Battle for Titans' middle linebacker position heats up

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Brad Kassell, signed more than a year ago as a long snapper, will start at middle linebacker Saturday night against Cincinnati in a bid to win the job left vacant when Randall Godfrey was released.

Kassell, it turned out, had never been a long snapper. But he made the roster last season with his special teams work and now is competing with Frank Chamberlin and Rocky Calmus.

Kassell was undrafted after playing at North Texas, while the other two were draft choices. Calmus won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker while in college.

''This is Brad's opportunity to show us what he can do, and it's very close, too. There's no front-runner now, and hopefully we'll be able to make a decision next week,'' coach Jeff Fisher said.

LIONS

ALLEN PARK, Mich. Detroit Lions cornerback Dre' Bly will miss Saturday's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns because of a sprained ankle.

Bly missed Detroit's first two exhibition games with the injury, but had been hoping to play against Cleveland. He was listed as questionable as late as Wednesday, but Lions coach Steve Mariucci ruled him out after Thursday's practice.

RAVENS

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Defensive end Michael McCrary announced his retirement Thursday.

A seventh-round draft pick by Seattle in 1993, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound end had 71 sacks and 561 tackles during his 10-year career, making the Pro Bowl twice and earning a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens three years ago.

CHARGERS

CARSON, Calif. The San Diego Chargers broke camp Thursday with a sigh of relief for a relatively healthy LaDainian Tomlinson.

The Pro Bowl running back gave the team a scare when he left Wednesday's practice on a golf cart with a bruised heel. He was back in uniform Thursday.

TEXANS

HOUSTON Rookie running back Domanick Davis returned to full practice Thursday for the first time since breaking his right hand in a blocking drill at the outset of training camp July 29.

But Davis, the Texans' fourth-round draft choice, said it was hard to stand on the sideline through two preseason games, and he knows he'll have to do the same Saturday night when the Chargers visit.

''I had to understand that it's part of the game,'' said Davis, drafted in April to be a third-down back and kick returner on the strength of his career at LSU, where he set the Southeastern Conference record with 3,204 yards combined on punt and kickoff returns

SEAHAWKS

CHENEY, Wash. The Seahawks broke camp on an optimistic note.

''It's been a good camp,'' coach Mike Holmgren said after the final practice. ''A very, very good camp. We're getting some guys back that were injured and nicked up.''

Holmgren said he was pleased by the defense, the weak unit last season, although he has yet to see the starting unit play together because injuries have kept key players off the field.

''They've had two good preseason games,'' Holmgren said of the defense. ''I've seen a glimpse of what they can be. We'll keep our fingers crossed with injuries and those type of things.''

Defensive tackle Chad Eaton and linebacker Orlando Huff are out with knee injuries and both will likely miss the season opener Sept. 7 against New Orleans.

Defensive end Chike Okeafor is out with a sore ankle and safety Damien Robinson's separated shoulder has limited his participation to non-contact workouts. Both could recover in time to play against New Orleans, Holmgren said.



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