Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFL:
• Bears ORT Gabe Carimi admitted during OTAs that the first true test of his surgically repaired right knee would not come until training camp as he engages in full contact for the first time since Week Two of last season, when he suffered a partial dislocation of his right kneecap. The Bears were cautious with Carimi — who is expected to resume starting at right tackle — during the offseason, but he has expressed confidence in the strength of the knee.
• With Browns SLB Scott Fujita facing a three-game NFL suspension to begin the season, the play of Kaluka Maiava and James-Michael Johnson — his most likely replacements — bears watching throughout the summer and early in the season. It’s a key season for Maiava, who’s entering the final year of his contract. Moreover, Johnson, a fourth-round pick from Nevada, has a chance to vie for playing time right off the bat. The 33-year-old Fujita is in the final year of his deal and is slated to make $3.65 million in 2012, but he’s expected to still be in the plans and playing regularly on defense this season, the way we hear it.
• One Browns undrafted free agent to keep an eye on, the way we hear it, is former Oklahoma State WR Josh Cooper. If Cooper, who caught 71 passes as a senior at Oklahoma State, sticks on the roster, it likely would be as a slot receiver. Cooper and veteran Jordan Norwood are competing for the same role, and the Browns like Norwood, we’re told, so it will be interesting to see how both fare in training camp.
• The Buccaneers are hoping to have a healthy Brian Price report for the start of training camp, but the third-year defensive tackle is still mourning the passing of his older sister, who was killed in a May car accident. Price was excused from minicamp to tend to the personal matter with his family in Los Angeles, and he reportedly is having trouble sleeping and struggling to keep food down at times after a brief stay at a Tampa hospital to deal with effects of stress.
• When Jets players report to training camp at the end of the month, all eyes will be on their famous backup quarterback, but a potential second holdout in three seasons could distract the media from Tim Tebow. Darrelle Revis has yet to confirm that he will be at camp. His holdout in 2010 led to a new deal, which paid him $32.5 million in ’10 and ’11, but he will be making $7.5 million in 2012, below market valule for the league's best corner. While the Jets will remind Revis how handsomely he was paid the last two seasons, one daily team observer pointed out that Revis' camp is likely aware of some potential vulnerability for the Jets this summer. After a disappointing 2011 season, there is a lot of pressure around Florham Park to get Gang Green back to the postseason, and they'd be hard-pressed to do that without Revis. That could be his strongest leverage point.
• Signs pointed to DE Andre Carter returning to the Patriots at some point in training camp or the preseason. Carter, who had 10 sacks last season before tearing his quad in Week 15, has still been checking in with the Patriots' medical staff. PFW correspondent Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported last week, though, that getting a deal done with Carter won't be that easy. The Patriots are concerned about the 33-year-old's durability, and they added insurance at the edge-rusher position with rookies Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette as well as free agent Trevor Scott. Rookie Dont'a Hightower could also see some time rushing off the edge in certain schemes. Pass rush is key for a Patriots defense that has struggled the past two seasons, especially on third down. Carter brought a huge spark to that last season, along with Mark Anderson, who is now with the Bills, but the Pats are not the type of organization that will force the issue and overpay (based on their value) a veteran when there is depth and youth at the position.
• One veteran who we hear may be on the roster bubble for Miami this summer is RB Steve Slaton, who re-signed with the team in the spring. Slaton had 17 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown in three games with Miami, including 11 carries for 55 yards in the season finale. He has yet to return to his rookie year form (when he rushed 268-1,282-9 in 2008 with Houston) and the Dolphins are high on rookie RB Lamar Miller. If Miller can get the No. 3 back spot and Miami chooses to carry four tailbacks, Slaton will be battling with Marcus Thigpen, undrafted rookie Jonas Gray and former CFL star Jerome Messam.
• Although they know they won’t come cheap, we hear the Rams intend on making every effort to reach new contract agreements with defensive stars Chris Long and James Laurinaitis, both of whom are entering their prime, in addition to the final year of their current deals. Don’t be surprised if a new contract for one or the other is announced in the not-too-distant future.
• Don’t underestimate the presence of ex-Colts RB Javarris James in the Cardinals’ RB corps. “He’s a bit of an insurance policy,” said one daily team observer of the younger cousin of former Colts-Cardinals RB Edgerrin James. “(New Cardinals WR coach ) Frank Reich knew him from their time together in Indy, and he has scored some TDs at the pro level (six in 2010 with the Colts, including two-TD games vs. the Cowboys and Eagles). He’s not a grizzled vet by any means, but he still has some experience. That fourth RB spot between him and Alfonso Smith is going to be very competitive.”
• A major battle could be brewing for the Niners’ No. 3 tight end job between Nate Byham, who sat out last season with a knee injury, and ex-Stanford product Konrad Reuland, a practice-squad member last year who reminds a lot of close team observers of ex-Cowboys TE Jay Novacek. Also on the Niners tight-end front, we hear the knee injury that kept Delanie Walker out of the team’s mandatory minicamp is nothing to worry about, and that Walker is expected to be good to go for training camp.
• Hot on the heels of a season in which the Seahawks’ offensive line benefited from surprisingly strong performances from the likes of unheralded veterans Breno Giacomini, Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre, we hear assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable is more than a bit intrigued by rookies J.R. Sweezy, a converted DT drafted in the seventh round, and undrafted free agent Rishaw Johnson, an Ole Miss grad who impressed enough to take some reps with the first team in early June.
• Our Packers sources tell us it’s a pretty good bet that TE Andrew Quarless, who tore is
ACL last December, will not be ready for training camp and will likely start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list.