Editor's Note: The Steelers and Falcons will be the first NFL teams to open training camp this week and will play each other in the first exhibition game on Aug. 3 (at Atlanta).
With Cowher deal, Steelers send message
In extending Bill Cowher's contract through 2005 for almost $3 million per year when he still had two seasons left, the Pittsburgh Steelers sent this unique message: The coach is bigger than the players, just as it was with Chuck Noll.
What's different is that Cowher's act may have been wearing thin on veteran players, but what veterans are left? The longest-tenured Steelers are three players from the draft class of '95: Kordell Stewart, tight end Mark Bruener and safety Lee Flowers. Stewart is the linchpin to the Steelers' camp goals, along with the needed development of two former No. 1 picks -- wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Troy Edwards.
Vick, Chandler lend intrigue to Falcons' camp
The Falcons' camp brings intrigue this week because of No. 1 pick Michael Vick, who made a favorable impression on veterans this offseason. But incumbent Chris Chandler did the same. Chandler believes there is little difference between the Tony Martin he enjoyed during the team's Super Bowl run in 1998 and the Martin who rejoined the team last month.
But even Chandler knows the key to opening the deep passing game is the running of Jamal Anderson, who has the Falcons convinced that he also will return to '98 form.
Bills' switch to 4-3 prompted release of Holecek
The Buffalo Bills' release of veteran inside linebacker John Holecek stunned many -- including Holecek -- but it came after new Bills coach Gregg Williams decided that of the two inside linebackers who returned from the old 3-4 defense, Pro Bowler Sam Cowart was most equipped to man the middle in the new 4-3 scheme. The Bills were certain they would have had a disgruntled, overpaid backup in Holecek, who is being courted by the Jets, Colts and Chargers.
LB Slade still pursuing options
Ex-Patriots outside linebacker Chris Slade still is without a job, but he counts the Steelers, Falcons and Panthers among his suitors.