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Coaches decry roster shifts

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 14, 2002

Disappointed because some of your favorite players changed teams? Coaches feel your pain.

Disappointed because some of your favorite players changed teams? Coaches feel your pain.

Asked by Fox Sports what single thing they would change about the game, several coaches said the structure of free agency that allows players to easily change teams and makes it difficult for fans to build player-team loyalty.

"I think it's sad for kids who fall in love with their players," Browns coach Butch Davis said.

Added Falcons coach Dan Reeves: "Fans could relate to people being there, but right now it's pretty hard. You won't have the ring of honor like you have in Dallas. It will be hard to do that.

"It's great that players have choices, but fans have a tough time buying jerseys and relating to who's who."

Free agency, of course, is here to stay and most coaches view it as a vital element of the game. All in all, most coaches have few complaints, particularly the Bears' Dick Jauron.

"I really don't think, in the structure of the game itself, there needs to be any changes," he said.

ME FIRST: While most teams don't open training camp for about two more weeks, two teams -- Houston and San Francisco -- are starting early.

The expansion Texans and the 49ers are scheduled to open camp Saturday. That's rookies and veterans.

Some teams will start July 22, though most won't get going until July 24 or July 25. Tampa Bay and Indianapolis will be the last teams to open camp on July 28.

DID YOU KNOW?: Members of Chicago's 1985 Super Bowl team (remember the Super Bowl Shuffle?) are reuniting in the Windy City on Thursday. Among those expected to attend are quarterback Jim McMahon, defensive lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry, receiver Willie Gault and defensive lineman Richard Dent.

IF IT AIN'T ONE THING, IT'S ANOTHER: The good news for Broncos fans is starting receiver Ed McCaffrey no longer feels pain in the leg he broke during last season's opener. The bad news is, his ankle is sore, perhaps from overcompensating.

He has been limited in his workouts but is expected to be healthy by training camp.

SAME OFFENSE, DIFFERENT TEAM: Look for new Eagles running back Dorsey Levens to be an instant fit in Philadelphia. Not only is the former Packers star a quality back, but he is familiar with the Eagles offense after working with coach Andy Reid when both were with the Packers.

In fact, don't be surprised if Levens takes the starting job from Duce Staley, whom the Eagles reportedly are shopping.

HOOPING IT UP: If the Chiefs hoped tight end Tony Gonzalez would flop in his attempt to play in the Miami Heat's summer league and give up his basketball dream, they should get a different plan.

Most observers said the 6-foot-4, 248-pound Gonzalez was impressive, more so defensively than offensively. In his first game with rookies and free agents, he had a game-high 11 rebounds and played stellar defense, drawing raves from several NBA observers.

"I think he's great defensively because he's got great speed and great lower-body strength," Heat assistant coach Stan Van Gundy said. "So, he can hold his position -- nobody's going to move him -- and he's quick enough on rotations and blitzes to be very good."

The Heat plays in California this week, but it's unclear if Gonzalez will participate because the Chiefs open training camp July 25.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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