We've been hearing the following whispers around the league:
• The Buccaneers sent a letter to restricted free-agent OLT Donald Penn, informing him that his tender offer would be reduced by $100,000 if he didn't sign the tender by June 15. Penn has stayed away from offseason practices and wants a long-term offer. He has not said when, or if, he plans on signing the tender. He plays an important position in protecting the blind side of second-year QB Josh Freeman and has done a solid job since becoming a starter in 2007. There is no left tackle on the roster on the verge of pushing Penn for the starting job. The Bucs, however, are not convinced he's the long-term answer and were not happy with his weight gain last season.
• The chances of Panthers WLB Thomas Davis playing this season appear to be quite slim following his second ACL tear, which he sustained Tuesday, in a seven-month period. Davis is set to undergo surgery June 12 to repair the ACL, and Carolina will wait to see how he recovers before making a decision about placing him on injured reserve. Jonathan Beason has been taking snaps on the weak side since Thomas suffered the injury, and Dan Connor has moved to the middle.
• Eagles TE Brent Celek said he has been impressed with the conditioning of MLB Stewart Bradley, who is coming back from an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of last season. "He looks great to me," Celek told PFW. "I have been impressed. I see no reason why he can't return as the leader of this defense." Bradley is also coming off a calf injury at the end of OTAs, but it's not considered a major setback, and he should be ready to go by training camp.
• Eagles FB Leonard Weaver told PFW he expects to receive fewer carries this season after handling the ball a surprising number of times last season when injuries cropped up. "I understand why," Weaver said. "We have great talent here. I think LeSean McCoy has a chance to be really good, and Mike Bell should be a great fit in this offense. He's just what we need."
• Vikings MLB Jasper Brinkley, who showed steady improvement in replacing E.J. Henderson last season, has had a nice offseason. The defensive coaches appear comfortable with Brinkley in the starting lineup if Henderson is not able to return immediately, although Henderson is a defensive leader whom the team very much wants back on the field.
• The Bears' situation at safety remains very fluid, with newly acquired Chris Harris and Danieal Manning continuing to spend most of the time with the first team at free and strong safety, respectively - not the other way around, which is what most daily team observers expected. It's also clear that Al Afalava, who started out strong as a rookie last season but tailed off in part due to shoulder problems, has dropped pretty far down on the depth chart, at least for the time being.
• While there has been no denying his strong arm, the word out of the desert is that Cardinals QB Derek Anderson's inconsistency is making it easier for the team to make a solid commitment to Matt Leinart as the starter. We hear Anderson, who was signed as a free agent after falling out of favor in Cleveland, has made a habit out of unleashing a great throw and then routinely following it up with a pass way off the mark in the Cardinals' offseason workouts. Leinart, meanwhile, has looked confident and increasingly comfortable, according to sources on the scene.
• How does Rams first-round QB Sam Bradford feel he's progressing so far this offseason? "Kind of like I tell you every time. The more I'm out there, the more reps I get, the more comfortable I feel," Bradford told the local media Thursday. "I really, from Day One to now, it's night and day how much more comfortable I feel just calling the plays, in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, making reads. I mean, it really is night and day, and I feel good with the progress that I've been able to make."
• Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo on what he hopes newly acquired veteran DT Chris Hovan brings to the team: "A veteran guy. We've heard a lot of things about him. We've got some guys in the building that have seen Chris operate and work. It's as much as in the locker room as it is as a football player. He's played a lot of football. He's a tough nut, and that's what we hope to get out of him."
• After looking pretty shaky in the Niners' early practices this offseason, newly acquired WR-RS Ted Ginn Jr.'s hands have looked a lot better lately, we hear. On the other side of the ball, team sources tell us second-year S Curtis Taylor has been turning heads with his playmaking ability.
• The Ravens will forfeit their final week of organized team activities after violating offseason work rules, and the club has quickly and repeatedly owned up to the incident. The Ravens' punishment stemmed from the charges by six players who claimed the club exceeded meeting time limits in the club's first OTA sessions held May 17-20 and by two players who claimed they were on the field too long at that first set of OTAs, head coach John Harbaugh said. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance, and the NFLPA and NFL Management Council announced the decision to truncate the Ravens' OTAs later this week. Baltimore had scheduled special-teams workouts for June 16 and 17; they cannot be rescheduled, and players must stay away from the team's facilities from June 14-18.
Harbaugh has accepted the blame for the incident and has said the Ravens immediately altered their practice procedures upon hearing of the players' concerns. "We want our players to communicate with us when they have an issue, and they did, and we deserve to lose those last two days, so that's the way it goes," he told Baltimore reporters last week. "I think we've had a great offseason program anyway, and after this week, it'll be time to move on to the regular part of it."
• Browns head coach Eric Mangini believes the blocking of his wideouts is one of the group's strengths. "They block, and they create some things on the perimeter that other teams can't create because of the way they aggressively go at the people they're assigned to," Mangini told Cleveland reporters Friday. "They finish plays."
• If Rashean Mathis' holdout continues into training camp, second-year CB Don Carey appears to be the front-runner to start in Mathis' spot. The Jaguars surprised the Browns last season by claiming the 2009 sixth-round draft choice off the waived/injured list. Jacksonville likes what it sees in the smart, young Carey.
• Despite ending the season in Jack Del Rio's doghouse, FS Reggie Nelson has emerged as the likely starter at free safety. Nelson has impressed the coaching staff with his commitment and work ethic and has stood out among as many as five defensive backs fighting for two starting jobs.
• There remains some uncertainty regarding the status of Colts third-round rookie CB Kevin Thomas, who suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury on the final day of the team's rookie minicamp last month. "(Colts head coach Jim) Caldwell said Thomas had successful surgery," said one team insider. "We're hearing that he probably won't be able to play this year, but that's not known for sure."
• Titans rookie RB LeGarrette Blount is ahead of fellow undrafted free agent Stafon Johnson in the competition to make the roster, a source close to the club suggests. Javon Ringer will be the top backup to Chris Johnson, but the depth chart beyond Johnson and Ringer is still in flux.
• The Chargers are beginning their preparations to be without unsigned RFAs WR Vincent Jackson and OLT Marcus McNeill for at least the start of the 2010 season. With both players not close to signing their tenders and threatening to extend their holdouts into the regular season, San Diego began to add insurance this week, inking veterans OT Tra Thomas and WR Josh Reed. Thomas could be in the running to start if McNeill is absent, and Reed likely would be the Bolts' primary slot man if Jackson isn't around.
• Raiders head coach Tom Cable initially indicated he wanted one of his top two backs to emerge as a leading workhorse, but now he apparently is considering a more even distribution of carries between RBs Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. Bush is considered to be a better fit as a between-the-tackles rusher, whereas McFadden has yet to prove himself in the trenches.
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