NFL stars chew the preseason fat |

NFL stars chew the preseason fat

Darin Olde, Tribune sportswriter

Chris Redman still dreams about taking snaps and getting on the field, even in his down time, and even with the pressure of playing golf on prime-time TV.

Redman used the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship to escape the excitement, intensity and pressure he feels as the most likely candidate to start at QB for the Baltimore Ravens.

When he wasn’t thinking about unloading at the tee and dropping putts, he was dreaming about Baltimore against the Cleveland Browns, the team he wants to beat more than any other.

“The game I’m always looking forward to is the Cleveland game … that’s a big rivalry between Baltimore and Cleveland. I got a buddy of mine that plays there,” Redman said.

A third-round draft pick out of Louisville, Ky., Redman can see the connection for a touchdown pass, or a quarterback sneak to rack up six points. He can see his teammates celebrating in the end zone.

“I got Travis Taylor returning and Brandon Stokley returning and Todd Heap is going to surprise a lot of people and, of course, Jamal Lewis is coming back, so I think we’ll be OK as long as we can stay healthy,” he said Sunday.

Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan said he feels Denver’s offensive will be back up to speed this year.

“Well, we got a new wide receiver in Ashley Lelie and I think he’ll give us some depth at that position,” he said after his round of 18 at Edgewood Golf Course.

The team was crippled when a bunch of young wide receivers who weren’t supposed to play last year filled in for Ed McCaffrey, who broke his leg in the early season and Rod Smith, who went out with a stress fracture.

Smith’s injury took about four-five months to heal, but Shanahan said he completed the team’s mini-camps and looks pretty good.

“I think our receiving core, if they can stay healthy, will be one of the strengths of the team,” he said.

Running back Clinton Portis, Denver’s second-round draft pick and 51st pick overall, will bolster the team’s already deep roster of ball carriers, all of whom will return.

Shanahan will also return, but that wasn’t always a given. He met with staff from the University of Florida last season, which led the media to question his longevity in Denver.

“Well, there’s always rumors going on. Once you talk to somebody that means you’re going there. I’m very happy with Denver and I don’t plan on leaving,” Shanahan said.

Marcus Allen, who retired after a 16-year NFL career, said he didn’t have any predictions for the Kansas City Chiefs, nor could he say who was on the team.

Jerry Rice, who was dancing at the Maxim Soiree at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Saturday night, left Edgewood on Sunday without offering comments to the press or autographs to the crowd.

Chris Chandler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, said he’s looking forward to training camp and the upcoming season.

“We had a great off-season. I was up there from April on, and it’s a really good, young football team. I can add the gray hair to the team, you know,” he said.

Most of the offensive weapons will be the same, like Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 1,138 yards in 2001 and caught 22 passes for an average gain of 8.1 yards.

“We’re really strong up front. We got a lot of really big, good wide receivers. As good as they catch the ball, they block. They’re really well-rounded,” Chandler said.

The biggest game: Green Bay.

Billy Joe Tolliver, who played for the Packers, Chargers, Falcons and Saints in his 12-year NFL career, is a free agent. Both hope to return to the NFL.

Tolliver, who has 47 NFL starts in 79 games played, says he looks forward to watching the game this year if he can’t play. But you’ll be find him by the phone the next few weeks.

Former Tennessee Titans place-kicker Al Del Greco said he doesn’t spend all day Sunday watching football, but if there’s a game on that catches his eye, he watches. Especially if that team is from Tennessee, or contains former teammates.

“When I watch the Titans it’s to watch the guys who I played with,” he said.

Watching the new faces, even if they’re in a Titans’ jersey, is like watching a whole different team.

Formerly the Houston Oilers, the Titans have a had a lot of turnover and a lot of new faces, Del Greco said.

Like teams that change hands and change names, “they go on and we go on and just do a new chapter in life,” he said.

— Darin Olde —

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