NFL Player Update

CB Deion Sanders is scheduled to play nickel back in the Ravens' season-opener in Cleveland. <br><br>He passed all the initial tests in practice. The Ravens have been working out Sanders daily since the former seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback ended his three-year retirement and signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract a week ago. His availability is still contingent on him having no setbacks through practices this week.

"Right now, I have seen nothing to indicate that he's not ready to take 25 to 30 snaps," coach Brian Billick said.

The Browns might look to test Sanders but probably not deep. Cleveland's passing game will be tailored to new quarterback Jeff Garcia's skills, which means an emphasis on throwing on the run and short routes.

Last week, Sanders seemed unsure whether he would be ready to play the first game.

But all indications point to Sanders suiting up for a game for the first time in 44 months, dating back to December 2000. He missed all of the Ravens' training camp and preseason games.

"That part of it is unique," Billick said. "When you have a guy come in whose first live action is going to be on game day, that's a concern. The fact that Deion is three years removed from that is a factor but I would be no less concerned about it if he had played last year."

OT Jonathan Ogden is still questionable about starting the season opener. The Ravens' best lineman sprained his left knee in the preseason finale and has been icing it five times a day. If he can't play, he would be replaced by Ethan Brooks.

S Antuan Edwards was named the starting free safety Tuesday ahead of Arturo Freeman. Signed in the offseason after spending his first five seasons in Green Bay, Edwards started Miami's final three preseason games at free safety.

OT Ethan Brooks could be making his first start in nearly a year Sunday. That's if Jonathan Ogden doesn't progress with his sprained left knee. Brooks started the first three games last year before giving way to right tackle Orlando Brown.

WR Devard Darling will be tested this week to see if his quadriceps injury is short or long term. There is a possibility that Darling, who was slated as the third receiver, could be placed on injured reserve.

WR Kevin Dyson was in for a physical and a workout with the Titans. They should make a decision about adding him by Wednesday. With Tyrone Calico (two sprained knees, one that needed a scope) out at least through the opener and probably for two games, the Titans don't have a quality third wideout and Dyson would be an upgrade over Eddie Berlin. "We knew what Kevin could do," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He has struggled through the injury situation last year at Carolina with the unfortunate tear of the Achilles early in the off-season, but finished up the year. We watched him play and we felt like he was effective with the Chargers. We don't know the reasons for him being released but never the less we are trying to upgrade the roster."

TE Erron Kinney had his right calf wrapped for practice. He had ice wrapped on it before the Titans ran at the end of Tuesday's practice, but there is no concern that he won't play in Miami.

CB Samari Rolle missed all but the preseason finale with an ankle problem. But he is expected to be fine this week.

DE Antwan Odom is the likely starter at LDE in Miami. Whether he starts or not, look for him to get more snaps there in the Titans rotation than anyone else. He's getting stood up too easily, but the Titans don't have many options.

CB Dexter McCleon, a starter, was working at something close to full speed Monday. That was after playing in only the first of Kansas City's four preseason games. Though McCleon missed the final three games with a shoulder problem, he continued to practice on an on-and-off basis and should be close to game shape by the Sunday night opener in Denver.

RB Priest Holmes averaged 5.0 yards a carry on his mere 15 preseason carries. He looked much more explosive than last year at this time, which is understandable considering that he was coming off a season-ending hip injury late in the '02 campaign. Remember, too, that Holmes shook off concerns about his '02 injury to rush for a league record 27 TDs in '03.

RB Derrick Blaylock continues to fend off the bid of Larry Johnson to replace him as the backup. Blaylock, a key special teams player, averaged 3.4 yards on 30 preseason carries to Johnson's 2.5-yard average on 25 tries.

WR Richard Smith will likely be KC's fourth receiver to dress in the Denver opener on Sunday. Smith was the rookie surprise of camp after averaging 23.8 yards -- best on the team -- on the eight balls he caught.

QB Drew Brees was named the starting quarterback for Sunday by coach Marty Schottenheimer. Brees was selected over prized rookie Philip Rivers, who will reside at No. 3 on the depth chart, with Doug Flutie serving as Brees' backup. Brees played well in the preseason and wasn't pushed too hard by Rivers, after he missed 29 training camp practices and two exhibition games in a contract dispute. The Chargers lost confidence in Brees last year, when the team stumbled to 4-12 mark and he threw 15 interceptions and 11 touchdowns.

While pleased with Schottenheimer's decision, Brees -- who's in his last contract year -- said this is just the beginning. "My goal this season was not to be the starting quarterback for the Chargers," he said. "It is to lead the Chargers to the championship, and that required being the starting quarterback. So obviously, that is the first step. But that is not the goal.

QB Philip Rivers said he has no argument with Drew Brees starting the opener. "It's certainly understandable," said Rivers, who set an NCAA mark with 51 starts for the Wolfpack. "I'm going to prepare like I'm going to be the guy to take the first snap, but I know where I am, how far I am behind, and the catching up I got to do. "I'm just going to keep working to get better, and still prepare like at some point I'm going to be called on to win the game, or whatever. It's going to happen at some point down the road, not speaking about this year, but at some point."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer said depending on Rivers' progress, he could be elevated to the No. 2 spot.

WR Tim Dwight (hamstring) is no more than 50-50 for Sunday's game. If he can't go, Reche Caldwell would replace him in the starting lineup.

DE DeQuincy Scott (abdomen) returned to practice on Monday, and he's hopeful about Sunday.

K Olindo Mare had a solid performance in the exhibition season. Mare made six of his eight field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder.

DE Bryan Robinson was signed to a one-year deal that could be worth $1.45 million with incentives. Robinson is expected to play at both end and tackle, although he could eventually push LDE David Bowens for playing time.

S Arturo Freeman was officially demoted Tuesday to a backup free safety role behind Antuan Edwards. But coach Dave Wannstedt said Freeman would still play in some nickel and dime packages in Sunday's game against Tennessee.

CB Lamont Brightful will serve as Miami's punt and kickoff returner in Sunday's season-opener. The AFC's third-leading kick returner last season, Brightful was claimed Monday off waivers from Baltimore.

WR Sam Simmons was waived Tuesday to clear a roster space for DL Bryan Robinson. The Dolphins replaced Simmons as their punt returner Monday when claiming CB Lamont Brightful off waivers from Baltimore.

FB Ovie Mughelli got a vote of confidence when veteran fullback Harold Morrow was released. That means Mughelli will be the No. 2 fullback behind Alan Ricard and most likely will be active all season for special teams.

CB Corey Fuller might be looked on as a veteran presence rather than an asset on the field. He will continue to be a backup at corner and safety but it might be tough for him to make the active 45-man roster each week because he's not much of a special teams player.

QB Doug Johnson was on the field with the Titans briefly before practice got started Tuesday. But they had to pull him because of complications in finishing his contract.

QB Steve McNair is 1-3 in his career against Miami. He has been particularly bad against them on the road, though he hasn't played there since 1999. In two games in Miami he's 29-of-56 for 314 yards, four interceptions and no touchdowns.

RB Chris Brown glided freely with a lot of his postseason carries. But how he does in his first game as the Titans' starters against a Miami run defense that ranked fifth in the league last year will say a lot more about what kind of season he will have.

RB Antowain Smith didn't show a heck of a lot in the preseason. Provided all goes well with Chris Brown, Smith will get carries only as a change up.

WR Derrick Mason has caught eight passes for 160 yards and a TD in his last two games vs. Miami. But he's likely to draw even more defensive attention than usual with Tyron Calico (knees) out.

WR Drew Bennett will qualify as the Titans' best deep threat in Miami. Tyrone Calico continues to recover from two sprained knees.

WR Tyrone Calico will not play in Miami as he recovers from two sprained knees. They were suffered in the third preseason game at Dallas.

PK Joe Nedney went down and looked to have injured his left knee and or hamstring Tuesday. It happened on an onside kick during practice. He looked uncomfortable as trainers looked him over and as he left the field. He has got a bad injury history, but the Titans won't know if they will need Craig Hentrich to do double duty or if they are in the market for a temporary or permanent replacement until they get tests results on Wednesday.

LB Justin Ena joined the team after being claimed off waivers from Philadelphia. He will work on special teams to start, but as the Titans have limited depth behind their three starters he will need to learn both outside positions quickly for insurance purposes.

WR Johnnie Morton participated in a full-speed practice on Monday. It was for the first time since dropping out of training camp workouts with a sore Achilles tendon problem. The Chiefs believe he'll be ready for the Denver opener, but he may not be the starting flanker, a position Dante Hall currently holds. It is likely though, that Morton will play in three-receiver sets.

QB Trent Green is healthy and coming off a very solid preseason despite KC's 1-3 overall record. Green completed 66 percent of his preseason passes with two TDs and no picks, and he led KC on touchdown drives on 4 of his first 6 series. He had a 104.2 QB rating.

QB Todd Collins posted an impressive 128 QB rating in KC's four preseason games. Collins completed 77 percent of his passes with three TDs and no picks. It was his best preseason showing yet.

WR Dante Hall will likely start at flanker for the Chiefs in the season opener in Denver. But the club likely will try to limit his playing time on regular offense. Even though the Chiefs are thin in healthy receivers coming out of the preseason, they don't want to dump a bigger workload on Hall and risk wearing him out for the return duty for which he's best noted.

TE Tony Gonzalez averaged 17.4 yards a catch on the five passes he caught in the preseason. With injuries hindering KC's wideout corps, Gonzalez could become an even bigger target for Trent Green, who threw 71 balls to Gonzalez a year ago.

PK Lawrence Tynes said he's not feeling any extraneous nervousness going into his first NFL game. Though it's his first NFL game after two previous unsuccessful tries in the Chiefs camp, Tynes is quick to note that he's played in 56 games as a pro, albeit with the Ottawa Renegades of the CFL and in NFL Europe.

Undrafted rookie WR Wes Welker will be the primary kick and punt returner.

Rookie RT Shane Olivea remains in the starting lineup.

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