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Monday, July 14, 2008
Packers' Grant in limbo; Chad Johnson saga about to resume

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Ryan Grant, Chad Johnson and Brandon Marshall
Will Ryan Grant hold out? Will Chad Johnson make peace with the Bengals? Will Brandon Marshall get slapped with a suspension? The answers are on the horizon.

The first NFL training camp will open Sunday, when the Washington Redskins begin practicing in Ashburn, Va. By July 28, every team will have taken the field. At this point, most offseason decisions have been made and nearly all issues are resolved.

Right?

Well, there is that little question at quarterback in Green Bay, another key Packers player remains unsigned, two of the NFL's top receivers have been in the news for all the wrong reasons … and so on.

In fact, you can exclude the question of Brett Favre's future and still come up with a meaty list of unresolved issues as training camp approaches. So that's just what we did. With Favre out of the equation, consider these five burning questions:

• Will the Packers get their (other) AWOL player into camp on time?

Technically, tailback Ryan Grant isn't AWOL. He attended organized team activities and he was in town for mandatory minicamp. He just didn't practice, a result of his decision to pursue a long-term contract extension after surprising the Packers with 956 rushing yards last season.

Camp schedules
Opening, closing and first practice dates. Schedule

As an exclusive-rights free agent, Grant isn't eligible to negotiate with other teams. His only leverage is to refuse Green Bay's $370,000 tender offer, leaving the Packers with the possibility of entering training camp without two of their top offensive players from last season's 13-3 team.

Grant won't participate in training camp until he signs something -- either the tender or a multiyear contract. The Packers have some promising depth in Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency and Noah Herron, but Grant proved he was a step above that group in 2007.

• Is Chad Johnson feeling better (in mind and body)?

Following a three-day public spectacle at minicamp in June, the Cincinnati Bengals receiver had surgery to remove bone spurs from one of his ankles. The team's Web site reported last week that Johnson might not be ready to participate fully during the early part of training camp, an eventuality that -- fair or otherwise -- will spawn another round of questions about his commitment to the Bengals.

Coach Marvin Lewis has made it clear that the team has no plan to trade him, a stance that will be tested if Johnson continues a path of passive resistance. Who knows? Maybe Johnson will declare newfound love for the franchise when he reports to camp, but his past antics make it hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.

• Is the NFL preparing to suspend a few prominent players?

Brandon Marshall Highlight

NFL.com Video

Jay Cutler pass deep to Brandon Marshall for 68-yard touchdown.

It's been a rough offseason for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, who suffered a severe cut on his arm March 22 during what he called a roughhousing incident. Later, he revealed to have a long list of legal entanglements dating to 2004. According to The Denver Post, he most recently was arrested for misdemeanor battery in Atlanta.

While some of the issues are still under investigation, Marshall's rap sheet is long enough to make him a candidate for suspension under the NFL's personal conduct policy. The Broncos are counting on Marshall to repeat his 102-catch performance of 2007, and even a short absence could impact their season.

The same can be said for the Minnesota Vikings, whose left tackle faces an uncertain future. Bryant McKinnie has a Sept. 24 court date stemming from a February brawl outside a Miami nightclub. The incident was McKinnie's fourth arrest since he entered the NFL in 2002 (charges were dropped in two cases), and the NFL is closely monitoring his situation. McKinnie's attorney is attempting to get him into a pretrial diversion program, which could lead to a dismissal of the charges. That move might not sway commissioner Roger Goodell, however.

As a result, the Vikings might have to spend part of training camp preparing backup Artis Hicks to take over the position on a short-term basis. Hicks hasn't played left tackle since 2005.

• WWAHD?

Indeed, what will Albert Haynesworth do? The Tennessee Titans defensive tackle has until Tuesday to reach agreement on a contract extension or, as a franchise player, lose the ability to negotiate until after the season. With no deal in sight, Haynesworth would have to sign his $7.25 million franchise tender in order to participate in training camp.

Signing the tender could leave Haynesworth in an identical situation next year, raising the possibility that he will hold out for some sort of concession from the Titans before reporting. Haynesworth has said he wants to report to camp on time, but business is business.

• Will the Colts get any surprises from two of their stars?

Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said recently that receiver Marvin Harrison (knee) and defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) won't practice at full speed when training camp opens, but should be ready for the regular season.

Of course, no one will know for sure until Harrison and Freeney get on the practice field. Freeney's injury, a Lisfranc fracture suffered on Nov. 11, 2007, must be treated carefully until it is completely healed. The Colts don't want to risk reinjury in a training camp practice, or anywhere else, but eventually he will have to participate so they can evaluate his recovery.

Kevin Seifert covers the NFL for ESPN.com.