Dozens of player notes about the league's biggest stars, including DE Dwight Freeney, LB Lance Briggs, TE Vernon Davis and many more.
Texans RB Ron Dayne was disappointed when the Texans signed Ahman Green in the offseason, essentially ending any hopes Dayne had of re-signing as the team's starting back. But he adjusted well, entering camp in better shape than coach Gary Kubiak has seen him in in awhile. Dayne has also adjusted to the idea of running alongside Green. The two will share many of the duties with Green getting about 20-25 carries and Dayne receiving the rest. The likelihood of both veterans holding up across a 16-game stretch is also unlikely, so Dayne is expected to get a few starts this season. "It's cool," Dayne said. "It kind of reminds me of having Tiki (Barber) with me when I was in New York."
DE Dwight Freeney and the Colts continue to discuss a long-term contract. Freeney is the team's franchise player and will command a one-year salary of $9.46M if a long-term deal isn't completed by July 15. "We'll get that one done first," said team president Bill Polian. "Then we will sit down and get a clear picture, to see what our cash looks like, coupled with the (salary) cap, to then project it for the future."
Cowboys LB Anthony Spencer may or may not be the starter when the season opens. The rookie top pick has worked with the first team since his arrival in Dallas because starter Greg Ellis is rehabbing a torn left Achilles. This is the same Ellis who has asked for a new contract or to be released because of the presence of Spencer. Ellis believes the Cowboys drafted Spencer to replace him. It has all made quite a welcome to the NFL for Spencer. He said he understands Ellis' situation but appreciates that Ellis has still taken time to help him adjust to the defense and the NFL. "Greg has really helped me," Spencer said. "He gives me a lot of good tips on what to do in certain situations. He knows where I'm coming from and the things I need to do to get better. He's probably the person I talk to the most because I sit right behind him in meetings. So whenever I have a question about what happened out on the field, I go to him and he's always telling me what I'm doing right or wrong." Spencer is respectful of Ellis and his situation but also doesn't deny that he would like to be a starter. Still he will do whatever the Cowboys ask of him. "I think everyone wants to start," Spencer said. "You want to play and go out there and make things happen. That's what I hope, too. But if I end up starting or playing in other packages, that's fine, too. Right now, I just want to get better." What's true is that the Cowboys are better with Ellis, Spencer and linebacker DeMarcus Ware getting after the qu
Bears QB J.T. O'Sullivan of the Frankfurt Galaxy was named co-winner of the NFL Europa Offensive Most Valuable Player award on Thursday. O'Sullivan, who shared the honor with Cologne Centurions running back Derrick Ross of the Kansas City Chiefs, led the Galaxy to a 7-3 record and a berth in Saturday's World Bowl XL. O'Sullivan topped NFL Europa with 2,201 passing yards and a 104.8 passer rating and tied for the league lead with 16 touchdown passes. The Cal-Davis product recorded the only two 300-yard passing games in NFL Europe this season, highlighted by a 374-yard performance in Week Nine against the Hamburg Sea Devils. It is not yet known whether O'Sullivan will be invited to training camp with the Bears. In responding to a fan's e-mail question on ChicagoBears.com earlier this week about O'Sullivan, general manager Jerry Angelo said: "We're going to make a determination on his future with us in the next few weeks."
Bears LB Lance Briggs, unhappy at being named the Bears' franchise player, was the only no-show at the team's OTAs, and it's unlikely he'll participate in training camp, although he's expected to end his tantrum by the start of the regular season. Coach Lovie Smith realizes the absence of the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker isn't an ideal situation, but he doesn't appear to be fretting over it. "Guys have to make decisions based on what they think they need to do as a man," Smith said. "That's what Lance has done. But for us, it's about our team. Guys get hurt, you move on. You have to have a Plan 2 in case any of our players aren't here, and that's what we have. I'm excited about training camp. I hope Lance is there. If he's not, I mean, we've got a season to get ready for." Smith said Briggs' backup, second-year player Jamar Williams, has made major strides in the off-season after spending most of 2006 on injured reserve.
Bears TE Greg Olsen impressed during OTAs with his speed and pas-catching ability, but he understands he's still got a long way to go before he contributes at the level the Bears envisioned when they made the Miami tight end the 31st overall selection. "I think I've done well," Olsen said after Wednesday's final OTA. "Obviously, I have a lot to improve on. But I think as far as the 14 practices off the bat, I think I did OK." Olsen and second-round defensive end Dan Bazuin are the Bears only unsigned draft picks, but Olsen isn't concerning himself with negotiations between the Bears and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "That's something I'm just letting work itself out," Olsen said. "My job is to come out here and practice and do everything I can and I let everyone else handle that."
Falcons WR Brian Finneran had reconstructive left knee surgery after spending roughly a month gathering medical opinions, ending his season and putting his career in jeopardy. This is the second time in less than a year Finneran has undergone season-ending surgery to the knee. The Falcons declined to divulge the actual injury but coach Bobby Petrino said the rehabilitative timetable is nine to 12 months. Finneran spent the previous seven months rehabilitating the knee after tearing ligaments and displacing his kneecap during a non-contract drill in training camp in 2006. Though Finneran, 31, plans to return, missing two seasons with such severe injuries could be tough to overcome.
Packers LB Nick Barnett could land himself in hot water with the league for his recent arrest. Barnett was taken into custody by Appleton, Wis., police in the early-morning hours of June 17. The fifth-year player and former first-round draft pick was arrested for battery after allegedly shoving a woman at a downtown Appleton nightclub. Police still were investigating the case and hadn't filed reports with the Outagamie County district attorney nearly a week after the disturbance at the Wet nightclub.
Packers DT Justin Harrell is expected to have the green light for a full practice when training camp opens July 28. Harrell, the team's first-round draft pick this year, was limited to individual drills during the May minicamps and subsequent organized team activities. The medical staff erred on the side of caution with Harrell, who suffered a ruptured biceps tendon early last season at Tennessee.
49ers TE Vernon Davis showed remarkable improvement over last season during the team's organized team activities, as he appeared to become quarterback Alex Smith's favorite target. Davis, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 draft, missed eight starts with a broken leg. He caught 20 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, Davis possesses blazing speed. But last season he often did not show all of his physical attributes because he was unsure of his assignments. "He knows what he has to do," Smith said. "Now he can think about his release, about setting up this route, think about zone or man (coverage). That really helps. He's progressed quite a bit the last couple weeks." Backup quarterback Trent Dilfer also singled out Davis as the player who made the biggest strides during the offseason program. The most polished part of Davis' game as a rookie was his blocking. Now, he appears ready to be a presence in the passing attack. "Physically, he's so gifted," Dilfer said, "but when you're playing unsure of yourself, you don't capitalize on those abilities. ... He's catching the ball a lot better. As he becomes more instinctive and thinking less, you're going to see his ability come out. He's been real impressive."
Patriots LB Junior Seau is excited to be back in New England after his 2006 season with the Patriots was cut short with a broken arm. The future Hall of Famer started 10 games in his first season in New England, recording 70 tackles and one sack before landing on injured reserve on Nov. 27. "This was definitely the only team that I would come back to, for many reasons," Seau said at the team's veteran mini-camp. "Having a year under my belt (in the Patriots defense) just makes me want to come back even more." Seau wore a cast on his arm at mini-camp and says he'll protect the injury as best he can and "roll the dice. This is football." While the former six-time All-Pro said he didn't know for sure that he'd be back in a Patriots uniform until he actually hopped a flight from San Diego and took a physical, he did say New England and a few other teams had been in contact with him earlier this offseason. "Belichick called up and said he loved me," Seau said with a sly smile.
Ravens QB Steve McNair will have a pre-trial hearing on a driving under the influence-related charge on July 10 in Nashville, Tenn. It's expected that the charge will be dismissed.
Vikings LB Rufus Alexander (sixth round) signed a four-year contract with the Vikings. Alexander, who played college football at Oklahoma, is the third pick to sign with Minnesota. The Vikings also have agreed to terms with two seventh-round selections, quarterback Tyler Thigpen and wide receiver Chandler Williams.
Panthers WR Dwayne Jarrett, a wide receiver from USC, was involved in a car accident Wednesday night when his car was rear-ended on Interstate-77 that runs through Charlotte. However, team officials said Jarrett was checked out and did not have any significant injuries.
Bucs QB Jake Plummer is subject to being fined for missing the Bucs' three-day mandatory minicamp that concluded last Thursday and indications are the team will ask him to repay about $7 million in pro-rated signing bonus if he fails to play this season. Tampa Bay acquired the rights to Plummer in a trade with Denver March 3 in exchange for a conditional draft pick, prompting him to announce plans to retire from the NFL. Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said he recently spoke to Plummer and the team still hopes the 32-year-old quarterback reports to training camp July 27. "You can't unilaterally retire as a player in the NFL, because you have a contract," Allen said. "He is under the same obligations as every player on the team." Plummer has three years left on his contract and is scheduled to earn $5.3-million in 2007, which would make him the highest-paid quarterback on the team. His salary currently counts against the Bucs' salary cap. Plummer was the only of 95 players on the roster who did not attend the three-day mandatory minicamp.
Bucs WR Michael Clayton is sinking on the team's depth chart. He is losing the battle for the No. 2 receiver job to Maurice Stovall. In Clayton's first pro season he earned Rookie of the Year consideration with 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. But Clayton's career has spiraled and he's combined for just 65 catches and one touchdown over the past two injury-plagued seasons.
Cardinals PR/KR/WR Steve Breaston, the team's fifth-round draft pick (142nd overall), signed for three years. Terms were not disclosed. The North Braddock, Pa. native finished his Michigan career as Big Ten career record holder for punt returns (127) and yards (1,599). He also holds Michigan records for kickoff returns (77), yards (1,993) and punt return touchdowns (4). In 48 career games at Michigan, Breaston touched the ball 406 times collecting 5,609 all purpose yards, an average of 116.9 yards per game. He was drafted primarily to return punts and kickoffs. He has 4.41-second 40-yard dash speed and is nearly unstoppable in the open field. Breaston also will compete to be the team's fourth receiver.
Cardinals TE Ben Patrick, the team's seventh-round draft pick (215th overall), signed for three years. Terms were not disclosed. Patrick has been hobbled by a hamstring injury since the draft and did little more than watch mini camps and organized team activities. Patrick (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) led NCAA Division I-AA tight ends last fall at Delaware with 64 receptions for 639 yards and six touchdowns. He was a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.
Eagles DE Jevon Kearse's weight and offseason training regimen continue to be issues as training camp draws closer. Kearse, who missed all but two games last season after injuring his knee in the second game of the season against the Giants, was frighteningly thin earlier this month when he was in town for the team's voluntary two-week Organized Team Activity. The 6-5 Kearse appeared to weigh no more than 230 pounds, which is a good 25-30 pounds under his normal playing weight. Kearse said the weight loss was the result of doing too much cardio-vascular work in the offseason to rehab his knee. He assured reporters that he'd be back up to his normal playing weight by the start of training camp. But it's much too late in the offseason for a player like Kearse to put that much weight on and keep it on through the two-a-day rigors of training camp. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson openly acknowledged concern over the puny size of his top pass-rusher, who doesn't have the edge-rushing speed anymore that would offset that kind of size disadvantage.
Eagles WR Reggie Brown had 46 receptions last season and 43 the year before as a rookie. This season, he hopes to have a lot more. "I'd like to catch as many balls as I caught combined my first two seasons," he said. "I think I'm capable of that."
Eagles TE L.J. Smith, who is recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia, probably won't get a lot of work in training camp. "We'll see how he does, initially, and see how he feels," coach Andy Reid said. "We'll gradually bring him back in there. But we won't do anything that wouldn't be smart."
Redskins RB Clinton Portis wasn't expected to practice until training camp opened on July 27, but he took a fair amount of work during last weekend's minicamp. "I was out running around before (Friday's) practice and after I did that, I asked (running backs coach Earnest Byner) if I could do anything and he was like, 'See how it feels,'" said Portis, who had been out a month with a sore knee. I just wanted to see where I was and I was able to do a lot. I got in the passing drills and that went well so I tried to see what I could do during practice. To be part of the team and actually involved, it felt good. My knee held up. My feet are on fire from wearing cleats for the first time. Outside of that, I felt good. I know my feet will be on fire tomorrow. I made it safely today. We'll see what I can do tomorrow, but I'm going to try to stay away from contact. I'm not going to push the limits. Whatever I get done will be extra." Coach Joe Gibbs was pleasantly surprised by the return of his No. 1 back, who missed half of 2006 with shoulder and hand injuries. "We knew we were getting close so we kind of left it up to Clinton and the trainers," Gibbs said. It was good he was able to take some work today. He looked good."
Redskins CB Shawn Springs, who had skipped the entire offseason program before returning on June 5 and then leaving almost immediately to be with his pregnant wife, barely hit the field for minicamp before he was done until training camp. Springs is fine, but his infant son -- born on June 13 -- was re-admitted to the hospital with jaundice. "Shawn was here and ready to go," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "We keep having issues there. It's tough."
Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander stayed in Seattle and took part in the team's offseason conditioning program ... a rarity for him. "I'm a lot stronger right now. I feel stronger, but my weight is exactly the same," Alexander said. Alexander is looking to return to league MVP form after missing six games last season with a broken foot. He was amused how erroneous reports from minicamp caused fans to believe that his foot was still troubling him. "Some people were pulling me over on the side, 'Should I pick you (for fantasy football)?'" Alexander said. "But I am good to go and this is going to be a great year for our whole team."
Titans CB Pacman Jones surrendered on June 22 to authorities in Las Vegas, where he was charged with two felony counts as a result of a shooting outside a strip club in February. Jones met with NFL commisioner Roger Goodell in New York on June 11 and afterward withdrew his appeal of his 10-week suspension. A week later, police in Atlanta said Jones was not a suspect in a shooting following an altercation in a strip club but wanted to question him about the incident. Witnesses said Jones was in the club and was an instigator in the confrontation. Goodell left open the possibility that Jones could be reinstated after 10 games, provided he lived up to terms of the suspension. Any reduction of the penalty seemed unlikely in the wake of the Atlanta allegations.
Titans RB LenDale White said he needs to drop 10 pounds before the start of training camp. He was sidelined throughout most of May with a hamstring injury but practiced without incident in June. "I am finally healthy," he said. "It's been a long couple of weeks. I have been out there rehabbing, and now I feel good."
Broncos C Greg Eslinger was named All-NFL Europa. Eslinger was a 2006 draft pick, and the Broncos wanted him to get some experience in Europe after sitting out all last season with a shoulder injury.
Chiefs RB Larry Johnson says he might hold out of training camp if the Chiefs don't re-do his contract. To many NFL observers, this will look like a malcontent demanding more money. And Johnson has certainly been malcontented at times in his NFL career. And he is asking for an enormous pay raise, something that would put him in LaDainian Tomlinson's tax bracket. But the two aren't necessarily connected. Johnson is due to make $1.7 million this season as part of his rookie deal, a contract he has clearly outplayed. That's a Priest Holmes-backup-plan contract. Johnson set the NFL record for single-season rush attempts last year. And while there's no way he's getting Tomlinson money -- he just isn't as good of an all-round player -- Johnson has ample leverage on the Chiefs. Though he'll turn 28 this season, he has just 892 carries in the NFL. Tomlinson, 28, has 2050. Additionally, Johnson is the franchise. Even with him, the Kansas City offense is facing, to put it mildly, a challenging 2007 season. Without him, the Chiefs have an aging Tony Gonzalez as their No. 1 weapon. Although Chiefs president Carl Peterson traditionally does not like negotiating with players who are under contract, he may have to this time. After the Trent Green saga and the bizarrely announced retirements of Willie Roaf and Will Shields, the longwinded Tony Gonzalez contract dispute and considering the general distrust Chiefs fans have in Peterson, he probably cannot afford to let his franchise player sit out fo
Chiefs QB Damon Huard feels he is at the peak of his career. "I think so. Coming off a year where I got a chance to play. As much as having confidence in yourself, it's just as important that your teammates have confidence in you," he said. "From going out there and winning a few ballgames last year, it's just as important as believing in yourself as having your teammates believe in you." Huard went 5-3 with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions last season.