- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Thirty-two thoughts on 32 teams as training camps get under way throughout the NFL:

1. Bears — The Soldier Field makeover is an abomination, I hear. (It certainly looked weird from the highway when I was in Chicago for the U.S. Open.) Trying to blend the old with the new is always a tricky business, as Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart can tell you.

2 Bengals — Let’s all say a prayer for Marvin Lewis.

3. Bills — It didn’t take Buffalo long to retool — 3-13 in ‘01, 8-8 in ‘02, and now it figures to challenge for the division title (thanks to defensive upgrades Takeo Spikes and Sam Adams).

4. Broncos — I’m not sure which is more alarming, Darryl Gardener breaking his wrist in a fight, or the fact that it occurred in the parking lot of an International House of Pancakes. When you give a defensive tackle a $39million deal, you don’t want him investing too heavily in Large Stacks.

5. Browns — After blowing a 17-point lead to the Steelers in the playoffs, Cleveland should spend its entire camp working on the prevent defense.

6. Bucs — Reason No.752 why the Buccos won’t repeat as champs: They reported for preseason drills on July18, as early as anybody in the league. All work and no play …

7. Cardinals — The Cards have signed Emmitt Smith, who broke the NFL career rushing record, to replace Thomas Jones, who broke his hand while reaching for a phone (or so he claimed last year).

8. Chiefs — Priest Holmes isn’t worried about the hip injury that curtailed his 2002 season. “Greg Norman had this injury,” he says. “He’s made a lot of money since then.” The Shark doesn’t have to dodge 250-pound linebackers, though.

9. Chargers — The death of GM John Butler was a huge blow to the Bolts. For starters, it opened the door for — shudder — Marty Schottenheimer to become more involved in personnel decisions.

10. Colts — This may not mean anything, but: The golfer Peyton Manning most reminds me of is Phil Mickelson. (They even have the same initials.)

11. Cowboys — Anyone who thinks Bill Parcells isn’t going to win in Dallas — and win soon — obviously doesn’t like tuna. I’m predicting success in Year 2, after he clears out the riffraff. (Except for Jerry Jones, of course. Jerry stays.)

12. Dolphins — As long as he doesn’t trip over his dog again — or go tumbling down any driveways — Brian Griese should make the Fins a better team.

13. Eagles — You’ve gotta hand it to Jeffrey Lurie. Year in and year out, his club is always up among the leaders — in cap room.

14. Falcons — Ever wonder how far Michael Vick could heave the ball if he really let ‘er rip? Peerless Price might help us find out.

15. Forty-Niners — Last season Terrell Owens whipped a Sharpie out of his sock after a touchdown and autographed the football. This season I’m expecting him to shower himself with confetti, a la Rip Taylor.

16. Giants — Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect they’ll miss Angie Harmon a lot more than they’ll miss Jason Sehorn.

17. Jaguars — The Jags used their franchise tag this spring on Donovin Darius. He’s their strong safety, in case you didn’t know.

18. Jets — If Chad Pennington has to throw one away in the opener against the Redskins, will he instinctively aim in the direction of Laveranues Coles on the Washington sideline?

19. Lions — New coach Steve Mariucci says his players are “dying to win. … I see a willingness to go where they haven’t been before.” In the case of the Lions, who’ve gone 2-14 and 3-13 the past two seasons, that would mean 4-12.

20. Packers — FYI: Brett Favre is closing in on the NFL mark for most consecutive years contemplating retirement.

21. Panthers — You heard it here first: Stephen Davis will have the biggest impact of any free agent signing in the NFC. John Fox will give him the ball until he drops (which he probably will, ‘round about Week15).

22. Patriots — The Pats’ groundskeeper of a decade resigned the other day. “Philosophical differences,” he said. To which I reply: What, he wanted bluegrass and Belichick wanted rye? Or did he insist on putting in for mileage on the riding mower?

23. Rams — With Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner on the blink, St. Louis’ scoring total dropped 187 points last season (from 503 to 316). That’s almost as many as the Texans scored (213).

24. Raiders — Al Davis is the first owner in sports history to run his franchise from the witness stand. Is there anybody this man isn’t suing? (Al to agent: “Let me get back to you on that contract, Leigh. I’m about to be sworn in.”)

25. Ravens — I can hardly wait to see them rush the passer. Adding Terrell Suggs to a front seven that includes Peter Boulware, Mike McCrary and Ray Lewis is positively scary.

26. Redskins — Why don’t I just weigh in next week, when the hitting starts?

27. Saints — The Aints accomplished a rare feat last season. They knocked off the Super Bowl champion Bucs twice — and failed to make the playoffs. The last time that happened? Answer: 1995, when the Redskins did it to the Cowboys.

28. Seahawks — I keep forgetting Seattle is in the NFC West. But then, I keep forgetting the Rams are in St. Louis.

29. Steelers — Not to upset you, but: Jerome Bettis needs only 771 yards to pass Jim Brown on the all-time rushing list.

30. Texans — People second-guessed Charley Casserly for drafting two more quarterbacks (Dave Ragone, Drew Henson) when Houston had so many other needs. But, hey, you can never have enough Carr insurance.

31. Titans — Eddie George says he’s not done, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Name another back who averaged 3.2 yards a pop over a two-year period and wasn’t near to the end. (Other than Tuffy Leemans, maybe.)

And finally …

32. Vikings — The Vikes just can’t catch a break. First Robert Smith retires after a Pro Bowl year, and then his successor, Michael Bennett, suffers a possible season-ending foot injury after a Pro Bowl year. Anyone got a number for Scottie Graham? How about Darrin Nelson?

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