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Monday, December 31, 2007

Billick fired after 9 seasons in Baltimore

December 31, 2007

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Brian Billick was fired as coach of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, less than a day after his team concluded a disappointing 5-11 season.

Players were told of the dismissal as they packed up their lockers at the team's practice facility.

Billick won the 2001 Super Bowl in his second season with the Ravens, and led the team to a franchise-best 13-3 record in 2006. But Baltimore lost a team-record nine consecutive games this season before ending the skid Sunday with a 27-21 win over Pittsburgh.

"This is the reality of our business," cornerback Samari Rolle said.

Billick's nine seasons with Baltimore was tied for third with Philadelphia's Andy Reid as the third-longest current run with the same team. He took the Ravens to the playoffs in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006, but Baltimore won only one postseason game since its Super Bowl run after the 2000 season.

"Sometimes the message can get repetitive after a while," 12-year offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said.
Ogden said this month that Billick had informed the team he would be returning in 2008. But owner Steve Bisciotti evidently changed his mind.

The Ravens expected to compete for a world championship this season after bringing back almost every starter from last year's AFC North champions. But injuries and a turnover-prone offense contributed to a complete collapse after a 4-2 start, and Baltimore finished last in the division.

"This year the injury bug not only hit us, (it) hit our prime-time players," linebacker Bart Scott said.

Billick, 53, was hired as Baltimore's second head coach in January 1999, succeeding Ted Marchibroda. In Billick's first season, the Ravens reached .500 (8-8) for the first time. Then he led Baltimore to a 12-4 record and a berth in the Super Bowl, where the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7.

Billick was 80-64 as Baltimore's coach. He was the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings before being coming to the Ravens.

"I'm not saying I agree with it," kicker Matt Stover said of Billick's dismissal, "but sometimes things have to change."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Patriots Starting Right Offensive Tackle And Guard Out For Giants Game

This is the unknown blow. And it comes on the heels of the best pass-rush in the NFL.

Kaczur can't tackle practice
He's among three who miss workout

Email|Print| Text size – + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 28, 2007
FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots may have to face the New York Giants, the NFL leaders in sacks with 52, without starting right tackle Nick Kaczur.

The team released its injury report yesterday and Kaczur (foot) was among three players not participating in practice. The others were tight end Kyle Brady, who missed last Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins with an ankle injury, and fullback Kyle Eckel, who injured his stomach on kickoff coverage during the second quarter of the Patriots' 28-7 win over the Dolphins.

The Patriots have played the last three games, and seven games this season, without right guard Stephen Neal, who has been troubled by a shoulder injury and had limited participation in practice yesterday. But Kaczur has started all 15 games at right tackle.

The options to replace the third-year tackle are second-year tackles Wesley Britt and Ryan O'Callaghan. Britt made his only career start last season, against the Cincinnati Bengals, and O'Callaghan started six of the first seven games last season before ceding to Kaczur, who was recovering from a shoulder injury.

O'Callaghan replaced Kaczur for a series during the Patriots' 48-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys Oct. 14. Kaczur had moved to left tackle to spell an ailing Matt Light. O'Callaghan surrendered a sack to Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Even with Kaczur in the lineup, the Patriots, who have surrendered 20 sacks, the fifth fewest in the league, are in for a challenge against the Giants, who boast defensive linemen Osi Umenyiora (13 sacks), Justin Tuck (10 sacks), and Michael Strahan (nine sacks). The Giants tied the NFL record for sacks in a game (12) earlier this season against Philadelphia. Umenyiora had six in that game.


Patriots-Giants Concludes Slate Saturday at 8:00 PM ET

Thursday and Saturday Night Football Tops Cable Ratings
For All Games to Date

Viewership among Men 18-49 up 55 Percent for Season

NFL Network’s Thursday and Saturday Night Football games have scored a ratings touchdown this season… before the eagerly anticipated New England Patriots-New York Giants matchup on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.

After seven contests this season (including Dallas-Carolina on Saturday night), NFL Network games are averaging a 7.1 coverage area rating – up 31 percent from last season at this point (5.4). In addition, Thursday and Saturday Night Football posted a 48 percent increase in average viewers (4.6 million vs. 3.1 million through seven games last year) and is up 55 percent among Men 18-49 (1.7 million vs. 1.1 million).

Saturday night’s game had a 7.5 coverage area rating, continuing the network’s streak of topping the day’s ad-supported cable ratings for all 15 of its Thursday and Saturday Night Football games since November 2006.

Following is a look at NFL Network season-to-date ratings for Thursday and Saturday Night Football:

Season-to-Date Summary
All seven Thursday and Saturday Night Football games topped daily ad-supported cable ratings.
Average coverage rating of 7.1 is up 31 percent from last year at this point (5.4).
Average of 4.6 million viewers is up 48 percent from last year at this point (3.1 million).
According to Nielsen Media Research December 2007 reporting, NFL Network reaches 43 million U.S. households.

Patriots-Giants is the second of three live games in a four-day span on NFL Network. The 2007 Texas Bowl (Houston vs. TCU) airs at 8:00 PM ET on Friday, Dec. 28 on NFL Network and the 2007 Insight Bowl (Indiana vs. Oklahoma State) at 6:00 PM ET on Monday, December 31.

Cam Cameron, Randy Muller, and Joey Porter To Be Out At Miami Dolphins - Profootballtalk.com

If this is true, then Bill Parcells is cleaning house big time. The organization needs a shake-up. I would link to the specific place where this is, but they don't have a standard blog system, so I can't.


A source with knowledge of the situation in South Florida tells us that "sweeping changes" are most likely coming for the Dolphins. And soon.

Coach Cam Cameron? Out. General Manager Randy Mueller? Out as soon as Monday, even though he's been doing research all year for free agency and the draft.

We're told that Parcells already has been working directly with the league office to obtain the appropriate permissions to hire Cowboys V.P. of college and pro scouting Jeff Ireland.

As Peter King of SI.com pointed out earlier in the week in his MMQB column, Parcells' contract makes clear that he merely is the overseer of the football operations.

"We set it up so the general manager I hire will have that authority. I want to make it clear: I don't want to be the general manager. I don't want to be the head coach. I told Wayne [Huizenga] that very clearly. I don't think it will be an issue.''

If it is an issue -- if the league concludes that Parcells has final say over personnel -- then the Fins might have trouble finding a G.M. Under league rules, a team is not required to allow a front office employee to leave unless he will have final say in his new job.

So if it's determined that the Tuna has the juice, the only guys he'll be able to hire are guys who are permitted by their teams to leave, or who have contracts that specifically allow a premature departure.

And even if a guy is in the final year of his contract, most front office deals run through the draft.

With all that said, there's a growing sense in some circles that Parcells will get Ireland, and that the pair will work together in reshaping the front office.

Another source tells us that the fates of Mueller and Cameron have been sealed by people telling the Tuna that the current G.M. and coach don't burn the midnight fish oil in South Florida. Parcells, a workaholic, doesn't like the idea of guys not doing all they can to win.

POSTED 9:38 a.m. EST, December 28, 2007


With new Fins football poobah Bill Parcells declaring that he wants no "thugs and hoodlums" in Miami, the immediate reaction in league circles is that linebacker Joey Porter won't be long for South Florida.

Though Porter is primarily a bag of hot air, he was busted earlier in the year for busting up Bengals left tackle Levi Jones.

And Parcells surely means it. The Cowboys, a team primarily built by Parcells, have had no arrests in 2007. Ditto for the Patriots, who are led by a long-time Parcells' lieutenant, and by Parcells' son-in-law. And the Jets, under the leadership of Parcells' protege G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, have had only one incident this year.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have amassed the most points in our Turd Watch game (which we need to update). Much of the damage was done by defensive tackle Fred Evans and receiver Kelly Campbell, who already are long gone.

The only caveat as to Porter is that the $20 million in guaranteed money that he reportedly received when he signed would hit the cap. Parcells could designate Porter as a post-June 1 cut, taking the bulk of the hit in 2009.

Oakland Raiders' Warren Sapp Was Fined $75,000

NFL docks Raiders' Sapp $75K for penalties in loss to Jaguars - ESPN and AP

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp was fined $75,000 on Thursday by the NFL for his confrontation with game officials that led to his ejection last week.

The league said Sapp was punished for "physical and verbal actions toward game officials that drew an unprecedented three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and ejection from last Sunday's game."

Defensive end Derrick Burgess was also fined $25,000 for verbally abusing an official during the same sequence.

The punishments were announced after the Raiders' media availability on Thursday, so neither player nor coach Lane Kiffin was available to comment. Both Sapp and Kiffin said previously they were not worried about a possible suspension.

The altercation came late in the first half of last Sunday's 49-11 loss at Jacksonville, when the Raiders were called for four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in one sequence. The dispute began when Jaguars right tackle Tony Pashos was flagged for illegal use of his hands to the face.

Officials initially said the Raiders declined the penalty, and the Jaguars lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt. Officials then said Oakland would accept the penalty, making it third-and-20 from the Raiders 35.

Jacksonville's offense went back on the field, but a few seconds later, the officials called the first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sapp, who said Wednesday he was angry the officials declined the penalty without checking first with the Raiders.

That gave the Jaguars an automatic first down, and Sapp started jawing at officials. Sapp and Burgess were both flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during the arguments. Sapp kept talking and then drew the third penalty and the ejection. Sapp had to be restrained by teammates and defensive line coach Keith Millard after being kicked out of the game.

Referee Jerome Bogar said after the game that Sapp was ejected for bumping umpire Garth DeFelice. Sapp denied making any contact with an official.

Sapp has had run-ins with officials in the past. Before a game against Washington in 2003, Sapp, then with Tampa Bay, reportedly bumped an official. Four days later he was fined $50,000 for what the league called "repeated violations of abusing officials."

Oakland Raiders' Warren Sapp Was Fined $75,000

NFL docks Raiders' Sapp $75K for penalties in loss to Jaguars - ESPN and AP

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp was fined $75,000 on Thursday by the NFL for his confrontation with game officials that led to his ejection last week.

The league said Sapp was punished for "physical and verbal actions toward game officials that drew an unprecedented three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and ejection from last Sunday's game."

Defensive end Derrick Burgess was also fined $25,000 for verbally abusing an official during the same sequence.

The punishments were announced after the Raiders' media availability on Thursday, so neither player nor coach Lane Kiffin was available to comment. Both Sapp and Kiffin said previously they were not worried about a possible suspension.

The altercation came late in the first half of last Sunday's 49-11 loss at Jacksonville, when the Raiders were called for four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in one sequence. The dispute began when Jaguars right tackle Tony Pashos was flagged for illegal use of his hands to the face.

Officials initially said the Raiders declined the penalty, and the Jaguars lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt. Officials then said Oakland would accept the penalty, making it third-and-20 from the Raiders 35.

Jacksonville's offense went back on the field, but a few seconds later, the officials called the first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sapp, who said Wednesday he was angry the officials declined the penalty without checking first with the Raiders.

That gave the Jaguars an automatic first down, and Sapp started jawing at officials. Sapp and Burgess were both flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during the arguments. Sapp kept talking and then drew the third penalty and the ejection. Sapp had to be restrained by teammates and defensive line coach Keith Millard after being kicked out of the game.

Referee Jerome Bogar said after the game that Sapp was ejected for bumping umpire Garth DeFelice. Sapp denied making any contact with an official.

Sapp has had run-ins with officials in the past. Before a game against Washington in 2003, Sapp, then with Tampa Bay, reportedly bumped an official. Four days later he was fined $50,000 for what the league called "repeated violations of abusing officials."

Oakland Raiders Steve Smith Needs Our Help

Oakland Raiders running back Steve Smith needs the help of every Raider and football fan as he battles ALS or "Lou Gehrig's Disease". This video is about his struggle and what you can do to help. Pass it on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

NFL DRAFT BIBLE moves Football Friday Podcast to Blogtalkradio.com

Well we have just outdone it this time. We will begin "live streaming"
our weekly shows in just a little over two weeks!

Our Page is www.blogtalkradio.com/nfldraftbible

The Perfect Bowl - NFL Lets NBC and CBS Show Game For Free - Profootballtalk.com

Leave it to Mike Florio to get the scoop on the deal allowing the Pats / Giants game to be shown on NBC and CBS


Well, we've done some sleuthing regarding the NFL's decision to simulcast the Pats-Giants game on Saturday night. And a source with knowledge of the situation tells us that NBC and CBS are paying a whopping . . . nothing . . . for the rights to the game.

Plus, the networks get to sell their own commercials.


"NBC is the exclusive carrier of prime time 'over the air' NFL football," the source said, "which means if the game was moving to an 'over the air' station it had to be NBC."

But since NBC already has a game for the week (Tennessee at Indianapolis), the Pats-Giants game was partially owned by CBS as well, since CBS would have aired the game on Sunday afternoon, given that the AFC team in the interconference contest is the visitor.

Said the source: "Both parties had to agree to a simulcast or agree not to do it."

Another source tells us that ESPN, which pays the NFL $1.1 billion per year for the rights to Monday Night Football, wasn't even included in the discussions -- which officially confirms the four-letter network's status as the NFL's biatch.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

NY Jets WR Laveranues Coles Placed On IR - ESPN

Coles has a terrific statistical record, but needs to be on a team that knows how to employ his talent.

Ankle injury ends season two games early for Jets receiver Coles

By Len Pasquarelli

Veteran wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who has battled through a high ankle sprain that has affected his productivity for the past month, was placed on injured reserve by the New York Jets on Saturday afternoon, ending his season with two games remaining.

One of the toughest players in the league, and blessed with a high threshold for pain, Coles nonetheless struggled after spraining his left ankle in a Nov. 18 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite a noticeable limp at times, one that forced him to miss practice time, Coles stayed in the lineup.

He aggravated the injury last week when he fell off the training table on Saturday night at the team hotel, then attempted to play against the New England Patriots. Coles lasted only one offensive snap before he was forced to the sideline.
Earlier in the season, Coles, 29, suffered a head injury against Buffalo that forced him to miss one contest, snapping a streak of 104 consecutive appearances.
In 12 games this season, Coles, who is regarded as one of the veteran leaders in the New York locker room, had 55 catches for 646 yards and six touchdowns.
A former Florida State star, Coles was selected by the Jets in the third round of the 2000 draft. He signed with Washington as a restricted free agent in 2003, but then after two seasons with the Redskins was traded back to the Jets for wide receiver Santana Moss in a 2005 blockbuster deal.
The eight-year veteran has 561 receptions for 7,245 yards and 37 touchdowns in 121 regular-season games. He has seven straight seasons of 50 catches or more and has notched four seasons with 80-plus receptions and three years with 1,000 yards or more.
Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Favre becomes NFL career yards passing leader

December 16, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Brett Favre became the NFL career leader in yards passing Sunday, overtaking Dan Marino for his latest achievement in a milestone season.

The three-time NFL MVP pulled 1 yard behind Marino with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, catching the St. Louis Rams in a blitz. That put the Green Bay Packers ahead 27-14 with 5:58 to go in the third quarter. He passed Marino on the Packers' next series on the first play, a 7-yard slant pattern to Donald Driver with 23 seconds gone in the fourth quarter.

The game was halted for a few minutes while flashbulbs popped from the stands from a crowd that appeared to be at least half Packers fans, and public address announcer Jim Holder acknowledged the record. Driver hugged Favre, who shook hands with an official.

Marino passed for 61,361 yards in 17 seasons. Favre, who entered Sunday's game needing 184 yards to set the record, also is in his 17th season while enjoying a year comparable to his peak production.

Favre threw his 25th and 26th touchdown passes, also hitting Donald Lee on a 4-yarder early in the second quarter. He had 440 touchdown passes after breaking another mark that belonged to Marino with his 421st at Minnesota on Sept. 30.

He topped John Elway's career record for victories by a starting quarterback with his 149th at New York on Sept. 16.

Favre, 38, entered the game on pace to surpass his personal best of 4,413 yards in 1995 and challenge Lynn Dickey's franchise record of 4,458 yards set in 1983.

Favre was flawless early, completing his first nine passes to eight receivers for 95 yards. The early run ended when Ron Bartell broke up a pass intended for Lee with 5:47 left in the first half.

The veteran quarterback entered Sunday's game needing six touchdown passes in the last three games to add to his own NFL record by throwing 30 or more in nine seasons.

Sunday was Favre's 251th consecutive regular-season start, or 271st counting the playoffs -- both records for a quarterback.

Only former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall has started more regular-season games (270) in a row.

Miami Dolphins Emerge Victorious- First Win Of The Season

Down by three with 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith guided the reeling Ravens down the field to tie the game.

After Matt Stover's 44-yard field goal attempt was wide right with 9:57 remaining in overtime, the Dolphins took over on downs and sealed their first victory in the last calender year as quarterback Cleo Lemon hooked up with Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown grab.

The Fins removed the copious monkey off their back this afternoon after not registering a victory in the regular season since December 10th, 2006 at New England. For the Ravens, veteran Matt Stover missed his first field all-time in overtime (5-for-5)and further added to the team's blatant incompetence.

Baltimore has lost eight consecutive games and it now appears highly likely that rookie Troy Smith is the signal caller of the future, not Kyle Boller.

Congratulations to Cam Cameron on his first win as a head coach in the National Football League.

Colts Lose Entire Starting Defensive Line to Injuries - AP and NFL.com

Considering the injuries, it's amazing the Colts have done so well.

Indianapolis without five starters against Raiders
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts will sit five starters for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders, with injuries to defensive end Robert Mathis leaving the team without any of the first-string defensive linemen it had to start training camp.

The Colts decided Saturday that Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea would not play against the Raiders, Indianapolis spokesman Craig Kelley said. The team had already listed receiver Marvin Harrison (bruised left knee), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (ribs) and right tackle Ryan Diem (knee) as out for Sunday's game.

Mathis (sprains to both knees) and Bethea (sprained left knee) were injured during last Sunday's 44-20 victory in Baltimore. Neither finished the game, in which the Colts pulled most of their starters midway through the third quarter.

The absences of Mathis and Brock follow season-ending injuries to defensive end Dwight Freeney and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, leaving the Colts (11-2) without any of the defensive linemen they had at the start of the season.

Rookie Ed Johnson has been the starter since McFarland was injured during training camp.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Falcons Press Conference On Bobby Petrino's Departure - NFL Network Today

I'm watching the Atlanta Falcons Press Conference right now on The NFL Network. It features two speakers, Falcons GM Rich McKay and Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, and the mood is at best somber.

What's stood out is that the Falcons were misled not just by Bobby Petrino but by Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long. It's also very obvious from the discussion that Petrino could not communicate well with the players, and -- I'll say this -- may have had a hard time adjusting to the modern pro Black athlete.

Whereas in college a coach has a lot of power and is dealing with kids, in the NFL a coach is called by his first name, and can't throw a man off the team for misbehavior. But what's most obvious is that many in the Falcons organization were lied to and thrown into a huge organizational tailspin.

The people most negative impacted are the assistant coaches, one of which who's already left. They are in the position of having to worry about their futures anew.

Nice job Bobby.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More On Petrino's Sudden Departure From The Atlanta Falcons

Well, for some reason, I'm not surprised at this.

Petrino quits Falcons to take Arkansas job

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/11/07
Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, in a move that was said to have blindsided team officials, resigned Tuesday evening to take the head-coaching job at the University of Arkansas, the team confirmed.

Team owner Arthur Blank and the Falcons brass were caught so off guard that they are still trying to figure out who will coach the 3-10 team over the final three games.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are likely candidates to coach the Falcons on an interim basis.

Each could be under consideration for the permanent job.

Before the Falcons' 34-14 loss to New Orleans Monday, Blank said that he had heard rumors that Arkansas had targeted Petrino to replace Houston Nutt as head coach. So he said he asked Petrino if he was considering that job.

Petrino, who was signed from the University of Louisville to a five-year, $24.5 million contract Jan. 8, told him Monday afternoon that he definitely would be back to coach the Falcons in 2008.

It was the second time Blank had asked Petrino about his commitment to the team and the second time Petrino told him he would be back next season.

Blank was not available for comment Tuesday evening.

The Falcons were off Tuesday and Petrino did not hold his typical day-after, post game news conference. It is not known if he spent the day talking to officials from Arkansas.

Petrino's abrupt departure puts the Falcons in position of trying to find a second head coach in less than a year. Blank fired Jim Mora Jan. 1, 2007 after three seasons.

Atlanta is in a tenuous situation because a new head coach with a radically different philosophy could require a rapid change in direction from plans already put in place to augment the roster for Petrino's scheme.

Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall, one of several players with a frosty relationship with Petrino, said he was surprised by the news, which he heard about from a team officials around 5:30 Tuesday.

"We felt like Petrino was going to be around for the long haul, like he had as much invested in this as we did," Hall said. "For him to jump ship is disheartening. Arthur Blank and the city of Atlanta, they deserve to win and we thought Petrino was going to be the guy to help us get there. He was a winner and wasn't used to losing.

"Maybe he didn't feel he could win at this level. I disagree with that. If he doesn't want to be a part of it, fine. We'll move on and get better and we will games without him."

It was thought that Petrino could take the Falcons offense, led by Michael Vick, and create an exciting, winning brand of football.

But Petrino's troubles in Atlanta began soon afterward, starting when Vick was questioned by security at Miami International Airport on Jan. 17 about a water bottle with a hidden compartment. Test results indicated that were no illegal substances in the bottle, and Vick was cleared of wrongdoing.

Vick's troubles continued in April when police found evidence of a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in rural southeastern Virginia.

Vick was indicted on felony charges in July of operating an illegal dogfighting operation, known as Bad Newz Kennels.

Vick was indefintely suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in August.

The Falcons are 3-10 following Monday's 34-14 loss to New Orleans. They are tied for the second-worst record in the league.

In the wake of Vick's suspension, the team has used three different starting quarterbacks, and its offense has struggled. They are 30th in the league in scoring (14.2 points per game) and 24th in yards per game (301.1 ypg).

Fan reaction was much like that at Falcons headquarters: surprised.

Brian Daniels, president of Louisville's Atlanta Alumni Club said, "I'm just absolutely floored.

"I really believe he came here to coach the best athlete in football. I think he was just at a point where he'd had enough. You can't blame a man for wanting to drive a Porsche and being handed a Cadillac."

Petrino has a history of short stays as a coach.

During his four seasons at Louisville, Auburn, LSU and the NFL's Oakland Raiders talked to him.

In an attempt to keep him, the school signed him to a $25-million extension in July, 2006.

He signed a deal with the Falcons six months later.

Petrino's coaching career started in 1983 as a graduate assistant at Carroll College in Wisconsin. He became offensive coordinator there in 1985. It was the start of a long-time career in the college ranks that saw him work as an assistant at eight colleges before being named head coach at the University of Louisville in 2003. He compiled a 41-9 record at Louisville.

Petrino previously worked in the pro ranks as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1999-2002.

Petrino also has a previous stint in the SEC, as offensive coordinator for Auburn University in 2002.

Vick receives 23-month sentence on dogfighting charges

Richmond, Virgina judge Henry Hudson sentenced embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback
Michael Vick to nearly two full years in prison Monday morning.

Since the disgraced star has already spent three months behind bars, it is probable to assume that with good behavior the sentence will be reduced to 19 months. Either way, it will have been three years without playing professional football and the likelihood of Vick acclimating himself back into the league is very minimal.

Petrino reportedly phones in resignation to Falcons

Petrino's departure from the hapless Falcons continues to further the notion that college coaches that immediately embark upon the NFL fail miserably.Outside of Jimmie Johnson leaving the University of Miami to coach the Dallas Cowboys, the line of success is minimal.

ESPN.com news services

Bobby Petrino abruptly resigned his position as coach of the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday and is negotiating an agreement to become the new coach at the University of Arkansas, multiple sources told ESPN.

Petrino and his agent had been talking with the Falcons about his preference to return to the college ranks. The former Louisville coach was looking for an opportunity to break into the Southeastern Conference ranks, and Arkansas was a natural fit.

Citing the team as its source, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on its Web site that Petrino phoned the Falcons about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and resigned. Petrino and the team agreed he would not coach the Falcons' remaining three games, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton.

Negotiations between Petrino and Arkansas are ongoing, the sources told ESPN. Once a deal is in place, Petrino is expected to be paid around $3 million a year, the sources said.

Petrino signed a five-year, $24 million contract to be the Falcons head coach, so he will be taking a pay cut to re-enter the college ranks. The Falcons are 3-10 and have had their season torn apart by Michael Vick's involvement in a dogfighting ring and subsequent 23-month jail sentence, which was levied Monday.

NFL sources said there was no buyout in Petrino's contract with the Falcons.

Petrino will succeed Houston Nutt, who was hired by Mississippi immediately after resigning at Arkansas. Tommy Tuberville and Tommy Bowden were both linked to the Arkansas opening, but they remained as coaches at Auburn and Clemson, respectively.

Arkansas flirted with hiring Jim Grobe -- a private fundraising arm for the Razorbacks approved a salary supplement for the Wake Forest coach -- but Grobe stayed with the Demon Deacons.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Colts Reggie Wayne Steps Up As Marvin Harrson Sits Out

I don't know what's wrong with Marvin Harrison's knee, but it's good in a way, because Gonzalez can get more reps. Thus, when Harrison does return, the Colts will have the best set of receivers -- Harrison, Wayne, Clark, and Gonsalez -- in the NFL.

INDIANAPOLIS (ESPN) -- Having averaged 78.5 catches, 1,103.3 yards and 8.3 touchdowns in the past four seasons as a starter, wide receiver Reggie Wayne wasn't quite sure how much more he could do to further establish himself as one of the NFL's premier playmakers.

And then eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison suffered a debilitating knee injury in the Colts' victory over the Denver Broncos on Sept. 30, and everyone found out.

That's because when Harrison went down, Wayne's production went up. And the player considered by many to be the best No. 2 wideout in the league demonstrated that he is more than just a complementary component in the Indianapolis passing attack. He's no longer the "other" guy for quarterback Peyton Manning.

"He became the absolute biggest piece of our passing offense," tight end Dallas Clark said. "Right now, everything revolves around him. I mean, Marvin, with everything that he's done and accomplished, and probably going into the Hall of Fame some day, he casts a big shadow.

"But the past six or seven games, or whatever it's been, Reggie has shown that he doesn't have to play in anyone's shadow."

In every NFL season, there are players who step up to compensate for the loss of injured or departed teammates, or who simply seize the opportunity for quality playing time and then emerge as standouts in their own right. This year is no different.

The 2007 season has produced potential stars, such as running backs Justin Fargas (Oakland), LenDale White (Tennessee) and Ryan Grant (Green Bay), safety O.J. Atogwe (St. Louis), defensive end Trent Cole (Philadelphia), weakside linebacker James Harrison (Pittsburgh) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall (Denver), among others.

Wayne, though, was already well-known. He was a first-round draft choice in 2001 (from the University of Miami), and he posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons and went to his first Pro Bowl in 2006. So based on his résumé alone, Wayne was expected to have a good season. But no one expected such a big season, especially without Harrison lining up across the formation from him.

For the season, Wayne, 29, has 76 catches for 1,169 yards and eight touchdowns. At his current pace, he would finish with 101 receptions, 1,559 yards and 11 scores. That would be 15 more catches and 200-plus more yards than his career bests.

And if he indeed reaches those numbers? Consider it remarkable, simply because there is basically no other viable wide receiver in the lineup to draw the coverage away from him.

Clark has enjoyed a career season, too, and his versatility creates matchup problems for every Colts' opponent, because he can align in the slot or as a traditional in-line tight end. But with Harrison out of the lineup, and rookie first-rounder Anthony Gonzalez just now getting up to speed after rehabilitating from a broken finger, secondaries have focused their efforts on stopping Wayne.

And, for the most part, have failed.

"No doubt about it, he has stepped up his game, gone to another level with [Harrison] out of there," said Jacksonville cornerback Brian Williams, who was torched for a 48-yard touchdown catch by Wayne on Sunday. "He's taken [it] on himself to get better, and he has. He just keeps getting open. It's kind of frustrating not being able to stop him, because you know on the big downs that Manning is looking his way."

Stepping It Up

Besides Reggie Wayne, here are five other veterans who, given more playing time and responsibility, have dramatically increased their production and raised their profiles in 2007:

Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia: Always an effective situational rusher, the three-year veteran (in photo above) moved into the starting lineup this season when the coaches decided that Darren Howard and Jevon Kearse were in decline. Cole has 9-1/2 sacks.

Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland: Pretty much an afterthought when the season began, he was buried behind LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes on the depth chart -- Fargas has rushed 181 times for 863 yards and three touchdowns, and has four 100-yard outings.

James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh: Took over the weakside vacancy created by the offseason release of Joey Porter and has been a monster in the Steelers' 3-4 front, with 75 tackles, 8-1/2 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver: With star wideout Javon Walker sidelined much of the year by a knee injury, the second-year speedster from Central Florida has flourished, and has 65 catches for 914 yards and four touchdowns.

LenDale White, RB, Tennessee: Out of shape, overweight and frequently injured as a rookie in 2006, the former Reggie Bush running mate at Southern Cal started the year on the bench, and no better than No. 3 on the depth chart. But when starter Chris Brown was injured, White became the Titans' power back, and he's rushed for 754 yards and six scores.

-- Len Pasquarelli

In the eight games since Harrison was injured, Wayne has 55 catches for 862 yards and five touchdowns. In the seven games that Indianapolis has played without Harrison -- the Colts' star played a limited number of snaps in the Oct. 22 contest at Jacksonville, but mostly as a decoy, catching only three passes for 16 yards -- Wayne has 46 receptions for 731 yards and five touchdowns.

"I think I've always been a hard worker," Wayne said. "But, if possible, I've forced myself to work even harder the past month or two. We're the defending Super Bowl champions, and we want to repeat.

"Sure, it's a little harder with Marvin not out there, but we've got guys who can make plays. You don't want to let guys down. I'm just trying to play my part, that's all."

In terms of production from the Indianapolis wide receivers, though, Wayne is virtually playing all the parts.

He has registered three 100-yard outings in the seven games in which Harrison has not played. In fact, three of the six career games in which Wayne has more than 140 receiving yards have come in the past six weeks with Harrison out of the lineup. In that same stretch, all the other Indianapolis wide receivers have totaled just 34 catches and 350 yards -- and no touchdowns.

Wayne is blessed with deceptive speed and has matured as a technically solid route runner. Manning loves to throw the ball to spots and counts on his receivers to get there, and Wayne has become increasingly polished at finding the open spaces. He isn't quite as precise as Harrison but is adept at double-move routes, and he works well off the sleight-of-hand play fakes at which Manning is so adroit. Oh, and Wayne has excellent burst to the ball when it's in the air.

On his 48-yard touchdown reception Sunday, which came one snap after Manning had absorbed a sack and faced a third-and-16, the Colts' quarterback was just trying to get some yardage back so that Adam Vinatieri would have a makeable field goal. But then he spotted Wayne streaking past the Jacksonville secondary. For a second or so, it appeared Manning's pass might be a stride two long, but Wayne accelerated and caught it on his finger tips.

It was, Manning acknowledged, the kind of play the Colts have come to expect from Wayne on a regular basis. And have come to increasingly rely on, since Harrison remains out of the lineup while rehabilitating for what the Colts hope will be a late-season return.

Time was when Wayne was viewed as the sidekick part of the Indianapolis wide receiver equation. Now he's the one kicking the butts of opposition cornerbacks when the Colts need a big, vertical play.

"He's definitely a playmaker," Manning said. "You can see how much he wants the ball and how much confidence he has. There's a big element of trust involved in our passing game, and we all trust that Reggie is going to keep making plays for us."

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Four Ravens fined for improper conduct relating to officials

The numerous fines are unjust and uncalled for.

National Football League

Four Baltimore Ravens players have been fined for violating league rules prohibiting the abuse of game officials, the NFL announced Friday.

Bart Scott was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing game officials and throwing an official’s flag into the stands during last Monday night’s Baltimore-New England game.

Samari Rolle, Chris McAlister, and Derrick Mason were fined $15,000 each for publicly questioning the integrity of the officiating in last Monday night’s game.

“This is about the importance of sportsmanship and respecting the integrity of our game,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson. “We do not tolerate inappropriate conduct between teams and game officials. This includes reminding game officials that they are to conduct themselves at all times as professionals in their dealings with players, coaches, and other club personnel.”

Anderson went to Baltimore this week to speak directly with Scott and Rolle before issuing the fines Friday.

“Last Monday night’s game was well officiated,” Anderson said, “and it is the obligation of both players and coaches to maintain proper respect for game officials at all times.”

In addition to prohibiting physical contact with game officials, league rules also bar team personnel from verbal or other non-physical abuse of officials and from public criticism of their integrity.

"As I said earlier this week, our actions were not appropriate near the end of our game against the Patriots," said Ravens coach Brian Billick in a statement. "We, our players and coaches, understand and accept the fines levied by Commissioner Goodell. We believe in the integrity of NFL officials and don't believe they, in any way, favored the Patriots with their calls.

"As a team, we've discussed a number of times about not speaking publicly about any unhappiness we have with the officials. As emotional as the end of Monday's game was, I should have reminded the players of that in our post-game meeting. That's my mistake. We do appreciate the extra step taken by the Commissioner's Office when Ray Anderson came here yesterday to talk with some of our players."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Four Arrested In Redskins Sean Taylor Killing

The Miami-Dade Police Department arrested four individuals Friday in connection to the horrific slaying of Washington Redskins Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor.

All four men, ranging in age from 17 to 20, are facing possible charges of murder and robbery in lieu of the break in at Taylor's lavish Miami home early Monday morning.

Contrary to the sentiments expressed by many that this was a planned attack by the four suspects, police director Robert Parker said that this was an attempted burglary and the four incarcerated men ''were certainly not looking to go there and kill anyone.''

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor | ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha On Sean Taylor

Jeffri Chadiha wrote what I consider to be a classic article on this massive trajedy, the murder of Sean Taylor.

Birth of daughter gave new meaning to Taylor's life

By Jeffri Chadiha

There are many details to be sorted out in the shooting death of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, but this much we do know: This was a man whose life appeared to be changing for the better.

That's the only thought that kept going through my mind after hearing Taylor had died early Tuesday morning, a day after being shot by an intruder in his South Florida home. This wasn't the same immature kid who spent his first two seasons baffling Redskins management with poor decision making. This was a young father, a hard-hitting defender fresh off a Pro Bowl season, a maturing 24-year-old who finally understood what it took to be a professional.

Now there certainly are plenty of people who will say that Taylor's death is about more than just football, and there is no question about that. But what can't be dismissed is that most of what we know about Sean Taylor relates to football. Taylor rarely talked to reporters and most of our insight into his life came from his on-field performance and off-field issues. It's apparent that the playing part was never much of a problem for him. The off-field stuff was another issue, especially during Taylor's first two seasons.

But the feeling from the Redskins was that Taylor had put the problems that plagued him early in his career behind him -- including the seven fines he'd received for late hits and other infractions, and the $25,000 fine he incurred for skipping a mandatory rookie symposium after the Redskins selected him fifth overall in the 2004 draft. He was no longer the same man who had been accused of brandishing a gun during a fight in 2005. In that case, Taylor accepted a plea agreement of two misdemeanors and received 18 months' probation.

Yet somehow, through all those issues, he had started the valuable process of growing up. The most obvious sign was the relationship he had with his 1-year-old daughter, Jackie.

"It's hard to expect a man to grow up overnight, but ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean, and everybody around here knew it," Redskins running back Clinton Portis told reporters. "He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child."

Teammates always claimed that Taylor had more common sense than he displayed early in his career. It's much easier to believe that when observing his behavior since Jackie was born in May 2006.

Not only had Taylor avoided trouble, but he had become even better on the field. A few weeks ago, Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gushed about how Taylor had become the best safety in the league, a defender whose intimidating combination of size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) and speed allowed him to excel in coverage and against the run. The more you listened to people talk about Taylor, the more you sensed he had turned an important corner in his life and his career.

But now we must reflect.

Taylor apparently had lost so much blood from an arterial wound in his leg that he wound up in a coma shortly after reaching Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. There had been some signs of hope -- Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato told the media Monday that doctors were encouraged by Taylor's ability to squeeze a physician's hand on request and show facial expressions. But Taylor's injuries were too severe. Now his family and friends and the Redskins are left wondering how to make sense of this tragedy.

Taylor's teammates clearly struggled to find the words to convey those feelings. On Monday, Portis talked about how it was impossible for a teammate and friend to turn back time and step in front of the bullet that pierced Taylor's leg. Safety Pierson Prioleau said Taylor was more than just a member of the Redskins; he was a father, a brother and a dear friend to many in that locker room. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said there's no easy way to deal with a tragedy like this. It's just too far outside the scope of what most people face.

In may take some time to sort out exactly what happened the day Taylor was shot. Even when we do find out, it may not make much sense. After all, Taylor had seen the value in growing up long before somebody broke into his home and shot him. He saw it in his daughter, in his growth as a player.

Hopefully, people will remember that about his character as they mourn him today.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Redskins Safety Sean Taylor Passes at 24 From Senseless Attack

There are some things you believe will not happen. As you may know, Washingon Redskins Safety Sean Taylor was in a hospital fighting for his life. But what you may not know is that he lost that battle , having simply not enough blood to continue.

In all of my years with the NFL family I can think of only one incident so painful and that's the murder of my cousin, Colts and Panthers Running Back Fred Lane.

My thoughts and prayers to all of the Redskins players and staff and the friends and family of Sean Taylor.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Priest Holmes ends short comeback, retires from NFL

By DOUG TUCKER, AP Sports Writer
November 21, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- What drove Priest Holmes out of the NFL is something most football players try to drive out of their thoughts.

They know it's a dangerous, violent endeavor that can leave them unable to walk. Holmes, after making one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history, decided that as much as he loves the game, it wasn't worth the risk of a paralysis.

So the former Pro Bowl running back retired on Wednesday, thanking the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL for all they had done.

"I had to look at the situation for what it is," he said, flanked by Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson on one side and his three young sons on the other.

He had been out of the game for 22 months after sustaining head and neck injuries in a game in 2005. Then he called Peterson in June and told him he wanted to try a comeback.
He made it, too, after working so hard he earned the admiration of everyone who was watching. He made two starts in place of injured Larry Johnson the past two weeks. But last Sunday during a game at Indianapolis, he began to feel certain symptoms that doctors had warned him to watch for.

He refused to be specific, but during an often rambling series of answers said paralysis had been a possibility if he kept playing.

"Much of that is, I guess you could say, in the past," he said. "Just to know the symptoms were similar to the ones before. But to be technical, to go into medical terms, I wouldn't feel comfortable."

His teammates seemed unanimous in their respect for the man who holds team career records for yards rushing.

"It's probably the best decision that he could make for himself, for the rest of his life and for his family," said wide receiver Eddie Kennison.

"I try not to think about the dangers of the game. I understand what they are. I know they're there. And no man really wants to go out of the game with an injury. But we chose this job to take those risks. That's just part of it."

Tight end Tony Gonzalez had teamed with Holmes a few years ago when they were part of one of the NFL's most explosive offenses.

"I told him my thoughts are with him and what an unbelievable career he's had," Gonzalez said. "But you've got to be smart about this thing. Football is not the end-all, be-all. There's definitely life after football. Priest is a guy who's prepared himself for it."

Although he's down to third-team running back Kolby Smith with Johnson out again this week, Herm Edwards felt like thanking Holmes when the running back told him he was calling it quits.
"I thanked him for what he's done for this football team," Edwards said. "He's done something most players would not even attempt to do. He didn't have to do this. He came back knowing that first of all, he had to make the team. What he went through for three months trying to come back, that set a precedent for a lot of young players, to witness a guy like this who had accomplished everything he had accomplished in his career."

Peterson said Holmes had an agreement with the club that he would alert the Chiefs the moment he felt any danger of recurring injury to the head or neck.

"That was our agreement," he said, "that if that ever happens, to whatever degree, we needed to know about it. And he adhered to that and was great about it."

Holmes is the Chiefs' all-time rushing leader with 6,070 yards. He accumulated 8,172 yards rushing in 11 seasons with Baltimore and Kansas City.

"I have truly been blessed with the opportunity to play in the National Football League," he said. "I will be forever grateful to the Hunt family and the Chiefs organization for the opportunity to come to Kansas City, where the community embraced me from Day 1."

Holmes was the 2002 Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,615 yards in just 14 games in 2002. In one season, he set a then-NFL record with 27 touchdowns. The mark has since been broken twice.

After taking himself out of the game last Sunday against the Colts in the third quarter, Holmes went back in for a few plays.

"As much as we try to do everything we could to prepare me, there's just one thing that seems like we couldn't technically prepare for," Holmes said.

"Now that we've seen that, now that I've had some symptoms, there's nothing really the helmet can do to provide that protection and to allow me to do my job effectively. And we all know this is a business of performance."

Regrets? Not a single one, he said.

"There's nothing I'll look back and say, `Maybe there's something I could have done different.' There's no other shoes I'd like to fill and I'm pretty sure there's no one who would like to fill my shoes."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vick Sells Virginia House At Big Loss

Report courtesy of www.wsbtv.com in Atlanta, Georgia.

SURRY, Va. -- Michael Vick has sold the Virginia house that was the headquarters of his dog fighting operation.

The Daily Press reported Friday that Todd Builders Inc. of Carrollton, Va. bought the house for $450,000.

The new owner plans to put the house up for auction on December 15.

The $450,000 price was below the home's assessed $747,000 value.

But that doesn't take into account the property's notoriety, said Kyle Hause Jr., the real estate agent who handled the sale.

"Only one person can own the most famous house in America today," Hause said. "You can ask people from coast to coast which house has the most notoriety in the country today, and it's this house."

The house at 1915 Moonlight Rd. was the home of Vick's Bad Newz kennels.

Dog fights were held at the property. Authorities found dog fighting equipment and 66 dogs when they raided the house back in April.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Raiders Daute Culpepper Misses Wide Open Wide Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (15) At End OF Vikings Game

You know, I've always believed that teams have their quarterback's just throw up the ball and hope someone comes down with it on their side at the end of a tight game. But I think it's become habit and so much so that quarterbacks miss wide open receivers on the way to the end zone.

The Oakland Raiders Daute Culpepper missed a wide open Wide Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (15) while dropping back to throw the hail mary pass.

I just watched a replay of the final play and the obvious was in full view: #15 was 10 yards in front of the next closest Vikings defender. He makes a catch; Raiders win.

But Dante never saw him.

Just another small reason the Raiders have two wins this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dilfer to start at QB vs. Rams

Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After Alex Smith and 49ers coach Mike Nolan reached a temporary peace in their spat about the quarterback's injured arm, Trent Dilfer capped his first day as San Francisco's new starter by getting in a fight with a rookie defensive back in practice.

The 49ers might be losing every week, but at least they're getting interesting.

Dilfer will start for the 49ers (2-7) on Sunday in place of Smith, who aired one of his team's many problems in public this week by finally acknowledging a serious arm injury has been affecting his play during San Francisco's seven-game losing streak.

Dilfer, the 14-year veteran who struggled through three straight losses while filling in for Smith earlier in the year, reclaimed the starting job Thursday for at least one week, though Smith's injury could sideline him for the season.

Dilfer then went after cornerback Tarell Brown in Thursday's practice after an apparent exchange of trash talk. Teammates had to separate the 35-year-old Super Bowl winner from the 22-year-old rookie from Texas -- and given the way this week is going, Nolan wasn't even surprised.

"When things are important to people, they show their emotions in a lot of ways," Nolan said. "Out here on the football field, you can show your emotions in a lot of ways. The only thing I'm worried about it somebody getting hurt. Other than that, they can punch each other all they want."

In that case, a few haymakers might do the pent-up Niners a world of good.

A day after Smith and Nolan traded veiled criticisms, they were more harmonious Thursday. Smith and Nolan had a lengthy meeting Wednesday following the quarterback's public disclosure that his recently separated right shoulder led to a forearm injury that prevents him from throwing well. Smith and Nolan previously denied Smith's arm injury was causing his poor play.

"Alex has got good toughness," Nolan said. "I've never questioned that about him. In the long term, Alex is part of the solution here. ... Any time you're injured, it does something to you, but the communication needs to be better than it has been."

The 49ers still aren't certain whether Smith's injuries will keep him out for the season, though Smith has entertained the possibility. So with newly revealed fractures in a locker room that usually seems united under Nolan's leadership, the 49ers will turn to Dilfer as they attempt to stop their skid Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams (1-8).
"There's no time for me to be sympathetic [toward Smith]," said Dilfer, who has a close relationship with the former No. 1 draft pick. "My job is to go out and play the best football I can play. ... My relationship with Alex won't change, but I don't have time for that drama or any other type of drama."

Dilfer got his first snaps since 2005 after Smith was injured on the third play of San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Dilfer went 47-of-90 for 463 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions for the 49ers.

Though Smith's 57.2 passer rating is the worst among all quarterbacks with enough snaps to qualify, it's still higher than Dilfer's 55.0. Those struggling quarterbacks are just two reasons San Francisco's offense is last in the league in several categories.

"I have some major things I need to improve on from the last time I played, so it's time for me to do that," Dilfer said.

Smith, who sat out practice for the second straight day, acknowledged a bit of regret for airing his communication problems with Nolan in public before discussing them fully with the head coach.

"This is like a family, it's so tight," Smith said. "Mike and I have been close ever since I was drafted. You're going to have disagreements. It's going to happen in any family. It's working through this. Could I have done anything differently? Yeah, maybe. He said I need to communicate better, and I need to."

Smith will be in uniform Sunday, but Nolan hasn't decided whether Smith or third-stringer Shaun Hill will be the backup QB. Before Dilfer threw down with Brown, Hill hit his finger on a teammate's helmet Thursday -- so receiver Arnaz Battle, a former quarterback at Notre Dame, took the last few practice snaps for the scout team.

Smith said he might travel to Alabama to meet with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who has reviewed the results of his recent MRIs, but doesn't have any current plans to do so. Smith realizes he could be done for the season.

"It will have to do with what the doctors think is best for the long term," Smith said. "I think the point is to come back when you're functional."

Ricky Williams to rejoin Dolphins

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
November 15, 2007

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Ricky Williams stood at a window in the Miami Dolphins' player lounge and watched the start of practice as he chomped on an apple, so close to an NFL return he could taste it.

Coach Cam Cameron decided Thursday to welcome Williams back, and he'll be on the field starting with Monday's workout. His first game in nearly two years could come a week later, Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh.

"He'll be a member of this team," Cameron said. "He's a Miami Dolphin."


Williams has tested positive for marijuana at least four times since the Dolphins acquired him in 2002. Miami's franchise-record playoff drought began that same year.
But it's difficult to imagine how Williams could sabotage a team that's 0-9, and so the long, strange trip continues. Cameron said his players favored Williams' return from a 1 1/2 -year suspension, and the 2002 NFL rushing champion embraced yet another fresh start.

"I'm at a place now where it's easier for me to appreciate being a football player," he said. "I hated being a football player before."

As part of the NFL drug program, Williams underwent therapy for the past 5 1/2 months in Boston. He declined to discuss the treatment, but said he was confident drug testing won't derail his latest comeback.

"If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't have even tried," he said. "I wouldn't have made the effort."

Cameron said his faith in the treatment program and in commissioner Roger Goodell was a factor in allowing Williams to return.

"I have a lot of respect for the commissioner and how he has handled a lot of situations in this offseason, and this situation in particular," Cameron said. "I know how thorough everything was done as it relates to Ricky. For him to be reinstated by our commissioner, knowing what he stands for, that impacted me tremendously."

When Williams' most recent suspension was lifted, he quickly flew to South Florida and met Thursday morning with Cameron.

"The meeting was positive," Cameron said.

For months, Miami's first-year coach had been mum regarding whether he would want Williams. In May, when discussing Williams' latest relapse, the coach said it's difficult to salvage the careers of troubled players.

He conceded an 0-9 record altered his perspective.

"Circumstances have changed," Cameron said. "However, you still rely on the leadership of your locker room and quality professionals like we have, and you get their input, and that was the major part of the decision."

Those endorsements of the decision were as quirky as Williams.

"I don't know if I had a daughter if I'd want her to date him," linebacker Channing Crowder said, "but as a football player, as a teammate, I love him."

Added linebacker Zach Thomas: "He won't be a cancer in the locker room. He has always had a good work ethic. He's always been a good person and a good teammate. Everybody deserves a second and third chance."

And fourth and fifth, apparently, at least in this case.

Other teams were buzzing about Williams, too. Fellow University of Texas alum Cedric Benson, a third-year pro with the Chicago Bears, described Williams' comeback as "awesome."

"We've got this thing that when he gets in the league we're going to compete to see who's the better running back," Benson said. "We always wanted to see who's the better running back."

Ricky's return created a familiar circus-like atmosphere at the Dolphins' complex. Photographers and cameramen began a stakeout across the street at 7 a.m. and awaited the arrival of the elusive running back. He showed up around 11, riding in a team van.

Cameron's daily news conference was almost all about Williams, with not a single reference to rookie quarterback John Beck, who'll make his NFL debut Sunday at Philadelphia.

Williams followed Cameron to the microphones and wrestled with the first question.

"My motivation for coming back to the NFL? Could we start with an easier question?" he said with a chuckle.

"My motivation is to get my life going again. Being out of football in the situation I was in makes it difficult, you know? I want to create a better life for myself and for my family, and being a football player, for me, is a big part of that."

Williams, who has played in only 12 games since retiring in the summer of 2004, said he has been working out for about six weeks and is in "pretty good shape." He offered no prediction regarding when he might play, and offered no pledge that his latest chapter with the Dolphins would end on a high note.

"I'm not necessarily looking for it to end on a high note," he said. "It's just going to help me get to where I want to be. I want to get on with my life. I want to go back to school and pursue a profession outside of football. Playing football is the best way for me to get there."

The Dolphins were thinking more in terms of Williams getting them to the end zone. Maybe that will happen, too.

AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

Titans cornerback 'Pacman' Jones gets plea deal in Las Vegas strip club triple shooting

By KEN RITTER, Associated Press Writer
November 15, 2007

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A judge accepted a plea deal Thursday reducing felony charges against suspended NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones to a gross misdemeanor that will get him probation in return for his testimony about a strip club triple shooting.

The Tennessee Titans cornerback did not appear before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo, who accepted the written agreement and waived Jones' preliminary hearing on two felony coercion charges.

Abbatangelo scheduled Jones to plead no contest Dec. 5 in state court to one charge of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.

Jones will be sentenced later to one year of probation, Clark County prosecutor Victoria Villegas said after a brief hearing. Two charges of coercion, a felony carrying a possible sentence of one to six years in prison, will be dropped.

"The goal is to find the shooter," Villegas said.Las Vegas police have not linked Jones to the Feb. 19 gunfire that left three people wounded outside the Minxx Gentlemen's Club at the end of NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. No one has been charged in that case.

But police called the 24-year-old Jones "an inciter" of a melee that broke out after he showered dancers inside the strip club with dollar bills pulled from a black plastic trash bag -- a stunt known as "making it rain."

Witnesses told police that Jones and members of his entourage threatened people while they were being ejected, and that Jones spoke outside the club with a man who was suspected of opening fire minutes later.

Defense attorney Robert Langford declined to say if Jones knew the identity of the gunman. He cited the ongoing police investigation.

Las Vegas police Lt. George Castro declined to say what information police believe Jones can provide.

Under the Las Vegas plea deal, Jones will received a suspended one-year jail sentence. He also must attend an anger management program, complete 200 hours of community service within a year and submit to random drug testing.

Langford said the probation and community service requirements might be fulfilled near Jones' home in Tennessee. Jones already is subject to the NFL's drug testing program.

The three people who were wounded -- club employee Tommy Urbanski, co-worker and bouncer Aaron Cudworth and club patron Natalie Jones -- have each have filed civil lawsuits seeking damages from Jones.

The lawsuit by Urbanski, who was paralyzed from the waist down, also seeks damages from the NFL, the Titans and the owners of Harlem Knights, a Houston strip club that hosted events at the Minxx club.
Urbanski's wife, Kathy, expressed anger this week about Jones' plea deal and said she wants the shooter identified and charged. She declined comment Thursday.

Two co-defendants in the case also are taking plea deals, said Langford, who represents all three.

Jones' bodyguard, Robert "Big Rob" Reid, 37, of Carson, Calif., is scheduled to plead no contest Dec. 5 to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct and receive one year probation. Reid faced one felony coercion charge.

Sadia Morrison, 25, of New York, will plead no contest to a felony battery charge in return for dropping other felony charges. Morrison faced five charges, including coercion, felony assault with a deadly weapon and battery. She is expected to receive up to three years' probation, and her conviction would be reduced to a gross misdemeanor if she stays out of trouble, Langford said.

Jones' Atlanta-based attorney, Manny Arora, has said he believed Jones could beat the coercion charge, but a trial might hurt Jones' chances for reinstatement to the NFL. Arora did not immediately respond Thursday to messages seeking comment.

Jones has been arrested six times since the Titans drafted him in April 2005 from West Virginia, and has other criminal cases pending. A felony count of obstruction in Georgia from a February 2006 arrest has been postponed, and August 2006 public intoxication and disorderly charges in Tennessee were delayed pending the outcome of the Las Vegas case.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Jones for the 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The NFL Players Association is asking Goodell to reconsider.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Colts sign DE Rice as Freeney could miss 4 games

November 13, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts have claimed defensive end Simeon Rice off waivers, expecting him to fill in for injured Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney.

The announcement was made by team president Bill Polian on his weekly radio show Monday night and later posted on the team's Web site.
Rice, released by Denver on Friday, played one season for Colts coach Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. He has 121 career sacks, second among active players to Michael Strahan of the New York Giants.

The Colts (7-2) are uncertain how much time Freeney will miss. Dungy said earlier Monday he had not yet met with the doctors and he did not anticipate it to be season-ending.

But Polian said Freeney could miss four or more games because of a left foot injury that caused him to be carted into the locker room during Sunday night's 23-21 loss at San Diego. The Colts have not yet released details of the injury.

"We anticipate that Dwight will miss some significant amount of time," Polian said.

The Colts signed Freeney in July to a six-year deal, paying an average of $12 million. He has 32 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks on the season.

The 33-year-old Rice was deactivated for two games in October and has six tackles and five assists on the season. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Broncos on Sept. 3.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Houston Texans Offensive Lineman Fred Weary Sues Houston - Racial Profiling - ESPN & AP

Weary sues city of Houston, two officers over Taser arrest

ESPN.com news services

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans offensive lineman Fred Weary is suing the city and two police officers for a November 2006 arrest in which he was shot with a Taser gun during a traffic stop.

In his lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, Weary is accusing the city and the officers of excessive force, assault, racial profiling, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

"I have to put closure on this situation and this is my first step to closure," Weary told KRIV-TV in Houston. "It's really taken a toll on my life and my family. I didn't know last year that it would affect me the way it has. It's my right that I need to do something about it.

"I feel my rights have been violated that day last year," Weary told KRIV-TV. "I have had to deal with that for this whole entire year. I've thought about it a lot. It's been on my mind constantly."

The two officers said they stopped Weary because he didn't have a front license plate and was driving "suspiciously."

According to the police report, the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Weary became angry and uncooperative after being stopped in an area near Reliant Stadium, where authorities were on alert because of criminal activity. Weary was coming from a team practice when he was stopped.

Police said Weary was shot with a Taser after he pushed one of the officers away and then tried to come toward them after being told to put his hands on his vehicle.

A misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest was later dismissed because of insufficient evidence.

Weary's attorney, Joe Walker, told KRIV that his client's lawsuit doesn't specify a dollar amount.

"I will leave that to the sound discretion of the jury," Walker told KRIV.

The officers "clearly used race as a factor for reasonable suspicion and making a traffic stop of Mr. Weary," Walker said.

Walker said Tuesday that Weary would not have filed the lawsuit if he had received letters of apology from Mayor Bill White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt.

He had also asked for monetary compensation, which would have been donated to a police charity, and that the city review its policies regarding racial profiling and the use of Tasers.

"He never got his letter of apology or a concrete review of tasering," Walker said. "He asked for a copy of [taser] policies and they sent him a policy that was completely blacked out, censored."

Walker said the city's policy on Taser use needs to be re-examined because some reviews done by local media and advocacy groups show that in more than 350 of the first 900 police Taser incidents, no person was charged.

Weary's taser incident renewed controversy over the stun guns' use, prompting White to call for a study of how officers have used the devices. The study, being conducted by the University of Houston Center for Public Policy, is set to be done by January.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Monday, November 12, 2007

COMMISSIONER GOODELL Q&A - NFL Fall Meeting - Philadelphia, PA, 2007

NFL Fall Meeting
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – October 23, 2007

Roger Goodell: We had a very productive day. We had a long day of meetings, but let me give you the highlights of some of the things we talked about and then I’ll take your questions and answer anything you have outside of this. We began the day with a report on the game. We always do that with a focus on the game and the key factors we look at with respect to the game; points scored, length of the game, pace of the game, and number of penalties. All of that was very positive.

We did a report, within the context of that, on the draft and the changes to the NFL Draft for next year, which I believe you have a release on. We also did a report on the Pro Bowl and some of the changes we’ve been contemplating to try to bring back some excitement to that game. Then we had a very long discussion on the NFL Network. We have the chairman of the NFL Network, Jerry Jones, here who will be happy to answer any questions also. The importance of this to us is as a strategic asset and our future plans with respect to media.

We also had some important votes on the NFL.com business model. It is an important step for us to make our site and all 32 sites, the clubs and our league site, better for our fans and we made some very big steps in that regard today.

We had some discussion on the Buffalo-Toronto proposal. Ralph Wilson addressed the ownership. We had a report on it. We did not take a vote on that, but we will have further discussion.

Then we had a vote on lowering the debt ceiling. All of you are aware of the current market conditions and the credit markets. We as a league like to make sure we are making prudent decisions about our business structure and what we are doing to respond to those credit markets. We have agreed to reduce the debt ceiling by $30 million per club over the next three years. I think that hits the key points and I’ll be happy to take your questions.

Q: Length of Ralph Wilson’s proposal:

RG: It is a five-year proposal. One regular season game and I believe three preseason games.

Q: Any objections?

RG: No. There were a number of issues that we raised for the membership that we would like to address. This is still relatively fresh for all of us so we as a league have a responsibility to look into a number of issues. It was made clear by Mr. Wilson and by the Bills’ people that the county and the state had passed their agreement that they could go forward on this. We don’t have agreement that I know of with respect to the parties in Toronto so we want to see all that and look at all of those issues.

Q: Speaking with Mark Cohon, CFL Commissioner about the proposal…

RG: I did. I believe it was last Friday. I assured him that we continue to have a great interest in the CFL and their continued viability. That is one of the issues that was raised today with respect to this. We would certainly want to understand the impact and have greater discussions with the CFL and the promoters of the games in Toronto to make sure that we do it in a way that is responsive and continues to promote CFL football because we think that has a great heritage. We have been very active in continuing to support that.

Q: Belichick and spying incident…

RG: I do a normal report to the membership which takes 15 minutes or so and then we start focusing on the game with our Competition Committee, but in the context of that we spoke about the integrity of the game and how important it is that all of our fans understand that our game is being played by the same rules. We continue to make sure that all of our clubs and the league are doing everything possible to make sure that our games are played within the rules that we’ve established and that our fans have that confidence. I think that they do and I just reassured them that if they have issues with respect to things that are happening in our game that they contact us so that we can pursue them.

Q: Reaction to charges that this incident is being swept under the rug…

RG: First, we were the ones who brought it out so if we’re sweeping it under the rug…we’re the ones who raised it. I don’t agree with that assessment. I think we dealt with it forcefully, aggressively, and effectively. The thing that you want in discipline is to make sure that it doesn’t happen again and the other clubs understand that there are very significant consequences if policies are violated. I think that message was sent. We also want to send that message to our fans so they understand that all teams are playing by the same rules. The inference that you make in regards to us destroying the tapes, that was our intention from the get-go. There was no purpose for those. We said that we wanted those materials destroyed because we didn’t want anyone to have that material or the notes that could’ve come out from that. We went ahead and did that as we expected to do. Everything that we found was consistent with what we thought.

Q: Shortening on the draft and discussions about moving it to Friday night…

RG: We’ve talked about that. We at this point don’t think that it’s the right move. We think that Saturday is still the better time for us. I don’t anticipate that in the short term but we have evaluated that.

Q: Situation with San Diego…

RG: When I get through here I am going to meet with Dean Spanos and the team people. I haven’t gotten an update because I’ve been in a meeting all day but I understand that there are thousands of people at Qualcomm Stadium and of course public safety is our number one concern. We certainly don’t want to interfere with anything in that area. Of course we also have to work with the local officials to tell us whether the facility is going to be available. In the meantime I think you’re aware that the team is on its way or about to go out to Arizona. They will be working out in that facility for the week. We’ll have to make a decision on the game as soon as we have more information.

Q: Pro Bowl…

RG: The big issue is how we can bring more focus to the Pro Bowl, to our star players, and to the event itself. We have discussed everything, including moving the time of the game to prior to the Super Bowl so that it is in advance and part of the buildup of the Super Bowl. We have also talked about whether we would alter the location on some kind of rotating basis to some site here in the United States, particularly around the Super Bowl or in the Super Bowl site. Hawaii would probably be part of that rotation in some fashion but I would expect some decisions would be made. This isn’t for this year’s Pro Bowl; this is for 14 or 15 months from now.

Q: Debt ceiling…

RG: It was very simple. One of the reasons that the NFL is one of the most admired businesses and sports leagues is because we manage our business properly. When you look at the amount of debt that is out there and where the markets are it is just a prudent business decision.

Any discussion today on the disability issue?

RG: No. We’re doing that first thing in the morning, Paul.

Q: Vote on funding…

RG: There very likely will. There is a resolution on the floor. I would expect a vote, yes.

Q: What the proposal calls for…

RG: The proposal is essentially a one-time funding to allow us to put some additional funds into the alliance that we’ve created so that there is sufficient funding and that we’d be able to handle issues in an ongoing manner. It is not pension related. It is for medical needs for people that have a specific need that we can take care of.

Q: Joint replacement?

RG: Joint replacement is one of those programs. Also cardiovascular screening and possibly assisted living.

Q: Future of games internationally…

RG: A year ago is when we passed the resolution allowing the regular season series. As you know we are playing in London this week and every indication is that we’re going to have a tremendously successful event. I think it is a logical step for us. Next year would be to add a second market. We’re going step-by-step but the reaction that we’re getting is extraordinary.

Q: Advantages of Bills playing in Toronto…

RG: The key point that was made by Ralph Wilson, and I share this, is that this is to make the team viable in the Buffalo market. It is an extension of the regionalization that they started 10 years ago that I actually had some involvement with, so I understand what they are trying to accomplish. That is to reach out to the broadest audience by regionalizing and the southern Ontario, Toronto area is an important market to them. They are selling more and more tickets there and I think this is an important opportunity to bring more fans to Buffalo from the southern Ontario area.

Q: Just to confirm, is it one preseason and one regular season game every year for five years?

RG: No. It is one regular season game for the next five years and three preseason games starting next year and the third and fifth year.

Q: Regular season games would start next year also?

RG: I believe so, yes.

Q: Alternatives for Chargers game…

RG: I’d be able to give you better information on that in about a half-hour from now. Our staff is working on that. They go everywhere from San Diego to Los Angeles to Texas to Arizona, and in between.

Q: Is scheduling more attractive games one of the options for the NFL Network, i.e. Patriots vs. Colts, in order to have more leverage over cable companies…

RG: First, we believe as it relates to the cable operators that we have a very compelling product outside of our games. We think that the production quality and content that we have on the NFL Network on a year-round basis is in great demand and the consumers want it. That is the issue that we are having with our cable operators. They are trying to restrict the distribution of that to a point that we’re not comfortable. We think that it should be available to a broader audience and that is really the fundamental aspect of our broadcast policy. As it relates to the games, we have a very attractive series of games this year. We are fortunate to have the Cowboys on twice; we have Cowboys and Packers on the second game of the year. We think all of our games are attractive but we have some great matchups that fell in place for us when we set our schedule last April.

Q: How much leverage do these attractive matchups give you right now with the cable companies?

RG: The bottom line is that consumers are the ones who should win here. The consumers should get the product and that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to make sure that our consumers understand that we have a great product, we have some great games that are going to be on, and some of them won’t get to see it because the cable operators are not distributing it. We have one cable operator that happens to be close to here which has taken us from nine million homes to one million homes. That is a significant difference. They have the right to put is in nine million homes. It is not a matter of negotiation. It is just a decision that they made.

Q: Ongoing talks…

RG: There are very little talks that are going on with Comcast right now. We’ve had some discussions with Time Warner recently but right now we don’t see that this is going to get resolved and that is a concern for us. Let me have Jerry speak now.

Q: Assuming the Dallas-Green Bay was on FOX, how much of the country would see that?

RG: There are really only two games that go on a national basis -- NBC’s game on Sunday night and ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Most of our games on Sunday afternoon are regionalized, so if it had been a Sunday afternoon game it would be regionalized like the rest of our Sunday afternoon package and go to a smaller percentage of the country.

We have some games that to go six or seven percent of the country, and that’s one of the reasons why we think the NFL Network is so valuable here. This gives us a chance to bring more football to more fans 365 days a year.

This takes a game that might have gone to 10 or 12 percent of the country to a broader audience now, if it’s fully distributed. That’s our issue.

Q: What is the current number of subscribers, and what could it be if you got the cable companies to go your route?

RG: It’s a tough question to answer. The first part of your question is 35 million. The tough part to answer is it would depend on what you negotiate in terms of distribution levels with those cable operators. They all have different amounts of homes. Comcast, for example, is nine million homes. They were at eight million last year, and their digital package penetration has gone up one million, so the network would have been available in nine million homes this year. People who got that last year don’t have that now. The only way to get that back is to spend $5 to $10 per month for a sports tier.

Q: Any ongoing conversations with Comcast?

RG: We discontinued discussions with them back in August because we weren’t getting anywhere. It was clear they were telling consumers that we were in negotiations, and we weren’t. We were disappointed in the fact that they tiered us, that they took this away from consumers, and now they’re charging consumers more money to get it back again. We thought that was inappropriate.

Q: Same with Time Warner and Cablevision?

RG: From time to time, there are discussions that go on, but I would say that right now we’re not optimistic a deal is going to get done.

Q: When NFLN was first created, did you have an estimate of how many homes you’d be in by this point?

RG: Yes, we’re slightly below that. We were hoping we’d be closer to 50 million homes right now.

Q: Aside from DirecTV, what are the other options you can suggest to fans in an area like Philadelphia, which is monopolized by Comcast?

RG: Telephone companies are now getting in the business of video distribution. Verizon, AT&T – they are now building up these services, which carry the NFL Network.

Last game of the season on NFLN, if the Patriots enter that game 15-0, who would fans be angriest at? The NFL or the cable companies?

RG: I think the reality is they’d probably be angry at all of us. Comcast is a perfect example of that. Last year, eight million people would have been able to see that game. They’re not going to get to see that game this year unless they pay Comcast $8 a month for the next 12 months. We think that’s wrong, and that’s why we’re taking the position we’re taking. We are not going to take our distribution down. We know our fans want to see us. The last time I looked, 95 of the top 100 cable shows in history are NFL games. We know we are the most popular programming on cable television. That’s been proven by the facts.

# # #

Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 28- Steelers Continue to Role Against Divisional Foe

The Browns lead for the majority of the game, but their inexperience glowed towards the end of the game.

By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
November 11, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns appear to be closing the gap between themselves and the rival Steelers.

They're not there yet, though, not with Ben Roethlisberger able to beat teams two different ways in the same week.

Roethlisberger scrambled 30 yards for a key touchdown during Pittsburgh's second-half comeback, then set up his own go-ahead 2-yard TD pass to Heath Miller with an important third-down run as the Steelers rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Cleveland 31-28 Sunday.

Roethlisberger's big second half, with two TD passes and some important scrambles, overcame Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson's huge first half and two long Joshua Cribbs kickoff returns.

Pittsburgh (7-2) beat Cleveland (5-4) for the ninth consecutive time. Barely. Phil Dawson could have tied it, but was short on a 52-yard field goal attempt with 6 seconds remaining.

elying on Roethlisberger's ability to shrug off blitzes and gain yards on plays that appeared to have broken down, plus his two TD passes, the Steelers took a big step toward making the playoffs after going 8-8 last season. Only six days before, Roethlisberger's five touchdown passes led the Steelers to a 38-7 Monday night rout of Baltimore.

"All I ever hear is about (Tom) Brady and Peyton (Manning), but this guy we have here is very special," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He makes plays those guys don't make and that's what makes him so special. He can get out of the pocket, he can create, he's a beast and we're glad he wears black and gold."

Cleveland led 21-6 in the first half as Cribbs' 90-yard kickoff return led to one of Anderson's three touchdown passes. But with the Browns offense managing only a single first down and no points in the second half, Roethlisberger's TD scramble put the Steelers up for the first time at 24-21 early in the fourth quarter.

"I was ready to slide ... but Hines (Ward) was downfield blocking and when I get that close to the end zone, I'm trying to get it," Roethlisberger said.

Still, the Browns were in position to beat Pittsburgh for only the second time in their last 16 games after Cribbs' improbable 100-yard kickoff return touchdown with about 11 minutes remaining. Cribbs fumbled the ball near the goal line and was forced to take off down the Steelers sideline out of desperation.

"We had him stacked up -- it was a fluke and it just happened," the Steelers' Larry Foote said. "It definitely tested our character."

A fluke? Cribbs finished with more yards on kickoff returns (204) than the Browns offense had total yards (163).

"It was a couple of inches from going into the end zone and I had to make a decision and live with it," Cribbs said of his 100-yarder.

With the Steelers down 28-24, Roethlisberger (23-of-34, 278 yards) calmly led the decisive 78-yard scoring drive that lasted 8 minutes and featured All-Pro guard Alan Faneca challenging his teammates in the huddle to win it.

Roethlisberger kept the drive going with a 20-yard completion to Miller on third-and-18 and his own 10-yard run to the 2 on third-and-9 before Miller made a one-handed catch for the go-ahead score.

"Their whole philosophy was don't give up the big play, see if Ben could read defenses and take what the defense gave them," said Ward, who had a 12-yard TD catch. "Ben did a tremendous job of it."

The Steelers, playing six days after their 38-7 Monday night rout of Baltimore, quickly fell into a bad habit: trading field goals for touchdowns.

They settled for three Jeff Reed field goals in the first half and fell behind 21-9 as Anderson threw TD passes of 4 yards to Kellen Winslow, 2 to Lawrence Vickers after Cribbs' 90-yard kickoff return and 16 yards to Braylon Edwards.


LB James Harrison, who had two forced fumbles on defense and another on special teams Monday, had two more forced fumbles. ... The Steelers are 4-0 in the division and 5-0 at home. ... Willie Parker, who ran for a club record 223 yards against Cleveland last season, had 105 yards on 25 carries, the seventh running back to gain more than 100 against the Browns. ... Roethlisberger has 22 touchdown passes, four more than his previous career high, with seven games to play.

Green Bay Packers Beat Minnesota Vikings - Surprising Performance

I must admit how surprised I am that the Mike McCarthy-led Green Bay Packers are doing so well. I'll have to review the growth of the Packers coach.

Running the show

Balance roughs up, blanks border foe


Posted: Nov. 11, 2007

Green Bay - Eleven years ago, when the Green Bay Packers were kicking butt and taking names en route to Super Bowl glory, they spanked the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings, 38-10, in a display of dominating football at Lambeau Field that still can be remembered vividly for its utter ferocity.

Ever since then, the Vikings always showed up at Lambeau in a foul mood, often played over their heads and generally raised holy hell against anyone wearing dark green and gold.

On Sunday, another Green Bay-Minnesota game was played in the National Football League's smallest city, where the home team once again has realistic Super Bowl aspirations. And this time, with eerie parallels to the game in 1996, the Packers buried the Vikings, 34-0.

As NFC contenders Detroit, the New York Giants and Washington were falling, the Packers responded with easily their finest performance of the season. For the first time, there's breathing space between Green Bay and Dallas, both 8-1, and the rest of the NFC, where just six teams have winning records.

One of the vanquished Vikings, safety Darren Sharper, wasn't around for the championship in 1996 but was the dime back on the Packers' runner-up team in '97. The Packers and Cowboys meet Nov. 29 in Dallas, and Sharper is picking Green Bay.

"Dallas is a beatable team," said Sharper, a Packer until 2004. "We showed that. If they can slow down Marion Barber . . . man, that guy can play.

"If they (the Packers) get home field, I could see it happening. It all comes down to home field. They're going to be tough to stop. When it gets cold, you've got to give them games here as a lock. I could definitely see them 14-2."

His fellow safety, Dwight Smith, started for Tampa Bay in its Super Bowl title drive five years ago.

"The Packers looked like one (Super Bowl team) today because they were able to run the football," Smith said. "That was their Achilles' heel. That's the thing I thought was hindering them from being one of the best teams."

Smith also gives Green Bay the edge over Dallas, which was at home Oct. 21 in a 24-14 victory over Minnesota.

"I don't like Dallas' corners," Smith said. "Their D-line is good but I don't know if it's better than Green Bay's. Green Bay has rush ends, cover corners and linebackers who can run. That's all we had in Tampa."

Masterful coaching. Razor-sharp execution. Superior athleticism. Keener emotion.

The Packers had it all Sunday, extending their winning streak in the series to four games for the first time since 1987 and '88. Unlike predecessors Dennis Green and Mike Tice, Vikings coach Brad Childress can't even get his players up for this bitter border rivalry.

"It was Football 101," Childress said. "The tempo was set in the first half. We were not ready to play, and that is my fault."

What probably hurt the Vikings (3-6) more than anything was the shattering of their supposedly impregnable run defense. Operating behind an offensive line that had been upbraided all last week by Mike McCarthy and his staff, Ryan Grant pounded for 119 yards in 25 carries that drained the life from Minnesota defenders.

"I thought the guard play was very good today," McCarthy said. "The core of our running game is a stretch-and-cut mentality. Offensively, we wanted to establish our run game."

Yet, unlike San Diego a week ago - which tried in vain running LaDainian Tomlinson into the A gaps and awaiting behemoths Pat Williams and Kevin Williams - McCarthy actually came out throwing. Then, when the Vikings were sufficiently softened, he unleashed Grant on wide stretch plays, tosses and draws away from the big boys.

Over the last season and a half, the Vikings had allowed 64.5 yards per game and 2.83 yards per rush. In five games against Minnesota since the arrival of the immovable Pat Williams, the Packers had rushed for infinitesimal averages of 41.0 and 1.92.

Green Bay's rushing output of 120 yards failed to compare to the 233 that Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens ripped the Vikings for in the '96 regular-season finale. But it still was the third-highest rushing total against Minnesota in the last 25 games; Dallas had 128 last month, including 96 by Barber.

"Generally, when one team runs that well on another, they are inflicting their will on the other team," Childress said. "I am not used to seeing the ball being run on our defense like that."

The beneficiary of rare offensive balance, Brett Favre annihilated a similar type of Cover-2 scheme that had unsettled him early in the season.

Favre smartly directed scoring drives of 82, 69, 75, 72, 69 and 96 yards, part of a 488-yard onslaught that took up 40 minutes 40 seconds.

Operating almost equally from underneath center and shotgun, Favre overcame some poor throws early and four dropped passes to forge a passer rating of 115.4. The Vikings sorely missed the injured Antoine Winfield, their best cover man.

"He's kind of been MVP," Sharper said, referring to Favre. "He's being more patient, playing a lot smarter, than he was before. He's just being methodical down the field.

"If they don't hurt themselves, they have a good enough defense where they'll be in every game. And they'll make a play eventually because (Greg) Jennings and (Donald) Driver are playmakers. He doesn't have to (force) because he's got playmakers on offense."

On defense, the Packers didn't have to deal with the full force of rookie sensation Adrian Peterson because the Vikings fell behind early and then Peterson went out with a sprained knee late in the third quarter. He finished with 45 yards in 11 carries.

Coordinator Bob Sanders brought safety Atari Bigby into the box on the first five plays before backing off and playing normal defense. His front four proved stout enough so that Sanders never had to compromise the integrity of his scheme by adding a fifth lineman or a ninth player to the box.

"We talked as a team," McCarthy said. "It was time to shut somebody out. Just an excellent effort by our whole defense."

Not only were the Vikings down to their third quarterback in Brooks Bollinger but their most dangerous receiver, Sidney Rice, had to sit out with a hamstring pull. By the time Bollinger was able to complete his first pass to a wide receiver, 2 minutes remained in the third quarter and it was 27-0.

The Vikings were so inept that two fourth-down completions by Bollinger to Robert Ferguson in the final 4 minutes came up short of the marker.

"They're playing with confidence," said Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, a Packer from 1997-2005. "The guys I still talk to, they love McCarthy. They really buy into his program.

"From the first time we played them (Sept. 30) until today, they definitely believe now that they should be 8-1. They're playing with confidence. They're playing really, really well."

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