News and notes on the NFL's top players, with updates on Donovan McNabb, Tommie Harris, Daunte Culpepper and dozens more of the top names in the league.
Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, surprised his teammates by participating in the Eagles' final four Organized Team Activity workouts of the spring this week. McNabb hadn't been expected back on the field until training camp. While McNabb threw the ball well and was able to move around, he still is taking a cautious approach to his comeback. McNabb is almost seven months removed from surgery on his knee and is slightly ahead of schedule on his rehab.
Cowboys LT Flozell Adams underwent knee surgery last week that kept him out of the final minicamp. It was considered a minor deal and the Cowboys expect him to be ready for training camp. Nevertheless, the Cowboys are expected to scuttle their plan to move backup Pat McQuistan to guard. McQuistan has worked with the first team at tackle in place of Adams. As of now he will stay at tackle when the Cowboys start training camp. The Cowboys wanted McQuistan to push Kyle Kosier for the starting spot at left guard.
Bears DT Tommie Harris returned to practices recently. If Harris doesn't return to the same level of play that got him voted to the past two Pro Bowls, he says it won't be because of the upper left leg injury that ended his 2006 season after just 12 games and resulted in reconstructive surgery. Harris practiced Monday at Halas Hall for the first time since he was hurt on Dec. 3, pronounced himself fit and cleared up some misconceptions about the injury. It was actually a tendon that was damaged and not his hamstring, which is the group of muscles in the back of the upper leg. Tendons are made up of tissue and connect muscle to bone. Harris isn't concerned about a recurrence. "It can't come back," he said. "They put sutures in my bone and hooked it back. This one will never pull again. It's more likely for the right one to pull than the left because this one should be there for life now because of the screws and stuff, so I should be faster, and I should be stronger, so we'll see. I don't have any excuses. During the season you won't hear me say, 'Well, my hamstring's been killing me. Right now I feel great. I'm working hard where there won't be any excuses and let's just go, let's get ready for football. That injury's over with." The Bears consider Harris the premier defensive tackle in the NFL, although he's still just 24, and he's ready to live up to the hype. "I think I train hard enough to receive that as a compliment," he said, "but I'm not satisfied. I'm not finished."
Packers QB Brett Favre is giving his sore throwing arm a break the next few weeks, but the rest of his body won't have much downtime. Favre incurred what he thought to be tendinitis in the right shoulder during Organized Team Activities. Consequently, the team shut him down for the final four of 12 OTA practices, which were to conclude June 19. The injury isn't considered serious. "I probably could practice, but it really don't make a lot of sense to go out and make it any worse," said Favre, who participated in seven of the OTA sessions.
Rams CB Tye Hill missed all three days of the minicamp because of a staph infection on the back of his leg. "It's nothing really major, just something that's got to be taken care of," said Hill. "It could be from a bug bite or an ingrown hair, something like that. The important thing now is just to heal it." Four years ago, five Rams players were affected with staph infections, causing missed games and practices. "We talk about (them) all the time, almost to the point of being paranoid about it, which is OK with me," coach Scott Linehan said. Hill was still able to attend meetings, and was treated with an IV when the infection was diagnosed and then medicine.
Jets LG Pete Kendall, as expected, reported to the Jets' mandatory minicamp, but he made it clear that he is very unhappy with the contract impasse between him and the Jets. He is seeking to renegotiate from $1.7 million to $2.7 million -- but the Jets are holding firm. Their position is that they don't renegotiate deals with three years left, but insiders say they did give Laveranues Coles a $1 million raise last November. Kendall wants to be traded or released. He said the Jets told his agent, Neil Schwartz, the day before the draft that if they could find a team willing to part with a fourth-round pick, the Jets would be willing to trade him. There were rumors that Miami was interested, because general manager Randy Mueller drafted Kendall back in 1996 with the Seahawks. However, it's believed the Jets were reluctant to trade Kendall within the AFC East. Kendall also indicated that his relationship with coach Eric Mangini has gone from good to frosty in about three months. The 12-year veteran noted that in early March Mangini "confided" in him about some things that seemed to indicate to him that the Jets wanted him back, but since then Mangini hasn't returned phone calls. He said they had a brief conversation Wednesday night, and that it wasn't amicable. Mangini, he said, wanted to know what Kendall was going to say to the media Thursday.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo said his agent Tom Condon has had preliminary talks with the Cowboys about a contract extension. Romo's deal is up after the 2007 season. He would like to get something done before the start of the season. The question the Cowboys must answer is if they should do a deal now or wait until Romo proves himself again. Although he made the Pro Bowl last season, he has only 11 career starts. It's also true that he struggled at the end of the season after having a strong start. The Cowboys maintain that they believe in Romo and say he is their quarterback for the future. Still it makes good business sense for the Cowboys to wait. If they sign him now and he fails, then they have to sign another quarterback and eat the contract. If they wait and he fails, then they can just draft the top quarterback next season. If they wait and he has a big season, they can franchise him or sign him as a free agent. The price might be higher, but owner Jerry Jones has never had a problem paying his star players top dollar. Considering the windfall the Cowboys will get if the ever popular Romo is successful, Jones definitely won't have a problem paying him.
Eagles FS Brian Dawkins, who was excused from the team's May minicamp, didn't attend any of the OTAs the last two weeks. He was home with his wife, who gave birth to premature twins in April. Coach Andy Reid said Dawkins is expected to be report on time for training camp next month.
DT Darwin Walker, who was traded to the Bills in March for linebacker Takeo Spikes and quarterback Kelly Holcomb, still hasn't agreed to a new contract with the Bills. If he doesn't report to the team, the Bills have the option of returning him to the Eagles for a sixth-round pick. The Eagles, who have zero interest in having Walker back, likely would release him.
Bears DE Alex Brown has played behind DE Mark Anderson in OTAs. "The situation obviously is different and I haven't been in that situation before (playing backup)," Brown said. "Wale (Ogunleye) and Mark are just in there first and it's hard, yeah, buy hey, what do I do?" Just two years into a five-year, $15 million deal, Brown is seeking a trade and/or renegotiation, although he's never had more than seven sacks in a season.
Lions DT Shaun Rogers is facing serious allegations of off-field misconduct. But although police have filed an arrest warrant, prosecutors have not filed any charges. Rogers allegedly groped a dancer at a Detroit strip club with a gun in his waistband at 1:15 a.m. June 8. Rogers could not be reached for comment. His agent, Kennard McGuire, did not respond to messages. A Lions spokesman said the team was collecting information and had no further comment.
Packers CB Charles Woodson made a surprise appearance during the third week of the OTAs. Woodson had missed the first half of the 12 voluntary workouts but arrived June 11 and practiced until June 14. Woodson said during the mandatory minicamp in May that he was going to stay away from the OTAs, as he did last year, choosing instead to work out on his own in Houston. "I told coach (Mike McCarthy) I would come back. So, I'm just trying to keep my word," Woodson said of attending a portion of the OTAs. He didn't stay for the final two OTA practices June 18 and 19, however.
Packers WR Greg Jennings is out indefinitely because of a hip flexor. Jennings is the incumbent starter opposite Donald Driver but has been prone to injuries not even two years as a pro. Jennings was bothered by an ankle injury during the second half of last season.
Packers DT Justin Harrell, this year's first-round draft pick, remained limited to individual drills. The team has taken a cautious approach in the off-season after Harrell suffered a torn biceps tendon early last season at Tennessee.
Packers S Aaron Rouse, a third-round draft selection, signed a four-year deal June 8. His annual base salaries are $285,000 this year, $370,000 in 2008, $460,000 in '09 and $550,000 in '10. Rouse's signing bonus wasn't available.
WR Antonio Freeman re-signed with the Packers June 15 so he can retire as a Packer. Freeman had two stints with the club -- 1995-2001 and 2003 -- and ranks fifth in team annals with 431 receptions. He was Green Bay's top receiver during the Super Bowl-winning season of 1996. Freeman has been out of football since 2004, when he signed with Miami but was cut in training camp.
Falcons DT Grady Jackson, who filed a lawsuit against the team for allegedly releasing his medical information and hurting his free agency position last season, may yet return to the team. With Rod Coleman out for the start of the season after suffering a quadriceps injury on a watercraft, the Falcons are hurting at defensive tackle.
WR/KR Michael Lewis had his contract terminated by the Saints. Lewis, a hometown favorite who grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, made the practice squad in 2000 and graduated to the active roster a year later. Lewis, who didn't play college football, was the classic NFL underdog and became known as "The Beer Man" to adoring fans because he drove a beer truck before catching on with the Saints. Small in stature, Lewis came up big in 2002 when he was named an All-Pro after setting an NFL record for total return yards in a season. But he tore his ACL in 2005 and didn't return until the second half of the '06 season. That, coupled with his age (he'll be 36 in November), signaled the end of his career in New Orleans. He leaves as the team's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage (5,903) and punt return yardage (1,482). "Michael is part of the fabric of our community and will always have a special place in the history of our club," Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement. "The way he made our team, as a player who worked hard, wasn't drafted, supported his family and followed his dream, is unique and something we're all proud to be a part of."
Bucs QB Chris Simms says he is physically okay. The wound from his spleen surgery has heeled. He is cleared for contact. But something is not right. It's the way he is throwing the football. Months of inactivity and a long rehab has developed some bad habits in Simms' throwing mechanics. The result has been a poor off-season in which free agent Jeff Garcia already has been declared the starting quarterback. "The biggest thing is the rotation of my upper body," Simms said. "To get torque on the ball you need to turn that (throwing) shoulder and then turn into (the throw) and I'm not getting a whole lot of that. I think we all know I'm a pretty pure thrower, that's always been my strong point and I'm just not where I'd like to be yet. I'm not throwing the ball the way I'd like to. But if I can correct that, I think I'll be fine."
Bucs WR David Boston is making his second attempt in as many years to land a spot on the Bucs' roster. Boston was cut just prior to the first regular season game a year ago and is still somewhat limited by a knee injury. But he took the season off and now appears to be running more confidently.
49ers WR Darrell Jackson does not seem too concerned he has been unable to get on the practice field with his new teammates this off-season. Jackson has been held out of the 49ers' on-field program to let his turf-toe injury heal. The former-Seahawk sustained a badly hyper-extended left big toe Dec. 10 against the Cardinals. He was inactive for the final three regular season games and played sparingly in the Seahawks' first playoff game before leading the team with four catches in a season-ending loss to the Bears. The 49ers acquired Jackson in a draft-day trade with their division rivals for a fourth-round draft pick. When asked if Jackson expects to be ready for the opening of training camp, he said, "I expect to play now, but I'm following their (team athletic trainers) timetable and doing what's best for me." Still, Jackson admits he still feels discomfort in the toe. He said surgery has not seriously been discussed. The 49ers believe Jackson is on schedule to step on the field for the opening of training camp. He did not have a structured rehabilitation program with the Seahawks.
49ers WR Ashley Lelie has not done much this off-season due to a leg injury. Lelie sustained a quadriceps strain on one of the first routes he ran in the team's first minicamp. He has rarely seen the field since. He tried to return on the first day of the Organized Team Activities, but he aggravated the injury.
49ers DL Sam Rayburn is learning a new position, but he does not envision a difficult transition. "It doesn't seem like it will be too difficult," Rayburn said. "I'm just moving one man over. I think I can handle it." Rayburn was a defensive tackle during his four seasons with the Eagles. He signed with the 49ers a month after being released. The 49ers plan for him to compete for a backup spot behind Bryant Young at left defensive end.
Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper was involved in a car accident but was not seriously injured. Culpepper suffered only a bruise to his left (non-throwing) hand.
Jets QB Kellen Clemens has had problems connecting on his passes during both voluntary and mandatory workouts, while QB Marques Tuiasosopo, picked off the scrap heap from Oakland, has looked more impressive. Clemens and Tuiasosopo could have an interesting battle for the No. 2 position behind Chad Pennington once training camp begins.
Browns TE Kellen Winslow Jr. participated in the Browns' most recent minicamp. He appears to be in great shape, but he has not fully recovered from microfracture surgery on his right knee Jan. 30. Winslow is declining interview requests until he can practice.
Broncos WR Rod Smith and WR Brandon Stokley did not participate in the June minicamp due to injuries. The team hopes to have both back before training camp. Smith is recovering from hip surgery and Stokley is rehabbing a torn Achilles' tendon. They will battle to be the Broncos' third receiver if Brandon Marshall starts, as expected.
Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe and S Greg Wesley both missed practice time during the final round of OTAs with injuries. Bowe suffered a hamstring injury, while Wesley continues to nurse a back problem.
Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell has benefited from the absence of Andrew Walter following Walter's arthroscopic knee surgery. Walter is expected to be ready to go at training camp. Russell, coach Lane Kiffin thought, made the most of his opportunity. "Without going back to watch the film, it was JaMarcus' best practice since he's been here," Kiffin told the media after the first day of a voluntary three-day minicamp. "He looked real confident." Russell said the increased work with Walter out was beneficial to his development. "It has helped a lot," Russell said. "The more reps, the more you see things, the better you become."
Chargers LB Shawne Merriman is still being cautious with his work after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.