NFL Training Camp Roundup
Monday, July 17th 2000, 12:00 am
News On 6
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) â€” While everyone focuses on the return of running back Jamal Anderson, a healthy Chris Chandler might be just as important if the Atlanta Falcons are to be playoff contenders.
Anderson injured a knee in Game 2 a year ago and missed the rest of the season after rushing for a club-record 1,846 yards in the Falcons' run to the Super Bowl the previous season.
He's back and practicing at Atlanta's training camp at Furman University and hopes to be fully recovered by the start of the regular season on Sept. 3.
Chandler, meanwhile, has showed up in the best shape of his career, and coach Dan Reeves is hoping for an injury-free season and big things from his quarterback, who was an All-Pro in 1997 and 1998.
``Our record shows we're a much better football team when he's healthy,'' Reeves said. ``So just like Jamal, we're better when he's in there, we're much better when Chris is in there, too.''
Chandler, 34, entering his 13th NFL season and fourth with the Falcons, has a 24-16 record in 40 regular-season starts with Atlanta, missing eight games due to injuries.
Last season, Chandler missed four full games â€” two with a strained hamstring, one with flu-like symptoms and another with rib and shoulder injuries. In addition, he started but failed to finish four other games due to injuries. The Falcons finished 5-11, one year after a 14-2 regular season and a Super Bowl berth.
New England opened its first training camp under new head coach Bill Belichick, who was hired Jan. 27 to succeed Pete Carroll.
Addressing the team before they were given physicals Sunday morning, Belichick stressed the Patriots had a ``relatively short amount of time'' to prepare for the first preseason game on July 31 against San Francisco in Canton, Ohio, and the opener Sept. 3 against Tampa Bay.
``Everybody thinks about ``Monday Night Football'' and ESPN highlights and all the notoriety and all that comes from being a pro football player,'' Belichick said. ``But the reality of it is there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that need to be (sacrificed) on the field starting with training camp, and that's what the players need to focus on and understand.
``That's the bigger part of the picture. The dessert comes later.''
The Patriots opened camp with a number of roster moves, including making official the re-signing of six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Bruce Armstrong.
The team also signed defensive ends Bobby Hamilton and Brandon Mitchell and waived wide receiver-kick returner Tony Gaiter.
Jerry Rice reported to San Francisco 49ers training camp early again, this time at the request of trainers.
``I guess they wanted to see what the old man could still do,'' the star receiver said.
The answer is plenty. Rice made the catch of the day Sunday, stabbing, with one hand, Tim Rattay's pass thrown behind him.
Rice's left knee held up, despite the three surgeries he had on it in 1997, after tearing two ligaments in the season opener.
In fact, it's Rice's right knee that bothers him now. He practiced sparingly during the first half of last year because of persistent swelling.
``I have my fingers crossed,'' he said.
Rice took the field with 34 rookies Sunday, and is already taking the new players under his wing.
``He was in the huddle telling them what to do, telling them how to get a feel for the coverage,'' coach Steve Mariucci said. ``I sat back and kind of watched it, and it was kind of neat.''
Cleveland signed third-round draft choice Travis Prentice to a four-year contract.
Prentice, a running back from Miami of Ohio, holds NCAA records with 468 points, 73 rushing touchdowns and 78 total touchdowns.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Prentice practiced with the team Sunday afternoon.
The signing leaves the team with one unsigned draft choice, second-round pick Dennis Northcutt, a wide receiver from Arizona.
While practice for the team's veterans doesn't officially begin until Thursday, defensive end Hugh Douglas and offensive tackle John Welbourn joined Philadelphia rookies in training camp Sunday.
Both players were injured last year. Douglas was limited to four games because of a knee and torn biceps injury, while Welbourn tore his left patellar tendon in the first half of the first game and missed the rest of the season.
The Eagles began the rookie portion of their training camp without first-round draft pick Corey Simon, a defensive tackle from Florida State, or Bobby Williams, a right guard from Arkansas, their second choice of the second round of April's draft.
Also Sunday, the Eagles announced that defensive end Michael Mason, signed last week after a stint in NFL Europe, failed his physical and that wide receiver Rondel Menendez was placed on the reserve/did-not-report list.