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Muck
06-06-2002, 10:33 AM
June 3, 2002

There are Eagles players and team observers who believe that head coach Andy Reid may have some trouble running the personnel side of the team because he takes things very personally. It is this personality trait that may have led to the departure of MLB Jeremiah Trotter. From what we hear, if a player rejects an initial contract offer, Reid interprets that as a personal slight and gets angry. Reid needs to understand that the players view negotiations as a business, just as the team does.

There are concerns in Houston that DL Gary Walker might not be ready in time for training camp. He injured his right groin during a May workout, which required surgery. Walker also had to have a hernia repaired. The Texans are hopeful that Walker will be ready for the start of the regular season.

We hear both Saints DTs Norman Hand and Grady Jackson have been working overtime this offseason to shed excess pounds. Observers say Hand, who admitted to being way overweight last season, had his weight down to just under 340 heading into June and felt like he was on pace to reach his self-proclaimed 315-pound target by the start of training camp. Jackson, who tipped the scales at 357 upon signing with the Saints, is aiming to get down to 325.

The Jaguars are stressing to first-round pick John Henderson that he needs to stay low for leverage. The 6-foot-7 defensive tackle has a tendency of popping up and becoming too upright after the snap, which makes him a bigger target to block and severely decreases his leverage. Last year’s first-round pick, DT Marcus Stroud, had the same problem last season. There are some in the Jaguars’ organization who believe that Henderson might be better-suited to play end, something he will likely do in some passing situations.

Giants head coach Jim Fassel is determined to see better special-teams play from his team this season. To achieve that, Fassel is insisting that every player on the roster be assigned some role on special teams. Word out of minicamp is that WR Ike Hilliard or CB Jason Sehorn could wind up as the holder in kicking situations. QB Kerry Collins might be on the kickoff scout team. However, just because a player is given a role and practices it doesn’t necessarily mean he will be used on game day. Nonetheless, if the player is called on to perform on special teams in regular-season action, he better be ready to do so, according to Fassel.

The Cowboyshave so much confidence in rookie QB Chad Hutchinson that they plan for him to be No. 2 on the depth chart behind Quincy Carter at the start of the regular season. Hutchinson hasn’t played organized football in four years because of his career as a baseball pitcher.

Don’t be a bit surprised if second-round pick Andre Gurode winds up beating out Matt Lehr for the Cowboys’ starting center job. Gurode is bigger and bulkier than Lehr.
We hear it wouldn’t be shocking if second-round pick Michael Lewis beats out veteran Blaine Bishop to become the Eagles’ starting strong safety.

We hear Bills QB Drew Bledsoe looked sharp in minicamp, but more importantly, he took charge of the offense and became an instant leader, one of the main things the Bills’ offense has lacked in past years.

Look for the Jets to use a CB rotation during the season. Though free agents Aaron Beasley and Donnie Abraham likely will be the listed starters, the Jets are expected to make frequent use of third CB Ray Mickens.

Losing OG Dave Szott for the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament puts the Jets in a bind. For now, New York will see if backup J.P. Machado can cut it. If Machado can’t, the Jets will be forced to look elsewhere, as they have limited depth on the offensive line.

Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson told PFW the Chiefs will be looking to add another receiver to their roster before training camp. He mentioned Keenan McCardell and Antonio Freeman as possible options they plan to pursue, assuming they are cut as has been widely projected. The Chiefs are also expected to add a linebacker via free agency.

At presstime, the Raiders were still interested in acquiring free-agent DT Sam Adams. The two sides were in serious negotiations before he signed with Baltimore in 2000.

It’s believed Oakland’s Tory James will get the first shot to start opposite CB Charles Woodson. James has made some big plays in the past as the team’s nickel back, but don’t expect the Raiders to waste any time in priming rookie Phillip Buchanon for the role. Terrance Shaw was added via free agency and should provide quality depth.

The Ravens’ Gary Baxter, who is making the switch from safety to cornerback this offseason, has shown to be a good, physical defender vs. receivers when he’s near the line of scrimmage but has struggled in off-coverage when he’s forced to backpedal.

Charles Woodson’s turf toe problems appear to be a thing of the past, and consequently he has expressed an interest in returning punts for the Raiders this season. But that isn’t likely to happen, as the risk is believed to outweigh the reward. The Raiders likely will try rookie CB Phillip Buchanon as a punt returner after he handled the duties for Miami (Fla.) in college last season.

The Vikings won’t lunge to sign LBs Hardy Nickerson or Bernardo Harris in the coming weeks. Even though their LB corps needs improvement, the club promised free-agent MLB Henri Crockett the middle spot, preferred by both Nickerson and Harris.

Don’t be surprised if WR Derrick Alexander, who at presstime was rumored to be a cap casualty in Kansas City, signs quickly with the Vikings. Minnesota has already worked out Alexander, and had him cleared medically, in hopes of beating the Chargers and Falcons to the negotiating table.

With FB Jim Kleinsasser moved to tight end, Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan feels like he holds the pawns in creating mismatches out of a two-TE set. While Kleinsasser is an accomplished blocker, he and TE Byron Chamberlain give QB Daunte Culpepper numerous outlets in the passing game and should free up WR Randy Moss.

The Bears continue to seek defensive depth and last week worked out ex-Eagles SS Damon Moore. Moore is coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in January and might not be fully recovered by the start of the 2002 season. However, the interest in Moore is starting to peak with Buffalo and New England expected to enter the bidding.

Lions CB Todd Lyght has slowed down considerably and could have trouble playing press coverage and doing the things new defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer wants from his cornerbacks.

Don’t be shocked if the Saints decide to cut either C Jerry Fontenot or OG Wally Williams to open up some cap room.

Our sources were contending at presstime that it was much more likely the Falcons would aggressively pursue a big-name free-agent wide receiver next season, which would give QB Michael Vick more time to develop. The thought is the careers of Vick and said receiver would overlap at their peaks, as opposed to a scenario whereby the receiver is adversely affected this season by Vick’s growing pains.

While negotiations had cooled considerably at presstime with ex-Bars OT Blake Brockermeyer, we hear the Niners were definitely still very interested in free-agent DL Jim Flanigan, another ex-Bear who most recently played with Green Bay. If Flanigan is signed by the Niners, don’t be shocked if Reggie McGrew gets the axe.

The Niners are excited by the kick-return prospects of a pair of undrafted free agents — Ken Simonton, a local product who starred at Oregon State, and Jamal Robertson, who’s been burning up NFL Europe this season as a member of the Rhein Fire.

We hear WR Dane Looker, an undrafted free agent who is getting a third look from the Rams, has a very good shot at becoming the team’s sixth receiver. Looker has been an impressive performer in NFL Europe, recently winning the league’s Offensive Player of the Week award after leading Berlin to a victory over Barcelona with a pair of TD catches.

The Cardinals, who put more stock in undrafted free agents than most teams, like what they’ve seen so far of CB Eric Joyce, DE Alton Moore and OG Tony Wragge. We also hear they’re more than a little impressed with their third-round pick, QB Josh McCown.

Don’t be shocked if the Cardinals sign nine-year veteran CB Phillippi Sparks, who is looking to make a comeback after retiring at the end of the 2000 season. Sparks, who last played for the Cowboys, lives in Phoenix and played for Arizona defensive coordinator Larry Marmie at Arizona State.