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NFL players are heading to camp... well, some of them

By JOANNE KORTH
Published July 24, 2005


They're ba-ack.

Thank goodness.

Just in time to save us all from Tour de Lance withdrawal, two NFL training camps open today, a third Monday, and by Aug. 1 all 32 teams will be assembled for the annual rite of two-a-days, playbooks and muscle pulls.

Minus a few key players, of course.

A number of big-name veterans are threatening to hold out and none of the first-round drafts picks have signed contracts, all of which could make the lines for intravenous fluids significantly shorter.

Here's a look at Team No-Show:

The Dolphins and Bears, who kick off the preseason Aug. 8 in the Hall of Fame game, start camp today, but neither team expects its first-round draft pick to check in on time. Miami's Ronnie Brown and Chicago's Cedric Benson, running backs chosen among the top four picks, are waiting for the No. 1 overall, San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, to set the market. But the 49ers don't open camp until Friday.

Count those as excused absences.

Others are less viable.

Packers receiver Javon Walker doesn't plan to play without a new contract. His quarterback, Brett Favre, has criticized Walker and agent Drew Rosenhaus, calling for Walker to come to work.

Walker claims he is willing to sit out the season to stand on principle, but you can bet he doesn't want Green Bay to call his bluff. No veteran relishes giving up a year's salary, not to mention a year's credit toward free agency.

Two words: Keenan McCardell.

Jets defensive end John Abraham, tagged the team's franchise player, has not signed a $6.7-million tender because he wants a long-term deal. No big deal. The Pro Bowl player likely can get away with missing a few days. He'll show up eventually.

Ditto for Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.

Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour, skipped minicamp and his attendance at training camp is in question. He wants more money, of course, with a restructured deal, but New England has won three of the past four Super Bowls without caving to such demands.

An unlikely voice of reason comes from Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, who told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday he will report to camp, though he won't be happy about it. Owens, who helped Philly reach the Super Bowl last season, wants an extension one year after signing a seven-year, $49-million deal. Word has it, Philly president Joe Banner won't be whipping a Sharpie out of his sock to ink a new deal.

RICKY WATCH: Brown isn't the Dolphins' only highly anticipated running back. Ricky Williams, who stunned teammates with his abrupt retirement a year ago, is expected to report today.

Maybe.

With Williams, who spent the past year traveling to India, smoking marijuana and becoming a certified yoga instructor, you just never know. But faced with repaying $8.6-million to the Dolphins, odds favor his return.

As added incentive, Miami plays 13 games this season on grass.

SURPRISE SPEECH: Dan Marino's son, Daniel, will introduce the legendary Dolphins quarterback at his induction Aug. 7 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the 18-year-old aspiring actor is keeping his speech a secret.

"He doesn't want me to know what it's going to be," Marino said at a recent news conference in Miami. "He doesn't want Claire (Marino's wife) to know or my father or my mother or anything. So we'll see. It will be interesting."

Then again, the nine-time Pro Bowler hasn't finished his speech.

"I am sure it won't be done until five minutes before I get up there," he said. "It's a lot of years of memories and people that are involved in my career and my life, so I am not even close to being done."

BEARS: Chicago agreed to a one-year contract with Marc Edwards, hoping the fullback can plug a hole created by injuries. The veteran spent the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

DOLPHINS: Miami draft picks Channing Crowder and Anthony Alabi signed four-year contracts and will take part in the first training camp workout Monday.

Crowder, a linebacker and the Dolphins' third-round draft choice, started at Florida in 2003-04. Alabi, a tackle and the team's fifth-round pick, was a three-year starter at Texas Christian.

The Dolphins also signed free-agent tight end Lorenzo Diamond, who started four games in 2004 for the Arizona Cardinals. Miami waived tight end Joe Munson, signed as an undrafted college free agent April 29.

PANTHERS: Carolina agreed to terms Saturday with offensive lineman Evan Mathis, one of their two third-round draft picks.

The 6-foot-5, 304-pound Mathis is expected to compete for a starting job at right guard with Tutan Reyes. Mathis agreed to a three-year contract and will sign Monday, according to his agent, Kirk Wood.

The Panthers have now signed or agreed to terms with six of their 10 draft picks.

SAINTS: Linebacker Derrick Rodgers was released. Rodgers missed the last eight games last season because of a back injury. The eight-year veteran had surgery in February to repair a bulging disc in his back and was not healthy enough to compete in offseason practice sessions.

Information from NFL.com and other news organizations was used in this report.