News & Info/Headlines
For those who haven't been following along. ... As we roll into April an increasing number of NFL teams crank up their off-season strength and conditioning programs offering Fantasy owners a great deal of data to build a knowledge base we can rely on throughout the year.
The upcoming NFL Daft, post-draft mini-camps, OTAs and quarterback schools will help solidify that baseline before training camps and the exhibition season help us nail down our player projections and ultimately our final draft strategy.
Better still, building our baseline is often as entertaining as it is informative -- a fact that tends to become increasingly apparent when it comes to the league's more talented (and dare I say flakier) wide receivers. I'll also suggest it should come as no surprise to find receiver-related news tops this week's Notebook. ...
That's right, we'll get ball rolling in Denver, where up-and-coming wideout Brandon Marshall will need three to four months to recover from surgery on his injured right forearm -- an injury sustained in a freak accident last weekend.
Let's start out by noting Marshall's story evolved significantly as the week progressed.
In fact, last Saturday's initial report, from NFL Network insider Adam Schefter, simply stated that "Marshall slipped and fell at his home. ... Marshall was treated and released at a local hospital, where he received stitches in his arm."
In a text message sent to Schefter the next morning, Marshall explained that he slipped on a McDonald's wrapper in a Florida resort and his arm went through a TV entertainment center as he tried to brace his fall.
"I want to thank everybody for their concerns and let everyone know that I'm okay," Marshall explained Sunday. "It's funny because I pride myself on YAC (yards after catch) and being one of the toughest players to take down once I have the ball in my hands.
"So for the next couple of days I'm going to take the time to build my confidence back up after allowing that McDonalds bag to take me down and send me through the entertainment center."
Marshall also advised Schefter that his arm would be in a cast for two weeks -- and that he didn't know how many stitches were under it. ... Really? He didn't know how many stitches?
Turns out there might have been a good reason: There were too many to count.
Schefter first began suggesting on Monday the damage Marshall sustained was worse than first reported. Much worse.
The Broncos confirmed that on Tuesday, when head trainer Steve Antonopulos offered the following, official assessment of said damage in a statement released on the team's web site.
"Brandon Marshall sustained right forearm lacerations to one artery, one vein, one nerve, two tendons and three muscles," Antonopulos said. "All have been repaired, and his right forearm and elbow will be immobilized for six weeks.
"Rehabilitation will begin in six weeks. Full recovery is expected to take three to four months."
That means Marshall might be ready to resume football activities in time for the start of training camp in late July.
And the circumstances surrounding the mishap?
Marshall subsequently admitted the injury was a result of "horseplay" (he was apparently wrestling with his brother). On Thursday, Marshall said he's really a good guy who just needs to grow up.
"Being truthful, it is time for me to grow up on and off the field," Marshall admitted. "I'm not just a guy that's on the team; I'm a starter and have a lot of responsibility on this team. We have goals that we're trying to reach, and I play a big role in that."
In an impromptu meeting with reporters, Marshall also made light of Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, who called him immature, but he agreed that he needs to act his age.
Not everybody took the incident so seriously. Tight end Tony Scheffler, who recently spent six weeks in Atlanta working out with Marshall and Jay Cutler, actually made light of the situation.
"I've done things like that, too," Scheffler said. "It may seem silly to the public. When you read it, you're like, 'OK, there's got to be more to the story.' But at the same time, I've been in that situation, too, where no one believes my story. I'm accident-prone and I can tell similar stories as his. Luckily, he didn't get hurt too badly.
"It's one of those things you've just got to kind of laugh at, I guess."
With all due respect to Scheffler, I'll reserve my laughter until Marshall returns to work. In the meantime, I'll have to satisfy myself with Marshall's promises to behave.
"It's time for me to grow up," the man known as "Baby T.O." told reporters. "From here on out, it's Brandon Marshall, clean-cut guy. ..."
Let's hope it works out that way. ... Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking to knock Marshall for a single accident. But the talented youngster's recent history cuts into my willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Last March, Marshall was arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment and domestic violence stemming from a domestic dispute. The charges were dismissed last May. Last October, Marshall was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. His trial in that matter was postponed on Monday.
A new trial date was set for June after Marshall's attorney asked for a delay.
In December Marshall got into a brief shouting match in a receivers meeting with assistant coach Jeremy Bates, but denied rumors that he told Bates to cut him from the team.
Marshall also was partying with Darrent Williams the night the cornerback was slain in a drive-by shooting on Jan. 1, 2006. Former teammate Javon Walker said Marshall sprayed champagne on some bar patrons, sparking a confrontation that preceded the shooting, which remains unsolved.
"I have a lot of growing up to do," Marshall conceded on Thursday. "I should never have gotten a DUI. You should never hear negative stuff about Brandon Marshall in the media. I know right from wrong. And I'm a great person with a big heart. But it is time, on a serious note, to grow up.
"My goal for this summer is to be clean-cut and don't get into trouble. ... And just hang around the right people."
Cornerback Champ Bailey said Tuesday he will step up to mentor the beleaguered Marshall.
"We know what he means to this team and we are going to need him," Bailey said. "I just hope we do everything in our power as a team to get him back healthy and ready for the season."
Veteran Rod Smith mentored Marshall in his first two seasons, but Smith is on the injured retirement list. Bailey said he's willing to assume the role of big brother for Marshall.
"I'm not really worried about him," Bailey said. "I'll keep my eye on him. ..."
Again, not passing judgment based on a few isolated incidents, but having an upstanding veteran like Bailey keep an eye on Marshall can't hurt. ...
Assuming he does all the right things -- and he's able to get back to work in time for training camp (as currently advertised) , Marshall will be of increasing interest to Fantasy owners. This after a breakout 2007 season in which he hauled in a career-high 102 receptions for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns.
It's also worth noting the third-year pro has missed significant portions of training camp in his two years in the NFL, although being sidelined last summer with a leg injury didn't adversely affect him during last year.
His emergence as Cutler's primary target facilitated the recent release of Walker, who signed with Oakland. ...
For the record, Marshall said on Thursday he has no doubts he'll be healthy in time for training camp and that he'll have another outstanding season in 2008.
"This is just a minor setback," he said. "But nothing good comes easy. There's better days to come. ..."
In a related note. ... It's not yet determined where Keary Colbert will fit in the Broncos' receiving rotation, but PFW advised readers last week there is a good chance the former Panther will have an opportunity to start.
Colbert, signed to a three-year deal early this month, could be inserted anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4 on the depth chart.
Pro Football Weekly believes if productive-but-fragile veteran Brandon Stokley is able to stay healthy, Colbert, who spent the last four seasons with the Panthers, will likely be knocked down to No. 3.
PFW went on to advise readers it came as a bit of a surprise that the Broncos were so aggressive in their pursuit of Colbert, whose production has declined since a strong rookie season -- 47 receptions for 754 yards and five touchdowns -- in 2004.
In the three seasons since, Colbert has a combined total of 62 catches for 670 yards and two touchdowns. ...
In yet another related note. ... Post staffer Jim Armstrong reports that Glenn Martinez tries to eat six meals a day and still can't gain any weight.
Martinez, who is hoping to stick with the Broncos again as a punt returner and backup receiver, weighs 188 pounds. The coaches have put him on a six-meal-a-day plan in an attempt to get him to 200, but it's an uphill battle.
"My metabolism is so high, it's hard for me to put on weight," Martinez said. "No matter what I eat or what I do, it's something that has affected me since high school. ..."
And in one last note out of Denver. ... According to Rocky Mountain News beat writer Lee Rasizer, Scheffler joked he almost felt like "a new guy" when the Broncos started their off-season program Monday.
His conditioning workouts last spring were designed to bulk him up so he could better handle blocking responsibilities on the line of scrimmage. Scheffler reached 265 pounds, and the plan then was for him to gain speed and shed pounds leading to summer camp.
But he broke his left foot and ended up playing catch-up the rest of the season.
Scheffler now is 15 pounds lighter, and instead of his weight, he's focused on his overall conditioning.
During his six weeks of work with Cutler and Marshall, Scheffler concentrated on improving his speed, quickness and initial punch when the ball is snapped in addition to building up his core muscles.
While Scheffler still is experiencing some pain in his foot, he has been told that's part of an 18-month process to return to full health, and he expects to be completely healed by the upcoming season. ...
In Jacksonville. ... According to the Sports Xchange, head coach Jack Del Rio has left little doubt that when training camp opens next fall, newly acquired wide receiver Jerry Porter will line up as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver.
Porter signed a six-year, $30 million deal in leaving the Raiders after eight up-and-down seasons in the Bay area.
"The day Jerry gets here, he's our best receiver," Del Rio said earlier this month. "This is a good football player. We feel he was in a bad situation out there and showed some frustration. Other than that, he's been a really good kid, a really good teammate.
"We feel good about who he is and what he stands for and the type of athlete he is I think speaks for itself. He's a tremendous athlete, very competitive. We feel we've added a real weapon to our offense."
Porter met the Jacksonville media on Monday morning with what Jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman characterized as "a smile and the enthusiasm of a college freshman."
"It's just like going back to college. It's my first time being a new guy in a long time," Porter said.
Smiles were few and far between in recent years for the seven-year NFL veteran.
Playing for the Raiders had become somewhat of a prison sentence for a big-play, speed receiver in an offense that couldn't settle on a quarterback and was at the bottom of the league in passing yardage.
Porter figures all of that has changed for him -- especially with Del Rio making it clear he'll be the team's top receiver.
"It's the role I've been looking forward to," Porter said.
Porter's best seasons were in 2004 (64 catches, 998 yards, 9 TDs) and 2005 (76 grabs, 942 yards, 5 scores). What followed the next season is a year that Porter wants to forget and the Jaguars are willing to overlook. He was suspended by the club, reportedly for voicing dissatisfaction over the team's hiring of former coach Art Shell.
He was suspended for four games, though it was later cut in half, and was inactive for nine games and only played in four games with one catch.
But Del Rio told the Xchange that's in the past and that he expects Porter to have a breakout season(s) with the Jaguars.
"He's ready to explode," Del Rio said. "He's a guy who's taken great care of his body and even though he's about to turn 30, he's probably coming into the best three or four years of his career, and we feel we're going to catch him at a perfect time.
"It's a good situation where you've got a guy that's hungry for success who has been in the league, who's got some polish and some explosiveness. We feel like the way we utilize our weapons here offensively, we're going to be able to plug him in and get some terrific production out of him.
"We're excited about having him on board."
The Xchange went on to remind readers the Jaguars have been searching for a No. 1, go-to type of receiver ever since Jimmy Smith made the surprise announcement prior to the 2006 season that he was retiring from the game. The team drafted wide receivers Reggie Williams and Matt Jones with their No. 1 pick in the draft in 2004 and 2005 respectively, but neither has panned out the way the club had hoped for.
The Jaguars have now brought five wide receivers in the last three years in free agency or trades, including Porter and Troy Williamson this year.
They landed Dennis Northcutt a year ago at this time, and while the former Brown became the team's top receiver last year, he still only managed 44 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games in 2007.
The other two wide out signees were Roy Edwards and Randy Hymes. ...
Meanwhile, PFW advised readers last weekend that Jones "can all but kiss Jacksonville goodbye."
An unnamed team insider told PFW the Jags will likely keep Jones around for training camp but that he would have to have a lights-out showing in camp to stick on the roster. ...
In Indianapolis. ... According to PFW, there's talk in some NFL circles that the Colts might unload veteran wideout Marvin Harrison, who will be 36 in August and is coming off a season in which a ruptured/inflamed bursa sac in his left knee relegated him to the bench for 11 games.
Harrison also had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee after the season.
PFW went on to suggest Harrison's injury prognosis is a dubious one.
Even though team president Bill Polian has said Harrison should be ready for the start of the regular season (but not necessarily the start of training camp), there's absolutely no guarantee he'll ever be the same dominating player he was prior to the injury.
Asked in an interview earlier this week about Harrison's progress, team owner Jim Irsay told Indianapolis Star beat man Mike Chappell, "I'm not a doctor. It really comes down to their expertise. But the type of problems he's had, there's just no reason (for him not to fully recover). There's no reason both knees can't be sound.
"The one knee (left) that had the cartilage problem, that's pretty much sound and ready to go. The other knee is coming along and there's no reason he can't be ready (for '08)."
It might be worth noting that Harrison signed a seven-year, $67 million extension in December 2004, and the prospect of doling out at least $7.6 million each of the next four years -- his salary jumps by a little over $1 million per year after his '08 rate of $7.6 million -- is not an attractive one for Indy.
That being said, PFW believes there's a better chance of him being cut next offseason than this one.
The Colts don't have a capable receiver on the roster after Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, so unless they take a receiver early in April's draft, they wouldn't have the requisite depth needed for the spread offense without Harrison.
The lack of clearly depth at the position last season clearly had an adverse effect on the offense.
Right now, the options behind Harrison, Wayne and Gonzalez extend little beyond Devin Aromashodu -- a very raw, developmental prospect. ...
In a related note. ... Asked by Chappell if it's important Harrison retire as a Colt, Irsay replied: "That's the way you hope it turns out, but you just don't know. Sometimes a player is not ready to say, 'I'm ready to retire,' and you're saying, 'You should retire.' Ideally you want that storybook type of thing.
"Wouldn't it have been nice if Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice retired as 49ers and Cowboys? Yes, but you just never know. ..."
Also in Indianapolis. ... Ben Utecht's free-agent defection to Cincinnati creates additional concerns about depth for an offense that makes liberal use of two-tight end formations.
The past two seasons, Utecht started 28 regular-season games and registered 68 catches for 714 yards and one touchdown.
At the top of the pecking order is Dallas Clark, who signed a six-year, $41.76 million contract in February. But his supporting cast lacks proven bodies.
Bryan Fletcher, like Utecht a restricted free agent who was issued a one-year, $927,000 contract, has appeared in 46 games the past three seasons. He has had 18 receptions each season but finished with a career-low 143 yards in 2007. The other two tight ends under contract -- Gijon Robinson and Zac Herold -- have never been active for a regular-season game.
According to Chappell, if Indy doesn't sign a veteran tight end through free agency, it likely will address the position in the April draft. ...
In New England. ... Boston Herald staffer Karen Guregian, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, reported on Friday that Ben Watson underwent surgery on his left ankle within the past few weeks, a procedure that revealed cartilage damage and scar tissue.
When asked about the surgery Thursday at Gillette Stadium, Watson, who was taking part in the team's off-season conditioning program, had little to say. "I can't talk about it," he said. "You'll have to ask coach [Bill] Belichick."
According to Guregian, the Patriots refused comment.
Watson injured the ankle during the second quarter of the Pats' 48-27 win at Dallas on Oct. 14. He missed the next two games before returning in Week 9 against Indianapolis.
The tight end was also inactive for two of the last three games of the regular season after aggravating the injury against Pittsburgh, before returning for the season finale against the Giants and continuing on in the postseason.
While Watson caught 36 passes for 369 yards and a career-high six touchdowns, his inability to do much after the catch raised some eyebrows, particularly later in the season.
According to one of Guregian's sources, there is some concern whether Watson will be ready for training camp in July.
The club released tight end Kyle Brady last month, prior to learning the extent of Watson's injury. The Pats' tight end depth now includes the 6-3, 255-pound Watson, as well as 6-3, 248-pound David Thomas (who spent most of last season on injured reserve), and Stephen Spach.
It is believed the 27-year-old Watson will eventually get back up to speed, although the timetable isn't clear.
Even though Watson refused to discuss or acknowledge the surgery, he did admit that while the ankle is feeling better now, it was a fairly significant problem during the year.
"It was definitely an issue, but everyone has issues, stuff they fight through," he told Guregian. "It was a nagging thing. Right now, it feels good.
"I've had some time to rest since the season ended," added Watson, who, according to Guregian, did not walk with a noticeable limp or have crutches when he strolled through the media room Thursday. "It was bothering me during the season from that initial injury. But that's what the offseason is about. Rest and rehab."
And apparently, as Guregian summed up, "surgery to repair damage. ..."
Following up on a few items from previous Notebooks. ...
In Detroit. ... Roy Williams has been hearing mixed messages about his future with the Lions. There is speculation that he is on the trading block, but head coach Rod Marinelli has told him -- and the media -- that the Lions won't deal him.
Whatever the message, and wherever it comes from, Detroit News beat writer Mike O'Hara reports that Williams is keeping his focus on having the best season of his career.
"It's been out there," Williams said Tuesday. "Coach Marinelli called me and told me not to believe it, that I'm going to be here and have the best year of my career. I want to stay here. I think we're headed in the right direction."
Williams is going into the last year of the five-year contract he signed when the Lions drafted him in the first round in 2004.
"If they want to make me a Lion for life, I'm good with that," he added. "If not, I'm going to play my type of ball and see what happens after that."
Management has not talked to him about extending his contract, Williams said.
According to Williams has recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for the last four games of last season.
Williams was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2006, when he had career highs for receptions (82), yards (1,310) and average per catch (16.0). It was the only season he played all 16 games.
Jon Kitna expects a big season from Williams if he stays healthy. Injuries bothered him the last two years. He hurt his neck early in 2006.
"I think Roy feels better physically now than I've seen him in two years," Kitna said. ...
In Chicago. ... Did the pursuit of competition for Cedric Benson lead Lovie Smith to Arkansas early this week?
The Bears head coach had lunch with Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on Monday, a source told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Brad Biggs. Smith and Southwest area scout Chris Ballard also attended the Razorbacks pro day Tuesday.
Biggs considers it an intriguing development for a franchise many figure to be in pursuit of an offensive tackle with the 14th pick of the first round.
If the Bears' interest in either one or both is genuine, it could signal Benson's rehabilitation from a fractured left ankle is behind and the possibility would then exist he will be phased out of the team's plans.
As noted in a previous Notebook, Benson had the walking cast he was in removed Dec. 31, and general manager Jerry Angelo said following the season he still believed the fourth pick from the 2005 draft could be a featured back.
But as Biggs suggested, "Actions speak louder than words, and if the Bears were to maneuver up in the first round of the draft to grab McFadden, or down to snare Jones, it would likely signal the end of the road for Benson."
The Bears would probably need to deal their way into the top six to have a chance to select McFadden. Interestingly, Jones is represented by Eugene Parker, who also has Benson as a client.
Right now, Jones is considered a late first-round possibility or a selection for the top of the second round.
Benson's initial contract -- which came after a protracted holdout -- was a five-year, $35 million deal with $17 million guaranteed). And even though he finished the 2007 season 27 yards shy of triggering $1.73 million in bonus money, the Bears are already into him for nearly $13.8 million.
Rumors And Rants blogger Ryan Phillips, noting that if you only consider the $17 million in guaranteed money, here is what the Bears have paid Benson for so far:
As Biggs pointed out, it's easy to understand why Angelo is willing to wait for a return on his investment. But the GM did promise competition. McFadden or Jones would both bring that. ...
In Cincinnati. ... Following up on last week's Notebook, head coach Marvin Lewis didn't appear to be in an especially jovial mood during an appearance on NFL Network "Total Access" this past Monday.
He certainly wasn't pleased that Chad Johnson was the only topic of interest.
In case you missed it, Johnson used a series of media appearances to make it clear he wouldn't be taking part in the team's off-season strength and conditioning program -- and that it's time for the Bengals to allow him to move on.
Lewis was quick to set the record straight.
When Total Access host Rich Eisen suggested it appears from the outside that differences between Johnson and the team seem irreconcilable, Lewis responded by saying there really are no differences.
"If Chad wants the opportunity to play professional football," the coach explained. "This is his opportunity right now to play here in Cincinnati. Despite his feelings and whatever he says when he comes on your show, he doesn't have a choice in the matter.
"He signed a contract, which is a very long-term contract; he's been very well compensated since 2003 under two different contracts since then. So that's the case right now. He's got an opportunity to play professional football here or do what he says he's thought about doing, which is sit out and that's fine.
"Our football team will move on and be ready to go just as we would if someone got injured. You talk to your team all the time about being one play from being injured and without a certain player and if that the case, we'll be fine and move on."
Pressed by analyst Solomon Wilcots as to whether they would listen to teams interested in the disgruntled wideout, Lewis restated his case without equivocation: "No, we are not going to trade Chad Johnson as I've said. We're not going to trade Chad, I've made it clear and our owner has made it clear.
"Like I said earlier, if he's going to play professional football, he's going to do it in Cincinnati. ..."
Sounds pretty cut and dried. ... Or is it?
In his weekly "Monday Morning QB" column, SI.com insider Peter King suggested a scenario in which Johnson skips the entire off-season program in an effort to force a trade. But owner Mike Brown and Lewis won't be forced into a deal that would screw their salary-cap situation this year.
So, King's scenario continues, Johnson sits out until camp. Then he doesn't show up for camp.
King went on to hypothesize: "Things get contentious, then ugly, then a sideshow. Johnson makes a few silly public appearances and rips the Bengals. Finally, two weeks before the season, Cincinnati trades Johnson to Dallas for the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2009."
While King readily admits his scenario is purely speculative, he summed up by adding: "Knowing the stubbornness of all parties involved, is more likely than Johnson caving in late August and reporting to the team. ..."
And finally this week, in Dallas. ... Singer-actress Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo were secretly married? So said Simpson's mother -- at least according to several Internet reports.
But according to NBCSports.com, Romo's agent denied that the quarterback was married.
Simpson was leaving a Chili's restaurant with her mother on Tuesday when the elder Simpson revealed the secret.
"Jessica is already married to Tony. What are you talking about?," Tina Simpson reportedly said.
Simpson told TMZ.com, "Well I guess if my mom said it, it must be true!"
Romo's agent, R.J. Gonser, laughed at the report and denied Romo got married.
Romo, whose Cowboys lost in the first round of the NFL playoffs, said earlier this year that he was thinking about marrying Simpson. "I'm sure I'll get married one day. I don't know when though," the 27-year-old said.
It's safe to say Romo owners won't much care they're or not -- as long as Simpson stays as far away as possible on game days. ...
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.