Sunday, August 8, 2004

Manning likes what he sees from Colts' WRs

NFL insider

Mark Curnutte
Peyton Manning, the NFL's reigning co-MVP, has looked like his $98 million self early in Colts training camp.

Twice, Manning has hit wide receiver Marvin Harrison on long scoring passes - a common sight in the past.

"We're off to a good start," Manning said. "I like our depth. In years past you might be like, 'Well, if Marvin and Reggie (Wayne) weren't in, then there's a little bit of a dropoff with whoever is the three or four or sixth or seventh receiver.' There's really not much dropoff there now. It's a good problem to have."

Manning did say the Colts' high-powered offense must improve in the run game.

BEEN AWHILE: Dallas backup quarterback Drew Henson hasn't thrown a pass in a game since 2000 when he was a junior at Michigan.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, on the heels of releasing Quincy Carter and promoting Vinny Testaverde to starter, said the developmental process for Henson and fellow backup Tony Romo would be accelerated in practice and that they will play a lot in preseason games.

"I don't know how I can accelerate the process," Henson said. "I'm picking up something new every day."

THE FREAK IN PHILLY: The Eagles plan, at least initially, to line up Jevon Kearse at left end.

Kearse played mostly on the right side for the Titans the last couple of seasons but started his NFL career on the left side. He played on the left when he had 14 1/2 sacks in 1999.

Both the Eagles and Kearse say he'll be more comfortable on the left side of the line. But the injury to his left foot (fractured fifth metatarsal) two years ago has a lot to do with their decision. They think his left foot won't be forced to deal with as much stress on the left side because he'll be pushing off with his right foot.

"I am more comfortable being in a right-handed stance (left end)," Kearse said. "I run my 40 with my right-handed stance. A lot of people feel they're stronger with their right hand being inside. I feel better with my right hand inside."

PRANKED: First-year cornerback Rich Gardner ticked off strong safety Tank Williams with a joke in the Titans' camp, so the veteran paid off the offensive line to execute what the team calls a "Code Red."

Gardner was hog-tied, carried and attached to a blocking sled, where he was doused with cups of ice water.

Inside, where several other rookies had their clothes tossed into the team's cold tub, Gardner learned he also was supposed to have his head shaved. He pleaded to save his braided hair, and after some counsel from Kevin Carter and some lenience from Samari Rolle and Lance Schulters, Gardner lost only his eyebrows.

CORNER MARKET: Since 1999, only two Southeastern Conference cornerbacks have been among the top 10 picks, and Texans general manager Charley Casserly drafted both: Georgia's Champ Bailey (Redskins) in 1999 and South Carolina's Dunta Robinson (Texans) this year.

RAVENS: Ray Lewis, who has had shoulder problems each of the past two seasons, is bigger (by about six pounds) and stronger than he has been in awhile.

The Ravens middle linebacker is expecting a big season to be followed by an even bigger bonus.

"All the pieces have come together again for me to physically dominate and get us back to the Super Bowl," Lewis said at training camp. "This is going to be another special year."

Lewis has designs on a second Super Bowl ring and wants to be the league's MVP - not just its defensive player of the year.

If both goals are achieved, he'll ask the Ravens for a contract extension and signing bonus bigger than the $34.5 million given to the Colts' Manning.

BROWNS: Besides coming to the defense of management and urging rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to end his holdout, quarterback Jeff Garcia has made coach Butch Davis look smart.

Davis signed Garcia to replace Tim Couch. Garcia has proven to be quick and assertive with reads and throws, and the Browns' offensive tempo already is twice as fast as it was with the slow, plodding, pat-the-ball Couch, onlookers say.

STEELERS: Coach Bill Cowher wants his team to play more aggressively. Linebacker Joey Porter showed his coach first-hand he's ready to follow orders. Porter knocked Cowher, simulating the quarterback, to the ground during a pass-rush drill last week. The linebacker beat halfback Duce Staley, rushed toward Cowher and gave him a little shove that knocked him off his feet.

Cowher and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau want to step up the attack on defense after the Steelers registered just 35 sacks in 2003, their lowest total in Cowher's 12 years as coach.


Written from notes collected from other NFL beat writers.

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