Richardson Ready for His Role

Fullback Tony Richardson is the kind of player coaches love to have – he's willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, even with 11 years already in the league. Plus, get a massive amount of NFL player notes from around the league.

Fullback Tony Richardson got a two-year, $2.5 million contract in March because Brad Childress' offense relies heavily on the position. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Richardson had spent 11 seasons with the Chiefs.

The Vikings originally had targeted William Henderson, but when the veteran decided to return to Green Bay the focus shifted to Richardson.

"I'm getting used to," wearing purple, Richardson said after a recent workout. "Every time I put it on it's definitely different. I've been wearing red for 11 years. But it's a good adjustment. I'm excited to be here."

Richardson, 35, will be counted on to help open up holes for free agent running back Chester Taylor, whom the Vikings signed away from Baltimore. Last season, Richardson had only six rushing attempts and caught nine passes.

He doesn't seem concerned about increasing his personal statistics in Minnesota. "My philosophy is whatever they ask me to do (I'll do)," he said. "If they want me to block as a fullback you're definitely going to do that. Catch the football, maybe have a few carries, whatever. My main goal at this point in my career is trying to win ballgames."

Richardson has the advantage of being familiar with the West Coast scheme having been part of the same system during his first six seasons in Kansas City. That should make his life easier as he adjusts to playing in Minnesota.

"It's pretty much the same," he said of the offense.
  • RG Artis Hicks, obtained in a draft-weekend trade from Philadelphia, is having to make an adjustment after playing on the left side with the Eagles. Asked about what he must work on, Hicks said: "Just stepping with the opposite foot from what I've been doing the last four years. You try to program yourself to step with this foot, put this hand there and when you change teams you are with a different coach, different philosophy. You've got to kind of erase what you've been taught in the past."

  • CB Dovonte Edwards, who made the Vikings last season as an undrafted rookie, was working as the second-team kickoff returner behind backup running back Mewelde Moore last Wednesday. Koren Robinson, who made the Pro Bowl last season for his work on kick returns, didn't get any reps. Robinson is expected to be the Vikings' top receiver, meaning he might only see limited duty on kick returns.

  • WR Mike Williams, who was criticized during his rookie season for being late for meetings and lackadaisical in his approach to workouts, apparently is still less than diligent in his work habits.

    The Lions' second-year wide receiver was dismissed from the final two days of the team's mandatory mini-camp, and sources say it was for the same reasons that got him into disfavor with the previous coaching staff.

    Coach Rod Marinelli declined to get into specifics, saying only that Williams had been excused because of a team issue, but reports surfaced that Williams was late for at least one hamstring treatment and missed a meeting before being sent home.

    Williams was back at work in the organized team activities the following week. "He's here working and that was the whole thing," Marinelli said. "He's here and he had a good start this week, very good."

    Williams would say only that he had been working out during the off-season and would not let the incident overshadow all of the work he had done.

    The Lions took Williams in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He caught 29 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown but was criticized for being overweight, out of shape and did not practice or prepare well.

    He has been bothered by a hamstring injury during the off-season workouts, but said he had committed himself to losing weight and getting in better condition.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper showed how far along he is in his rehabilitation from three torn knee ligaments during the opening session of a three-day minicamp last Friday at team headquarters. Although not yet at full speed, Culpepper looked fairly smooth dropping back to pass and drew cheers from the fans in attendance by sprinting downfield on a scramble after being unable to find an open target.

    "He's doing very well physically," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said of Culpepper. "You're going to ask me if I'm surprised by what he's doing. I'm not surprised. You might be surprised, but I'm not surprised because I see him every day."

    Saban, though, still wasn't prepared to say whether Culpepper would get the start against the Steelers.

    "Does he still have work to do? Absolutely," Saban said. "Are we ready to make any predictions about his future? Not really, because that's all day-to-day and week-to-week. Hopefully, he'll continue to make the kind of progress that he's made. If he does that, we can be optimistic about what his chances are early in the season."

  • WR Javon Walker continues to rehab his injured knee. He tore the ACL in Green Bay's first game last season, but the Broncos traded for him during the NFL Draft because they felt Walker would be ready by training camp. Walker has done some minor drills running straight ahead, and he should be ready for training camp. Walker will probably be held out of Denver's minicamp July 6-8.

  • QB Brett Favre acknowledged that he needs as much practice time as he can get. He's admittedly struggling to comprehend the foreign language that is first-year head coach Mike McCarthy's variation of the West Coast offense.

    "I'm actually going to study when I go home (after the OTAs)," Favre said. "I'm going to have them send me some stuff and turn my little night light on."

    Much of the terminology in McCarthy's adaptation of the system run by the Packers since Favre's first year in 1992 is Greek to the NFL's only three-time MVP.

    "It's a big challenge," Favre said. "'Strong right' last year was something totally different than 'Strong right' this year. So, when I hear, 'Strong right,' I'm thinking it's something from last year or the year before or the year before that.

    "For the most part, the concepts are the same. As you're watching, you go, 'OK, I recognize that play.' I do, too. But, it's getting out of the huddle that's the problem."

    Favre suspects it will take him until the start of training camp in late July to grasp the new language. The coaches aren't concerned.

    "He's a smart guy. It's different (with the terminology) all around the league, but it all means the same thing," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said.

  • DT Dan Wilkinson, a 12-year NFL veteran who was released last month by Detroit after telling coach Rod Marinelli that he wasn't sure whether he wanted to continue playing football, met with Miami on Thursday.

    Wilkinson would likely replace starting nose tackle Keith Traylor if signed. Traylor will be 37 entering the regular season and began showing signs of wear and tear late last season when he missed three games because of knee surgery.

    The 353-pound Wilkinson would serve as an effective short-term solution at nose tackle when Miami used a 3-4 defense. While he has never lived up to the expectations that came with being the No. 1 pick in the 1994 draft by Cincinnati, Wilkinson has proven productive and durable in his stints with the Bengals (1994 to 1997), Washington (1998 to 2002) and Detroit (2003 to 2005). Shaun Rogers blossomed into a top-flight defensive tackle playing next to Wilkinson with the Lions.

  • QB Donovan McNabb's rehab from sports hernia surgery continues on schedule with minicamp this week. "I would like to say at 100 percent, but you never know until you put the pads on and get back into a scrimmage situation or a possible game situation.," McNabb said. "With the whole training regiment that I've had all off season, I feel like I've been getting stronger and with the flexibility trainer I've been working with, as well I'm getting looser. It's kind of hard to tell right now but throughout these mini camps and these days of practicing. I've felt great and will continue to take strides until I feel 100 percent."

  • QB Steve McNair has finally landed in Baltimore, pending a physical. The on again, off again rumor finally came to fruition when the Titans agreed to trade McNair to Baltimore in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick next year.

    As recently as Tuesday, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he hoped the team and McNair would still be able to resolve their financial disagreement so the 11-year veteran could stay with the franchise. But McNair was unwilling to renegotiate his salary to reduce his $9 million cap charge next year, forcing the Titans' hand.

    McNair's contract with Baltimore is reported for five years and includes an $11 million signing bonus to go with a $1 million salary next season.

  • DE Mario Williams is sitting out practices this week following surgery to remove the nails on both of his big toes. He had problems with infections in the nails, leading to Monday's procedure. "They were bothering him throughout the camp," said coach Gary Kubiak. "So instead of trying to fight it, they removed them. We're giving him a few days off to make sure it heals properly." Kubiak said Williams might return to practice by Friday.

  • RB Thomas Jones has two years left on a four-year, $10 million deal he signed an unrestricted free agent after the 2003 season. He would welcome a trade to a team willing to redo his contract. Jones doesn't make himself any more attractive to other teams by missing activities that are technically voluntary but at which attendance is expected. The longer Jones' absence continues, the better the chance that he essentially hands the starting job to Cedric Benson, the fourth overall pick in last year's draft. Either runner is capable of having a big season in the Bears' run-first offense, and Benson said he believes he could rush for 1,700 yards this season.

  • RB Willis McGahee, a key component of Buffalo's offense, skipped all of coach Dick Jauron's OTAs, creating a concern he may hold out for a new contract. It has been learned that Buffalo's chief negotiator, Jim Overdorf, and agent Drew Rosenhaus have had recent discussions but only in general terms about his situation. McGahee, coming off a poor season in which he failed to gain 100 yards in seven of his last eight games, still has two years left on his rookie deal. McGahee's absence from their facilities this spring did concern the club enough to send running backs coach Eric Studesville to Miami recently to make contact with the player.

  • TE Kellen Winslow is on the field, running, cutting and catching passes from Charlie Frye for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last June 11. General Manager Phil Savage said Winslow is reminding him of when Winslow was one of the most dominating players in college football in 2002 and 2003.

    Contrary to some reports that had Winslow moving to wide receiver this season, he will remain a tight end. On some plays, though, he could be sent in motion. The Browns would like to get him isolated on a linebacker.

    Winslow has not played a game, regular season or preseason, since fracturing his right fibula and tearing ligaments in his right ankle in a game against the Cowboys Sept. 19, 2004. He had five catches to that point.

    Winslow's rehab from the injury in Dallas was on track, and then on May 1, 2005, he crashed his motorcycle while driving on a deserted parking lot in a Cleveland suburb.

  • WR Braylon Edwards' injury news is not as positive as TE Kellen Winslow's, but it is not discouraging considering Edwards had his major surgery almost seven months after Winslow had his. Edwards is running in a straight line. Savage set a target date of Oct. 1 for Edwards returning. That would mean carrying him the first part of the season on the 53-man roster and making him inactive until he is cleared to play.

    The Browns could start training camp with Edwards on the Physically Unable to Perform list and then decide whether he needs time beyond the Oct. 1 return date. Whatever the decision is, the Browns will not rush Edwards. If it means starting the season with him on P.U.P. and playing six games without him, that's what they'll do rather than use him for one game and risk losing him for the balance of 2006.

    "You think K-2 (Winslow), you think about Braylon and you think about Joe Jurevicius down in that red zone and you start thinking about touchdowns," Savage said. "I think that's exciting for the Browns."

  • CB Ty Law has been linked to a variety of teams including the Chiefs, Titans and Patriots for most of the spring. He even took a physical in New England in May. Recent reports have added the Cardinals and the Chargers to the mix, although the Boston Herald later reported that Law's agents, Carl and Kevin Poston, had actually contacted Arizona prior to any interest being shown by the team.

    Coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he registered a career-high 10 interceptions, Law is reportedly looking for a contract that includes $10 million in bonus money and averages $7 million per season. That price has clearly been too rich for the teams that are interested, although New England Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli has reportedly begun direct negotiations with the Postons. Law had remained in contact with the Patriots early this offseason with direct calls between himself and Patriots Bill Belichick. It's possible that Law will wait until right before or early on in training camp before signing anywhere, as he did when he signed with the Jets last August. But it is clear that the Patriots are still very much interested in re-signing one of the only elite free agents still on the market.

  • WR Deion Branch was a noticeable absence at New England's veteran passing camp held recently at Gillette Stadium that was closed to the media, according to the Boston Herald. Branch is in the final year of a rookie contract that's paid him mostly minimum-level salaries but thanks to escalators will earn him just more than $1 million in 2006. The former Super Bowl MVP is reportedly looking for a contract extension with bonus and guaranteed money in the range of $12 million.

    While it's unclear whether the passing camp absence is meant to send a message, one that could be magnified if Branch chooses to skip the team's mandatory veteran mini-camp June 13-15, the Herald reports the Patriots' No. 1 target has told friends that "he's looking for a fair-market contract and will consider taking steps necessary to get it."

  • QB Chad Pennington might not be as confident as he was before about the progress of his surgically-repaired right shoulder.

    Weeks before the Jets' "organized team activities," Pennington had said he was "throwing every route in the playbook" and that he was "full go."

    But he didn't sound quite as confident when he spoke to reporters at coach Eric Mangini's youth football camp in Hartford on June 3.

    "The goal is to be ready by Opening Day," Pennington said. "That's the goal and it's a process ... That's why I'm not trying to rush things. Competitively, I'd love to be in December shape, but realistically, you have to take it one day at a time.

    "I'm just trying not to look too far ahead."

    Well, in that case, the next item on his docket will be the Jets' three-day, full-squad mini-camp that will begin June 15. The media will be allowed to watch all of those sessions, as per NFL rules.

    Pennington said he has recovered physically from the injury, but couldn't put a percentage on his throwing capacity.

    When asked if Pennington will be ready for training camp, which begins late next month, Mangini responded, "We're going to monitor it."

  • QB Drew Brees was under the microscope when the Saints held their final three-day mini-camp last week.

    Brees, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in January, threw balls in public for the first time since signing with the Saints in mid-March. After resuming light throwing in April, Brees did not throw with full velocity and did not throw during full-speed team drills. But that was by design so he wouldn't become overzealous.

    "That's when you stop thinking about everything else physical and you just go and play and react," he said. "I'm afraid that I would get out there and try to hose one in there when I'm not supposed to. It's not like it would hurt me, but it probably wouldn't be the smartest thing.

    "I feel great. Obviously, I'm not throwing very hard. I'm just kind of flicking it, throwing it firm, but not overdoing it -- a lot of the short and intermediate routes, just to get a sense of the timing with those guys and anticipation."

  • QB Carson Palmer is making steady progress from his left knee surgery but will not participate fully in minicamp.

    Asked if he thought Palmer would play in the preseason, coach Marvin Lewis said, "Yes."

    And asked if he believes Palmer would take the first snap in the opener Sept. 10 at Kansas City, Lewis said, "I do."

  • TE Tim Euhus was acquired by New Orleans from Buffalo in exchange for Courtney Watson, who the Saints previously tried to trade to Miami.

  • WR Santonio Holmes, barred by NFL policy from attending the Steelers' spring workouts because Ohio State classes were still going on, will receive special tutoring in Pittsburgh later this month.

    The Steelers' spring drills ended last Thursday and Holmes attended only one three-day minicamp in May. The former Buckeyes' wide receiver, the first taken in this year's draft, will try to catch up on much of what he missed through a one-week session with some coaches and a few teammates in Pittsburgh.

    "We will have some coaches and players in here throwing to him," coach Bill Cowher said. "It will work out pretty well."

    Cowher finally broke his silence about Holmes' May 27 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge in Miami Beach when he refused a police officer's order to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk.

    "If you look at the details, certainly there were a lot of people over the Memorial Day weekend who were arrested," Cowher said. "Whatever he did wrong, I don't think he handled it properly."

    Holmes, Cowher said, has to understand that now that he's in the NFL, he will draw more attention and must avoid certain situations.

    "I think he'll learn from it. He'll learn to understand the scrutiny he's under. We have not talked face-to-face about it, but I don't have any long-term concerns. I think he's still a very solid individual, and I'm not going to hold that incident against him even though we will talk about it."

  • LB Joey Porter, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee May 24, is expected to be ready to go for the start of training camp May 24. "We may monitor him some, as with some of the other guys that we'll monitor, but he should not be inhibited in any way," coach Bill Cowher said.

  • DE Greg Ellis, unhappy with his role and demanding a new contract, skipped the organized team activity days last week. He showed up for the mandatory minicamp the weekend before, but did not return for the voluntary practice sessions when it became the clear the Cowboys weren't going to meet demands for a new deal.

    Now Ellis said he wants the Cowboys to trade or release him.

    He will report to training camp in July if he is still on the roster. But he said it would not be a good situation for him or the Cowboys.

    "As long as they are committed to me, I will do whatever they want me to do," Ellis said. "If the level of commitment isn't there, how do you expect me to play the kind of roles you want me to play? My heart will not feel the same. It would be best for me to not be here."

    Ellis wanted the Cowboys to show some commitment to him by restructuring his contract and giving him a serious financial guarantee by bringing some of the money in his deal forward in a bonus.

    His contract runs through 2009 and includes salaries of $2.25 million, $2.5 million, $3.325 million and $4.15 million over the next four years. He has already received a $500,000 roster bonus for 2006. He feels he is playing on a series of one-year deals after being benched last season in favor of Chris Canty because Canty was a better fit for the 3-4.

    Ellis still tied for the team lead in sacks with eight and remains one of two proven pass rushers on the team.

  • TE Jason Witten is in the last year of his contract and wants a new deal. The Cowboys want to oblige. The two sides have had some discussions about a contract extension. Witten said he would like to get something done before the start of the season or wait until the season is over.

  • QB Donovan McNabb has acknowledged that the abdominal injury that ruined his and the Eagles' season last year occurred not on the field but in the weight room during his rigorous offseason training in Arizona.

    He ended up playing hurt the first half of the season before aggravating the injury in November and missing the final seven games. Now, McNabb appears to be completely recovered. But as soon as the Eagles' voluntary minicamp ends next week, he's going back to Arizona to train before the July 20 start of training camp.

    "Just like a little kid, you tell him he can't have any candy and he's still reaching in the candy jar," McNabb said when asked why he doesn't just play it safe and rest up until the start of two-a-days.

    "If you're training, you're working. You are not going to pull back because you hurt yourself before. I am going to work harder and try to avoid it and hopefully I will avoid that injury.

    "When I'm in the weight room I am not going to pull back on the weight. I'm not going to get out on the field and pull back on the running. I am going to prepare myself to make sure I am in the best shape possible coming into camp. I think when you do that mentally, it prepares you knowing that I'm ready to go. If anything, I am a competitor first and foremost."

  • DE Chris Gocong, the Eagles' rookie third-round pick out of Division 1-AA Cal Poly who the team is hoping to turn into a strong-side linebacker, missed nearly two weeks of the team's important rookie camps because NFL rules forbid rookies from practicing until their school's spring semester is over. Cal Poly didn't finish up until June 5. Those missed two weeks make it unlikely Gocong will be able to make the end-to-linebacker transition fast enough to wrestle the starting strong-side linebacker job away from Dhani Jones.

  • LB Lance Briggs missed all three sessions of the Bears' voluntary offseason program last week. Briggs is in the final year of the four-year deal he signed after being drafted in the third round in 2003. But he doesn't want to wait until after the season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, to cash in on the riches that await after last season's Pro Bowl campaign. Briggs has said he cannot foresee sitting out during the season, since he would have to wait another year to become an unrestricted free agent. Briggs would be difficult to replace given the Bears' lack of depth behind Brian Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer at linebacker. But they have starters returning at every other position and are considered the team to beat in the NFC North.

  • QB Mark Brunell will miss next weekend's mandatory minicamp after breaking the index finger on his left (throwing) hand during an organized team drill on May 31.

    Brunell, who led the Redskins to their first playoff appearance in six years last season, fractured the finger when it hit the helmet of a defensive player as he completed a passing motion.

    "It'll take three weeks and that will be it," Brunell told The Washington Times before signing autographs at the Redskins Beach Blitz fan festival on June 2 in Virginia Beach, Va.

    Brunell, who had a small wrap on the finger, said the fracture is a "clean break" and won't require surgery. The fracture is the first such injury of the 35-year-old's career.

    "I'm not concerned at all, really," he said. "It's nothing too serious."

  • QB Alex Smith has shown some improvement during the 49ers' offseason program. How much? Everybody will just have to wait and see.

    "He's got a ways to go, but I see improvement," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said.

    Smith completed just 50.9 percent of his passes and threw 11 interceptions and just one touchdown while starting seven games. Nolan said nobody will be able to determine just how far Smith has come along until the games begin for real.

    "For example, the decision-making process in a game is a lot different than in practice," Nolan said. "In practice, you know nobody's going to hit you. You can see some of it (the areas in which he has improved), but you can't see the total thing. I'd love him to be a grown up, mature adult at the quarterback position."

  • SS Tony Parrish, who has been out since sustaining a spiral fracture on his left lower leg in mid-November, might be able to return to the practice field for the final week of OTAs.

  • LB Takeo Spikes, recovering from Achilles' tendon surgery, is wearing a gray T-shirt with the words "COMEBACK, SEPTEMBER 2006" on the front. The two-time Pro Bowler is doing more agility drills and running on his own, but is still being very cautious about pushing too hard. "I have time on my side and we'll take advantage of that," he said. "Coach Jauron has a schedule set for me to where they know what I can do. Once a dog bites, you can't take that away."

  • CB Daylon McCutcheon had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle April 28. He is not participating in the OTA but hopes to be ready for minicamp June 16-18.

  • RB Domanick Davis missed the recent minicamp practices. "(Davis) did a little bit the other day in the walk through," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think he's going to be fine. I don't want to do anything that's going to set him back. As long as I see him back the

  • LB DeMeco Ryans' quick progress during the offseason hasn't been entirely surprising. The only surprise came in April when Ryans was still available in the second round of the draft.

    Ryans, one of the most celebrated players -- on and off the field -- in Crimson Tide history, started 37 career games and ended his career ranked fifth on the all-time tackle list with 307 career stops.

    Ryans is currently sitting behind Morlon Greenwood at outside linebacker and Wali Rainer in the middle. He is making big strides at both positions, however, and will be pushing for the starting jobs in training camp.

    "We think he has a bright, bright future," defensive coordinator Richard Smith said. "And he's a young person that we feel can come in here and compete for a starting position on this team. But he's got to earn that spot. And that's what we're trying to get accomplished right now. We're trying to develop him into a starter. He brings youth, speed, and athletic ability to the position."

  • WR Marvin Harrison's recent elbow surgery appears to have been successful, according to coach Tony Dungy. "He (Harrison) told me if there was anything wrong, he'd let me know," Dungy said, adding that he hasn't heard anything to make him believe that Harrison won't be available for training camp.

  • LB Gary Brackett underwent surgery recently to repair a slightly torn groin muscle. That ended his on-field participation in the team's voluntary summer school and added him to a long list of teammates who are recovering from offseason medical procedures.

    Brackett is expected be available when the team reports to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute July 30 for the start of training camp.

  • MLB Zach Thomas was one of the handful of players limited in minicamp practice because of injuries. Thomas underwent shoulder surgery at the end of the 2005 season.

    "He really does everything (in practice)," coach Nick Saban said. "We just don't put him in the direct runs. His rehab is going well. I don't think we see any significant problems. This is more of a precautionary type of thing than it is anything else. Basically, all he missed is the 9-on-7 stuff (and) sometimes a little bit of team (drills). But he's able to do everything."

  • RB Reggie Bush was back to full speed in minicamp last weekend after missing parts of a rookie mini-camp in mid-May with a strained hamstring. The hamstring that was so tender it required Bush almost shutting down during the rookie camp no longer is a problem and he worked with the offense and on special teams.

    "He's fine," said coach Sean Payton. "At the end of last week, he started going full speed."

  • WR Donte Stallworth, who was held out of mini-camp practices on June 3 because he was late for work, was sidelined for parts of the last of five practices.

    Stallworth, who had minor off-season shoulder surgery, at times stood around flexing his left shoulder. But coach Sean Payton wouldn't say if Stallworth, the subject of trade talks this spring, was being singled out.

    "There are certain things that we expect," Payton said.

    "He (Payton) made his message clear when he first got here," Stallworth said, "and he doesn't want things like that to occur."

  • RT Jon Stinchcomb, a four-year veteran, is still recovering from the ruptured right patellar tendon that ended his season last year early in training camp.

    Stinchcomb, who's alternating with Jamar Nesbit on the first team, appeared to be favoring the knee when he's running. But he was happy to take part in the mini-camp workouts.

    "It's been a long time since I've played some football," said Stinchcomb, a second-round draft pick in 2003. "I'm just trying to knock some rust off. It's good to be back out there. But I still have a ways to go. Just to be playing football, it's quite a blessing."

  • RB Marshall Faulk has been absent for all of the team's offseason program while rehabilitating his knees in California. In February, Faulk had what was described as "clean-up" surgery on both knees.

    During a chat with in April, Faulk said his knees were "doing pretty well," and added, "I haven't done a lot but am getting into rehab now, maybe a week or two away from the rigorous portion."

    However, with the team's mandatory minicamp beginning Friday (June 9), Rams coach Scott Linehan was told the day before by agent Rocky Arceneaux that Faulk would not be participating in the minicamp.

    Faulk was married on May 9 in Orlando and he will be busy with activities for his foundation during the weekend. He is introducing turkey and chicken sausage (low fat) at the Taste of the Central West End (in St. Louis) along with other events that culminate with his annual golf tournament Monday (June 12).

    Linehan said he was told Faulk "is nursing some issues with the knees."

    As for his absence from minicamp, Linehan said, "It's important that everybody's here. But some things are out of your control."

    However, there have been reports that Faulk's absence isn't totally related to his health, that he is unhappy with Linehan and doesn't want to play for the Rams anymore.

    Linehan denied those stories, saying, "There are no problems, no rifts or anything like that. I know this is difficult for him."

  • QB Steve McNair's trade to Baltimore ended a stressful time for McNair and the team, which mishandled him down the stretch, barring him from workouts, getting caught up in a debate about his exit physical from last season and facing mounting pressure from the NFLPA after McNair's won a grievance hearing.

    "It was a crazy situation," McNair said at his introductory press conference in Baltimore. "You spend 11 years in an organization, to where you dedicate your whole life and dedicate your whole body to it. Maybe they could have (been more delicate), maybe not. That's not for me to answer.

    "I'm glad everything is behind me. The Titans have been good to me for 11 years. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to start my NFL career. But I'm just glad to be here to finish it."

    Their bungling over, the Titans did their best to pay tribute to McNair after the deal was finalized.

    "When you bring a guy into the league, you raise him, and he turns out to be probably everything that you would hope he could be, and then it has to end this way, it's not easy," General Manager Floyd Reese said. "It's not happy. I don't think it's an indication of the position, the player, the organization, the Ravens or anyone else. It's a fact of life.

    "I think when you look at what Steve has done for us and what he has meant to us over a number of years, I don't know that you could ask a lot more from him."

    McNair left as the franchise's all-time leader in regular season wins, with 76.

  • QB Billy Volek, who's got a big arm but a 3-7 record as a starter, inherits the starting job but brings durability and pocket presence concerns. Rookie Vince Young is going to need a while to be ready to play.

    "How things are going to fall right now, I can't be specific, but I can say that Billy is going to line up as our starter," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He inherits the role now, and we are getting Vince ready to play as quickly as we can."

    Volek has indicate he's hoping to be the next Drew Brees, making such a good impression during his time as the starter that another team wants him by the time young is ready to take over.

    "I'm going to take one day at a time and be thankful for each day," he said. "I've played six years in the NFL and it's been a dream and to go into my seventh year as the starter, I'm excited about it. I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it. People know what I can do and just to put a string of starts together is exciting."

  • OL Kyle Turley is believed to be close to signing with Kansas City. Turley, should he choose to join the Chiefs, could contend for a starting position at right tackle or back up 35-year-old Willie Roaf at left tackle.

  • RB Priest Holmes, AKA "The Ghost," drifted through Kansas City last week for the first time since going on the injured reserve list with head and neck injuries last November.

    He did a couple of kids' sports camps, visited coach Herm Edwards and team president Carl Peterson at Arrowhead Stadium, then did a couple of interviews in which he said a lot without saying definitively whether he would play for the Chiefs in 2006.

    The decision, Holmes said, is not up to him. Not completely, anyway. If it is, he says he will play, even as a backup to newly anointed starter Larry Johnson.

    But the decision may not be his to make, Holmes said. He will listen intensely to the medical advice of Dr. Robert Watkins, a spinal specialist who will tell the 32-year-old Holmes whether it is safe to play after he sustained head and neck injuries that ended his season last Oct. 30 in San Diego.

    "I'm taking the advice of Dr. Watkins," Holmes said. "I'm putting it on him so that he can make the decision. But the final decision comes to me."

    Hey, it's hard to pin down a ghost.

    "Ultimately, at the end of the day it's my final say, my final decision," Holmes explained later. "Will I take what they say to heart and really think about it? I will once the time comes."

  • LB David Pollack practiced for the first time this offseason Wednesday after aggravating a foot injury. Pollack suffered the original injury during the season, coach Marvin Lewis said.

    "Great. It felt good today," said Pollack, who met Thursday before practice with trainer Paul Sparling to determine how the foot reacted to practice.

  • RB Rudi Johnson, who had a knee cleanout in January, is expected to be cleared next week.

  • OTs Willie Anderson and Levi Jones and LG Eric Steinbach all remained unsigned following the 2006 season. Center Rich Braham is entering the 13th season and expected to retire afterwards.

    Anderson, an All Pro player the past two seasons, is entering his 11th NFL season. Jones is coming into his fifth year. Steinbach is entering his fourth. Starting right guard Bobbie Williams signed an extension earlier this offseason.

    Anderson and coach Marvin Lewis both said that the line remains focused on team success.

    "I want to make sure we have a chance to compete for that ring and make sure people know we're not talking about contracts," Anderson said after practice. "(Jones), that's my best friend on this team. Go get him (extended) first. He's playing on a high level right now. He's a left tackle. Go reward him now.

    "They rewarded me with a big contract back in 2000. I want my friend, (Jones) and Steinbach, these young guys, to get the same opportunity and get rewarded the way I was five, six years ago. If they don't do me, there are no hard feelings. My initial goal is team."

    Anderson said the team will not be torn apart by talk of contracts or the legal problems experienced over the past weekend by wide receiver Chris Henry and rookie linebacker A.J. Nicholson.

    "In tough times, we have to pull tighter," Anderson said.

  • WR Chris Henry was arrested for the third time in the past seven months early on Saturday morning, June 3, for driving under the influence of alcohol in suburban Cincinnati. Henry's lawyer entered a plea of not guilty in Clermont Municipal Court in Batavia, Ohio. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for June 20. Henry had been arrested in November in Covington for marijuana possession and in January in Orlando, Fla., for illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

    "That bothers me when someone doesn't quite understand social laws, no question that bothers me," Lewis said of Henry.

    The week before, Henry's trial for carrying a concealed firearm earlier this year in Orlando was been moved to Aug. 21, according to Orange County (Fla.) court records. The trial was to begin May 30. Henry, 23, was arrested Jan. 28 in Orlando and charged with possession of a concealed firearm, improper exhibition of a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm.

    According to the police report, he was a member of a party riding in a limousine that got into a conflict with another group. Henry allegedly pulled a 9mm Luger from the waistline of his pants, pointed it at someone on a downtown Orlando sidewalk and then tossed the gun back into the limo.

  • FS Brian Dawkins will play this season in the final year of his contract unless a new deal with the team is worked out. "I am going to go out and play ball," he said. "Whether it's a contract year, whether it's the first year after a contract, whether it's the third year on a four year deal, I am going to try my best to give everything that I have regardless of the situation."

  • DT Jason Fisk signed a one-year deal with St. Louis. The 11-year veteran had 50 tackles for Cleveland last year.

  • CB Kevin Timonthee signed with St. Louis. Timothee spent the 2005 preseason with the Titans as an undrafted rookie out of Florida International. He played this spring for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.

  • K Remy Hamilton signed a one-year contract with St. Louis. Hamilton played in one game for the Lions last year after spending the 2005 preseason with the Rams.

  • TE Landon Trusty was placed on the reserve/injured list and will miss the 2006 season with a torn ligament in his right knee.

  • LB Courtney Watson, whom the Saints previously tried to trade to Miami, was sent to Buffalo in exchange for TE Tim Euhus.

  • QB Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) signed with Baltimore.

  • QB Joel Klatt was assigned to Detroit on waivers from the Saints.

  • G Tyler Lenda (released by Redskins on Sept. 4; Amsterdam, NFL Europe 2006) signed with Kansas City.

  • WR Scott McCready (released by Panthers on Sept. 6, 2004; Hamburg, NFL Europe 2006) signed with Kansas City.

  • QB Matt Leinart was grateful for his two weeks of rookie camp and the one-on-one coaching he got from quarterbacks coach Mike Kruczek to make him Cardinals-literate when the full team reassembled last week.

    "I think it is very important for a rookie to take advantage of that time," Leinart said. "There is a lot more detail, obviously, and there's a lot more things to learn than in college. But the one advantage I think I've had is coming from (U)SC where our playbook was pretty big and it was a pro-style offense. At SC it was different that how we call things here. So that is the biggest adjustment for me. I try to understand the words we are saying, especially during two-minute and stuff like that.

    "You just have to process the information and you have to study the playbook and then really the key reps for me are the mental reps, when I'm sitting back there with the script looking at what plays we're running and just following how Kurt and John (Navarre, backup quarterback) are doing things. I just try to ask them questions here and there whenever I don't understand something. That is something you just have to do. When the whole team is out here that is when we have to take those mental reps, then when we do get our opportunities, I make the most of them."

  • RB Roger Robinson, a Northern Arizona University product, was named to the All-NFL Europe League team.

    He led Frankfurt to victory in World Bowl XIV after setting the league's single-season rushing record with 1,087 yards, breaking the five-year-old mark of 1,057 by Mike Green of Barcelona.

    Robinson, who will have Edgerrin James, Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington in his way in his quest for a roster spot -- practice squad is very likely -- averaged 5.1 yards a carry and had four rushing touchdowns.

  • WR Terrell Owens held a four-day football camp in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex in effort to introduce himself to the youth of the area.

    Owens wants to get off on the right foot with the community and felt connecting with the kids with a football camp was a good way to start.

    What's certain already is that Owens has made a favorable impression on his new teammates.

    The Cowboys have welcomed Owens with open arms, offering him a clean slate from his sins in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

    They are extremely excited about what they see from him on the football field. He was downright dominant during the team's three-day minicamp. The players know what that will mean for the offense next season.

    "Anytime you can get a guy like T.O. on your team who commands so much respect, it's going to open up the running position and do big things for me," running back Julius Jones said.

    Said quarterback Drew Bledsoe: "I think he can play a little. He catches the ball and turns up field with an intensity I haven't seen. That's the reason why he's led the league in run after the catch. He wants to score every time."

    The Cowboys aren't naive. No one is saying there will not be any blow ups this season. That happens every year and it will happen with Owens. They just know who will have the final say -- coach Bill Parcells.

  • OG Kyle Kosier knows he has big shoes to fill. The free agent guard from Detroit was signed to replace future Hall of Famer Larry Allen.

    "They are big shoes to fill, but I have confidence I will get it done," Kosier said. "I'll play anywhere they tell me."

    The Cowboys like Kosier's versatility. He can indeed play anywhere. But they signed him to play left guard, although Stephen Peterman and Cory Procter will also compete for the spot.

    "I am not saying it's wide open because Kosier has more experience than the other guys," coach Bill Parcells said. "If someone showed up big, you would have to (consider) that."

  • RB Julius Jones has big goals for 2006, just like he did last year.

    This time, however, he is keeping quiet.

    Jones rushed for 993 yards and five touchdowns in 2005 after a preseason prediction 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns. He said he has learned a lesson.

    "Maybe it jinxed me. I ain't going to say it this year. I ain't saying nothing," Jones said. "I'm not putting any numbers out there. I'm going to keep them in my head this year."

  • FB Lousaka Polite is working at tight end and running back because the Cowboys are going to a two-tight end offense and have all but eliminated the full back position.

  • LB Kevin Burnett participated in the Cowboys' on field activity days after missing three day minicamp while still recovering from offseason knee surgery.

  • LB Al Singleton was back at practice after missing the camp to attend a wedding -- his.

  • FS Brian Dawkins will turn 33 in October, and is coming off a sub-par season. Put those two facts together and it's logical to assume the Eagles' free safety no longer is the elite player who earned five Pro Bowl invitations.

    But Dawkins said his inconsistent play last season had nothing to do with age or a lost step.

    "If you're saying I'm getting Alzheimer's or something, no," he said. "I'm not forgettin' stuff. I'm not getting slower. It was just mental things (last season). I still can do the things I need to do.

    "I made too many mistakes last year. That's not who I am. I personally gave up too many plays. That's not something that I will accept."

  • Chicago CB Ricky Manning Jr. had plenty on his mind at last weekend's minicamp trying to learn a new defense and his role as the team's nickel corner. But there's also the distraction of his ongoing legal case.

    Manning pleaded not guilty May 26 to an assault charge stemming from an alleged attack on a man at a Denny's restaurant near the UCLA campus on April 23. He waived his right to be in court June 16, when a date is to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial on a charge of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. The 25-year-old Manning is free on $30,000 bail.

    "There's a little side of me that's worried about it because you never know, and I prepare for the worst," Manning said between practice sessions Saturday. "But it'll be fine. My lawyer and my agent are very confident that it'll be fine, and I'm confident, too, because it should be. There should be no reason I should suffer any consequences because of this. It just shouldn't be."

    According to prosecutors, Manning and two other former UCLA football players, Maurice Drew and Tyler Ebell, are accused of the attack the day before he signed with the Bears on April 24. All three were arrested soon after in Manning's car. The three had allegedly been harassing a man working on a laptop computer at the restaurant. He complained to a manager, and was then kicked and punched in the face by several attackers until he lost consciousness, according to the LAPD.

  • Bears QB Brian Griese has been a starter for most of his eight seasons, but the Bears brought him in as the backup to Rex Grossman.

    "I've always looked at myself as a starting quarterback in the league," Griese said. "So at the times when I wasn't, to me it was just a matter of time and working hard to get back out on that field."

    Griese continued to do that over the weekend while he battles back from the knee surgery that ended his 2005 season prematurely.

    "The knee felt really good (Friday), and I was happy because I didn't have a whole lot of swelling in it after practice which is the biggest concern," said Griese, who did not practice Saturday morning but was back on the field in the afternoon session and for Sunday's finale.

  • Bears QB Rex Grossman is in the same offense for a second straight season for the first time since his sophomore year at Florida, and the familiarity feels good to the oft-injured fourth-year veteran.

    "The big thing about this right now is that at this point the last three years I was learning an offense," Grossman said. "And now I'm trying to perfect an offense and start to practice it instead of constantly thinking, 'What should I do here and where is this guy going?' I know where they're going, and now I can get better. I think everyone out here is doing that. There's a lot more rhythm to it. Everyone understands basically what coach (Ron) Turner wants, and now it's just perfecting that, and I'm no different in that."

    The acquisition of veteran Brian Griese, a long-time starter, gives the Bears a more qualified backup at quarterback than they've had in many years, but Grossman said that doesn't necessarily push him harder.

    "I'd like to think of myself as a self-starter," Grossman said, "but anytime you have added pressure you have to turn your game up, no matter how much effort you put into it to begin with."

  • Chicago DT Tank Johnson didn't participate in last weekend's minicamp but is targeting the start of training camp for a return to full health after suffering a torn quadriceps in March, an odd time to get hurt.

    "Coming back from the offseason, working out too fast, just doing too much," Johnson said. "It was just kind of unfortunate."

  • DT Alfonso Boone is sidelined after undergoing recent wrist surgery but should be ready for camp.

  • FB Bryan Johnson is out with a foot injury that has been an off-and-on problem for more than a year.

  • WR Airese Currie, who missed all of last season with foot and hamstring injuries, missed Saturday's practices with a quadriceps injury.

  • NY Giants TE Eddie Lee "Boo" Williams, 6-feet-4 and 265 pounds, who spent the 2005 season out of football because of a knee injury (torn anterior cruciate ligament) that required surgery, signed with the Giants. He was released by the Saints on Feb. 23.

    With his background -- he played in all 16 New Orleans games from 2002 through 2004 -- they hope the backup position behind Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey is more secure than with just Visanthe Shiancoe, who was a third-round draft pick out of small-school Troy State (Ala.) in 2003 who has never fully vindicated that status.

  • TE Matt Kranchick, 6-7 and 260, was released by the Giants. He joined the team on Dec. 19, 2005, and played in two games at the end of the season.

  • QB Tim Hasselbeck's days with the Giants could be numbered with the signing of backup Rob Johnson. Hasselbeck was the backup to Eli Manning last year, taking that job from Jesse Palmer (now with San Francisco). But there are still reports that the team isn't satisfied with this nominal upgrade, and the names Jay Fiedler and former Giant Kerry Collins continue to surface.

  • Washington S Sean Taylor will serve 18 months probation after pleading guilty on June 1 to two misdemeanors rather than risking up to 46 years in prison.

    "For me, it was a matter of getting past it and I think Sean has already started doing that," said fullback Mike Sellers, who was suspended and then cut by Cleveland in 2001 after being charged with cocaine possession. "He's gotten all of the legalities out of the way and for him, this was the best way to get it over with."

    Safeties coach Steve Jackson was relieved that Taylor won't do any jail time.

    "There was (relief), not for the football part, but more so for Sean as a person," Jackson said. "He's changed a lot since he got here and especially since this thing started (last June). Now he can put it behind him and show the kind of person he's become."

    Unlike last year, when Taylor declined to participate in Washington's offseason program, the Redskins said that he has been a regular at Redskin Park this offseason.

    "You could tell on Sean's face that this was bugging him a little bit, but it would bug anybody facing jail time," Sellers said. "But now he can come back to stay, practice with us and not have to worry about it."

  • 49ers QB Cody Pickett, who was once seen as a promising prospect at quarterback, might have to earn his job with the 49ers at a different position.

    Coach Mike Nolan does not see much hope for Pickett in the immediate future with the 49ers because of 2005 top overall pick Alex Smith and veteran backup Trent Dilfer ahead of him on the depth chart.

    Moreover, the 49ers signed free-agent quarterback Shaun Hill, who has yet to attempt a pass in four NFL seasons, and five-year veteran Jesse Palmer has thrown the ball as impressively as anyone during the team's offseason program.

    When asked if Pickett's future in the NFL might be at a different position, Nolan answered, "I don't know that. (But) it will be difficult here, right now."

    The 49ers plan to use Pickett as a slot receiver during training camp, the spot in Norv Turner's offense that is similar to the H-back position used around the league. Last season, Pickett looked impressive on the practice field for the scout team against the No. 1 defense. Pickett also saw action in three games on special teams.

    "I like Cody," Nolan said. "He's competitive, he's tough and he makes us better for competing for those jobs. He's a versatile guy, he works and he's accountable."

    Pickett started two games at quarterback last season, including a game played at Chicago's Soldier Field, where wind speeds reached 47 mph. Pickett completed just one of 13 passing attempts for 28 yards in a 17-9 loss.

  • QB Shaun Hill comes to the 49ers after spending four seasons with the Vikings. Hill saw action in just one game, entering last season's finale against the Bears long enough to take two snaps at the end of a 34-10 victory.

    "Any time we can have the competition, that's the biggest thing," coach Mike Nolan said. "(Hill) is a guy who can do that. He'll challenge, for sure, for that second and third spot."

  • WR Arnaz Battle was 49ers' most impressive wide receiver when he was on the field last season. However, he was on the field for just eight starts and he was completely healthy for about nine quarters the entire season because of a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament and bone bruise in his right knee.

    Two months ago, Battle began experiencing swelling in his knee, which he says was to be expected. He believes the condition will not be a chronic problem as it was a year ago, when he was second on the team with 32 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns.

    Battle is entering his fourth NFL season and the first in offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system. The West Coast system, which has been used by the 49ers in the past, is considered a more complex scheme, but Battle said it is difficult to learn the new terminology.

    "The West Coast system is more about words and memorization," he said. "This is a numerical system, so numbers tell you what kind of routes you have to do."

    Battle said there is not a lot of difference between the systems, but added, "The routes are probably a little deeper."

  • DB Mike Adams, who started nine games at free safety, is the front-runner to win the job. Free-agent acquisition Chad Williams, who is seen more as a strong-safety type, is competing for a starting job.

    "Mike (Adams) did a great job last year," coach Mike Nolan said. "He's come out of nowhere. When we first took the job, I didn't know Mike Adams. Mike did a good job for us. He can play corner, safety and nickel. He works at it and is serious. His shortcomings are probably his height, but he's a good tough football player that works at it."

    Adams recorded four interceptions last season, including two in the closing minutes of games to provide victories over the Rams and Texans in the first and last games of the season. Adams started the finale at cornerback, but his future with the 49ers is as a safety, Nolan said.

    "He can play corner in a clutch like he did against the Texans," Nolan said, "but then you devise the game plan around him to give him some help. He can still play effectively. His versatility is very helpful."

  • Bills LB Courtney Watson, a second-round draft pick in 2004 out of Notre Dame whose career became sidetracked in New Orleans, was acquired in a trade this week for tight end Tim Euhus, a fourth-round pick in that same draft class out of Oregon State.

    It's a value move for the Bills. They needed depth at middle linebacker behind London Fletcher and they had a surplus of tight ends. A three-year starter for Notre Dame, the 6-1, 245-pound Watson started eight games as a rookie making 71 tackles with two sacks. He started six games last season, making 44 tackles.

    A bit undersized for the middle, Watson could not hang onto the starting job with the Saints and went on injured reserve late last season with a torn knee ligament. The Bills are hoping he's a good fit for their Tampa Bay defense, which puts a premium on speed and running to the ball.

    "The first thing is getting out here on a football field. I haven't been on a field since I got injured last October so this is fun for me," said Watson after taking part in his first practice during an organized team activity at Ralph Wilson Stadium. "Then to be somewhere where I want to be, the coaches want me to be a part of the team, you can't ask for more than that in any job but especially this job."

    Watson has been a bit of a vagabond this spring. He was first traded to Miami, Buffalo's AFC East rival, but that deal fell through when the other player involved in the trade, linebacker Eddie Moore, failed his physical.

  • QB J.P. Losman, who is battling for the starting quarterback job he held a year ago, is pretty confident he'll be around Buffalo for awhile. Or maybe he's just a good investor. The third-year pro, who has been renting, recently purchased a Georgian-style historic mansion in downtown Buffalo for $650,000.

  • Buffalo DE Joshua Cooper will compete for the fourth end spot. Cooper, the defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl in 2004 for Mississippi, spent his rookie season on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad and was out of football last season. He earned another NFL shot by playing in NFL Europe this spring for World Bowl champion Frankfurt. He had 26 tackles and two sacks on the season.

    After starters Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and backup Ryan Denney, Buffalo's defensive end situation is a question mark. Free agents Mark Word, Matthew Rice and Eric Powell will get a look in camp with Cooper, but OLB Jeff Posey will also be tried more as a rush end on passing downs.

  • FS Jim Leonhard (hamstring) returned to practice after being injured last month.

  • QB Ken Dorsey has convinced the Browns coaches has the head and the heart to play in the NFL. But does he have the arm strength?

    Dorsey was acquired from the 49ers last month along with a seventh-round draft choice for quarterback Trent Dilfer. The trade left the Browns without a time-tested quarterback behind Frye.

    The on-field portion of the Browns' offseason program began June 1 and continues through minicamp. Dorsey is auditioning as much as any undrafted rookie is.

    "He's excellent in the classroom, he's a quick learner and he's a team player," General Manager Phil Savage said. "Those are the things we thought about him when we made the trade and he's shown that since he's been here.

    "The coaches like him. That's been his M.O. throughout his career. It's a matter of his physical ability. We think in watching him there are some adjustments we can make to some of his mechanics that can help him based on my conversations with Rip Scherer, our quarterbacks coach."

    The knock on Dorsey is the same one he had coming out of Miami in 2003 -- good leader, football savvy, but he has a weak arm. It's why the 49ers were able to get him in the seventh round after he lead the Hurricanes to a national championship in 2001 and an undefeated regular season in 2002. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat him in the Fiesta Bowl to end his chances of back-to-back national titles.

  • LB Chaun Thompson is working as an inside linebacker in the organized team activities. The Browns could have Thompson, Willie McGinest, Kamerion Wimbley and David McMillan rushing the quarterback on passing downs if the move pans out.

  • Texans CB Phillip Buchanon wanted to be the first one to address "the play." He didn't wait for a second meeting with coach Gary Kubiak. The first time he crossed Kubiak's path in the hallways of Reliant Stadium, Buchanon started talking and then steered the conversation toward "the play."

    Buchanon was sure that Kubiak had already heard of the infamous time he missed a tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers and gave up a big play to Willie Parker. It was after that game -- just the second of the season -- that Buchanon was demoted and criticized for not being a good tackler.

    "I had no idea," Kubiak said. "I hadn't seen the play or talked about it."

    Eventually Kubiak and defensive coordinator Richard Smith heard about Buchanon's struggles in 2005. They heard of his problems tackling, and Smith called Buchanon in for a one-on-one meeting. He wanted to make sure Buchanon knew they weren't going to carry those problems into this season.

    It was just the message Buchanon needed to hear after a tumultuous 2005.

    "They blamed me for not tackling, but I was just trying to make a play and it ended up looking like I didn't want to tackle," said Buchanon. "I talked to a lot of guys who play my position and they told me to stay calm and do what you do. Things happen, and I just look forward to bigger and better things."

    Buchanon can't completely escape last season. He still has a reputation for being a poor tackler, and so the Texans are working with him on it.

  • QB Shaun King was signed by the Colts with top backup Jim Sorgi battling a sore right shoulder.

    Released by the Detroit Lions, King -- who helped to lead Tony Dungy's Buccaneers team to a 1999 NFC Championship Game appearance against the St. Louis Rams -- is expected to be the Colts' third-string quarterback behind starter Peyton Manning and Sorgi.

    King, a second-round draft choice by Tampa Bay in 1999, will be entering his seventh NFL season. He has started 24 of 34 career games and is 415 of 738 passing for 4,566 yards and 27 touchdowns with 24 interceptions.

    The 6-1, 228-pound Tulane graduate spent five seasons with Tampa Bay, including a career-best season in 2000 when he completed 233 of 428 passes for 2,769 yards and 18 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. King spent the 2004 season with Arizona and had signed a one-year deal with the Lions on March 3.

    "We just think Shaun will add to our quarterback situation," Dungy said in a statement released by the team. "He's an experienced guy who has played in a lot of big games and won. I think he's going to be a good fit for our system and what we do. Both years he started for us (in Tampa Bay), we went to the playoffs and he was a big reason why."

  • Colts QB Jim Sorgi was forced to miss the team's recent mini-camp due to pain in the shoulder. He has also missed a good portion of the team's offseason work. The team, however, has not issued an update on his status.

  • WR Terrence Wilkins signed one-year $585,000 contracts with Indianapolis. Signed initially by Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent in 1999, the diminutive Wilkins made an early name for himself returning punts and working as a slot receiver. With the decision not to re-sign Troy Walters (now with Arizona), the Colts now have an opening for a player to fill both roles once again.

    In 41 career games with Indianapolis, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound receiver was responsible 10 touchdowns (seven receiving, one kickoff return and two punt returns). He had 43 catches for 569 yards, both career highs, and added three touchdown catches during the 2000 season.

    After being traded to the St. Louis Rams in 2002, Wilkins also spent time with the Miami Dolphins. But he has not played in an NFL regular-season game since 2003, which includes his last appearance in an Indianapolis uniform.

    Wilkins has averaged 9.1 yards on 123 career punt returns, 98 of those coming during two previous stints with the Colts.

  • CB Marlin Jackson looks like he will remain at his current position. The Colts had contemplated moving Jackson to safety. But, for now, that appears to be on the back burner.

    "Corners are hard to find," according to Colts coach Tony Dungy. "If you've got a good guy at corner, you really need some type of good reason to move him."

  • Colts S Chris Laskowski, signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2005 NFL draft, appears to be making a smooth transition from linebacker to safety. Laskowski was an undersized linebacker (5-9, 210) who has impressed the Colts with his hustle and ability to deliver a big hit. He spent a portion of the 2005 season on Indianapolis' practice squad.

  • Bucs S Jermaine Phillips has missed three games over the past three seasons because of injury, including twice fracturing his right forearm. For the second straight year. Phillips will wear a brace on his forearm.

    "The way I look at it, prevention is better than cure," he said. "If we can prevent it from happening, we don't have to worry about curing it and we can move forward from there.

    "That's my word for this year: survival, staying healthy and playing 16 regular-season games. I can't tell you what the key is. My style of play is so physical, reckless abandon, but I'm not going to change the way I play."

  • Former Bucs RB Rabih Abdullah was arrested last week on charges that he had a gun and marijuana in his car. The 31-year-old was accused of driving under the influence, carrying a concealed firearm and possessing marijuana.

  • Seattle No. 3 QB David Greene clearly has a long way to go in coach Mike Holmgren's eyes. "I don't think it's been an easy transition for David," Holmgren said. "He was such a successful college player. Then what you learn when you play that position and come into the NFL is that it is quite different. But he is a great young guy and he's working hard and he's trying real hard and I hope this training camp now he does make the progress we need to see to feel comfortable."

  • DE Grant Wistrom expects the Seahawks to show quite a bit of improvement on defense. The team will have to get healthy up front, however. Wistrom (shoulder) is out until training camp. DT Rocky Bernard (knee) and DT Marcus Tubbs (ankle) underwent surgeries last month and might not return until camp is in progress.

    The Seahawks should challenge for a top-10 defensive ranking if those players are healthy.

    "We expect to be much better," Wistrom said. "Last year the defense was a question mark going into the season just because of all the young guys we had and new players. We expect to be much better."

  • Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich could be in line for a big year, according to coach Jack Del Rio. Leftwich had a 3-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions through 11 games last year before suffering a fractured ankle against Arizona.

    "This is a big year for Byron for proving his development and showing his potential," Del Rio said. "I remain a fan of his because I really like smart, tough players. I like guys that are intelligent, guys that tough. Obviously he has a very strong arm and when you that combination of smart and tough in this league, it usually finds a way to succeed at a high level. I'm banking on that."

  • Broncos WR Darius Watts was single out by coach Mike Shanahan as the player who stood out the most over the past few weeks of organized team activities.

    The proclamation was surprising for a couple of reasons. First, Shanahan very rarely singles out players for their practice performances. Second, Watts was all but forgotten during Denver's run to the AFC Championship Game last season.

    Watts was a second-round pick in 2004, and he excited Denver with his ability to get open. The problem was he would drop too many passes, some at critical moments. When he started training camp last year with some drops, he was demoted from his job as the team's third receiver. He never got that job back, and the last time he was active for a game was Week 6 last year.

    When the Broncos started talking up former Bears first-round pick David Terrell and traded for Javon Walker, Watts seemed to be slipping even further down the depth chart, but his play during the team's offseason practices has apparently helped his standing.

    "He really stood out," Shanahan said. "He showed a lot more confidence, he was very consistent catching the ball."

    Watts has benefited from Ashley Lelie's absence. Lelie is holding out from all team activities this offseason because he is upset with his role on the team. If Lelie continues to hold out into the season or is traded, Watts would have a chance to be Denver's third receiver.

  • Denver CBs Domonique Foxworth and Darrent Williams are splitting time with the first-team defense in organized team activity practices, according to Foxworth, and both of them are making their share of plays.

    "Right now we're back and forth, neck and neck," Foxworth said.

    The Broncos feel pretty comfortable with both second-year cornerbacks. Williams, a second-round pick last year, quickly got a chance to start and held that job until he injured a groin muscle late in the year and missed some time.

    Foxworth spent some time in the starting lineup as well. He replaced Bailey when Bailey dealt with a hamstring injury in midseason, and replaced Williams when Williams was injured.

    Both have decent experience and a lot of talent, and no matter who ends up starting both will play a lot in the nickel defense.

    Foxworth said he has noticed his own improvement during the offseason camps. He's making more plays because he can recognize what an offense is doing and how they are attacking him.

    "I know both of those guys are going to help us," Broncos safety John Lynch said. "I've been impressed from day one when they came in, with the maturity playing a position that's tough to play. And you can see them taking the next step."

  • Rookie WR Domenik Hixon sat out of Denver's first offseason camp because he was recovering from a broken bone in his leg. Hixon participated in some of Denver's team camp June 6-8. Hixon could compete for kickoff or punt returner duties this season. Coach Mike Shanahan said Hixson should be ready for Denver's minicamp in early July.

  • DE Mark Anderson (5/159) signed his rookie contract with Chicago.

  • G Tyler Reed (6/200) signed his rookie contract with Chicago.

  • CB Ricky Williams was placed on waivers by Chicago.

  • RB J.R. Niklos (released by Raiders on Sept. 4; Frankfurt, NFL Europe 2006) signed with Kansas City.

  • T Jon Doty signed with New England. The 6-7, 300-pound lineman spent the spring playing in NFL Europe as a member of the Centurions. In Cologne he started 9-of-10 games played on the offensive line. Doty, 24, was originally signed by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent following the 2005 draft. Carolina released him at the end of training camp a year ago. He spent time on the Giants' practice squad last December.

  • S Jamaal Brimmer was placed on waivers by the Giants.

  • DE Clifford Dukes was waived by St. Louis.

  • Packers DT Donnell Washington's nonexistent start to what shaped up to be a promising NFL career ended June 9.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy announced after practice during the team's organized team activities that Washington had been released. Washington was a third-round draft pick (72nd overall) by Green Bay in 2004 but never played a down in a regular season game.

    "Quite frankly, we're kind of excited about some of the fellas we have at that position," general manager Ted Thompson said. "We wish him well; we wish it would have worked out here. But, this gives him a chance to go hook on with another team."

    Washington was signed through 2007.

    The mammoth Washington, who's listed at 6-feet-6 and 328 pounds, got himself into some hot water with the new coaching staff when he reported for the post-draft minicamp in early May out of shape. Washington was kept off the field for the entire camp.

    He was cleared to practice in the second minicamp later in the month. He also participated in the first five of the Packers' 14 OTA practices, but was conspicuously missing on the field June 8 and 9 before McCarthy broke the news.

    Both Thompson and McCarthy downplayed the impact Washington's earlier conditioning issue played in releasing him.

    "Not very much at all," Thompson said.

    McCarthy said he never gave Washington an ultimatum to shape up or he'd be shipped out.

    "This is professional sports, and we just went in another direction," McCarthy said.

  • Rookie OL Paul McQuistan was a tackle in college and started out that way with the Raiders, where he got to participate in drills wit the likes of Burgess and veteran pass rusher Lance Johnstone.

    With his long red hair, McQuistan has a "Road Warrior" look similar to that of Robert Gallery -- who happens to be manning the left tackle position McQuistan was playing during the first mini-camp.

    Coach Art Shell stressed, however, that left tackle was simply a starting point to get a look at McQuistan's skills. If McQuistan is ready to play, it won't be long before he gets a look at guard, where the most wide-open spot on the line is on the right side.

    Gallery is etched in stone at left tackle, with former left tackle Barry Sims moving to left guard. Jake Grove will play center, with veteran Brad Badger currently running No. 1 at right guard and Langston Walker at right tackle.

    Veterans Kelvin Garmon and Cameron Spikes, former starters, are also vying for a spot as a guard along with holdover Corey Hulsey.

    The silent hope is that McQuistan shows enough to become a starter at right guard at some point in the season.

    "He's a smart kid, a tough kid, and he has an attitude of, `When the ball's snapped, I'm going to work until the whistle blows,'" Shell said.

    While McQuistan's reputation for being a mauler could put him in bad positions, Shell said, "He has it pretty well under control. He'll be fine."

  • LB Kirk Morrison, who led all NFL rookies in tackles last season as a starting linebacker, had no problem with the Raiders taking a linebacker Thomas Howard in the second round of the 2006 draft.

    Morrison, while at San Diego State, liked what he saw of Howard at Texas-El Paso.

    "I told Thomas I had a chance to play against him two years ago and that my lasting impression of him was a guy who ran to the football," Morrison said. "He was all over the field as a sophomore. I said this kid is going to be good. I just kind of watched him grow. I'm pretty excited to have him here."

  • Dolphins CB Will Poole, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, was back for minicamp practices.

  • LB Travis Harris signed with Miami. Harris, who played at the University of Florida, led the Galaxy with 61 tackles in 10 games. He was in training camp last season with Tennessee as an undrafted college free agent.

  • S James Sanders' rookie season didn't go quite as smoothly as he'd hoped. The fourth-round pick out of Fresno State battled an ankle injury for most of the year and ended up seeing action in only ten games. Not exactly a storybook start to life in the pros.

    But that's the past and Sanders is now healthy and looking ahead to a sophomore season in which he could fight for plenty of playing time in a New England secondary that's anything but set in stone.

    "I feel great right now," he said. "I've been working really hard this offseason and I feel like I'm ready to contribute on both special teams and at safety this year."

  • Patriots OL Russ Hochstein was signed to a two-year contract extension worth $1.8 million that includes a $400,000 bonus. In his three-plus seasons in New England the 6-foot-4, 305-pounder has played in 48 games with 10 starts. He started the final seven games of last season at center filling in for injured starter Dan Koppen.

    Hochstein has been New England's top interior line backup over the past few seasons, showing impressive versatility that has also included time as an extra tight end and goal line fullback. With the uncertainty surrounding Koppen's health status heading toward training camp, Hochstein could be the team's fill-in starter at center once again when the regular season kicks off in September. Hochstein originally joined the Patriots when he signed with the team's practice squad in 2002 and has been with the organization on either the practice squad or active roster ever since. He had been set to enter the final season of his existing contract in 2006.

  • WR Wayne Chrebet made his retirement official with a news conference at the Jets' Hofstra headquarters. Hofstra, of course, was where Chrebet played his college ball before moving to the other side of the campus as an undrafted rookie free agent.

    He recalled that on the first day, "a 70-year-old security guard didn't even let me in for practice. I felt at that moment that I could either laugh it off and go on my journey or take it as a sign that it wasn't going to happen. But I didn't take that sign. I believed in myself. I had great people around me. I'm truly thankful that those people were along for the ride with me. From start to finish, the same people have been in my circle. I've picked up some great friends along the way who have been there when I needed them."

    Chrebet revealed that he had 13 concussions as a player in his 11-year career, and still is bothered by headaches. But it was obvious he has no regrets about the career he chose.

    "I'm thankful for everything the NFL has done for me," he said. "It's everything I thought it would be growing up, to be an NFL player. I'm just glad I lasted this long."

  • C Nick Mangold, the Jets' second pick of the first round, was the only player absent from the organized team activities. Coach Eric Mangini said that Mangold was busy finishing his degree at Ohio State.

  • OG Bennie Anderson, who started 15 of 16 games a year ago, was released by Buffalo. Anderson, a free agent success story for the Baltimore Ravens from 2001 to 2004 where he helped RB Jamal Lewis gain stardom -- including a 2,066-yard campaign in 2003 -- plugged a need in the middle of Buffalo's line last season.

    But he never rose beyond a serviceable player as Buffalo's run game sputtered. He was due to earn $1.9 million this season.

  • LB Greg Carothers was waived by Buffalo.

  • DE Matthew Rice was waived by Buffalo.

  • Rookie CB Tye Hill impressed during OTAs after a rough first post-draft minicamp. "The game has slowed down for him," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "That's the key with a young player. He was thinking so much that he wasn't playing as fast as we knew he could. As he's got more comfortable, you can see he's playing much faster."

  • Rams OL Richie Incognito has been all over the place this offseason. At the first mini-camp, he was at right guard with Adam Timmerman side lined after minor knee surgery.

    At the post-draft rookie camp, he was at center. Now, with Timmerman practicing, Incognito worked exclusively at left guard as the mandatory minicamp opened Friday. In the first minicamp, Todd Steussie, normally a tackle, was at left guard.

    "I'm competing to win the job," said Incognito, who practiced one day last season after signing late because of a knee injury suffered at the scouting combine and hasn't played since the 2003 season at Nebraska. "It's just great to be on the field. But I can't wait to get the pads on."

  • Rams OL Claude Terrell, who started 10 games at left guard last season, did not practice at the first minicamp because of a wrist injury, coupled with the fact he is out of shape. Terrell was at left guard with the third unit at Friday's first minicamp practice.

  • Chiefs DT James Reed, who played five seasons in New York under current Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, signed with Kansas City.

    Reed, who didn't attract the attention he thought he would as a free agent, will contend for a spot in the interior defensive line rotation with returning starters Ryan Sims and Lional Dalton and reserve candidates John Browning, Junior Siavii and free agent addition Ron Edwards.

    "He knows the system, for sure," Edwards said of Reed. "He's a pretty good player, and good on special teams."

  • S Jarrad Page, a safety out of UCLA who was the Chiefs' seventh-round draft choice, now has the option to play either football or baseball after he was selected in the seventh round of the June free agent draft by the Los Angeles Angels.

    Page, noting that he had not yet talked to the Angels about a contract or a signing bonus, said he was unsure which team he ultimately would sign with.

  • Chargers S Marlon McCree has been working at free safety. Bhawoh Jue, the starter there last year, has been out while rebounding from a knee surgery. When healthy, Jue will probably square off with Terrence Kiel and Clinton Hart for the strong side's starting job.
  • San Diego RG Mike Goff skipped the minicamp to attend his brother's wedding.

  • Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie, the team's top pick, is lining up behind returning starter Drayton Florence.

  • Backup CB Markus Curry received some dirty looks when accidentally smacking LaDainian Tomlinson in the teeth after a reception. "That is going to happen," Tomlinson said. "It is football."

  • Chargers OT Marcus McNeill, a second-round pick from Auburn, was protecting Philip Rivers' blind side during the opening of minicamp. The Chargers are hoping they don't have to shove the 6-foot-7, 336-pound McNeill out into the line of fire so soon. They're banking on Roman Oben rebounding from two surgeries on his left foot and that he can resume playing at training camp.

    But the reality was -- in June, anyway -- McNeill trying to keep Rivers from being rocked.

    And the massive McNeill is approaching this offseason as if he'll trot out with the starters on Sept. 11.

    "You definitely don't want to sit back and say this is my red shirt year," McNeill said. "You want to get out there and compete and let the coaches make the decisions."

    Even if Oben is fit, McNeill still wants to push him for the starting job. Backup Leander Jordan is also in the mix, but if the Chargers were enamored with him why would they have drafted McNeill?

    But while McNeill comes with solid credentials, he knows his to-do list is quite lengthy. At the top of it is improving his pass blocking.

    "I'm definitely making real big strides in my pass blocking," McNeil said. "Me and my coaches are constantly working day I and day out on that and I really feel I'm going to get better with that."

  • Panthers DT Tony Brown is hoping earning co-Defensive MVP of NFL Europe can help him land a roster spot with the Panthers. The problem is he's competing for a job on one of the deepest teams in the NFL.

    To win a job on Carolina's 53-man roster, Brown will have to beat out Kris Jenkins, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Damione Lewis, Jordan Carstens or Kindal Moorehead since the team normally keeps four, or at the very most, five defensive tackles.

    Right now the Panthers' roster is so crowded he's actually sharing a number (73) with offensive tackle Chad Beasley, another NFL Europe allocation.

    The odds of him making the team are not good, not good at all.

    And Brown knows that. Nonetheless, he figures his success in NFL Europe at least gives him a fighting chance.

    "Hey, I was here with Carolina before (in 2003) and the odds were way worse than they are now," Brown said. "On paper, I didn't have a fighting chance."

    As an undrafted rookie out of Memphis, Brown went to training camp three years ago with the Panthers and was cut. However, he was re-signed to the practice squad and spent most of the year with Carolina before joining the San Francisco 49ers 53-man roster.

    In 2004, Brown actually started four games for San Francisco 49ers, but was cut early last year and did not play in the league.

  • Carolina WR Keyshawn Johnson has played under offensive coordinator Dan Henning before with the New York Jets, so he's pretty familiar with the team's offensive scheme.

    But Johnson said some of the terminology has changed since their last go-around together back in the late 90s.

    That's what Johnson is hoping to pick up on as he goes through three weeks of summer school with the Panthers.

    "That's the important thing for me, to be comfortable in that sense, to know that I'm in an offense that I'm familiar with," Johnson said. "I know how it goes. I know the way that the pecking order is. I (need to) know where Jake Delhomme's reads are and where he should go with the ball, all that sort of stuff. I have to get familiar with that again."

    Johnson also said he's adjusting to life in Charlotte, but likes it here.

    "I mean it's not Dallas and it's not New York. But I'm pretty happy here. I'm excited. I can't wait until Week One."

  • Panthers S Shaun Williams is working with the first team at strong safety with Colin Branch recovering from knee surgery. Williams played under coach John Fox in New York.

    "When we lost Marlon McCree in free agency, we wanted to get a veteran guy who had played, a little bit like how we picked up Marlon McCree a year ago," Fox said. "Shaun's a guy that I knew in the past (with the Giants). We evaluated him on tape. He had some injury situations last year. He's a guy that we wanted to take a shot at because he is extremely athletic. He was a first-round pick coming out of UCLA (in 1998). He's a tough, hard-nosed player. We've just got to keep him healthy and move forward."

  • WR Keary Colbert had a terrible second season with the team and the Panthers signed Keyshawn Johnson to replace him in the starting lineup.

    Despite starting all 16 regular season games last season, Colbert was nearly invisible in 2005. He caught just 25 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns. He never had more than four catches or 53 yards in a game. He averaged one reception for 10 yards in three games.

    So what went wrong?

    Why did Colbert's production drop like an Internet stock after a promising rookie season?

    Panthers head coach John Fox believes it was a combination of Smith having a breakout season and the fact Colbert had bone spurs and chips in his ankle, an injury no one on the staff ever talked about. But it was bad enough that Colbert needed surgery this offseason to remove the problem.

    "I don't think it was so much the non-productivity of the other receivers so much as it was the productivity of the exceptional productivity of Steve Smith," Fox said of Colbert's decreased numbers.

    "Keary went through a lot last year. He played with bone spurs and chips in his ankle probably 90 percent of the season. He was operating a little under the gun there because of the bad ankle. He got that fixed this offseason, and hopefully that will help his improvement this season."

  • OG Evan Mathis appears the odds-on favorite to be the Panthers' starting right guard this season.

    A four-year starter at the University of Alabama, Mathis figured the transition to the NFL wouldn't be all that tough. But the team's third-round draft pick in 2005 quickly learned last season things weren't quite the same as in college where he could dominate smaller defensive linemen with his rare combination of size and athletic ability.

    "The thing I learned last year as a rookie is that you have to know your technique because you can't just come in here (to the NFL) and try to muscle somebody," Mathis said. "You have to come in and know how to position your body. That was my problem last year -- I was trying to maul people. I think I was overaggressive and trying to maul people as opposed to staying in the right position. I've learned that technique will get you much further than athletic ability."

    Although he spent last season backing up starting guard Tutan Reyes, the Panthers liked what they saw on the practice field from Mathis and fellow rookie Geoff Hangartner, a fifth-round draft pick in 2005.

    As a result, they didn't attempt to re-sign Reyes.

    Right now, Mathis appears to be the guy, working with the first team at right guard at between newly acquired free agent center Justin Hartwig and veteran right tackle Jordan Gross.

  • Bengals RB Chris Perry, who had knee surgery in April, will miss the mandatory full-squad minicamp from June 15-17.

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