Ryan Leaf is already ahead of last season.
Leaf, coming off a disastrous rookie season, hurt his right shoulder 20 minutes into the first practice last year, requiring surgery. The injury, plus a four-week suspension for cursing at then-general manager Bobby Beathard, wiped out his second season, and he skipped most of the voluntary offseason workouts.
The much-maligned quarterback, chosen second overall in the 1998 NFL draft, had an encouraging return to the San Diego Chargers when the team opened training camp Friday.
"I look good in this thing, don't I?" Leaf said to reporters, motioning to his uniform. "It feels good to put the shoulder pads on and keep going. Hopefully I can finally contribute in some way."
The Chargers hope so, too, although Leaf is third-string behind 36-year-old Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno, who has made one NFL start, on the depth chart.
The Chargers held Leaf back a bit in morning practice because he's coming off surgery in January to clean out his right shoulder, but gave him a full load in the afternoon. He got through both workouts fine.
Leaf admitted he was a little nervous, "kind of like what you should feel like coming into training camp. I've only played eight games (10, actually), so it's pretty much still a fresh start for me."
While the NFL sack champion considered a holdout, the NFL career sack leader is attempting a comeback.
St. Louis' Kevin Carter, who had 17 sacks last year, debated about holding out of training camp, which began Friday, without a new deal before deciding to show up.
Meanwhile, Reggie White, 38, agreed in principle Friday with the Carolina Panthers to end his one-year retirement.
Carter is entering the final year of a six-year, $10 million deal he signed as the Rams' first draft pick in 1995.
"I kind of went back and forth with it," Carter said. "The numbers didn't get done, but I'm not going to let the organizational shortcomings come between me and what I've done here. I would let my teammates down if I wasn't here."
White passed a physical in Charlotte, then traveled 80 miles to training camp for a private workout -- his first official one since 1998 -- and a meeting with coach George Seifert.
"There was a sense of excitement out there," White said. "But I told them if they went 10 minutes longer I think I might have fainted."
Because White had one year left on his contract with the Packers when he retired, they still hold his rights.
Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf was not immediately available for comment Friday, but said the Packers will not seek compensation for White.
White said he took all of 1999 to rest, but was working out this year in anticipation of a comeback.
"The beginning of this year I thought about it, but when I started working out my body said, 'You really don't feel like it,"' said White, who has 192 1/2 sacks in 14 seasons. "But I'm in great shape now."
The Panthers agreed and offered him a five-year contract worth about $20 million -- although White said he may only play one year -- with several performance incentives based on Carolina's defensive improvement.
Trevor Pryce, who led NFL defensive tackles with 13 sacks last season, told Denver he believes he is underpaid and was absent as the team opened training camp Friday.
Pryce, 24, is in the fourth year of a five-year, $4.9 million contract that will pay him $762,000 in base salary this season. He played sparingly as a rookie in 1997, but blossomed into an All-Pro last year.
"Right now Trevor is taking some time to determine what's in his best interests," Pryce's agent, Peter Schaffer, said. "He's got some serious issues with regard to his family and security."
"I've got no problem with trying to redo Trevor's contract and add a number of years to the contract and make him the highest paid defensive player on our team," coach Mike Shanahan said. "But to make him a franchise player and one of the top one or two at his position with two years left on his contract, I'd have to cut some players, and I'm not willing to do that."
Arizona reached a four-year deal with first-round draft pick Thomas Jones on Friday, a day before the team will begin training camp.
Agent Tom Condon said Jones will earn $1.85 million per year and get a $5.7 million signing bonus.
The running back was the last draft pick to sign with the franchise, which has historically had trouble reaching terms with players before training camp.
Jones, the seventh pick overall, was the first running back chosen by Arizona in the first round since Garrison Hearst in 1993.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder is Virginia's career rushing leader with 4,108 yards. He set a single-season record with 1,908 yards last year.
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