We've been hearing the following Whispers around the NFL:
• If the season were to open tomorrow, our Colts sources tell us shifty Sam Giguere and second-year CB Jerraud Powers would probably be the starting kickoff and punt returners, respectively, although it's quite possible speedy seventh-round CB Ray Fisher could quickly enter the mix. Word is the Colts believe Giguere has potential to be more than just a decent return man. "They think he can be a Wes Welker-type weapon in the slot down the road," said one team insider. "They really like his athleticism."
• There are some who believe Patriots RB Laurence Maroney is a broken man. But the fact that the team did not draft a running back has to be taken as somewhat of a positive sign. Although Maroney won't be a classic workhorse back with the team, we hear he could have a chance to retain a solid role.
• Bengals rookie WR Jordan Shipley figures to push for playing time immediately, the way we hear it. Shipley is best-suited for the slot and could take playing time away from Andre Caldwell (51 catches last season) if he's a quick study and performs well. Caldwell has been a reliable possession receiver, but he is not dangerous after the catch and has but two catches of 20 yards or more to his credit in two NFL seasons. Shipley's arrival intensifies the competition for roster spots beyond starters Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant and could leave the Bengals with some interesting decisions when it's time to pare down the roster.
• Steelers rookie OLB Jason Worilds' biggest impact figures to come in future seasons, but he's likely to get some snaps as a pass rusher in his first NFL campaign. Note that LaMarr Woodley fared well as a pass-rush threat as a rookie three years ago, notching four regular-season sacks and two in a wild-card round loss to Jacksonville.
• Could this be the season that Sinorice Moss finally doesn't make the Giants? The fifth-year wideout and returner has been hanging on by a thread the past few seasons, barely making the roster out of camp. But this really could be the year the team keeps one fewer receiver and cuts Moss, provided it feels good about its other return specialists.
• We hear Bears second-year S Al Afalava could have a problem with nerve damage in his shoulder that may cloud his future.
• We hear the Packers are expecting their punt returner in 2010 to come from the secondary (probably either Will Blackmon, who went down in Week Four last year with a season-ending knee injury, or Tramon Williams) and the kickoff returner to come from the RB ranks, where sixth-rounder James Starks qualifies as an intriguing possibility.
• There were reports that the Falcons were interested in signing free-agent DT John Henderson, but GM Thomas Dimitroff said the team isn't pursuing Henderson, who was released by the Jaguars last week, at this time. Sources inside the organization have said they are very optimistic about the team's defensive line and its young pieces on the interior, including 2009 first-round choice DT Peria Jerry and 2010 third-rounder DT Corey Peters. The Falcons most likely will not bid on any other veteran D-tackle who may become available.
• While it was a need for the Saints heading into the draft, they did not spend a pick on a running back. They were, however, active in the undrafted free-agent market for backs, signing three of them. There's still a chance New Orleans will sign a veteran rusher with experience as a goal-line back before the season. The rules of the uncapped season have handcuffed the Saints in free agency. They would be able to sign another unrestricted free agent if UFA FS Darren Sharper signed with a different team.
• One of the prizes of the Buccaneers' undrafted free-agent haul was QB Jevan Snead. He should get a chance to compete for the third spot on the depth chart behind Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson. "What a great signing to get a guy like Jevan Snead after the draft," GM Mark Dominik told PFW. "That's a hell of a deal, in my opinion."
• There were some observers who criticized the Cardinals for spending a fourth-round pick on Wisconsin OLB O'Brien Schofield, who is expected to miss at least some, if not all, of his rookie season while continuing to recover from the knee injury he suffered in an early Senior Bowl practice. "But the team thinks he has unusual 3-4 pass-rush skills, and they are more than willing to take a flier on him," said one team insider. We hear the odds are probably around 50-50 that Schofield, who will almost certainly begin the 2010 campaign on the physically-unable-to-perform list, will be able play at some point during the season.
• We hear that Rams CB Bradley Fletcher, who seemed to be emerging as a pretty solid "press" corner when he went down for the count with a knee injury late last October, might be trying to do more than he should right now in an effort to be 100 percent ready for training camp.
• Even though he has been a consistently reliable backup the past five seasons for the Niners, we hear veteran OG Tony Wragge could get caught up in a numbers game and have a hard time making the final roster after the selections of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in this year's first round.
• Niners head coach Mike Singletary had an interesting answer when asked about the possibility of a RB-by-committee approach next season. "It depends," he said in his final draft briefing with the local media. "I think when you look at (RB) Frank (Gore), you have a hard time trying to explain to him how some other guy needs to play. He just doesn't get it. I think as time goes on, he'll be a little more willing to (share playing time)."
• Don't underestimate the importance of Ben Hamilton in the development of Seahawks first-round OT Russell Okung. The recently acquired Hamilton, who did a great job mentoring OLT Ryan Clady when he played under new Seahawks O-line coach Alex Gibbs in Denver, is expected to do the same thing with Okung, whom he will be starting alongside at left guard. Hamilton told one Seahawks insider that Gibbs was "Coach 1" and he was "Coach 1A" for Okung, who we hear couldn't have made a better first impression on Gibbs.
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