Several former Vikings and several players the Vikings showed an interest in before the draft make this extension edition of the NFL player notes.
Former Vikings and current Panthers OG Toniu Fonoti has worked to get himself back into football shape and there are some who feel like he could be a dynamite free-agent pickup. A member of the San Diego Chargers starting offensive line in 2002 and 2004, Fonoti lost a battle with a weight problem — there were times he approached 400 pounds — and quickly found himself out of the league. He's back to his old college weight (around 330) and looking good.
"He has a very good chance (to make the team)," Fox said. "He's a guy that performed at a very high level. He was a fairly high draft pick that played on a very, very good offensive line. Then his weight got away from him a little bit and I think he realizes that. He's come in in excellent condition."
Fonoti signed basically a one-year deal worth the league veteran minimum. He poses no risk to the Panthers if he doesn't work out. They can cut him with no salary cap implications.
Panthers DB Charles Godfrey, whom the Vikings showed an interest in, the team's third-round draft pick from Iowa, was the talk of minicamp. He was thrown into the starting lineup right away at free safety and looked superb. In fact, as the Panthers walked off the field for the final time on Sunday, coach John Fox purposely sought out Godfrey and congratulated him on how well he picked things up. The real bullets won't fly for awhile, but observers believe this kid could be a steal. He's smart, tough and fast.
Broncos WR Eddie Royal, whom the Vikings showed an interest in, was drafted in the second round to play receiver, but his immediate role as a rookie will be to return punts and kickoffs. Cal's DeSean Jackson could have filled the same role, and was available when the Broncos selected Royal. Some concerns about Jackson's character might have played a part in the decision.
"I'm not going to go into details why, but obviously we made a decision to go with Royal," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
Former Vikings and current Jaguars CB Brian Williams saw more action at safety than he did cornerback at the team's first OTA session, as expected.
The Jaguars acquired Drayton Florence in free agency from San Diego and he was inserted at Williams' cornerback spot. Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio wasn't ready to declare the depth chart final.
"We're trying to put together as strong a secondary as we can and we know that Brian has the flexibility to take some reps there and we're going to get him exposure there," he said. "Clearly he's taking reps now at safety, but there is nothing in cement at this point. We're in the first practice of 18 OTAs. We do believe that Brian is a starting football player, that he'll be starting somewhere for the Jaguars."
Former Minnesota Gophers PK Rhys Lloyd might just stick in Carolina as a kickoff specialist. He was crushing kickoffs deep into the end zone at minicamp. Coach John Fox values a player who can force the opponent to start at the 20 every once in awhile instead of the 33.
Former Vikings and current 49ers QB J.T. O'Sullivan signed with the Detroit Lions after completing the final season of the now-defunct NFL Europe last spring. His job was to report to training camp and quickly learn Mike Martz's offense.
O'Sullivan won the team's backup quarterback job despite having a lot less time in the offense than some of his competition.
"If it's important to you, you're going to learn it," O'Sullivan said. "It's important to me, so I tried to learn it as quickly as I could. If you want to learn it, you're going to put in time."
O'Sullivan said the group of 49ers quarterbacks will learn together.
"We're a group. We all help each other," O'Sullivan said. "All groups come back and ask questions. I do with these guys. It gives and takes both ways."
Chargers TE Antonio Gates continues to battle a toe injury that limited him in the postseason. Gates said the best-case scenario would be that he could return in July. Gates has resigned himself to knowing that he doesn't know when he can slap back on the cleats and get back out to where he longs to be — on the football field. His comeback is filled with potential obstacles and pot holes that Gates isn't sure how to hop around.
"Am I willing to cut on it? And I'm overdoing it?," Gates asked. "Sometimes you can overdo it and then (hurt) something else. I want to be able to get out there as early as I can. That's my goal: I'm shooting to get out there as early as I can. But if not, I understand that it's a process."
If Gates is slowed Scott Chandler, who didn't have a catch last year, would fill in for Gates.
Ravens DE-OLB Terrell Suggs should soon have his franchise tender — somewhere between the lower total for linebackers and the higher one-year mark for defensive ends — set. The next order of business for the Ravens is to lock Suggs up with a long-term deal, and GM Ozzie Newsome is intent on keeping him with the team beyond this season.
"He is one of our best players, and our success with re-signing our best players is very good," Newsome said earlier this year. "We've done this with players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed and Chris McAlister — and that was after we franchised Chris."
Asked if Suggs is open to an extension with the Ravens, agent Gary Wichard said, "Absolutely."
Chiefs RB Larry Johnson is expected to be running at something close to full speed by the time of the team's June minicamp, if not in scheduled OTA workouts before that. Johnson missed the last eight games of the 2007 with a fractured bone in his foot. He attempted a comeback in mid-December, but experienced a relapse when the foot began hurting again when he tried running on it.
Titans DT Albert Haynesworth remains detached from the team, awaiting a long-term deal while wearing the Titans' franchise-player label. "We hope to continue with the negotiations and want to try and get him under contract long-term," Coach Jeff Fisher said. "In the meantime, I hope and trust that he is working hard because he knows how hard these guys are working.
"I know this: You are not going to get the workload done any place else compared to here. I have seen it first-hand."
The Titans have until July 15 to get a long-term deal done with Haynesworth. After that, he can play under the one-year contract that can't be extended until after the last game of the regular season. Fisher is not sure what Haynesworth, an All-Pro last season, might do if the team doesn't agree to a long-term deal within the outlined window.
Haynesworth has hired a personal trainer and has been working out on his own since the offseason program began in March. Fisher hasn't talked to Haynesworth but said staff members have stayed in contact with him.
"It is sort of disappointing because we are not here working out together, just talking and getting to know each other more because I have been gone for four years," defensive end Jevon Kearse said of Haynesworth. "But I understand the business aspect of it and more power to him. Once he gets in here, we are going to get things going and get caught up on things."
RB Earnest Graham, the Bucs' leading rusher last season with 898 yards and 10 TDs, isn't participating in offseason workouts while hoping for a contract extension. Warrick Dunn, signed after he was released by the Falcons, projects as the No. 1 back in Graham's absence.
Browns TE Kellen Winslow did not participate in the first two days of OTAs. He is rehabbing his knee in San Diego. Coach Romeo Crennel said he is unsure whether Winslow's absence is health related. Winslow has said he wants a new contract, even though he has three years left on the current one.
"When he gets here we'll find out for sure what that (reason) is," Crennel said. "He isn't here and I haven't spoken with him since February. When he gets here, I'll be able to answer that question."
Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson has been busy this offseason shooting commercials. He did one for Campbell's Soup and a local hospital in San Diego County. "I really enjoy doing these things," Tomlinson said. "It's fun and it gives me a chance to do something different. I can just have fun and be myself with it. I'm not trying to be an actor. Football is number one. It's just something I can do and I enjoy doing them."
Ravens QB Joe Flacco doesn't plan to miss one second of training camp because of contract-related issues. His agent, Joe Linta, and the Ravens have already made some headway in getting Flacco to training camp on time. The sides met Monday to discuss the framework on a five-year contract, and they are expected to talk again by the end of next week.
"They want the kid in, I want the kid in and the kid wants the kid in," Linta said. "I have this blue-collar belief: If you start now, you have a much better chance to finish this thing than if you start three days before training camp."
Ravens LB Ray Lewis sidestepped questions about his future with the Ravens, saying that he is focused on team issues and not individual ones. The nine-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker is entering the final year of the contract and could become a free agent for the first time in his career. Lewis and the Ravens are negotiating an extension, but the sides are not believed to be close.
"That (contract) stuff is irrelevant from what we're trying to do now," Lewis said at the Ravens' mandatory minicamp. "The bottom line is whatever we're trying to do as a team, that's the focus. If we keep that team concept there, then that team concept stays there. If you start talking about individual, that means nothing. Everybody knows this is a business and everything will take care of itself. I'm just excited to be back playing football again."
Lewis, 33, is scheduled to make $6.5 million this season.
Bengals RB Rudi Johnson, the team's featured back who smashed his way to more than 2,900 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns in 2004 and ‘05, missed five games last season and finished with just 497 yards because of a hamstring injury. He had changed his diet and played, he said, at 212 pounds last season, and his running style changed, too. Johnson, a between-the-tackles bruiser, tried to dance. Now he's put on 12 to 13 pounds of muscle mass in his chest and shoulders and said he weighs now in the neighborhood of 225 pounds — his desired playing weight.
"I wanted to come back stronger, more powerful than I've ever been," Johnson said.
Bills WR James Hardy was involved in an incident with his father, James Hardy II, that could impact contract negotiations. "We have spoken to law enforcement officials and they have informed us that they looked into this and have no plans to pursue the matter any further," the Bills said in a statement released after Hardy allegedly pulled a registered gun on his father during an argument in a person's backyard in Fort Wayne, Ind., on May 11. "We also spoke to James last night and will continue to speak with him, but indications are that this matter has been resolved." Resolved to the point that Hardy won't be going to jail. As for his reputation, well, that obviously is open to scrutiny and may even have an impact on his rookie deal.
Titans RB LenDale White played with a torn meniscus in his knee most of the 2007 season. The injury, downplayed by the Titans at the time, caused White severe pain and discomfort. "I played with it all season," White said. "Contrary to what people believe, I am a soldier. I played on it all year and I didn't complain, not once. I waited until the season was over to get it fixed and now it is fixed and I'm feeling good. ... It affected me a lot because it took me a long time to get warmed up. It was catching a lot, and it hurt on certain days," White said. "Before we played San Diego, I was warming up and it was hurting bad. But I fought through it. Now I am back and it's 100 percent and it feels good."
Titans DE Jevon Kearse, a full-time player? "Yes, I mean if they know what's good for them, that's what they'll do," he said. "If they make me situational, then I'll be that. But every down is what I am looking forward to. I'm still the same player, but that scheme up in Philly was different. All I've got to say is proof is in the pudding, so I can't even talk about it. Just watch and see."
Raiders RB Darren McFadden was told in his first phone conversation with Tom Rathman that he needed to change his style of carrying the ball after 13 fumbles in his last season. McFadden made it through three days of rookie camp without a fumble, although defenders were trying their best to strip him of the ball. Rathman said he thought McFadden's fumbling issues at Arkansas were a bit overrated because four came while the running back was playing quarterback and two more came on high-speed collisions on kick returns.
But Rathman did concede fumbling was an issue which had to be dealt with.
"I told him he's got to lock his elbow down," Rathman said. "A lot of times his elbow wasn't locked to the side, and obviously if you don't have that point, which is the most critical point in my opinion, as far as the four points of pressure, you're going to have some issues."
QB Brett Favre is coming back to Green Bay this summer, though no word on whether he'll stick around and come out of retirement to play again. A week before his former teammates report for the start of training camp, Favre will be at Lambeau Field on July 19 to present Frank Winters for induction into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Winters was Favre's trusted center and one of the quarterback's off-the-field buddies.
QB Matt Ryan seems to be the early choice of the Falcons' new brass to start the season with the first-team offense.
"I will say this: the quarterback position is probably one of the more difficult positions to make the transition. But if any body can do it, Matt is a guy that can." Chris Redman is the starter for now and he looked much better than Ryan at all facets of the game. Redman had an April mini-camp to learn some of the nuances that Ryan was learning, however, the gap is closing.
Falcons WR Joe Horn has seen the writing on the wall and he wants out. Horn said this week that he would like to be traded to a team that could actually use him as more than just a mentor.
"They're going with the younger guys and I don't have a problem with that if that's the course they've chosen," Horn said. "I want to have an opportunity to play with a team that needs a veteran to play and contribute and who helps the young guys."
General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team still has plans for Horn. Whether those are to retain him is anyone's guess but Horn's $2.5 million salary this season is guaranteed, according to his agent.
With close to $10 million remaining on a four-year, $14.5 million deal — it could escalate to $17.5 — it is unlikely any team would trade for Horn.
Giants WR Mario Manningham didn't disappoint coach Tom Coughlin in his initial showing with the Giants. "I saw some flashes. I saw some bursts and indications that he might have the goods," Coughlin said. "We talked, and we'll talk again, especially about how we expect him to behave here, now that he's a professional football player."
Bucs QB Jeff Garcia continues to voice his disappointment over the slow pace of talks aimed at a contract extension. The Pro Bowl quarterback is in the final year of his deal that will pay him a $2 million salary.
Garcia hinted there might come a time when he misses some offseason workouts.
"Like I said, after awhile, it does start to play with you mentally and this is a physical game and you want players to go out and give everything they have and lay their bodies on the line, lay their hearts on the line," Garcia said. "Well, we want you to lay something on the line, too. And that's what it comes down to."
Broncos OT Ryan Clady isn't just considered a blue-chip prospect on the field. He's also thought to possess golden character, a trait that defined this year's draft class in Denver. "You won't hear anything bad about him," Ross Clady, Ryan's father, said. "That's not how he was raised. He might have a couple of beers, but going out, toting guns to the airport, things like that — no."
Cowboys SS Roy Williams could be entering a make-or-break season with the Cowboys. His much-discussed comfort level within the Cowboys' 3-4 scheme and Williams' questionable coverage skills have sparked a public debate. Owner Jerry Jones, on the record at least, claims not to be concerned. "I have, candidly, a lot of confidence in Roy Williams' competitiveness, his record as an outstanding football player," Jones said on Wednesday from Cowboys Golf Course. "I know what a competitor he is, I know what a team player he is and that hasn't changed as far as I'm concerned. And for us to be the team we want to be, in my mind, we need Roy to really be the player he can be. That's possible to do here."
Bears PK Robbie Gould became the highest-paid kicker in the NFL when he signed a new contract this week. five-year, $15 million contract extension (including incentives) exceeds the five-year, $14.2 million deal that Josh Brown signed with the Rams two months ago and includes a slightly higher signing bonus ($4.2 million) than the $4 million the St. Louis kicker received. "It was an offer I couldn't pass up," said the 26-year-old Gould. "It's the right contract. It's fair for both sides. It's a win-win situation. Josh Brown's contract helped a great deal by setting the standard and some parameters. I'm very happy he got his done. It helped me."
Gould, who is entering the final year of his original contract at a base pay of $520,000, is now signed through 2013. He is the Bears' all-time FG percentage leader among kickers with at least 50 attempts, connecting on 84.8 percent of his kicks (84 of 99). He has also been successful on 99 of 100 extra-point attempts.
Bears TE Kellen Davis arrived from Michigan State with some questions about his work ethic that caused him to slip in the draft, along with an aggravated assault charge stemming from a fight at an off-campus party 19 months ago. But the Bears were convinced he was worth the 158th overall pick. So far he hasn't disappointed them, and coach Lovie Smith said he isn't worried about the character concerns.
"Kellen Davis has been good two days in a row," Smith said at the end of the rookie minicamp in early May. "We wouldn't bring any guys in unless we felt good about them being a good part and a big part of our team, fitting in and all that. We haven't seen any (problems)."
The 6-foot-7, 262-pound Davis is a virtual lock to replace free-agency loss John Gilmore as the No. 3 tight end, as long as he shows more willingness to use his excellent size and athleticism as a blocker than he did in college.
Browns QB Derek Anderson has been clicking with Donte Stallworth, the wide receiver acquired in free agency after one season with the Patriots. This is Stallworth's seventh year in the league.
"I've been throwing to him for four or five weeks," Anderson said. "The guy can run and stretch the field for us. He has a good set of hands."
WR Jerry Porter is expected to be the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver this season. Not since Jimmy Smith caught 70 passes for 1,023 yards in 2005 has a Jaguars' receiver topped 52 receptions or reached 1,000 yards. "I don't go out and say I'm going to have 100 catches and 2,000 yards. It's not going to happen," Porter, the former Oakland Raiders receiver said. "I am going to go out and bust my butt every play whether it will be running, blocking or catching the ball. Just helping the team."