Whether he has a sore hamstring and is riding a stationary bike in a Discovery Channel shirt, or his (former) personal assistant is talking about the 25 million reasons he should be alive, it seems Terrell Owens likes to be in the news. The start of the 2007 training camp has been no different, as Owens had an MRI to find out the source of recent discomfort in his back.
"We feel sure that he just has back spasms, but we don't want to take any chances," new head coach Wade Phillips said. "There's no alarm, but we wanted to make sure."
Owens, who received treatment and wasn't on the field for the team's two Monday practices, seems to be questionable for the Aug. 9 preseason opener in Indianapolis. Philips told the media Owens wants to play in the contest, but the team could decide to err on the side of caution and rest their stud wide receiver.
The controversial T.O. missed a significant portion of last season's training camp due to hamstring issues, but that didn't keep him from recording an impressive 85 receptions for 1,180 yards and a league-high 13 receiving touchdowns in the regular season. While his back issues should be monitored closely over the next few weeks, fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned about Owens' status for the regular-season opener.
Aside from what appear to be minor back issues, Owens' draft value has actually increased this offseason. Philips has told new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to throw the football in T.O.'s direction as much as possible, so the 33-year-old wideout should be able to at least duplicate his solid 2006 totals. In an offense that promises to be more aggressive in the pass attack, Owens has a chance to finish with 90-plus catches.
Owens also established a tremendous rapport with Tony Romo in the quarterback's 10 starts - he had 57 receptions and eight touchdowns with Romo under center, compared to 28 receptions and five scores in six contests with Drew Bledsoe at the helm - and that's another reason to believe T.O. will dominate in 2007.
While he's still behind the likes of Steve Smith, Chad Johnson and Marvin Harrison on NFL.com's current rank list, Owens is still a solid top-five wideout and worth as much as a second-round selection in drafts.
KELLEN WINSLOW TO SEE PRESEASON ACTION
Much of the talk about important players coming back from injuries in training camp has surrounded such studs as Donovan McNabb, Frank Gore and Clinton Portis, but another elite athlete is also battling back from a serious ailment that has his value in question - Kellen Winslow.
Winslow is attempting to come back from a microfracture procedure on his knee that limited him throughout the offseason. While he admitted to the Akron Beacon-Journal that his knee is "going to take some time to come back," Winslow hasn't been hindered to this point in camp. In fact, reports out of Cleveland indicate that he has been the most impressive player in Browns camp. The true test for Winslow, however, will be in the team's Aug. 11 preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he will see his first real action.
Head coach Romeo Crennel indicated that Winslow will see about one quarter of work in the contest.
Winslow's performance against the Chiefs will be the first step in his rise or fall in all fantasy rank lists. He led all tight ends in receptions last season with 89 - he had 16 more then the next two tight ends, Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap - and he recorded the third-most receiving yards at the position with a solid 875.
Where he left owners cold was in his visits (or lack thereof) to the end zone.
In fact, a total of 15 tight ends, a list that includes Dan Campbell and Chris Baker, compiled more touchdowns than Winslow last season. The Browns hope to change that statistical fact and will look to use Winslow more often in the red zone, but he needs to prove that his health is at or close to 100 percent.
In the event that his knee doesn't limit him against the Chiefs and he has no setbacks in the first preseason games, Winslow should be considered one of the top five tight ends in fantasy football and worth a middle-round selection. Should the ailment become more of an issue as training camp progresses, however, then owners should consider Winslow more of a risk-reward choice in the middle to late rounds.
NEWS & NOTES
Chargers head coach Norv Turner plans to utilize LaDainian Tomlinson more often as a receiver out of the backfield this season, adding to the stud back's already-immense value. There's even been talk he could see some time in the slot, which would mean even greater production in PPR formats. The last two runners to work under Turner (LaMont Jordan, Frank Gore) combined to catch 131 passes over the past two seasons, so Tomlinson could have his highest receptions total since 2003.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seemed to indicate that Donté Stallworth is behind Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney on the current depth chart. Stallworth, who came off the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform)/camp list this week, won't have the starting spot opposite Randy Moss handed to him. This situation shows that Stallworth will have to earn a prominent role, but it also displays the faith that Belichick has in Caldwell and Gaffney in a pass attack that spread the football out each week.
Cadillac Williams is expected to be used more often as a receiver out of the backfield this season, and head coach Jon Gruden has been quick to praise his featured back. However, reports out of Buccaneers camp indicate that Williams has been inconsistent as a pass catcher in practice, and that could hurt his chances to overtake Michael Pittman on passing downs. While a season with 40-plus receptions is possible, Williams is still no more than a No. 2 fantasy back in most formats.
As if the loss of Michael Vick wasn't enough to hurt the value of Alge Crumpler, now comes word that he will miss a week of practice due to soreness in his surgically-repaired knee. Crumpler, who had an arthroscopic procedure on the problematic knee in the offseason, has been limited to just a few practices since he had the operation back in April. Unless he can come back at 100 percent over the next few weeks, Crumpler could become a payer to avoid in fantasy football drafts.
Priest Holmes did some post-practice drills on Monday with a helmet and shoulder pads, but he has not participated in contact drills. In fact, there is no concrete timetable for him to come back and test his neck. Holmes, who has been out of football for the better part of the past 22 months, needs to show the Chiefs that he can contribute soon or it will continue to be Michael Bennett and Kolby Smith who see most of the work while Larry Johnson is out of camp due to his holdout.