As NFL training camps begin opening, the spotlight will be on those who don't show up -- likely holdouts such as Shaun Alexander, Javon Walker and Richard Seymour -- and those who are coming back from injuries.
Here's a look at some of the key players whose questionable health makes this summer extra important to their teams.
Charlie Rogers, Lions: Twice, the second overall pick in the 2003 draft has gone down with collarbone injuries, and he's yet to make much impact in Detroit. The Lions are banking on him being more durable and combining with Roy Williams and Mike Williams to form a dangerous receiving trio. If healthy, Rogers might be the best of the three.
Chad Pennington, Jets: Coming off rotator cuff surgery, something no quarterback wants to deal with, Pennington also has to learn a new offensive system under coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. One of the brightest students in the game, he'll master the mental part. But can Pennington handle the physical part, especially the emphasis on more deep throws?
Trevor Pryce, Broncos: Denver needs a productive pass rush for its defense to work, and Pryce is the best lineman the Broncos have. But he is returning from a back injury that wrecked his '04 season, and the team's other top sackmasters of recent seasons, Bert Berry and Reggie Hayward, are gone.
Steve Smith, Panthers: If Carolina hopes to have any passing attack with Muhsin Muhammad now in Chicago, Smith must rebound from his broken leg and still be a deep threat. He probably won't be as productive without his sidekick, but if he struggles, the Panthers will become one-dimensional with the ball.
Sean Jones, Browns: Cleveland wants Jones to be one of the anchors of the defense, but the strong safety is the equivalent of a rookie after missing 2004 with a knee injury. He should do well against the run, but Jones will be heavily challenged as a pass defender, especially if his leg is at all gimpy.
Rex Grossman, Bears: Chicago's offense was among the worst in the league after the Bears gave Grossman the quarterback job and he tore knee ligaments in October. Grossman returns with new weapons in Muhammad and rookie running back Cedric Benson. He still has much to learn as he enters his third pro season.
Shula on Marino
Twenty-two years later, on the verge of Dan Marino entering the Hall of Fame, Don Shula still is amazed the quarterback wound up with the Dolphins.
Entering the 1983 draft, with Miami selecting 27th, the coach figured there was no chance Marino would be on the board when the Dolphins selected.
"We had [John] Elway rated No. 1 and Marino rated No. 2," he said. "Chuck Connor, our college scout, was from the Pittsburgh area and knew everything about Marino. We really never studied Dan as hard as we would have if we thought we had a chance to get him in first round. We had Elway and Marino going at the top of the first round."
Instead, the Dolphins were concentrating on defensive linemen. They didn't even look much at Tony Eason, Todd Blackledge and Ken O'Brien, other quarterbacks who went in the opening round. They planned to grab either Syracuse defensive tackle Mike Charles or Baylor defensive end Charles Benson at No. 27.
"When it looked like Marino was sliding and might continue to slide, we got pretty excited about it," Shula recalled.
"If somehow he slid to us, without a doubt we would take him."
He slid, they took -- and the rest is Hall of Fame material.
As an added bonus, the Dolphins got Charles in the second round and Benson in the third.
From Way Up to Way Down
The NFL correctly brags how teams can go from the bottom to the top in one season, as Carolina did when it improved from 1-15 in 2001 to 7-9 to a Super Bowl berth in 2003, losing to New England by three points in the final seconds. The 1999 Rams, who won a Super Bowl a year after finishing 4-12, are another example.
But if some teams go way up, others clearly have to go down. Way down.
As they go to camp next week, Tampa Bay and Oakland are a combined 19-45 since they met in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, a game won by the Bucs. Tampa Bay is 10-22 and the Raiders 9-23.
Life Without Bruschi
Tedy Bruschi's absence might be felt more in the locker room than on the field in New England this season.
Bruschi announced Wednesday that he will sit out the season after having a mild stroke in February. The leader of the Patriots' staunch defense and one of the most respected players in the league for his work ethic and versatility, Bruschi's loss is the latest hit to a defense also without top cornerback Ty Law and coordinator Romeo Crennel.
But in signing Chad Brown and Monte Beisel, and with holdovers Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin, Ted Johnson and Willie McGinest, the Patriots have plenty of playmakers at linebacker. As a part-time player, Brown could be particularly dynamic.
Brown, 35, missed 19 games in the last three seasons with Seattle. But he won't be called on to do nearly as much with the Patriots, and he brings a strong resume to Foxboro: three Pro Bowl appearances and the most sacks by any active linebacker, 78.
Colvin also should be healthy -- he missed the 2003 season with a hip injury that usually takes a full season to completely heal.
And remember, this group has Bill Belichick overseeing it.
NFL Network will visit eight teams next month for its "Inside Training Camp" show that will air twice weekly.
The show debuts Aug. 2 with the New York Jets. Other one-hour episodes will feature the Titans, Bengals, Colts, Texans, Jaguars and Seahawks. The eighth team has not been determined.
Players and coaches will wear wireless microphones. Among those expected to be spotlighted are Jets Coach Herman Edwards, Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio, and quarterbacks Peyton Manning, David Carr, Matt Hasselbeck and Steve McNair.