NFL News and Notes Week 7

NFL News and Notes Week 7

NFL injury report: Week 6
October 14, 2007

Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young left Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a quadriceps strain.

The Titans said Young's return was probable, but he never re-entered the game, and Tennessee had to rely on backup Kerry Collins.

``He tried to stay loose if he could, in case we had an issue with Kerry,'' coach Jeff Fisher said. ``At this point, he'll just be day to day, but it was not something he could have played effectively with.''

Young agreed. He said it was too early to speculate about playing in next week's game at Houston.

Young was injured when he scrambled for a 2-yard gain and was pushed out of bounds by defensive tackle Jovan Haye in the third quarter. He started limping just as Haye caught up to him.

Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner left the Cardinals' 25-10 loss to Carolina with a sprained left elbow in the first quarter.

Tim Rattay replaced him. Warner, a two-time NFL MVP, made his first start of the year in place of Matt Leinart, who is out for the season with a broken collarbone.

Already missing starting running back Laurence Maroney, the New England Patriots lost his backup, Sammy Morris, to a chest injury during their 48-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Morris, coming off consecutive 100-yard games in place of Maroney, was hurt early in the third quarter after he was tackled hard on a 2-yard gain. Receiver Donte Stallworth immediately signaled for team trainers, who spent several minutes examining Morris as he lay on the field.

After Morris slowly walked off the field and was examined on the sideline, his helmet was taken away and he was brought to the locker room.

Maroney missed his third straight game because of a groin injury. He was inactive despite practicing some during the week.

Tight end Benjamin Watson hurt his ankle in the second quarter when he was tackled near the sideline by Roy Williams after making a catch. Watson was slow getting up, then walked up and down the sideline a few times before being taken to the locker room.

Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry, the NFL leader with four interceptions, was out for the second straight game with a high right ankle sprain. Jacques Reeves started in his place.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was limping noticeably as he walked to the interview podium after a 17-14 win over the Washington Redskins. He said somebody rolled up on his ankle on an early scramble.

``It really doesn't feel very good right now, but the bye week will help a little bit,'' Favre said. ``I'm sure it will hurt two weeks from now; it hurt before the game.''

Tight end Bubba Franks hurt his knee in the second half and was unable to return.

Two players on the Redskins' beat-up offensive line sustained groin injuries: right tackle Todd Wade and center Casey Rabach

Chargers Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick hurt his right foot early in San Diego's 28-14 win over Oakland and was taken into the locker room on a cart.

Kyle Boller started at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens in place of the injured Steve McNair in their 22-3 win over the St. Louis Rams.

McNair was on the active list despite a strained groin and a stiff back.

Rams QB Marc Bulger said he should be ready to play next week. Wide receiver Drew Bennett left the game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter, further depleting St. Louis' thin receiving crew. Rams center Brett Romberg (left ankle) and defensive end Leonard Little (sprained left toe) were also injured.

Cincinnati right tackle Willie Anderson, who had made 116 consecutive starts, was on the inactive list for the Bengals' 27-20 loss to the Chiefs. Anderson has been slowed by a chronic foot injury.

Bears starting defensive tackle Darwin Walker was inactive for Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Vikings after spraining his left knee in last week's game against the Packers. Anthony Adams started in his place.

Safety Brian Dawkins (neck) and cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee) were inactive for the Philadelphia Eagles' 16-9 win over the New York Jets.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Bucs TE Smith has sprained ankle
October 15th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden announced Monday that tight end Alex Smith has a sprained ankle and X-rays revealed no further damage.

Smith hurt the ankle during Sunday's 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans and the team feared the injury would be much more significant.

Instead, Gruden said Smith would be listed as questionable for next Sunday's game at the Detroit Lions.

Smith has 14 receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns this season.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Bulger says he'll be back this week for Rams
October 15, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, who missed the last two games with two broken ribs, said Monday he plans to return to the lineup this week.

Backup Gus Frerotte threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in Sunday's 22-3 loss at Baltimore, which kept the Rams (0-6) winless. St. Louis' start matches the worst in franchise history in 1962, when the team finished 1-12-1 as the Los Angeles Rams.

Bulger pointed out he didn't take himself out of the lineup two weeks ago. Now he believes he owes it to his teammates to get back in there.

``Yeah, I'm playing,'' Bulger said. ``I'm ready now after standing around for two weeks. They definitely feel a little better, but I haven't been hit.''

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Young has MRI, Fisher says he's day to day with sore leg
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans quarterback Vince Young had an MRI exam Monday to check out his strained right quadriceps muscle.

The results of the test weren't immediately available, and coach Jeff Fisher said Young would be considered day to day.

Fisher said the test was to determine the best course of treatment for the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year who was injured at the end of a 2-yard run to the sideline midway through the third quarter of Sunday's 13-10 loss to Tampa Bay.

''He could not practice today,'' Fisher said. ''If we had practice today, he'd be sore. But it's not as bad as we thought. So he'll be day to day, and our treatment path will be to try to get him back on the practice field as fast as we can.''

Young was 11-of-14 for 120 yards and ran twice for 4 yards before hurting his leg. Kerry Collins replaced Young and finished the game.

The injury has the Titans considering some roster moves with Collins the only other quarterback. Tim Rattay was in training camp, but was released Sept. 1 and signed with Arizona, where he played much of Sunday's loss to Carolina. Ingle Martin, a Nashville native and Green Bay's fifth-round draft pick in 2006, is on the practice squad.

Punter Josh Miller could be cut to make room because Craig Hentrich has punted the two weeks since a sore back kept him out of a game Sept. 24.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Seahawks lose starting DT Darby for season with knee injury
October 15, 2007

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) Defensive tackle Chuck Darby is facing knee surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

Coach Mike Holmgren announced Darby, a three-year starter and leader of Seattle's defense, tore the patella tendon in his right knee Sunday night. Darby was being blocked on a running play in the second half of a 28-17 loss to New Orleans when his knee buckled.

``Now those injuries, according to the doctors, they fix him and he continues playing,'' Holmgren said. ``But it's a sixth-month deal.''

Holmgren said Brandon Mebane, a rookie third-round draft pick from California who has played in all six games this season, will start Sunday when the struggling Seahawks (3-3) host winless St. Louis. The coach also said the team will be trying out veteran defensive tackles this week looking for depth.

Depending on how well Mebane plays, Darby could have played his 36th and final game for Seattle. The seventh-year veteran turns 32 next week and is not signed beyond this season. He is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $1 million in base salary for 2007.

There is precedent of a comeback from this injury. Former Seahawks' Pro Bowl center Robbie Tobeck, now retired, had a similar surgery on his knee before the 2000 season. He missed the first 12 games before returning for that season's final month - then didn't miss a start for the next 5 1/2 years.

This is Seattle's second season-ending injury to a leader in as many weeks. Pro Bowl fullback Mack Strong was forced to retire because of a herniated disk in his neck that was pinching his spinal cord.

``There is a toll ... both Mack and Chuck were absolute leaders to the offense and defense,'' Holmgren said. ``High-character, high-effort guys.

``The younger guys now get a chance, a chance to emerge.''

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

McNair will get another week off
October 15, 2007

Steve McNair was tired of trying to play in pain. Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick ran out of patience waiting for the quarterback to heal.

So the two agreed: McNair sits out two straight games, then steps back into the starter's role.

Kyle Boller will start at quarterback for a second straight week this Sunday in Buffalo, Baltimore's final game before a much-needed bye. McNair could play, but the Ravens would prefer he rest his lingering groin injury and sore back.

The objective is to get McNair three straight weeks off before the Ravens resume play on Nov. 5 in Pittsburgh, which leads the AFC North.

``We're confident that he will be fully healthy for Pittsburgh, and there's no circumstance I can think of that would not have him as our starter,'' Billick said Monday.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Bucs TE Smith has sprained ankle
October 15th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden announced Monday that tight end Alex Smith has a sprained ankle and X-rays revealed no further damage.

Smith hurt the ankle during Sunday's 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans and the team feared the injury would be much more significant.

Instead, Gruden said Smith would be listed as questionable for next Sunday's game at the Detroit Lions.

Smith has 14 receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns this season.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Bennett traded to Bucs

Facing what soon could be an excess of running backs, the Chiefs traded Michael Bennett to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

What the Chiefs received in return was immediately unclear. The Chiefs declined to confirm the deal, but Bennett said he was informed of the trade by officials of both teams.

“It was a shock to me,” Bennett said. “It really caught me off-guard. I heard the speculation for the past few days, but nobody from the Chiefs said anything to me, so I guessed it wasn’t going to happen. I was wrong. It’s a business. It’s just one of those things that happen.”

Although he was the starting halfback during Larry Johnson’s training-camp holdout, Bennett quickly became expendable once Johnson signed his contract extension. Bennett played sparingly in recent games, and rookie Kolby Smith has been getting more snaps in practice recently, an indication he was about to encroach on at least some of Bennett’s playing time.

Priest Holmes is eligible to return to practice this week. Coach Herm Edwards said earlier Monday that Holmes would participate Wednesday when the Chiefs begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the Raiders in Oakland.

Asked when Holmes might be ready to play in a game, Edwards said, “I don’t know. I’d like to see him practice first. I’ll be able to answer that Wednesday after practice or Thursday.”

Since the start of the regular season, Holmes has been on the Chiefs’ non-football injury list. That meant under NFL rules Holmes was ineligible to practice or play until the Chiefs had finished their sixth game.

The Chiefs moved to 3-3 with Sunday’s 27-20 win over Cincinnati at Arrowhead Stadium.

Assuming that Holmes practices Wednesday, the Chiefs would then have three weeks to decide on one of three options: activate him to the 53-player roster, release him or place him back on the non-football injury list, which would in effect end his season.

Holmes, who turned 34 last week, hasn’t played or practiced in two years. He left the field during a game against the Chargers in San Diego after receiving a hit that left him with tingling in his extremities.

Holmes only last summer was cleared to play. His arrival at training camp was greeted with great fanfare, but he reported in something less than optimum physical condition, so his long-anticipated return to the field was delayed.

Although he hasn’t been practicing or playing, Holmes has been at Arrowhead Stadium nearly every day, and he appears in much better physical condition than when he arrived for camp.

“He’s been here,” Edwards said. “I’ve been talking to him, about every other day or so. We talk about where he’s at, how he’s doing, what we’re thinking. We’ve communicated. He knows what I expect and I know where he’s at right now. When I talked to him last week, he wanted to know if this (current week) was the week. I said, ‘Is it?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ So I said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”

Edwards said Holmes would begin practice not running Chiefs plays, but those of the upcoming opponent. That’s a duty usually reserved for backups and practice-squad players, not a former rushing champion and one-time single-season touchdown record-holder like Holmes.

But Edwards indicated Holmes could work his way up quickly.

“You’ve got to find a way to get him in the game,” Edwards said. “But we haven’t seen him practice yet. You’ll get a sense of that from how he does in practice. That’s all you can go by. It’s no different than anybody else. You get a feel for when it’s time to get him in a game.”

Holmes might have a difficult time returning to the form that made him one of the league’s top running backs early in this decade. But the Chiefs can’t afford not to find out.

Johnson’s miserable season continued against the Bengals. He ran for 119 yards, but it took him 31 carries. He scored his first touchdown of the season, but he lost another one when he fumbled just short of the goal line. He gained just 13 yards in 15 carries in the second half.

Bennett wasn’t any better in limited playing time. It’s little wonder the Chiefs have played along with Holmes’ return or that Edwards indicated Holmes would play if he earned it.

“I always try to tell the players that if you’re a productive guy, we’ll get you the ball,” Edwards said. “If you’re not a productive guy, we’ll give it to somebody else.”

The Bucs were searching for a running back after losing starter Cadillac Williams for the season because of a knee injury and backup Michael Pittman for several weeks because of an ankle injury.

“I’m sure I’ll get to play down in Tampa, but I’m kind of sorry to leave the Chiefs,” said Bennett, acquired by the Chiefs from New Orleans last year for a draft pick. “I felt this was a great place. I got to be like a big brother to a lot of the other players. I’ve spent all night talking to guys on the team and saying good-bye.”

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Cardinals sign QB Hasselbeck
October 16th, 2007

Tempe, AZ (Sports Network) - The Arizona Cardinals signed quarterback Tim Hasselbeck on Tuesday.

The Cardinals are in desperate need of help at the quarterback position after losing both Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner to injury.

Hasselbeck, who is the brother of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Buffalo Bills and spent the past two seasons as the third quarterback for the New York Giants.

His first NFL appearance was in 2002 with the Philadelphia Eagles as a holder. Tim Hasselbeck then signed with the Washington Redskins in 2003 and appeared in seven games with five starts, completing 95-of-117 passes for 1,002 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

To make room for him on the roster, the Cardinals released rookie defensive end Quentin Moses.

Arizona also released quarterback Matt Baker from the practice squad.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Chambers headed to Chargers in trade with Dolphins
October 16, 2007

SAN DIEGO (AP) -The San Diego Chargers acquired Chris Chambers from the Miami Dolphins just before Tuesday's trade deadline, giving quarterback Philip Rivers a veteran wide receiver to work with.

In return, the winless Dolphins will receive a 2008 second-round draft pick.

The Chargers needed to bolster their passing game due to the uncertain status of No. 1 wide receiver Eric Parker, out since June with a broken toe.

Chambers has 31 receptions for 415 yards and no touchdowns this season. He was a second-round choice by Miami in 2001 and enjoyed his best season in 2005, when he made 82 catches for 1,118 yards and 11 scores, and was voted to the Pro Bowl.

The durable Chambers, who has missed only two games in his career, is signed through 2009. The Chargers expect him to immediately bolster an otherwise young and undistinguished wide receiving corps.

``Chris is an explosive, talented player and I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to work with him again,'' Chargers coach Norv Turner said in a statement. Turner was Miami's offensive coordinator in 2002-03.

``He's a very consistent player and he has big-play ability,'' Turner added. ``We think he can add to what we're doing on offense. The bonus for us is that he's familiar with the system. It should be a quick and easy adjustment for him. We expect him to come in and be productive right away.''

San Diego's offense struggled through the first four games, when the Chargers went 1-3. Rivers had some poor performances and reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson struggled for yards. The Chargers rebounded by routing the Broncos 41-3 in Denver on Oct. 7, then beat the Oakland Raiders 28-14 last Sunday behind Tomlinson's four touchdowns rushing.

Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates have provided the bulk of the Chargers' offense. Tomlinson has rushed for 527 yards and six touchdowns, and caught 25 passes for 210 yards. Tomlinson's receptions are second on the team behind Gates, who has 43 catches for 547 yards and three touchdowns.

San Diego's leading wideout is Vincent Jackson, who has 20 catches for 320 yards and two scores.

The Chargers haven't had a wide receiver lead them in catches since Curtis Conway in 2001. Since then, either Tomlinson or Gates has had the most receptions.

On Monday, Turner said Parker was getting a second opinion on his right big toe. Parker broke the toe during a June minicamp, and had surgery on it in early August. The Chargers said at the time they expected Parker to be out up to 10 weeks.

Chambers ranks fifth in Dolphins history with 405 receptions, good for 5,688 yards and 43 touchdowns. He has 15 100-yard receiving games, and had at least 48 catches in each of the last six seasons. In 2001, he led all rookies with 883 yards, and his 48 receptions trailed only Tomlinson (59) among first-year players.

The trade suggests the Dolphins are looking to the future following an 0-6 start, which matches the worst in franchise history.

``This trade will give some of our younger players at that position, such as Ted Ginn and Derek Hagan, more of an opportunity this year,'' Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller said in a statement. ``Chris did everything we asked of him and represented this organization in a first-class manner. We wish him and his family the best of luck in San Diego.''

Ginn had a 32-yard reception in Sunday's loss at Cleveland.

The Dolphins are in their first season under Cam Cameron, the former offensive coordinator of the Chargers.

San Diego (3-3) has its bye this Sunday. Miami plays unbeaten New England.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Sanders appears ready to play

Colts safety, 6 other injured players figure to be OK for game at Jacksonville

All was not completely well as Bob Sanders returned to work Monday. The Indianapolis Colts' starting safety spent the weekend dealing with the flu.

"Took the flu shot,'' Sanders said. "Every year I get sick.''

The good news: Sanders, along with six other players who missed the Colts' last game with injuries, should be available Thursday when the team resumes practice in earnest for Monday night's AFC South showdown in Jacksonville.

"Our plan is that we should have everyone back practicing,'' coach Tony Dungy said.
That includes Sanders (bruised ribs), wide receiver Marvin Harrison (bruised left knee), running back Joseph Addai (bruised chest), linebacker Freddy Keiaho (concussion), tight end Ben Utecht (concussion), wide receiver Aaron Moorehead (back spasms) and kick returner T.J. Rushing (hamstring). All missed the Colts' win over Tampa Bay two weekends ago that pushed the team's record to 5-0 and led into the bye week.

"It was pretty good to take the week off and kind of heal up the little bumps and bruises here and there,'' Sanders said. "I'm feeling good. I'm supposed to be going out practicing this week and doing everything. I'm looking forward to it.''

Returning for Jacksonville, he added, "was the plan, actually . . . to make sure everything was OK.''

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

NFC team report rundown
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East Division

Dallas Cowboys


Commissioner Roger Goodell said he has been pleased with Tank Johnson's work during his suspension, but did not give any indication whether he would reduce it to six games from eight games. Johnson is working out at the Cowboys' facility and meeting with Calvin Hill, a team consultant who plays a large role in their player programs department. Goodell is expected to rule on Johnson's suspension next week. If he rules in Johnson's favor, Johnson could be on the field next week against Minnesota. Otherwise, he won't be eligible to return until the Giants game on Nov. 11.

New York Giants

The buzz all summer was that QB Eli Manning's improved footwork, throwing mechanics and added maturity would combine for greater accuracy. Manning, though, continues to hover near 60 percent. Part of the reason for the mediocre percentage is that the Giants throw downfield often in a high-risk, high-reward passing attack. Manning also has a knack for avoiding sacks even though he is not nimble in the pocket. He gets rid of the ball rather than take a sack, which also hurts his completion percentage. Still, the coaching staff is determined to keep him over 60 percent.

Philadelphia Eagles

As well as the Eagles defense is playing -- the unit has allowed just one touchdown in its last 10 quarters -- one thing lacking is big plays, especially from the linebackers. After five games, the team's starting trio of Takeo Spikes, Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong has no sacks, just one Gaither interception, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries. That's not common for a Jim Johnson defense, once the plays start happening, this defense could be among the best in the conference.

Washington Redskins

The offensive line is in a crisis situation. It was bad enough to lose Jon Jansen and Randy Moss in the season's first two weeks. Now, Todd Wade has a groin injury; his backup, Stephon Heyer, has a bad hamstring and center Casey Rabach, one of the line's most solid performers and a leader, also has a groin injury. Even if those three somehow manage to play Sunday, they will be far from 100 percent and there will be no guarantee they can get through the game.

North Division

Chicago Bears


Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has virtual autonomy over the direction of the club on offense. That said, whether or not Turner was the one to make the decision, you can expect to see more of rookie TE Greg Olsen and WR Devin Hester on offense. Head coach Lovie Smith has made it clear both players will be more heavily involved after not being utilized much the first four weeks. The Bears desperately need playmakers to emerge on offense, and that is exactly what they had in mind when they used a first-round pick on Olsen. He came through in Week 5, making four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Olsen has recovered from a knee sprain and says he knows the system. He runs good routes and showed impressive hands in training camp.

Detroit Lions

Pass protection by linemen is the root of most of the offense's problems. Critics say more running plays is the solution, but they are missing the point. This involves two separate issues. Linemen must be able to pass protect -- especially the tackles in one-on-one situations -- for the passing game to click. It's essential for a "pass-first" offense.

Green Bay Packers

Though he wasn't happy about the move initially, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has grown comfortable in his role as a situational pass rusher. The team's former starter at right end, Gbaja-Biamila now plays that position on passing downs and occasionally in relief of current starter Cullen Jenkins. At 247 pounds, Gbaja-Biamila was a liability against the run and tended to wear himself out on early downs, which took away from what he does best: rushing the passer. Coming off the bench, Gbaja-Biamila is a lot fresher and he adds a great change of pace, which makes things tough on opposing left tackles who suddenly must deal with his speed off the edge. Being fresh has allowed him to be a better, more effective pass rusher, and soon teams will have to determine whether they want to double-team him or DE Aaron Kampman in pass-rush situations.

Minnesota Vikings

One positive from the team's decision to split carries between RBs Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson is that both players are fresh in the fourth quarter and give the team more opportunities for explosive plays. While many fans would prefer to see Peterson play every down, especially when Taylor's runs have been less exciting, the reality is very few backs can maintain a 300-carry pace.

South Division

Atlanta Falcons


With Todd Weiner out after knee surgery, Tyson Clabo moves into the starting lineup. Clabo performed fairly well at both guard spots last season, especially in the run game. He has not played tackle since college, but he has a very nasty temperament, which is something that is needed more along Atlanta's front. Clabo has a long reach but not much lateral quickness. He figures to struggle in space. The Falcons will have chip to his side with a back or tight end in order to give him help in pass protection.

Carolina Panthers

The team might be in better shape at linebacker after the bye week than it was entering the season. Rookie Jon Beason now has experience in the middle and on the weak side. With MLB Dan Morgan expected back from injury after the bye, the team likely will switch Beason back to the weak side. With Morgan in the middle and Thomas Davis on the strong side, the linebackers will have extraordinary speed and lots of big-play potential. Even with concerns about Morgan's durability, the team has a comfort level because Beason has shown he can handle a shift to the middle and veteran Na'il Diggs is a solid option on the weak side.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints ranked near the bottom of the league last year with a minus-4 turnover ratio. This year, they're even worse, at minus-8 after their Sunday night win over Seattle. Part of the problem is that the Saints have been playing from behind late in games and trying to force the action while opponents play it safe. QB Drew Brees has been uncharacteristically careless with the ball and impatient.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like so many other moves made by this team the signing of running back Zack Crockett is a short-term fix. Crockett can fill in at both halfback and fullback but he's can't replace anyone long term. That means the team must continue searching for a possible replacement for Carnell Williams, who figures to struggle mightily in his attempt to return from a torn patellar tendon. Finding a feature back will be a top offseason objective. Combine that with the possible need to find a quarterback of the future and better receivers, and the team's to-do list looks rather daunting.

West Division

Arizona Cardinals

QB Tim Rattay is a confident veteran but most of his experience is in the so-called West Coast offense. The Cardinals' offense is different, so Rattay isn't accustomed to the terminology. He will undergo a crash course in the coming weeks, with Kurt Warner (elbow) expected to miss a significant amount of time. Warner is hopeful of returning in a few weeks. The team signed Tim Hasselbeck as a backup.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams were counting on veteran QB Gus Frerotte to get them through Marc Bulger's recovery from broken ribs, but Frerotte has lacked poise in the pocket and has been erratic at time. He has thrown eight interceptions in two starts. Leaky pass blocking is part of the cause, but more was expected of Frerotte. Bulger has said he would like to return this week.

San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback Alex Smith is making good progress in his rehabilitation of a right shoulder separation. Smith is throwing daily and seems to have regained his arm strength. He believes his passing mechanics and ability to function in and out of the pocket are back. The larger question remains when his damaged shoulder is OK to withstand a hit. He is questionable for Week 7 against the New York Giants. Smith was injured two weeks ago when he was sacked during the opening series against Seattle. If Smith can't go, Trent Dilfer would start. Dilfer lacks Smith's mobility, and his arm strength and accuracy are marginal. But he can lean on experience and decision-making to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Seattle Seahawks

The Leonard Weaver era has begun in Seattle. Ready or not. Weaver has moved in as the starting fullback because of the career-ending neck injury veteran Mack Strong received in the Week 5 loss against the Steelers. Weaver is just the latest prospect/project to be groomed as Strong's eventual replacement -- joining a group that previously included Reggie Brown, Heath Evans, Chris Davis, Tony Jackson and David Kirtman (still on the practice squad). Weaver is niftier than Strong as a runner and receiver, capable of making the first defender miss with a move or a juke. Those are carryover traits from his days as a tight end at Carson-Newman. But Weaver has yet to show he's anywhere near the blocker Strong was, and that is the most important role the fullback fills in coach Mike Holmgren's offense. Just in case, the team signed veteran FB Fred McCrary last week. He had not played since last season, but even rusty be was doing a better job of lead blocking in practice than Weaver.

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EAST DIVISION

Buffalo Bills


WR Peerless Price's season-ending neck surgery came as a surprise. Price complained of soreness last week, but participated in two days of practice. An MRI revealed the disk problem, which prompted surgery. Price was the team's No. 2 receiver and an experienced complement to top WR Lee Evans. Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish will get more playing time. Though both are better suited to play in the slot, they are sure-handed and run well after the catch.

Miami Dolphins

Less than two full seasons into his NFL career, 2006 first-round pick Jason Allen might be facing his final chances to prove he's worthy of filling a roster spot. Allen moved to cornerback during training camp after an insignificant rookie season but moved back to free safety last week. Allen's talent hasn't translated to a more complex NFL system.

New England Patriots

Because of Laurence Maroney sore groin, the offense relied on Sammy Morris, who responded with the best football of his career. When Maroney plays, the Pats use a zone-blocking to take advantage of his cutback ability. When Morris play, they tend to run straight-ahead power schemes, down-blocking to open holes that Morris hits with authority.

New York Jets

Chad Pennington isn't the quarterback he used to be. He is struggling on timing routes that used to be his forte, and he is forcing throws into double coverage more often. Pennington can't be successful that way. He isn't a gunslinger type and never was. Coach Eric Mangini probably will insert backup Kellen Clemens at some point in what is rapidly becoming a lost season, just to see if the second-year pro indeed is the Jets' QB of the future.

NORTH DIVISION

Baltimore Ravens


Don't be surprised if Kyle Boller starts at quarterback Sunday against Buffalo. Coach Brian Billick would prefer to rest No. 1 QB Steve McNair (groin) through the team's open date on Oct. 28, then bring him back for the team's Nov. 4 game against the Steelers. The Ravens believe McNair would be fully recovered by then. With Boller in the lineup, the Ravens will go downfield a few more times in the passing game, but the Ravens still prefer a dink-and-dunk attack.

Cincinnati Bengals

LT Andrew Whitworth is the leading candidate to replace Levi Jones as the permanent starter. Jones' lost mobility is a direct result of two left knee scopes in a year, and he's not the same player he was when the club gave him a six-year, $40 million extension in July 2006. In two straight starts, Jones has struggled trying to contain speed rushers coming off the edge, placing QB Carson Palmer in harm's way. Whitworth is a massive road grader and terrific technician in pass protection. He has good foot quickness, takes proper angles and engulfs defensive ends attempting to pressure Palmer.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns' annual struggles to run the ball are less severe this year, but they still need to mount a steadier threat. Their season average is respectable only because Jamal Lewis broke through Cincinnati's sieve for 216 yards. In four other games, they have fallen short of 100 team rushing yards. Other than in that one big game, Lewis hasn't been what he was in his Baltimore heyday. His 2006 ankle woes seem to be behind him, and there were glimpses he would start producing consistently after the team got out of a stretch against elite defenses, but his chance to prove it is impaired by a foot injury that cost him most of two games heading into the open week. Backup Jason Wright is a great effort guy but lacks Lewis' size and speed. Jerome Harrison showed against Miami that he can bring a scat-back dimension. Continued improvement by a promising line is key, especially if Lewis misses more time.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is doing more than moving safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Brett Keisel all over the field. He is moving inside linebacker James Farrior as well, resulting in more sacks for Farrior. On a team that relies on outside linebackers to get to the quarterback, it is Farrior who leads the team with four sacks, tying his career high. Farrior is getting sacks because he is lining in the middle and rushing to the outside, finding gaps between the end and outside linebacker.

SOUTH DIVISION

Houston Texans


Without RB Ahman Green in the lineup for most of the last three games, the Texans have shown their lack of depth. Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado have both struggled to be productive. Dayne is averaging 2.9 yards per carry -- by far the lowest of his career. Gado is averaging just 2.2 per carry. The biggest boost for the Texans will be getting Green back, but because he hasn't been healthy enough to finish a game yet, the Texans must find a way to improve their running game without him.

Indianapolis Colts

Coordinator Tom Moore's offensive philosophy revolves around personnel, not Xs and Os. He also makes certain that backups are prepared to step in for injured starters, which ensures no major changes are required when a frontline player is out of the lineup. The philosophy was never more evident in the team's victory over Tampa Bay in Week 5. WR Marvin Harrison (knee), RB Joseph Addai (chest), backup TE Ben Utecht (concussion) and No. 4 WR Aaron Moorehead (back) were out, but it didn't matter. QB Peyton Manning ran an efficient offense: 33 points, 400 total yards, 147 rushing yards, 12-of-16 on third-down conversions. Backup RB Kenton Keith rushed for a career-best 121 yards. Rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez had a season-high seven receptions.

Jacksonville Jaguars

For the first time over the past two seasons, the team finds itself in unfamiliar territory. For the most part, players are healthy. Center Brad Meester returned to the starting lineup after breaking his right ankle early in training camp. Meester restores stability up front. Dennis Norman was an effective fill-in for Meester, but he lacked experience. Meester is a technician that excels at relaying the line calls.

Tennessee Titans

Linebacker Keith Bulluck led the team in tackles the past five seasons, but after five weeks his streak is in jeopardy. Coaches say Bulluck is playing at a high level; it's just the team is much better at stopping the run on the defensive line, so not as many plays get to Bulluck. A year ago the team was 30th in run defense. Now, they are among the NFL's best.

WEST DIVISION

Denver Broncos


Denver's porous run defense has had myriad issues in terms of gap responsibility and tackling, and one personnel move is imminent. If strong-side linebacker Nate Webster doesn't become more consistent, he could lose his job to Jamie Winborn. Webster is an all-out player who can make the big hit, but his aggressiveness can be used against him when teams get him to bite hard on fakes. Winborn has impressed coaches in practices and is not a dropoff from Webster in terms of athleticism or experience.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are feeling the effects of several years of lousy drafting at the offensive line positions. The Chiefs selected nine linemen in the last eight drafts but none has developed into a reliable player. They have no ready stash of replacement players so the Chiefs have to go with players whose skills appear to be in decline (center Casey Wiegmann and right guard John Welbourn) or street free agents (right tackles Kyle Turley and Chris Terry). The Chiefs will have to either sign or draft in an early round at least two linemen before next season begins.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders defense has yet to play at the level it did last season, when it finished No. 3 in terms of average yards allowed per game. Part of that reason has been an inability to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. Defensive end Derrick Burgess and defensive tackle Warren Sapp combined for 21 sacks last season. They are without a sack through five games this season. Injuries to Burgess (calf) and defensive tackle Gerard Warren (quadriceps) have enabled opposing teams to concentrate more of their attention toward Sapp, leaving the others in one-on-one matchups. Burgess returned Sunday, so it's logical to assume that the sacks will come in short time.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers re-established their vaunted run defense and rediscovered their vaunted pass rush against Oakland. After negating the Raiders' quick passes, the Chargers made them one-dimensional, which in essence was no-dimensional. The league leaders in rushing yards (per game and per carry) were held to 53 yards on 23 carries. Moreover, the Chargers had a season-high six sacks. As QB Daunte Culpepper was forced to sit back and look for receivers, the pass rusher had more time than they had since the season opener and were able to pressure Culpepper consistently. For the first time since last season, the coverage and pressure were in sync.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Chargers C Hardwick out 3-4 weeks with sprained right foot
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick is expected to be out three to four weeks with a sprained right foot.

The prognosis was the best Hardwick could hope for, and since the Chargers have their bye this Sunday, that means he'll probably miss two or three games.

''It's good news,'' said Hardwick, who was on crutches.

Hardwick was hurt early in Sunday's 28-14 win over Oakland - when LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 198 yards and four touchdowns - and was expecting the worst. An MRI on Monday confirmed the initial diagnosis of a sprain.

''It's always the case when it doesn't feel good when it happens, and the next day the spirits get down a little bit,'' Hardwick said. ''You've got to find out what's going on inside of there.''

Cory Withrow did an admirable job filling in for Hardwick.

''They'll be fine without me,'' Hardwick said. ''They're going to keep rocking and working hard. Cory's going to do a good job. It's frustrating for sure not to be in there. I wanted to be in there when L.T. ran for 198 yards, of course. But I wasn't, we got a win, so, really, who cares?

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Patriots:  Morris out indefinitely

Sammy Morris injured a bone in his chest during a freak collision Sunday and could miss a month, a league source told the Boston Herald. Morris has already been ruled out for Sunday's game with Miami.

Cowboys:  Henry out again this week

Anthony Henry has already been ruled out for Week 7. He's battling a high ankle sprain, an injury that dates back to Week 4.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

NFL to reinstate Packers' Robinson
October 17th, 2007

New York, NY (Sports Network) - Packers wide receiver Koren Robinson, who served a year-long suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, will be reinstated by the league on Thursday.

"We understand and appreciate the Commissioner's consideration in this matter," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson in a statement. "It's been a year since we've seen Koren, so our first step is to have him return to Green Bay. The Packers will request a roster exemption, during which time we would see where Koren is at in terms of football shape."

In the summer of 2006, Robinson was arrested near Vikings' training camp in Mankato, Minnesota for a number of traffic and alcohol violations. In 2005, Robinson pleaded guilty for a drunk driving offense while one of the conditions of his probation was that he not drink or have any other legal problems.

The Vikings cut Robinson before the start of the 2006 season and Green Bay signed him that September.

He played in four games in 2006 with the Packers and caught seven passes for 89 yards before receiving the one-year ban.

The troubled wideout was also suspended four games in 2004 after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy when he was with Seattle.

"We are aware how difficult this past year has been for Koren, but the Packers are grateful for the progress he's made, as evidenced by this reinstatement," added Thompson."

The ninth overall selection by the Seahawks in the 2001 NFL Draft, Robinson looked like he was on his way to stardom with Seattle before off- the-field problems threatened his career.

Robinson caught 78 passes for 1,240 yards and five touchdowns in 2002 before his suspension in 2004. In 2005, after his DUI arrest became public, Robinson was released by the Seahawks.

The Vikings took a chance on Robinson and signed him before the 2005 season. The former North Carolina State star developed into a Pro Bowl kick returner and, by the end of the season, was the club's top playmaker.

Robinson caught 22 balls for 347 yards and a touchdown in 14 games (five starts) in 2005 with Minnesota. He also returned 47 kicks for 1,221 yards and a touchdown.

For his six-year career, Robinson has 242 receptions for 3,603 yards and 13 touchdowns in 75 games with Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

McAlister likely out

Doubtful Sunday with knee strain, he might return after bye

Chris McAlister said last night that he has been told by the Ravens that he will miss three weeks with a strained right knee, but the Pro Bowl cornerback wouldn't rule out returning for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 5.

McAlister acknowledged that the knee has bothered him the past couple of weeks.

"I just decided to work through it because we had a lot of injuries," McAlister said. "I'm glad we have the bye week [Oct. 28]."

McAlister, 30, did not miss any snaps in Sunday's 22-3 win over the St. Louis Rams, and it only became known that he had a knee injury Monday, when the Ravens said he was day-to-day.

Yesterday, ESPN Radio 1300 said McAlister would miss four to five weeks with a torn posterior cruciate ligament.

Asked whether he would miss the Steelers game, McAlister said: "I wouldn't say that."

On his weekly show on WBAL Radio, coach Brian Billick seemed more optimistic than McAlister about the injury.

He indicated that McAlister is "doubtful" for Sunday's game at Buffalo and sounded positive about McAlister's chances of playing after the bye.

"It's my understanding that there's a strong likelihood he will be available for Pittsburgh," Billick said. "I don't know that he won't be available this weekend."

Billick disputed the report on ESPN Radio.

"That's not accurate," he said. "Chris has a knee strain as it's been characterized. I don't know the actual degree. I think people are kind of making things up."

If McAlister is out Sunday, the Ravens likely would replace him with Corey Ivy, who has started four games this season.

www.baltsun.com

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Morris may miss month

Patriots running back Sammy Morris injured a bone in his chest and will miss this week’s game against the Dolphins and probably more, according to a league source.

Morris was injured on the second play of the third quarter of Sunday’s 48-27 victory over the Cowboys when teammate Stephen Neal and Cowboys linebacker Bradie James landed their 555 total pounds on his chest simultaneously following a 2-yard run.

Morris stayed down and teammate Donte’ Stallworth immediately waved on the medical staff as concerned Cowboys players also stood around him. After about five minutes, Morris left the field under his own power.

According to the source, Morris injured the bone connecting the sternum to the clavicle and left the stadium in a sling and in excruciating pain. He could miss a month. If there’s a positive, it’s that the preliminary diagnosis did not reveal any broken bones.

Losing Morris is a blow for the Patriots [team stats], who worked out free agent running back Kevan Barlow yesterday to fill the void left by Morris’s departure. Morris had been a key cog for the Pats in the absence of starting tailback Laurence Maroney [stats], who has missed three straight games with a groin injury.

Morris rushed for more than 100 yards in his first two starts. The Cowboys limited him to just 14 yards on 10 carries, but with the Patriots opening a big second-half lead, he likely would have been called upon to carry the ball more late in the game.

With Morris out against his former team - a game he had no doubt circled on the calendar - the Patriots are relying on Maroney to return. He worked out in uniform before the Cowboys game and appeared to be moving and cutting well, which has to be considered a good sign.

However, the Pats will take things slow with Maroney, which means his return is not guaranteed.

www.bostonherald.com

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Steelers Notebook -- Ward, Polamalu, Holmes returning

The Steelers will welcome at least three of their four injured starters back this week and may even make it four-for-four.

Coach Mike Tomlin said wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and strong safety Troy Polamalu will return to the lineup for Sunday night's game in Denver.

All three missed the last game with various injuries and Ward has missed the past two.

The only one of the four starters whose status has not been determined is nose tackle Casey Hampton. He missed the last game with a hamstring injury that Tomlin said will limit him in practice today. The coach said his staff members will monitor Hampton as the week progresses and they are "hopeful" he will play.

Also, backup tight end Jerame Tuman has had back spasms that might limit him in practice and No. 3 cornerback Bryant McFadden remains doubtful with a high ankle sprain.

"Hines Ward is going to be fine," Tomlin said. "He's going to practice tomorrow. All tests to this point have been very positive. I know he's excited about being back in there, as are we to have him back in there."

Legal difficulties

The NFL still has not ruled on Travis Henry's positive drug test that could prompt the league to suspend Denver's running back for a year.

Tomlin said, "I expect Travis Henry to play" Sunday. Henry is seventh in the NFL with 498 yards rushing, nine yards behind Willie Parker, who is sixth.

Tomlin also said he does not expect Najeh Davenport's legal issues to be a factor.

"Not at all," Tomlin said.

Davenport pleaded not guilty in a Cleveland court Monday to misdemeanor counts of domestic violence and endangering children in a custody case. He posted bail of $7,500 and is not due back in court until Nov. 20.

Road warriors

The Steelers have traveled by air just once through the first six weeks of the season but will do so twice over the next two weeks. Their first experience was not a good one and resulted in their only loss, 21-14, at Arizona Sept. 30.

"Specifically this week, we talked about having an opportunity to respond to our last road outing," Tomlin said.

"The last time we were on the road, we didn't feel like we played up to our standards. We put the challenge out to our football team that we're going into a hostile environment, to say the least. We have to be prepared to be at our best."

The Steelers also won their opener at Cleveland, 34-7, but traveled there by bus.

www.post-gazette.com

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 7

Leftwich takes over as Atlanta's starting QB
October 17, 2007

Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- On his first day as the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback, Byron Leftwich felt like a kid.

"Football has been really taken away from me the last month and a half," he said. "It just seems like it's a new feeling. It's all fun again. Any time you're not out there, it's a tough situation to deal with."

Whether Leftwich can energize Atlanta's struggling offense remains to be seen. First-year coach Bobby Petrino said Wednesday that Leftwich would take over the Falcons (1-5) from Joey Harrington for the rest of the season.

"That's the big part of it," Petrino said. "We need to make a change and get something going."

The decision wasn't difficult for Petrino after the offense failed to score off three New York turnovers in a 31-10 loss to the Giants on Monday night.

Petrino indicated that Leftwich might have played against New York if he hadn't missed so much practice with a mild ankle sprain. Leftwich has shown Petrino and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, who worked as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator when the Jaguars drafted Leftwich seventh overall in 2003, that he understands the offense well enough.

"He's come along with it," Petrino said. "He's been here a month now. I wish he would've gotten all those reps he missed last week with the ankle injury, but the ankle feels good, and that's a good thing."

Leftwich, who went 24-20 in four years with Jacksonville, signed a two-year, $7 million contract last month after being released. In his only appearance with Atlanta, Leftwich was 2-of-8 for 28 yards and one interception after replacing Harrington in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago.

The Falcons are 0-1 in the NFC South heading into Sunday's game at New Orleans (1-4). Petrino, whose offense has scored only seven touchdowns with Michael Vick suspended, believes his team can still gain ground in the division.

Regardless, Petrino has seen enough of Harrington, whose statistics are respectable with a 63.1 completion percentage and a passer rating of 80.1 -- despite being sacked 21 times, just four less than Jon Kitna's league-leading total with Detroit.

But Petrino believes Leftwich has more tangible assets than Harrington.

"He has a very strong arm," Petrino said. "He throws the ball deep down the field, and he just needs to be able to see it, and I have the confidence that he can put it in there. I think he'll do well."

Signed to be the backup to Vick after the Falcons traded Matt Schaub to Houston, Harrington is 24-48 as a starter with Detroit, Miami and Atlanta. The Lions drafted him third overall in 2002.

Harrington left the locker room without speaking to reporters on Wednesday, but he sounded despondent after the Giants loss.

"We were moving it just fine, and then just everything shut down," Harrington said. "I mean, everything. I missed some. We dropped some. We missed some protections. We missed some hots. It was everywhere. That's the frustrating part. You don't know where to pinpoint your efforts."

Vick, who pleaded guilty in Virginia two months ago to federal charges of bankrolling a dogfighting ring, led the Falcons to 39 wins and two playoff appearances in 66 games as a starter. He also became the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Petrino decided in a staff meeting on Tuesday to bench Harrington and go with Leftwich.

"I think coach Petrino got to the point where he has enough confidence in me that I know what I'm doing now," Leftwich said. "He's giving me the opportunity to lead this football team."

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