Greetings boys and girls. Another week, another jam-packed Fantasy Notebook. Let's get right with it. ...
Starting in Miami. ... New head coach Cam Cameron said Friday that he has spoken to all three quarterbacks -- Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon and Joey Harrington -- currently on his roster but wouldn't say whether his 2007 starter is in that group.
According to Palm Beach Post staffer Greg A. Bedard, Cameron said he's been "extremely impressed" with what he's seen from Culpepper so far, especially his penchant for working hard to rehabilitate his right knee at the team's training facility.
Cameron said Culpepper is not yet fully healthy but is "doing everything he can" to be ready for the team's mini-camps. Generally, the first mini-camp is held in May, but Cameron is considering holding an earlier, extra mini-camp.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Culpepper expressed optimism Thursday night regarding the hiring of Cameron and his chances of playing at a high level for the new coach.
"I feel great," Culpepper said.
Culpepper had spoken to Cameron "very briefly a couple of times, and he seems very sharp. I'm looking forward to working with him. He has a great offensive mind."
Culpepper said he wanted "to just show Cameron the type of player I am."
Loose cartilage behind the kneecap in his surgically-repaired right knee kept him from showing the Dolphins what kind of player he is last year. The problem hadn't shown up on earlier MRI tests, and it restricted him during rehabilitation.
"I tried, I just could never get back to 100 percent, so I really couldn't get the strength that I wanted," Culpepper said.
Culpepper had the cartilage removed in late November and said he is training every morning, focusing on strengthening his leg.
Will he ever be the same player he was, when he threw for 4,717 yards as a Viking in 2004?
"Oh yeah," he said. "Once I get healthy. ..."
Despite Culpepper's optimism, Cameron isn't prepared to proclaim the former Viking fit for starting duty.
"I'm going to base my opinion on any player in our locker room on what I see on a day-to-day basis," Cameron said. "Obviously you know certain things about a guy. But for a lot of guys in this organization, this a chance to start over."
In fact, Cameron seemed to indicate an open competition for the starting job may be in the offing.
"Here's how we'll do it," Cameron said. "We're going to all be in the same room. We're all going to look each other in the eye when we have that discussion.
"It's best we all look around the room and we say, 'Here is the approach. OK, men, let's go to work.' That will come out eventually, probably closer to our mini-camp. But now is not the time."
SI.com insider Peter King spelled it out like this Monday (well before Cameron spoke): "I think Culpepper had better watch out. Cameron is going to go by what he sees in practice, in the weight room and in the meeting rooms.
King went on to suggest: "If Culpepper doesn't come back with a renewed sense of purpose this winter, I have a feeling I'm going to be writing a story out of Dolphins camp come August about someone named Cleo Lemon. ..."
Sun-Sentinel beat man Harvey Fialkov reminded readers, of the three QBs, Cameron has the closest relationship with Lemon from their three years together in San Diego.
Lemon, however, is a restricted free agent.
Culpepper and Harrington are under contract -- but Harrington, a starter in 11 games last season, is unlikely to remain on the roster at his scheduled $3.48 million cap number. He is due a $1 million roster bonus in March, which the Dolphins are unlikely to pay.
While he considers the quarterback decision the most critical one he has to make this offseason, Cameron does face other decisions. And according to Miami Herald staffer Armando Salguero, the coach was noncommittal Friday about one of prime interested to Fantasy owners: Whether he would want Ricky Williams back with the Dolphins.
Williams, serving the final months of a one-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, will apply for reinstatement in April, his agent has said. But Cameron would not say if Miami wants the player to rejoin the team.
"First, he hasn't been reinstated," Cameron said of Williams. "You serve the organization, you serve yourself best, when you deal with things you can control. Right now we have no control over whether he'll be reinstated or not. Once the process runs its course, then I think you sit down and start thinking about [bringing him back] and start discussing it."
Miami general manager Randy Mueller traded Williams to the Dolphins for two first-round draft picks when he was the general manager in New Orleans.
It is unlikely Williams, one strike from a lifetime ban in the substance abuse program, would have that sort of value on the current trade market. ...
In St. Louis. ... In an interview first published last Sunday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell didn't beat around the bush. Indeed, Burwell started his session with Marshall Faulk by asking: "Will you play football again?"
"I don't know," Faulk replied. "It's all health-related. I have my good days, and I have my bad days."
Faulk has not played football in more than a year. He had minor surgery on both of his knees about a year ago. "Clean up" surgery, he called it. But as Burwell noted, Faulk's left knee did not respond and he missed the Rams' mini-camps and off-season workouts. Then he had reconstructive surgery on the left knee in August, forcing him to sit out the 2006 season.
Everyone thought his 12-year playing career was over except Faulk -- although even he seems to be hedging a bit at this point.
"I want to make sure I am ready," he told Burwell. "And right now I don't know if I'm ready. But I want to play again. I'm not saying I'm going to be the guy who had all those 2,000-yard-plus seasons, because I'm not. But I can still play the game; I know I can.
"The question is whether or not this knee will be good enough to allow me to."
Faulk said he had been working out the past few months, rehabilitating the knee. But he backed off on the workouts as his television workload -- Faulk has worked all season as an NFL Network analyst -- increased and promises to pick up the rehab again after the Super Bowl in hopes of answering his own questions about those surgically-repaired knees.
Some believe he already has answers to those questions.
Booth Newspapers Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski, citing an unnamed source very close to the situation, wrote this week: "Yes, Faulk wants to play again, but his knees are shot and. ... Faulk's body probably won't allow him to ever play again."
Kowalski's source, contrary to what the running back's claim, also said that Faulk has not been working out and that "he doesn't look like a guy who will play football again. ..."
Health isn't the only issue. There's also the Rams, who seem to have moved on without him. Is there a place for him in St. Louis? "That's up to Scott [Linehan]," Faulk said. "He has to decide what he wants to do."
Faulk says he wouldn't go anywhere else. It's the Rams or nothing, even if Mike Martz calls.
"I love Mike," Faulk said of his former Rams head coach and current Lions coordinator. "I really do. But Mike doesn't own any team, does he? So that's the end of that. ..."
Meanwhile, in a column published Saturday, Post-Dispatch staffer Bernie Miklasz reports that Faulk is interested in a career in the Rams' front office, and is willing to work his way into the general manager's role.
"I won't lie to you; that is something I'd love to do," Faulk told Miklasz. "Understand that I'm not jumping the gun, I'm not saying I won't play again. I'm just saying that, if I was taught some of the things necessary to have that job, and then be allowed to be a work in progress, with what I know, and with what I think I know, I feel like I could do a good job. ..."
"As a player, he was always the smartest guy in the huddle, and the first time I met him I could tell he was going to be the same way in front of the camera," NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger told Burwell. "He's always watching game tape. He's always on the phone. When we're on location, you see him sitting in his car on his cell phone or milling around the player parking lot pulling guys to the side as they get out of their cars."
So, a move to the front office wouldn't be all that surprising.
Still, based on his impressive on-air work this past season, I suspect the television industry will make it very difficult for Faulk to move on if they possibly can. ...
Sticking with running back-related items for a few moments here. ...
In San Francisco. ... The Niners realize it would be smart to give Frank Gore a healthy raise before his contract expires after the 2007 season. Pro Football Weekly, however, suggests that negotiations with Gore's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will hardly be cut and dried.
As Santa Rosa Press-Democrat beat man Matt Maiocco explained it, head coach Mike Nolan really likes Gore. He wants to take care of him. He wants Gore to be happy.
But. ... Gore plays a physically demanding position. He is not a large man; and he has already experienced a career's worth of injuries. In fact, when he made it through the recently completed 16-game season, it marked the first time in five years that Gore went through an entire season healthy.
Maiocco went on to explain what makes the 5-9, 215-pound Gore so good is that he never gives up on a run. He takes a pounding. That mentality has contributed to his rise to among the elite running backs in the NFL, but it might also prevent him from having a long career.
And as PFW reported: "Team officials still consider him a 24-year-old running back in a 30-year-old's body."
So, as Maiocco summed up: "Gore is not going to become among the top handful of highest-paid running backs in the league. But he needs to make sure he's taken care of, financially, before he plays another down in the NFL. ...
In Kansas City. ... Larry Johnson's representative has had some brief discussions with the club concerning a new contract, but Johnson isn't pressing the issue with ultimatums.
Johnson has three more years left on his original contract signed in 2003 that is scheduled to pay him $850,000 in 2007, far below market value for one of the NFL's premier running backs.
"It's out of my hands," Johnson told Kansas City Star staffer Randy Covitz. "It's the same thing as going in with the deal when I was a rookie. It doesn't bother me. I'm fine. It's more about trying to win the Super Bowl. I'm not trying to win 'Richest Man Alive.'"
Johnson, who ranked second in the NFL in rushing with 1,789 yards and set an NFL record with 416 carries, was happy for teammate Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez recently signed a five-year contract reported to be for more than $31 million, including more than $17 million guaranteed.
But Johnson said he isn't setting any deadline to get a new deal done before training camp.
"I could want, want, want, but (club president) Carl Peterson signs the deal and (vice-president) Denny Thum and those guys run that," Johnson said of the front office and capologists, "so I'll let them do what they want to do. ..."
In New England. ... Boston Herald staffer John Tomase reports the agent for veteran Corey Dillon believes the running back wants to play next year and doesn't expect the Patriots to try to renegotiate his contract.
"I'm sure he'll figure everything out in the offseason," agent Steve Feldman said. "But based on my conversations with him, he has a significant desire to continue playing."
Dillon turns 33 in October and will count $4.4 million against the salary cap. The Patriots have asked players to renegotiate under similar circumstances, but Feldman doesn't expect that will be the case this time. "I don't think they're going to ask him to renegotiate," Feldman said. "They've always treated him with the utmost respect. ..."
They also treated guys like Deion Branch with the utmost respect -- but only up to a point.
Also according to Tomase, one of the biggest questions from the playoffs is what happened to Laurence Maroney. The rookie running back, so explosive during the regular season, only averaged 2.8 yards a carry in the postseason.
One explanation would be the torn rib cartilage he suffered against the Lions on Dec. 3, though he returned in time to score two touchdowns and average 6 yards a carry in victories against Jacksonville and Tennessee to close the season.
Maroney's agent, Ethan Lock, said he didn't believe his client's rib injury hampered him down the stretch. "I can't tell you," he said. "I don't think it affected him, but it's not something I've discussed with him."
All in all, Lock felt Maroney's rookie season should be considered a positive. He rushed for 745 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards a carry.
All true. And none of it explains why the youngster came up so small when it counted the most. ...
Following up on some recent Headline News and previous Fantasy Notebook items. ...
In Philadelphia. ... Donovan McNabb doesn't want to leave Philadelphia, isn't jealous over the success Jeff Garcia had replacing him as Eagles quarterback, and wasn't muzzled by head coach Andy Reid.
"The so-called rumors that have started, they're false," McNabb said. "I'm a Philadelphia Eagle and will continue to be a Philadelphia Eagle, hopefully, for more years to come, and hopefully will retire as an Eagle."
With that, McNabb began a 4-minute speech Wednesday at the Super Bowl media center. It was his first time speaking at length with reporters since tearing a knee ligament Nov. 19 and, as expected, McNabb had plenty to say.
"It's unfortunate we have to sit here now to discuss this," McNabb said.
As noted on this site last week, one report in mid-January, citing unidentified sources close to McNabb, said the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback was upset Reid wouldn't allow him to travel with the team to the playoff game at New Orleans.
Reid doesn't allow players on injured reserve to travel, and McNabb acknowledged that he was upset -- but only because he and other injured Eagles couldn't help their team.
McNabb, who has led the Eagles to four NFC championship games and a Super Bowl loss, also denied reports he was angry with how fans and players embraced Garcia's success; the perception that his mother didn't enjoy seeing the Eagles win without him; and the notion that Reid canceled a Jan. 19 news conference simply to keep him quiet.
"We both felt nothing good would have come out of it," McNabb said.
For the record, McNabb also said the rehabilitation on his knee is going well and according to plan, and expects to be on the field when the Eagles open the 2007 season.
"It feels that it's getting stronger," McNabb said. "I'm able to do a lot of different things. I'm running in the water and feeling strong in the water. But it's a difference between running on land, obviously, and running in water. ..."
In Atlanta. ... Taking a different tact than his predecessor, new head coach Bobby Petrino will let Michael Vick take a more active role in running the offense.
That includes allowing Vick to call audibles.
As Associated Press sports writer Paul Newberry reminded readers, under previous coach Jim Mora, Vick basically had to go with whatever play was called by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, even if it looked doomed when the quarterback got to the line and studied the defensive alignment.
Vick's only options were changing the protection scheme and calling which side of the field to run the play.
Things will be different under Petrino, who was lured away from Louisville after Mora was fired.
"We're going to put it all on him," the new coach said Friday while making the rounds at the Super Bowl media center. "It's new to him, but he's excited about the challenge. I think that's the way you train a quarterback."
Petrino said Vick "really believes in himself to get it done."
The coach also expressed confidence that Vick can become a more well-rounded quarterback. Last season, he became the first QB in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards, but ranked near the bottom of the league's passer ratings.
"He can make all the throws you need to make in this league," Petrino insisted.
As noted in a previous Notebook, Vick came under scrutiny two weeks ago after officers seized a water bottle from him at Miami International Airport. Police said it smelled of marijuana and had a secret compartment, but lab tests found no evidence of drugs.
The Falcons initially came down hard on Vick, with general manager Rich McKay proclaiming that his star player had "let a lot of people down." Since Vick was cleared, the team has dismissed trade rumors and reiterated he will be the No. 1 quarterback.
"It was a little interesting, I guess," Petrino said. "But the situation got resolved and we put it behind us. ..."
In Green Bay. ... General manager Ted Thompson said Friday Brett Favre may still have surgery on the ankle that has bothered him for the last seven seasons.
As PackersNews.com staffer Dylan B. Tomlinson reminded readers, Favre had surgery scheduled for the day after the season ended. When he returned home to Mississippi without having the surgery, some took that to mean his playing days were over.
With Friday's news that Favre will return next season, Thompson said it will be Favre's decision about whether he has ankle surgery.
"He might," Thompson said. "I don't think anything's scheduled, but it's something that, like Mike [McCarthy] explained earlier in the year, it's something that he's played with. But I think it's something that he might do. But if he does, I'm sure you'll know about it."
Even if Favre doesn't have surgery, Thompson said he was unsure of how much Favre would participate in quarterback school, the mini-camps and organized team activities.
Favre will turn 38 on Oct. 10, and Thompson said the team is willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure Favre can continue to play at the level he did last season.
And that might require some additional help at the offensive skill positions.
According to PackersNews.com's Pete Daugherty, McCarthy recently told Favre that augmenting the skill positions on offense will be a priority this offseason.
Daugherty went on to note the Packers' greatest needs on offense are a receiver who can stretch the field with pure speed; a quality halfback either to share time with Ahman Green or take over the starting role if the Packers are unable to sign him; and a tight end who poses a consistent, quality threat in the passing game.
The Packers can address any of those needs in free agency, the draft or a trade.
In fact, an unnamed source told Daugherty that among other things, Favre is in favor of trading for disgruntled Oakland receiver Randy Moss.
Favre and Moss formerly shared the same agent, Bus Cook, and they know, like and respect each other. The Raiders have had preliminary trade talks with several teams, and the Packers presumably at least have inquired about him.
However, whether Oakland is willing to deal Moss at a price that's palatable to Thompson is a major question. ...
And now that we're on the subject of Moss, let's move on to some coaching-related items. ...
In Oakland. ... A story making the rounds at the Senior Bowl last weekend was that new head coach Lane Kiffin's first attempt at establishing a rapport with Moss didn't go too well.
Kiffin supposedly had trouble reaching Moss by phone. When he finally did, as the story goes, Moss told him in pointed, profane terms he wasn't interested in talking.
It's been reported on a pair of ESPN Radio interviews, and a source at the Senior Bowl told Oakland Tribune staffer Jerry McDonald that Kiffin vs. Moss was indeed a topic of discussion among coaches, scouts and personnel men in Mobile.
It's worth noting that none of the principals have gone on the record with this story as of yet. But considering the way Moss acted last season, McDonald believes it sounds possible. ...
Meanwhile, as Sacramento Bee staffer Jason Jones reminded readers, Kiffin said at his introductory news conference that he would put his stamp on the franchise by calling the plays on offense.
And so far, Kiffin is having his way shaping the coaching staff and is being given the freedom to build the staff as he sees fit.
After former Raiders offensive coordinator Marc Trestman interviewed for a staff position, it was assumed that whoever was hired as head coach would inherit Trestman as offensive coordinator.
Not so, as Kiffin hired Knapp on Monday.
Knapp's veteran presence is expected to help Kiffin, a 31-year-old with one year of NFL experience, with the transition to his first head coaching job.
With Wednesday's announcement that longtime wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff had retired, the Raiders' coaching staff continues to be reshaped.
Considering the Raiders' offense was the worst in franchise history last season, it makes sense Kiffin has focused his attention on that side of the ball.
Now if only he can get on the same page as Moss. ...
In a related note. ... At a recent speaking engagement, USC coach Pete Carroll expressed his belief that his former assistant Kiffin would pass on Notre Dame's Brady Quinn in favor of LSU's JaMarcus Russell come draft day.
His reasoning, per King: Kiffin likes throwing it downfield and Russell's downfield arm is much stronger than Quinn's. ...
In New York. ... As Newark Star-Ledger staffer Mike Garafolo noted, Chris Palmer is no stranger to working with quarterbacks who were drafted No. 1 overall. Now, he'll be working with his fourth top choice -- Eli Manning.
The Giants hired Palmer -- the former head coach of the Browns -- as their new quarterbacks coach. In addition to his two-year stint in Cleveland from 1999-2000, Palmer has also been an assistant coach with the Patriots, Texans, Cowboys and Coughlin's Jaguars.
Palmer has had some success working with quarterbacks, including former No. 1 pick Drew Bledsoe in New England during the 1996 season, when the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl. He also helped Tony Romo earn a Pro Bowl invite this past season despite his starting only 10 games. And former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell recorded his two highest passer ratings under Palmer.
But Palmer didn't do much for Cleveland's Tim Couch and Houston's David Carr -- the first overall picks in 1999 and 2002, respectively and he appears to have his work cut out for him given Manning's failure to progress as expected last season. ...
In Arizona. ... New head coach Ken Whisenhunt hired Maurice Carthon as his running backs coach and Richie Anderson as his tight ends coach Monday.
Anderson, who played for 13 seasons as a fullback with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, was an assistant wide receivers/tight ends coach with the Jets last season. Carthon, another former fullback with the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts, spent the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.
In a related note. ... East Valley Tribune staffer Darren Urban noted that Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald came across very differently when asked about Whisenhunt this week.
Boldin embraced the hire, given Whisenhunt's reputation for being creative with his playbook, and said he hoped to meet with Whisenhunt after the Pro Bowl.
Fitzgerald, apparently still stinging from the dismissal of family friend Dennis Green, didn't sound like he was in a hurry to do the same.
"I'll talk to [Whisenhunt] at mini-camp," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also said he "hadn't heard anything" about his new coach.
"It is part of the business and you try and move forward," Fitzgerald told Urban.
Boldin, meanwhile, quizzed Steelers receivers Hines Ward, Willie Reid and Santonio Holmes about Whisenhunt.
"Everything I hear from other guys is nothing but good," Boldin said. "They talked about how much we'll like him, say he is a player's coach and real innovative on offense, so that's what I am looking forward to."
Also according to Urban, Whisenhunt, who arrived in Miami Thursday, coincidentally ran into quarterback Matt Leinart on South Beach. It was the first time the two have met.
"He was surprised to see me," Whisenhunt said.
As for talking to receiver Fitzgerald -- and the fact Fitzgerald was close to Green -- Whisenhunt said that he respected Fitzgerald "and what he has been through."
"I have reached out to [Fitzgerald] and tried to touch base with him and this is a busy time of year for him," Whisenhunt said making it sound very much like the young receivers was "too busy" to talk. ...
As for who will be teaching the duo, the Cardinals still have not yet hired a receivers coach. The team tried to talk to former Cardinals receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, who is under contract in San Francisco, but were denied permission. ...
In Cleveland. ... The Browns are hoping new receivers coach Wes Chandler can do what former receivers coach Terry Robiskie could not: Keep star receiver Braylon Edwards in line.
Chandler, a former four-time Pro Bowl receiver with four years experience as an NFL receivers coach, has been hired to replace Robiskie, who was hired by the Dolphins.
As Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot noted, Chandler served as the Cowboys receivers coach from 2000-02, where he coached former Browns receiver Antonio Bryant, who had his own off-the-field issues while in Dallas but still managed to earn All-Rookie honors in 2002. ...
And finally. ... According to Contra Costa Times staffer Cam Inman, Jerry Rice appeared on the "Best Damn Sports Show Period" recently and mocked former 49ers teammate and current Cowboy wideout Terrell Owens:
"This year was a different year for him. He didn't play well. He led the league with 18 drops. I felt like I could have come out of retirement. ..."
That's it for this week's Notebook. I'll check in again next Sunday. ... In the meantime, keep an eye on the News & Views section of this site for late-breaking news and other tidbits of interest. Watch the Headline News section for more in-depth reviews of current events -- including the Fantasy Notebook.