Seven NFL teams opened training camp with their starting-quarterback jobs up for grabs. It appears that at least two and perhaps three of those teams have not settled the matter as the final set of preseason games nears.
Miami Dolphins Coach Dave Wannstedt acknowledges that he hasn't picked a starter between A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler. San Diego Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer says he sees no need to make a selection before the calendar dictates it, although Drew Brees probably would get the nod over Philip Rivers unless Rivers can make remarkable progress in what little remains of the preseason. Oakland Raiders officials have insisted since they signed Kerry Collins as a free agent that he would be Rich Gannon's backup this season, but Collins has spent the preseason playing like he should be the starter and few people around the league would be shocked if Coach Norv Turner makes a last-minute switch.
The Dallas Cowboys settled their quarterback competition 27 days ago by releasing Quincy Carter and handing the job to Vinny Testaverde. New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin picked Kurt Warner over Eli Manning on Sunday, and Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs announced his choice of Mark Brunell over Patrick Ramsey on Monday. Veteran Tommy Maddox seems to be holding off the challenge of rookie Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
On draft day, it seemed possible that each of the first three quarterbacks taken -- top overall choice Manning, fourth overall pick Rivers and 11th overall selection Roethlisberger -- could open the season as a starter. But Manning, after seemingly leading Warner in the Giants' quarterback derby for most of training camp and the first half of the exhibition season, made Coughlin's choice easy with a shaky outing Friday in which he threw two interceptions and had a fumble returned for a touchdown by the New York Jets.
Maddox has had an efficient preseason for the Steelers, and Coach Bill Cowher is feeling some pressure to win immediately after missing the playoffs in four of the past six seasons.
Rivers missed the first 29 practices of the Chargers' camp and the first two preseason games because of a contract dispute, then had only three days of practices before his debut Friday against Seattle. He connected on his initial three passes but finished five of 14 for 79 yards with two interceptions, two sacks and one intentional-grounding penalty.
Brees failed to nail down the starting job by throwing an interception in a two-for-five showing, and he clearly is in disfavor with the organization. Schottenheimer said Brees would be the starter if the season opener were now but added that, since it isn't, Rivers still is in the running.
Unless Schottenheimer is influenced by management into going with Rivers, it would be difficult to envision Rivers playing well enough now to convince a coach with his job on the line to elevate him to the starting lineup after showing up so late and getting so little preparation.
Feeley, obtained in an offseason trade with Philadelphia, seems to be leading the Dolphins' competition after directing the starting offense to its lone touchdown in Saturday's loss to Tampa Bay.
The Raiders continue to call Gannon their starter, and he has looked more like the 2002 league most valuable player than the quarterback who looked too old and too weak-armed last year before having his season cut short by an ailing shoulder. Still, Turner and Raiders owner Al Davis love the deep passing game and Collins, the deposed Giants starter, has looked more capable of bringing that element to the offense, with an 89-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Doug Gabriel in the second exhibition game and four touchdowns in eight drives in preseason play. Gannon has led the offense to a touchdown and three field goals in eight drives.
Gallery Might Stay At Guard
The Raiders liked the way that Robert Gallery, the left tackle at Iowa taken with the second overall choice in the draft, played at left guard in about a dozen snaps at the position Saturday against Arizona. Gallery is scheduled to get more playing time at the spot in Thursday's preseason finale against St. Louis and it appears increasingly likely that he will open his rookie season at guard, then move back to tackle by next season. . . . Travis Minor and Sammy Morris, Ricky Williams's replacements at tailback for the Dolphins, have averaged a combined 1.8 yards per carry during the preseason. . . .
San Francisco 49ers officials expect defensive end Brandon Whiting, who's recovering from shoulder surgery, to pass his physical Wednesday and remain with the team. The 49ers received Whiting from the Eagles as part of the March settlement over Terrell Owens's free-agent status that placed the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in Philadelphia. But, because of Whiting's shoulder injury, the 49ers have the option of returning Whiting to the Eagles by Sept. 1 and receiving a third-round pick in next year's draft instead. . . .
Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Roy Williams has a part in the soon-to-be-released movie "Friday Night Lights," based on H.G. Bissinger's book about a football season at Williams's high school, Odessa (Tex.) Permian. Williams plays an assistant coach at rival Midland Lee and has one line: "He ain't going to play, Coach."
Get On The Bus, Deion
Perhaps Deion Sanders didn't research the timing of his arrival with the Baltimore Ravens thoroughly enough: The Ravens will have to ride a bus back to Baltimore after their final preseason game against the Giants on Thursday night at Giants Stadium. The club wanted to charter a train but was told that federal transportation officials are not allowing any mass transit in or out of the New York area while President Bush is addressing the Republican convention. . . .
The Ravens are delighted with the preseason play of tailbacks Chester Taylor and Musa Smith, probably reinforcing Coach Brian Billick's initial belief that he should not allow Jamal Lewis to play while his trial on drug-related charges in Atlanta is taking place. The trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1 and likely will last about two weeks. . . .
San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay emerged from his first appearance of the exhibition season -- Friday at Minnesota -- without suffering a recurrence of the sore arm that plagued him in training camp as he tried to work his way back from offseason surgery for a torn groin muscle. The 49ers probably will give Rattay more work than usual for a starting quarterback in the preseason finale against the Chargers on Thursday. . . .
The Kansas City Chiefs have a shortage at wide receiver, with Marc Boerigter likely out for the season because of a knee injury and Johnnie Morton shelved temporarily by a sore Achilles tendon. They have moved Dante Hall into the starting lineup alongside Eddie Kennison. But they still could use some help, and they pursued veteran wideout Keenan McCardell before he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCardell is holding out in a contract dispute and would like to be traded, but Chiefs Coach Dick Vermeil maintains that he usually has had better luck trying to coax better performances out of his own players in such situations than adding new players. . . .
Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete, claimed by Arizona off waivers after being released by the Redskins, is in the Cardinals' starting lineup. . . . Denver tailback Mike Anderson will miss the entire season because of his severe groin pull. . . . Rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. officially was elevated into Cleveland's starting lineup with the sprained knee suffered by Steve Heiden. . . .
Jacksonville released quarterback Doug Johnson. . . . Buffalo reserve quarterback Travis Brown is to be sidelined four to six weeks by a sprained left medial collateral ligament. The Bills on Monday reached a contract agreement with free-agent quarterback Shane Matthews, who spent last season with Cincinnati after his failed reunion with former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier in Washington in 2002. It will be the fifth NFL team for Matthews, who also has had stints with Chicago and Carolina. He is scheduled to practice with the Bills today. . . .
The Vikings plan to use Moe Williams and rookie Mewelde Moore at tailback in their regular season opener against the Cowboys, with starter Michael Bennett sidelined by a sprained MCL in his right knee and Onterrio Smith reportedly slated to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"If number 32 [Smith] didn't get himself a vacation, we wouldn't have any concern," Coach Mike Tice told reporters Monday. "We'd let Mike just take his time getting ready. Now with number 32 having a vacation, supposedly, we'll try to push Mike to get back as soon as he can get back. Hopefully it's the second game against Philly. We'll see how it progresses.'' . . . Anyone who wonders why the Titans were fairly rigid in their offseason negotiations with veteran tailback Eddie George only needs to look at the preseason play of replacement Chris Brown, who is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Brown ran for 35 yards on eight carries Monday night in a 20-17 loss to George's new team, the Cowboys, while George managed only three yards on four carries for Dallas. Testaverde threw for 240 first-half yards. . . .
Defensive end Hugh Douglas's one-year contract with Philadelphia is worth $850,000, plus about $2.55 million in incentives. Douglas agreed to return to his former team late Monday after being released by Jacksonville earlier in the day. The Eagles hope that Douglas can provide some pass-rushing help to compensate for the loss of end N.D. Kalu to a season-ending knee injury. He is the second former Eagles defensive standout to re-sign with the team in recent months, following middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Both should be role players this season, with Trotter slated to back up Mark Simoneau and Douglas perhaps helping Derrick Burgess and Jerome McDougle at right end.
Pennington Deal Almost Done
The Jets and agent Tom Condon have nearly completed a contract extension for quarterback Chad Pennington that apparently will include about $20 million in bonus money and will have an overall value of more than $9 million per season. The agreement would keep Pennington off the free agent market next spring and would beat the Wednesday deadline set by Pennington to cut off negotiations until after the season if no deal is in place. . . . Cleveland placed its special-teams captain, reserve linebacker Brant Boyer, on the injured reserve list. . . .
Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey probably will miss Thursday's game because of a strained hamstring. Shockey was sidelined at the outset of training camp as he recovered from June foot surgery and hasn't played in the exhibition season. . . . Cornerback Charles Woodson didn't report to the Raiders on Monday but likely will show up today. Turner has said that Woodson won't start the regular season opener because of his long absence to protest having the franchise-player tag placed on him. . . .
The Vikings are sticking with Aaron Elling for now as their kicker even after he missed an extra point and two of three field goal attempts Friday against the 49ers. But Minnesota might look to add a kicker -- perhaps the loser of the Billy Cundiff-Matt Bryant competition in Dallas -- after roster cuts around the league.
DeAngelo Hall Sidelined
Atlanta rookie cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the eighth overall pick in the draft out of Virginia Tech, could be sidelined six to 10 weeks because of a small fracture in his hip, according to Falcons Coach Jim Mora Jr. The club originally called the injury a strained muscle. But a series of tests revealed the fracture and the team sent Hall to a hip specialist, Mora said.
"We're optimistic that he's going to be back sooner rather than later, but obviously that's going to depend on how he heals," Mora told reporters today. " . . . By no means is it season-ending or anything like that. We'll get him back eventually, and we'll adjust as we go. . . . There's nothing you can do about injuries. You've just got to keep going."