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Freeman Is NFL’s Highest-Paid WR

August 17, 1999

Antonio Freeman had a payday unlike any other wide receiver.

Freeman signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Green Bay Packers on Monday, making him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.

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, and second-highest in team history. The Packers gave quarterback Brett Favre a $12 million bonus in 1997.

``It was everything I hoped and dreamed,″ Freeman said. ``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.″

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.

``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.″

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.

Last summer, the Packers offered Freeman a five-year, $17 million contract with a signing bonus of just over $3 million. Freeman rejected the deal, choosing instead to play for the team’s tender offer of $1.153 million and become a free agent at season’s end.

``I took a gamble, and it worked out,″ Freeman said.

In other training camp news:

Cardinals

Offensive tackle Ernest Dye was in fair condition at Flagstaff Medical Center, where he underwent extensive surgery Monday evening following a car accident. Teammates Lester Holmes and Carl Simpson also were in the car as they were on their way to a team meeting.

Doctors were attempting to repair a fractured humerus _ the bone between the shoulder and the elbow _ and at least one of the arteries that supplies blood to his right hand.

Dye’s surgeon, Dr. Tim Bonatus said the 28-year-old’s arm was crushed rather than severely cut, ``leaving the viability of the arm in question.″

The next step following surgery occurs during the next 24 hours, when doctors attempt to re-establish and maintain blood flow in the arm, Bonatus said.

Holmes was driving Dye’s car north on Interstate 17 about 10:15 a.m. when the car veered into the median and rolled. 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.

Dolphins

Dimitrius Underwood, a first-round draft pick 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.

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.

Browns

Rookie Tim Couch will be Cleveland’s starting quarterback in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings.

But Ty Detmer is still penciled in as the team’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.

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, a second-round draft pick, was 3-of-4 on field-goal attempts in the Steelers’ 30-23 victory over Chicago on Friday.

Patriots

New England signed tight end Henry Lusk and linebacker Aaron Adams.

Lusk, 27, was originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round of the 1996 draft. In 1996, he had 27 catches for 210 yards, the most receptions by a Saints rookie since wide receiver Eric Martin had 35 in 1985. He was released by the Redskins in July.

Adams, 24, had 51 tackles and four tackles for a loss of yardage at Louisiana State University.

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 played four seasons with Indianapolis. He has started 29 games in his pro career, including 12 last season, when he had 65 tackles and one sack.

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