Scenes from summer drills:
?In a one-on-one passing drill, Titans rookie cornerback Andre Dyson stepped in front of wideout Marshaun Tucker and made a fingertip interception with the ball only inches from the ground. Dyson, the brother of Tennessee wideout Kevin Dyson, is in a four-way battle for the cornerback job opposite rising star Samari Rolle. If he keeps making plays like that, he'll win the job hands down.
? Cade McNown talks a good game. The embattled Bears quarterback skipped his last week of vacation to be in Tampa, polishing his footwork and mechanics with former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg. "I'm growing up," McNown says. "I know I've got a job to do, and time is growing short." Quite short, especially if he has stretches like this one on his first day in full pads: McNown underthrows Kaseem Sinceno on a 10-yard crossing route; overthrows D'Wayne Bates on a 12-yard cross; underthrows Ahmad Merritt down the right sideline; and wobbles a bomb far short of Sulecio Sanford. Team insiders think McNown may be playing elsewhere next season.
?Number 93 looks familiar, but something's missing. It must be the pounds. The new Gilbert Brown looks to be about 90% of the old Gilbert Brown, the oversized nosetackle of the 1996 and '97 Packers. Last week, in individual drills, he pushed around starting guard Mike Wahle. After eating himself out of the league before last season, Brown ballooned to more than 400 pounds. Late last year, determined to return to the NFL, he began training at Kansas, his alma mater. He' reported to camp at 332 pounds, and the Green Bay brass likes his chances of making the team. "We could be looking at the comeback player of the year," says vice president of football operations Mark Hatley.
Jimmy Smith's Comeback
Coughlin Shows His Soft Side
Jaguars wideout Jimmy Smith doesn't remember how many times he woke up from his real-life nightmare and saw his coach, Tom Coughlin, sitting at his bedside. "He came by the hospital at least every other day," says Smith, whose career was threatened by a stomach ailment in the off-season. "What touched me is that he never talked about me playing football again. He cared about me as a person. He got me through this."
Smith was hospitalized three times between late March and May. The culprit turned out to be scar tissue from a 1993 appendectomy that had built up and created a blockage in his small intestine, making it difficult to digest food. "It was kinked, like a garden hose," says Smith, who lifted his shirt after a practice to reveal a six-inch scar, the result of the surgeries.
Smith hopes to be ready for the opener on Sept. 9 against the Steelers. After losing 20 pounds when he was sick, he is back at his playing weight, which is a start. Obviously, he is vital to Jacksonville's success. No player has caught as many balls for as many yards over tire past five years as Smith, who has 450 receptions for 6,599 yards. Can he return to his old form? "I want to be better," says Smith. "Wouldn't that be a great story?"