Originally created 08/17/99

NFL round up: Freeman becomes NFL's highest-paid receiver



Antonio Freeman got a new contract and a new label -- the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver.

"It was everything I hoped and dreamed," Freeman said Monday after signing a seven-year, $42 million contract. "I'm just happy to be a Green Bay Packer for a long, long time to come. I love it here, and I always wanted to be here."

Freeman's agent, Joel Segal, told The Associated Press the deal also includes a $10 million signing bonus, the largest ever for a wide receiver. It is also second-highest in team history. The Packers gave quarterback Brett Favre a $12 million bonus in 1997.

"This is a landmark contract," Segal said. "This is something that's never been done before. It breaks the ice for all the other receivers."

The contract includes two voidable years, meaning the All-Pro wideout can opt out of the deal after five seasons. The contract is contingent on Freeman playing in 25 percent of the Packers' offensive plays in any season.

Freeman, who briefly participated in drills Monday morning, set career-highs with 84 catches for 14 touchdowns and a league-best 1,424 yards, despite breaking his jaw late in the year.

Freeman bolsters the Packers' wide receiving corps, but won't play against the Denver Broncos next Monday, coach Ray Rhodes said. With Robert Brooks' retirement last month, Green Bay entered training camp with Bill Schroeder, Derrick Mayes and Corey Bradford as their top wideouts.

In other training camp news:

Falcons

Running back Jamal Anderson practiced in pads for the first time since ending his two-week contract holdout last Wednesday.

Coach Dan Reeves said he was watching to see if Anderson, the NFL's No. 2 rusher last season with 1,846 yards, was "mentally and physically" ready for a game situation.

"We'll see how it goes, and make a decision later in the week whether he goes Saturday (against Baltimore) or if we hold him off another week," Reeves said.

Dolphins

Dimitrius Underwood, a first-round draft choice released last week by the Minnesota Vikings after he left them to pursue his faith, was claimed off waivers by Miami.

The Dolphins were awarded the rights to Underwood because no NFL team with a worse record last year claimed him.

Underwood went AWOL after his first practice with the Vikings on Aug. 2, leaving his family, his agent and team officials to speculate about his motive and whereabouts. Underwood explained his absence by saying he was torn between a desire to pursue the ministry and the need to support his family.

Cardinals

Arizona linemen Ernest Dye, Lester Holmes and Carl Simpson, on their way to a morning team meeting, were injured when their car rolled over.

Dye, a 28-year-old offensive tackle, was in fair condition at Flagstaff Medical Center, where he underwent surgery for an open fracture of the right humerus -- the bone between the shoulder and the elbow.

Dye also damaged one of the arteries supplying blood to his right hand. Additional surgery to rebuild the damaged radial artery had been scheduled Monday afternoon.

According to Department of Public Safety reports of the crash, Holmes was driving Dye's car north on Interstate 17 about 10:15 a.m. when the car veered into the median and rolled. Defensive end Carl Simpson and Dye were ejected from the vehicle. Only Holmes was wearing a seat belt.

Holmes was in good condition with a cut on his forehead. Simpson was released from the hospital after being checked for pain in his left hip.

Browns

Rookie quarterback Tim Couch will start the inaugural game at Browns Stadium in Saturday's exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings.

But Ty Detmer is still slated as Cleveland's opening day starter, coach Chris Palmer said.

Detmer has been the starter for the Browns (1-1) in both exhibition games so far, while Couch, the top overall draft pick, has come in during the second and third quarters. Palmer said he wants to see what each can do in different situations on Saturday.

Jets

While Vinny Testaverde solidified his position as New York's starter, the battle for the backup slot intensified when Ray Lucas had a poor second half against Green Bay on Saturday night.

Coach Bill Parcells said nine-year veteran Scott Zolak will take most of the snaps in the team's home exhibition opener against Philadelphia on Friday night. Lucas, a former special teams standout converted to full-time quarterback last season, likely won't see any action against Philadelphia.

Steelers

Pittsburgh released rookie free agent kicker Matt Davenport to make room for fellow rookie Kris Brown.

Brown, the second of two Steelers second-round draft picks, converted 3-of-4 field goal attempts -- including kicks of 48 and 49 yards -- in the Steelers' 30-23 victory over the Chicago Bears in the team's preseason opener Friday. The 49-yard goal tied the Steelers' longest field goal of 1998.

Lions

Detroit signed free agent linebacker Steve Morrison to replace Matt Russell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Friday's exhibition opener at Atlanta.

Morrison, 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, played his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He has started 29 games in his pro career, including 12 last season, when he had 65 tackles and one sack.