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Heat will be an issue for teams to monitor

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

With training camps opening around the league, there are interesting developments to watch over the next several weeks.

A big topic will be heat exhaustion in the wake of the heat-related death of Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer in training camp last season. Teams will be more conscious than ever about keeping players hydrated during practices and monitoring their health.

The Saints, who train in Louisiana, are known for combating the heat better than most. The league is expected to review their procedures in hopes of passing their ideas on to other teams.

"That's something we're all going to keep a closer eye on," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "What happened last year to Korey is something that will make it even more of a priority."

The Cardinals have been smart to hold their training camp in Flagstaff, which isn't nearly as hot as the team's home in Phoenix.

"We have about as good a camp situation as any team in the league," coach Dave McGinnis said. "The temperature is 80-85 degrees, and it's just right. Our problem comes when we break camp and return to the Valley."

Several high-profile starting jobs will be won and lost in camps, and some of the more interesting ones are at quarterback, including the Bucs' three-way tussle between Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson and Shaun King.

The Lions are trying to decide between second-year pro Mike McMahon and rookie Joey Harrington. McMahon looked good at times playing in place of departed starter Charlie Batch last season, but Harrington may present a strong challenge.

The Chargers must decide whether to stick with veteran Doug Flutie or turn to Drew Brees, who also looked good in short stints a season ago.

The Redskins are waffling between ex-Gators Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, although Matthews figures to have a slight edge.

And the Bengals will either stick with last season's ineffective starter, Jon Kitna, or go with newcomer Gus Frerotte. Actually, considering each player's past performance, it probably won't matter.

Holdouts are a traditional part of training camp and there likely will be a few this season. Perhaps the most watched situation is in Baltimore, where defensive stars Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware are looking for new contracts. Both are expected to report on time, but there's always a chance one or both won't show up.

ROUND AND ROUND THEY GO: Redskins coach Steve Spurrier had a reputation for playing musical quarterbacks at Florida. Just because he's in the NFL now, don't expect his quarterback philosophy to change.

"They will all know that if they start, they go bad, the next guy's going to get a chance," Spurrier said. "If they're really struggling, my experience coaching quarterbacks is that it has helped a guy to hit the bench for half a game. After he watches, he's a lot better quarterback."

THE WATCH IS ON: Get ready for the Emmitt Smith hype.

The Cowboys running back's quest to break Walter Payton's all-time rushing yardage record is about to begin. Smith goes into this season 540 yards shy of breaking Payton's mark of 16,726.

"Football officially starts (with training camp)," Smith said. "That's going to be a question that's going to come up at least three or four times a day. I'm going to handle it like a champ ... and try to have a lot of fun with it."

MORE MOSS IN MINNESOTA: With Cris Carter no longer in Minnesota, Randy Moss almost certainly will become more involved in the Vikings offense. How much more? While no one knows for sure, coach Mike Tice already has a target number: 40 percent.

Tice recently announced his creation of the Randy Ratio, meaning he wants Moss to be involved in 40 percent of the passing plays.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Linebacker Keith Mitchell, who made the Pro Bowl with New Orleans in 2000, signed with the Texans. ... Former Dolphins defensive back and kick returner Fulton Walker pleaded guilty to distributing marijuana from his home in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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

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