NFL Briefs – June 19

Holdout wide receiver Brandon Marshall reported to camp — his own.

Marshall reports to own camp

AURORA, Colo. — Holdout wide receiver Brandon Marshall reported to camp — his own.

The Denver Broncos Pro Bowl receiver who skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp last weekend in a contract dispute is holding a two-day youth football camp for 500 kids ages 7-18 at a local high school.

Marshall declined to answer questions about his status with the Broncos on Thursday, other than to say he and his agent are communicating with the team.

Asked if he thought this youth football camp was his grand goodbye to the community that’s embraced him, Marshall said basically that nothing good lasts forever.

“I think we saw this past year as far as change, as for changes in our front office. Coach Shanahan being here 13 years. Gone! I think that’s part of life. You know it’s just change,” Marshall said. “You can control what you can control and what you can’t control you don’t worry about. So I’m here to show my wisdom, to give wisdom and get a feel for the kids.”

Marshall said he does plan to hold the camp again next summer in Denver but also in Pittsburgh, where he grew up, and Orlando, Fla., where he lives.

If he gets his way, Marshall’s camp in Colorado next summer will be as a visiting player.

Marshall, who said he’s been working out at his alma mater, Central Florida, participated in some of the on-field work at his camp, which consisted strictly of no-contact drills.

This week, Marshall posted a farewell to Denver fans on his blog even as coach Josh McDaniels was saying he looked forward to seeing Marshall at training camp next month. And Marshall’s agent, Kennard McGuire, said team owner Pat Bowlen had told his client that he would try to accommodate his trade request. Bowlen hasn’t spoken publicly about the matter.

Marshall has precious little leverage, however, to force his way out of town like quarterback Jay Cutler did this spring when he got into a feud with McDaniels and was dealt to Chicago.

Marshall, who is set to make US$2.2 million in 2009, faces legal and health issues that would seem to prevent him from cashing in with a huge contract any time soon.


Palmer showing old form at camp

CINCINNATI — Carson Palmer squinted into the harsh afternoon sun, sizing up the defence. He pointed to the middle of the field with both index fingers, took the snap and threw a quick pass to rookie receiver Quan Cosby, a crisp spiral that zipped over defenders’ outstretched hands.

Perfect.

Just what the Cincinnati Bengals have been missing.

Their franchise quarterback, the one with the balky elbow, was back at the centre of the offence Thursday, running the show during the first day of minicamp. He wore long, white sleeves and black sweat pants, keeping his California cool in the midday heat.

It looked and felt like old times.

“Carson, he’s sweet,” receiver Chad Ochocinco said. “He’s on top of his stuff. As far as the elbow (injury), it’s got to be gone because all of the balls had the normal zip. He’s on point.”

Not quite, but close. Certainly close enough for the Bengals to think that they have a chance to become respectable again.

Palmer missed a dozen games during Cincinnati’s 4-11-1 season last year.

He partially tore a ligament and tendon from the bone in his passing elbow, and got conflicting medical advice on what to do about it. He could have gotten reconstructive surgery, but chose to see if it would heal on its own.

So far, it’s apparent he made the right choice. Palmer has been throwing informally and during voluntary team workouts, slowly building back his strength.

“It’s getting stronger in the sense that I can throw for longer,” Palmer said after the morning practice. “I have the same speed on the ball at the end of practice.

“I’m starting to get to the point now where the ball’s not dying at the end of practice.”

The Bengals are keeping Palmer on the equivalent of a pitch count, limiting the number of throws he makes in practice until the season begins.

After his completion to Cosby in the afternoon session, Palmer removed his helmet, covered his head with a white towel and turned spectator.

Palmer’s return to form — and Ochocinco’s return to the fold — buoyed a team still smarting from its worst showing under seventh-year coach Marvin Lewis.

While Palmer recovered, Ochocinco groused.

He caught only 53 passes for 540 yards last season, after failing to force a trade. He skipped most of the voluntary workouts in the offseason, but showed up last week with a smile and an upbeat demeanour.

“I’m back,” Ochocinco said. “I can’t explain it any other way. Before last year, this is how I was. I was good. I was happy. I’m good. It’s going to be a great year. We’re going to the playoffs. We’re going, man.”


Clarett denied release from prison

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio prosecutor is opposing former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett’s request for early release from prison to pursue an NFL career.

Clarett says the sooner he can be released, the sooner he can make a comeback. He says he’s heard from teams while he’s been in prison.

But first, Clarett must overcome the objections of Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who says the former Buckeyes standout hasn’t made a strong case to be released so early in his prison term.

On Thursday, O’Brien asked Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio Parole Board to reject Clarett’s April request for an early release.

Clarett was sentenced in September 2006 to serve at least 31/2 years for a holdup outside a Columbus bar and a separate highway chase earlier that year that ended with police finding loaded guns in his SUV. That means Clarett could be out as early as March, although he would still have to spend six months in a halfway house, according to O’Brien’s letter to Strickland.

Clarett asked the parole board for a pardon, reprieve or commutation of his sentence.

Clarett’s lawyer, Percy Squire, says his client has an opportunity to play NFL, arena or Canadian professional football if he’s released within the next few months. NFL teams have contacted Clarett in prison, but Squire wouldn’t identify which teams.

Squire said that while March doesn’t seem that far off, time is crucial for the 25-year-old Clarett.

“Whether he is permitted to go in the summer of 2009 versus the summer of 2010 can make a huge difference,” Squire said.

The former tailback led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship.


Bucs leaning to rookie QB

TAMPA, Fla. — Two months after drafting Josh Freeman as their quarterback of the future, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t ruling out the prospect of him earning the starting job much sooner than expected.

Veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich remain the apparent favourites but the team’s first-round draft pick has shown enough during offseason workouts and this week’s minicamp that the Bucs are rethinking their stance on bringing him along slowly.

“I’m going to play the best guy,” coach Raheem Morris said, looking forward to the start of training camp on Aug. 1.

“I don’t want to give anybody anything. I want that quarterback to take it. Then I want all of us to be able to say, ‘that’s our quarterback.”’

Freeman was the 17th player selected in the draft following a standout career at Kansas State, where Morris was defensive co-ordinator during the quarterback’s freshman year.

The Bucs have said they won’t rush his development but McCown and Leftwich haven’t done much to set themselves apart in the competition.

“He’s pushing the envelope. Those guys are fighting with him. He’s fighting back. That’s what you want,” Morris said.

“We’ll continue to evaluate this thing throughout training camp. We’ll continue to evaluate it throughout the season. We’ll continue to evaluate it until Josh Freeman is ready to become our prototypical franchise quarterback.”

One of the reasons the Bucs are willing to consider Freeman playing early is they’re confident they’ll be able to surround him with enough talent that the 21-year-old would not have to carry the offence.

Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson said the rookie had a tendency to force the football into coverage when voluntary offseason workouts began last month but that Freeman’s decision-making has gotten better.

“We’ve had him maybe a total of 20 practices, but we like where he’s progressed to this point,” offensive co-ordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said, stressing McCown and Leftwich are improving in his system, too, and that he anticipates “really good competition” in training camp.

Morris isn’t making any bold predictions. He reiterated there’s no timetable for Freeman to play, however it wouldn’t shock him if it winds up being sooner rather than later.


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