Neither side is blinking -- at least not yet -- in the contract stare-down between wide receiver Keenan McCardell and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
McCardell is holding out, and a spokesman said after consulting with him Thursday that McCardell will not report to the Buccaneers for their regular season opener in nine days against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field unless the club first reworks his contract.
"Unless the Buccaneers make any sort of move with Keenan prior to the first week of the season, he will not be playing against Washington," said Steve Caric, an associate of agent Gary Uberstine at Premier Management in Henderson, Nev.
McCardell, 34, remains one of the league's most productive receivers, reaching the Pro Bowl last season after catching 84 passes for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns. He has averaged 81 receptions per year over the past eight seasons for Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. The 12-year veteran has two seasons remaining on his contract at salaries of $2.5 million this season and $2.75 million in 2005 and wants to be paid closer to the $4.4 million average salary of the league's veteran No. 1 wideouts.
The Buccaneers say McCardell should honor his contract and they are paying him enough for a player his age. They are fining him $5,000 per day and have threatened to try to recoup half of his $2 million signing bonus. Talks between Uberstine and Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen regarding McCardell's contract have been dormant for months, leading McCardell's camp to suggest that he be released or traded.
The Buccaneers say they don't plan to accommodate that request and are prepared to play without McCardell if he doesn't show up. Still, they could use him, with veteran wide receiver Joe Jurevicius sidelined after undergoing back surgery last month. The team traded for Joey Galloway in the offseason, used its first-round draft choice on LSU wideout Michael Clayton and signed Bill Schroeder just before training camp and fellow veteran Tim Brown following his release by the Oakland Raiders.
If the Buccaneers consider a trade, one possible partner is the Kansas City Chiefs, who have lost Marc Boerigter to a season-ending knee injury and have been without Johnnie Morton because of a sore Achilles tendon.
McKenzie staying away
The holdout of Green Bay Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie continues as well. There have been some rumblings that McKenzie might report to the team before the regular season but his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said by telephone Thursday: "There's no update."
McKenzie apparently doesn't like how he has been treated by the Packers or his five-year, $17.1 million contract, which runs through the 2006 season and pays him a salary of $2.75 million this year. He hired Rosenhaus, his fifth agent in five years, to attempt to get him traded, but the Packers seem to want at least a first-round pick in return. The New Orleans Saints appear interested.
Two other prominent veterans absent from their teams -- franchise-tagged left tackles Orlando Pace of the St. Louis Rams and Walter Jones of the Seattle Seahawks -- likely will report before the season.
NFL Players Association officials were working late Thursday with Dolphins players who didn't want to leave the Miami area -- and leave their families behind with Hurricane Frances about to hit -- for tonight's scheduled exhibition game at New Orleans. The Dolphins were scheduled to fly to New Orleans this morning, and the league reportedly wanted to see the game played as scheduled.
Pats facing cap squeeze
The New England Patriots apparently will have to trim about $1 million in salary cap charges next week to get into compliance when all players begin counting against this season's $80.582 million cap (instead of only the top 51 players that count during the offseason).
Coach Bill Belichick angered many in the Patriots' locker room when he released Lawyer Milloy just before last season after the veteran safety refused to accept the pay cut proposed by the club. The Patriots, though, regrouped and won their second Super Bowl in three years, perhaps further emboldening Belichick as he faces this year's cap crunch.
Cornerback Ty Law is to count more than $10 million against this season's cap, and his contract was an issue throughout an offseason of bitter dealings with Belichick. The Patriots seem likely to keep Law without changes to his contract, though. They have restructured tailback Corey Dillon's contract and could rework quarterback Tom Brady's deal to lower his cap charge of more than $8 million.
Millen was right
Detroit Lions President Matt Millen said Tuesday that this is a precarious week for NFL coaches and executives, with little to be gained in the final exhibition games -- other than injuries.
Unfortunately for him, Millen quickly found out Thursday night how right he was, as three of his defensive backs -- Brock Marion, Fernando Bryant and Rod Babers -- suffered injuries during the first series against Buffalo.
"I said, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Millen said Thursday night, according to the Associated Press.
Marion, a starting safety, suffered what the team called a bruised right knee. X-rays were negative but Marion was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam. Bryant, a starting cornerback, suffered a pinched nerve in his neck and Babers, a reserve cornerback, hurt his shoulder. Starting linebacker Donte Curry left the game later in the first quarter after hurting his left thigh but indicated the injury wasn't serious.
And the Lions didn't even fare as badly as the Baltimore Ravens, who had perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden suffer a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during Thursday night's game against the New York Giants. The injury put Ogden's status for the regular season opener at Cleveland in nine days in question.
Belichick perhaps had it right, keeping all his front-line players on the sideline for the Patriots' preseason finale Thursday against Jacksonville. Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid likely will take a similar approach for tonight's game against the New York Jets.
Brees likely starter
Drew Brees probably wrapped up the starting-quarterback assignment for the San Diego Chargers by completing all five of his passes for 71 yards and leading two touchdown drives in three possessions in Thursday night's triumph at San Francisco.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer had called the starting job still up for grabs, yet seemed to tip his hand by giving rookie Philip Rivers no playing time with the starting offense Thursday. Rivers's three first-half passing plays resulted in a sack, an intentional-grounding penalty and an interception. He did complete his first 13 passes of the second half against San Francisco's defensive backups, but his absence from the initial 29 practices of training camp and the first two exhibition games because of a contract dispute cost him a legitimate chance to open the season as the starter. Schottenheimer is to make his choice official Sunday or Monday.
The Chargers must decide whether to keep veteran Doug Flutie or youngster Cleo Lemon as their third quarterback. If Flutie is traded or released, the former Boston College star perhaps would be a candidate to be Brady's backup in New England. The Patriots, for now, have assigned that task to Rohan Davey, who starred in NFL Europe this year but has thrown only nine regular-season passes in the NFL . . . .
The 49ers undoubtedly are feeling better about starting quarterback Tim Rattay after he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 Thursday night, completing seven of eight throws for 101 yards and a touchdown. Rattay underwent offseason surgery for a torn groin muscle and was sidelined for part of training camp because of a sore arm . . . .
The 49ers had three touchdowns nullified by penalties on the same second-quarter drive Thursday, finally settling for a field goal in the 31-15 loss to the Chargers . . . .
There's no honeymoon for new Giants coach Tom Coughlin: The fans at Giants Stadium booed the team Thursday night while the Ravens were jumping to a 24-3 lead in the first half. Newly anointed Giants starting quarterback Kurt Warner had an interception returned for a touchdown by Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister, and the New York defense was carved up by quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Kordell Stewart, who combined to complete 14 of 15 first-half throws for 186 yards . . . .
Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich had a mediocre exhibition season as he prepares for his first full season as an NFL starter, completing 25 of 48 passes for 239 yards. He didn't have a touchdown pass and threw an interception and had a passer rating of 57.6. He fumbled against the Patriots and completed four of eight passes for 24 yards Thursday . . . .
Dallas tailback Eddie George had only eight rushing yards on nine carries in Thursday night's win over Kansas City and finished the preseason with 51 yards on 24 carries . . . .
Antuan Edwards appears to be winning his competition with Arturo Freeman for the Dolphins' starting free-safety job . . . .
The Raiders plan to enter the season with Adam Treu starting at center ahead of Jake Grove, a second-round draft pick from Virginia Tech . . . .
Cincinnati will have a patched-up offensive line for tonight's exhibition finale against Indianapolis. Larry Moore starts at center in place of Rich Braham, who just underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but could return before the regular season, and Alex Sulfsted fills in at left guard for Eric Steinbach, who continues to be hampered by an ailing left elbow. . . .
The 49ers must decide by Sunday whether to keep defensive end Brandon Whiting or return him to the Eagles and receive a third-round draft choice next year from Philadelphia to complete the Terrell Owens trade. The deadline was extended from Wednesday because Whiting continues to be hindered by his surgically repaired shoulder . . . .
Rosenhaus has picked up two new prominent clients in recent days, as Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Jacksonville defensive tackle Marcus Stroud have switched to him from other agents. Rosenhaus already has informed the Jaguars of his desire to renegotiate Stroud's contract, and Boldin's deal could be reworked as well following his 101-catch rookie season.