valuable third-down back; may be re-signed.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was asked about his talent, and here's what he said:
"There are a few guys. If you look at (linebacker) Pisa (Tinoisamoa) and (safety) Adam (Archuleta). I think that Adam is a good football player if you use him in different situations. (Defensive end) Leonard Little has been one of the best players on this team for a long time. (Nose tackle Ryan) Pickett and a few of them are free agents. (Defensive tackle) Jimmy Kennedy, I thought he improved last year. Just those guys. I thought (linebacker Brandon) Chillar did a good job."
The Rams are still looking for a defensive line coach, and Haslett hopes it's John Pease. Pease was Haslett's defensive line coach in New Orleans, and Haslett already has former Saints assistants Rick Venturi and Willy Robinson on the Rams' staff.
--SS Adam Archuleta regressed last two years because of back injury and concussions, but the new coaches are hoping he will stay.
--WR Kevin Curtis is a keeper. The Rams must decide whether to place tender on him that would bring a first-round pick as compensation.
MEDICAL WATCH: QB Marc Bulger reported progress in the recovery of the right shoulder he injured twice last season. Bulger will begin throwing soon, and working with weights to improve his strength.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers are expected to enter the free-agent signing period from $15 million to $20 million under the salary cap. The club has targeted some of its own players to re-sign: kicker Joe Nedney and linebacker Derek Smith.
--S Marques Anderson was a late-season acquisition brought to team because of the myriad of injuries in the defensive backfield.
--DE/LB Andre Carter is a player the team would like to bring him back but it has to be at the right price. Carter did not adjust well to the team's new 3-4 scheme, as he recorded just 4 1/2 sacks.
--LB Julian Peterson will not be made the 49ers' franchise player, a tag that would cost $8.7 million. He should be better in 2006 because of the time removed from his torn Achilles' tendon. Don't look for the 49ers to make a huge investment to keep him.
MEDICAL WATCH: RB Frank Gore will have approximately five months of rehabilitation hashe undergoes extensive surgery on both shoulders. Gore has already undergone one surgery. The club is expecting Gore to be ready for limited work during their last minicamp. They expect him to be available for full work early in training camp.
--RB Shaun Alexander has not come close to reaching a long-term agreement with Seattle. At this point he appears destined to hit the unrestricted market.
--DL Rodney Bailey was a valuable role player as the season progressed. He's the type of high-effort guy the Seahawks like.
--FS John Howell finished the season on injured reserve. He is more of a special-teams player than an every-down defensive back.
--LG Steve Hutchinson is expected to be franchised if the Seahawks can't reach a long-term deal with him. Most teams don't want to pay huge money to guards but Hutchinson is a special player.
--WR Joe Jurevicius will get a big salary bump after catching 10 TD passes last season. The Seahawks will make an effort to keep him.
--FS Marquand Manuel had a great season for a guy who came to Seattle off waivers from Cincinnati before the 2004 season. He fits into the Seahawks' plans but probably won't command big money.
--RB Maurice Morris will have some options in free agency. Seattle might be wise to re-sign him if Alexander hits the market. Morris knows the offense and catches the ball well out of the backfield.
--WR Peter Warrick improved as the season went along but long-term health remains a concern. If the Seahawks re-sign him, it won't be to a big contract.
MEDICAL WATCH: The team is cautiously optimistic that FS Ken Hamlin will be able to return from career-threatening head injuries suffered during an October assault outside a Seattle nightclub.