NFL
NFL Roundup 8/24/04
By The Source
Aug 24, 2004

Compiled from a variety of sources throughout the day

- Houston Texans defensive end Gary Walker will rest for a week to 10 days to allow his strained groin to heal, general manager Charley Casserly said Tuesday.

Walker, the Texans' two-time Pro Bowl lineman, tweaked the muscle during practice Monday and had to be helped off the field. The team was worried enough about the injury to call for an MRI examination, which revealed a mild strain.

"He should be ready for the opener," Casserly said.

Walker, in his 10th NFL season, earned his second Pro Bowl trip in the Texans' inaugural 2002 season. He never was healthy last season as he suffered a variety of ailments, most notably a dislocated right toe that eventually landed him on injured reserve.

Walker, an expansion draft selection off Jacksonville's roster, almost left the Texans in the offseason because of a massive salary cap drain his old contract would have placed on Houston this season. However, he signed a new six-year deal to stay put.

- Cornerback Derek Ross, who tied for the NFL rookie lead in interceptions two years ago, was signed on Tuesday by the Minnesota Vikings.

New Orleans was the latest team to waive Ross, a third-round pick by Dallas in 2002. Ross started nine games that season and had five interceptions. He also returned kicks.

The Saints let the former Ohio State player go after he missed a plane and failed to report on time.

He was released by Dallas in December and was signed by Atlanta, where he played two games.

Brian Williams, one of Minnesota's starting cornerbacks, has a sprained knee and may not play in the Sept. 12 opener.

- The New England Patriots released veteran fullback Fred McCrary on Tuesday.

Primarily a blocking back, the seven-year veteran joined New England before last season, starting three games before he was sidelined with a season-ending leg injury.

The 6-foot, 247-pound fullback was a sixth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles out of Mississippi State in 1995.

He signed with the San Diego Chargers in 1999 and started 55 of 63 games over the next four seasons.

In his career, the 31-year-old McCrary has 105 career receptions for 598 yards and six touchdowns. He has 31 yards rushing and one touchdown on 25 career carries.

In two preseason games this year, he had two carries for 15 yards and one reception for four yards.

The Patriots placed rookie safety Guss Scott on injured reserve.

Scott, a third-round pick from Florida, injured a knee Saturday in the Patriots' 31-3 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He had seen action primarily with reserve units and on special teams.

- Rookie quarterback Philip Rivers ended his lengthy holdout, agreeing to terms on a six-year contract with the San Diego Chargers.

The contract will pay Rivers $40.5 million, including a $14.25 million signing bonus. He can earn $10 million more in incentives.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said Rivers was driving to the team's training camp from San Diego on Monday night and was expected to sign the contract later that night or early Tuesday.

Rivers, taken by the New York Giants with the No. 4 pick in this year's draft, was acquired by Chargers in the deal that sent quarterback Eli Manning to New York. Manning was selected by San Diego with the No. 1 overall pick.

The 6-foot-5 Rivers, who missed four weeks of training camp and two preseason games, is unlikely to get the starting job immediately. In his absence, three-year veteran Drew Brees has performed well and will likely lead the team at the start of the season.

Rivers was a four-year starter at North Carolina State, where he set an NCAA record with 51 career starts and is the second-leading passer in NCAA history with 13,484 yards. He completed 72 percent of his passes last year, with 34 touchdowns. In four seasons, he threw 95 TD passes and completed 64 percent of his attempts.

- New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks, who missed the first preseason game, will probably miss the third as well. He re-injured a ligament in the top of his thigh against the Packers. On Monday he was sore and back where he was when he first hurt himself.

Brooks said he doubted he would do much this week in practice or in the game.

"I think it's best for me to rest it and try to get the treatment I need so I can start getting ready for Seattle," Brooks said. "That's right around the corner."

- Philadelphia signed 34-year-old Dorsey Levens to help fill the spot vacated at running back when Correll Buckhalter was lost for the season with a knee injury Friday against the Baltimore Ravens. Levens played for the Eagles two years ago and was with the New York Giants last year.

Levens was signed by the Eagles the first time after Buckhalter was hurt and ran for 475 yards and a 5.5 yard-per-carry average.

"I don't have a lot of mileage on my body so I'm fresh," he said.

Also, defensive end Jevon Kearse aggravated his sprained right ankle in Friday's game and did not practice Monday. The injury is not thought to be serious.

- Linebacker Carlos Emmons returned to practice after spending more than two weeks on the sideline because of pain in the leg he broke last season.

"It's definitely a relief," Emmons said. "I have to work on things."

The Giants signed the former Philadelphia Eagles player as a free agent in the offseason, thinking he would fill the spot that opened when Brandon Short left to sign with Carolina.

Emmons practiced for the first week of training camp at the University at Albany. However, he developed pain in the leg around Aug. 6, the day before a practice session with the New York Jets.

- The Carolina Panthers were relieved to find out Monday that guard Tutan Reyes has a sprained ankle rather than a broken one.

The Panthers had feared a broken bone after Reyes had to be carted off the field at Sunday's practice.

"It's good, but it's a high ankle sprain and that's tough business for a big guy," offensive line coach Mike Maser said. "Anytime you injure a wheel, and you're a big person, it takes a while to get back."

Reyes was injured about 30 minutes after tackle Matt Willig was taken off the field with a knee injury. It turned out to be just a bruise. The Panthers have a revamped offensive line this year, one season after they used just seven players. Center Jeff Mitchell was the only one to miss a start.

- Pro Bowl center Matt Birk was over the ball Monday for the first time since the second day of training camp.

Birk, who had surgery Aug. 4 to repair a hernia, was expected to need three to five weeks to recover. He started running last week, and said he hopes to be in the lineup for the Vikings' last preseason game Sept. 2 against Seattle.

"It's getting better," Birk said. "Hopefully next week I can start doing some real stuff."

Meanwhile, receiver Marcus Robinson will miss Minnesota's two remaining preseason games to rest his problematic left hamstring.

Robinson, who signed a four-year, $9.4 million deal in March to be the Vikings' No. 2 receiver, left practice after tweaking the hamstring.

The same injury, officially diagnosed as a strain, forced him to miss nearly half the team's padded practices in training camp, as well as Saturday's preseason loss in Atlanta.

After Robinson felt another twinge Monday, the training staff and coach Mike Tice agreed it would be best to rest him until the regular season.

- Linebacker Gilbert Gardner was told his right ankle injury wasn't nearly as bad as first feared.

After Saturday's 31-7 loss to the New York Jets, Colts coach Tony Dungy said Gardner had a high ankle sprain. An MRI showed the injury was less serious.

Gardner likely will not play or practice this week but was hopeful to be on the field next week against Cincinnati in the Colts' preseason finale.

Dungy said Gardner may still miss a couple of weeks, and if it's longer, the Colts may have to change the depth chart.

Possible changes could include moving veterans Jim Nelson or Gary Brackett into Gardner's backup slot or even putting David Thornton there.

- Disturbed by third-round draft pick B.J. Sander's struggles, Green Bay signed 40-year-old punter Bryan Barker.

Barker, a 15-year NFL veteran who punted for Washington the last three seasons, won a three-way punt-off with 39-year-old free agents Mark Royals and Dan Stryzinski.

Special teams coach John Bonamego, who used to work with Barker in Jacksonville, said it's an open competition.

- Pro Bowl punter Craig Hentrich will miss practice time this week after an MRI showed a muscle strain is causing back spasms.

Hentrich originally hurt himself last week and sat out a few days before reaggravating his back during pregame warmups Saturday in Buffalo.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Hentrich might be held out of the Titans' visit to Dallas on Aug. 30 to help the punter heal.

- The Kansas City Chiefs are picking up Gunther Cunningham's aggressive defensive approach in a hurry. The difference was apparent Monday night in Kansas City's 24-7 exhibition victory over St. Louis, with the first-team defense shutting out the Rams' first-team offense and scoring itself on linebacker Shawn Barber's interception return.

Cunningham, the Chiefs' former head coach who returned this year as defensive coordinator, has successfully scrapped the team's old passive read-and-react philosophy in favor of a player-friendly attacking system.

"It's a lot more fun than sitting back and reading," defensive end Eric Hicks said. "We're out there having fun together, forging good bonds together on defense, and other positions throughout the defense. It's exciting.

"We still have a long way to go, but it's good to see us go out there and compete like that against a quality offensive football team. Even if their line is decimated they've still got a Pro Bowl quarterback, Pro Bowl running back. We did well."

Kansas City's offense, which has led the NFL in scoring each of the past two seasons, was in top form, too.

Trent Green completed 10 of 12 passes, and Priest Holmes averaged 5.2 yards on six carries to help the first-team offense score on two of its three possessions. The offensive starters also scored on two of their three possessions the week before in the exhibition opener against the New York Giants.

"It's pretty good, but it's not what we want," left guard Brian Waters said. "The other two times we didn't score, we stopped ourselves. We're growing week by week and we're just trying to keep developing."

A bad night for the Rams was made worse by a season-ending injury to starting cornerback Travis Fisher, who broke his arm on a routine tackle in the first half.

"Probably out for the year," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "He'll have to have a plate put in. He was tackling downfield and he just wrapped his arm there and it just fractured. That's what happens."

Steven Jackson, the Rams' No. 1 draft pick out of Oregon State, managed a 6-yard TD run and wound up with 53 yards on 14 carries, mostly against Kansas City's reserves.

"I did a very poor job of getting this football team ready to play this preseason game," Martz said. "This was my fault. We came out here and flopped around and acted like we didn't know where we were. That won't happen again."

Barber intercepted Marc Bulger's pass and ran it back 60 yards for a TD and a 24-0 lead late in the first half.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Barber said. "We were just trying to play the whole field and be very aggressive. Sometimes you can put the quarterback in an awkward position and he thinks things are open that aren't open."

Bulger was 8-for-15 for 67 yards and was sacked three times behind the Rams' patchwork offensive line. Marshall Faulk, playing more than normal this early in the preseason, carried six times for 16 yards.

"Defensively we played well tonight," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. "I thought the defensive line was dominating. We didn't give up any big runs."

Holmes opened the scoring with a 2-yard run in the first quarter and finished with 31 yards on six carries. On the Chiefs' third possession, Derrick Blaylock scored on a 1-yard dart around right tackle. Larry Johnson set up the TD with a 14-yard run after bumping into Green and nearly fumbling the handoff.

Kansas City's Morten Andersen, the NFL's No. 2 career leading scorer who is locked in a battle with former CFL star Lawrence Tynes, connected from 28 yards on his only field-goal attempt.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in town for a campaign appearance Tuesday, sat with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt in his box.

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