hispers from around the NFL
• How big is the buzz for the Cardinals to consider drafting USC RB LenDale White with their first selection in the upcoming draft? We hear "LenDale in Glendale!" has become an increasingly popular chant in the Valley of the Sun.
• Is it possible that Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, who continued to keep his distance right up through the NFC Championship Game because of the mild stroke he suffered earlier this season, might not be back next season? According to our Seahawks sources, that's a very fair question worth considering.
• Sources in Jacksonville believe the Jaguars have interest in multiple free-agent running backs. Head coach Jack Del Rio raised a smokescreen at his season-ending press conference, lauding the team's talent and depth at that position, but team observers are certain the Jaguars will do more than browse this RB crop. One name to remember is Ricky Williams, whom the scouting staff in Jacksonville is said to appreciate.
• We hear that Patriots OT Tom Ashworth impressed his coaches and teammates by playing the divisional playoff game against the Broncos despite battling a severe stomach virus. When starter Nick Kaczur couldn't play because of a shoulder injury, Ashworth was forced into the starting lineup and ended up playing the entire game.
• Word out of Atlanta is that everyone in the organization is on the hot seat after a disappointing 8-8 campaign in 2005. We hear owner Arthur Blank and his staff are turning over every stone and evaluating every procedure to try to find a way to get the team back in the playoffs. Everyone's performance is being evaluated, including head coach Jim Mora's.
Alge CrumplerTight End
Profile2005 SEASON STATISTICSRecYdsAvgLongTD6587713.5485• Falcons TE Alge Crumpler had arthroscopic surgery on his knee soon after the regular season ended. Our sources indicate that Crumpler's aching knee bothered him all season, but that he is one of the toughest players on the roster and gutted through the pain. We hear Crumpler expects to be healed in time to play in the Pro Bowl.
• Panthers DT Brentson Buckner, who flirted with retirement at the end of the 2004 season and who briefly mentioned the "r" word again toward the end of this season, has backed off those statements a bit. Our sources in Charlotte tell us that Buckner said recently that he plans to play for three more years.
• Word out of Tampa is that Raiders DT Warren Sapp called Lions GM Matt Millen to give Rod Marinelli a ringing endorsement for Detroit's vacant head-coaching job. Sapp played under Marinelli when Marinelli was the Buccaneers' DL coach, and the two are said to be very close.
• It's not very likely many of the Rams' 16 remaining assistant coaches will be retained by new head coach Scott Linehan, but one coach we hear Linehan has already asked to remain with the team is WR coach Henry Ellard, who reportedly was also coveted by at least two other teams at this writing.
• Word is Greg Olson, the QB coach in Detroit under Steve Mariucci, is a very strong candidate to become the Rams' new offensive coordinator.
• We hear one interviewee for the Rams' head-coaching job -- there were eight altogether -- who definitely did not impress the team's hierarchy was Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, whose broad vision of the team was reportedly not up to snuff.
• Our 49ers sources tell us it's a good bet the Niners will try hard to acquire an experienced quarterback in the offseason. Signal-callers who have worked with new coordinator Norv Turner and whom the team might consider include the Jets' Jay Fiedler, the Dolphins' Sage Rosenfels and the Patriots' ageless Doug Flutie.
• Bob Sanders was promoted to defensive coordinator by Mike McCarthy in Green Bay on Jan. 21 to the surprise of some team observers. What Sanders, the Packers' DL coach in 2005, offered was stability and experience. A longtime assistant under outgoing coordinator Jim Bates, Sanders will use the same defensive system the team adopted a year ago. Although he's never been a full-time coordinator -- he was once co-coordinator for Steve Spurrier's Duke and Florida teams -- the 52-year-old has coached almost every position on defense.
• The Lions might use a coordinator-by-committee system on defense. Head coach Rod Marinelli makes no secret of his wish to hire Buccaneers LB coach Joe Barry for that post, but Tampa Bay is holding Barry to the final year of his contract. Marinelli could call defensive plays in the upcoming season or grant those responsibilities to a position coach until Barry, who is also Marinelli's son-in-law, can be hired.
Profile2005 SEASON STATISTICSTotSoloAstSackFFInt968511145• We're told the Bears are ready to let at least two members of their secondary go in March. Nickel CB Jerry Azumah, an unrestricted free agent with ongoing hip problems, and Mike Green, who began the season as a starter but fell way down the depth chart, are as good as gone. However, we're also told the Bears might continue to shuffle their back four. CB Nathan Vasher and SS Mike Brown are set, but LCB Charles Tillman could face competition. In fact, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Tillman will be tried at free safety. The coaching staff in place in 2003 when Tillman was drafted felt he could be a Pro Bowl safety.
• The Packers have no intentions of floating a big contract offer in the direction of WR Javon Walker. We hear that general manager Ted Thompson wants to find out what he has in Walker before increasing his pay. Walker is returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but was a Pro Bowl pick in 2004.
• Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan on Steelers Pro Bowl S Troy Polamalu prior to the teams' meeting in the AFC title game: "He is unbelievable. I really didn't know that until I studied him. But they do a great job with their scheme, making it very tough to figure out where he is, but the rest is him making plays. There are not very many plays where he is not involved with the play. You can't say that about many people in the National Football League. He plays with one of the highest motors I have ever seen."
• The Broncos boast two capable rookie cornerbacks in Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth, both of whom have impressed with their play and matured quickly. But what impressed sources close to the team as much as anything is how coachable they are and how much they helped each other through the rigors of their first NFL season, when their competitive interests could have gotten the better of them in regard to battling for playing time.
• NFL insiders have hinted that the Chargers are likely to go to great lengths to improve an offensive line that was shaky down the stretch. "I can't see [San Diego] going into training camp without adding a big body or two that could possibly win a starting job," one source told PFW.
• It's possible the Raiders' search for a new head coach could linger significantly longer, but we're told not to forget about Ravens QB coach Rick Neuheisel, a former collegiate coach at Washington and Colorado who has been a guest of owner Al Davis during training camp on more than one occasion in the past.
• The hiring of OL coach Mike Solari as offensive coordinator is good news for the Chiefs' ground game, as he was the architect of a lot of the blocking schemes and helped in game-planning short-yardage situations. But QB coach Terry Shea is expected to be a focal point in keeping the passing game going strong, and the team no doubt will lean heavily on the experience of QB Trent Green.
• Herman Edwards held talks with all of his new players in Kansas City during his first week on the job, and he said his early gut feeling is that OG Will Shields is leaning toward putting off retirement for another season.
• The Steelers are impressed with the progress of rookie CB Bryant McFadden, who gained national attention for good defense vs. Colts WR Reggie Wayne late in the teams' divisional-round meeting. McFadden's emergence has allowed Deshea Townsend to cover the slot in passing situations, making for a stronger Pittsburgh secondary.
• A source close to the Steelers says RB Duce Staley, who's fallen to the bottom of the depth chart, is handling his situation with class. The way we hear it, Staley expects to be getting Jerome Bettis' carries next season. Bettis is mulling retirement.
• The Ravens' hiring of Frank Gansz Jr. as special-teams coordinator could cloud the future of unrestricted free agent P Dave Zastudil, a favorite of departed special-teams coordinator Gary Zauner.
• The way we hear it, the Ravens could be active in free agency in an attempt to get some new veteran faces in the locker room. The culture of the locker room has been whispered about for a couple of seasons, and word is management could be looking to shake things up.
• A potential "sleeper" free agent could be Texans LB DaShon Polk, who was productive as an inside 'backer in the team's 3-4 scheme when he filled in for the injured Kailee Wong. However, a source close to the team wonders whether Polk could be lost in the shuffle as the Texans work to rebuild their defense to the specifications of a new coaching staff.
• The Browns gave OL coach Jeff Davidson the additional title of assistant head coach, and head coach Romeo Crennel indicated there would be no other staff changes. Davidson was reportedly rumored to be an attractive offensive coordinator candidate.
• The Redskins' salary-cap problems won't improve, per se, simply by cutting WLB LaVar Arrington, who appears to have played his final game in Washington. The team still would take a $5 million hit by cutting him, and that would leave it some $15 million over the projected $95 million cap. As for Arrington's future, sources close to the linebacker say he regretted mentioning retirement as a possibility, and he has told friends he feels great and is healthy. There should be strong interest in Arrington's services, should he be cut, but teams will have to be assured that he's healthy and fit and willing to buy into a new system, one front-office person told PFW.
Clinton PortisRunning Back
Profile2005 SEASON STATISTICSAttYdsAvgTDRecYds35215164.31130216• Redskins RB Clinton Portis reported that he felt great following another heavy workload this season (385 carries, 33 receptions plus his vigorous pass blocking in 18 games, including the postseason) and that he had no major injuries. Still, the Redskins might lessen that load a bit next season.
• With the Saints expected to fill their defensive coordinator job with Cowboys LB coach Gary Gibbs, Dallas has been in contact with University of Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann about potentially replacing Gibbs.
• There's growing talk in Giants circles that the team is down on Luke Petitgout and might not consider him as the team's left tackle for much longer. Expect the team to add a young tackle this offseason who might be able to push Petitgout, who started strong this season but finished poorly. • The Titans must make a decision on OLT Brad Hopkins, who was one of the team's more pleasant surprises in an otherwise disappointing season from the O-line. He has said he doesn't plan on retiring, and the Titans have shown good loyalty in the past to their veterans, so look for Hopkins to return for his 14th season, even though Michael Roos is the future at left tackle.
If Olsen is considered being hired for OC of the Rams by a very good OC (now head coach..Linehan) why aren't the Lions interested?
Defensive Co-Ordinator by committee?
Can anyone say LaVar Arrington?