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Volume 6, Issue 119 (Monday, August 15th)

Tonight's update brought to you by: Payday Sports

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Hi Folks,

Sorry this one was a little late today. Had a hard time pulling myself away from the riveting debut edition of ESPN Hollywood. Now that's some quality programming right there...

Big News as the Footballguys $20,000 Subscriber Contest is ready to roll. Details are in the Site News below. Plus we've got tons of new content in our Player Spotlight Series. Training camps are rolling as well and we're here for you to plow through the mountain of news and bring you the key things you need to know. Thanks to our Footballguy Mike Herman for the help rounding up these stories tonight. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


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B. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Brian Griese
by Jason Wood, Will Grant and Message Board Gurus

C. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Shaun Alexander
by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus

D. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Curtis Martin
by Jason Wood, Chase Stuart and Message Board Gurus

E. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Isaac Bruce
by Jason Wood, Bob Henry and Message Board Gurus

F. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Michael Clayton
by Jason Wood, Chris Smith and Message Board Gurus

G. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Marcus Robinson
by Jason Wood, Chris Smith and Message Board Gurus

H. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Brandon Stokley
by Jason Wood, Mike Brown and Message Board Gurus

I. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Travis Taylor
by Jason Wood, Chris Smith and Message Board Gurus

J. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Reggie Wayne
by Jason Wood, Mike Brown and Message Board Gurus

K. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Troy Williamson
by Jason Wood, Chris Smith and Message Board Gurus

L. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Tony Gonzalez
by Jason Wood, Mark Wimer and Message Board Gurus

M. (Premium Subscription) Player Spotlight - Erron Kinney
by Jason Wood, Marc Levin and Message Board Gurus


1. PIT - WR Hines Ward Ends Holdout
2. PHI - Team Sends WR Owens Letter - Jaworski Says T.O.'s Played His Last Game As An Eagle
3. MIA - RB Ronnie Brown Signs Contract
4. CIN - WR Peter Warrick Finally Practices
5. TEN - RB Travis Henry Getting Precautionary MRI
6. PIT - Rookie TE Heath Miller Achieving Perfection
7. NYJ - QB Chad Pennington Making Strides
8. GB - Rookie RG Will Whitticker Emerging as Starter
9. SF - QB Tim Rattay Still in the Running to Start
10. SD - RB Michael Turner Proving to Be Capable Backup
11. HOU - TE Matt Murphy: Sleeper Alert
12. DAL - PK Billy Cundiff Can't Seem to Win Over Parcells
13. IDP: KC - DE Jared Allen Demoted, DE Jimmy Wilkerson Promoted
14. IDP: SEA - Rookie LB LeRoy Hill Earns Playing Time
15. IDP: TEN - S Arturo Freeman Released by Packers, Signed by Titans

1. PIT - WR Hines Ward Ends Holdout

Clipped from Associated Press article by Alan Robinson:

Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward ended his 15-day contract holdout and reported to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday. Ward arrived at Heinz Field about two hours before the Steelers' exhibition against the Philadelphia Eagles and was quickly escorted into the stadium by a team official to watch the game.

Ward, poised to become the leading receiver in Steelers' history this season, became the team's first major holdout in 12 years on July 31 _ keeping his promise not to report to training camp without a contract extension that would make him one of the NFL's top-paid wide receivers. Ward has one year remaining on a contract worth $1.66 million this season, but wanted guaranteed money that would put him in the upper echelon of NFL receivers. The two sides were believed to be at least $3 million apart on a signing bonus when talks broke down just before camp opened.

Since Ward failed to report, several teammates made impassioned pleas for the team to re-sign Ward, with linebacker Joey Porter saying the Steelers "can't win without him." And running back Jerome Bettis said teammates were watching how the Steelers handled the Ward contract talks after the team asked several players in recent seasons, including Bettis himself, to take pay cuts to stay with the team.

Ward's absence threatened to create a major distraction for a team that went 15-1 and played in the AFC championship game last season, and left quarterback Ben Roethlisberger without either starting wide receiver from his unbeaten rookie regular season. Plaxico Burress signed with the Giants during the offseason. The Steelers were so thin on receivers last week in camp with Ward gone and Antwaan Randle El hurt that fourth-round draft pick Fred Gibson, an unpolished rookie from Georgia, spent two days with the first unit.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Bettis and Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers are happy again. Hines Ward has established himself as a consistent fantasy producing wide receiver. He should once again be the go-to-guy in the Steelers' passing game. Coach Bill Cowher and Ward had a long phone conversation Sunday night. The Steelers want Ward to show good faith in getting into camp with the understanding they'll renegotiate his contract. ESPN's Chris Mortensen said he expects for Ward to have a new contract by the end of the week.

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2. PHI - Team Sends WR Owens Letter - Jaworski Says T.O.'s Played His Last Game As An Eagle

Clipped from: article:

The Philadelphia Eagles have sent wide receiver Terrell Owens a letter outlining what they perceive is a series of behavioral problems over the last two weeks, a league source told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

Owens acknowledged in a conversation on Monday with ESPN's Michael Irvin that he had received the letter.

The letter was sent over the weekend and arrived at Owens' home in Atlanta on Monday, two days before he is scheduled to meet with head coach Andy Reid at the Eagles' practice facility.

In the meantime, a message posted Monday on Owens' Web site said the wide receiver will return to training camp and said he had become "the media's favorite whipping boy."

The message is attributed to and does not indicate whether Owens wrote it, or otherwise approved of its contents. An e-mail to the Web site asking whether Owens wrote or approved of the message was not immediately returned late Monday afternoon.

"This situation has mushroomed far beyond what should be considered adequate coverage, and Terrell has become the media's favorite whipping boy. While this is discouraging, Terrell knows this is part of the business. To the fans he simply says that this was an isolated incident that was not premeditated. Terrell in no way wishes to be a disruption to the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. In fact Terrell has gone out of his way to diffuse the tension by keeping to himself in all non-practice related affairs. During practice and work related situations he has been and will be attentive and responsive; Terrell only asks what every other worker in America asks for, respect and dignity."

"[Owens] will return to camp and continue to display the work ethic, and on-the-field dedication that has made him one of the world's most elite athletes," the message reads. "...Terrell plans to reward you with a season for the ages. Where small men succumb, great men overcome!"

Eagles officials, most notably Reid, have been compiling detailed notes on Owens' behavior, delineating any incident they deemed questionable, in case the club needed documentation in any grievance or arbitration case.

A source characterized the letter as the beginning of a process to suspend Owens from the team if Owens' behavior does not change after that meeting takes place. Owens is expected, according to the Eagles, to rejoin the team on Wednesday, but Reid has said he would only allow Owens back on the field if he sees a marked change in his behavior and attitude.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is starting to get a little more tense. If you've worked in Corporate America, you know exactly what the Eagles are doing here. They're documenting their case with a paper trail clearly stating their position, what they expect from Owens, and what Owens must do to be a part of the Eagles. Part of this is a "cover your butt" angle. The other part of a move like this often "getting ready to drop the hammer". The ball is now squarely in Owens' court.

Also note that ESPN's Ron Jaworski said tonight that he felt that Terrell Owens had played his last game as an Eagle. I'll be honest, I think I know the inside scoop on a lot of what's happening in the league. But I'm not naive enough to think I know more about the Eagles than Ron Jaworski. When Jaws says he thinks T.O. is done as an Eagle, I listen VERY carefully. You should too.

I said last week that I felt Owens would come to his senses and he'd be back in the fold and produce as an Eagle this year. I still think that but I'm starting to soften that position. This will ultimately come down to how stubborn Owens wants to be. If he wants to drop the "love me some more" act and become a team player, things will work. If he doesn't change, I don't see Andy Reid and the Eagles putting up with it. I believe they're serious when they've said over and over that they will not renegotiate the contract or trade Owens. I think it'll come down to whether Owens can play by their rules. And with that said, I'm having a hard time convincing myself Owens can turn his attitude around. And if that's the case, I believe Jaworski is right and we've seen the last of Owens in Eagles Green.

Wednesday will be a big day for the Eagles when Owens returns to camp and we'll be watching closely for you. Stay tuned.

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3. MIA - RB Ronnie Brown Signs Contract

Clipped from Steven Wine AP article:

Following a three-week holdout and an overnight stay in the Atlanta airport, first-round draft pick Ronnie Brown finally joined the Miami Dolphins.

The former Auburn running back took the field for his first training camp practice Monday after signing a five-year, $34 million contract that included about $20 million guaranteed.

The second overall pick in the April draft, Brown tried to make the trip from his home in suburban Atlanta to South Florida late Sunday after the agreement was reached. But his flight was delayed in departing, then finally canceled because of bad weather, forcing him to sleep at the airport before leaving Atlanta on Monday morning.

The Dolphins believe Brown was worth the wait. He'll compete for playing time with 2002 NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams, coming back from a one-year retirement.

"I'm looking forward to it," Brown said. "Ricky has had a lot of success on this level. I can't take anything away from him. Hopefully I can come in and learn some things and just compete each day."

Brown missed two exhibition games but still has a month to get ready for the regular season. During his first training camp practice he took a few handoffs, caught a few passes and did a lot of standing and watching.

He's already familiar with the offense because he attended offseason mini-camps.

"He is a bright guy," coach Nick Saban said. "He has a pretty good understanding of what we're doing. It's just going to take some time to get him into football shape."

Brown said he expects to be ready to play in Miami's exhibition game Saturday at Pittsburgh. Saban was noncommittal.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Ronnie Brown has missed some valuable camp time, however there are still several weeks of preseason left. And as the article said, he was there for mini camps so it's not like he's never seen the offense before. If there is one position that is easier to jump into on short notice as compared to others, it is probably running back. The big question for the Dolphins rushing game is still the Ricky Williams wildcard after he serves his suspension. We think he'll see enough carries to hinder Brown's overall value this year compared to many running backs from other teams.

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4. CIN - WR Peter Warrick Finally Practices

Clipped from Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Steve Wyche 8/14/05

T.J. Houshmandzadeh said Sunday that the Bengals now can simultaneously field the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL, outside of maybe the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals had just welcomed back sixth-year wide receiver Peter Warrick, who practiced Sunday afternoon at training camp for the first time since he was placed on the injured reserve list Nov. 5 with knee and shin injures. Cleared medically last week, Warrick adds another playmaker to a potentially lethal offense. He should slip back into the slot role as the No. 3 receiver behind two-time Pro Bowler Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh.

On Sunday, Warrick returned kickoffs in practice and worked out of his familiar slot position on about a dozen offensive plays. He said he wants to return punts. Warrick smiled brightly from beneath his facemask. He chatted with teammates and simply couldn't hide his joy at being on the field. "I got this one, it's me," he said as a kickoff approached at the goal line.

Later, in a post-practice interview, Warrick said he learned Saturday night from coach Marvin Lewis of the club's decision to let him back on the field. The Bengals had hoped Warrick would have seen Dr. James Andrews sooner than last Monday. Then the club's orthopedist, Dr. Angelo Colosimo, medically cleared Warrick on Tuesday night. By then it was too late, Lewis said, to bring Warrick back in time to play Friday night against New England. Warrick is expected to play this Friday at Washington.

He didn't know at first why Lewis summoned him Saturday. "He was making sure it wasn't going to be bad news," Lewis said. "And I said, 'No, it's not bad news,' and he said, 'That's the best news I've heard.'

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Finally some encouraging news regarding Warrick. There has been speculation throughout the off-season suggesting that he would not be a Bengal this year. Then last week there was the confusion of his announcement that he had been given the clearance to practice, but the team said he wasn't, followed by rumors that he would have to take a pay cut to stay in Cincinnati. He should be one of the better third wide receivers in the NFL, assuming the Bengals offense can produce up to its potential.

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5. TEN - RB Travis Henry Getting Precautionary MRI

Clipped from: article

Tennessee running back Travis Henry, a former member of the Buffalo Bills, watched practice Sunday, and coach Jeff Fisher said he will miss a couple more days with a sore toe that may need an MRI exam as a precaution.

Henry started in place of Chris Brown in Friday night's 20-17 overtime loss to Tampa Bay in the exhibition opener. He had four carries for 12 yards, but Fisher said Henry's right foot still was sore on Sunday.

Fisher said he doesn't anticipate any problems from the MRI. But the Titans watched Brown struggle with turf toe in 2004, which kept him out of five games. "When the toe gets sore like that, we've been through that before so we're going to make sure we handle it well," Fisher said.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Hopefully Henry and for fantasy owners of Henry, this turns out to be a non-issue. During his time in Buffalo, he demonstrated that he can play through injuries. This should not be completely ignored however, since toe problems have a funny way of shutting down even the toughest players. Stay tuned.

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6. PIT - Rookie TE Heath Miller Achieving Perfection

Clipped from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Ed Bouchette

Rookie tight end Heath Miller hasn't had a good training camp, not a great training camp, but a perfect one. That's close to coach Bill Cowher's assessment of his top draft pick after two full weeks at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. "The way he's picked up the offense -- we've moved him around quite a bit -- and he really has not missed an assignment," Cowher said. "I like the fact he's picking things up very quickly."

While he and his coaches are eager to see him play, it also will be interesting to see how they use him. They have not thrown much to their tight ends the past decade, ever since Eric Green left as a free agent after the 1994 season. Mark Bruener caught 26 passes as a rookie tight end in 1995 and none has caught 20 since. Starter Jerame Tuman caught nine passes to lead all of their tight ends last season, when the whole group caught 22.

Like Bruener, their first-round pick in '95, Miller caught a ton of passes in college -- 144 in three seasons at the University of Virginia, where he won the Mackey Award as Division I's best tight end last season. But Steelers tight ends must learn to block before they run, and sometimes -- as in Bruener's case -- that becomes their most dominant feature.

"From what he's shown on the practice field, it seems like he's going to be a good player," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "He catches the ball extremely well, especially away from his body. He does a good job separating on his routes at the top. "But the thing that really stands out is his blocking. He did a good job in the one on ones with the linebackers, against pretty good linebackers, and his in-line blocks in our team drills have been pretty good. He gets in front of guys and his technique has been good."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

It's intriguing to think that the Steelers might actually have a viable fantasy TE for a change. The answer lies in Ken Whisenhunt's comments in the final paragraph above. He compliments Miller's pass catching abilities briefly, but then quickly moves on and emphasizes the run blocking. We don't see Miller cracking the top twenty among TEs.

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7. NYJ - QB Chad Pennington Making Strides

Clipped from: Newark Star-Ledger article by Dave Hutchinson

For the first time in training camp this summer, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington looked like ... well, Chad Pennington. Pennington, who is expected to start on Friday night against the Vikings at Giants Stadium in his first action since rotator cuff surgery, had his best and most extensive practice of camp yesterday. He took roughly 50 snaps with the first team and threw 25 to 30 times.

Pennington, who was held out of Friday night's preseason opener against the Lions, had zip on his throws and overthrew wide receiver Justin McCareins on a deep ball (approximately 40 yards). He ran several bootlegs and threw the ball with authority on the run. He was also on target with several medium-range out patterns, a difficult throw.

After the Jets' 10-3 victory over the Lions on Friday night, Pennington said he planned to start against the Vikings if Edwards gave him the green light. He said his arm felt much better, especially on deep throws, and he felt he had "turned the corner" last week after the scrimmage with the Giants on Aug. 6 in Albany. "I'm excited about the next few practices and getting more and more reps, and just engulfing myself with this offense and trying to learn as much as I can," he said.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Most reviews of the Jets' offensive prospects for 2005 include the disclaimer that it is all contingent on Pennington's recovery. We agree. This is definitely encouraging news. If Pennington's progress continues, it should benefit not only his fantasy numbers, but also those of Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins, Doug Jolley, Curtis Martin, and even Mike Nugent.

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8. GB - Rookie RG Will Whitticker Emerging as Starter

Clipped from: article by Pete Dougherty

Two draft picks have emerged as front-runners to land in the Green Bay Packers' starting lineup for the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 at Detroit - seventh-rounder Will Whitticker at right guard and second-rounder Nick Collins at free safety. There both were Sunday morning, lining up with the starters in the team's first workout since a 10-7 victory over San Diego in the preseason opener three days earlier. Whitticker and Collins started against the Chargers.

Though Collins and Whitticker don't have jobs locked up, they've moved to the front of the line heading into a crucial week of practice and Saturday night's preseason game at Buffalo. By this time next week, the Packers' coaches probably will have their lineups set so the starters have two full weeks of practice together before the regular season begins.

Whitticker is by far the bigger surprise. He was a seventh-round pick selected as a future prospect. Collins was targeted in the second round because he'd immediately compete for a starting job. For most of the first two weeks of camp, minimum-wage free agent Matt O'Dwyer and practice-squad returnee Atlas Herrion alternated as starter, but neither distinguished himself. O'Dwyer, who missed four days of practice because of a neck injury, remains Whitticker's primary competition because he's made 105 starts in 10 previous NFL seasons. Herrion appears a distant No. 3 on the depth chart because of his inability to anchor against the pass rush.

The massive Whitticker, who is 6-foot-5 and weighs 338 pounds, has been a quicker study than his draft status would suggest. Beightol compares his performance favorably with right tackle Mark Tauscher at similar stages in their careers. As a seventh-round pick in 2000, Tauscher's imperturbable and steady play stood out in his first camp while working in place of injured right tackle Earl Dotson. He took over the job after Dotson went down for the year with a back injury in Week 2 of the regular season.

Similarly, Whitticker has climbed the depth charts in camp by showing he's not overwhelmed with the talent or sophistication of the NFL. He jumped out at the Packers during draft evaluations not only because of his size but his panoramic knowledge of his offense at Michigan State. During his visit to the Packers' offices he knocked out Beightol with his detailed drawings of plays on the chalkboard.

O'Dwyer's neck injury did nothing to help his cause. Playing with the second team against the Chargers, he had two penalties, a holding call and a false start. "We give you a double minus for a penalty," Beightol said. "That would mess up any player's grade. Would I like him to play better? Certainly. But he hadn't played in two years, he's rusty." O'Dwyer missed 24 games and numerous practices with Cincinnati and Tampa Bay over the last two seasons because of chest and foot injuries.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

One of the biggest questions marks for the Packers offense in 2005 is how to replace two pro-bowl guards. Many consider guard the least problematic position along the line to replace, however a seamless transition is probably wishful thinking. Integrating new players and learning to work as a unit typically takes time. Early on this upcoming season, the Packers offense may not be as productive they have in recent years.

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9. SF - QB Tim Rattay Still in the Running to Start

Clipped from: AP article

The San Francisco 49ers have a long history of quarterback controversies, and the latest battle got a bit spicier in their preseason opener. Veteran Tim Rattay outplayed Alex Smith in the 49ers' 21-13 exhibition victory over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night, throwing two touchdown passes in 4.5 minutes after Smith struggled through the first half.

Coach Mike Nolan plans to maintain the same rotation in training camp this week leading up to their next game in Denver, keeping Smith on the first-team offense. The coach would be happiest if Smith earned the starting job quickly -- but if he doesn't, Rattay still might have a shot.

Smith, the No. 1 draft pick who got a six-year, $49.5 million contract last month, made plenty of mistakes in his first NFL action. Rattay, who fought through constant injuries in his only season as San Francisco's starter last year, bailed out the 49ers with an outstanding effort in the third quarter. Nolan still believes Smith is the starter, but the coach added a significant detail after watching Rattay's successes and Smith's struggles: Rattay still might start the season in charge of the 49ers. "If we were getting ready for the regular season, I can't (say)," Nolan said when asked who would start the regular-season opener against St. Louis on Sept. 11. "There are not two (starting quarterbacks). You have two guys competing for that spot. It's just the way it is."

Though Rattay played against most of the Raiders' second-string defense, his poise and precision was obvious. He went 6-of-8 for 103 yards, throwing two exceptional passes to Brandon Lloyd during his opening drive and later hitting Arnaz Battle for a 13-yard score.

When the 49ers got the top pick in the draft, they felt almost obligated to choose a quarterback. The hard-throwing, athletic Smith appeared to be the most valuable prospect in the draft, and Nolan hopes Smith can play immediately for San Francisco.

But Rattay has a chemistry with Lloyd and Battle that can't be overlooked. "I feel comfortable out there with the guys that I've been playing catch with for a few years now," Rattay said. "We know each other pretty well, but we're all working together to get better as a team. Alex is part of that, just like I am."

Smith went 3-of-9 for 25 yards in his first NFL action, failing to lead the 49ers to a first down on his first four series. The Raiders' defensive starters overwhelmed San Francisco's injury-plagued offensive line, repeatedly harassing Smith and sacking him twice.

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The odds are still with Alex Smith to be the starting QB on opening day in September. It's not uncommon for a rookie to struggle in his first start like Smith did. It's also not uncommon for players to do well in the second half of a preseason game when facing second and third-string defenders, like Rattay did. Smith would probably need to struggle in subsequent practices and games, and Rattay would need to shine throughout that stretch in order to win the job. If Rattay was a seasoned veteran with playoff victories under his belt, he might have a better chance at postponing the regular season debut of the number one draft choice.

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10. SD - RB Michael Turner Proving to Be Capable Backup

Clipped from: article by Casey Pearce

Playing behind All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson is not the easiest thing in the world. During LT's first four professional seasons, he has averaged nearly 350 carries a year. Opportunities don't come often for the Chargers number two back, but Michael Turner, who is vying to fill that role in 2005, is determined to take advantage of the chances he gets. "I know my role," Turner said. "I want the ball on every down, but I also know that LT is the best in the game. I just have to be patient and make the most of it when I get my turn."

Turner got his chance in last Thursday's preseason opener at Green Bay. With Tomlinson in street clothes on the sideline, the former Northern Illinois Husky danced to the tune of eight carries for 70. His output led all rushers. "He had a terrific night Thursday, and he's run well throughout camp," Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He's a big part of what we're doing on offense. He's picked up right where he left off last year."

In the Chargers' 2004 season finale, Turner drew his first career start, and like he did Thursday night, the second-year back took advantage of it, rushing 15 times for 87 yards in the Bolts' win over the Kansas City Chiefs. At season's end, Turner was listed third on the Chargers depth chart at tailback. But on the opening day of training camp, the Bolts released Jesse Chatman, who held the number two spot a year ago. Chatman's departure left the door wide open for Turner to step up.

At 5-10, 237 pounds, Turner is a big, broad-shoulder back that can provide a nice change of pace from the tough, lightening-quick Tomlinson.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Handcuffing a backup player to the starter is a popular fantasy football strategy. The trouble with some backups is that they don't produce if they get the opportunity to start. That means we need to assess whether that player would be worthwhile if they become the starter for whatever reason. Turner appears to be a viable handcuff that could produce valuable fantasy numbers if Tomlinson gets hurt.

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11. HOU - TE Matt Murphy: Sleeper Alert

Clipped from: Houston Chronicle article by Megan Manfull

The Texans spent three years looking for a multidimensional tight end. They thought they had found one in 2003 when they drafted Bennie Joppru in the second round, but injuries have prevented Joppru from playing. The past two seasons, the Texans split the job between Mark Bruener, a blocker, and Billy Miller, who's more of a receiver. That was expected to be the plan this year. However, third-year tight end Matt Murphy could change that. The 6-5, 268-pounder out of Maryland put on a show during the Texans' preseason game against the Broncos on Saturday.

With Bruener resting a sore back and Miller sidelined by an ankle injury, Murphy started at Reliant Stadium and showed in a game what the coaches and players had seen in practice. "He's actually a pretty unique tight end," backup quarterback Tony Banks said. "He's so big, and there are so many one-dimensional tight ends out there. "Every team is trying to find a guy who can do two things. And he's able to do those things. He's able to block and catch the ball and get it down the field."

Murphy's highlight came in the second quarter when he broke in the middle of the field and beat his defender one-on-one. Banks hit Murphy with a perfect pass just a few yards away from the goal line, and Murphy pulled it in for a score.

Murphy has grown tremendously as a tight end since the Texans acquired him from the Detroit Lions' practice squad in December 2003. Last season, Murphy spent a couple of weeks on the Texans' practice squad before being elevated and playing primarily on special teams. The 25-year-old has put in long hours working with tight ends coach Tony Marciano in hopes of making an impact at tight end. His technique has improved, and he has emerged as a two-dimensional threat.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

We'll keep an eye on Murphy, to determine whether this last game was his moment in the sun, or if bigger things are yet to come. He's still a long shot with Bruener and Miller ahead of him on the depth chart.

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12. DAL - PK Billy Cundiff Can't Seem to Win Over Parcells

Clipped from: article

Billy Cundiff is the best kicker in Cowboys camp and is a lock to open the season as the team's kicker for the third year in a row. Still, he knows he has yet to gain the full confidence of Bill Parcells. He had a chance to move in that direction in the 13-11 loss to the Cardinals. Even though it was Jose Cortez's turn to kick, Parcells sent Cundiff on the field with 1:08 to go because he wanted to win the game. Cundiff missed wide left from 53 yards. "It was a letdown knowing he expected it out of me and I didn't give it to him," Cundiff said.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The popular theory is that no kicker can every replace Matt Bahr in Parcells' mind, and thus can never earn his confidence. Jose Cortez's strength is kickoffs, and he does not present a strong risk to Cundiff's job security. Earlier in the year, Parcells fired long time Dallas kicking coach Steve Hoffman, so that Parcells could directly work with Cundiff. That's probably a bit unnerving for Cundiff, but it may actually mean Parcells is considering the possibility of having confidence in his kicker again.

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13. IDP: KC - DE Jared Allen Demoted, DE Jimmy Wilkerson Promoted

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Adam Teicher

Jared Allen, who led the Chiefs in sacks and was a bright spot last season for an otherwise dismal defense, has lost his starting job, at least temporarily. Jimmy Wilkerson, a little-used reserve the past two seasons, took Allen's spot at starting right end at practice this morning. Allen worked with the second team.

"Jimmy Wilkerson has been doing everything right," coach Dick Vermeil said. "Sometimes when guys are doing everything right, sometimes not better but everything on every snap consistently right, you give them a little reward." Asked whether Wilkerson would start in Saturday night's exhibition game against Arizona at Arrowhead Stadium, Vermeil said, "He might. He deserves a reward."

But the move appears to be aimed more at Allen than Wilkerson. The Chiefs were unhappy with the way Allen played in last week's exhibition opener at Minnesota. He missed a tackle against Minnesota's Mewelde Moore, allowing the running back to go for 50 yards. Allen also blew his assignment on the play, which the Chiefs view as an equal or bigger crime. "It was a breakdown in discipline," Vermeil said. "You have to do just what you're supposed to do. Someone goes out and tries to make a bigger play out of it and he winds up breaking the discipline of the defense."

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Keep an eye on this to see whether the switch is legitimate, or just a motivational ploy. Whoever starts when the games are for real has the opportunity for some decent numbers.

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14. IDP: SEA - Rookie LB LeRoy Hill Earns Playing Time

Clipped from: The News Tribune article by John McGrath

In March, the Seattle Seahawks finally divorced themselves from their sometimes productive, frequently volatile association with former Clemson linebacker Anthony Simmons. For seven years, Simmons revealed glimpses of Pro Bowl ability undermined by an array of physical problems - the most confounding of which might've been the cast-iron head on his shoulders. A few weeks after parting ways with The Talent Who Never Quite Worked Out, the Seahawks did a curious thing: They selected a player in the third round of the draft who shared many similarities with, well, Anthony Simmons.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, LeRoy Hill is virtually the same size as Simmons (6-foot, 230). He plays the same position (outside linebacker), relying on the same set of skills (speed and lateral quickness more than brute strength) that've distinguished NFL linebackers over the past 10 years or so. He even went to the same college, where he won many of the same Atlantic Coast Conference and national honors Simmons did. The Seahawks, of course, didn't take Hill in the draft because they envisioned him as the next Anthony Simmons. They chose him because he's the first LeRoy Hill, a classic nose-for-the-ball 'backer with instincts that can't be taught and skills that must be developed.

Despite nursing a minor ankle injury early in camp, Hill earned a starting job in the first exhibition game Friday night, working alongside second-year pro Niko Koutouvides and free agent veteran Jamie Sharper in a radically retooled linebacking rotation. The rookie didn't waste time making himself conspicuous. His second-quarter sack of New Orleans quarterback Todd Bouman forced the fumble that set up the Seahawks' second straight short touchdown drive.

"It's a lot more technical at this level, and it's faster, but it's still football, you know?" The coaches want Hill to keep his it's-just-football mentality, a trait too few on the defensive side brought onto the field last year. Understanding a playbook and its nuances is necessary, but the first and foremost requirement of a linebacker, more often than not, is to identify the man with the ball and hit the bejeezus out of him.

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Rookies are often a risky proposition for both real teams and fantasy teams, but Hill could be in a position to make the risk worthwhile.

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15. IDP: TEN - S Arturo Freeman Released by Packers, Signed by Titans

Clipped from: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article by Lori Nickel

When Jim Bates was hired as Green Bay's defensive coordinator, it made all the sense in the world to bring along one of his own men. Safety Arturo Freeman had made 199 tackles and five interceptions in the five previous years in Miami under Bates. The free agent followed Bates to Green Bay in the off-season for two reasons. First, he expected to start at either free or strong safety and lead the Packers secondary. Second, he hoped to teach his new teammates the new Bates scheme he knew so well.

But as the Packers headed into the 20th day of training camp Sunday, Freeman saw rookie second-round draft pick Nick Collins getting more practice time with the starting defense. Freeman no longer saw his career aspirations working out in Green Bay, so he was released, at his request, on Sunday.

As news of Freeman's release spread Sunday morning, he said six to 10 teams had contacted his agent. By 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon, he had already signed with Tennessee. The 6-0, 200-pound Freeman said he had no regrets about giving Green Bay a try and didn't consider his time here wasted. "They wanted me to teach the guys. I was there to help, to get his thing started," Freeman said. "And you know what, I don't mind moving on. Now this is a fresh start for me."

Mid-August is very early to release a player of Freeman's pedigree. Packers coach Mike Sherman said they released Freeman in fairness to him so that he could find work elsewhere before other teams' rosters were set.

Freeman's problem clearly wasn't his knowledge of the defense but that he has lost considerable speed and range. On one play in the exhibition game against San Diego, Freeman seemed slow to react in the slot. "Arturo, not that he was beat out, but he hadn't made enough moves to make the team," Bates said.

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Despite the change to a new coach and system, Tennessee probably presents a better opportunity for Freeman to see playing time this year.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.


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