Following are whispers we've been hearing from around the league:
• Veteran WR Lee Evans had the least productive season of his career in 2010. The Bills' wideout did miss three games, but he was completely overshadowed by Stevie Johnson, who had his breakout season. It would make sense if Evans, who had 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2006 and '08, saw his role in the offense reduced, especially with a host of young, talented receivers behind him. But QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said last week that's not the case. "I'm looking to get (Evans) way more involved in the offense this year," Fitzpatrick told WGR 550-AM in Buffalo, "Some of the attention will go off him and he won't see the constant double-team."
• Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo had the best season of his career, earning a Pro Bowl nod and leading the league by a wide margin with 174 tackles. Mayo kept opposing backs from getting past the second level of the defense. A recent report by Football Outsiders further illustrated how efficient Mayo was last season. According to their game charting, Football Outsiders had Mayo missing only one tackle out of 118 solo tackles. With three new starters joining him in the linebacking corps last season, Mayo was relied upon often, and when the ballcarrier came his way, he did not disappoint.
• Cardinals first-round CB Patrick Peterson's value is enhanced by his quality kick-return ability, but team insiders do not believe he will be taking on any starting kick-return duties. "Since they expect him to be an elite, every-down corner, I think they will be very judicious as far as using Peterson as a returner," one team insider said. "I think they will use him in spot situations, but I think Andre Roberts will remain the starting punt returner, and LaRod Stephens-Howling will definitely remain the starting kickoff returner."
• While OLB Cameron Wake got plenty of attention last year for his breakout season, ILB Karlos Dansby became a leader of the Dolphins' defense in his first season in Miami. The Dolphins paid a hefty price for him, but teammates believe he's doing his job as the highest-paid player on the defense. "(Dansby) deserved the contract he got and played up to his potential," second-year ILB A.J. Edds told PFW. "He's a leader."
• We hear no player did a better job of passing the eyeball test conducted by observers of the 49ers' four-day players-only workout last week than OL Adam Snyder, who had his weight down to right around 300 pounds and appeared to be in tip-top shape. Normally a guard-tackle, Snyder assumed center duties at the camp — a role he said hopes will increase his value with veteran C Eric Heitmann still rehabbing the neck injury that sidelined him last season.
• Another 49ers player who has lost some weight is TE Delanie Walker, who has shed about 15 pounds in anticipation of being involved in more plays out of the slot in the team's revamped offense. Walker was listed at 242 pounds last season.
• Noteworthy standouts in the recent annual charity softball game put on by veteran Packers WR Donald Driver were starting ORT Bryan Bulaga and P Tim Masthay. Bulaga won the pregame home run derby with a six-homer performance, and Masthay drove in five runs and went 4-for-4 in the game itself, including a pair of home runs.
• Buccaneers QB Josh Johnson, the top backup to QB Josh Freeman, recently told the Tampa Tribune he has accepted his role as a reserve in Tampa Bay, but said his goal is to sign with a team that will give him an opportunity to start when his contract is up after this season. We don't know what Johnson's free-agent status will be until there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but we hear the Bucs do have interest in making him Freeman's long-term backup. It's far too early to rule out Johnson staying in Tampa Bay beyond the 2011 season.
• Veteran Panthers players, including MLB Jon Beason, said rookie QB Cam Newton was impressive during workouts last week and Newton quickly appears to be earning respect from his teammates. We're told Carolina still would like to add a veteran quarterback with the ability to open the season as the starter ahead of Newton, though. Re-signing Matt Moore is a possibility, but we hear the team would rather bring in a more experienced quarterback to help ease Newton into the pro ranks.
• As the NFL lockout continues, the majority of players appear to be trying to stay in shape, judging from the informal workouts springing up around the league. One of the more well-attended workouts occurred in the Cincinnati area this week, with 47 players reportedly attending the first day. Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle likes that Cincinnati's players are working out on their own, telling PFW that it's a positive when players "take ownership" of their team.
• Steelers rookie OLB Chris Carter, a fifth-round pick from Fresno State, stands a legitimate chance to make the club, a source close to the club suggests, what with the club needing some more depth to join Jason Worilds behind starters James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Carter is transitioning from defensive end.