Keenan McCardell has been around long enough to know what it means when a team takes a player in the first round at your position.
"They're sending a message," the Jacksonville Jaguars' wide receiver said of the team's selection of wide receiver R.Jay Soward in the first round.
The Jaguars say there was no message and they took Soward as their third receiver because McCardell and Jimmy Smith get so much double coverage.
The Tennessee Titans beat them three times last year basically by double-covering both receivers and stifling the Jaguars' potent passing game.
McCardell, though, has heard the whispers that he's slowing down. Even though he caught 78passes last year to rank sixth in the AFC, his 11.4-yard average was down more than 2yards over his previous three-year average.
"I guess they're saying I'm not doing the job. I have no idea what they want," he said. "I just know I'm going to make plays. Am I slowing down? I'm still among the top five receivers in the league the last five years. If that's slowing down, then I'm slowing down."
McCardell has caught 312passes for 4,076 yards in his four years with the Jaguars.
But he's used to being overlooked. He was in Cleveland in 1994 when the Browns ignored him and went out and signed Andre Rison. He became a free agent the year after when the Browns moved to Baltimore and signed with the Jaguars.
This is probably a critical year for McCardell and the Jaguars, who face major salary cap problems in 2001. The team could even lose coach Tom Coughlin, who has been denying rumors he's interested in the Notre Dame job.
McCardell, meanwhile, says he's a better receiver at age30 than he was when he was younger.
"I'm wiser. I'm a smarter receiver. I know what I can do. I know I can play. It would be the wrong thing to count Keenan McCardell out," he said.
`My heart never left'
Keith Byars quickly cleaned out his locker in Philadelphia after the final game of the 1992season and made a revealing comment about himself.
"There he goes, and where he stops, nobody knows," he said.
Byars' next step was Miami. The next year, Reggie White and Seth Joyner left.
It was the breaking up of Buddy Ryan's team. Ryan had been fired by owner Norman Braman after the 1990 season. Ryan made two major mistakes: He never won a playoff and treated Braman with disdain, referring to him as the "guy in France" because he spent his summers there.
The players complained Braman was [take your pick] frugal or cheap and were frequently involved in contract hassles. Braman countered by insisting his player costs were second in the league from 1988 to 1992. He saw what free agency would mean to salaries and sold the team in 1994. It makes it all the more interesting that Byars and Joyner signed contracts with the Eagles last week and retired. After all of the acrimony, they wanted to retire as Eagles.
"This is where it all began, and it's fitting that this is where it ends," Joyner said.
Byars remembers the Super Bowl after the 1996 season when he was a New England Patriot and White and Keith Jackson were Green Bay Packers.
"The only bad thing was that there wasn't an Eagles helmet on my head," Byars said.
Byars added, "I may have left Philadelphia, but my heart never left."
Kurt Warner saga
The Kurt Warner story keeps getting better and better.
Warner has gotten so many off-season requests from churches for appearances that he's going to rent the Trans World Dome in St.Louis on May20 for a mixture of gridiron and gospel. Admission will be free and the event will feature contemporary Christian music and appearances by several Rams players.
If the Victory2000 program works well, he may try to duplicate it at other sites in Missouri and Iowa, where he played in the Arena League. "So, you can still touch everybody and talk with everybody and influence everybody, but it also fits into your schedule," he said.
In the latest story from Warner's background, it turns out he became a quarterback when no one on his freshman high school team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, tried out for the position.
So the coach, Jim Padlock, had a bunch of players throw the ball. Warner, who wanted to be a tight end, threw the ball the best and became the quarterback.
Tennessee owner Bud Adams hasn't reached a new contract agreement with coach Jeff Fisher, who says he doesn't want to negotiate once camp starts. If Adams doesn't get Fisher signed, he risks losing him to the new Houston expansion team next year.
San Diego quarterback Ryan Leaf, who said doctors have told him he may never regain full flexibility in his throwing shoulder, is undergoing extensive rehab. In his absence, Moses Moreno is challenging Jim Harbaugh for the starting job.
Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt invited Don Shula to the minicamp. Shula wasn't on good terms with former coach Jimmy Johnson and hadn't returned to the team complex during Johnson's tenure.
Barry Sanders was booed when he was shown on the screen during a recent Pistons game. Detroit fans seem frustrated by his refusal to comment on his retirement.
"Just being out there for half an hour, you can see the team is devoid of veteran leadership, save a couple of guys." - Quarterback Steve Young, who hasn't decided if he wants to play again, on seeing all the new faces on a visit to the San Francisco 49ers' minicamp.