Buzz: Latest from NFL training camps

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August 14 News and Notes

Ravens’ OT Gaither injures back — 10:08 p.m.

Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither has a small tear in his back that will sideline him for at least two weeks. Full story

— The Associated Press

Rams, RB Westbrook not close on deal — 8:23 p.m.

The St. Louis Rams’ chief contract negotiator says a deal is not imminent with free-agent running back Brian Westbrook.

Kevin Demoff, vice president of football operations, said before Saturday night’s preseason opener that he had not spoken to Westbrook’s agent for several days. Demoff, however, remained optimistic that the Rams remained in the running for Westbrook.

— The Associated Press

Jets starters to play past first quarter — 8:01 p.m.

Mark Sanchez and the rest of the Jets’ starters are going to get some extra time to shake off their offseason rust.

Coach Rex Ryan said Saturday that his starters on offense and defense will play a little past the first quarter in New York’s preseason opener against the Giants on Monday night at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

”Because we’ve had such a long time off, that’s probably what we’ll do,” Ryan said. Full story

— The Associated Press

Several key Giants to miss preseason game vs. Jets — 5:26 p.m.

Pro Bowlers Chris Snee and Steve Smith and at least five other players will miss the New York Giants’ preseason opener against the New York Jets.

Giants Coach Tom Coughlin says that tight end Kevin Boss, linebacker Keith Bulluck, safeties Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson and free agent receiver Tim Brown also won’t play. Full story.

— The Associated Press

Saints cut Hamilton, sign Coleman — 4:08 p.m.

Injured running back Lynell Hamilton has been cut by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints also re-signed linebacker Harry Coleman. Full story.

Cowboys Bryant could play two preseason games — 3:57 p.m.

Cowboys rookie receiver Dez Bryant is on track to play the final two preseason games.

Team owner Jerry Jones said so Saturday morning, before the team’s first workout in California.

Bryant sprained his right ankle during a July 30 practice. He was expected to miss four to six weeks, which could’ve wiped out his chances of playing in the preseason.

But Jones said Saturday that Bryant’s recovery is coming along well and that he is ”hopeful we will have him back for those last two preseason games.” That means the first-round pick could be in action Aug. 28 at Houston or Sept. 2 at home against Miami.

– The Associated Press

Panthers’ Stewart passes physical, practices — 2:39 p.m.

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart participated only in position drills and watched most of the team portion of Saturday morning’s workout.

But for someone who almost never practices because of chronic pain in his left Achilles’ tendon and heel, finally passing his physical and being taken off the physically unable to perform list was a significant accomplishment for Stewart and Carolina’s struggling offense.

”It’s a relief just being out there, being around what I’m supposed to be doing,” Stewart said. ”Making gradual steps toward being on the field is the plan. Today was good just to be around the guys and be able to walk through some plays and stuff like that. I think it was a good step.” Full story

– The Associated Press

Two Bills RBs injured — 2:19 a.m.

Bills running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch both were injured Friday night on Buffalo’s first drive of a 42-17 preseason-opening loss to the Washington Redskins. Full story

August 13 News and Notes

New England loses starting DE; Burgess returns – 7:19 p.m.

The New England Patriots got one key player back on Friday, but lost another for the season.

Starting DE Ty Warren (hip) was placed on injured reserve. Warren practiced for the first few days of training camp, but had been shut down ever since. The veteran defensive lineman is expected to have surgery next week.

With Warren gone, the team will turn to veteran DLs Mike Wright, Damione Lewis, and Gerard Warren to fill in. G. Warren started for T. Warren in Thursday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints. However, Gerard Warren and Lewis haven’t played much in the 3-4 defensive scheme in their careers, so Ty Warren’s loss could be big.

“We placed Ty on injured reserve today, tough break for Ty but we have to move on. He’s missed quite a bit of time the last couple of years so we’ve had to deal with that anyway. Unfortunately that’s part of the game. We’ll just move ahead” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said.

The team did get some good news on Friday when veteran OLB Derrick Burgess, who was away from the team since the beginning of training camp, returned to the team and passed a conditioning test which will allow him to start practicing. He was on the Reserve/Did not Report list.

Burgess’s presence is really needed when you consider how average New England’s pass rush was last season. While he only posted five sacks, he’ll be part of a four to five man rotation at OLB. Burgess, who participated in roughly 57 percent of the snaps on defense last season for New England, re-signed with the team for one season back in May.

– Adam Caplan

Merriman signs and discusses one-year tender – 6:32 p.m.

San Diego Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman signed his one-year restricted free agent tender this morning, the sixth-year pro announced via his Twitter account.

“Just signed my tender and glad to be back with my teammates thanks to everyone,” he wrote.

Merriman, who was selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, likely will not play in Saturday’s preseason opener at home against the Chicago Bears since he’s missed all of training camp to this point.

The Chargers had a walkthrough scheduled for late Friday morning.

Merriman had been staying away from training camp because he apparently wanted assurances he won’t be traded this season.

With Merriman out of the lineup, second-year OLB Larry English has been filling in. It will be interesting to see if the coaches work Merriman in with the second-team defense once he starts practicing since he hasn’t practice in some time.

"I think it was time for me to come in and get ready," said Merriman, who’s trying to regain the form that resulted in 39 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons. "You can’t show up game one, game two, whatever, and expect to be ready. The only way to emulate football is to play football."

Merriman softened his stance on a handful of issues, including one in which he was quoted as saying he wanted the Chargers to tell him he wouldn’t be traded during the season.

"Everybody’s on the trading block, so I don’t think that was a question at all. I think it was more of it being talked about so much. We have bigger fish to fry, and that’s to play the Kansas City Chiefs and get ready for them," he said, referring to the season opener on Sept. 13.

"At no point in time did I want my conversation on where I’m going to play or what’s going to happen be bigger than us getting ready for a game. At some point, it got there. That’s what I wanted to stay away from. But I’m happy to be back here for another year, to come out and finish what we started with these guys. There’s no better way to do it."

So did he accomplish anything by not being in camp?

"No I didn’t accomplish anything at all because I always knew that I was wanted here and that was one of the biggest reasons for getting some things sorted out," he said. "But just the whole business part of it you just hate to deal with. I’m just so glad that that’s behind me now where I can go out and play."

Merriman said he expressed his concerns a few times to general manager A.J. Smith, including during a phone conversation on Thursday.

"We obviously have the same goals, trying to accomplish the same things, and sometimes in between, things get a little mixed up and they shouldn’t be," Merriman said. "But ultimately we have the same goals, to come out and be a championship ballclub."

Smith, not a fan of Merriman’s celebrity-leaning pursuits away from football, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The Chargers still have two high-profile holdouts. Left tackle Marcus McNeill and Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson have refused to sign their tenders because they want long-term deals.

Merriman also backed off an earlier statement that he wanted to be on a team where the defense was built around him.

Asked if that would be the situation with the Chargers, he said: "Absolutely not. It wasn’t intended for any defense or anything like that to be built around me. I want to be a big part of this team for the next five, seven years, whatever it is. I’ve never been a guy that wanted anything built around me because I always believe that if you put me on the field, I’m going to be able to make plays. You don’t have to do anything around me at all. I’m just happy to be here and do my part, and do my part as I have for the last five years."

He also said he wanted people to stop dwelling on talk about a long-term deal with the Chargers, "because as you saw in ’08, it can be over and you can be out. I’m going to continue to take it year by year. I know I’m wanted here and that’s good enough for me."

Merriman, under the RFA tender, will earn a salary of $3.269 million.

The Chargers still have two high-profile holdouts. Left tackle Marcus McNeill and Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson have refused to sign their tenders because they want long-term deals.

– Adam Caplan and The Associated Press

Jets’ Slauson, Ducasse friends despite competition – 4:47 p.m.

Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse are The Odd Couple of the New York Jets’ offensive line.

They’re two big men from different parts of the world who have little in common, from their skin color to their paths to the NFL. Even communicating can be a challenge: The American-born Slauson speaks with a stutter, and English isn’t the Haitian-born Ducasse’s first language.

Still, their desire to be the Jets’ starting left guard has bonded them more than they could have imagined.

"Matt’s been great," Ducasse said. "He’s always helping me out. Whenever I need something, I’ll go up to him and ask him. He’s always there for me."

And that’s despite the fact they’re going after the same job.

"I don’t want to make this where I’m trying to keep him from being his best so I have the best shot at getting the job," Slauson said. "I don’t want that because we’re all on the same page. We care about one thing: Super Bowl."

Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is charged with the task of replacing perennial Pro Bowl pick Alan Faneca on a unit that helped pave the way last season for the league’s top rushing attack.

"It’s awfully competitive," Callahan said. "It’s been challenging for both of them."

Ducasse is a 6-foot-5, 330-pound massive, but quiet man who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moved to Stamford, Conn., at age 14, and speaks Creole, French and English.

"He’s a real, real gentleman," Callahan said, "but he competes and his nasty is growing."

Ducasse learned how to play football in high school and was such a quick study, he ended up starting for three years at left tackle for the University of Massachusetts.

"Vlad’s a stud," Slauson said. "He’s going to be nipping at my heels the whole entire way, pushing me. If I slip a little bit, he’s going to come in and grab it."

Slauson is certainly no slouch. He’s also 6-5 but about 15 pounds lighter than Ducasse. He makes up for that with a tough-guy look that matches his intensity on the field with his scruffy chin hair and tattooed arms. Slauson, a sixth-round pick last year, was born in Oregon, went to high school in Colorado and then had a terrific career at the University of Nebraska.

"We’re different, but we’ve developed a really good relationship," Slauson said. "We hang out, talk about all kinds of stuff. I was actually just asking him the other day about what Haiti was like and what his parents did, and how his Dad is an accountant for the Bank of Haiti. It’s cool."

While much of the focus in training camp has been on Darrelle Revis’ holdout, Rex Ryan’s mouth, Mark Sanchez’s development and all the new faces on the team, the competition between Ducasse and Slauson is just as important a storyline.

The winner will step into a spot Faneca held down the last two seasons. While Faneca’s run blocking ability is still considered outstanding, his age – he’s 33 – and declining pass blocking skills made him expendable. So, the Jets cut him the night they drafted Ducasse.

"They’re very hard decisions, tough decisions," Callahan said. "When you get attached to someone like Alan Faneca, it’s very hard."

Now, both Ducasse and Slauson want to prove the team made the right call.

"You’re missing a piece, but Vlad and Slauson are doing a great job of battling, asking questions, wanting to be the guy that we can count on,” center Nick Mangold said. "When you have two guys that are doing that, it’s a great situation."

Slauson will start in the Jets’ preseason opener against the Giants on Monday night. That doesn’t mean the competition is anywhere close to being over, though.

"I’ve just been reluctant to say anything relative to anybody being ahead or not ahead," Callahan said. "I’m the type of guy that just wants to see it play out and see what happens. We’ve got a whole preseason to go. Let them go for it."

The two have been alternating work with the first-team offense throughout camp.

"It’s such a long season," Callahan said, "I may need them both."

Slauson filled in at guard and center last season as a rookie, playing in three regular-season games. Meanwhile, Ducasse is transitioning from tackle to guard – just as Slauson did at Nebraska.

"At the end of it all, I want to become the starter, but I still have a lot of hard work to do," Ducasse said. "The season’s long, 17 weeks, so it’s not like this battle is going to be over even after camp."

– The Associated Press

Losing Hixon has Giants looking for returners – 4:07 p.m.

Losing Dominek Hixon to a freak season-ending knee injury in minicamp cost the New York Giants more than a reliable receiver. It took away their return game.

Hixon handled roughly 80 percent of the kickoff returns last season and 63 percent of their punt returns.

Heading into the preseason opener against the Jets on Monday night, the auditions for Hixon’s replacement start.

Running backs D.J. Ware and Andre Brown and receiver Victor Cruz will handle kickoff returns. Veteran cornerback Aaron Ross and Cruz will get the call on punt returns, although safety Antrel Rolle has handled some punts in camp.

Receiver Sinorice Moss was getting work at both spots in the opening week of camp, but he’s out with a groin injury and his status for Monday is uncertain.

– The Associated Press

Niners RB shockingly retires – 2:56 p.m.

San Francisco 49ers second-year RB Glen Coffee missed Thursday’s second practice for unknown reasons. He didn’t show up to Friday morning’s practice, either. As it turns out, the former third-round pick has decided to retire. Coffee notified the team of his decision to stop playing Friday morning.

With Coffee out of the picture, fourth-year RB Michael Robinson is expected to move up the depth chart to replace him. Sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon, who was drafted this year with the hope that he would eventually challenge for the No. 2 role, has not been impressive since being selected in the sixth round of April’s NFL Draft.

While he was given as high as a second-round grade from some NFL teams coming into his senior season at Mississippi St., Dixon fell down draft boards after posting two slow 40-yard dash times during February’s NFL Combine.

San Francisco’s choices in free agency aren’t great for the running back position. With veteran Justin Fargas signing with the Denver Broncos, the best available running backs include Brian Westbrook, Ladell Betts, and Jamal Lewis.  

– Adam Caplan

Browns sign offensive lineman Malecki – 2:42 p.m.

The Cleveland Browns have signed free agent offensive lineman John Malecki.

He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Tennessee in April and waived by the Titans on Aug. 10. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Malecki made 24 starts in college at Pittsburgh, where he began his career as a defensive tackle before switching to the offensive line.

Malecki was a first team All-Big East selection as a senior right guard.

The Browns, who will open their exhibition season on Saturday in Green Bay, also waived tight end Joel Gamble.

– The Associated Press

Odds on Marshall hooping – 1:55 p.m.

If there is an NFL Lockout will Brandon Marshall play in at least one game in the 2011-2012 NBA Regular Season?

Yes: 5/1

No: 1/8

– Lines courtesy of Bodog

Dolphins’ RB Brown trying to stay healthy – 11:11 a.m.

For Ronnie Brown, a moment of alarm interrupted the drudgery of the Miami Dolphins training camp when he felt his foot under a teammate’s cleats on the practice field.

Brown briefly feared he had suffered another injury. But he’s feeling fine and will start Saturday night’s exhibition opener for the Dolphins against Tampa Bay.

It will be the running back’s first game since he broke his right foot in November, also against the Buccaneers.

Brown has a handle on how to carry the ball, and playing triggerman in the wildcat is a snap. But since being taken with the second pick in the 2005 draft, he has had a hard time staying healthy, playing all 16 games only once.

– The Associated Press

Saints postgame notebook: Ramsey impresses – 10:17 a.m.

The New Orleans Saints’ preseason opening 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., produced some solid performances by players looking to either move up the depth chart or make the final 53-man roster.

More …

Cowboys S Hamlin suffers concussion – 9:09 a.m.

Mike Hamlin suffered a concussion in Thursday’s loss to Oakland. In last year’s preseason he suffered a broken wrist. Now the concussion. Does he worry he might be jinxed?

More …

Cowboys rookie sits out game because he’s ‘too intense’ – 8:34 a.m.

Cowboys rookie lineback Sean Lee was held out of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders because he is "too intense," according to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "Because he has such a high motor, because he’s so intense, that’s keeping him from being in this ballgame," Jones stated before the game.

More …

Medical journal to publish study of brain damage to players – 8:00 a.m.

Dr. Daniel Amen’s medical work with retired NFL players has paid dividends.

Amen told that the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences has accepted a professional paper for publication submitted by him and his colleagues. “Impact of Playing Professional American Football on Long-Term Brain Function” is Amen’s diagnosis of the 101 ex-NFL players he has treated gratis as part of a personal research project.

Amen has unearthed brain damage in many of his NFL patients through use of a nuclear imaging test known as SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography). He has recommended the use of “booster” supplements as well as dietary changes for treatment.

“This is the first ‘large-scale’ research study demonstrating significant brain problems and cognitive impairment in a large sample of professional American football players,” Amen wrote in an email. “Rather than continuing the dialogue on whether playing professional football puts players at risk for cognitive impairment, the league should start protecting players and encouraging aggressive brain rehabilitation when appropriate. When we started the study 19 months ago, we had no idea of the level of damage we would see. We are gratified that the NFL’s new Head, Neck and Spine Committee, under its new leadership of Drs. (Hunt) Batjer and (Richard) Ellenbogen, is taking this issue seriously and is making important strides in the right direction.”

Having his publication accepted by the JNCN – which is a society of psychiatrists working at the interface between neuroscience and behavioral disorders — is a major step toward mainstream acceptance of Amen’s research. Critics in the medical community have claimed a lack of scientific controls and offered other challenges to Amen’s work. Amen has told he stands by his findings and methodology.

A further look at Amen’s work and his treatment of ex-NFL tight end Cam Cleeland can be found here.

– Alex Marvez

August 12 News and Notes

Seahawks LB Hill to miss a few weeks with knee injury – 10:08 p.m.

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill’s rocky 2010 season has hit another bump with news he’s likely to be out until at least September with a sprained knee.

Coach Pete Carroll said after practice on Thursday that Hill’s going to be out ”a few weeks.” Hill sprained the knee on Tuesday, and the coach originally thought it was a minor injury.

”It’s going to be a bit,” Carroll said. ”It’s going to be a few weeks probably before our guys will want him to go out full speed. We got to make sure and do this right, because there is a little something that happened there.”

Hill’s troubled offseason had put his future with the Seahawks in doubt. Seattle’s five-year starter got probation on a plea agreement for a marijuana charge in Georgia. The NFL suspendedhim for the September 12 season opener.

Hill’s also facing a trial this month in Issaquah, Washington, on a charge of domestic violence against his girlfriend.

New linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. has been raving about the play of outside linebacker David Hawthorne. The third-year, non-drafted free agent was already getting plenty of time this summer and was often ahead of Hill in scrimmages before Hill got hurt.

– The Associated Press

Titans get some help on defensive line – 9:01 p.m.

All Raheem Brock wants is a chance to chase quarterbacks, and he believes the Tennessee Titans will give him his best chance to do just that.

The eight-year veteran signed a one-year contract with Tennessee on Thursday after working out and passing a physical. The Titans had him on the field for practice to help a banged-up unit. Brock had worked out for Houston on Wednesday, but he said he thinks Tennessee’s the best place for someone who spent his entire career in Indianapolis until now.

”I think I’m in a good situation where I just have to take advantage of it, plain and simple,” Brock said after practice. ”They play a great defensive scheme that fits what I do. Right now, I just have to take advantage of it.”

The Titans needed the help.

Tennessee lost end William Hayes to a sprained right medial collateral ligament in his knee Tuesday and will miss at least two weeks, tackle Tony Brown remains on the physically unable to perform list and top draft pick Derrick Morgan has yet to practice with the full team.

Coach Jeff Fisher said rookie end Marcus Howard suffered a triceps injury and had season-ending surgery, so the Titans waived him and will look to reach an injury settlement. The Titans also signed end Chris Harrington while releasing receiver Phillip Morris.

”This is what sometimes happens at this time of training camp,” Fisher said. ”You have injuries and you have to move people around so you can get to the preseason games.”

The Titans open the preseason Saturday night at Seattle. With four preseason games, Brock and Harrington will have their chance to compete.

”It should be enough so they can show us what they can do,” Fisher said.

Brock spent his first eight seasons with Indianapolis and has 28 1/2 career sacks, but he wasn’t happy playing inside at tackle in Indianapolis where he won a Super Bowl ring, so he asked to be released in March. The 32-year-old lineman found himself waiting and waiting for the chance to join another team until the phone really started ringing this week.

”It’s a business. It’s how it is. … My boys Dwight (Freeney) and Robert (Mathis), they’re out there and they ball just as hard as anybody else. For me, I was just looking for the opportunity to play end and get to that quarterback like they have,” Brock said.

– Associated Press

Three more Giants miss practice with various injuries – 6:37 p.m.

The New York Giants’ training camp injury list keeps growing.

Starting cornerback Terrell Thomas, safety Michael Johnson and free agent receiver Tim Brown all didn’t practice on Thursday.

Thomas had a minor leg injury, Johnson had back spasms and Brown had groin and hamstring injuries. Receiver Derek Hagan spent about a minute or two on the ground after being hit in the head by safety Michael Greco on a pass play at the University at Albany.

Starting cornerback Corey Webster (buttocks), Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee (knee) and Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith (groin) also remain sidelined along with receiver Sinorice Moss (groin) and four tight ends, including starter Kevin Boss (ankle and hamstring).

The other tight ends who are out are Travis Beckum (hamstring), Scott Chandler (hip flexor) and Jake Ballard (hamstring). Chandler and Ballard were sent to New York for MRIs.

Coach Tom Coughlin said it’s likely that Bear Pascoe will be the only tight end available for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Jets at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

Coughlin scoffed at the idea of signing more tight ends.

”Do you know where we can find them?,” he said. ”You know how many teams in the league are looking for tight ends? Seriously, you saw when Dallas got just about wiped out the other night. It’s a nice idea, but it’s not novel.”

The players will go out to dinner with the coaches on Thursday night as part of Coughlin’s annual training camp bonding activity. Coughlin refused to say where the dinner would be held.

”Don’t show up at the same restaurant,” he told the media.

– The Associated Press

Seahawks LB Hill out a few weeks with knee injury – 5:12 p.m.

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill’s rocky 2010 has hit another bump with news he’s likely to be out until at least September with a sprained knee.

Coach Pete Carroll said after practice on Thursday that Hill is going to be out ”a few weeks.”

Hill sprained the knee on Tuesday. The coach originally thought it was a minor injury.

Hill’s troubled offseason had put his future with the Seahawks in doubt.

Seattle’s five-year starter got probation on a plea agreement for a marijuana charge in Georgia. The NFL suspended Hill for the Sept. 12 season opener for that.

Hill also is facing a trial this month in Issaquah, Wash., on a charge of domestic violence against his girlfriend.

— The Associated Press

Browns’ Jackson out 3-7 weeks – 4:01 p.m.

A person familiar with D’Qwell Jackson’s injury says the Cleveland Browns linebacker has been told he does not need surgery and could be back on the field in less than one month.

Jackson strained his right pectoral muscle – his second chest muscle injury in less than one year – in practice this week. He got a second opinion on Thursday from his surgeon in New York, who came to the same conclusion as the team’s medical staff and prescribed rest and rehab, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of medical privacy laws.

Jackson will need 3 to 7 weeks to recover, and if he doesn’t have any setbacks, he could be ready for the Sept. 12 opener at Tampa Bay.

— The Associated Press

Bears place rookie on IR – 2:50 p.m.

The Chicago Bears placed rookie RB Harvey Unga (hamstring) on injured reserve. Unga, who was selected in the seventh round of July’s NFL Supplemental Draft, was competing for the No. 3 running back role in training camp.

With Unga gone, second-year RB Kahlil Bell remains as the favorite to handle the third spot on the depth chart. Veteran RB Adrian Peterson, who played eight years for the Bears, remains unsigned.

— Adam Caplan

Saints’ Payton ready for bull’s eye – 11:37 a.m.

Saints coach Sean Payton feels pretty good about his team right now because they haven’t had many injuries this summer, plus key players like LB Clint Ingram, who could start for departed Scott Fujita, and WR Robert Meachem should be practicing in a week or two. Meachem’s recovering from a broken toe, an injury so ugly the coach said a pin was inserted. Also, WR Lance Moore, who was slowed last season, is having a great camp.

FS Darren Sharper’s done nothing this summer, following microfracture knee surgery, but he’s expected to be available for the final preseason game.

There’s a good chance strongside linebacker could be filled by Ingram, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas, who’s very good in pass coverage.

Payton’s interesting new offensive weapon is rookie TE Jimmy Graham, who doesn’t have a lot of football experience. “But you can bet that Sean will develop some special plays for him because he has good size, hands and quickness,” Loomis said.

"I know every team will be gunning for us this year, but I do think we are ready for the challenge,” Payton said. “We’ve talked about it a lot and how to prepare for what’s going to happen. The key to me is that I have some great leaders in the locker room like (Drew) Brees, (Jonathan) Vilma and Will Smith, who won’t allow any of the players to become complacent. From my end, that’s so important. But I think this team learned a lot about themselves last season with our three straight losses at the end of the season. Our loss against the Bucs was pretty awful, remember, and then we rested some key people in the final game. But no team had ever done that, go 0-3 at the end, and still won a Super Bowl.”

— John Czarnecki

Will scrimmages replace preseason games? – 11:27 a.m.

The Patriots will also practice next week against the Falcons before playing them in a preseason game in Atlanta. The buzz is that these planned scrimmages could be the precursor to what might happen in future training camps if the owners actually get the players to agree on an 18-game season, thus reducing preseason games from four to two.

Coaches and personnel men want to see rookies and other young players in competition before making roster decisions, and these two-team workouts could help in gauging one’s personnel. Basically, preseason games give coaches a great read on what rookies can help and make the team on special teams in game situations. Both the Saints and Patriots actually worked against one another on punt and kick coverages.

— John Czarnecki

Saints march in White House – 11:22 a.m.

When the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints visited the White House this week, before heading to New England to practice for two days against the Patriots, it probably was the first time in a while that President Obama shook the hands with so many Republicans and men against higher taxes.

"It was great going there, and he made sure to shake everyone’s hand and make the visit so personal,” said Saints owner Tom Benson, “but you are right about the personal feelings of a lot of us in the room.

GM Mickey Loomis said it was pretty difficult, too, for Benson to hold his tongue and not ask President Obama to lift the oil drilling moratorium in the Gulf. "It means so many jobs in our state and those good jobs trickle down to a lot of people," Loomis said. "Our fans, the state, have been hit pretty hard after coming back from Katrina."

Of course, it was the Gulf oil spill that continually delayed the Saints’ visit in the first place. But with the BP well capped, the visit finally made political sense.

"We jumped at the opportunity because it allowed us to combine it with our planned practices here," Loomis said. "The whole trip has been a great change of pace for us. We’ve had a lot of hot weather, so our indoor facility has come in handy."

— John Czarnecki

Broncos make changes at LB – 11:10 a.m.

The Broncos have signed free agent linebacker Johnny Williams and waived linebacker Nick Greisen.

Williams spent last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad after spending the preseason in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars had signed him as a college free agent out of Kentucky.

Greisen’s a ninth-year pro out of Wisconsin who started 34 games in his NFL career with the Giants, Jaguars and Ravens. He was drafted by the Giants in 2002.

Greisen joined the Broncos last year but a knee injury in training camp sidelined him for the season.

— The Associated Press

Colts sign journeyman defensive back – 8:10 a.m.

The Colts seemingly didn’t need to add another cornerback to their 80-man roster, but that’s exactly what they did Wednesday night.

Marcus McCauley, who was selected in the third round of the 2007 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, has bounced around over the past few years with the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins, who waived him in June.

McCauley was once highly regarded in scouting circles for his size and coverage ability, but a personnel source said his technique and footwork need to improve greatly if he’s to latch on with a team long-term.

With the Colts, McCauley figures to compete for the fifth cornerback job – that’s if they keep five.

To make room for McCauley, the Colts waived rookie CB Thad Turner with an injury settlement, a source confirmed.

— The Associated Press

August 11 News and Notes

Merriman considering reporting … Maybe – 10:52 p.m.’s Jay Glazer reports that Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman is considering showing up either Friday or Monday to team headquarters, presumably to sign his one-year RFA tender worth $3.269 million, but Merriman’s still unsure if he’s going to pull the trigger and actually do it.

Merriman, via his Twitter account, said a report earlier on Wednesday didn’t come from him, but rather from the team.

With Merriman out of camp, second-year pro Larry English, a first-round pick in 2009, has been taking his place on the first-team defense. English, who played defensive end in college, is making the transition to standing up at outside linebacker, a move that’s considered difficult because it requires the player to drop in coverage in addition to the primary job of rushing the passer.

Merriman can’t participate in training camp until he signs the tender. San Diego veterans reported to training camp on July 30. San Diego’s first preseason game is home on Saturday against the Bears.

– Adam Caplan

49ers waive LB after severe injury — 9:40 p.m.

The San Francisco 49ers waived second-year linebacker Scott McKillop.

McKillop tore ligaments in his left knee during practice August 4 and had season-ending surgery two days later. If he clears waivers, he’ll be placed on San Francisco’s injured reserve list.

McKillop was the top backup to starting inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes before his injury. The team’s fifth-round draft choice in 2009, McKillop led the 49ers with 31 special teams tackles last season and scored a touchdown on a muffed punt return.

— The Associated Press

Bills rookie WR to have leg surgery — 9:33 p.m.

Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Marcus Easley is expected to undergo surgery on his injured left leg and will be out indefinitely, coach Chan Gailey said after practice Wednesday night.

The fourth-round draft pick out of Connecticut has not practiced since falling awkwardly on his knee during a training camp session on Aug. 2.

He was on the sideline Wednesday night as the team prepared for its first preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Friday.

Gailey, who would only describe it as a leg injury, did not say when Easley would have the surgery. Gailey also said it would not be known how long he would be out until after the surgery.

— Associated Press

Running back free agent pool light on talent – 8:56 p.m.

With training camps in full swing, the injury factor continues to grow, and no position seems to be hit worse than running back.

With the Broncos signing veteran Justin Fargas on Wednesday, let’s take a look at the best available backs left on the free agent market.

Brian Westbrook – He’s received interest from the Redskins and Rams. Denver showed interest as well, but seem to have moved on from him.

Ladell Betts – He worked out for the Saints recently as well as Denver. With New Orleans losing backup Lynell Hamilton on Wednesday to a torn ACL, they could pursue Betts, who suffered a torn ACL himself last season with the Redskins.

Chris Brown – Journeyman type who fits in as a No. 3 back. Could handle a short-yardage role.

Kolby Smith – Spent time briefly with Denver recently.

Ahman Green – He recently signed with the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks.

Gary Russell – He did a nice job filling in at fullback with the Raiders last season. After losing Hamilton, the Saints could use a power back like Russell.

Adrian Peterson – The other “AP” worked out for Denver recently. He’s not the type of back New Orleans will probably be seeking, though.

LaMont Jordan – Another journeyman who didn’t have much left last season.

Samkon Gado – He started off his career with a flash in Green Bay back in 2005, but has bounced around since then.

Aaron Stecker – The 34-year-old back spent five seasons with the Saints, so they know him well.

– Adam Caplan

Tests show only a sprained MCL for Titans’ Hayes – 8:23 p.m.

The Titans feared the worst when starting defensive end William Hayes injured his knee at camp.

However, they breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after learning he might be ready for their season opener. Tests showed Hayes only has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, welcomed news on a team getting thin on the defensive line.

Hayes gingerly walked off the indoor practice field Tuesday with a trainer and doctor after getting hit on the outside of his knee during a drill. He walked slowly into the locker room Wednesday with a brace on his right knee.

”Happy it’s not an ACL,” Hayes said.

”I definitely thought it was probably going to be a little bit worse than it was, but it’s not as bad as we thought. Everybody’s happy around here. Just be out for a couple weeks and get back into it.”

Coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans were excited to hear the test results.

”When you have that kind of injury on the practice field, upon immediate examination your fear is you’ve got an ACL involved. So, with a mild MCL sprain that’ll keep him out for a couple weeks, it’s good news,” Fisher said.

Hayes, entering his third year, started 11 games last season. He’s the latest defensive lineman beset by injury.

Top draft pick Derrick Morgan’s yet to practice with the full team because of injuries, and Jacob Ford missed three days with a hip flexor before practicing Wednesday afternoon. Tackle Jason Jones played a few snaps Tuesday to help finish off practice, and tackle Kareem Brown did the same Wednesday.

Tackle Tony Brown remains on the physically unable to perform list recovering from knee surgery himself and is waiting to be activated to the roster.

”If there’s ever going to be a ‘C-L’ involved, you don’t want neither (the ACL or MCL). But at the same time we’re definitely glad it’s not the ACL. We’re praying and hoping he has a quick recovery,” Brown said.

Hayes was a fourth-round pick in 2008 out of Winston-Salem State, but played in all 16 games in 2009 with four sacks, five tackles for loss and 82 total tackles. He’s worked with the first-team line opposite Ford in training camp.

”So, preseason is good for the younger guys and for us to try to help with a couple little glitches in the game to help clear everything up a little bit. We’ll be fine,” Hayes said. ”I’m going to come back out when I get cleared, practice hard and I’ll be ready whenever it’s time for me to go.”

Receiver Damian Williams and safety Nick Schommer came off the physically unable to perform list and practiced in a special teams session Wednesday. Williams is the third-round draft pick out of USC and expected to have the best chance at being the team’s new punt returner. He said he thought he was ready to return a couple days ago from his strained right hamstring, but team officials wanted to be cautious.

”At the same time, I know this is one of those injuries you’ve got to be really careful of … I’ll leave that to coach Fisher,” Williams said.

The Titans worked him back slowly in the team practice, but Williams had some nice catches against the defense, including a one-handed grab of a pass from Vince Young.

– Associated Press

49ers losing patience with DL Balmer — 7:04 p.m.

The San Francisco 49ers had high hopes for DL Kentwan Balmer when they selected him in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Balmer, who was once highly regarded in some scouting circles because he was quick off the snap, dropped out of Senior Bowl week early on because of an undisclosed injury. Still, the entire 49ers coaching staff coached one of the two squads there that week, so they were able to get more information on him, although they coached the other team. Senior Bowl rules prohibit running a 3-4 defensive scheme during practice, similar to what San Francisco currently runs, but Balmer looked good before he got hurt, a personnel source said.

However, Balmer participated in roughly 18 percent of the defensive snaps (190) as a rookie and actually saw a light drop in playing time in his second season (171 snaps). It should be noted that his sophomore season was cut short by five games as he was placed on injured reserve because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.

But Balmer hasn’t progressed as the team would have liked, and some team observers believe his job was in jeopardy coming into training camp.

Now comes the news that Balmer has missed his third straight day of training camp practices because of personal issues.

Head coach Mike Singletary said he spoke to Balmer and added the team is moving on.

Does that mean moving on without the former first-rounder?

“What I’m saying is, at this point right now, I told Kentwan to be here this morning. … He is not here. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know what he’s doing, but there are not going to be any phone calls, ‘Kentwan what are you doing?’ I’m done with that. All I’m concerned with are the guys out here,” Singletary said in response from a reporter’s question after Wednesday morning’s practice.

Singletary seems to be very frustrated with Balmer, perhaps at wits’ end, but will San Francisco pull the plug on the defensive lineman? Time will tell, but Balmer didn’t help himself with his comments to a reporter on Wednesday.

Balmer was reached at his home by the San Jose Mercury News and discussed the matter.

“People are making a big deal about of nothing,’’ Balmer said. “I feel like the 49ers could do a better job of saying that, but it’s not my place to say.’’

— Adam Caplan

Buccaneers surprisingly drop TE — 4:37 p.m.

In somewhat of a surprising move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived (failed physical) TE Martin Rucker on Wednesday. That’s one day after claiming Rucker off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles.

But Philadelphia did not designate Rucker being waived due to injury, a source said, so it’s odd that Rucker would fail Tampa Bay’s physical. It should be noted that Rucker did miss practice time last week due to a hamstring injury.

Rucker became the sixth tight end on Tampa Bay’s active roster when he was claimed, so the team is back to having five.

In addition to waiving Rucker, the Buccaneers signed UDFA RB Carlos Brown.

— Adam Caplan

Minnesota backup Moats has hand in Madden design — 4:28 p.m.

Ryan Moats has another career in mind when he’s done playing football.

Moats is a backup running back, just trying to make the roster in his first year with the Minnesota Vikings. His self-declared second passion? Developing video-game graphics.

Moats talked his way into an internship with EA Sports as a rookie, helping design parts of the popular Madden football games. Moats says he hopes to find a job in the field once his NFL days are done.

Players often get fired up about their ratings in the game, with a new version coming out each summer. Moats says he didn’t have any input into that, though.

During training camp, Moats doesn’t have time for video games. But during the offseason, he says his wife has to pull him away from the console.

— The Associated Press

49ers’ Balmer misses third straight day of camp — 4:11 p.m.

Kentwan Balmer missed his third consecutive day of practice with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, and now it’s no longer OK with coach Mike Singletary and the team.

Singletary gave Balmer a pass Monday and Tuesday to deal with a ”personal issue.” Wednesday’s absence was unexcused.

Balmer, San Francisco’s first-round draft pick in 2008, is entering the third year of the five-year, $8 million deal he signed as a rookie.

The defensive lineman from North Carolina has been a disappointment so far to the 49ers and was battling just to make the roster this summer. He has yet to start a game and recorded no sacks in his first two NFL seasons.

— The Associated Press

Browns lose LB to injury — 3:17 p.m.

During Tuesday’s evening practice, Cleveland Browns starting ILB D’Qwell Jackson suffered a pectoral muscle injury. Last year, Jackson missed more than half of the season due to a pectoral injury. However, this injury is to his opposite pectoral muscle.

With Jackson out for an indefinite period of time, second-year ILB Kaluka Maiava and veteran LB Eric Barton will fill in. Barton, a veteran of 11 seasons, has more size than Maiava, but not the speed.

Jackson, who is set to play on his one-year RFA tender salary of $1.759 million this season, was selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by Cleveland.

— Adam Caplan

Broncos sign veteran running back — 10:27 a.m.

Running back Justin Fargas took a physical for the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he signed a contract with the team.

With RBs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter out for a while longer, Denver is need of more depth. The Broncos did sign veteran LenDale White last week, but keep in mind Denver traded RB J.J. Arrington to the Philadelphia Eagles recently.

Fargas, 30, is known in scouting circles for being a hard runner. His straight-ahead, slashing style should fit in well with Denver.

Fargas also visited the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints earlier this year.

— Adam Caplan

Free-agent defensive lineman to visit Texans — 8:30 a.m.

Free-agent DL Raheem Brock is scheduled to visit the Houston Texans on Wednesday, his agent, Andy Simms said via Twitter.

Brock, 31, was surprisingly released by the Indianapolis Colts back in March despite starting 104 games over the past eight seasons. However, a source points out that he carried a $3.79 million base salary for 2010 to go along with a $500,000 roster bonus.

Brock started his career off as a defensive end, but put on weight over the years and moved inside. Houston has a lack of depth behind their four starters on the defensive line, so Brock would fit in well.

— Adam Caplan

Eagles starters likely to play a quarter — 8:38 a.m.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid indicated the starters will play roughly a quarter during Friday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With more jobs open than in previous seasons, this game has become increasingly important to the players on the bottom half of the roster.

— Adam Caplan

Tampa Bay claims tight end — 8:35 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already had five tight ends on their 80-man roster, but that didn’t stop them from claiming TE Martin Rucker off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. A source confirmed the Dallas Cowboys also put in a waiver claim for Rucker. Dallas lost two tight ends due to injury this week.

Rucker, who was selected in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, is known in scouting circles for possessing decent athleticism, but is also known as a less than average blocker.

As first noted by, the Buccaneers also signed S/CB Vince Anderson. They also waived WR Mario Urrutia and UDFA DE George Johnson.

— Adam Caplan

All Pro Colts center has knee scoped, starts rehab — 7:40 a.m.

The Indianapolis Colts say Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday has had arthroscopic knee surgery to remove a ”loose body” and has started rehabilitation.

The announcement came about 2 1/2 hours after practice Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Colts coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t say why Saturday missed morning workouts Monday and Tuesday.

The team didn’t say how much time Saturday will miss or which knee was injured.

More on the story.

— The Associated Press

August 10 News and Notes

Chargers ailing at left tackle — 5:12 p.m.

An injury plague has struck San Diego Chargers left tackles.

Presumptive starter Brandyn Dombrowski missed his second straight practice on Monday, the same day it was announced that current backup Nick Richmond will have arthroscopic knee surgery and will be out two weeks. Veteran tackle Tra Thomas is out another week after having the same procedure last week.

That left guard Tyronne Green to work with the first team at left tackle, a position he first assumed on Saturday.

Left tackle Marcus McNeill is holding out in a contract spat.

”We’ve got some nagging injuries there, but it’s funny how things like that happen and it ends up making you better,” coach Norv Turner said. ”Tyronne Green has moved over there, and it might be his most natural position. What you find out is that you have guys who, throughout the course of the season, can contribute in a number of different spots.”

Receiver Legedu Naanee was pulled from Monday morning’s practice with a groin injury that sidelined him last week. Guard Scott Mruczkowski re-aggravated an ankle injury that kept him out last week as well.

Outside linebacker Larry English (foot), safety Darrell Stuckey (groin), receiver Buster Davis (hamstring) and linebacker Brandon Siler (ankle) also missed practice.

NOTES: The Chargers signed offensive lineman Cameron Stephenson, who last played in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars. … San Diego waived receiver Ernest Smith and offensive lineman Corey Clark chose to leave the team.

— The Associated Press

Dolphins’ third-year DE finally starting to come on — 4:12 p.m.

Miami Dolphins DE Lionel Dotson didn’t exactly impress the coaches during the first two years of his career, but the light might finally be starting to come on.

Dotson played in slightly more than 30 plays in his first two seasons and was buried on the depth chart. However, Dotson seems to have improved his speed a bit during the first week or so of training camp, practice observers have noted.

Although the depth chart remains crowded at defensive end due to the recent additions of veterans Charles Grant and Marques Douglas, Dotson is pushing for a key reserve role. — Adam Caplan

Buccaneers sign safety — 4:12 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free-agent S Vince Anderson, a source said. Anderson, who was signed by the New York Giants after the 2009 Draft, was waived in June, however the Giants showed interest in re-signing him recently. He spent all of last season on New York’s practice squad.

Anderson, who has good size for the position, also is capable of playing cornerback. — Adam Caplan

Linebacker signs with Seattle — 4:12 p.m.

The Seattle Seahawks continue to shuffle the bottom of the depth chart at linebacker, signing free agent Tyjuan Hagler.

Hagler, selected in the fifth round of the 2005 Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, is capable of playing on the weak side or strong side. He started 17 games over the past three seasons with the Colts.

Seattle has very little depth at either position, so Hagler has a good chance to make the 53-man roster.

In addition, the Seahawks waived injured WR Marcus Maxwell and UDFA CB Chris Richards. — Adam Caplan

Cowboys a lock to win NFC East? — 2:33 p.m.

Never say never. Even the impossible is possible.

None of these clichés fit the NFC East this season where Dallas will win the division and nobody else has a chance. Never is a dangerous word, especially in betting circles, but there it is.

“Dallas could suffer two or three major injuries and still be the class of the NFC East this year,” said Jack Randall, handicapping expert at

“They are better than all the other teams here at just about every position, so this is as close to a guaranteed bet as you can make at this time of year.”

Indeed, the Cowboys have the best QB guiding the best offense. They also happen to boast the best and most talented defense. Small wonder sportsbooks tracked by keep pushing the odds higher and higher in Dallas.

They had been +150 (risk $100 to win $150) in June, moved to EVEN in July (risk $100 to win $100) and are now plunging under to -130 or lower on most NFC East future odds lists (risk $130 to win $100).

[Watch for NFL preseason odds as the exhibition schedule kicks into gear]

Philadelphia remains a threat but their woeful performances last year against Dallas and the myriad changes made on the roster realistically mean nine wins will be the high-water mark.

They are starting with a new QB and may soon realize that Donovan McNabb wasn’t the problem in Eagle land. The Eagles are available in the +350 range (risk $100, win $350) to win the division.

The Giants are slightly ahead of them, but we are not sure why. Eli Manning has a ground attack, but still lacks top-level receiving talent. Try them at +275 if you want, but Randall says that is a sucker bet.

“There’s no way New York will hang with Dallas, so that is just throwing away your money,” he said. “The Eagles at least have a dynamic attack and have more profitable odds, but even they are a longshot.”

Not as long as the Redskins, where former Eagles McNabb and Brian Westbrook will try to revive a slumbering Redskin offense.

At +500, they are still not great value, although some Washington fans may be duped into putting down $50 out of loyalty.

All in all, the NFC East is usually one of the best races in football, but there is no equal to Dallas in 2010.

Football odds every day at Fox, a service provided by Odds Shark.

— Odds Shark

Colts add offensive lineman to roster — 1:12 p.m.

The Indianapolis Colts have signed offensive lineman James Williams, an undrafted rookie from Harvard.

To make room on the roster, the Colts released offensive lineman Andy Alleman, an offseason veteran free agent acquisition. Alleman has not practiced since hurting his back Friday.

Left tackle Charlie Johnson has not practiced since spraining his right foot Friday afternoon.

Four-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and rookie guard Jacques McClendon also missed their second straight morning workouts Tuesday. Also missing was right tackle Ryan Diem, whose wife gave birth to the couple’s first child last week.

— The Associated Press

Childress confirms Harvin has had ‘some’ migraines — 12:52 p.m.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin remains absent from the team, coping with migraine headaches.

Coach Brad Childress confirmed Tuesday that Harvin has had ”some” migraines recently. Childress said Harvin is resting at his home in the Twin Cities area.

The second-year standout from Florida, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie kickoff returner, left the Vikings nine days ago when his grandmother died and has not been back to camp.

Harvin has had migraines for most of his life. Last season, the condition kept him out of a December game and out of practice for most of the week before the NFC championship game.

Receiver Sidney Rice also has a hip injury. The Vikings signed receiver Freddie Brown to add depth and released safety Terrell Skinner.

— The Associated Press

Browns DB Wright hurts leg — 11:25 a.m.

Cleveland Browns starting cornerback Eric Wright has injured his right leg during practice.

Wright got hurt during 7-on-7 drills about halfway through the Browns’ morning workout Tuesday. He was attended to on the sideline by trainers, who put an ice wrap on Wright’s leg. He limped to the team’s training facility for further treatment.

Wright’s injury appeared to be to his hamstring.

A second-round pick in 2007, Wright had four interceptions last season. If he is out for any extended period, rookie Joe Haden would likely take his spot.

— The Associated Press

August 9 News and Notes

Colts make a few roster moves — 7:28 p.m.

The Indianapolis Colts made a few transactions for their offensive line on Monday.

They waived/left squad G/C Andy Alleman (back), a source said. Alleman was injured during Friday’s practice.

Alleman, who left the team over the weekend, was originally selected in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

The interior offensive lineman started seven games over the past two seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.

With Alleman gone, the team needed to add depth at center, so they claimed UDFA C/G Adrian Martinez off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks.

— Adam Caplan

Niners lose C, reel in LB — 6:14 p.m.

The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to win the NFC West division in 2010, but it looks like they will not have their starting center to start everything off in the regular season against the Seattle Seahawks on September 12.

A source confirmed’s report that Eric Heitmann suffered a lower leg injury during Monday morning’s practice. The source also confirmed a Sacramento Bee report that Heitmann suffered a broken fibula. The injury will keep out the offensive lineman at least six to eight weeks.

The key for Heitmann to come back in that time frame is the stability of the leg. Because of the kind of movement it takes to play the position, it’s doubtful that he could be back before the second week of the regular season.

With Heitmann out, Gs David Baas and Tony Wragge will compete for the job during the rest of training camp and preseason games.

Elsewhere, a source told that the 49ers have agreed to terms on a contract with free-agent OLB Bruce Davis.

Davis, who was originally selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, was recently waived by the New England Patriots.

Adding depth at outside linebacker became a necessity after Ahmad Brooks (lacerated kidney) and Murtail Burnett (knee) suffered injuries over the past few days.

— Adam Caplan Teammates respond to Heitmann’s injury

NFL changes fines process for on-field violations — 6:04 p.m.

The NFL is modifying how it handles fines for on-field infractions to speed up the appeals process.

The league and NFL Players Association announced Monday that they had agreed on the changes, which stemmed from a conversation between commissioner Roger Goodell and union executive director DeMaurice Smith at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February.

They’ve added a second appeals officer, with longtime defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell joining Art Shell. And now in certain situations players won’t have to pay fines until the appeals process plays out.

Any fines for on-field violations through the 13th week of the season will not be collected in advance if the player appeals within 20 days and makes himself available for a hearing within 10 days of filing the appeal.

— The Associated Press

Chargers hit by injuries at left tackle— 5:53 p.m.

An injury plague has struck San Diego Chargers left tackles.

Presumptive starter Brandyn Dombrowski missed his second straight practice on Monday, the same day it was announced that current backup Nick Richmond will have arthroscopic knee surgery and will be out two weeks. Veteran tackle Tra Thomas is out another week after having the same procedure last week.

That left guard Tyronne Green to work with the first team at left tackle, a position he first assumed on Saturday.

Left tackle Marcus McNeill is holding out in a contract spat.

Receiver Legedu Naanee was pulled from Monday morning’s practice with a groin injury that sidelined him last week. Guard Scott Mruczkowski re-aggravated an ankle injury that kept him out last week as well.

— The Associated Press

Patriots add offensive line depth — 4:27 p.m.

After working out three offensive linemen last week, the New England Patriots have signed two of them: G Darnell Stapleton signed Monday, his agent, Ed Wasielewski, confirmed. C/G Eric Ghiaciuc signed last Wednesday.

Stapleton, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2007, wound up starting 12 games in his second season. However, he missed the entire 2009 season due to a knee injury.

Stapleton, who was not tendered as a restricted free agent by the Steelers in March, also worked out for the New York Giants recently.

With starting G Logan Mankins refusing to sign his one-year RFA tender and with G/OT Nick Kaczur (back) out indefinitely, Stapleton should have a decent chance to revive his career in a backup role with the Patriots. — Adam Caplan

Chiefs’ Weis opens up a bit on injury to left knee — 3:30 p.m.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis says a piece of his left knee ”fell off” a couple of days before training camp opened.

Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel spoke with the media after Monday morning’s practice.

Weis has been running practice with a huge brace on his left leg and walking with a cane when he’s not driving around the field in a motorized cart.

He says he plans to have knee surgery after the season.

Weis is in his first year with Kansas City after being fired as head coach at Notre Dame. His knee problem has been a topic of speculation, but he refused to offer any more details.

— The Associated Press

Jets extend deal for special teams coach Westhoff — 2:38 p.m.

The New York Jets have extended the contract of special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff through next season.

Westhoff said Monday he’ll likely retire after next season, but added he doesn’t think that far ahead. The 62-year-old coach has been with the organization since 2001 and has been regarded as one of the top special teams coaches in the league for years.

He has had several operations on his left leg because of bone cancer and stepped down after the 2007 season. After having his femur replaced in February 2008, Westhoff returned to the team later that year and says he feels great.

Westhoff is walking without a cane in camp and can be seen riding a bike around the SUNY Cortland campus after practices.

— The Associated Press

Browns coach not blowing whistle on tweeting — 2:32 p.m.

Browns coach Eric Mangini has talked to his players about the pitfalls of social media sites after Cleveland cornerback Brandon McDonald posted a vulgar message toward Terrell Owens on his Twitter account.

Mangini says he won’t ask his players to discontinue using sites like Twitter and Facebook, but he cautions them to watch what they say and to represent the organization in a professional manner. He is aware of McDonald’s posting toward the Bengals wide receiver and says the player will probably be disciplined.

Mangini says the sites are a good way for players to connect with fans. The coach says he has no plans to open his own account.

— The Associated Press

Eagles Release Depth Chart — 2:25 p.m.

In advance of Friday evening’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles have released their first training camp depth chart to the media.

While there weren’t many surprises, one move on offense probably will be a surprise to some.

The coaches listed UDFA OT Austin Howard as the backup left tackle. Second-year pro King Dunlap is listed as the backup right tackle. Howard, almost from the beginning of camp, had been taking a lot of reps in back of starting LT Jason Peters. Howard, who also was impressive during OTA practices, has a thick frame and legs, but moves very well for his size (6-7, 333).

Rookie RB Charles Scott, who has been seeing time at fullback, is listed as starting FB Leonard Weaver’s top backup. With Scott listed as a fullback, that will give RBs Martell Mallett and Eldra Buckley a better chance at making the 53-man roster.

On defense, Juqua Parker, as expected, is listed as the starter at left end.

Fourth-round pick CB Trevard Lindley is listed with the third-team defense.

Akeem Jordan, who started 10 games on the weak-side last season, is listed as the starter ahead of Moises Fokou on the strong-side.

— Adam Caplan

Jacobs calls for imprisoned Burress to be released – 2:01 p.m.

Free Plaxico Burress.

That’s the message halfback Brandon Jacobs is wearing at the New York Giants’ training camp.

The big running back made a rare appearance at lunch Monday dressed in a custom T-shirt with the words ”Free 17 Let Him Ball Out.”

Burress wore jersey No. 17. He made the game-winning catch in the Giants’ win over the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. He is currently serving a two-year sentence in New York after pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon.

— The Associated Press

Giants S Kenny Phillips finally practicing – 1:03 p.m.

New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips is back at practice for the first time in almost 11 months.

The 23-year-old took part in 12 plays Monday in his first action since undergoing major surgery on his left knee in September.

Phillips slipped twice during the seven-on-seven drills at the University at Albany, but he quickly got up. He blamed the problem on his cleats.

— The Associated Press

Panthers bolster OL by signing Capizzi, Crummey – 12:45 p.m.

The Carolina Panthers have brought in two offensive linemen after the third-team line struggled in a scrimmage over the weekend.

The Panthers signed tackle Jason Capizzi and claimed guard Andrew Crummey off waivers from Jacksonville on Monday. The Panthers waived undrafted rookies Noah Franklin and Kurtis Gregory.

The 6-foot-9, 330-pound Capizzi has bounced around several teams and practice squads over the past few seasons. He was waived by Cleveland in June.

The 6-5, 300-pound Crummey was let go by the Jaguars on Sunday. He’s also briefly spent time with Washington and Cincinnati.

The Panthers were looking to add veteran depth on the line before Thursday’s preseason opener at Baltimore after protection problems in Saturday’s scrimmage.

— The Associated Press

Bills FB McIntyre, WR Huggins hurt in practice – 12:28 p.m.

Buffalo Bills fullback Corey McIntyre and backup receiver Felton Huggins have left practice because of injuries.

McIntyre hurt his right leg while blocking on a running play midway through practice Monday morning. A few minutes later, Huggins injured his left shoulder after he landed hard while making a diving catch.

Coach Chan Gailey was unavailable. He is to speak after evening practice.

Right tackle Cornell Green did not practice after hurting his right leg Saturday.

On the bright side, injured linebackers Paul Posluszny and Keith Ellison practiced for the first time since camp training opened July 29.

— The Associated Press

Quick day after review: Cowboys-Bengals – 12:19 p.m.

Here are some quick notes after review the Hall of Fame game between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals:


– While it didn’t show in his statistics, QB Carson Palmer had zip on the few throws that he completed to veteran WR Terrell Owens.

– RB Cedric Benson made a nice cutback on his six-yard run. That type of run is Benson’s bread and butter play. Once he sees a hole, he hits it quickly.

– It’s going to take some time to get their timing down, but Palmer and Owens should hook up on a lot of plays this season. Owens will give the Bengals a badly needed physical presence at receiver.

– He’s probably a real long shot to make the 53-man roster, but WR Matt Jones is a huge passing target. He could really help Cincinnati in the redzone area should he make the roster.

– Fourth-round DT Geno Atkins really got off the ball quickly. In the past, the Bengals have not had an interior defensive lineman who could consistently be disruptive against opposing offenses. Atkins could be that guy.

– DE/SLB Michael Johnson flashed pretty solid quickness when lined up outside. Johnson participated in just over 35 percent of the defensive snaps, but could see more time this season in a pass-rushing role.

– CB Adam “Pacman” Jones played well in place of injured starter Johnathan Joseph. Jones looked to regain some of his reaction skills seemed to be better than I recall. It could be that Cincinnati’s defensive scheme is a better fit for his skills.


– QB Tony Romo got off to a quick start on their first drive with a nice timing pass to WR Miles Austin. However, the drive stalled inside the 10-yardline. Cincinnati got pressure on Romo which caused a few passes to go awry. While second-year QB Stephen McGee’s accuracy was up and down in this game, he showed to have a lively arm.

– RB Marion Barber ran hard during the few carries in received. He looks noticeably leaner. It’s too early to make a clear determination of how the running back position roles will be distributed, but Barber doesn’t appear to be giving up the starting role. While starting only means who will be in on the first play of the game, Barber, if healthy, gives Dallas the ability to control the ball on the ground.

– OLT Doug Free did a nice job of holding the edge against Dallas’ pass rush. He’s clearly more athletic than Alex Barron.

– It’s too bad that TE John Phillips suffered a severe knee injury during the game. He set the edge on running plays and caught the ball well.

– Despite missing starting DE Marcus Spears for this game, reserve ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen flashed a bit. Dallas’ depth is very apparent at this position.

– Second-year OLB Victor Butler, who didn’t play much as a rookie (saw just over 11 percent of the defensive snaps), looked fast last night. Dallas has been looking for speed off the bench at this position, and they may have found some with Butler.

— Adam Caplan

First roster cutdown date looms — 8:59 a.m.

Currently, NFL teams are at a 80-man roster limit. In just over three weeks (August 31), all teams have to be down to 75 players.

The final cutdown date before the regular season comes on Sept. 4, when all teams have to be down to 53 players. The following day, teams can establish practice squads with up to eight players.

It’s rare that many surprises come with the first series of moves, but teams have a much harder time getting down to the final 53 players.

Eagles sign one TE, cut another — 8:52 a.m.

The Philadelphia Eagles made two moves at the tight end position on Monday morning. They signed free-agent Nate Lawrie and waived Martin Rucker.

Rucker had been unimpressive during training camp, so his release wasn’t much of a surprise.

Lawrie, a journeyman, is back for his second tour of duty with Philadelphia. He spent the first two weeks of the 2004 season on their practice squad.

After being selected in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lawrie also spent time with the New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals in recent seasons.

A personnel source said Lawrie is an above average blocker, but not much of a pass catcher.

August 8 News and Notes

Breaking down Bradford’s contract — 8:55 p.m.

There are several ways to look at Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s mega-contract as this year’s No. 1 pick. Basically, he will earn $3.2 million this season, according to sources familiar with his contract. But he won’t collect on his huge bonuses until games are played in 2011, a due date that remains unknown because of the potential of a league-imposed lockout. Most of the top ten draft selections have similar contract language regarding bonus money.

When compared to last year’s No. 1 pick, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams gave only modest overall increases to Bradford. Still, both players’ total financial packages are out-of-whack and this has been true for top picks for the past 15 years. It’s the main reason NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been talking so much about a rookie salary cap.

Stafford, who was also represented by agent Tom Condon, will collect $39 million after his first three seasons while Bradford will bag $42 million. Over four seasons, Stafford should receive $48.5 million and Bradford $51 million. Unless Bradford turns out to be either JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf, two of the biggest busts among quarterbacks who never made it to a fourth season with the team that drafted them, the Rams didn’t agree to an awful contract. Yes, $50 million of that four-year total is guaranteed. But based on how Bradford has looked in training camp, he should be the team’s franchise quarterback for a long time.

The Colts have to work out a new contract with Peyton Manning, who is entering the last year of his contract. But if the Colts decide to simply put the franchise tag on Manning, he would earn about $23 million in base salary in 2011 and $27 million in 2012 based on the Stafford and Bradford contracts.

— John Czarnecki

Packers GM takes to the skies 8:48 p.m.

What have you done on your summer vacation?

Well, Packers GM Ted Thompson had two very unusual experiences.

First, he was a passenger in an F-16 fighter jet with the National Guard unit out of Madison, Wis. “It was a two-seater and luckily the pilot warned me every time he was going to try a roll,” Thompson said. “The last thing I wanted to do was vomit and I didn’t.” Thompson said he thought he experienced seven G’s of force.

Thompson’s other excursion was a little more tame, but also very unusual. He has a friend who loves railroad cars. He owns several deluxe passenger cars. “He simply has it hitched up to an Amtrak train and we ride in style,” said Thompson, who went from Los Angeles to Omaha, basically a two-day trip. “It’s a tremendous way to see a lot of beautiful country,” Thompson said.

— John Czarnecki

Potential lockout could cost coaches — 8:40 p.m.

With all the lockout talk in 2011, it could be a bad year for head coaches looking for work, especially if there isn’t a new collective bargaining agreement finalized in the first two months of next year.

“No owner is going to commit big money to a head coach with the potential of so much financial uncertainty,” one AFC general manager told me.

ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is considered to be a hot candidate for next year. However, Gruden won’t be coaching next season, either, because of his television contract.

“He really likes what he’s doing and I wouldn’t be surprised if he never coaches again,” said Redskins GM Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden in both Oakland and Tampa Bay.

— John Czarnecki

Raiders Add Another Quarterback — 1:33 p.m.

The Oakland Raiders seemingly didn’t need to add another quarterback, but that didn’t stop them from signing one. The team signed Colt Brennan on Saturday, who was waived by the Washington Redskins on Aug. 2. Oakland did not make a roster move to clear space for Brennan, so they now have five quarterbacks on their 80-man roster.

Brennan’s known in scouting circles for possessing a less than average arm, but he displays good pocket movement.

Oakland’s offensive scheme calls on the quarterbacks to take many five and seven-step drops, so that means you’ll see many deeper throws. With that being the case, it’s hard to see the fit with Brennan.

As noted previously, Brennan’s a better fit for a fast-paced passing game  — one that requires him to get rid of the ball more quickly in a shorter area.

– Adam Caplan

MORE CAMP BUZZ: August 22-31

MORE CAMP BUZZ: August 15-21

MORE CAMP BUZZ: August 1-7