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PFW: Whipers 6-21


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June 21, 2004


Dolphins WR David Boston has reportedly suffered depth-perception problems the past two seasons. The cause? Colored contact lenses. It seems that the enigmatic Boston wore contacts colored red, purple or blue as a fashion statement. It took Dolphins WR coach Jerry Sullivan and trainer Kevin O’Neill to alert him to the problem. After wearing clear contacts in Miami’s most recent minicamp, Boston admitted that he was picking the ball up quicker.

Expect some drama with the Eagles and DT Corey Simon come training camp. Simon is upset with his current deal and could hold out, a la Duce Staley from last season. The team has shown no hints of discussing an extension with Simon.

Even though they’re under no pressure to do so, don’t be surprised if the Patriots restructure the contracts of QB Tom Brady and/or DL Richard Seymour before the start of the 2004 season. Both players are underpaid in today’s market. By extending their deals, the team can lock them up for more years and free up money to re-sign pending free agents after this season, such as OLT Matt Light, WR David Giv­ens, special-teams standout Larry Izzo and DL Jarvis Green.

The Cowboys will monitor closely the running backs available in July and August, especially if rookie Julius Jones does not show he can handle the load. Among the names mentioned as possible free-agent additions are Dorsey Levens and Antowain Smith.

New Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan plans on demanding a lot out of talented but inconsistent CB Phillip Buchanon. Ryan regularly reminds the third-year cover man to use his skills and continue to challenge himself to be the best. “Phillip gives up some routes that athletically he can shut down,” Ryan told PFW. “That’s what we’re going to get (on him about). But he’s young, and the thing with him is that he cares so much.”

Broncos first-round pick D.J. Williams was sent a message in a June minicamp when he was demoted to second team in favor of Donnie Spragan after suffering a mild sprained ankle and inconsistency in his play at weak-side linebacker.

We hear that Ty Law’s bizarre behavior recently — acting as though he’s happy to be back and saying his comments about being unhappy with his contract and calling Bill Belichick a liar were “taken out of context” — has left teammates shaking their heads but has not diminished their respect for him as a player. He’s still one of the top five cover corners in the game.

Look for the Panthers to get a deal done for CB Chris Gamble quickly, as Gamble has told his agents, the notoriously hard-driving brothers Carl and Kevin Poston, that he ­doesn’t want to miss a day of training camp.

Niners owner John York scored points with the team’s players when he followed the advice of veteran DT Bryant Young and agreed to spend $250,000 to add another 650 square feet to the team’s undersized weight room.

We hear that the reason the Bills have halted contract extension talks with three starters — OLT Jonas Jennings, DE Aaron Schobel and DT Pat Williams — whose contracts are up after the 2004 season is that the team realizes it won’t be able to keep all three and doesn’t want to create a distraction throughout the season. The Bills had sent contract offers to all three players, but negotiations had not gone far. Jennings and Schobel, who both turn 27 during the season, are probably the top priorities over Williams, who turns 32 in late October.

Respected neck specialist Robert Watkins recommended that Broncos OLB John Mobley sit out the 2004 season after tests revealed a contusion around the spinal cord, stemming from a serious injury last October. Insiders believe Mobley has played his last down of football.

Falcons rookie CB DeAngelo Hall has impressed the coaching staff with his anticipation in minicamps and is expected to lock down a starting position early in training camp.

Our sources in Seattle continue to believe QB Matt Hasselbeck, who will be eligible for free agency at the end of next season, will sign a new contract before the start of training camp. The team appears to have sufficient funds, and Hasselbeck’s agent, David Dunn, has a good rapport with Seahawks management.

New England OLB Rosevelt Colvin is coming along slowly from the season-ending dislocated left hip he suffered in Week Two last year. He performed some drills in the team’s recent minicamp but still isn’t close to running contact drills. If the Patriots aren’t satisfied with his progress in training camp, we hear that Colvin could go on the physically-unable-to-perform list, knocking him out of the first six weeks of the season.

The Jaguars won’t push No. 2 QB David Garrard back on the field this season. If Garrard, as expected, is slow to recover from a recent surgery connected to being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Doug Johnson will serve as the primary backup to Byron Leftwich.

One possible reason the Giants, considered by some to be the favorites for free-agent MLB Jeremiah Trotter’s services, have not brought Trotter in for a workout is that they think he might not pass a physical. The team is considering shifting reserve LBs Quincy Monk and Kevin Lewis to the middle to improve the depth behind tentative starter Nick Greisen.

We hear that New England decided not to bring back loyal, respected veteran DE Bobby Ham­ilton because it wants to give time to youngsters like Jarvis Green (25), Rodney Bailey (24), Ty Warren (22), Vince Wilfork (22) and Marquise Hill (21). That’s not counting star DL Richard Seymour, who is 24 years old.

There is increased talk that the New York media and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin are not hitting it off. Coughlin will only make his assistants available the day before players report to training camp and during the team’s bye week. Coughlin also addressed the media far less than previous coach Jim Fassel and has shown a short temper to some media members.

We hear that the Dolphins’ decision to lower DE Adewale Ogun­leye’s tender offer from $1.824 million to $412,500 should not affect contract negotiations for the restricted free agent. Ogunleye’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is adamant that his client will not sign a one-year deal, so the Dolphins reduced the tender to protect themselves from a long-term holdout, freeing up $1.41 million in salary-cap space.

If ex-Steelers OLB Jason Gildon is unable to find a team willing to make him a starter, don’t be surprised if he signs with the Bills. Gildon, 32, made a visit to Buffalo shortly after being cut free by Pittsburgh and would fill a role as a situational pass rusher for the Bills.

The Titans have not discussed a contract extension with CB Andre Dyson, a potential unrestricted free agent in ‘05 who is a good No. 2 starter next to Samari Rolle. The team wants to see the development of Andre Woolfolk before it decides whether to keep Dyson around. Rolle, incidentally, had a fantastic minicamp by most accounts.

Fear not, Eddie George fans: Titans GM Floyd Reese’s recent vacation and George’s wedding plans have had more to do with the team’s lack of dialogue about bringing George back than anything else. Signs point to George returning to Tennessee.

DE John Abraham did not participate in team drills at the Jets’ organized team activity in mid-June and is still recovering from a follow-up surgical procedure on his left groin that was performed in May. We hear he was running at full speed on the sideline and is expected to be 100 percent by training camp.

Chiefs RB Larry Johnson has shown an improved attitude and work ethic in his second year and is said to be “in a better frame of mind,” according to a source close to the team.

Look for the Steelers to blitz their defensive backs more this season, according to our sources. The Steelers will field a younger, faster secondary in 2004, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has never been shy to send extra rushers after the quarterback.

We hear that second-year Bengals WR Kelley Washington has impressed the team with his play in minicamp and workouts. Other Bengals standouts: RB Kenny Watson, who looks faster than he did a season ago, and backup QB Jon Kitna, who is throwing the ball as well as he did in 2003.

While Browns head coach Butch Davis has said WR Dennis Northcutt will get a chance to challenge starting WRs André Davis and Quincy Morgan for a starting job, a source close to the Browns believes the 5-11, 175-pound Northcutt would be unable to hold up in a full-time role.

The Texans gave ROLB Kailee Wong some snaps at inside linebacker during minicamp. We hear the Texans could slide Wong inside if either Jamie Sharper or Jay Foreman were to miss any time during the season.

The Ravens have moved Corey Fuller from cornerback to safety. Fuller is insurance in the event starting FS Will Demps falters. Former Saints CB Dale Carter looks to have the inside track on being Baltimore’s nickel back.

Second-year man Charlie Adams is said to be the early favorite for the Broncos’ No. 3 WR spot behind Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie.

We hear the Saints aren’t concerned with the heat-related physical problems rookie DE Will Smith suffered in his first minicamp experience. Smith is in good shape; he just wasn’t ready to deal with the stifling heat and humidity of the bayou.

Saints WR Donté Stallworth will go into training camp as the No. 2 receiver behind Joe Horn after reporting in excellent shape — he has roughly 3 percent body fat — but Stallworth still has to work on his hands to keep the job.

We hear Buccaneers receivers coach Richard Mann has worked with rookie WR Michael Clayton on using head fakes to create separation by watching tape of Jerry Rice’s early years.

The Buccaneers could use WR Justin Skaggs, who was an undrafted free agent, for kickoffs this season to give PK Martin Gramatica less work. Skaggs was used for long field goals at Evangel University, an NAIA school in Missouri, but the Bucs didn’t know he could kick until he arrived at minicamp.

The Packers are optimistic about their future on the offensive line after Brennan Curtin and Kevin Barry impressed in the offseason. Curtin was in over his head as a rookie after leaving Notre Dame a year early, but the 6-9, 315-pounder has shown well in Year Two. Barry could work in at guard but is most comfortable at right offensive tackle.

Expect the Lions to sacrifice some depth and use OT-OG Matt Joyce at one of the starting OG spots. It has been speculated that free-agent signee David Loverne would join Damien Woody as a starter at guard, but Joyce has outplayed Loverne. Also, rookie OT Kelly Butler has a shot to replace Joyce as the “swing” backup.

Second-year DT-DE Cory Redding had a great offseason for the Lions. He’s stronger and quicker, giving the Lions solid fallbacks should DE Kalimba Edwards (sports hernia) have any setbacks. The Lions envision Redding as a pass-rushing interior lineman who can spell Dan Wilkinson in certain situations.

Limited by ankle injuries each of the last two seasons, Bears OLG Rex Tucker says he is finally 100 percent healthy. Entering training camp, the Bears consider their interior offensive line — Tucker, C Olin Kreutz and ORG Ruben Brown — as a strength of the team.

The Vikings expect OG-OTs Adam Haayer and Lewis Kelly, neck-and-neck after minicamp workouts, to have a heated battle for the primary OL backup job in training camp. Haayer was said to have stood out in team workouts when he replaced ORG David Dixon while Dixon was absent.

Our sources in the Valley would not be surprised if Cardinals OLB Ray­noch Thompson changed his mind about wanting to leave Arizona after realizing that his market value on the open market wasn’t nearly as high as he thought it might be.

Although the right-wrist injury suffered by Cardinals CB Renaldo Hill last November was worse than expected — he was sporting a heavy cast at presstime — the team still expects him to be 100 percent by the start of training camp, at which time he’s expected to battle newly acquired David Macklin for a starting role opposite Duane Starks.

It looks as if Ronnie Heard has the early edge on Dwaine Carpenter for the Niners’ starting FS job. Carpenter is younger, faster and more athletic, but Heard is extremely smart, always seems to be in the right spot and is one of the surest tacklers on the team.

We hear Seahawks DT Anton Palepoi, who decided to skip the Seahawks’ most recent voluntary camp, has landed in the doghouse and could have trouble making the final roster on a defensive line that has added a lot of bodies.

Look for Seahawks RB Kerry Carter, a rookie free agent last year who continues to impress the coaching staff, to push Maurice Morris for playing time behind Shaun Alexander.

Newly acquired QB Chris Chandler has opened eyes in the Rams’ offseason camps with his strong arm and on-the-money deep passes.

Sources close to the Giants say FS Otis Stoutmire’s status as a starter could be on shaky ground following the signing of former Steelers FS Brent Alexander. The team also likes what it has seen from rookie Gibril Wilson, but he appears better-suited for the SS position.

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has not been able to find an adequate replacement at punt returner to ease the burden on Derrick Mason, but watch out for Lamont Thompson, who has intriguing size and speed for the position.

Although the Eagles really like RBs Bruce Perry, a rookie, and Eric McCoo, an NFL Europe star this offseason, they both have an uphill battle to make the regular roster. With practice rosters increased to eight players this season, both have a decent shot at landing there.

Fresh off his breakup with his “Bachelor” girlfriend Jessica Bowlin, Giants QB Jesse Palmer impressed at the team’s final minicamp and really helped his chances of making the team over Ryan Van Dyke, who tailed off in his final few NFL Europe games, and rookie Jared Lorenzen, who has “practice squad” written all over him.

Keep an eye on Redskins DT Joe Salave’a, who could make a fairly significant impact on a thin line. Brandon Noble, back from knee surgery, has looked good, but Salave’a could provide quality depth behind starters Jermaine Haley and Cornelius Griffin.

Not that the Cowboys are shopping temperamental WR Antonio Bryant, but we hear that the Dolphins are not interested in the Miami native, even if he becomes available via trade.

The Chiefs have liked what they’ve seen thus far from journeyman DT Lional Dalton, signed in late March. Dalton is said to be more motivated, perhaps viewing this as his final shot in the NFL.

TE Kris Wilson, the Chiefs’ second-round pick this spring, has proven to be a very instinctive receiver in summer workouts and never seems to have to be told something twice.

The Ravens converted WR Javin Hunter to cornerback because he faced an uphill battle to make the roster on offense, says a source close to the team. We hear Hunter’s key to making the team likely will come via special teams. Hunter is in a four-player race to win Baltimore’s kick-returner job along with incumbent Lamont Brightful and rookies Derek Abney and B.J. Sams. Sams, an undrafted free agent from McNeese State, has managed to catch the coaching staff’s eye.

We’re told Falcons offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is making it a point not to toy with QB Michael Vick’s mechanics as he teaches the youngster the West Coast offense, but rather he is trying to get Vick to think more on the field about making the right decision with the ball.

LB Tedy Bruschi negotiated his own contract extension and agreed to a four-year, $8.1 million deal that will likely allow the nine-year veteran to close out his career as a lifelong Patriot.

We hear that TE Daniel Graham has responded well to the Patriots’ selection of TE Benjamin Watson in the first round of the 2004 draft. Graham, a first-rounder in 2002, has underachieved thus far in his career, but looked great in minicamp. He said he has set some high goals for himself for this season and expects to finally live up to his promise.

This offseason, New England has been lining up second-year player Dan Klecko at middle linebacker to see if he can make the adjustment from a down lineman to standing up and roaming the field. Klecko has lost weight, dropping from 283 to the 270 range, and is being mentored by Tedy Bruschi. New England loves Klecko’s work ethic and instincts.

We hear that the reason Bills RB Travis Henry missed a couple days of the team’s voluntary veterans camp in early June was because he didn’t want to interrupt his offseason training routine back home in Florida and had nothing to do with his being disgruntled or upset. After a couple teammates called to tell him he was being missed, he quickly flew to Buffalo to take part in the final days of the camp.

Though the Dolphins experimented in minicamp with moving WR Chris Chambers to the slot, it remains to be seen if Miami can effectively use the gifted receiver in that role. Chambers is a long-strider who is best utilized in patterns that take advantage of his great speed, leaping ability, body control and exceptional hands. No matter where he plays, we hear that he looked fantastic in minicamp, making a number of one-handed catches.

If the season started today, the Dolphins’ No. 3 wide receiver would be ex-starter Derrius Thompson behind starters Chris Chambers and David Boston. In addition, we hear that free-agent pickup Terrence Wilkins is a likely training-camp casualty, unless he opens eyes as a returner.

Detroit is likely to keep third-year CB Chris Cash out of game action until October, assigning him to the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Minnesota may have two Cottrells on the payroll this season. Defensive Ted Cottrell is a lock, but Cottrell’s son, T.J. Cottrell, has a strong chance to stick on the team’s practice squad as an extra tight end. T.J. is a good athlete with enough speed to play at this level.

We hear the main reason the Cardinals decided to release S Justin Lucas was S Adrian Mayes, an undrafted free agent out of LSU who didn’t even play safety in college. Don’t be surprised if Mayes makes his presence felt both in the secondary and on special teams.

The Eagles could keep as many as 10 defensive lineman as long as intriguing DE Jamaal Green (broken fibula), who missed all of last season, and DT Paul Grasmanis (ankle), who recently had surgery, show they are healthy.

Panthers QB Chris Weinke hasn’t pressed the team on trying to work out a trade to avoid spending another year as the No. 3 quarterback because he knows he likely won’t get a starting shot with another team and is willing to play out his contract in Carolina.

The Packers could bring back veteran WR Antonio Freeman if he doesn’t find another taker. Freeman hasn’t signed until after training camps open each of the last two years and the Packers are comfortable with the veteran because of his knowledge of the offense and familiarity with QB Brett Favre. The Packers first will give their young receivers an opportunity to claim the No. 4 and 5 WR jobs before bringing back Freeman.

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