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NFL News - Whispers - Pro Football Weekly
- Don’t be surprised if more than a few holdovers from the Dave McGinnis regime end up riding into the Arizona sunset once the season ends. Cardinals players we hear could be sent packing by Dennis Green include OTs L.J. Shelton and Anthony Clement, DT Russell Davis, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and OLB Raynoch Thompson, among others.
- The way we hear it, the Bengals would like to get more of a contribution from rookie RB Chris Perry, who we’re told has looked disinterested at times this season.
- The Lions still are considering a contract extension for ORT Stockar McDougle. The problem with McDougle is the Lions love his potential, but he hasn’t become the player they thought he would be over the last three seasons.
- The Raiders find themselves not only struggling in the standings but also suddenly facing a serious shortage of leadership. With Rich Gannon being placed on injured reserve and Jerry Rice being shipped off to Seattle, that duo joined Tim Brown, Rod Woodson, Trace Armstrong, Bill Romanowski and Lincoln Kennedy on the list of key veterans with a distinct locker-room presence who have moved on since the end of last season.
- Browns TE Aaron Shea told PFW he’s talked with TE Kellen Winslow since the rookie suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week Two. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to look at the positives,” Shea said. ‘You can watch film. We played Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, all these teams in our division that we’ll be playing next year that you (can) see what they do, see what we’re doing.’ ”
- According to a Browns spy, CB Anthony Henry is the team’s most improved player. Take away an off day vs. Steelers WR Plaxico Burress in Week Five, and Henry has played well this season. Henry, best-known for intercepting 10 passes as a rookie in 2001, will be a free agent after the season.
- We hear CB Deion Sanders has been a good fit in Baltimore’s locker room. On the field, he has given them a serviceable nickel cornerback. Earlier in the season, when Sanders missed three games with a hamstring injury, teams picked on replacement Raymond Walls.
- The Bills extended the contract of defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who was in the last year of a deal that had been extended prior to 2003, because they wanted to reward him for a job well done, maintain continuity on that side of the ball, and decrease the likelihood that Gray, whose reputation throughout the league is growing, would depart following this season.
- We hear that it’s no sure thing that Jets LB Sam Cowart will regain his starting job when he returns from the knee injury that has sidelined him since Week Two, because of the strong play of rookie Jonathan Vilma. Cowart was playing exceptionally well before his injury, but head coach Herm Edwards was noncommittal when asked how the Jets will use Cowart when he returns.
- We hear the reason the Patriots don’t seem to be overly concerned about their thinning WR ranks, which just lost rookie P.K. Sam to a season-ending groin injury, is that they expect Troy Brown (shoulder) to return soon and are optimistic Deion Branch (knee) will be back before too long.
- Giants ORT David Diehl struggled in the Week Five win over Dallas, and there is concern about how he handles speed rushes. Because Diehl is very strong, the coaches want him to use his strength more to his advantage in pass blocking.
- The Redskins’ coaches are becoming more pleased with FS Sean Taylor’s comfort level in the defense, especially with his play-calling abilities, but the place they are most happy with Taylor is on kickoff coverage. Taylor has been one of the most disruptive wedge busters the team has had this season.
- The Redskins identified one problem in their blocking schemes when they noticed TE Walter Rasby missing assignments and having communication problems. Expect newly re-signed Fred Baxter to step right into Rasby’s lead-blocking role.
- The Chargers didn’t hesitate to put rookie C Nick Hardwick back in the starting lineup last week once he was fully recovered from the arthroscopic knee surgery that cost him two games. Some had expected Jason Ball, the starter the last two years who lost his job when he held out during training camp and beyond, to hold on to the starting job upon Hardwick’s return, but it’s clear that Hardwick has done enough to earn the respect of the coaching staff. Hardwick said he’s not surprised by his early success because he expects a lot out of himself but he still isn’t where he wants to be.
- The season-ending broken toe suffered by Chargers rookie DE Dave Ball, a backup pass rusher, didn’t make a lot of headlines, but it could prove costly if the position continues to be bogged down by nagging injuries as it has been for much of the season.
- It’s believed Chiefs WR Johnnie Morton took exception to some of the WR bashing that was going on in Kansas City and turned the frustration into solid back-to-back games in Weeks Five and Six. One source close to the team reminded, however, that K.C. receivers can tend to disappear just as quickly.
- The fact the Chiefs haven’t benched struggling MLB Monty Beisel could very well be an indictment of second-year backup Kawika Mitchell, who filled in for Mike Maslowski during a disastrous second half of last season for the K.C. defense.
- Look for Broncos RB Quentin Griffin to take over a portion of the kick-return role now that Reuben Droughns looks more than comfortable as the lead back. Griffin’s explosiveness would seem to bode well for the return game, but he’ll need to focus on protecting the ball better than he did earlier this season.
- In the wake of two episodes in which DE Mike Rucker experienced an irregular heartbeat this season, some Panthers observers are wondering if there are more serious ramifications to the story about Rucker doing so much trash-talking at times last season that he once hyperventilated.
- The Panthers wouldn’t mind seeing QB Jake Delhomme take a few more sacks rather than continuing his habit of just throwing the ball down the field when he is under heavy pressure, which has led to an increase in his interceptions.
- The way we hear it, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden’s devotion to PK Martin Gramatica has eroded to the point that Gramatica could be released by the end of the season if he doesn’t improve.
- Saints observers say head coach Jim Haslett’s recent praise of the play of the offensive line is a sign of just how far into denial he is about the future of his team.
- We’re told the Saints won’t miss DE Darren Howard all that much as he battles a sore knee because he hasn’t been much of an impact player all season anyway.
- Falcons rookie WR Michael Jenkins will get an opportunity to become more involved with the offense once he improves his route running, but for the time being, he will have to make his contribution on special teams.
- At presstime, our sources in Seattle continued to have no clue as to when WR Koren Robinson’s reported four-game suspension might begin. We’re told Robinson’s alleged third violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy was being treated with airtight secrecy by both league and team officials.
- Word is the Rams are starting to have concerns about starting ORT Grant Williams, who allowed a pair of sacks in each of the games against the Seahawks and Buccaneers.
- Although the Niners love the speed and natural ability of third-year LB Saleem Rasheed, we hear his inability to stay healthy has become increasingly distressing. Rasheed had an arthroscopic procedure done on his right knee early last week, and the Niners wouldn’t speculate on how long he would be out.
- The Lions are looking at changes on the offensive line that might spark the running game. The coaching staff won’t move ORG Damien Woody back to center, where Woody played in his only Pro Bowl season with the Patriots. C Dominic Raiola has struggled and is limited by his size and strength. The coaching staff isn’t giving up on Raiola, but he might sit down while the Lions search for an answer.
- Lions rookie RB Kevin Jones is hoping for more opportunities to prove himself to head coach Steve Mariucci. The problem for Jones has been health, and the only way for him to prove himself is on Sunday. Thus far, he hasn’t had the chances in live action, as injuries have held him out during the workweek.
- The Bears are high on heady SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer, who made his first start of the season in Week Six. He’d never played the “Sam” linebacker position before but overtook both Marcus Reese and Joe Odom. He’s a better athlete than the Bears expected, in part because he was judged by his performance in offseason workouts. At the time, Hillenmeyer had a groin injury and didn’t move well, but he was unwilling to reveal the injury to the coaching staff in fear of being sat down and falling behind the younger, faster group.
- The Bears were hesitant to use CB Jerry Azumah, the NFC’s leading kick returner in 2003, in that role upon his return from neck surgery in Week Six, but Azumah convinced them he was ready and willing. Expect Azumah to overtake rookie Bernard Berrian in the full-time returner’s role in short order.
- Green Bay wants to make it through next week’s game at Washington before making a decision on how to treat RB Ahman Green. Green, who may need rest, has been bothered by a sore Achilles since the preseason. The coaches believe the abrasion-type injury was caused by Green’s shoes. Green is looking at options and already has decided to scrap the forearm pads he’s used to soften contact since arriving in Green Bay. Green believes the pads may have contributed to his fumbling.
- Jaguars DE Greg Favors might be in for a long-term position switch after bailing Jacksonville out in Week Six. Favors, a strong-side linebacker by trade, is the starter at right defensive end for as long as he can be effective. The Jaguars will rotate three players at the position, with the theory each player will be fresh if he’s asked to play 30 plays or fewer.