Most holdouts fail to come to fruition at NFL camps

Posted: Friday, July 29, 2005

So much for agent Drew Rosenhaus' threats to keep some of the NFL's premier players out of training camp.

Edgerrin James took the field for the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, Javon Walker showed up in Green Bay, and there's every indication Terrell Owens will be Bethlehem, Pa., when Eagles veterans report on Monday.

In fact, the team with the biggest immediate problems seems to be the New England Patriots, who will seek an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl and their fourth in five years.

Ted Johnson, who started at inside linebacker alongside Tedy Bruschi last season, decided to retire a week after Bruschi announced he wouldn't play this season after suffering a small stroke following the Super Bowl.

‘‘Something didn't feel right with my body, really, this whole offseason,'' Johnson said. His doctor found ‘‘enough evidence to have serious concerns for some head trauma.''

Bruschi went on the physically unable-to-perform list. That designation allows him to collect his salary and even come back after Week 6 if he chooses. And Richard Seymour, the two-time All-Pro defensive lineman, was listed on the Patriots' ‘‘did not report'' list.

Seymour, one of the Patriots' co-captains, presumably will show up, although perhaps not with the attitude that has made him one of the leaders of the defense almost from the moment he showed up in 2001. He is due to make $2.87 million this season and wants to renegotiate.

‘‘Although his retirement is unexpected, we thoroughly respect his decision and support him as he moves on,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ‘‘Ted's signature was a work ethic and toughness that were second to none. He retires a champion.''

Other no-shows Thursday were John Abraham, the New York Jets' star defensive end and designated the team's franchise player, who has not signed the tender offer, and Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

Gates, who went from being an undrafted rookie to All-Pro in just two seasons, has yet to sign a $380,000 contract the Chargers tendered him as an exclusive rights free agent during the offseason. Gates can't report until he signs either the tender or a long-term deal, which the team says it has been working on since last season.

But the Rosenhaus clients seemed to accept the fact that a contract is a contract and it's better to show up.

‘‘That's one of the things I can't do anything about,'' James said after sneaking by the media through a back door at the Colts' training facility in Terre Haute, Ind., then trotting onto the field for practice Thursday morning.

He had already signed a one-year contract after being tagged as the team's franchise player for the tender salary of slightly more than $8 million.

‘‘Once I got tagged, I knew it was over,'' he said. ‘‘You've just got to take it to the river and go from there. It's football. I do what I do, it's easy. It's the other game (contracts) that I'm not good at. I'll figure it out one day.''

Walker arrived in Green Bay on Wednesday night, a few hours after the Packers' shareholders urged team executives not to accede to his requests to redo a contract.

he signed after being chosen in the first round of the 2002 draft. Walker struggled until last season, when he had 89 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

‘‘I don't know if it was a complete surprise,'' general manager Ted Thompson said of seeing Walker in camp. ‘‘We were assuming everybody would show up and he showed up. But to some degree, yes, it was a surprise.''

Had Walker held out, he would have been subject to a fine of $6,000 daily and the Packers would have had the right to seek half of the $1.3 million option bonus he received in 2003. Thompson did not say if the Packers would agree to redo his deal — he is due $515,000 this year and reportedly wants more than the eight-year, $75 million deal that Minnesota gave Randy Moss in 2001.

Defensive tackles Cletidus Hunt and Grady Jackson, possible holdouts, also showed up in Green Bay, although tight end Bubba Franks didn't. He hasn't signed a tender after being protected as a transition player.

Deuce McAllister agreed to a seven-year contract extension with New Orleans. The deal was announced a half-hour before the Saints' first mandatory meeting of training camp.

McAllister had said expected to get the second-largest contract awarded to an NFL running back, also making him the highest paid player in franchise history. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, who has an eight-year, $60 million contract, is the league's highest-paid running back.

Entering his fifth season, McAllister has run for 4,194 yards.

‘‘I basically know that they're putting everything on my shoulders and I'm big enough that I can carry it,'' McAllister said. ‘‘I want the pressure. I want the ball because I want to get us in the playoffs where we haven't been.''

As for New England, Johnson's retirement means that the starting inside linebackers on the current depth chart are Monte Beisel and Chad Brown. Brown, a Pro Bowler with Pittsburgh and Seattle, is 35 and has been bothered by injuries. Beisel was only a part-time starter for defensively challenged Kansas City the last couple of years, although the Patriots have a way of turning average players into productive ones.

In other camp news:

— Dwight Freeney, last season's league leader in sacks, sat out the Colts' morning practice with a shoulder injury. He had what has been described as minor offseason shoulder surgery.

— Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace was on the field at the start of the St. Louis Rams' camp for the first time in three years. He has been a holdout in the past, but signed a new long-term deal after firing his agents, Carl and Kevin Poston.

— A stomach virus that may have helped send Miami Dolphins guard Jeno James to the hospital has affected other players, including quarterback A.J. Feeley. He missed Thursday's practice to see a doctor, and coach Nick Saban said a couple of other players were affected by the virus, though no other player missed practice because of it.

Former Pro Bowl safety Lance Schulters signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins, six weeks after he was released by Tennessee for salary-cap reasons.

‘‘Schulters is a veteran player in the secondary who we considered for a long, long time,'' Saban said. ‘‘It seemed to be in our best interest to sign him.''

— The San Francisco 49ers signed running back Frank Gore to a three-year contract, meaning all 11 draft picks are under contract two days before the first training camp practice.

‘‘That's ahead of schedule, and we're certainly excited about that,'' first-year coach Mike Nolan said. ‘‘They'll all be at the start of camp, and we'll let the competition begin for them.''

— Denver signed second-round pick Darrent Williams, its top choice this year, to a four-year contract, and controversial running back Maurice Clarett.

Williams, a cornerback from Oklahoma State, is expected to compete for playing time on defense and is the favorite to return kicks and punts this season.

Clarett, the team's third-round draft pick, made good on his promise that he would not be a holdout. Clarett challenged the NFL's draft rules in 2004 and lost, and has not played since the 2002 season, when he helped Ohio State win the national championship.

— The Jets signed second-round pick Mike Nugent just in time for the start of training camp. An All-American out of Ohio State goes into the season as the starting kicker after the Jets cut Doug Brien in the offseason. Nugent was the last Jets draft pick to sign, making it eight straight years the organization has signed each rookie in time for training camp.

— Rod Gardner passed his physical with the Panthers, completing his trade from the Redskins for a sixth-round draft pick. The move clears $2.1 million of salary cap space for the Redskins, who need the money to sign first-round draft picks Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell.

— The Buccaneers reported for training camp without unsigned rookie running back Carnell ‘‘Cadillac'' Williams, the fifth player selected in this year's draft. Contract negotiations have not progressed as quickly as general manager Bruce Allen had hoped, in part because two runners picked ahead of Williams — Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson — also have not signed.

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