- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

Just eight days into free agency and the pickings are slimmer than Calista Flockhart.

Including players who have been cut, just 54 regulars from last season remained available. The New York Giants signed receiver Plaxico Burress last night, meaning the best remaining catches probably are linebacker Ed Hartwell and cornerback Andre Dyson — not even big names to NFL junkies.

Shoppers could also pursue oft-injured receiver David Boston — who seems bound for a reunion in San Francisco with Jerry Sullivan, his position coach in Arizona and Miami — underachieving wideout David Terrell or such over-the-hill players as safety Ray Buchanan, defensive end Marcellus Wiley and quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

When guard is one of the deepest positions and the best of the bunch are Bennie Anderson and Chris Gray, it definitely feels more like Kmart than Nordstrom’s.

“I’m not sure if the number of signings is much different from years past, but fewer of those starter-quality players hit free agency because teams retained [more of] those players,” Atlanta general manager Rich McKay said.

Up, up and away — While Washington owner Dan Snyder flies potential signees around the country on a private jet dubbed “Redskins One,” defensive end Bryce Fisher recently took a one-hour spin in an F-15 piloted by Air Force Major Mike Jurries, a fellow former Air Force player. Fisher underwent 21/2 hours of training in preparation as part of his Missouri Air National Guard commitment.

“It was fun to get Bryce up there,” Jurries said. “It was a chance for him to kind of see what fighter pilots do.”

The jaunt was Fisher’s first time in a fighter jet, even though he spent two years between college and the NFL fulfilling his Air Force commitment. Fisher, 27, spends most of his duty training with chemical gear and safety equipment or doing paperwork.

“We went in and out of the clouds [and] I started feeling like I was going to be sick,” Fisher said. “I made it out without puking.”

Fisher works the first weekend (including Friday) each month except for during the season when he devotes his Tuesdays — the only day off for NFL players — to the Guard.

Coming off a season with the Rams in which he led the team with 81/2 sacks, Fisher is expected to sign a four-year, $10 million deal with St. Louis’ NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks. Fisher follows fellow end Grant Wistrom in making the St. Louis-to-Seattle switch.

Deja vu? — Two years after making Hugh Douglas their centerpiece free agent, Jacksonville general manager James Harris and coach Jack Del Rio went the same route with another defensive end.

The Jaguars gave Reggie Hayward $10 million in guaranteed money to leave Denver, where he started just 19 games the past four seasons. While Douglas, then an old 31, produced just 31/2 sacks for his $6 million bonus before being cut after one season, Hayward is just 26 and had 19 sacks the last two years for the Broncos. Harris and Del Rio believe Hayward’s presence outside will make young tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson — the keys to the Jags’ improving defense — even better.

Loyal alum — Chuck Knox sneaked away from a disapproving father and a likely lifetime of working in the blast furnaces of his hometown of Sewickley, Pa., to walk on at Juniata (Pa.) College in 1950. Fifty-four years later, the four-time coach of the year in 22 seasons with Buffalo, Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams donated $1 million to the alma mater that changed his life.

The son of immigrants wanted “to give something back for the great experience I had [at Juniata]. I had worked in the steel mills and made enough that I had some money in my pocket. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to college and I started out slow. But after that first year, I decided I was going to take care of the academic end of it.”

And now, Knox has taken care of countless Juniata students.

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