Spring in the NFL is a time for minicamp, rehab, and hype—lots and lots of hype.
Coaches are hyping draft picks, agents are hyping free agents, and players are hyping themselves. (Okay, maybe it’s only Joe Horn who’s hyping Joe Horn, but you get the idea.)
Actually, scoop-starved reporters are the ones hyping players as they try to fill up sports sections across the country. But that’s cool, because I’d much rather read about a player’s rehab or conditioning program than a stadium vote or front office shakeup.
Just this past week, three of the AFC’s top skill players were featured by their respective papers. So let’s catch up with San Diego’s David Boston, Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis, and Houston’s David Carr as they prepare for training camp 2003.
Boston Battles Back
It’s been a tough year for Boston, despite his brand new seven-year, $47 million contract with the Chargers.
Not only has he been rehabbing a right knee that required surgery to reattach the patella tendon, he has been repairing his image following an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana and cocaine 14 months ago.
“I definitely learned a valuable lesson,” Boston told the North County Times of his infraction. “I hurt a lot of people in my family, I embarrassed the (Arizona Cardinals) and a lot of friends. I hold on to that pain.”
Speaking of pain, Boston also updated his rehab from knee surgery.
“It was a little bit of struggle in January and February, but it's starting to feel good,” Boston admitted. “I completed the rehabilitation and it's felt back to normal the last few months. It wasn't a major surgery, like a reconstruction, so I wasn't out too long. It was just a little tear.”
Boston was on the fast track to stardom before injuring his image and blowing out his knee. He broke out in 2001 with 98 receptions for a league-high 1,598 yards, and eight touchdowns. Now, the 6-2, 248-pound freak of nature is looking to get his career back on track with the Chargers.
“You're only as good as your last year,” Boston said. “I had a Pro Bowl year in 2001, and a disappointing season last year. I got hurt and wasn't playing up to par. Each year you have to prove yourself and get the critics off you. Going to the Pro Bowl is what I'm planning on doing.”
I believe the hype with Boston, who should form a nice hookup with third-year quarterback Drew Brees. It’s doubtful that Boston leads the league in yardage again, but anything less than 1,200 yards and eight scores would surprise this observer.
Jamal’s Ready to Jam
What Lewis did last season was amazing. In his first year back from ACL surgery, the 245-pound freight train rushed for 1,327 yards, nearly matching the 1,364 yards he totaled as a rookie in 2000.
Now, on two surgically repaired knees, the bionic back is looking for even bigger numbers in 2003.
“This is a big year for me,” Lewis told the Baltimore Sun. “I will come in prepared, ready to play. I'm trying to put it all together this season. I want to take my game to another level.
“I think I can lead the league in rushing this year,” Lewis told baltimoreravens.com following Monday's practice. “They beefed up the line a little more up front. As long as we get man-on-man or hat-on-hat and play physical up front, I'll be able to do that.”
I hate to get technical with such a bad man, but in addition to improved blocking, Lewis needs to play with consistency. Through two full seasons, the book on Lewis is that he destroys bad defenses and struggles against good ones.
To wit, four of his five 100-yard games in 2002 came against the Bengals and Browns, two of the worst defenses in the league. Conversely, he couldn’t get anything going against the top-rated run defenses from Denver (78 yards), Tampa Bay (53), and Miami (47).
You can’t say Lewis won’t lead the league in rushing because anything can happen in today’s NFL. That said, fantasy owners would settle for 1,400 yards and double-digit touchdowns from a man with 12 career scores.
David’s Driving a New Carr
Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, is a wise young man. After absorbing an NFL-record 76 sacks as a rookie, he took a couple weeks off and went right to work on his body.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Carr chopped his body fat from 19 percent to 10, morphed 10 pounds of fat into 15 pounds of muscle, and increased his lift maximums by 40-45 percent.
In other words, David took his broken-down Pinto into the shop and came out with a solidly-built Mercedes.
With a healthy offensive line (not including Tony Boselli), enhanced running game (thanks to Stacey Mack), and full complement of receivers (Corey Bradford, Andre Johnson, and Jabar Gaffney), Carr should significantly improve his 2,592 yards and nine scores from a year ago.
I hear the Ravens are looking for yet another veteran wide receiver, despite the free agent additions of Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson. Well, how about former-Raven Qadry Ismail? You know, the dude who twice topped 1,000 yards with the Ravens. Ismail could be had for as little as $755,000, and, if healthy, he’s probably better than the utterly average Sanders and the usually injured Robinson. … Who said you can’t rip your boss and get a raise? Upset with the Browns for not rewarding him with a new contract, Jamel White questioned the direction of the club under Butch Davis and asked to be traded before the draft. Roughly two months later, White signed a four-year, $6.5 million contract that includes $1.3 in guaranteed money. Good for White; bad for William Green. Yeah, Green will still get his on the ground, but he won’t see the light of day on third downs. White’s presence in obvious passing situations will certainly curtail Green’s total yardage number and it could vulture a couple scores. I expect 1,200 rushing yards and 8-10 scores from Green, but he’ll be lucky to catch 20 passes. Maybe Green needs to rip Coach Davis.
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