Print and Go Back NFL [Print without images]

Monday, August 1, 2005
Jets' QB reports no discomfort in shoulder news services

New York Jets: Chad Pennington was on the practice field, throwing passes and running plays for the fourth straight day. And that was big news for the Jets and their star quarterback.

Pennington felt no discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder Monday, throwing an array of passes: some short, a couple longer -- all without pain.

Chad Pennington

"I'm pleasantly surprised," Pennington said. "I really feel good about it. I think our medical staff is surprised and pleased with my progress, and practices have been going the way we planned them."

Pennington injured his shoulder Nov. 7 against Buffalo and played the final seven games of last season with a tear in the muscle of his rotator cuff. He had surgery Feb. 8 and missed mini-camps and offseason training activities while rehabbing.

Although he didn't participate in the morning practice, Pennington threw some light passes for about a half-hour. He then worked with the first team in the afternoon practice.

"He's getting better every day," coach Herman Edwards said. "His progress is one-a-day and we're going to take him that way. We're going to take him that way as long as we can, it's not going to change. It's going to be that way all through camp."

And that has Pennington working even harder mentally on grasping a hold of new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's offensive game plan. One of Heimerdinger's influences on the Jets' game plan is the installation of the shotgun offense, a departure from former offensive coordinator Paul Hackett's much-maligned West Coast style. Pennington welcomes the new scheme, which he also ran while playing at Marshall. Heimerdinger said Pennington's footwork has been "perfect" and should be able to fully grasp the shotgun offense.

Seattle Seahawks: It was all about family when Shaun Alexander reported to training camp Monday. Three days late because of the birth of his second child, he spoke at length about his love for the Seahawks -- comparing them to a family -- and expressed hope that he'll stay in Seattle a long time.

Shaun Alexander

"I would be shocked if I'm not here next year," Alexander said. "I would be shocked if I'm not here two years from now or three years from now."

Alexander signed a $6.32 million tender last week, the first step toward the long-term contract that the standout running back and the Seahawks front office say they'd like to ink.

"They want to sign a big deal. I want to sign one too, one that's going to keep me here forever," Alexander said. "I told them from the beginning this is my city, this is my community, this is my town. So let's do what it takes."

When camp opened Friday, general manager Tim Ruskell said one of the franchise's goals is to sign Alexander to a long-term deal, though he declined to speculate about when it could happen.

Alexander had a franchise-record 1,696 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns last season, and going into his sixth NFL season he has developed into one of the league's premier running backs.

Baltimore Ravens: Running back Jamal Lewis will be released from an Atlanta halfway house Tuesday and will report to training camp Thursday for three days of sideline work with head trainer Bill Tessendorf. He will suit up for his first padded practice on Monday.

Cody out after spraining knee ligament: Rookie linebacker Dan Cody sprained a ligament in his right knee during Baltimore's first training camp practice. There is no timetable for his return.

"He's going to be evaluated later in camp, which means he'll be out until it settles down," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "[The doctors] know for sure it's between a second- and third-degree sprain."

The injury occurred midway through the morning session. Cody remained on the ground for several minutes before he was helped to his feet and to a waiting cart. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Cody was to have been a big part of the Ravens' rejuvenated pass rush.

Oakland Raiders: Randy Moss apologized for any absurd on-field antics before the fact -- Oakland's new star receiver is still going to celebrate in the same fashion he always has. And the Raiders are completely embracing his do-it-my-way approach.

Randy Moss

"There's no telling what you're going to see," Moss said in his first interview of training camp. "I love what I do. I love having fun. When it comes to big games, you never know what you're going to see out of me. As long as we win, I'm just having fun. If the antics come, then I'm here to apologize first before they even happen. I'm going to have fun, man, believe that."

Moss, traded from the Vikings in early March, still considers himself the NFL's top receiver. He's anxious to return to top form after a frustrating season a year ago, when he was limited by a hamstring injury and didn't reach 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his seven seasons. He finished with 49 catches for 767 yards and 13 touchdowns.

After initially saying he preferred to stay in the background with his new team, Moss now realizes his visibility makes it impossible to avoid being a leadership figure for a franchise that lost many of its key locker-room personalities over the last two years.

"I think just my name and what I've done makes me one of the leaders of this team," he said. "You know, I really didn't want that. I just want to go out here and play football and let my skills and my play lead. If I need to go out there and lead from a verbal standpoint, then I will do that."

Moss is still struggling to digest the Raiders' giant playbook, which he said is much more daunting than what he had with the Vikings.

"The playbook in Minnesota was more like one-plus-one," he said. "And here, this playbook here is like Algebra II. So, it's very complicated."

Meanwhile Monday, four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson returned to practice after sitting out a day and a half with a strained groin.

Porter injured during practice: Receiver Jerry Porter left the afternoon practice after tweaking his hamstring. He said he was going to have an MRI.

"He felt a little bit in his hamstring," coach Norv Turner said. "He didn't think he pulled it. We'll know more tomorrow."

The 27-year-old Porter had a career-high 64 catches for 998 yards and nine touchdowns last season, falling just short of his first 1,000-yard campaign.

Detroit Lions: With Matt Millen in the final year of his contract as team president, it appears an extension is in his future.

"I certainly expect Matt to be here," Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. told the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

It sounds like Millen will reach an agreement on an extension with owner and chairman William Clay Ford.

"Matt has always worked here with kind of a handshake with my dad, and that's the way it'll get done this time," Ford Jr. told the paper.

Asked if it would be a year-by-year thing with Millen, Ford Jr. told the Free Press: "I think a lot of it will depend on what Matt wants to do.

"Look, I think he's done a very good job. Obviously -- he was the first to admit -- he had a very steep learning curve early. But if you believe like I do that this is a roster filled with talent, I mean, Matt's the guy that did it.

"I know there are Matt Millen detractors out there, and obviously the record, nobody's happy with it. But I think from this point forward I like our chances and I like our team, and I attribute that to Matt."

Denver Broncos: Hard-hitting safety Steve Atwater was voted into the Broncos Ring of Fame.

Atwater, a three-time Associated Press All-Pro, played for the Broncos from 1989-98. This was his first year of eligibility and he was voted in unanimously by owner Pat Bowlen and the Ring of Fame board.

"It was a short discussion," Bowlen said.

A first-round pick from Arkansas in 1989, Atwater established his reputation as a hard hitter in his second year, when he crushed Chiefs running back Christian Okoye during a Monday night game. He wore a microphone for an NFL Films production that night, and the play, complete with sound, is shown time and again whenever a feature on the NFL's hardest hits comes up.

Atwater started all 155 games he played as a Bronco. He made seven straight Pro Bowls from 1990-96 and finished his career with 24 interceptions, 1,301 tackles, five sacks, 12 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.

He will be inducted into the Ring of Fame on Oct. 9, the day the Broncos play Washington. He will be the first person inducted since offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman in 2003.

St. Louis Rams: Starting cornerback Jerametrius Butler missed both practices Sunday after bruising his right knee Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"Right now, it's day-to-day," Butler told the paper. "Whenever I stop feeling pain, that's when I'm going back out there. I'm going to try to go" Sunday.

Coach Mike Martz was less optimistic.

"It's nothing that's serious, but we're going to keep him out for maybe a week or so, just try to calm that leg down," Martz told the paper.

Kansas City Chiefs: Receiver Freddie Mitchell and 10-time Pro Bowl guard Will Shields were out of camp getting injuries tended to. Shields flew back to Kansas City to consult with a back specialist. Mitchell, who injured his knee near the end of practice on Saturday, will undergo arthroscopic surgery this week.

"I think he'll get his knee scoped tomorrow by Dr. [Jon] Browne in Kansas City," head coach Dick Vermeil said. "He'll be back here on Wednesday if everything goes right. I think he'll be back on the field ready to go back to work in two or three weeks."

Peterson said he was not worried that Shields might miss what he intends to be his final season. An arthritic condition at the base of his back has been causing discomfort.

San Diego Chargers: Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, the 12th pick in the NFL draft, agreed to a five-year deal after he missed the first week of training camp.

Merriman caused a stir when he stayed away from all offseason workouts on the advice of his agent, Kevin Poston, because of concerns he'd get hurt before he got a contract. While many observers expected protracted negotiations, both sides said talks went well.

"It was always professional, always cordial," Poston said. "We were able to get it done at Shawne's fair-market value."

In a statement, general manager A.J. Smith said the Chargers were "excited to get Shawne here and integrated into our defense as quickly as possible. The negotiations with Kevin Poston were cordial, professional and it was pleasure doing business with him."

By missing offseason workouts, the Chargers felt Merriman, a former star at Maryland, would fall behind in learning the team's 3-4 defense. Poston thinks Merriman will be OK.

"The first preseason game has not taken place. He'll be fine," Poston said. "All rookies have to catch up, even those who are in on time."

Merriman has been working out in Maryland.

Merriman's contract is potentially worth $15.73 million, of which $9 million is guaranteed. The deal was structured so he'll get an early roster bonus of $1,244,000 rather than a signing bonus. He'll get an option bonus of $6.35 million, payable over the second, third and fourth years of the deal.

With Merriman's deal done, the Chargers' only unsigned player is All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who is seeking a long-term deal averaging between $4 million and $5 million a year. As an exclusive-rights free agent, Gates was tendered a one-year contract for $380,000, but he has not signed that deal.

Miami Dolphins: Even after releasing the first depth chart of the preseason, the Dolphins seem no closer to choosing a starting quarterback. A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte are separated by merely a slash mark, each listed next to the other as the first-stringer on the chart released Monday -- exactly one week before the team plays Chicago in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

Neither quarterback was made available to reporters on Monday, and new Dolphins coach Nick Saban would not tip his hand about how the starting candidates would specifically be used in the preseason.

Feeley is listed first, immediately before the slash. Although Saban didn't say that Feeley will take the first offensive snap of the Dolphins' preseason, that seemed to be a pretty strong indicator.

"The guy who's at the beginning of the slash will be at the end of the slash next time," Saban said.

Feeley started eight games last year during the Dolphins' dismal 4-12 season, threw 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and had the worst passer rating -- 61.7 -- among first-stringers in the league.

Frerotte is entering his third year in the system that new Miami offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used successfully in Minnesota, where the two worked together in 2003 and 2004 -- with Frerotte playing very rarely behind starter Daunte Culpepper.

There was little surprise in the opening chart -- Vernon Carey, who's widely expected to be the starting left tackle, is listed as the first-stringer there, and unretired running back Ricky Williams is second at running back behind Lamar Gordon.

Only one rookie -- Travis Daniels, who played for Saban at LSU -- is currently listed as a starter; Daniels, barring any changes, will replace the departed Patrick Surtain at cornerback, opposite veteran Sam Madison.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Chris Draft had an asthma attack that forced him to leave practice early.

Draft said he would sit out the second practice of the day while he recovered. Diagnosed with asthma in college, Draft said he has typically been able to control it. His only serious attack happened last season during training camp with the Falcons when he had to be hospitalized.

"It comes up more so in training camp," he said. "It is something I have to deal with. Everyone has a little something they have to deal with. You can either make excuses for it, or do something about it. That's my baggage that I have to carry around with me."

Draft signed as a free agent with the Panthers this spring. He started 13 games for the Falcons last season and had 81 tackles. He spent five years with the Falcons after they claimed him off waivers from San Francisco in 2000.

Minnesota Vikings: The team finalized its contract with receiver Troy Williamson, the seventh pick in the draft.

The agreement with Williamson left defensive end Erasmus James, the 18th overall selection, as the only Vikings rookie without a deal. There was no progress to report there, as James' holdout continued into its third full day of training camp.

Williamson's agent, David Canter, said his client was on his way to Minnesota on Monday night. He was expected to take part in practice at some point on Tuesday. The deal, which contains some unusual bonus clauses and is essentially for five years, includes $13.3 million in guaranteed money and could be worth up to a total of $32 million.

Williamson will be brought along slowly, but the Vikings drafted the speedy receiver from South Carolina to replace the deep threat they lost when star Randy Moss was traded to the Raiders. Williamson, who will also get a chance to return kickoffs, issued a statement through his agent thanking the team for patience and the negotiators for a resolution that didn't cost him too much practice time.

"We're anxious to get him in here," said coach Mike Tice, who felt it was important to have Williamson ready for a tough stretch of practices on Friday and Saturday that close out the first week of camp.

"He can catch up pretty quickly," Tice said.

As for James, he should get the opportunity to be a pass rusher in the nickel defense, if not win the starting job at right end. But the former Wisconsin star will have to show up soon for that to happen.

Broken arm sidelines Fox: Rookie safety Dustin Fox will miss four to six weeks with a broken left arm.

Fox, a third-round draft pick, got hurt in Sunday's practice. After getting examined on Monday morning, Fox watched the afternoon workout from the sideline with his arm in a sling.

Fox has a fracture on his left radius, trainer Chuck Barta said. The radius is the forearm bone that stretches from the inside of the elbow to the thumb side of the wrist.

Fox missed 3½ games last season with Ohio State with a broken left arm that required surgery and the insertion of a plate. He played cornerback for most of his career with the Buckeyes.

Washington Redskins: The team reached a contract agreement in principle with quarterback Jason Campbell, the 25th player chosen overall in the 2005 draft and the latter of the team's two choices in the first round.

The five-year contract will be reviewed on Tuesday and, barring any complications, the former Auburn star will sign it then. Financial details were not yet available, but the deal likely includes a maximum value in the $25 million range. It is structured in a way that will protect the Redskins but also Campbell, in the event he becomes the starter.

For now, Campbell will go to camp behind starter Patrick Ramsey and No. 2 quarterback Mark Brunell and will almost certainly be groomed for the future. There is a chance that Campbell could play some as a rookie, since the Washington personnel staff regard him so highly.

Campbell, 23, was a four-year starter at Auburn and, despite playing in different styles and under a variety of coordinators, demonstrated improvement every season. He was among the nation's leaders in mostly every significant passing category in 2004. For his career, Campbell completed 552-of-854 passes for 7,299 yards, with 45 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions.

Washington's earlier choice in the first round, Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers, the ninth player taken overall, remains unsigned.

-- Len Pasquarelli, senior writer

New England Patriots: Wide receiver Tim Dwight was activated from the Patriots' preseason physically unable to perform list.

The team also released nose tackle Ethan Kelley and wide receiver Jake Schifino.

Dwight, who underwent surgery on his right big toe in January, signed as a free agent last March 13 after spending the previous four seasons with San Diego. He participated Monday in his first practice of training camp, which began last Friday.

Dwight, entering his eighth NFL season, is competing for a job as a receiver and kick returner.

Kelley, a seventh-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2003, spent that season on the practice squad and played in one game last season, the season finale against San Francisco.

Schifino, who played 14 games during the past three seasons with Tennessee, signed with New England as a free agent last Jan. 6.

Tennessee Titans: The team thinks its top draft pick, Adam "Pacman" Jones, could have been signed to a deal already. The cornerback's agent said that the team only has to say yes to bring the sixth pick overall to camp.

General manager Floyd Reese said he responded to a letter sent by agent Michael Huyghue with a letter of his own. Reese said he was befuddled since they are about $250,000 apart in a five-year deal with about $200,000 difference in guaranteed money.

Now the Titans are bracing for a potentially long holdout with Jones already having missed four days of training camp.

"This deal should've been done last night," Reese said. "I don't know what's going to be the impetus to get us over the hump."

Green Bay Packers: Running back Chris Robertson broke a knee cap in a nine-on-seven drill, coach Mike Sherman said.

The Packers signed tight end Tory Humphrey, a 6-2, 257-pound rookie from Central Michigan. He's a non-drafted free agent who was with the Colts from April 29 to June 14.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.