Rice cleared to return to practice

Updated: August 2, 2004, 11:52 PM ET
Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice was cleared medically to practice after sitting out the first three days of training camp with an undisclosed illness.

General manager Bruce Allen declined to discuss why Rice did not practice with the team on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but released a statement late Monday night.

"When Simeon came into training camp, he did not pass his initial physical exam at a hospital because he was not feeling well," Allen said. "After further examination, we decided that more tests were needed to alleviate any concerns."

The team sent the ninth-year pro to see a specialist in Los Angeles.

"As of this evening,'' Allen said, "Simeon has been cleared to play and we expect him to join his teammates on the practice field very soon."

Alstott takes hit, keeps ticking: For Mike Alstott, putting on the pads and taking the first hit was the easy part.

Talking about how it felt to be back in the mix for the first time since undergoing surgery for a career-threatening neck injury was more difficult.

The six-time Pro Bowl fullback's voice cracked with emotion Monday, but his message was strong. He's not only back, but confident he can still be a productive player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I've always said if I couldn't play like myself, I'd retire," Alstott said. "After today, there's no question."

Alstott has not played since getting hit on top of his head during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts last Oct. 6. He temporarily lost feeling in his legs and experienced a stinging sensation in his arms that night, and had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck a month later.

St. Louis Rams: One day after Kyle Turley left training camp due to recurring back problems, the Rams signed right tackle Greg Randall to a one-year contract.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Turley, the Rams' starting right tackle, reinjured his surgically-repaired back in practice Saturday and underwent an MRI. He left training camp on Sunday and plans with meeting with a back specialist in Los Angeles.

"It was a threat in my career last year," Turley said of his back problems. "For it to have possibly reoccurred is definitely a big threat."

It was a big enough threat for the Rams to immediately sign Randall, who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Houston Texans last season.

The 6-foot-6, 333-pound Randall spent his first three seasons with the Patriots and was a member of the 2001 Super Bowl-winning team.

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis, who led the Bengals to an 8-8 record last year, signed a new contract shortly after the end of last season, team spokesman Jack Brennan said.

"We were so pleased with how it had gone on and thought he had done an extraordinarily effective job and we wanted to show him that we appreciated what he had done and offered to extend the contract," Bengals president Mike Brown said.

Lewis received a new four-year contract that will pay him more than $2 million a season, replacing the four-year deal he signed when he was hired in January 2003.

"It was very positive and very gracious and flattering to me, wanting to renegotiate and extend the contract," Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer, although he did not confirm the length or the amount of the new contract. "(Brown) just felt like that the two of us could make this thing work long term."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's agent negotiated in person today as he tried to speed up a deal for the Steelers' first-round draft pick, whose holdout reached its fourth day.

Leigh Steinberg flew in from California on Sunday night following a weekend of phone discussions with Steelers negotiator Omar Khan that did little to finalize a contract for Roethlisberger, the No. 11 overall pick.

Roethlisberger is the first quarterback drafted by the Steelers in the first round since Mark Malone in 1980. He is not expected to challenge Tommy Maddox for the starting job this season, but the Steelers dislike him missing time early in camp when the offense is being reviewed and expanded.

Part of the hang-up is how much bonus money Roethlisberger will get.

Seattle Seahawks: First-round draft pick Marcus Tubbs was a no-show Monday as the Hawks opened training camp.

Tubbs, who is the only Seahawk rookie left unsigned, is home in Texas dealing with his mother's poor health.

"I talked to Marcus last evening because his mom's real sick. When we drafted him, she was real sick," he said. "The business part of it, that will happen. I've been at this a long time. Honestly, the new me doesn't get quite as excited about those things as I used to."

Coach Mike Holmgren said he believes the team is close to reaching contract terms with Tubbs. He declined to say when the deal would be completed but indicated he doesn't expect it to be long.

Brian Overstreet, Tubbs' agent, didn't immediately return telephone messages.

Also missing the first day of workouts was perennial Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones, the team's franchise player who has skipped most of the last three training camps as he waits for a long-term contract.

The 6-foot-3, 324-pound Tubbs, who played at Texas, was taken with the 23rd overall selection in this year's draft. A talented athlete, he is expected to help plug problem spots up the middle.

Oakland Raiders: Even with Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson holding out in a contract dispute and few replacements in camp, Oakland doesn't plan to use veteran Ray Buchanan at corner.

Buchanan was signed in the offseason to replace free safety Rod Woodson, who was released by Oakland last month after failing the team physical. Woodson was attempting to play in his 18th season but could not come back from a knee injury that cut short his 2003 campaign.

But the Raiders have thus far resisted the idea of moving Buchanan back to cornerback, the position he played for the last 10 years.

Charles Woodson has been absent from training camp and did not take part in any of the team's offseason workouts after being given the franchise player label in February, starting a contract dispute.

Buchanan's move to safety was not surprising. The 32-year-old defensive back played free safety for the Indianapolis Colts for the first 26 games of his NFL career before making the move to cornerback.

Buffalo Bills: Offensive tackle Mike Williams was excused from the second of two practice sessions for what the team referred to as personal reasons.

Without going into detail, team spokesman Scott Berchtold said Williams' absence was not injury related. He added that coach Mike Mularkey indicated the former first-round draft pick could be back for Tuesday's session.

Berchtold said Williams was still on the St. John Fisher College campus, the Bills training camp site in suburban Rochester.

Berchtold stressed that Williams' absence had nothing to with his status on the team after he was demoted to second string when camp opened Sunday. Mularkey made the move to allow Williams time to better learn the offense after the player had missed several minicamp sessions in June because of a death in his family.

Heat hits lineman hard: With a practice-time temperature of 88, and a cloudless sky, the heat took its toll on backup offensive lineman Richard Seals. He collapsed to one knee and required the help of two trainers to escort him to the team's hydration tent about an hour into the 90-minute afternoon practice.

Berchtold said Seals likely would be treated on site and that his condition would be updated on Tuesday.

Detroit Lions: Receiver Roy Williams made his first appearance at training camp, saying he's ready to work after signing a five-year contract with the team.

Williams, the seventh overall pick from Texas, was in Michigan last week for rookie orientation, and after missing Friday and Saturday's sessions he spent Sunday night reviewing the three team meetings that he missed.

Williams reported to camp weighing in at 220 pounds, eight pounds heavier than what he weighed during minicamp in late April. The added muscle on his 6-foot-3 frame came in handy when the team began seven-on-seven drills in the red zone.

"It's fun to be out here and start working," Williams said. "I only missed a day and a half of practices and I'm caught up already. (Rookie running back) Kevin Jones is my roommate, so I stole his playbook and got my reading in."

Williams worked out with the first unit from the start and was greeted early in practice with an elbow while getting jammed at the line by cornerback Dre' Bly.

San Francisco 49ers: Eric Johnson won't let an injured right thumb hinder his comeback.

The fourth-year tight end returned to practice after missing the team's three previous sessions. He dislocated the thumb during Saturday's late practice.

Johnson visited a hand specialist Sunday and later had an MRI that revealed a torn ligament in the thumb. He will practice with a soft cast on his hand for the next month that leaves his four fingers free.

"It wasn't as serious as it could have been," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "He'll have to have the padding there to protect his thumb, but he'll play in the preseason and be able to go cast-free before our first (regular-season) game."

Lewis breaks hand: Rookie safety Keith Lewis, the team's sixth-round draft choice, broke a bone in his right hand Sunday but will not miss any practice time.

Lewis was again getting physical in the secondary during team drills Monday morning with his right hand and forearm weighed down by a cumbersome cast.

For the second consecutive day, Lewis delivered a crunching hit during drills that leveled an offensive player. He hit tight end Gabe Crecion, who left the field with a stinger and watched the rest of practice with ice on his shoulder.

On Sunday, Lewis walloped fullback Jasen Isom on a screen pass, drawing the ire of coaches and some veteran players.

Tennessee Titans: Linebacker Peter Sirmon twisted his left knee during the Titans' first training camp session in full pads, and coach Jeff Fisher said he would have an MRI as a precaution.

Sirmon has started 25 games at left outside linebacker for the Titans over the past two seasons and was second on the team with a career-high 141 tackles in 2003.

Sirmon hurt his knee on a running play he wasn't directly involved in and went to the sideline, where trainers quickly wrapped it with ice. Fisher said Sirmon's knee didn't appear to be hurt seriously.

"The doctors are not too awfully concerned with it. To be on the safe side, we'll get that (MRI) done immediately,'' Fisher said.

Rookie cornerback Michael Waddell also bruised a shoulder.

"The irony is the first day in pads we had two injuries, really non-contact type injuries," Fisher said.

Minnesota Vikings: Rookie linebacker Dontarrious Thomas signed a contract, ending a two-day holdout.

Thomas, the team's second-round draft pick, arrived in camp after agreeing to the terms late Sunday, according to Rob Brzezinski, the team's vice president of football operations.

Thomas, a linebacker from Auburn who was the 48th overall selection, is expected to battle second-year man Mike Nattiel for the starting job at weakside linebacker.

Last year, running back Onterrio Smith, a fourth-round pick, held out for two days before signing.

Denver Broncos: Running back Tatum Bell, who broke his right middle finger returning punts Saturday, should be able to return to normal workouts after four or five days.

"It all depends on can he handle the pain," coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.

Bell, who ended a holdout over a contract dispute Friday, had surgery Sunday to install pins into the finger. Out of concern the finger might get infected, doctors advised the Broncos to give him four or five days off before returning to drills.

Shanahan had minimal concern about Bell's absence from practice. Bell, a second-round draft choice this year, was able to attend 17 workouts in several team minicamps to get acclimated to the offense, and because it is a non-leg injury, the Broncos will be able to keep Bell in a conditioning regime.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Upgrades to Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium are expected to be done in time for the first Jaguars preseason game in three weeks, but officials say the work is going to cost about $1.5 million more than budgeted.

The city and Jaguars owners agreed to spend $13 million to spruce up the city-owned stadium. Anything over that will be picked up by the team.

The city is paying for its portion from a fund filled by ticket fees, rent and a hotel bed tax.

Team officials say when fans show up for the first preseason game Friday, August 20th they'll see fresh paint, new carpet and furniture, and renovated concession areas.

Workers are also waterproofing some building material and adding two new Jumbotron scoreboards above each end zones.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press