News & Info/Headlines

Fantasy Notebook: LJ Ready? WR Corps In Flux & More
Another Sunday, another Fantasy Notebook. ... Off-season workouts, the gift that keeps on giving -- at least in terms of providing Fantasy Football owners the depth of information necessary to get an edge on the competition.

And this week's Notebook has the goods again. So what do you say we get busy?

We'll get the ball rolling in Kansas City, where it's starting to look like the foot injury that shelved two-time Pro Bowl running back and high-end Fantasy stud Larry Johnson the final eight games last year is fully healed.

As the Associated Press reported it: "From all appearances, L.J. is back."

"It felt good to come out here and still be able to come out and run," Johnson said after taking part in a 90-minute practice on Tuesday. "Body-wise, I'm 100 percent."

It's been a while since he could say that.

After rushing for more than 1,750 yards in 2005 and 2006, Johnson missed most of training camp in a contract dispute and never regained his stride. But he'd scored two touchdowns on Oct. 4 when a Green Bay linebacker jumped onto his back and rode him to the Arrowhead Stadium turf late in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs went on to lose that game and eight more, ending their season on a nine-game losing skid and finishing 4-12 while the running back who'd just signed a $45 million contract sat and stewed.

By the time doctors decided a bone in the right foot was broken, the season was lost.

"No one knew what it was," Johnson said. "It was so swollen, they didn't know it was a fracture. They didn't know if the bone had shifted. It was a little bit of both."

Johnson practiced outdoors three days two weeks ago. Then on Tuesday, he met with the media for the first time since the injury.

"They wouldn't have me practice if they weren't sure I that I was able to play or even practice," he said. "It felt good just to be out here. Everybody knew my foot was all right. I had fun coming out here practicing."

There seemed to be nothing bothering Johnson as he ran the plays.

"You guys saw him," head coach Herm Edwards told reporters. "He's fine."

Again, it's been a while since that could be said of Johnson. Although he didn't have surgery, it was late winter even before Johnson could work out.

"I'd say it was about February," he said. "I did a little bit. In March and April I started to do a little bit more. As soon as we got to offseason workouts, I was able to do a lot more as far as cutting and running straight ahead. That's what they were more concerned about. Was I able to go side-to-side without any problems?"

The answer seems to be yes.

"Sometimes you don't even think about it," he said. "You just make cuts and don't even think about it. To be able to do that and not be so hesitant, like 'Oh, I don't want to hurt myself again,' It felt good just to go out here and run loose. You want to run those plays and be able to cut and show the younger guys you're not that old and you still can play with the best of them.

"It's fun being out here doing that. ..."

Assuming he's fully recovered as advertised, what's his Fantasy value looking like this year?

Well. ... In addition to learning new coordinator Chan Gailey's system, the Chiefs must fix an offensive line which, after years of being among the best in football, crumbled last season.

In fact, Pro Football Weekly characterized the Chiefs O-line as "probably the NFL's worst" last week. And, the supporting case of skill players -- Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe notwithstanding -- leave more than a little to be desired.

Still, improvements up front are coming and Gailey plans to keep Johnson and the power-running attack as the focal point of the offense. Is that enough for a player with Johnson's skill set to succeed?

It could be. But I'll remind you that Johnson wasn't setting the world on fire (averaging only 3.5 yards on 158 carries) when he went down last year. ...

Also of interest. ... As Kansas City Star beat man Adam Teicher suggested: "It's a good thing for the Chiefs that Edwards has a fondness for young players. Otherwise, he'd have nothing to like about their wide receivers."

In fact, the only established player at the position, Bowe, is 23 years old. The old man of the group, Arena League veteran Bobby Sippio, is 27, and he's not guaranteed to make the team.

But age isn't necessarily the problem. A lack of accomplishments is. Bowe led all rookie receivers last year with 70 catches and 995 yards. Otherwise, Jeff Webb has two career starts, free-agent addition Devard Darling one, and the rest of the wide receivers either haven't played in an NFL game or haven't caught a pass in one.

"Is it a star-studded group? Is it household names? Maybe just one: Dwayne Bowe," Edwards said. "But we've got some other guys who have a chance. They just have to go play."

Still, Teicher doesn't believe this is really what Edwards had in mind when the Chiefs cleared out two former starters, Eddie Kennison and Samie Parker, during the offseason.

Certainly the coach will want to add a veteran free agent in case Webb, Darling, fourth-round draft pick Will Franklin and all of the other wide receivers prove unworthy of a starting spot or playing time?

But Edwards said if the Chiefs sign a receiver, it wouldn't be until after training camp has started.

"If we're sitting there in the middle of the preseason and we don't have a second receiver, there's going to be a veteran receiver out there, a one-year Band-Aid if you've got to go that way," he said. "But I don't want to go that way. I really don't.

"I would really like to stay away from that."

You know what that means don't you? From a Fantasy perspective, that means Bowe is the only Chiefs wideout who should be considered draftworthy.

Remember, Webb was second among Chiefs wide receivers in catches last year with 28 -- a total admittedly limited by the fact he worked behind Kennison and Parker. I'll go ahead and suggest the very fact Webb was behind Kennison (who only played in one game last year due to an injured hamstring) and Parker speaks volumes.

Darling did little to distinguish himself in four seasons playing for Baltimore. Eighteen of his 20 career catches and all three of his touchdowns came last season.

According to Teicher, the Chiefs are hoping Darling is a late bloomer.

He's certainly late. And while he might or might not be capable of blooming, I'm not sure Kansas City's offense is an environment conducive to doing so.

Brodie Croyle's shoddy work at quarterback last season has many believing that the former Alabama star isn't equipped to be a proficient triggerman in the NFL.

But according to PFW, the downtrodden state of the offense could serve as a mitigating circumstance should Croyle continue to falter. With no viable long-term QB prospect behind him on the depth chart, it would appear the Chiefs are prepared to give Croyle time to grow in the offense.

That should be interesting. And as's Peter King recently predicted, it all but ensures the Chiefs will be looking for the best quarterback in the draft next April. ...

In Buffalo. ... After enjoying a breakout year in 2006, when he set career-highs in receptions (82) and yards (1,292), Lee Evans saw his production slip in 2007 when he led the Bills with just 55 catches for 849 yards and five touchdowns.

As the AP suggested, Buffalo's popgun offense certainly didn't work in his favor.

The Bills ranked 30th in the league for the second consecutive year this past season and haven't finished better than 25th on offense since Evans arrived.

But the speedy wideout is optimistic about his chances of finding more room to run against opposing defenses this fall thanks to the presence of James Hardy, the 6-6 target the Bills acquired in the second round of April's NFL draft.

"I think he'll serve as a big complement," Evans said Monday after the Bills' first full-squad practice of the spring. "With his height alone he can do things that a lot of shorter players can't. Just innately some of the things he can do will help us out -- down in the red zone and jumping up for balls."

As Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan reminded readers, Evans can use all the support he can get after last season, when the Bills' lack of weapons was a big reason his catch total dropped so drastically.

Asked how much better the Bills' 30th-ranked offense can get this year, Evans joked: "It can't get much worse."

Hardy's arrival added to what promises to be a busy offseason for Evans. He underwent minor shoulder surgery after the season ended. He's learning the nuances of the new offense being installed by coordinator Turk Schonert.

And the Bills have opened negotiations with Evans' agent on a contract extension.

Talks are likely to continue into the summer. One way or another, Gaughan believes Evans is going to get a big pay raise when his contract runs out after the 2008 season. The franchise tag on a receiver, which the Bills presumably would use if they can't reach a contract extension, will be more than $8 million in 2009.

Based on recent deals given Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Minnesota's Bernard Berrian, the Sports Xchange recently suggested it would be wise for Buffalo to lock Evans' up long term before the cost rises further.

Meanwhile, Evans' chances of putting up big numbers on the field hinge at least partly on Hardy's ability to adjust to the NFL and Schonert's ability to get more out of the Bills' pass offense.

"Turk has played the game, so he has an innate sense of offense, how to attack the defense, different ways to attack the defense to keep them off-balance," Evans said. "We have a lot of carryover and a lot of things that he has brought to the table to make it even better."

Evans thinks he will line up in more different spots in the offensive set.

"[They're] moving me around, a lot of motions and shifts," he told Gaughan. "You really have to be attentive to this offense because there is a lot going in. You have the ability to put any receiver anywhere and let them run any route and get open. When you have that type of flexibility it really helps your offense."

Evans said his shoulder surgery was a minor procedure. He took part in some individual drills Monday but watched the team drills.

"It's just taking a little extra precaution," he said. "I'm just going to take it easy and just get as strong as possible for the season. ..."

In a semi-related note. ... staffer Chris Brown advised readers this past week that Marshawn Lynch will be utilized more in the passing game this year as swing passes have been a big part of the OTA workouts thus far.

Brown believes Schonert is committed to getting the backs more involved in the passing game. That being the case, Brown predicts Lynch will catch 30 passes on the low end this season and 45 on the high end. ...

In New Orleans. ... As Biloxi Sun Herald beat writer Larry Holder pointed out this week, carrying six wide receivers on an NFL roster is the exception and not the norm. It leaves an interesting quandary for the New Orleans Saints to sort out.

Marques Colston and David Patten have cemented their spots with the team. Colston put up Pro Bowl numbers in his first two seasons in the league, while Patten proved to be the consistent veteran the Saints yearned for after letting Joe Horn go following the 2006 campaign.

The rest of the spots, which will likely be three instead of four like last season, will be up for grabs.

Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper and Lance Moore suited up for every game last season. Robert Meachem spent every game day in sweats and never set foot on the field.

A chronic knee injury plagued Meachem during his rookie season. One year after being the Saints' first-round selection, Meachem is currently moving around the field without a brace on his knee and with more confidence than he's shown since arriving in New Orleans.

"You don't see the gimp and he's healthier, which has helped him," head coach Sean Payton said. "This offseason has helped him."

With the Saints' organized team activities -- including a mini-camp that began Friday -- well underway, Holder reports Meachem feels like he's running around as well as any of the other receivers.

"My expectations are always high," Meachem said. "I feel like every time I touch it, I want to make a big play. I want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. ... I have to prove something to my coaches and my teammates and just let them know that I was a first-round draft pick and why I was a first-round draft pick."

Let's see. ... Colston, Patten and Meachem all have roster spots locked up. Who else?

Moore and Copper bring added value on special teams -- which is key for the fourth and fifth receivers on any NFL team if they want to be active on game day.

Henderson, on the other hand, has little or no experience playing special teams. Because of that, he realizes his position isn't assured like at the beginning of last season.

Henderson signed a one-year deal in the offseason to remain with the Saints. His inconsistencies catching the ball turned him into a fourth option by the end of 2007 rather than a starter in Week 1.

He caught 20 passes for 409 yards and three scores.

"For me, I know it's nothing personal," Henderson said. "I know what I've got to do. I have to continue working hard to better myself and make the team. I have to do my part."

According to New Orleans Times-Picayune staffer Mike Tripplett, if Meachem lives up to his potential, he'll not only push Henderson for the No. 3 receiver job, but he could eventually supplant his mentor, Patten, in the starting lineup. ...

For what it's worth. ... Triplett advised readers that Colston continues to look impressive every time he steps on the field. For the past two seasons, he has always made an impression, looking like a poised veteran with a rare combination of size, speed and consistently great hands. ...

Also of interest. ... Deuce McAllister has worked on a limited basis this weekend "He probably went 30 percent, 20 percent," Payton said. "Selectively on certain reps. He had his recheck last week in Birmingham.

"We are just bringing him along with a few other guys the same way. He took some but not a lot of reps."

Returning for mini-camp may have been a certain benchmark for McAllister, who is coming off multiple knee surgeries, to get back to practice. His return is a factor in the team's plans to get Reggie Bush off the schneid this season.

Even if McAllister makes it back onto the field this fall, expect to see plenty of Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas as coaches try to keep Bush in a more versatile runner/receiver role. ...

In Minnesota. ... According to St. Paul Pioneer Press staffer Don Seeholzer, nobody expects Berrian to single-handedly turn the Vikings' offense into an aerial circus, but fellow receiver Bobby Wade, who spent two seasons with him in Chicago, said Berrian's speed will have a major impact on the offense.

"He's going to stretch the field, man," Wade said. "He's going to stretch the field and make big plays. He's going to be consistent. That's one thing about him. He does it week after week. He showed that in the last four seasons, so I'm excited to have him here."

So is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who finally has a receiver who combines deep speed (a 14.6-yard career average) with an ability to catch the ball.

"He's an explosive player," Bevell said. "He's got great ball skills. We expect to get big plays down the field for him, but because of his speed, he gets great separation. And that's something we're looking for. We've got it down to one-on-one matchups outside. We need to win those matchups and get that separation."

Anyone who watched the Vikings' receivers struggle to beat defenders last season can appreciate what that could mean. Berrian told Seeholzer that many of his 150 career receptions came on the kind of crossing patterns that are a staple of the West Coast offense.

Before he can do that for the Vikings he needs to get on the same page with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. After two weeks of organized team activities, the timing between the two is still a work in progress, but Berrian said it's improving.

"It's getting better every day," he said. "The more we're out here, the more we're throwing the ball together. It's getting a lot better."

Jackson agreed, and he has been impressed with his new No. 1 receiver's work ethic.

"I think he signed the one day and the next day he was pretty much here," Jackson said. "It shows that he's committed and he'll come here and work hard to get on the same page as us.

"He's been here since Day One, and we've come a long way and still have a long way to go."

In addition to Jackson throwing a harder ball than expected, Berrian said he's been struck by his new quarterback's physical skills and grasp of the offense.

"He's definitely a better player than I thought," he said. "He can make all the throws an NFL quarterback needs to make. He's got a strong arm, and from what I can tell right now he's getting a lot smarter within the offense. He's definitely progressing."

And of course, an unstable Bears quarterback situation didn't stop Berrian from setting career highs with 71 receptions and 951 yards last season. ...

Meanwhile, KSTP-TV reporter Ryan Kibbe notes that second-year wideout Sidney Rice put on about eight pounds this offseason without losing a step or affecting his leaping ability.

That hasn't gone unnoticed by his quarterback.

"Just that he's got the advantage over any corner (back) out there," Jackson explained. "A 1-on-1 matchup-jump ball-all day, every day."

It's those kinds of tools that make Rice the projected starter, alongside Berrian, in 2008.

A second-round draft pick in 2007, Rice flashed potential last season with four touchdowns as a rookie backup. He started just four games. With great hands and the above-mentioned leaping ability, I'm looking for Rice to emerge as a significant red-zone threat this season. ...

In Chicago. ... According to Arlington Heights Daily Herald beat writer Bob LeGere, if anyone is immune to the possible dysfunctional effects of the quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, it would be Marty Booker.

And that's a good thing since he's expected to be the go-to guy for whichever quarterback wins the job.

LeGere went on to remind readers that Booker has made a successful career of adapting to whatever situation he has been thrown into, regardless of who's throwing the football.

Since 1999, Booker's first season with the Bears -- when he had to adjust to Shane Matthews, Cade McNown and Jim Miller all starting games -- playing with multiple quarterbacks has been routine for Booker.

"Dude, in my career I've had like almost 20 different quarterbacks, so as far as adjusting to anybody, that's not a problem," he said. "That's the least of everything."

Actually it's been 17 different quarterbacks. But his point is well taken.

And even though he will turn 32 during training camp this summer, Booker returns to the Bears in the same capacity in which he left -- as the No. 1 receiver.

The Bears lost their top two receivers in the offseason when Berrian signed with Minnesota and Muhsin Muhammad was released to loosen up the salary cap. Booker was signed to help fill the void.

"Whenever you lose a playmaker it's a little unsettling," head coach Lovie Smith said. "But getting Marty Booker back will help."

The question is how much?

I certainly wouldn't count on Booker duplicating his back-to-back seasons of 2000 and '01, when he caught 197 passes for 2,260 yards.

Booker isn't.

"That was back in my younger days," he said with a laugh. "But if the ball comes my way, I have to catch it, so I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity. ..."

In Tennessee. ... Although their on-field relationship is still being built, Nashville Tennessean staffer Jim Wyatt reports that Vince Young and tight end Alge Crumpler are off to a good start.

"It has been a match made in heaven this early in the offseason," Crumpler said. "I am excited about it, and I know Vince is excited about it, too."

The Titans signed Crumpler in March after he was released by Atlanta.

The idea was to give Young another option, this one experienced at getting his hands on the football and taking it into the end zone. That's something Crumpler did plenty of in seven seasons with the Falcons, scoring 35 touchdowns.

Young said he's developing good chemistry with Crumpler, and that will give him more confidence in working with the tight ends. Arguably no one on the team has better chemistry with Young than his former college teammate, tight end Bo Scaife.

"Crump is a big target; he is smart. At the line of scrimmage, we kind of give each other the eye before we snap the ball because he is seeing what I am seeing," Young said. "I really feel like he is going to help me out a whole lot because he is a vet and he knows what to do out there. He is going to be a good guy for me."

Crumpler said he's been a loyal participant in the team's offseason program, which began in March.

According to Nashville City Paper reporter Terry McCormick, Crumpler had shed 15 pounds since joining the Titans.

Crumpler declined to say what is current weight is, but the four-time Pro Bowler told McCormick said he is "close" to the 262 pounds he is listed at on the roster.

In a related note. ... A recent report suggesting he considered retirement after one season (see last week's Notebook) was "blown out of proportion," Young said this week.

Heading toward his third pro season, Young said he's in a "much different place" mentally than he was at this time last year. Having just been named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Young was getting tugged in different directions. Some people were asking for money, others for time he didn't have.

He admitted it was nearly overwhelming and that he wished it would all go away. Except for football.

"I was never going to quit football," Young said Thursday.

And as for when he might retire, Young said there's no timetable.

"My goal is to win three or four Super Bowls," he said. "So however long it takes to get them. ..."

In Denver. ... Even though he was an undrafted free agent last season and has never rushed for 1,000 yards, Selvin Young's goal is to become only the sixth 2,000-yard rusher.

"People call me crazy," Young told Fort Worth Star-Telegram NFL beat writer Charean Williams in a recent interview. "I got a lot of laughs, too, but I really think it's in me. I feel comfortable. I've gotten adjusted to this altitude. With that alone, I should be able to take more snaps a game.

"And it seems like they want to do a lot more things with me."

Young started eight games for the Broncos last season and led the team with 729 rushing yards, becoming only the sixth undrafted rookie since 1967 to rush for at least 500 yards. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and caught 35 passes.

The Broncos plan to use Young in more ways this season, but he won't necessarily get the ball more. Head coach Mike Shanahan said earlier this offseason that he sees Young as 10-to-15-touches-a-game back.

Thus, the Broncos will continue to rotate their backs.

"Selvin played very well when he played," Shanahan said at the NFL owners meetings back in March. "He will wear down. He's not a big guy."

Apparently nobody told Young.

For the record. ... The NFL's five-man 2,000-yard club -- O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Jamal Lewis and Eric Dickerson -- had from 332 to 387 carries.

So, Young would have to first convince everyone, most notably Shanahan, he's capable of 20-plus carries a game, before 2,000 yards becomes possible.

"I'd like for him to prove that to me," Shanahan said when told of Young's goal this week. "And he could very well do it. There's a big difference from your first year to your second year."

Not that big. ...

In Cincinnati. ... In the next two weeks, wide receiver Chad Johnson has a big decision to make.

The Bengals are scheduled to hold a mandatory mini-camp June 12-14. Johnson has vowed that he will not be at mini-camp, training camp or any activity associated with the Bengals.

NFL Network insider Adam Schefter, however, reports that some who know Johnson believe he might change his mind and report to the team for mini-camp, averting the $8,638 daily fines.

Schefter conceded that money might not be the driving issue here anyway. By not working out in Cincinnati this offseason, Johnson is foregoing a $250,000 workout bonus in his contract.

And if Johnson fails to show for training camp, as he has vowed, he would be subject to daily fines of $15,116 -- some big money.

Schefter added that Johnson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, insisted Friday that his client has not made any decisions yet and that he and Johnson will be discussing the matter in the two weeks ahead. ...

In Detroit. ... Five months after surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Kevin Jones was running. And he wasn't just jogging on flat grass. He was bursting up hills. According to Detroit Free Press reporter Nicholas J. Cotsonika, Jones was changing direction – left, right, backward, forward.

He looked far ahead of schedule in his recovery -- enough so for Cotsonika to wonder if Jones would make the Lions regret cutting him.

Jones, a first-round pick in 2004 who has suffered two major injuries in two seasons, hopes to show NFL teams that he will be ready for training camp in July and is worth a decent contract. He plans to work out for them June 28.

And he apparently has some interesting motivation.

Before a couple of sprints, Jones yelled out "Colletto," referencing new Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, who appears to be the man most responsible for Jones' departure.

Jones, who recently worked out for the Titans and Patriots (without getting an offer) said it wasn't personal, but it's motivating to prove someone wrong. ...

Meanwhile, the Detroit News reports that head coach Rod Marinelli has been consistently impressed Kevin Smith, the man most likely to replace Jones.

According to News staffer Eric Lacy, Smith has shown the team his ability to change direction quickly and make tacklers miss throughout the initial rookie camp, mini-camp and the past week of OTAs.

Lacy added: "Smith's grittiness and intense approach to the game have caught Marinelli's attention. ..."

And finally this week, in Dallas. ... It is being called the Marion Barber Rule, but its namesake doesn't know anything about it.

"What's that? What happened?" Barber asked when informed of the change.

Offensive players using stiff arms to the face of defenders always was against the rules, but officials rarely called it. After watching Barber turn the stiff arm into "a weapon" as one member of the NFL's competition committee told Williams, the rule has become a point of emphasis for this season.

Officials have been told to throw a flag when an offensive player grabs onto or twists the facemask of a defender -- a 15-yard facemask penalty -- or when he violently shoves a defender aside with a stiff arm to the face -- a 15-yard hands-to-the-face penalty.

"Then, I'm going to use the elbow," Barber said, jokingly, before adding, "I didn't even know. I'm going to have to read up on it. So you can't stiff arm at all?

"What about the throat?"

Barber might have been joking about the elbow; I think he was serious about the throat, though. ...

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.