Around The NFL: News, Notes & Rumors

Chris Johnson (Getty)

Chris Johnson wants to be paid amongst the top players in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald could become a free agent, Marcus Cannon's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma recovery is going well, Clay Matthews is dealing with an injury and more inside.


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Titans' Johnson wants to be amongst top paid in NFL

Not only does Tennessee RB Chris Johnson want to be the top paid player at his position, he's also aiming to be one of the top paid players in the entire league, according to an ESPN report.

The Titans are working with Johnson on a new deal, but the stalemate between the two parties appears to have no end in sight.

Johnson is looking for a new contract that would pay him $39 million over the first three years, which would place him among the highest paid in the league.

The negotiations from Johnson's camp revolve around prior top deals for running backs as well as future deals, particularly of Adrian Peterson, who's also in line for a big pay day.

Analysis: Johnson knows he's in a position of power and is clearly flexing his muscle with these demands. The Titans will have no choice but to eventually cave in order to get arguably the most explosive player in the league back on the field.

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Cardinals' Fitzgerald a free agent?

The pride and joy of the Arizona Cardinals could soon be a free agent.

Cardinals' general manager Rod Graves has stated repeatedly that the team would like to sign Larry Fitzgerald to an extension prior to the start of the regular season. Fitzgerald, however, might not be in a hurry.

Fitzgerald is in a great position to either return to Arizona following the 2011 season or test the free-agent market. A clause in Fitzgerald's contract prohibits the Cardinals from franchising the All-Pro wideout, meaning he would be free to pursue other opportunities.

Fitzgerald has long been rumored to be interested in a homecoming in Minnesota, where he grew up and was even a ball boy for the Vikings throughout his youth.

Analysis: Arizona helped its chances of keeping Fitzgerald by signing QB Kevin Kolb, but there's really no reason for the star receiver to jump the gun on a new deal. Chances are Fitzgerald will stay with the Cardinals, but he should have a chance to explore the market if he desires.



Colts' Wayne working well with new WR coach

WR Reggie Wayne was in a talkative mood after a recent practice. Wayne likes having former Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich as the Colts' new receivers coach.

"It's great. He's all ready to throw a couple of Andre Reed (pass) routes in there," he said. "Being a (former) quarterback, he understands a lot of things. He understands what's kind of tough to do as a receiver and what's not tough to do. A lot of coaches aren't able to display that or give that you that. But I love Frank. He's come in and really helped me get better. I've got to make him look good. That's what it's all about."

Analysis: Veteran players often get complacent entering the latter stages of their career, but that apparently isn't the case with Wayne. Good for Reich for coming in and making an impact on an established Pro Bowl player.



Hoyer the next grooming project for New England?

QB Brian Hoyer is entering his third season as Tom Brady's backup. While he hasn't had much playing time to develop, last week's preseason game gave him some much-needed opportunities to bounce back from early adversity, which he did well in the Patriots' 42-17 win.

"I think the more experience you get, the more you can focus on the defense as opposed to trying to think about what the play is so you can react more," Hoyer said.

"And I think that's what comes with more experience, but, like I've always said, there's nothing that compares to real game experience. To get out there for the first game and have some success feels good."

Analysis: The Patriots already played this game with Matt Cassell, and Hoyer looks to be the next quarterback in line for the team to make a killing on. Look for Hoyer to be a desirable name on the trade market in the next few years.



Patriots' Cannon recovering well from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

OL Marcus Cannon's recovery from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has gone well despite the fact Cannon has been unable to practice.

"He's doing what he can do," coach Bill Belichick said. "He's in all the meetings. He has a program. He does the things that everyone else does, but they're specifically for him. Some things he can mainstream, but other things he can't."

Analysis: Great news for Cannon, who can be a beast in the trenches so long as he returns to full health.



Umenyiora to play out current contract in New York

DE Osi Umenyiora, who has been sidelined for the majority of camp so far because of an issue with his left knee, sought a second opinion from Atlanta-based orthopedic specialist Dr. Scott Gillogly. The specialist concurred with the Giants' medical staff's opinion that Umenyiora's knee injury, believed to be a torn meniscus, is not severe enough to warrant immediate surgery, and that he should be able to play this season if the injury is properly managed.

Umenyiora was expected back at practice this week, though general manager Jerry Reese acknowledged that there are "still some issues" with Umenyiora, who has sought a new contract from the team or a trade to a team willing to pay him like a top five defensive end.

Umenyiora recently went on the record stating that he does plan to return to practice with the team this week and that he will play under his old contract.

Analysis: Umenyiora's standoff with the Giants' front office didn't last long. Once he realized no team would be willing to pay him amongst the top defensive lineman in the game, he quickly came to his senses and looks to remain in New York.



Finnegan's antics shifting to off the field

CB Cortland Finnegan's walkout from camp lasted two days, included a Twitter attack on the media, and then a contrite apology and a fine after he reported back to camp.

"First off I want to apologize to the media for this tirade of events that have happened. It ain't nothing but a distraction to the team that was not needed, first and foremost. Along those lines, we've had talks, contract talks. I love the Tennessee Titans, first and foremost. I want to be here long-term," Finnegan said. "I also want to retire here. I think in the midst of all this when my agent was talking to the GM about a long-term deal and things of that nature, because I wasn't happy with some of the things said, I let my emotions get the best of me."

Finnegan is in the final year of his contract and has said before that in a radio interview that he believed it could be his last year in Tennessee. The Titans say they have been talking to Finnegan's agent about a deal, but nothing has yet materialized.

Analysis: Finnegan has been a distraction for opposing wideouts on the field but has now taken it off the field as well. Unfortunately for Finnegan, Johnson remains the top priority in Tennessee and will remain so until his situation is addressed.



Beck ready to compete with Grossman for starting job

QB John Beck returned to practice Sunday after missing Friday night's preseason opener due to a groin injury.

Beck knows he has some ground to make up in his battle with Rex Grossman for the starting job after Grossman turned in a solid performance in the 16-7 victory over Pittsburgh, completing 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.

"The other night, when Rex went out there and did that, he went out and played how coaches want us to play, at a high level, and (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) knows he can play well," said Beck. "I think that's what we set out for here every day at practice. Coaches want us to play at a high level, Kyle expects us to execute the offense the way he knows we can."

Beck spent much of Sunday's practice working with the first team, and could get the start in the next preseason game at Indianapolis on Friday.

"We haven't made a plan, yet," coach Mike Shanahan said. "We'll watch them and see how they do in practice this week and then make a plan Wednesday. Hopefully there's no setback."

Analysis: It's hard to believe the Redskins are comfortable entering the season with Grossman and Beck at quarterback. Is Shanahan drooling over Andrew Luck? There's a good chance he is.



Murray hoping to avoid injury prone label

RB DeMarco Murray will be brought along slowly as he continues to be sidelined with a sore hamstring. The Cowboys are counting on the rookie be a big part of the offense and they want to make sure he is healthy.

Said owner Jerry Jones: "Murray is a guy we are really trying to be sensitive to how quick we can get him out there. We know he will be very competitive from the get-go. He's making some real improvement. We will work him harder this week. Don't know if we will see him against San Diego. But right now the injury situation is one, as we sit here right now, I'm reluctant to say anything because I don't want to jinx us. But we are doing pretty good there."

Analysis: The Cowboys already have an oft-injured explosive running back in Felix Jones and are hoping Murray doesn't fall in the same category. Murray has plenty of time to recover but must stay on the field to make an impact in the Cowboys' offense.



Washington's Cooley sidelined, again

TE Chris Cooley sat out Friday's preseason opener and could be out at least a few more weeks due to a sore knee.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed that he'll be back," coach Mike Shanahan said. "When will it be? I can't tell you for sure."

Cooley saw a specialist on Wednesday and hasn't practiced for the past several days.

"He's a tough player, and he wants to get back quick," Shanahan said. "We have to give him a break, and hopefully he can get that knee responding well."

Fred Davis started in Cooley's place Friday and caught one pass for 11 yards. Cooley's absence also means more snaps for Logan Paulsen and fullback Mike Sellers, who is competing for playing time at tight end in camp. Washington also signed five-year veteran Derek Schouman and released undrafted rookie Kevin Gidrey.

Paulsen, with one catch for 12 yards, was the only one of the group to have a reception Friday. Paulsen was signed by Washington as an undrafted rookie out of UCLA in 2010, but didn't make the opening day roster. He was re-signed midseason and played primarily on special teams until catching his first career touchdown in December.

Schouman was signed by St. Louis last November after reaching an injury settlement with Buffalo in September due to knee injuries, but wasn't re-signed over the offseason by the Rams.

Analysis: Cooley has been a big part of Washington's offense for year's now but with the prospect of Grossman and Beck throwing him the ball, it might not be worth rushing back into action.



Vikings' Webb searching for ways to contribute

QB Joe Webb took a few snaps at wide receiver last week in practice, but coach Leslie Frazier made it clear he views Webb as a quarterback.

"We really want to see Joe as a quarterback," Frazier said. "He's a tremendous athlete, and he can do some other things, but to be fair to Joe and our team, we need to let him concentrate on quarterback, not having it in the back of his mind, ?Am I going to be moved to receiver?'"

Analysis: Webb was once a hot name in Minnesota but has fallen to the bottom of the barrel after the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder and signed Donovan McNabb. Webb could turn into a Brad Smith-type of player in order to find playing time.



Newton's preseason debut a success

QB Cam Newton admitted he had "a lot of butterflies" before the game, saying "a lot of adrenaline was pumping ... anxiety. But it was fun to start out on a positive note and keep all the juices flowing and to keep the ball moving."

When asked about the speed of the game compared to college, Newton said, "I wouldn't say the speed, I would say the philosophy of the game is extremely different. A lot of times they had me guessing out there, and I know this is just the beginning of what is more to come. So I just have to go back into the lab, so to speak, and watch film."

Analysis: Newton still has a long way to go, but his preseason debut was encouraging. Newton has some weapons in Carolina and the Panthers could be much better than expected if his development continues.



Clausen trying to hold of Newton for starting job

QB Jimmy Clausen started the game and threw an interception that was returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Giants LB Michael Boley. Clausen came back to throw a touchdown to Greg Olsen but that was his only score in five possessions. Cam Newton led the Panthers to field goals on six possessions but did not turn the ball over.

After the game, coach Ron Rivera said he'll continue to mix up playing time at quarterback.

"By no means are we settling on anything right now as far as who is starting, who is playing and how much they are playing," Rivera said. "We are getting back to work on Monday with the players and we will go through the week and go through the process and wait until we get to the day before the game before we make our decision (who will start Friday against Miami). We will continue to do that until we finish the third preseason game."

Analysis: Clausen and Newton will be battling to start throughout the preseason, with Clausen having the edge due to experience. Performances like this, however, won't help his chances.



Williams expected to return as focal point in Carolina

RB DeAngelo Williams played almost exclusively in the first four series before giving way for good to Jonathan Stewart.

Williams, who just signed a five-year, $41 million contract extension, looked sharp in his first action, carrying four times for 23 yards, the highlight being a nifty 20-yard run around right end.

Williams was also used more in the passing game. He was the intended receiver on two passes, catching one for 16 yards.

Stewart carried three times for 17 yards.

As a team, the Panthers ran for 67 yards on 11 carries in the first half, a respectable 6.1 yards per carry.

Analysis: Williams had a disappointing campaign last season but is expected to return as the focal point of the Panthers' offense. Carolina invested a large amount of resources in the explosive running back and needs to see an immediate return.



Packers' Matthews dealing with glute injury

OLB Clay Matthews, who aggravated a glute injury during the first week of training camp, made the start Saturday but was pulled from the game after only four plays.

It was Matthews' first appearance in a preseason game since the exhibition finale in 2009, his rookie season. He missed most of camp last year with a hamstring injury.

Matthews revealed early in this year's camp that he played part of the second half of last season with a painful stress fracture in his lower left leg. Matthews didn't miss any games because of what was listed as a shin injury by the club and finished the season with a team-high 17 sacks, including the playoffs, as he finished runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"I was still out there on Sundays, and I was good enough to play," Matthews said. "I wouldn't have put myself out there on the field if I was going to hurt this team."

Analysis: Matthews has proved to be able to play through pain but there's little reason to do so in the meaningless preseason.



Wisniewski embracing Raiders' history

C Stefen Wisniewski couldn't help but be a little nostalgic being in the Coliseum for the first time wearing silver and black.

His first memory of the place was when he was 11 years old, watching his uncle Steve and the Raiders play the Miami Dolphins in their first playoff game in the city of Oakland in 20 seasons.

The place was packed. The noise was deafening.

"They beat the Dolphins up pretty good and I remember being in the locker room and thinking it was the coolest thing ever," Stefen Wisniewski said. "No I'm in there getting dressed, going out to work. It's different, but pretty cool."

Wisniewski played at backup center behind Samson Satele but Jackson was enthused by the his play. Wisniewski could surface as a starting guard if he doesn't start at center.

"I think I've learned a ton," Wisniewski said. "Training camp started off just learning the playbook on the fly. I've got a pretty good grasp of it now. I'm confident up there making calls at center. I'm adjusting to the speed of the game."

Analysis: Certainly things in Oakland have changed from the times of Wisniewski's memories until now but it's good to see the rookie embracing his past. The Raiders need players who appreciate the franchise's history and Wisniewski fits the bill.

Information from the Sports Xchange was used in this report


Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com


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