A handful of NFL teams are taking a serious look at Brock Lesnar, a professional wrestling star who hasn't played football since high school but hopes to earn a training-camp shot to make a club's roster.
Lesnar, 26, has walked away from a reported multimillion-dollar income with Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment to give football a try as a defensive end. He worked out last Friday for the Minnesota Vikings and his St. Paul, Minn.-based agent, Ed Hitchcock, said today that he expects Lesnar to work out within the next four weeks for the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, and possibly the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.
Hitchcock said by telephone he's "very confident" that Lesnar will be with an NFL team once training camps open in late July and early August, adding: "If you compare him athletically to the players at the [NFL scouting] combine, he scores in the top 1 percent. The issue obviously is, how is he going to develop and learn how to play football? The thing he has going for him is, the skills he learned in collegiate wrestling -- collegiate wrestling -- transfer very well to football, in terms of using leverage and things of that nature . . . . All of his focus has been on this. He's very serious about this. It's something he really wants to do."
Lesnar was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion in 2000 for the University of Minnesota, and passed up an offer from former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy (now with the Indianapolis Colts) to attend training camp with that team to go into pro wrestling. Those in his camp say this isn't a publicity stunt, and he added some legitimacy to his NFL bid when he ran the 40-yard dash in the fast-for-a-lineman time of 4.75 seconds during his Vikings workout. He is about 6 feet 3 and 286 pounds and, while many NFL scouts and executives dismiss his attempt to make a roster as farfetched, some give him an outside chance to latch on as a special-teams menace.
He struggled with some of the football-related drills during his Vikings workout, and he still is recovering from a groin injury suffered in an April motorcycle accident. The Vikings have left open the possibility of making him a contract offer before training camp. Lesnar lives in Independence, Minn., but has been working out at a Tempe, Ariz., training facility.
"Initially, we were trying to get him into a minicamp," Hitchcock said. "When it became clear that wouldn't happen, we kind of shifted gears and just focused on getting him into a training camp. Now we're going to give him enough time to heal up before we move ahead in the process . . . . We want to make sure he gets to a team that gives him the best opportunity to develop. He's realistic. He knows there's going to be a developmental phase."
Free agent linebacker Jason Gildon visited Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday, and the Bengals now might be the front-runner to sign him. Gildon, released this month by the Pittsburgh Steelers, also has visited Green Bay and Buffalo and has drawn interest from the Chicago Bears. The Steelers might make a bid to re-sign him . . . .
After signing inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi to a contract extension this week, the New England Patriots' next negotiating target might be place kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is entering the final season of his current deal.
New coach Dennis Green is shaking up the Arizona Cardinals -- not a bad idea, given the franchise's long-standing tradition of malaise.
Two weeks ago, Green demoted L.J. Shelton -- a five-year starter at left tackle who signed a five-year, $22 million contract extension last November -- and gave his starting job to Leonard Davis, who was moved from guard.
On Thursday, as the club wrapped up its offseason practices, Green demoted two more prominent starters, 2003 leading rusher Marcel Shipp and safety Dexter Jackson, the former Super Bowl most valuable player for the Buccaneers.
The move of Shipp to backup status made NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith the Cardinals' starting tailback entering training camp. Smith, 35, lost the starting job to Shipp during an injury-filled 2003 season in which he rushed for only 256 yards, and he said earlier in the offseason that he accepted being a backup. But Green told reporters Thursday that Smith's running style fits in better with Arizona's three-wideout offense.
"I think as we try to counter-punch teams and beat them over the top with big plays, we need a back who is really good at finding seams and getting up in the seams," Green said.
Smith told reporters that the move came as "a big surprise" to him and pointed out that a team's lineup in September is not always the same as the mid-June version. But Green said: "This is the starting lineup. You have to lose your job now. If you are not doing your job, that is not good. I would expect every guy that has that [starting] job to keep that job and play with that job. That is part of being a pro and establishing that we are stepping forward."
Jackson, who has been plagued by a back injury this offseason, was moved behind Quentin Harris on the depth chart at free safety. Green listed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' first-round draft choice, and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, a third-round pick, as starters entering training camp.