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    The Official ESPN Insider Thread

    Here's todays news and notes

    Major shift on Marshall
    4:58PM ET
    Brandon Marshall | Broncos | Interested: Jets?

    ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter is reporting that the Brandon Marshall situation may be taking a major shift.

    In fact, the Denver Broncos are now exploring the possibility of giving a contract extension to Marshall, two league sources Schefter. Due to the fact he has been unable to get a long-term deal, Marshall has been clinging to the hopes that Denver would deal him. But now, in a new approach, the deal Denver might make is not for Marshall, but rather with Marshall.

    The fact that they are even talking is an encouraging sign, sources said.

    There's more. What about Marshall's role in the new offense if this works out? The Denver Post discusses that today, and there's an indication that Marshall might be a bit of a secret weapon against the Bengals in Week 1. The logic goes that because of Marshall's battle with the team, there's not too much video of him participating, so he could be lining up just about anywhere. As for his attitude adjustment, coach Josh McDaniels responded, "great," when asked to describe his troubled wideout's countenance since reinstatement.

    Brooks still looking
    3:41PM ET
    Derrick Brooks | Buccaneers

    ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas notes today that Derrick Brooks still hasn't locked down a deal for the coming season.

    "He's 36, but Brooks has always taken excellent care of himself and I thought he was still good last season. I have a very tough time believing an aging Brooks isn't still significantly better than a large amount of linebackers currently on NFL rosters," writes Yasinskas. "And I have an even more difficult time believing there aren't some NFL teams that wouldn't want Brooks just for his locker-room presence."

    Who could that team be? Well, maybe it's just the next team to suffer an injury. Brooks might be be stuck in limbo for the same reason he has value: coaches know they can throw him into a system and he can adjust. So if a rookie stinks it up, or a veteran goes down, it's hard to imagine his phone won't ring. Junior Seau knows the feeling.

    Adam Schefter

    It's a tough market for old LBs

    "If he signs before this weekend, his salary is guaranteed and teams don't want to guarantee Brooks' salary right now. I expect that Brooks retires, that's what I think. There's just not a real home for aging linebackers, as great as they were and as much as they have meant to the game."

    Pats' plans without Seymour
    3:40PM ET
    New England Patriots

    One question still on the minds of football fans after "The Trade" this past weekend is this: what will the Patriots do on defense now that stalwart Richard Seymour is no longer involved?

    Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald ponders this question, and notes that the absence of Seymour could thrust Jarvis Green into the starting role. Additionally, rookies Ron Brace and Myron Pryor will be forced to become impactful members of the squad in an accelerated fashion.

    The deal is clearly a slam dunk for the Pats in the long-term, but it could be tough sledding for the first few weeks.

    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Alignment the key for the Patriots

    "We'll have to see whether the Patriots actually do spend significant time in a 4-3 alignment, as has been rumored. Bill Belichick doesn't make major changes to his defensive scheme unless there's a reason, and if the Patriots don't feel that they can't absorb the pressure up front with three linemen (or have four linebackers worth giving significant time to behind them), that could be a scary sign for the team heading into 2009." - Bill Barnwell

    Garcia off to ...
    3:38PM ET
    Jeff Garcia | Raiders | Interested: Broncos?

    While the Raiders' move to cut Jeff Garcia was surprising to some, our own NFL Insider Adam Schefter foretold it last Friday, so regular readers of Rumor Central should not be amongst those in shock.

    So where will Garcia end up? While early speculation put him in New England, the Patriots may have addressed their need by adding Isaiah Stanback. Another option could be the Broncos, who have been plagued with health issues relating to Kyle Orton and Chris Simms this preseason.

    However, as Bill Williamson of the AFC West blog notes, the Broncos might only want to get involved if they find out that Orton will be injured long-term.

    Graham's role for TB
    3:37PM ET
    Earnest Graham | Buccaneers?

    While he was the team's primary rushing force in 2008, Earnest Graham has accepted his role as the Bucs' No. 3 RB heading into 2009, as per the St. Petersburg Times.

    Graham will officially be behind Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward in standard packages, and he might lose out on some snaps to Clifton Smith as well. It's been revealed that under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the team might experiment with a "rocket" backfield, which will feature Smith and Williams in a two-tailback set.

    Of course, this is all predicated upon Cadillac staying in fully-operational condition, which is by no means a sure thing given his injury history.
    Pat Yasinskas

    Fantasy Take

    "But I wouldn't go starting Williams on your fantasy football teams. I don't think the Bucs are going to give him 25 or 30 carries right off the bat. Even if Williams truly is the No. 1 running back, the carries are going to be split three ways, with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham also involved."

    Moreno set for opener?
    3:24PM ET
    Knowshon Moreno | Broncos

    Still recovering from a sprained right MCL, Knowshon Moreno's playing time in the season-opening game against the Bengals is in question. Word from the Denver Post is that he does expect to be available, though.

    "He's not totally there yet, but he's getting better every day," Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels told the Post.

    With injuries to their QBs casting a pretty big shadow over the offense, the Broncos might need Moreno to play regardless of how well his recovery is going. We'll have more on this later in the week.

    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Denver's run game can still be formidable

    "Denver had the highest rushing DVOA in football last year, so they're clearly capable of an elite level of performance. While they went through seemingly every running back on the waiver wire because of injuries, though, their five starters up front started 80 games, and quarterback Jay Cutler made it to all 16. That played a huge part in keeping their running game going. The backs should improve, but swapping out Cutler for (an already-injured) Kyle Orton and the likelihood that someone up front will miss time should bring the rushing attack down some. They'll be in the top 10 in DVOA, but probably won't be the best in football." - Bill Barnwell

    Cook ready to go?
    12:39PM ET
    Jared Cook | Titans

    Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook has been impressive this preseason, but due to a high ankle sprain suffered against the Browns on August 29, he might not be able to play in the season opener tomorrow night, as per the Nashville City Paper.

    "He didn't practice today. We'll have a classification for him [Wednesday]," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said yesterday. "He's got an ankle [injury] and he's working through it."

    With Cook out, Titans franchise player Bo Scaife will shoulder more of the load, and Alge Crumpler will be used more as well.
    Paul Kuharsky

    Cook helps aerial attack

    "Washington and Cook are two of the Titans' three biggest additions for 2009. Along with first-round pick Kenny Britt, the trio is expected to help make Tennessee's passing game more dynamic and better balance an offense keyed around running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White."

    Timmons' status for Thursday
    12:33PM ET
    Lawrence Timmons | Steelers

    With Larry Foote completely out of the picture, 2009 could be the Season of Lawrence Timmons in Pittsburgh. But for that to happen, he's going to need to be healthy, and that's not the case right now.

    Timmons suffered the much-feared high ankle sprain during the Steelers' drubbing of the Buffalo Bills on August 29, and has yet to return to practice, as per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    With Timmons officially sidelined as of today, Keyaron Fox will get the nod at inside linebacker, and also be involved in nickel packages on Thursday night when Tennessee comes to town.
    Insider
    It's a full-time job, now

    Timmons trending up

    "Timmons goes from getting 15-30 snaps per game in the Steelers' third-down package to a full-time starting job. Based on last year's production, he's ready for the promotion. In addition to five sacks, Timmons defended three passes and made 19 tackles on pass plays. Eleven of those tackles were successful stops, according to Football Outsiders guidelines: He stopped the ball carrier well short of first-down yardage."

    Vinatieri not yet 100 percent?
    12:25PM ET
    Adam Vinatieri | Colts

    The Indianapolis Colts may have given us a clue as to Adam Vinatieri's health via their last round of roster cuts. More specifically, it wasn't who was cut, it was who wasn't cut that gives us reason to wonder.

    As Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star notes, the Colts kept kicker Shane Andrus on the team in addition to Vinatieri. As Chappell argues, this must mean that the team isn't convinced that Vinatieri is back to 100 percent yet, and he'll need to slowly work his way back.

    Although a roster spot will have to be cleared in the coming weeks for DT Ed Johnson, it is possible that Andrus sticks around to handle kickoffs even after Vinatieri is back for field goal duties.
    Paul Kuharsky

    Insurance policy: Andrus

    "Kicker Shane Andrus could be insurance until Adam Vinatieri is fully fit after offseason hip surgery, or they could keep him as a kickoff guy. "

    Clues on MJD's status
    12:20PM ET
    Maurice Jones-Drew | Jaguars

    If the lack of solid news on Maurice Jones-Drew's injury is frustrating to you, as his fantasy football owner, know that MJD might have an ulterior motive.

    The running back tells the Florida Times-Union that he was not able to draft himself in his own league, so he doesn't want to give away any inside information to other fantasy football players.

    Jags coach Jack Del Rio had a short update on MJD, although it appears he is into the whole brevity thing, since he stuck with one-word "Yes" replies when asked if his RB would practice on Wednesday and play on Sunday.

    More on MJD after Wednesday's practice.
    Eric Karabell

    MJD, Thomas are injury concerns

    "There are no byes to steal options, and other than Pierre Thomas in New Orleans and possibly Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, no obvious injuries to result in a key running back sitting, either. "

    New option for Jackson
    12:13PM ET
    Dexter Jackson | Buccaneers | Interested: Panthers?

    With Mark Jones failing his physical this week, the Carolina Panthers need another option at returner. Enter Dexter Jackson, the 2008 second-rounder who was dumped by the Bucs earlier this offseason.

    Adam Caplan of Scout.com reported via Twitter that the Panthers hosted Jackson on Tuesday, as per a league source.

    After failing the physical this week, Jones told the Charlotte Observer that he wants to heal up ASAP in order to join the Panthers, and it's possible the team views Jackson as a stopgap until Jones' hamstring improves.
    Pat Yasinskas

    Don't get your hopes up

    "But remember it may be just as a member of the practice squad. Don?t get your hopes too high with this one. Jackson flopped miserably after being a second-round pick with Tampa Bay last season and was released in the preseason. "
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  2. #2
    Man out of Time The_Albatross's Avatar
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  3. #3
    I Aim To Misbehave E-Go's Avatar
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    Kearse back to freakin'?
    12:12PM ET
    Jevon Kearse | Titans

    In an interview with AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky, Jevon Kearse appears poised to improve upon his performance from 2008, the year he came back to the Tennessee Titans after a well-paid but unproductive sojourn with the Eagles.

    Kearse reckons that while he had a full load last offseason, his light work this offseason will yield more productive results. The Titans will need some inspired play out of Kearse and his cohorts on the defensive line, given that Albert Haynesworth skipped town for Washington.

    As for coach Jeff Fisher, he's been happy with The Freak's development in Year Two of the reunion. "He's done some things this camp that we didn't see from him last year," Fisher said.

    Steelers playing hardball?
    12:06PM ET
    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Jeff Reed has steadily proven a worthy member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for his on-field performance, while keeping the hopper full over at Deadspin for antics off the field.

    But as we noted yesterday, the Steelers made an offer to Reed's agent over the weekend, but it was quickly rejected as being far too low, as per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has his take on the Steelers' variance on re-signing players in the wake of Justin Hartwig's new deal. As per Schefter, Hartwig "joined players such as tight end Heath Miller and defensive end Brett Keisel as the players with lucrative new deals. Meanwhile, players such as running back Willie Parker, nose tackle Casey Hampton, safety Ryan Clark, offensive tackle Willie Colon and kicker Jeff Reed do not have new contracts. It leaves them in a precarious state, wondering about their future as they watch some of their teammates commit to theirs."
    Len Pasquarelli

    The Steelers' little trick

    "Reed, 30, is one of the league's top placement specialists and has been particularly outstanding the past two years, when he converted 89.3 percent (50 of 56) of his field-goal attempts and had 19 touchbacks. Reed has hit 82-plus percent in four of the past five seasons. Pittsburgh is tight against the cap and can't do much, but the club was very clever with Keisel's extension. The Steelers reduced Keisel's scheduled base salary for 2009 by $1 million (from $3.25 million to $2.25 million) and gave him a $5 million signing bonus, which they can prorate."

    Jackson's touches to increase?
    11:54AM ET
    Steven Jackson | Rams

    2009 is shaping up to be a huge year for Steven Jackson.

    Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is ready to deploy Jackson quite often because as he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jackson "is such a magnificent player, it's silly not to give him the football."

    As per the Post-Dispatch's Bill Coats, Jackson will serve as the Rams' version of Brian Westbrook, and could see time as the slot receiver or even split out wide.

    Beware the Wolfe man
    11:44AM ET
    Garrett Wolfe | Bears

    With the season-ending injury to Kevin Jones, the Bears will be leaning more heavily on Garrett Wolfe as the backup to Matt Forte, as Bears GM Jerry Angelo tells ChicagoBears.com.

    While Forte was quite durable in his rookie season, we expect to see the team spell him a bit with Wolfe, who got a lot of work during OTAs and the preseason.

    QBs know who the starter is
    11:36AM ET
    Cleveland Browns

    The decision's been made in Cleveland, and coach Eric Mangini has informed both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson who the starter is going to be, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    Unfortunately, he's asked his players to adopt a vow of silence on the issue, so there's a chance we'll have to wait until Sunday to find out.

    Then again, the starter -- our money's on Quinn, by the way -- will be taking the first-team reps in practice this week, and it only takes one player to post on Twitter for all of this speculation to end.

    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Quinn is the safer choice

    "Anderson outperformed Quinn last year, with a -11.9% DVOA to Quinn's -23.1% DVOA. Of course, neither of those performances are what you'd call exciting. Even in Anderson's breakout 2007 season, he was essentially a player with three huge games (against Cincinnati, Miami, and St. Louis) and then the usual Derek Anderson performance the rest of the way. There's simply not much there unless he's playing a really dismal defense. Quinn, at least, has yet to get the playing time to prove that he's a disappointing quarterback. So he'd be our choice, but as Eric Mangini showed with his handling of the Pennington/Favre situation last year, picking the right quarterback isn't exactly his strong suit." - Bill Barnwell

    Spring trade for Crabtree?
    11:27AM ET
    Michael Crabtree | 49ers

    While NFL Insider Adam Schefter continues to paint a picture of doubt regarding the Michael Crabtree negotiations, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat may have identified the new end game: a trade next spring for future draft picks.

    Maiocco notes that there is a precedent in the NFL for a high draft pick holding out the entire season, then being traded. In 1987, the Cardinals used the sixth overall pick on Kelly Stouffer, who then sat out the entire season. In April, just prior to the 1988 draft, the Cards traded Stouffer's rights in exchange for a fifth-rounder that season and a first- and fifth-rounder in the 1989 draft.

    We might've thought the Raiders would be the best bet for such a deal in April 2010, but they just traded their 2011 first-rounder away.

    Giants to stand pat at WR?
    11:13AM ET
    New York Giants

    Lending credence to the idea that the New York Giants would continue their tradition of winning with running and defense, NFL Insider Adam Schefter noted today that the team may not try to add any more wide receivers after all.

    In fact, as we noted earlier this week, the team might actually be trying to trade away some of their receiving talent, with Sinorice Moss being mentioned as possibly heading to the Dolphins or Jets.

    Peppers to head out West?
    11:08AM ET
    Julius Peppers | Panthers | Interested: Raiders?

    We all know that Julius Peppers has been a little upset with how his contract situation was dealt with by the Carolina Panthers. But are the Panthers ready to cut ties?

    Within today's mailbag column, NFL Insider Adam Schefter presents a trade scenario that would send Peppers off to Oakland in exchange for Richard Seymour, who still hasn't reported to the team.

    Trading one upset player for another might not be an ideal move, but as Schefter notes, Seymour makes his offseason home near where the Panthers play and the Panthers might not care what Peppers wants anymore. Furthermore, while Carolina was reticent to give Peppers his long-term payday, Al Davis is no stranger to breaking the bank for guys that he wants.

    Langston cut, so who starts now?
    11:00AM ET
    Buffalo Bills

    The Buffalo Bills elected to release starting left tackle Langston Walker less than a week before the regular season is set to begin, a move that has befuddled some.

    But what is the next step for the team? As Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News notes, the eventual plan is to have Demetrius Bell take over at LT, but he's been nursing a sore back, and his availability for Monday's game is in question. Tim Graham of the AFC East blog notes that Bell is the likely starter, but if Bell is still too banged up, Kirk Chambers -- a three-position starter in 2008 who the Bills re-signed after releasing Walker -- could get the nod.

    Orton doing an MJ impression?
    10:50AM ET
    Kyle Orton | Broncos

    The Denver Broncos are still uncertain whether Kyle Orton will be ready to play on Sunday, but his practice sessions have been encouraging, as per the Salt Lake Tribune.

    Wearing a glove on his throwing hand, with the fractured finger taped up underneath, Orton was able to "do it all", as offensive coordinator Mike McCoy told the Tribune. "Obviously, there's a little bit of restriction for a quarterback when you've got something on your hand, but for the most part everything was clean," head coach Josh McDaniels added.

    While Orton's status is up in the air, Chris Simms was also practicing on Tuesday after returning from a high ankle sprain, and will be ready to go if Orton suffers a setback.

    New team wants Neal
    10:20AM ET
    Lorenzo Neal | Raiders | Interested: Ravens?, Jets?

    On Sunday, we directed you to what Mike Preston had written on the Ravens Insider blog, noting that Lorenzo Neal could be headed back to the Baltimore Ravens.

    As of today, the man who led the Ravens' defense while Neal was in town could also be interested. As Dave Hutchinson of the Newark Star-Ledger points out, the Jets have just one fullback on the roster in 37 year-old Tony Richardson, and there's thought that Neal could be brought into the fold.

    More on this as we hear it.

    What will save Campbell?
    10:15AM ET
    Jason Campbell | Redskins

    We've been hearing for a while now that Jason Campbell could be facing his final season in Washington in 2009, and this was bolstered by Len Pasquarelli's news in late August that the team had not offered Campbell an extension.

    So what will ensure Campbell's future in Washington, or maybe better yet, give him a huge payday elsewhere?

    "It's all about winning. The more we win, the better it's going to be for everybody," Campbell told Jason Reid of the Washington Post. There's been no word on how much winning Campbell and his coach Jim Zorn will have to do to save their jobs, but we'd imagine it's more than the eight games they won last season.
    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Campbell should have big payday

    "Campbell's numbers have improved each year as a professional, and this will be his first time enjoying the luxury of playing back-to-back seasons in the same offensive scheme. He also plays in a division with some of the toughest defenses in the league, and has seen his offensive linemen go down in front of him each of the past two seasons. If everything goes right for Campbell this year, it could mean $40-$50 million more in his next contract." -Bill Barnwell

    Emmitt's got the answer?
    9:57AM ET
    Dallas Cowboys

    Former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith knows a thing or two about excellence, as he finished his career as the NFL's all-time leading rusher and a three-time Super Bowl champ.

    So his unsolicited advice to the team -- via the San Antonio Express-News -- does not come without weight, and there are probably quite a few people who agree with what he had to say. In so many words, Smith pins the Cowboys' current woes on coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Tony Romo.

    Whether or not owner Jerry Jones still pays attention to what his former star running back has to say, Phillips is certainly on the hot seat this season, and many have already given Mike Shanahan the job for 2010. As for Romo, he has not had the kind of clutch performances about which some sportswriters wax poetic, but he has been one of the top QBs during the past few regular seasons.
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    Latest on Washington
    9:46AM ET
    Nate Washington | Titans

    Wide receiver Nate Washington will be with the opposition when he makes his return to Heinz Field on Thursday night, but there's still a question as to whether or not he'll be able to play in the game following a hamstring injury that has bugged him this preseason.

    While the Nashville Tennessean noted that Washington ran on a side field during Sunday's practice, he was back to full practice mode on Monday.

    Still, even though he has self-reported to be better than 80 percent, "I am not cautiously optimistic about anything. ... This game means a whole lot to me, but I know if the coaching staff has any reservations they'll hold me out." It's pretty much a given that Kenny Britt's workload will increase, and if Washington is out entirely, the Titans may lean on fellow rookie Dominique Edison a bit as well.

    Cesaire easing back in
    8:52AM ET
    Jacques Cesaire | Chargers

    The Chargers will have their starting right defensive end back in time for Monday's game against Oakland, but as noted by Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jacques Cesaire might be limited, at least for Week One.

    As per Acee, the team will use a rotation of Cesaire, Vaughn Martin and Travis Johnson. Due to this health issue, and the other distraction, the Chargers might not have the strongest performance on D for the first few weeks, and they won't get to play the Raiders again until Week Eight.
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    Can you put these articles in like seperate quotes? I think it would read a lot better that way....
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    you know its illegal to post this without espn's apporval, this site could get sued.
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    Originally Posted by Autumn_Wind View Post
    you know its illegal to post this without espn's apporval, this site could get sued.
    thank you Buzzkill McKillington

    Originally Posted by Excellentswag View Post
    Can you put these articles in like seperate quotes? I think it would read a lot better that way....
    it would take forever for me to do that, this takes 10 minutes of my time to bold it as it is.
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    Originally Posted by Autumn_Wind View Post
    you know its illegal to post this without espn's apporval, this site could get sued.
    Age: 18

    Really? Or do you have to say that to get an account approved?
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    Originally Posted by Autumn_Wind View Post
    you know its illegal to post this without espn's apporval, this site could get sued.

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    h4te crew - assemble

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    Originally Posted by tmc. View Post
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    it could be lower to, if I was a dick.
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    Please, Eagles, please. Sign Derrick Brooks. Just for one year. Gaither sucks dick.
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    Schefter: Broncos optimistic on Orton
    5:40PM ET
    Kyle Orton | Broncos

    According to ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter, it sounds like Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is optimistic about the progress that quarterback Kyle Orton has made in his recovery from a dislocated finger.

    In fact, Orton's chances of playing Sunday against Cincinnati sound extremely good. "He has done fine," McDaniels said about Orton. "The ability to throw the ball doesn't seem to be hampered too much, which is good. That is really what we are trying to focus on and make sure that we go through the next few days here and not have any setbacks. Hopefully, everything will be a go."

    While McDaniels, unlike fellow Belichick protege Eric Mangini, hasn't learned fully the game of delayed media gratification regarding quarterback announcements, he'll at least be going into Cincy with likely a full deck.

    Schaub's ankle OK?
    3:33PM ET
    Matt Schaub | Texans

    One of the major question marks in front of the Houston Texans as they attempt to leap into the echelon of playoff-caliber teams in the NFL is: can quarterback Matt Schaub stay healthy?

    As far as the Week One matchup against the New York Jets is concerned, that answer should be yes, as per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "It's feeling good," Schaub told the paper. "It's getting better, just progressing. We're getting excited to go out there and start our season."

    Of course, if Schaub suffers any setbacks, he'll be replaced by Rex Grossman, a prospect that has Jets cornerbacks licking their chops.

    We asked the Outsiders if Houston can replicate last season's offensive success.

    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Good health could mean another leap

    "The only concern about the Texans' offense heading into the season is the health of Schaub, who has missed time in each of his two seasons as the Houston starter with a dislocated shoulder and a torn MCL. Houston's quietly developed an above-average offense since Gary Kubiak's arrival, with an 11.0% DVOA last year that would have been higher had Schaub played in all 16 games. If Schaub can stay healthy, and nothing happens to Andre Johnson, they could move into the top ten this year." - Bill Barnwell

    Westbrook's touches
    2:39PM ET
    Brian Westbrook | Eagles

    Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook faded down the stretch of 2008, and in order to prevent that from happening again, the team might be lightening his load this season.

    As noted by the Eagletarian blog, Westbrook is receptive to getting just 18-22 touches a game, especially given the development of rookie LeSean McCoy.

    "I hope that they mix it up a little bit," Westbrook said. "I still would love to touch the ball a lot. I think I can still do a lot of dynamic things with the ball in my hands. We just really have to wait and see how the game goes."

    The Eagles -- and Westbrook's fantasy owners -- are surely hoping that the reduction in touches will translate to bigger plays when Westbrook does get the ball, and hopefully also keep him healthy for the entire season.

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    An improved run game may take time for Philly

    "Although Westbrook gives the team an added dimension in the passing game (and opens up holes in the running game as a result), the bigger factor in the equation of 'Will the running game be good?' is the offensive line, not the back. Last year, the Eagles clearly weren't confident in their offensive line, and passed the ball more frequently than even they might've hoped. The new starters up front should give them more balance in their playcalling, but they'll take some time to get on the same page and have health concerns. Of course, so does Westbrook." - Bill Barnwell

    Spring trade for Crabtree?
    12:25PM ET
    Michael Crabtree | 49ers

    While NFL Insider Adam Schefter continues to paint a picture of doubt regarding the Michael Crabtree negotiations, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat may have identified the new end game: a trade next spring for future draft picks.

    Maiocco notes that there is a precedent in the NFL for a high draft pick holding out the entire season, then being traded. In 1987, the Cardinals used the sixth overall pick on Kelly Stouffer, who then sat out the entire season. In April, just prior to the 1988 draft, the Cards traded Stouffer's rights in exchange for a fifth-rounder that season and a first- and fifth-rounder in the 1989 draft.

    We might've thought the Raiders would be the best bet for such a deal in April 2010, but they just traded their 2011 first-rounder away.
    sando
    Mike Sando

    Dilfer to Crabtree

    "First-round draft choice Michael Crabtree's throwing sessions with retired quarterback Trent Dilfer took place three weeks ago and therefore do not foreshadow any immediate plans to sign a contract and report to the 49ers."

    Added bonus of starting
    12:21PM ET
    Brady Quinn | Browns

    Although the announcement has not been officially handed down to the media by Eric Mangini, all signs point to Brady Quinn starting for the Cleveland Browns this season.

    As per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the announcement comes with an added bonus for Quinn: mas dinero.

    As Schefter notes, "Quinn had a clause in his contract stating if he plays in 70 percent of the Browns' offensive plays this season, his 2010 salary escalates by $5 million and his 2011 salary escalates by $5.95 million. If Quinn failed to play in 70 percent of the Browns plays this year, he still could get the extra $5.95 million in 2011 by playing 70 percent of the plays next season. But the starting job puts him on track to earn an extra $5.7 million this season."
    Eric Karabell

    Cribbs wins if Quinn starts

    "The big winner here, other than the information-craving media, Browns fans and well, the Browns themselves, is Josh Cribbs. If Braylon Edwards is the gamebreaker, I could see Cribbs carving out a nice role as the pseudo-possession receiver, but one who does more than just catch 8-yard slants. He's improved his route running and is capable of working downfield, certainly more so than Mike Furrey. Speaking of possession guys, don't forget what Furrey did for the Detroit Lions in 2006, when he hauled in 98 passes. Still, most indications are the Browns would like Cribbs to emerge."

    Bulger OK to play?
    12:19PM ET
    Marc Bulger | Rams

    A little more than three weeks ago, St. Louis Rams QB Marc Bulger broke the pinky on his throwing hand, an injury that made throwing difficult, and cast some doubt on his ability to start the season.

    Some of those fears were allayed on Wednesday, as per Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, as Bulger was able to take snaps from under center with no problem.

    Barring a setback, we'd expect to see Bulger starting on Sunday against the Seahawks.
    Mike Sando

    The turnover pinky?

    "Bulger's recovery from a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand appears on track, but can he take repeated snaps from center without risking turnovers? The Rams' plan calls for Bulger to find out Wednesday. That's when Bulger plans to take direct snaps from center Jason Brown for the first time since an ill-fated exchange left Bulger injured Aug. 17."

    Latest on Pierre
    12:17PM ET
    Pierre Thomas | Saints

    More details have emerged regarding the cut to Pierre Thomas' right knee suffered over last weekend. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Thomas suffered the wound while rescuing his dog, who was caught in the neighbor's yard. Thomas tried to squeeze through a gate, and cut himself on the same knee that has a sprained MCL.

    Apparently it's not the gash that may keep Thomas sidelined, but the MCL. If Thomas is unable to go, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush will both be picking up some of the slack.

    Thomas posted a Twitter update on Wednesday night saying he was ready to go, but needed the "thumbs up" from the team. We're not sure he'll definitely get it.
    Pat Yasinskas

    Coach expects him to be ready

    "Thomas sat out Wednesday's practice, but Payton made it sound like Thomas still is a possibility for Sunday's game with Detroit."

    Randle El's spot in jeopardy?
    12:14PM ET
    Antwaan Randle El | Redskins

    Within an update for the Washington Times, Ryan O'Halloran notes word from Washington Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith, who says that Antwaan Randle El is "first up" on punt returns for the team.

    However, O'Halloran also notes that Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall were practicing for punt returns in practice on Wednesday. Could this be a sign that Randle El has a short leash as the team's returner? We'll see after the first few returns of the regular season what the plan is.
    Insider
    The Scott Van Pelt Show

    Randle El: Skins will take next step

    Walter out Sunday?
    12:09PM ET
    Kevin Walter | Texans

    Kevin Walter -- who was amongst the top 20 fantasy WRs in 2008 -- has not been able to practice since suffering a hamstring injury against the Minnesota Vikings on August 31. According to HoustonTexans.com, he and Eugene Wilson are the Texans' two biggest injury concerns heading into Sunday's opener against the Jets.

    "Obviously, for them not to be on the field today, on Wednesday, it's a day-to-day situation," Kubiak said. "But they're not here today, so yeah, there's some concern."

    Andre Davis will be bumped into the starting lineup if Walter can't go, and tight end Owen Daniels might see a few more passes directed his way.
    KC Joyner

    Walter could have big Week 1

    "I can't imagine that Rex Ryan would be crazy enough to do this, but even if he moves Darrelle Revis to cover Johnson, that leaves Sheppard up against Kevin Walter. Walter is more than capable of toasting Lito all game long, and that single weakness makes the Jets a risky start."

    Favre has chemistry issues with WR
    11:52AM ET
    Brett Favre | Vikings

    While the biggest quote that Brett Favre dropped on reporters on Wednesday was that his consecutive starts streak might end before the close of the season -- "I may not finish the year," he said, as per the Minneapolis Star Tribune -- he also said that he has yet to develop an on-field relationship with Bernard Berrian, the top receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.

    This is not surprising. Berrian has been limited due to a hamstring issue, missing the last three preseason games while being limited in practice. Kevin Seifert of the NFC North blog notes that Berrian was limited again in Wednesday's sessions, but that "everyone expects him to play Sunday."

    So, if Berrian plays, he might not see many passes thrown his way if you believe what Favre says. Then again, the "lack of chemistry" thing might be a ruse to throw off the Cleveland Browns' defense.

    LB's physical health in question
    11:50AM ET
    Shawne Merriman | Chargers

    While his off-field personal matter continues to percolate, Shawne Merriman's physical capacity to play football comes into question for Monday night's game against the Oakland Raiders.

    As Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, Merriman could be on a play count against the Raiders, and that number could be as low as 40 snaps.

    Merriman hasn't played a regular season game since last September's knee surgery, so he keeps a long-term goal in mind. "We're in this for the long haul," Merriman told the paper. "As bad as I want to play 60 or 70 plays, it might not be the smart thing to do."

    Fortunately, it is the hapless Raiders in town, who might be the best opponent to "ease back in" against. Unfortunately, after the Raiders, it's three straight 2008 playoff teams on the docket including the Super Bowl champs.
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    Both sides have leverage
    11:42AM ET
    Richard Seymour | Raiders

    How can the Raiders get the disgruntled Richard Seymour to show up? Well, ESPN.com's Bill Williamson gives one option. "Really, I don't see any other resolution than Seymour being in uniform for the Raiders on Monday night against San Diego. Unless he wants to retire. And I don't think that's going to happen. Don't be shocked if the Raiders try to find a way to give Seymour a contract extension to convince him to come West."

    Of course, NFL Insider Adam Schefter notes that both sides have some leverage in this fight. While Seymour could just continue to not show up, the Raiders can punish him for this financially. For each game the DE misses, he'll forgo his $216,764.71 game check. That's not an insignificant chunk of change, even to an NFL player.
    Insider
    The Scott Van Pelt Show

    Tim Hasselbeck: This trade makes a lot of sense for the Patriots

    Tillman returning?
    11:35AM ET
    Charles Tillman | Bears

    On Monday, Charles Tillman -- one of the Bears' most important defensive players -- told the Chicago Tribune that the chances of his playing on Sunday night are about 50-50.

    It's now Thursday, and as noted by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, Tillman's status is still a mystery.

    That's bad news for these Bears, because even with everyone healthy, they'll have a tough time handling the Packers' high-octane passing game, as noted by Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    Reid: Leman is no spy
    11:27AM ET
    Philadelphia Eagles

    There was some speculation after the Philadelphia Eagles signed former Carolina Panthers linebacker Jeremy Leman that the move was done to gain some insider info on the Week One opponent.

    Not so, Eagles coach Andy Reid told a cache of reporters -- including NFC South blogger Pat Yasinkas -- via conference call.

    "We mentioned to our media that Joe Mays isn't going to play, he's a middle linebacker so I brought in another middle linebacker. So, bringing him here was important so we can go through practice and/or a game. So, he wasn't brought here because he was a Carolina Panther, we brought him here because we thought he would fit in here."

    Maybe so, but I'm sure Reid and his staff won't cover their ears and yell "LA LA LA" if Leman wants to tell them about the Panthers' schemes, either.

    Market for Tyree?
    11:13AM ET
    David Tyree | Giants | Interested: Rams?, Chiefs?, Ravens?

    Earlier this week, we noted the the Carroll County Times report that the Baltimore Ravens had conducted a preliminary discussion with David Tyree's agent.

    As noted by Ravens Insider, coach John Harbaugh wants to reiterate that the team will "take it slow at this time" regarding a signing of the former Super Bowl hero.

    "He's everything we thought he was," Harbaugh said, clearly misquoting Dennis Green. "We just got to make sure he's 100 percent and ready to go and get some of the little things healed."

    The Rams and Chiefs have also been linked to Tyree in previous rumors.

    Cook in question
    11:07AM ET
    Jared Cook | Titans

    Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean has the latest on tight end Jared Cook, and it's not looking good.

    While Cook is listed amongst the "questionable" players for tonight's opener against the Steelers, Wyatt notes that he's missed the last few days of practice as well as Wednesday's walk-through.

    With Cook out, Titans franchise player Bo Scaife will shoulder more of the load, and Alge Crumpler will be used more as well.
    Paul Kuharsky

    Cook helps aerial attack

    "[Nate] Washington and Cook are two of the Titans' three biggest additions for 2009. Along with first-round pick Kenny Britt, the trio is expected to help make Tennessee's passing game more dynamic and better balance an offense keyed around running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White."

    Market for Runyan growing?
    11:03AM ET
    Jon Runyan | Eagles | Interested: Chiefs?, Eagles?

    Still without a football team for the 2009 season, offensive tackle Jon Runyan visited the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday for a tryout, as per Bill Williamson of the AFC West blog.

    As Williamson notes, it's a great fit. The Chiefs need the help on the O-line, and Runyan has been searching for a chance to get back into the league following his surgery this past offseason.

    The Philadelphia Eagles remain a suitor if Runyan does not sign with the Chiefs.

    Jones' return accelerated?
    10:55AM ET
    Walter Jones | Seahawks

    The health of Seattle Seahawks' left tackle Walter Jones has been a major concern as the team gets ready to begin the 2009 campaign. Some have said that his ability to stay on the field could be crucial in determining whether they can challenge for the NFC West crown.

    For those folks, it must be encouraging to hear what 'Hawks coach Jim Mora told the Tacoma News Tribune yesterday. Regarding Jones and starting center Chris Spencer, Mora said, "I don't know if I want to look ahead because I'm talking about focusing on this game, but for your knowledge, there is a chance that both of those guys could be ready to come back next week."

    This development could also soften the Seahawks' search for O-line help amongst free agents.

    Branch's hammy issues
    10:49AM ET
    Deion Branch | Seahawks

    Earlier this week, we noted that Deion Branch may be taking on an increased role as a return man for the Seahawks this season, based on what the Tacoma News Tribune was reporting.

    Well, Branch has been struggling with a hamstring issue, and missed Wednesday's practice with the team. Regardless, notes the TNT's Ryan Divish, Branch is expected to play on Sunday.

    That's good news for all the teams that are scouting him for a possible trade.
    Bill Williamson

    Chiefs eying Branch?

    "It's been reported that Seattle would like to trade receiver Deion Branch. I wouldn?t be shocked if Kansas City showed interest."

    Canty set to go?
    9:46AM ET
    Chris Canty | Giants

    Earlier this week, we linked to what the Newark Star-Ledger's Mike Garafolo had posted on Twitter, that Chris Canty was back at practice and "looking pretty good."

    He must've looked pretty good, because he was kept off of the initial injury list distributed to the media on Wednesday. But as per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Canty's injury is still a concern heading into Sunday's season-opener.

    "We're going to build this up as we go and see how he is," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'll put [his name] on [the list] for you if it'll make you feel better. But we've got to watch this, obviously. Anybody that's done as little as he's done in the preseason, you have to be very careful about that."

    The Giants possess a fairly deep defensive line, but they might need all hands on deck on Sunday against the running game of the Redskins.

    Walker to the Skins?
    9:08AM ET
    Langston Walker | Bills

    The Buffalo Bills dumped starting left tackle Langston Walker this week, and now he'll be looking to catch on with a new team. Initially, there were some who thought that the Washington Redskins might be a good fit.

    But as Jason Reid of the Washington Post notes, you can probably scratch the Skins off the list. Reid got word from a few league sources who all agree that it's an unlikely pickup for the team.

    Coach W's thoughts on Q
    8:37AM ET
    Anquan Boldin | Cardinals

    On Tuesday, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was not ready to rule Anquan Boldin out, in spite of the receiver missing Monday's practice. "We'll see," Whisenhunt told the Arizona Republic, when asked to discuss Boldin's chances of playing Sunday. "I know it's going to be tough to keep Anquan out of this game."

    Boldin missed practice again on Wednesday, but Whisenhunt still thinks the chances his wideout plays "are very good."

    "I think we have a history with 'Q'," he told the Republic on Wednesday afternoon. "That's why I have a good feeling about him playing."
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    "On the turn from the second to the third, Berry 'wanted Jennings or Boldin' to go with White, thanking Roberts and Hunter with an appropriate 'Damn you.' Hunter replied, seemingly unapologetically: 'After Jennings and White, things drop off for me at bit at receiver.'"
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    Banned KingCanuck's Avatar
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    Thanks for doing this. Repped. Keep it up brah.
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    Nba

    Rider back in the NBA?
    4:35PM ET
    Isaiah Rider

    Isaiah Rider wants back into the NBA.

    Rider -- now 38 -- the 1994 Slam Dunk champ, who last played for the Nuggets in 2001-02 is hoping to play again in the NBA reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

    Rider's agent Joe Lee said Rider has been staying in shape by playing ball with college students near his home in Phoenix.

    The Star-Tribune continues: "The New Jersey Nets are considering inviting Rider to preseason camp, Lee said, even though that team said it doesn't see Rider competing for a roster spot.

    "'And what about the Timberwolves? 'He'd go in a heartbeat," Lee said. 'He's humbled now ... he's matured.'"

    If the NBA doesn't work out for him, Rider is waiting to hear from an unnamed overseas team and has a standing offer from the North Texas Fresh of the American Basketball Association.

    Kuester won't pigeon-hole Gordon
    4:34PM ET
    Ben Gordon | Pistons

    New Pistons coach John Kuester can't wait to begin working with the teams re-vamped roster. One decision he has not made is whether Ben Gordon will start or come offer the bench.

    "You don't want to pigeon-hole a player of Ben Gordon's ability," Kuester told The Detroit News. "Starting or not starting, he has a lot that he brings to the table. He wants to prove he's not one dimensional. He's still young."

    Ric Bucher

    Ben's D is the key

    "Ben Gordon scores like a starter, but he doesn't defend like one. How much he improves in that area will determine if he's the next Vinny Johnson or something more."

    James' (cable) vision for 2010?
    4:33PM ET
    LeBron James | Cavaliers

    It's just a rumor, but then again, that's why we're here.

    Frank Isola of the New York Daily News had an extremely interesting recent blog entry regarding LeBron James' plans for the 2010 free agent frenzy.

    "Speaking of which," Isola writes, "the latest LeBron to the Knicks rumor I've heard is that Cablevision - which owns the Knicks but not the Daily News - will circumvent the salary cap by giving LeBron his own channel. I don't know exactly how that will work but that's what I've heard."

    No four words put a team on the league's radar faster than "circumvent the salary cap." Just ask the Timberwolves. It could be hard to believe that the Knicks, who are 17 blocks and two avenues from the NBA's New York offices, would try such an audacious maneuver.

    Then again, maybe LeBron has his sights set on The Big Apple regardless.

    "As of today, I say there is a 90 percent chance LeBron is coming to New York," Isola continued, "and 100 percent chance that I won't be watching the LeBron channel."

    Bower to make more moves?
    4:33PM ET
    New Orleans Hornets

    The New Orleans Hornets traded Antonio Daniels and a 2014 second-round draft choice to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Darius Songaila and Bobby Brown Wednesday and general manager Jeff Bower said he still may not be done dealing.

    "There are still things to be looking at, and we still continue to look for ways to help us as a team," Bower told The Times-Picayune. "I don't think we're going to reach a point where we sit back and say 'we're done.' ... I think we'll constantly be looking for situations to help us with flexibility with our roster, and trying to get better. I think this did that. We're excited about the players we have coming, both with the ability to help our front court and give us depth in the backcourt."

    Given his track record this summer, if Bower does make another move, John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune thinks it'll be a good one.

    "Add them and subtract Daniels, who was painfully erratic after being obtained in a trade with the Wizards last season," DeShazier writes, "and besides shaving about $1.3 million from the payroll, the Hornets got better on the court. Which, of course, is the goal.

    "Truly, nothing the Hornets have done this offseason can be labeled a 'bad' move when all the pieces are assembled together."

    Walsh: Sessions was tempting
    4:30PM ET
    Ramon Sessions | Bucks

    Ramon Sessions' potential, specifically his potential in a Mike D'Antoni offensive scheme, almost made Donnie Walsh alter his plans this offseason.

    Alan Hahn of Newsday wrote that Walsh and the Knicks were close to offering Sessions a similar offer sheet to what the point guard received from Minnesota. The Bucks, Sessions' employer of the last two seasons, have until Friday to match the Wolves' 4-year, $16-million deal. Hahn noted Walsh said those numbers were "tempting."

    "In fact," Hahn wrote, "he told me the other day that he did come close to talking himself into doing something that would have impacted 2010. 'Probably for a night, yeah,' he said. 'But then I thought it out, looked at my numbers and thought, 'No, I don't think we should do this because I don't think this will help us as much as I'd like. It might this year, but in the long run it may not help us as much.'"

    Hahn also reports that Knicks fans awaiting the signing of David Lee and Nate Robinson may need to keep waiting: "The team's restricted free agent situations (David Lee and Nate Robinson) remain unresolved and as we near the weekend, it may move into next week. The way I understand it, Nate has to wait on David."
    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 East standings

    No. 13, Atlanta Hawks

    "It has been a strange offseason in New York, with doomed bids to sign 1995 co-rookies of the year Jason Kidd and Grant Hill..."

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the East teams fare this offseason?

    "They still haven't moved to retain David Lee or Nate Robinson, as they're caught in a quandary of whether to forfeit their 2010 cap space and a possible run at LeBron James."

    Smith to dial it down from downtown
    4:29PM ET
    Josh Smith | Hawks

    Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith attempted 87 3-pointers during the 2008-09 season. It appears that may have been too many.

    Sekou Smith (@sekousmith01) of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted a brief interview with the athletic 6-foot-10 forward: "Music to the ears of Hawks fans worldwide. JSmith: 'I'm really not worried about the 3-point ball right now. I have no business out there.'"

    Sekou Smith then followed with this tweet: "We laughed about it when he said it. I think it's safe to say that he's heard the reaction from the crowd when he misses from deep."

    Josh Smith has also heard the reaction of head coach Mike Woodson. He and Smith have often butted heads over Smith's propensity to launch it from beyond the arc. Smith has shot .270 from 3-point range for his career.

    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 East standings

    No. 4, Atlanta Hawks

    "If our Eastern Conference prognostications are accurate, the Hawks will again host the Miami Heat in Game 1 of Round 1 when the playoffs begin next April."

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the East teams fare this offseason?

    "The most controversial move is the acquisition of Jamal Crawford, a mindless gunner who plays no defense whatsoever. But they got him for free, and the man he replaced, Flip Murray, wasn't exactly known as the Human Assist. He'll be fine as the designated launcher off the bench."

    Allen can't wait to get started
    4:28PM ET
    Ray Allen | Celtics

    It's t-minus 19 days until 28 teams open training camp (the Jazz and Bulls, playing in Europe Live 2009 in London, open on Sept. 25) and even the All-Stars can't wait to get back to work.

    Celtics guard Ray Allen (@sugarray20) is excited to see the doc: "Im Taking my physical today. We r gettin back into the swing of things".

    About five hours later, Allen tweeted all was good: "The physical went well. It took forever though. We get our hearts checked very thoroughly. That's a good thing"

    Allen should be excited about the start of the 2009-10 season. The Celtics, whose depth was paper thin in the postseason because of Kevin Garnett's knee injury, signed Rasheed Wallace to shore up the front court and added Marquis Daniels in the backcourt to add length on defense and spell Allen at the two-guard. The season, however, rests on how Kevin Garnett returns from his knee injury.

    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 East standings

    No. 2, Boston Celtics

    "Many think a healthy Kevin Garnett and a revitalized Rasheed Wallace will get the Celts back to the top."

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the East teams fare this offseason?

    "Yes, it's possible the Celtics' magical championship march in 2008 was a one-shot deal. But dismiss them at your peril."
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    Bucher: Iverson will affect Mayo
    4:28PM ET
    Allen Iverson | Pistons

    We all saw it. Or at least we all heard the Tweet. Allen Iverson has made his decision. He's signing with the Memphis Grizzlies.

    "God Chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career," Iverson said at 10:06 a.m. ET. "I met with Mr. Heinsley, Chris Wallace and my next head coach Lionel Hollins."

    Thing is, how will this all look?

    Iverson will join a team with an interesting mix of youth -- Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol -- and veterans such as Zach Randolph.

    Ric Bucher

    On and off-court styles worth watching with Mayo and AI

    "No one is going to be impacted more by Allen Iverson than OJ Mayo. They are both scorers and aggressive playmakers with completely different styles. AI's game is speed, length and agility; Mayo is strength, size and cleverness. OJ isn't going to pick up tricks from AI on the court. Memphis just has to hope he doesn't pick up AI's off-court ones."

    Insider
    Memphis Grizzlies Summer Buzz

    Acquisition of a "toxic" asset could actually help troubled Grizzlies

    Grizzlies renounce Navarro
    12:01PM ET
    Memphis Grizzlies

    The Memphis Grizzlies increased their room under the salary cap this morning when they renounced their rights to Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro.

    The Grizzlies now have $3,986,246 to sign Allen Iverson.

    Singleton will probably accept offer
    10:13AM ET
    James Singleton | Mavericks

    The Mavericks have a $1.03 million qualifying offer on the table for James Singleton. His agent told The Dallas Morning News there is a good chance their patience will be rewarded, but that doesn't mean a decision is coming this week, or even next week.

    "It's been a slow and unusual market, especially for restricted free agents," agent Buddy Baker said. "In James' case, you have to consider the economy, the term of the deal, the team and what role he'll play. But James is certainly very fond of Dallas. The Mavericks have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. But James is familiar with their system and is very close with coach Carlisle. All things being equal, he's very, very fond of the Mavericks."

    Cavaliers or Nuggets?
    10:02AM ET
    Rob Kurz | Warriors

    The Cleveland Cavaliers hoped to sign free agent forward Rob Kurz, but The Plain Dealer reports he is now considering bypassing their training camp offer and may agree to a larger guaranteed deal with the Denver Nuggets.

    Jawad Williams chances of making the Cavaliers roster would be enhanced if Kurz doesn't sign with them. Williams will enter camp with a non-guaranteed contract.

    Redd can see the light
    8:56AM ET
    Michael Redd | Bucks

    The Journal Sentinel reports Michael Redd is encouraged with his progress six months after undergoing surgery in early March, to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Redd worked out with teammates Wednesday and said he "could see the light."

    "It was dark that first week after surgery, that first night," Redd said. "I've been working hard every day, knowing there is more for me to explore, there's another chapter in my career. ... I'm working out on the court, getting my timing and my footwork together, my cardio. It's starting all over again pretty much, learning how to cut certain ways, move certain ways, just trusting that leg."

    Two invited to training camp
    8:29AM ET
    Utah Jazz

    The Buffalo News reports the Utah Jazz have invited Syracuse University swingman Paul Harris and Wesley Matthews from Marquette to their training camp.

    No McCants guarantee
    8:07AM ET
    Rashad McCants | Kings

    Rashad McCants said he has a standing training camp invitation from the Heat, however the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports Miami has merely offered McCants the opportunity to work out with other prospects.

    McCants has already worked out for the Denver Nuggets and has a workout scheduled with the Charlotte Bobcats. McCants has mentioned his desire to return to North Carolina.

    Agent says extension still an option
    7:50AM ET
    Dwyane Wade | Heat

    On Wednesday The Miami Herald reported that Dwyane Wade won't address any contract extension with Heat until the offseason.

    "Yeah, that's no longer a conversation we're really having right now," Wade said. "We've talked about it all summer. We know where they are -- they know where we are. We both want the best. But the focus is only on trying to get better than we were last year. And then we'll get back to the table and look at everything."

    Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Wednesday that it remains something his client can reconsider at any point before opting for free-agency next summer, if the Heat move to satisfy Wade's desire for an upgraded roster by the mid-February trading deadline.

    "As long as the extension offer is there," Thomas said, "he can accept it at any time. ... It is something he will continue to evaluate."

    Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are the cream of the 2010 free agent crop. Recently, James has been non-committal about his future in Cleveland while Bosh has given Raptors fans some hope.

    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 East standings

    No. 5, Miami Heat

    "Now that they have seen a healthy Dwyane Wade take his team to a 43-39 finish and the No. 5 seed, our panelists expect more of the same as Miami bides its time until the summer of 2010."

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the East teams fare this offseason?

    "Like the Bulls, the Heat mostly stood by with their hands in their pockets waiting until next summer, when they'll have enough cap space to add a max-contract free agent and another well-compensated sidekick to run with Dwyane Wade."

    Pendergraph to miss 10-12 weeks
    7:17AM ET
    Portland Trail Blazers

    The Oregonian reports rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair a left hip impingement and is expected to miss between 10-12 weeks. Pendergraph should return sometime in late November or early December.

    Watson expects a big year
    7:00AM ET
    C.J. Watson | Warriors

    C.J. Watson signed the Warriors' one-year qualifying offer for a little more than $1 million on Wednesday, a deal he selected over a three-year contract worth $5.4 million.

    "I realize it's a gamble," Watson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I took a chance and I have confidence in my abilities. Everybody knows that coach Don Nelson plays with different lineups and can put anybody out there at any time. I think I'll have chances to go out there and perform. ... I have big goals and aspirations. Some might say they are far-fetched, but I believe I can play. ... I think I can do better than I did last year with the minutes I'm going to see. ... It wasn't easy to turn down the Warriors' deal, but it's the route I have chosen. I can't second-guess myself."

    76ers invite Christmas to camp
    5:12AM ET
    Philadelphia 76ers

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports the 76ers have extended a training camp invitation to Dionte Christmas, who played at Temple, but was not selected in the NBA draft. Christmas played for the 76ers entry in the Orlando summer league.

    Mahinmi hurt again
    4:49AM ET
    Ian Mahinmi | Spurs

    The bad luck continues for Spurs center Ian Mahinmi. He sat out his second consecutive game for France while nursing a left hip contusion. He suffered the injury during Monday's victory over Germany.

    The San Antonio Express-News reports he has been cleared to resume playing for France and is considered day-to-day.

    Barea wants to play next summer
    4:39AM ET
    Jose Juan Barea | Mavericks

    The Dallas Morning News reports Jose Juan Barea is abiding by the Mavericks' wishes that he not play for Puerto Rico this summer after undergoing shoulder surgery in June. However, he has told the National Team he plans to participate in the World Championship next summer and he said he has the Mavericks' blessing as long as he's healthy.
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    Piniero and Wolf ready to be paid
    5:17PM ET
    Randy Wolf | Dodgers

    While the free agent market for pitchers will be pretty light this summer, that might play into the hands of both Randy Wolf and Joel Pineiro. How light is the market? Well, consider that ESPN.com's Jayson Stark rates those two as the second and third best purchase options in the crop respectively, behind John Lackey.

    Of Wolf, Stark writes, "Wolf's stock has risen faster this year than ***'s. He'd be 18-6 if the Dodgers's bullpen hadn't blown EIGHT saves for him. He's ripped off 14 straight starts of six innings or more. And only four pitchers in the whole sport can beat his 19 starts of no more than two earned runs allowed."

    And of Pineiro, he writes, "he's one of the hottest pitchers in baseball. He's 8-0 since July 1. And if it weren't for a blown save last Sunday, the Cardinals would have won 12 straight games he's started -- the longest streak of any pitcher in baseball."

    We wondered if they were in the wrong order, however...

    Keith Law

    Pineiro is the better buy

    "I'd take Pineiro. I've always liked Wolf, but I think he needs to pitch in a pretty big ballpark, whereas Pineiro has changed his entire approach to become a groundball machine, and that plays anywhere. Groundballs plus no walks equals a happy ERA."

    Olney: Giambi ideal in NL
    4:04PM ET
    Jason Giambi | Rockies

    It would be an understatement to say that the market for Jason Giambi had hit rock-bottom earlier this season. You're talking about a guy that was dumped by Oakland, when frankly, Billy Beane had brought him back not necessarily to anchor the place, but at least be a good example for a young team, and produce something...anything.

    That didn't happen. The Rockies then took a flyer on Giambino, and -- at least so far -- maybe there's a solution here. As ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney notes in his blog today, "Giambi continues to do great things for the Rockies in a reserve role -- he's reached base six times in his nine plate appearances for Colorado. If I were an NL team looking for bench help in 2010, I'd take a serious look at Giambi because (A) He'll help you by drawing walks, getting on base and hitting the occasional homer, and (B) He's a terrific clubhouse guy who will embrace the role if it is what he signs up for."

    Wouldn't that make Colorado the likeliest suitor?

    Will Washburn fly back west?
    2:58PM ET
    Jarrod Washburn | Tigers

    If you took the poll a month ago, Jarrod Washburn could have easily been considered in the top five of potential free agent pitchers for the coming offseason. But then came Detroit.

    Since Washburn went from Seattle to the Tigers, he's struggled mightily. And now his stock? Well, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, "For a lefthanded pitcher who is 10th in the American League in ERA, and who is one of only six active pitchers who has made at least 25 starts for nine straight seasons, it was astonishing how little buzz Washburn generated among the folks we surveyed. Of course, his ugly stint as a Tiger (6.61 ERA in six starts) hasn't helped him. Plus, said one GM, 'he's 35 years old, and (before this year) his last winning season was (2004).'"

    Stark's guess: "We predict that, if Washburn doesn't head back to Seattle, from whence he came, he'll be bouncing around the old Rumor Central column for a long time this winter."

    We'll be happy to have him.

    Insider
    Baseball Prospectus

    Washburn still has market value

    "Many analysts predicted that Washburn, a flyball pitcher, would experience a performance decline when shifting from the best defensive outfield in the game to one of merely adequate quality, but few thought the decline would be this substantial. He'll be 35 entering next season, and while his tremendous pre-trade performance was not a true indication of his talent level, Washburn is still a league average pitcher capable of providing a 4.30-4.40 ERA in 175-185 innings. That still has value, and he'll still have suitors." - Eric Seidman

    Possible red flags on Lackey
    2:25PM ET
    John Lackey | Angels

    John Lackey would appear to be the top unrestricted free agent pitcher heading into the current offseason, and few will debate that fact. But there are issues.

    ESPN.com's Jayson Stark points out the biggest one. He writes that Lackey does draw red flags "after spending more than 100 days on the disabled list the last two years with forearm and triceps issues. 'He's the best name on the list," said one exec [to Stark]. "But if Anaheim shies away from this guy, or doesn't make a serious attempt to sign him, I'd have concerns. They know him better than everyone else. So that would send out some serious red flags for me.'"

    But, admits Stark, "Lackey will be depositing more bucks in his money-market account between now and spring training than any other pitcher out there."

    Insider
    Baseball Prospectus

    You'll have to Lowe-ball Lackey

    "Though just 31-years-old, Lackey's questionable health over the last year and a half coupled with the perception that he is more of a top-tier #2 starter than a dominant frontman should hinder his ability to receive an extremely lucrative contract. However, extenuating circumstances emerge in that very few solid starting pitchers will hit the market. Rich Harden and Joel Pineiro join Lackey atop the class, but the former's injury history and skepticism involving the latter's breakout push Lackey to the very top of the list. He won't sign for 7-yrs/$126 mil, but something similar to Derek Lowe's 4-yr/$60 mil deal could be in the cards." - Eric Seidman

    Ideal pickup for the Giants?
    10:09AM ET
    San Francisco Giants

    Let's just say our friends at Baseball Prospectus aren't exactly bullish on the San Francisco Giants offense. In fact, the G-men are the best of the worst, in one respect.

    Writes Eric Seidman, "If the Giants make the playoffs while sustaining their current diffident pace on offense, we will be able to brag about witnessing the worst offense of a playoff team in the Wild Card Era, and perhaps even the worst offense fielded by any playoff team in the Retrosheet era. It isn't exactly an accomplishment to proudly proclaim, but it highlights how dynamite their starting rotation has been this season."

    So, if that's the case, then what about a fix? Brian Sabean hasn't exactly been quiet about the team's need to improve offense, and even if Barry Bonds is living in a refrigerator box next to the cove the Giants aren't letting him back, so who they do they pick up? We asked BP.

    Insider
    Baseball Prospectus

    What the Giants should do this offseason

    "The Giants are scoring an awful 3.95 runs per game this year, a half-run per game off the pace of the league average, suggesting that they are in no way one free agent signing away from fielding a legitimately effective offense. Signing Matt Holliday to a lucrative contract would be fantastic, but if he re-signs with the Cards or moves to greener pastures, GM Brian Sabean could stand to spend less money while simultaneously upgrading at a few positions, by bringing in Russell Branyan or Hank Blalock to play 1B, cutting ties with Edgar Renteria in exchange for Marco Scutaro at SS, exercising Freddy Sanchez's option at 2B, and replacing Randy Winn with the likes of Marlon Byrd. These moves won't turn the Giants into a powerhouse on offense but they will provide improvements in several areas as opposed to one." - Eric Seidman
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    Season not over for Delgado
    9:34AM ET
    Carlos Delgado | Mets

    Limited to just 26 games this season due to a hip injury, Carlos Delgado may return to the Mets lineup before the end of the season.

    After calling the chances of a return by the veteran first baseman "very slim" just a few days ago, manager Jerry Manuel upgraded Delgado's chances Wednesday. "I think we are looking at maybe the last two weeks as a possibility for him playing."

    Delgado is a free agent this winter, so he would like to demonstrate he is healthy.

    Another injured Met, shortstop Jose Reyes, also wants to return before the season concludes.

    Could Braves deal Vazquez?
    9:29AM ET
    Javier Vazquez | Braves

    The Braves may be forced to trade Javier Vazquez in a cost-cutting move, reports Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta JC.

    Vazquez is scheduled to make $11.5 million next season. Schultz writes in his blog that the Braves have even more money committed to Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami and would be wise to pick up an option on Tim Hudson, so Vazquez would be expendable.

    Could Yankees join Figgins chase?
    9:16AM ET
    Chone Figgins | Angels | Interested: Yankees?, White Sox?, Cubs?

    In his discussion of what the Chicago Cubs might do in the offseason -- addressing the question of minor tweaks or major overhaul -- the Tribune's Paul Sullivan pointed out Wednesday that a move for Chone Figgins could create a bidding war. With the Southside.

    Writes Sullivan, "Whether they sign free agent Chone Figgins will be interesting to see, since the only available position for him would be at second base, where Baker is performing well." And, "A lineup of Figgins, Bradley, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, Soriano, Soto and Theriot would give Piniella the speed he wants at the top of the lineup and power in the Nos. 3-4-5 slots."

    Sullivan also makes a good point about Milton Bradley, who draws plenty of ire from Cubs fans, but is easily the most reliable guy on the team in terms of simply getting on base (which matters), "The key may be Bradley, who is hitting .346 in the No. 2 hole, with a .448 on-base percentage, and .294 in the second-half with a .400 OBP. If he wasn't so visibly upset all the time, Cubs fans would probably be satisifed with those numbers from a No. 2 hitter."

    Another team could join the Figgins pursuit. Today's Los Angeles Times says the Yankees could go after Figgins as a leadoff hitter and move Derek Jeter to the second spot in the lineup.

    Jayson Stark

    If you want Figgins, be prepared to pay

    "Aside from Matt Holliday -- and maybe Jason Bay - I see Chone Figgins as the most attractive position player out there this winter. He'll be 32 in January, so the years on the deal shouldn't be too long. He can run. He gets on base. He's a switch-hitter. He's a tremendous teammate. He's an energizer. And he's one of those guys who, no matter what your team's need is, he might be able to fill it. Third base. Second base. Center field. Left field. Super-utility dynamo. He can be any of that. So he could be a fit for the Yankees, Mets, White Sox, Tigers, Braves, etc. In terms of dollars, you never know. There really wasn't a comparable player in last year's market. But if Raul Ibanez could get three years, at $10.5M a year, last winter heading into his age-37 season, it wouldn't shock me if Figgins got $11-12M a year for three or four years."

    Kouzmanoff may sit this weekend
    8:56AM ET
    Kevin Kouzmanoff | Padres

    The San Diego Union-Tribune says a calf injury will likely keep third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff out of the lineup when the Padres begin a weekend series with the Rockies on Friday.

    Chase Headley is the likely replacment. Kouzmanoff has made just three errors this season and the Padres have been pushing him as a Gold Glove candidate.

    Peavy says he's ready
    8:44AM ET
    Jake Peavy | White Sox

    Time for the daily Jake Peavy update: The right-hander pronounced himself fit to make his first start for the White Sox and the Chicago Tribune says it will take place during the upcoming road trip against the Angels or Mariners.

    "I'll go as long and as hard as I can for as long as they'll let me go," Peavy said.

    The Tribune reported Wednesday that the White Sox appear content to start Peavy even though he will have a defined pitch count.

    Jimenez start pushed back?
    8:15AM ET
    Ubaldo Jimenez | Rockies

    Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez might have Saturday's start against the Padres pushed back.

    Jimenez will test his strained left hamstring in a side session Thursday. "We would have no reservations about moving him back a couple of days if he's not 100 percent," manager Jim Tracy told the Denver Post.

    Rocks won't rush Tulowitzki back
    8:07AM ET
    Troy Tulowitzki | Rockies

    With a four-game lead in the NL wild card standings, the Rockies are less inclined to rush Troy Tulowitzki back to the lineup, reports the Denver Post.

    The Post says Tulowitzki's strained lower back has improved significantly, but he may not return to the lineup until Friday. Tulowitzki says his goal is be healthy for a pivotal series next week against the Giants.

    "We'll see how it goes. But I want to ready for those games against the Giants," Tulowitzki said. "Those are huge."

    What happened to Hank Steinbrenner?
    7:49AM ET
    New York Yankees

    Whatever happened to Hank Steinbrenner?

    Jim Baumbach of Newsday writes that the oldest son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has become awfully quiet in the past year, leaving no doubt that George's younger son Hal is officially in charge of the team.

    Before his silence, Hank Steinbrenner had called out Red Sox Nation, criticized the designated hitter and negotiated A-Rod's contract in public.

    Zambrano: I'm OK with Lou
    7:28AM ET
    Carlos Zambrano | Cubs

    Don't look too deeply into the heated discussion between Carlos Zambrano and Cubs manager Lou Piniella that started on the mound and continued into the dugout Wednesday in Pittsburgh. At least that is Zambrano's take.

    "We were just talking normally. But every time Lou talks, it seems like he's mad. The way he moves his hands, everybody thinks he's mad, but he's not," Zambrano told the Chicago Sun-Times.

    The debate began when Piniella decided to remove Zambrano from the game.

    "He wanted to stay in a little longer," Piniella told the Sun-Times. "But like I told him, 'Let's just build. Let's get you stronger and stronger.'"

    Gomes wants playing time
    7:10AM ET
    Jonny Gomes | Reds

    Jonny Gomes will be a free agent if the Reds don?t offer him arbitration. He would still return to Cincinnati, but only if he is guaranteed playing time.

    "It's a time in your career where you could take the opportunity to play close to home. It's time in your career where you could go for the most money. For me, it's the time in my career where I'm still looking for that opportunity. I?m still looking for ? 500, 600 at-bats," Gomes told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    Manager Dusty Baker says the Reds can't guarantee those at-bats, so stay tuned.
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    Colts to go rush-heavy on defense?
    3:54PM ET
    Indianapolis Colts

    The next time that Jacksonville Jaguars rookies Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton take the field, it'll be against two pretty fearsome defensive ends.

    But as the Florida Times-Union suggests, there's no fear on the part of either Monroe or Britton as they get ready to square off against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

    Freeney likes his chances, though. "I'm going to go out there and they better have their 'A' game or it's going to be a long night," he said. "It's just that they haven't learned how to play NFL ball yet. And the preseason is not really a good indication of real NFL ball."

    You can also expect some blitzing out of the Colts to frazzle the rooks, which might spring Freeney or Mathis for some additional open shots on David Garrard. It's a good thing the Jags acquired Luke McCown, they might need his services soon.

    Insider
    Football Outsiders

    Is Colts run defense bound to improve?

    "The idea that the Colts are suddenly going to have a great run defense because they've added more weight up front is fallacious. Their run defense didn't get much better when they added the 300-pound Corey Simon or Booger McFarland or employed the 310-pound Antonio Johnson up front. Furthermore, if the solution were simply "Add bigger guys and improve the run defense", don't you think Bill Polian and company would have done that years ago? The nature of the Colts' scheme under Tony Dungy traded off performance in the run game for a superior pass defense. If they get away from the Tampa-2 principles, have Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis take straight routes to the quarterback, and get better run-stoppers at outside linebacker, the run defense will get better at the expense of the pass D." - Bill Barnwell

    Does WR not want to play for SF?
    3:54PM ET
    Michael Crabtree | 49ers

    We liked the suggestion earlier this week of Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: a trade of Michael Crabtree next spring for future draft picks.

    But what if there is a deeper problem with Crabtree? ESPN.com's Mike Sando explores whether or not the receiver even wants to play for the 49ers while noting that he definitely has more to lose by continuing his holdout.

    No more developments towards a resolution in sight, but we'll let you know when we hear more.

    Adam Schefter

    This risk Crabtree might take

    "If San Francisco can't resign him, the 49ers hold his rights until midnight the night before the draft in April. If he holds out, Crabtree is betting that he would go higher than No. 10 in the draft next year and land a contract bigger than the one the 49ers are offering. It's an interesting gamble, and only time will tell whether it's right."

    McFadden's touches as starter
    1:05PM ET
    Darren McFadden | Raiders

    Darren McFadden has earned the starting running back job for the Oakland Raiders, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle. But what does that mean, in terms of his carries per game?

    Justin Fargas -- who makes up the remainder of the backfield triumvirate for the Raiders with Michael Bush -- told the Chronicle's David White, "It doesn't matter who starts the game or anything like that. The key for us, the strength of our backfield is our depth and the fact that we all complement each other and keep each other fresh."

    In real terms, the best clue might have come from what head coach Tom Cable told the Sacramento Bee's Paul Gutierrez: "Yeah it's probably not your typical deal where he's going to go 25 times, something like that. But he'll get the bulk of [the carries] for sure."

    Adjust your projections accordingly.

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    McFadden could be on verge of breakout

    "Our projection for McFadden this year calls for 813 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 171 carries, but there's reason to believe that he has significant upside. His Speed Score -- our metric which measures athleticism and has a stronger correlation with NFL success than any other number from the Combine -- was 120. The only draftee from the last two years with a higher Speed Score was Chris Johnson, and he's turned out alright. McFadden averaged 4.4 yards per carry last year despite playing on a dead-end team and suffering through a painful turf toe injury. His toe is back to 100 percent, which should give him even more explosiveness, and Oakland's line has vastly improved depth this year. If anyone's a threat to break out with an out-of-nowhere 1300-yard season, it's the original Wildcat." - Bill Barnwell

    Schefter: Broncos optimistic on Orton
    1:02PM ET
    Kyle Orton | Broncos

    As of last night, according to ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter, it sounds like Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is optimistic about the progress that quarterback Kyle Orton has made in his recovery from a dislocated finger.

    In fact, Orton's chances of playing Sunday against Cincinnati sound extremely good. "He has done fine," McDaniels said about Orton. "The ability to throw the ball doesn't seem to be hampered too much, which is good. That is really what we are trying to focus on and make sure that we go through the next few days here and not have any setbacks. Hopefully, everything will be a go."

    While McDaniels, unlike fellow Belichick protege Eric Mangini, hasn't learned fully the game of delayed media gratification regarding quarterback announcements, he'll at least be going into Cincy with likely a full deck.

    Bill Williamson

    The pressure's on Orton

    "Orton is in charge of making Denver a success. He will be compared to Cutler every week. That could be difficult. Cutler is much more gifted than Orton and that was evident when the two shared a field in the preseason last month. Orton didn?t ask to be put in this position, but here he is and he?ll have to deal with it. "

    Impact of Polamalu injury
    12:29PM ET
    Troy Polamalu | Steelers

    Maybe there is something to the Madden Curse.

    We thought Alge Crumpler looked a little big on Thursday night, but no one got a better appraisal of his weight than Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

    Following a blocked field goal in the second quarter, Polamalu was attempting to recover the ball when Crumpler toppled onto the safety's left leg. While the injury at first looked like it could have been anything from the groin down to the ankle, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has indicated that the early word is a sprained MCL.

    The expected recovery time for the injury is three to six weeks, so the Steelers will need to figure out how to replace that which is irreplaceable.

    Polamalu's spot was filled in Thursday night's game by backup Tyrone Carter, but we wouldn't be surprised to see a slight scheme change to account for the fact that #43 isn't in the defensive backfield anymore.

    James Walker

    With Polamalu out, this one even more vital

    "Pittsburgh goes on the road two straight weeks against the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals and doesn?t return to Heinz Field until the month of October. Playing the next three to six weeks without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu also will be a challenge for the Steelers. But it?s a little easier when you?re the first NFL team to get in the win column this season."

    Leon still looking for extension
    11:45AM ET
    Leon Washington | Jets

    It's been a while since we've heard anything about Leon Washington's contract extension debate, and as Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News notes, it's still all quiet on that front.

    Washington is slated to earn $535,000 under his existing contract this season. Lots of money for most of us, but peanuts compared to similar backs around the league.

    Per Cimini, Leon is losing leverage and taking a big risk by playing without the new guaranteed money, but he is not expected to hold out.

    Update on Q
    11:39AM ET
    Anquan Boldin | Cardinals

    On Tuesday, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was not ready to rule Anquan Boldin out, in spite of the receiver missing Monday's practice. "We'll see," Whisenhunt told the Arizona Republic, when asked to discuss Boldin's chances of playing Sunday. "I know it's going to be tough to keep Anquan out of this game."

    Boldin missed practice again on Wednesday, but Whisenhunt still thinks the chances his wideout plays "are very good."

    Thursday was a little bit better, as Boldin participated in early portions of practice, but his work was focused more on assignments and game plan than physical play.

    Looks like it'll be the dreaded gametime decision for Q on Sunday.
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    Expert's Draft

    "On the turn from the second to the third, Berry 'wanted Jennings or Boldin' to go with White, thanking Roberts and Hunter with an appropriate 'Damn you.' Hunter replied, seemingly unapologetically: 'After Jennings and White, things drop off for me at bit at receiver.'"

    Doubting Thomas?
    11:27AM ET
    Pierre Thomas | Saints

    Yesterday, we told you about the reason why Pierre Thomas has a gash on his right knee: as the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, Thomas suffered the wound while rescuing his dog, who was caught in the neighbor's yard.

    But the MCL sprain he suffered weeks ago is what has been plaguing him worse as the Saints prepare for Week One, and it's what has caused beat writer Mike Triplett to indicate that Thomas will "almost certainly" be held out of Sunday's game against Detroit. As per Triplett, Thomas was once again held out of team drills on Thursday.

    If Thomas is unable to go, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush will both be picking up some of the slack.

    Impact of deadline on Seymour
    11:27AM ET
    Richard Seymour | Raiders

    How can the Raiders get the disgruntled Richard Seymour to show up? Well, ESPN.com's Bill Williamson gives one option. "Really, I don't see any other resolution than Seymour being in uniform for the Raiders on Monday night against San Diego. Unless he wants to retire. And I don't think that's going to happen. Don't be shocked if the Raiders try to find a way to give Seymour a contract extension to convince him to come West."

    Another way: NFL Insider Adam Schefter confirmed with league sources on Thursday night that the team has sent Seymour a "five-day letter". It's essentially an ultimatum: Seymour must report within five days or face a team suspension. As per Schefter: "Once the Raiders sent the letter, it imposed a deadline on both sides, with plenty to lose for each. Oakland could lose the player it covets and Seymour could lose a season of earning $3.685 million. But the Raiders clearly felt this was their best option. With Seymour showing no signs of reporting, Oakland is now attempting to force the issue. It could pay off -- or it could blow up. But the Raiders will have an answer within five days."

    More on this to come.
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    Lots of work for Stafford's arm?
    11:26AM ET
    Matthew Stafford | Lions

    Allen Park of the Detroit News reminds us today that the success this season of the Detroit Lions is going to have more to do with the team's defense than Matthew Stafford. Park notes that improvements were made both in the draft and with free agency and trades. In addition, new head coach Jim Schwartz has a defensive background. Still, expect this D to give up more than its fair share of points.

    Translation: given the fact that his team will be playing from behind all the time, Stafford might not be a bad choice as a fantasy QB, especially since he has Calvin Johnson downfield leaping for long-balls.

    Andrews' status a mystery
    11:19AM ET
    Shawn Andrews | Eagles

    This much is known: on Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles hosted Jon Runyan for a tryout, while right tackle Shawn Andrews missed practice and Winston Justice took his spot with the first unit.

    But as for a clarification on what to expect come Sunday? It's a mystery, as noted by Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    After telling the Philly reporters that they had to get their injury info from him and only him, Eagles coach Andy Reid went out of his way to avoid them on his way home after practice.

    Something smells fishy, but we'll try to update with more info on Andrews before Sunday's contest.

    Nicks to start in October?
    11:12AM ET
    Hakeem Nicks | Giants

    Matt Mosley has a breakdown of the New York Giants' receiving depth in the NFC East blog, and of particular note is his analysis that Hakeem Nicks could grab a starting spot as soon as October.

    While Nicks and Tennessee Titans receiver Kenny Britt will continue to be compared over the course of the season given their close comparative draft position, Britt fired the first shot on Thursday night, with 85 yards on four catches including a 57-yarder. The Giants might choose to bring Nicks along more slowly, but he is likely to be similarly impactful as the season progresses.

    Giants secondary banged up
    11:06AM ET
    New York Giants

    It's a damn good thing the New York Giants have such a good defensive line, because with their secondary as banged up as it is, they'll need a heavy pass rush to disrupt the aerial attack of Jason Campbell and Co.

    As Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News notes today, Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery are both likely out for Sunday's game. This puts undrafted rookie Bruce Johnson in as Big Blue's nickelback, with Terrell Thomas already slated to start opposite Corey Webster.

    Look for the Redskins to test the Giants' secondary often, given this situation.

    Smith to increase his duties?
    11:01AM ET
    Steve Smith | Panthers

    Still without a definitive answer at returner, the Carolina Panthers tried out two new options on Thursday: Steve Smith and Chris Gamble, as per the Charlotte Observer.

    For Smith, it's a return to his old digs, as he was an electrifying returner during his first three seasons, with four returned to the house.

    Pat Yasinkas of the NFC South blog is not sure it's a great move, however. Especially not for the opening game of the season, and especially not since there are other options.

    Pat's role on Sunday
    10:54AM ET
    Pat White | Dolphins

    While Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald recounts the fact that the Miami Dolphins have not yet indicated Pat White's status or role for Sunday's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, he does let us in on a secret that offensive coordinator Dan Henning let slip to the media.

    According to Henning, the Fins are confident that White can handle the rigors of running the team's base offense.

    So what about the Wildcat? While head coach Tony Sparano did indicate that there is not much of a surprise factor left in running the formation, this doesn't rule it out as being effective.

    The question now becomes: is White a useful enough contributor in limited duty to put him on the 45-man gameday roster, or will he be in the tricky No. 3 QB slot, where he can only take the field if the Chad's are both hurt?

    Raji's return in question
    10:40AM ET
    B.J. Raji | Packers

    On Thursday, massive defensive tackle B.J. Raji returned to Green Bay Packers practice, but is it a sign that he's ready to roll come Sunday night?

    According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, if it was up to Raji, he'd be a go. "I felt pretty good," Raji said. "The game is one day away. I'm hopeful."

    While we figure out how Raji is planning to skip Saturday -- time machine perhaps? -- the news has to be encouraging to the Pack, who will need Raji to dominate the line of scrimmage for them to slow down the Bears' ground game.

    Packers 3-4 to stymie Bears?
    10:34AM ET
    Green Bay Packers

    Former Green Bay Packers defensive mind Bob Sanders ran a system that was fairly predictable, and the Chicago Bears' tight ends were able to exploit mismatches during the two games last season.

    A benefit of the team's switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme this season is that the coverages will not be as easy to read, and this could give the Bears fits, as per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    In other words, we might need to temper our expectations for Jay Cutler's favorite new target -- Greg Olsen -- heading into Sunday night.

    Two TEs better than one?
    10:23AM ET
    Washington Redskins

    The Washington Redskins might have a plan for dealing with the New York Giants' vaunted D-line on Sunday.

    The Washington Post's Jason Reid notes that the team might make use of personnel packages with two tight ends, in order to give some help to their tackles against the edge-rushing of the G-Men.

    That duty will likely fall upon Fred Davis, who Reid says has made "major strides" since last season, when he would giggle during team meetings.

    Titans on WR market?
    10:11AM ET
    Tennessee Titans

    Although the team's wideouts made some nice plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, the Tennessee Titans might be in the market for some wide receiver help, as noted by the Nashville Tennessean.

    In addition to Matt Jones, who the team worked out last week, the Titans might investigate Bobby Wade, who was released by the Minnesota Vikings yesterday.

    One benefit that former-Titan Wade can bring to the table is that he has worked as a return man during his career, a role that still goes unfilled for the team. Cortland Finnegan looked a bit out of sorts on Thursday night in the role.

    Scaife unhappy with hit
    9:51AM ET
    Bo Scaife | Titans

    After being hit low by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison during the third quarter last night, Tennessee Titans tight end Bo Scaife coughed up the football while suffering a knee sprain that knocked him out of the game.

    While any player would be frustrated at that chain of events, Scaife alleges there was foul play in his comments to the Nashville Tennessean.

    "He dove at my leg. It was a cheap shot," Scaife said. "I have been playing my whole life and no one has ever hit me like that. So I know when it is real and when it is not real. So it was a cheap shot and I don't care if that gets back to him either."

    Although he was seen limping badly after the game, Scaife's injury is not thought to be serious. If he does miss any time, the Titans will rely more on Jared Cook, who was injured for Thursday's game, and Alge Crumpler.

    Champ not taking the bait
    9:43AM ET
    Champ Bailey | Broncos

    Chad Ochocinco lobbed a Twitter-based barb at Champ Bailey on Thursday, but the Broncos cornerback chose to play it cool in reply.

    As Bill Williamson of the AFC West blog notes, each player has won a round apiece in the battle, and this Sunday's game will be the rubber match.

    Abraham's impact vs. Fins
    9:31AM ET
    John Abraham | Falcons

    John Abraham had full participation during Thursday's practice with the Atlanta Falcons, giving a hint that he'll be ready to play on Sunday when the team takes on the Miami Dolphins, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Abraham is still recovering from a knee injury, but won't pass up the opportunity to get after his former Jets teammate, Chad Pennington. The former No. 3 overall pick by the Jets knows how the Dolphins protect their QB, and also knows that his strength is in the short passing game.

    If Thursday is any indication, Abraham should be good to full-speed ahead for Sunday.
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    'Boys stepping up to the table?
    9:17AM ET
    DeMarcus Ware | Cowboys

    Indicating that the Dallas Cowboys have "stepped up talks", Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News gives us the latest update on the contract extension negotiations going on with DeMarcus Ware.

    "I wouldn't say anything is closer," Ware said of his contract talks, "but I would say the process is still going. We're still trying to get some things done. They're trying to show they want me here, and I'm trying to show them I want to be here."

    Ware is currently a great bargain for the 2009 season, slated to make just over one million dollars. It's expected that his agent Pat Dye is aiming for the stars with a future deal, along the lines of what Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen and Terrell Suggs are making.

    QB's uncertainty is hope for Thiggy
    9:11AM ET
    Matt Cassel | Chiefs

    On Monday, Matt Cassel returned to the practice field for the Kansas City Chiefs, and he's been practicing with the team all week while his knee continues to recover.

    Still, the team will not divulge any hints as to whether or not Cassel will be the starting QB for Sunday's game against the Ravens -- as per the Kansas City Star -- but there might be an ulterior motive.

    As Kent Babb of the Star notes, the Chiefs might be withholding the starter's identity in order to force the Ravens to prepare for both Cassel, a standard pocket passer, and Tyler Thigpen, who is a scrambling improviser. It's not exactly the extreme case of the teams preparing for Michael Vick when they play the Eagles, but it could cause some headaches.
    joyner
    KC Joyner

    If Cassel is out, Thigpen's underrated

    "Thigpen struggled early on but hit his stride quickly after the Chiefs changed their offense to adapt to his skills. Taking his totals from his first start in this offense (week 7 at the Jets) to the end of the year, Thigpen posted a 9.4 vertical pass YPA (vertical passes being 11 yards downfield). To put that into perspective, look at the company that puts him in - Eli Manning (9.4 vertical YPA in 2008), David Garrard (9.4 vertical YPA) and Brett Favre (9.5 vertical YPA)."

    Another clue on Tillman
    8:51AM ET
    Charles Tillman | Bears

    On Monday, Charles Tillman told the Chicago Tribune that the chances of his playing on Sunday night are about 50-50.

    Yesterday, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times noted that Tillman's status is still a mystery.

    While the team won't give us any official word, it now looks like Peanut might be a go for Sunday, given the fact that he had full participation in Thursday's practice.

    If Tillman is unable to go, that's bad news for these Bears, because even with everyone healthy, they'll have a tough time handling the Packers' high-octane passing game, as noted in a game preview by Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    Market for Runyan grows again
    8:46AM ET
    Jon Runyan | Eagles | Interested: Bills?, Eagles?, Chiefs?

    Still without a football team for the 2009 season, offensive tackle Jon Runyan visited the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday for a tryout, as per Bill Williamson of the AFC West blog.

    On Thursday, Runyan was back at his old digs, running through a workout for the Philadelphia Eagles -- a workout that went "really well" as Runyan told NFC East blogger Matt Mosley.

    Today, Runyan will work out for the Buffalo Bills, who recently released their expected starter at LT, Langston Walker, and who are poised to start Demetrius Bell, who didn't play a snap last season.

    The way the NFL works, if a vested veteran is signed before Week One, his contract is guaranteed for the whole season, but if a team waits until after Week One, they can cut him and void the remainder of the deal. In other words, Runyan's agent should get the fax machine ready for Tuesday morning.

    Wade's first option?
    8:39AM ET
    Bobby Wade | Vikings | Interested: Bears?, Chiefs?, Ravens?, Jets?

    Bobby Wade was recently released by the Minnesota Vikings -- a move that doesn't sit well with folks in the Vikes' locker room, as per the Minneapolis Star Tribune -- but the team's leader in receptions over the past two seasons should be able to catch on elsewhere.

    While the myriad of receiver-needy teams that we hear about all the time will certainly kick his tires, AFC West blogger Bill Williamson mentions that one team in particular may be especially interested.

    As per Williamson: "Keep an eye on Bobby Wade and the Chiefs. Todd Haley coached Wade in Chicago and the Chiefs badly need veteran receivers. Really, I'd be surprised if Wade doesn't join the Chiefs."

    Steelers switching to no-huddle?
    8:16AM ET
    Pittsburgh Steelers

    As AFC North blogger James Walker notes in his recap of the Steelers-Titans game from Thursday night, Pittsburgh's offense was wildly ineffective in the standard formations. It was only when they switched to the no-huddle at the end of each half that they had any success.

    QB Ben Roethlisberger was asked after the game whether the team would begin to adopt the no-huddle system more often, and he smiled while he said, "maybe."

    Then again, the Steelers won't have to play as tough a defense as the Titans every week, either, and they might be able to dominate some other teams in the trenches, a feat at which they failed on Thursday.

    Nevertheless, don't be surprised to see the offense mix in some no-huddle work if they struggle against another powerful front four in the future.
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    Olney: Holliday could become Angelic
    3:40PM ET
    Matt Holliday | Cardinals

    In his daily dose of ballistic blogging, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney explains why Matt Holliday, despite his clear affection for the hitting environment of St. Louis, could land elsewhere once free agency rolls on.

    "If Holliday costs something around $12 million to $15 million next season, that would put the Cardinals in a position in which they'd have to approach or surpass $100 million in payroll to keep him," Olney writes. "Nothing in the Cardinals' recent history tells us they will do that."

    A prediction, Buster?

    "I'll venture a guess (and it's nothing more at this point): Holliday winds up signing with the Angels, effectively replacing Vladimir Guerrero within their salary structure."

    Keith Law

    To avoid a heat rash, Holliday should stay in the Senior Circuit

    "Holliday's biggest problem at the plate is velocity -- if you want to beat him, throw him heat. In the NL, he'll face more pitchers with average or below-average fastballs than he will in the AL. Imagine, if he signs in Anaheim, a series against Oakland where the A's start Cahill, Anderson, and Mazzaro; or a series against Texas where he faces Holland, Feldman, and Feliz. In this week's series against the Brewers, Holliday faced starters Bush, Parra, and Suppan, while homering off mid-80s-throwing Trevor Hoffman, and saw only one pitcher all series (Todd Coffey) with an above-average fastball. I expect Holliday to go where the money is best, but he'll have a better time of it if he stays in the National League."

    Crede wants to stay with Twins
    3:06PM ET
    Joe Crede | Twins

    Third baseman Joe Crede wants to remain with the Twins, but realizes his back problems work against his chances of finding a job with Minnesota or any team next season.

    "Expect the worst and hope for the best," Crede told the Pioneer Press.

    Crede has had two surgeries on his lower back.

    Is Lidge still the Phils' closer?
    1:10PM ET
    Brad Lidge | Phillies

    Phillies manager Charlie Manuel apparently has not given up on Brad Lidge as his closer, but the reliever has to prove he can do the job.

    Andy Martino of the Philly Inquirer writes that if Lidge does not improve, the rest of September will be used to audition others for the postseason role. Lidge was used in the eighth inning Thursday against the Nationals.

    The question of who is the closer became a lot more complicated when Manuel pulled Lidge during the ninth inning of Tuesday's win over the Nationals. Ryan Madson closed for the closer and earned the save.

    Buster Olney

    Manuel is making the right move

    "Here's the bottom line: It's evident Charlie Manuel feels he has just about run out of time waiting for Lidge to get it together, and now he's open to alternatives. Manuel has handled this just about perfectly. The Phillies have had some wiggle room in the standings, and Manuel has given Lidge, a respected veteran who was so important to the team's championship in 2008, a very long leash in trying to recover. Now, with less than a month to go, Manuel can talk to Lidge and tell him with all good conscience that going forward, it's all about performance and it's all about winning. And Lidge, who is a pro's pro, will understand."

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    Baseball Prospectus

    Worst ever? Almost.

    "Lidge's current WXRL of -2.72 wins not only ranks as the far and away worst for any closer in the history of baseball with 30+ save opportunities, but as the third worst of any reliever, all-time, with 40 or more frames in a season. If Manuel had pulled the plug a month and a half ago, the Phillies could be in line to clinch the division this weekend. Ryan Madson, Brett Myers and Chan Ho Park are all solid candidates, but the Phillies finally seem to understand that a pitcher who is yet to 'figure things out' five months into the season is not suddenly going to turn on a light switch." -Eric Seidman

    Piniero and Wolf ready to be paid
    1:09PM ET
    Randy Wolf | Dodgers

    While the free agent market for pitchers will be pretty light this summer, that might play into the hands of both Randy Wolf and Joel Pineiro. How light is the market? Well, consider that ESPN.com's Jayson Stark rates those two as the second and third best purchase options in the crop respectively, behind John Lackey.

    Of Wolf, Stark writes, "Wolf's stock has risen faster this year than ***'s. He'd be 18-6 if the Dodgers's bullpen hadn't blown EIGHT saves for him. He's ripped off 14 straight starts of six innings or more. And only four pitchers in the whole sport can beat his 19 starts of no more than two earned runs allowed."

    And of Pineiro, he writes, "he's one of the hottest pitchers in baseball. He's 8-0 since July 1. And if it weren't for a blown save last Sunday, the Cardinals would have won 12 straight games he's started -- the longest streak of any pitcher in baseball."

    We wondered if they were in the wrong order, however...

    Keith Law

    Pineiro is the better buy

    "I'd take Pineiro. I've always liked Wolf, but I think he needs to pitch in a pretty big ballpark, whereas Pineiro has changed his entire approach to become a groundball machine, and that plays anywhere. Groundballs plus no walks equals a happy ERA."

    Possible red flags on Lackey
    1:09PM ET
    John Lackey | Angels

    John Lackey would appear to be the top unrestricted free agent pitcher heading into the current offseason, and few will debate that fact. But there are issues.

    ESPN.com's Jayson Stark points out the biggest one. He writes that Lackey does draw red flags "after spending more than 100 days on the disabled list the last two years with forearm and triceps issues. 'He's the best name on the list," said one exec [to Stark]. "But if Anaheim shies away from this guy, or doesn't make a serious attempt to sign him, I'd have concerns. They know him better than everyone else. So that would send out some serious red flags for me.'"

    But, admits Stark, "Lackey will be depositing more bucks in his money-market account between now and spring training than any other pitcher out there."

    Insider
    Baseball Prospectus

    You'll have to Lowe-ball Lackey

    "Though just 31-years-old, Lackey's questionable health over the last year and a half coupled with the perception that he is more of a top-tier #2 starter than a dominant frontman should hinder his ability to receive an extremely lucrative contract. However, extenuating circumstances emerge in that very few solid starting pitchers will hit the market. Rich Harden and Joel Pineiro join Lackey atop the class, but the former's injury history and skepticism involving the latter's breakout push Lackey to the very top of the list. He won't sign for 7-yrs/$126 mil, but something similar to Derek Lowe's 4-yr/$60 mil deal could be in the cards." - Eric Seidman

    Byrd hot at the right time
    12:24PM ET
    Marlon Byrd | Rangers

    Marlon Byrd is getting hot at just the right time for the Texas Rangers.

    Jeff Wilson of the Dallas Morning News writes how Byrd was in a 2-for-20 slump in his first five games back after missing time while passing a kidney stone. Byrd, a free agent this offseason, was 9-for-14 in a three-game series against the Indians earlier this week, proving to prospective suitors that he is both healthy and productive.
    Insider
    Baseball Prospectus

    A team like San Fran would fit Byrd

    "Over the last three seasons, Byrd has hit an aggregate .297/.353/.470 while playing good defense in all three outfield spots. The 32-year old former phenom took his time to develop, but outfielders with his skill set have a market. He won't provide an upgrade over the likes of Andre Ethier -- ones better than good but not yet great -- but teams like the Giants could certainly experience a vast upgrade on both sides of the ball by bringing in Byrd." - Eric Seidman
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    Sheffield may not be done
    9:35AM ET
    Gary Sheffield | Mets

    The Mets' Gary Sheffield might play again this season.

    Manager Jerry Manuel said last week that Sheffield, who has been bothered by back spasms, was unlikely to come back this year. Sheffield, however, tells the New York Post he is feeling better and could play this weekend against the Phillies.

    Upton still wants to play
    9:24AM ET
    B.J. Upton | Rays

    The Rays' B.J. Upton has been bothered by a sore left ankle, and was lifted by manager Joe Maddon after just five innings Wednesday against the Yankees.

    Upton will sit for a few more days and there has been speculation the Rays may shut him down for the rest of the season. "I want to play again," Upton told the Tampa Tribune.

    Sagging attendance could hurt Jays
    9:14AM ET
    Toronto Blue Jays

    The Blue Jays attracted a record-low crowd of 11,159 for Wednesday's home game against the Twins and just a few hundred more came out for a game on Thursday afternoon.

    Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star writes that the empty seats could have an impact on the field by discouraging free agents from possibly signing with the Blue Jays.

    One more year for Chipper?
    8:25AM ET
    Chipper Jones | Braves

    The frustrating season may be getting to Chipper Jones. The Braves' third baseman told the Atlanta JC he would consider retiring if he has another season as unproductive as 2009.

    "I'm not going to tolerate the numbers I have right now for very long," said Jones, who is hitting .268 this season, 40 points below his career average.

    Jones is under contract through 2012 after signing a three-year, $42-million contract extension in March.

    Is Macha on the hot seat?
    8:09AM ET
    Ken Macha | Brewers

    Would the fourth-place Brewers consider changing managers after just one season under Ken Macha?

    General manager Doug Melvin brushed aside the issue when asked by Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. "We'll wait until the end of the year," Melvin said. "I knew that was going to get thrown out some time."

    McCalvy reminders readers that the Brewers gave Macha just a two-year contract last fall, as opposed to the three-year deal that Ned Yost signed when he was hired in 2002.

    Wakefield staying in Boston?
    7:56AM ET
    Tim Wakefield | Red Sox

    Injury-plagued Tim Wakefield will definitely be back with the Red Sox in 2010, according to Ian Browne of MLB.com.

    Browne writes that Wakefield has an affordable $4 million option for next season and is enjoying an All-Star season, so he still can pitch at a high level. There are questions about his balky back, but Browne seems to think the problem is not serious.

    Wang's future in New York
    7:45AM ET
    Chien-Ming Wang | Yankees

    With the Yankees steamrolling to the postseason, Chien-Ming Wang is a forgotten man. The right-hander who posted back-to-back 19-win seasons had shoulder surgery in July and is out for the season.

    Peter Abraham of LoHud.com discusses Wang's future, noting that there is almost no chance that the Yankees will offer him arbitration. Abraham says the Yankees could then decide to offer Wang a minor league contract.

    Would Pettitte love LA?
    7:08AM ET
    Andy Pettitte | Yankees

    Andy Pettitte is viewed as a pitcher who is loyal to the Yankees. With a free agent offseason approaching, an executive told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that the rest of the sport perceives Pettitte as a guy who "will probably either stay in New York or shut it down."

    Stark says that is no guarantee and there is always the chance of the 37-year-old rejoining Joe Torre with the Dodgers. "The Yankees low-balled him last winter, and it worked," Stark writes. "But he's had a big year, and he might not be so amenable to working for a discount this time around."

    Davis staying in NL West?
    7:03AM ET
    Doug Davis | Diamondbacks

    Is it OK to say Doug Davis is Jon Garland's mirror image? When taking a look at the upcoming free agent pitching market for this winter, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark notes that the left-handed Davis, like Garland, "is the kind of guy nobody seems to muster any enthusiasm for, but every team needs to fill out a rotation."

    When asked where Davis could end up, a rival GM told Stark that the Arizona southpaw is "made for the NL West." Stark says to pencil Davis into the No. 4 spot for some NL West team to be named later, on a one-year deal.

    Stark says the right-handed Garland won't have trouble finding works because of his durability. "It's like they say in golf: Most putts that you hit short don't go in. Well, most pitchers that don't make a start don't win," an official of one team told Stark. "This guy at least makes his starts."
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    Sessions, Bucks part ways
    3:56PM ET
    Ramon Sessions | Bucks

    ESPN.com's Marc Stein and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have reported that the Milwaukee Bucks will not match the Minnesota Timberwolves' four-year, $16-million offer for the restricted free agent Ramon Sessions.

    "We are not going to match the Ramon Sessions offer sheet," Hammond told ESPN.com. "As always we will be diligent in looking to improve our roster. We wish Ramon the very best."

    Sessions joins rookie Jonny Flynn and newly acquired Antonio Daniels in the Wolves backcourt. It will be interesting to see which point guard coach Kurt Rambis chooses to start. Sessions has made 46 starts in his two years in the NBA. Daniels' 218 of 220-career starts have come at point guard.

    The Bucks still have a plethora of point guards with Luke Ridnour, rookie Brandon Jennings and Roko Ukic already on the roster. The competition to start will be stiff as the rookie Jennings is the most talented, but Ridnour has a veteran presence coach Scott Skiles likes.

    Ainge: KG looking good
    1:37PM ET
    Kevin Garnett | Celtics

    Without Kevin Garnett in the 2009 Playoffs, the then-defending champion Boston Celtics struggled to get past Chicago in seven games before losing to the Orlando Magic in seven in the conference semis.

    Had they had KG? Who knows? But according to Y! Sports' Marc Spears, Garnett has been working out at the Celtics Waltham, Mass. facility and the reviews are in. Boston GM Danny Ainge gives Garnett a thumbs up.

    "We're looking for him to be there at the end of the season, not just the start of the season," Ainge said. "We're getting him ready for training camp and looking forward to him being healthy in the playoffs. He looks good. Really good."
    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 East standings

    No. 2, Boston Celtics

    "Many think a healthy Kevin Garnett and a revitalized Rasheed Wallace will get the Celts back to the top."

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the East teams fare this offseason?

    "Yes, it's possible the Celtics' magical championship march in 2008 was a one-shot deal. But dismiss them at your peril."

    Paul excited by Hornets' moves
    1:35PM ET
    Chris Paul | Hornets

    This offseason, the New Orleans Hornets have been one of the more active teams as the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, 50 percent of their roster is new.

    "The core of our team is still intact," GM Jeff Bower said. "The makeup and the personality and the mindset of our team, the team leaders in our group, have stayed the same."
    The heart at the Hornets core, All-Star point guard Chris Paul, can't wait to get going: "I'm excited," Paul said. "I'm excited because there were so many things that happened in the offseason and you can only control what you can control. The biggest thing I can do is come out and play."
    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 West standings

    No. 7, New Orleans Hornets

    "It was a disappointing season in New Orleans, relative to the high expectations they started with, but they still won 49 games and they still have Chris Paul. "

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the West teams fare this offseason?

    "Chris Paul makes them a playoff team on his own, and offseason pickups Darren Collison and Ike Diogu might improve what was among the league's worst benches last season."

    Signing Aldridge is complicated
    1:31PM ET
    LaMarcus Aldridge | Trail Blazers

    Contract negotiations between the Blazers and LaMarcus Aldridge continue daily, but general manager Kevin Pritchard tells The Oregonian it could take time and is a "complicated" process. The biggest hurdle for both sides is not knowing what the maximum salaries will be for the 2010-11 season. Those figures won't be calculated and announced by the NBA until next July.

    "We both understand LaMarcus' value," Pritchard said of the team and Arn Tellem, Aldridge's agent. "But getting that to correlate to the BRI is very complicated."

    Pritchard said the daily talks have been amicable and that the two sides "are in the same ballpark."
    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 West standings

    No. 3, Portland Trail Blazers

    "Can Portland become the proverbial "team nobody wants to face" in the Western Conference playoffs?"

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the West teams fare this offseason?

    "Portland had the best scoring margin in basketball after the All-Star break last season, and as I keep repeating, scoring margin predicts future success better than winning percentage."

    Grizzlies lucky to get Iverson
    12:04PM ET
    Allen Iverson | Grizzlies

    NBA commissioner David Stern spoke with The Commercial Appeal Thursday and said the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies are lucky to have Allen Iverson.

    "I think they got lucky," Stern said. "A bona-fide star and future Hall of Famer who still has lots of game left is going to prove to be a significant and helpful addition to the Grizzlies. ... Given the way the team is constructed -- with it being a young team -- this is a chance for them to get better and get veteran leadership. It'll be very good for the team and good for the community."

    Ric Bucher

    On and off-court styles worth watching with Mayo and AI

    "No one is going to be impacted more by Allen Iverson than OJ Mayo. They are both scorers and aggressive playmakers with completely different styles. AI's game is speed, length and agility; Mayo is strength, size and cleverness. OJ isn't going to pick up tricks from AI on the court. Memphis just has to hope he doesn't pick up AI's off-court ones."

    Amare's eye fully recovered
    11:56AM ET
    Amare Stoudemire | Suns

    Dr. Pravin Dugel, who performed the eye surgery on Amare Stoudemire's detached retina, says he no longer has restrictions on his activity, other than to always use eyewear on the court.

    "This injury is more serious than any he's had before," Dugel told The Arizona Republic. "This was more career-threatening. We came very close to having a lot of difficulty. With a traumatic detachment like he had and a lot of tears and scars in a person this young, the risk of losing vision is very high. ... Can bad things happen? Yes. Is it likely? No."
    Insider
    Summer Forecast: '09-10 West standings

    No. 9, Phoenix Suns

    "If Amare returns to full health, the Suns will light it up again. But will that be enough for more than 8th best in the West?"

    Insider
    John Hollinger

    How did the West teams fare this offseason?

    "Instead of launching a full tear-down operation they extended Steve Nash, signed Channing Frye and re-signed Grant Hill, which means they could still make the playoffs if Amare Stoudemire is healthy."

    Mom says LeBron won't be a Knick
    10:06AM ET
    LeBron James | Cavaliers

    Knicks fans are hoping LeBron James will leave Cleveland for New York next summer when he can become a free agent, but his mother says that's not going to happen.

    "He's a hometown boy," she told Page Six. LeBron grew up in Akron, Ohio, but his home now is Cleveland.

    Thomas on the block?
    9:43AM ET
    Kurt Thomas | Bucks

    There has been some speculation the Bucks might trade Kurt Thomas before training camp, but Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times thinks that's unlikely as Thomas recently bought a house in Milwaukee and plans to arrive there next week.

    Richardson eager to move on
    9:04AM ET
    Jason Richardson | Suns

    The NBA suspended Jason Richardson for the first two games of the upcoming season because of a DUI plea from last December. He joined most of the Suns Thursday for a workout and said he wants to put the suspension behind him.

    "That's what comes with the consequences of what I've done," he told The Arizona Republic. "After these two games, I put this behind me, learn from my mistakes and move on with my life and career."

    Nash in transition mode
    8:27AM ET
    Steve Nash | Suns

    Steve Nash has three years remaining on his contract and the 35 year old point guard is looking beyond basketball.

    "What I'm doing off the court is definitely with a transition in mind, knowing that I may or may not play after this contract [which runs through 2012], but I definitely want to take the opportunity now," he told the National Post. "Whether it's soccer or filmmaking or my foundation, I want these things to have legs well beyond my basketball career. ... And I think it would be foolish of me to just pick those things up when I'm not playing, and try to pick up the phone and have someone be interested in a film I want to make when I'm not playing. Because the truth is people probably won't care quite as much."

    Nash is directing an hour-long documentary for ESPN about Terry Fox, who in 1980 started a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, but didn't finish due to his own battle with the disease. A year later he died. Fox's story inspired Nash as a young boy.

    O'Neal's knees worry Riley
    8:25AM ET
    Jermaine O'Neal | Heat

    Despite Jermaine O'Neal working with noted trainer Tim Grover in Chicago, Heat president Pat Riley is still concerned about his starting center's knees.

    "We feel like he's going to have a great year," Riley told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "But he might not be able to practice all the time and stuff like that. So we probably need another big."
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    Centers to work out for Heat
    8:19AM ET
    Miami Heat

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports president Pat Riley is looking to add at least one more power player before the start of training camp, so the Heat will work out centers Steven Hill and Paul Davis.

    Big man auditions continue
    7:30AM ET
    Portland Trail Blazers

    The Oregonian report forward Melvin Ely and center Greg Ostertag took part in scrimmages this week as the Blazers continue to hold auditions for free agent big men. Centers Jarron Collins and Kurt Looby will soon be in.

    Dickau coming to Boston?
    7:04AM ET
    Boston Celtics

    The Celtics have offered guard Dan Dickau a training camp invitation, his agent Mark Bartelstein tells The Boston Globe. Dickau, who turns 31 Wednesday, played last season in Germany.

    McCants looking to change image
    6:55AM ET
    Rashad McCants | Kings

    Rashad McCants was a good offensive player coming out of North Carolina in 2005, but he also had a reputation as a moody player. McCants sat down for a Q&A with the News & Observer Thursday and said that stigma has remained with him in the NBA and that is why he can't find a team to sign him.

    "I was always tough-skinned and hardworking, and I didn't really care what people said about me, because I knew my ability," said McCants. "But now, after five years, that reputation is still around, and it's still haunting me from getting a job and being successful. ... It's kind of a re-ocurring conversation of people saying I'm moody, and have a bad attitude. It's kind of hard to believe ... but I've always been a winner, so it's hard for me to take losing well."

    Whe asked if he need a psychologist, McCants replied, "I consider myself a highly intelligent person. And even talking to the psychologist, he was wondering why I was in there talking to him. After that conversation, it reassured me that I was far from being unstable as a basketball player, it was just that the coach didn't take the time to get to know the real me. I think that any coach, if they have a question, they should come and ask me -- that we should have a conversation, and take the time to understand where the other is coming from."

    Teague not playing like a rookie
    6:28AM ET
    Atlanta Hawks

    Rookie point guard Jeff Teague has been impressive during pick-up games at the Hawks practice facility and other players have taken notice reports Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    "The one thing that sticks out to me is that he makes shots," said Orlando point guard Anthony Johnson. "That's going to go a long way here in the system he'll be in and really in his career. If you're a guy that can get shots, that can make shots and create shots, you've got the package you'll need to be successful. And he's got all that."

    "He's going to make things really interesting," said Marvin Williams. "I just love that he's been here all this time. It's a clear indicator of where his mind is in terms of what he has to do this season."

    Bonner to play for Canada
    5:58AM ET
    Matt Bonner | Spurs

    Canadian men's coach Leo Rautins told the Toronto Sun that forward Matt Bonner will have his paperwork completed in time to play for Canada at the 2010 World Championships in Turkey.

    "He's jacked. He's completely pumped and waiting to play," Rautins said. "It's going to happen, and we're anxious to have Matt. He's a high-character guy, who's committed to the game. And for the international game, he is multi-faceted. He can play at the three, four and five spots."

    The inclusion of Bonner would give Canada three NBA players on the national team, joining Jamaal Magloire and Joel Anthony. Rautins would love for Steve Nash to play for them, but that is unlikely and Rautins said he won't pressure the point guard.
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