NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Report: Parcells, Dolphins reach deal

Bill Parcells will not be joining the Atlanta Falcons as head of football operations and has instead agreed to a four-year contract to join the Dolphins in that capacity, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

The Herald, citing a source, said Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga was at the team's training facility for an hour, where he spoke with head coach Cam Cameron.

The immediate futures of Cameron and general manager Randy Mueller are currently unknown, the report said.

The Dolphins declined comment, only saying no contract has been signed, and no one at Huizenga's business office was authorized to comment when reached Wednesday evening by The Associated Press.

Miami's players were also caught off-stride by the news, which broke after they finished practice.

"I don't know anything," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

So, for the second time in less than a week, an off-field story is dominating the conversation at Miami's training complex.

The first revelation came last Friday: Huizenga has been in talks about selling the team to two real estate developers for about $1.1 billion. Huizenga later said those discussions had been going on for months, and the story has since changed to the billionaire owner considering selling only a 49 percent stake in the team.

And now this: Parcells, who previously coached the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys, is apparently set to return to the NFL.

"Really?" defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said when told by The AP about Parcells' apparent interest in the Dolphins. "You can't control it. But somebody like the Big Tuna, regardless of who's in the front office or who's not, brings a lot of respect and a lot of credibility with him. ... If you're a free agent out there, that might draw you in."

When the Falcons announced Parcells turned them down - while also releasing that he was in negotiations with the Dolphins — several Miami players were playing cards and dominoes in the locker room.

"We met with him this morning to complete the contract. At that time, we were made aware by Parcells that he was considering a revised offer from the Miami Dolphins," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "He later informed us that he would not be signing a contract with us."

Many Dolphins immediately turned their attention to the television, seeking more information. Clearly, the mere mention of Parcells coming to Miami created an immediate buzz.

"I have a lot of respect for what he's been able to do in other places and I'd expect, if he did come in here, for him to do the same," Holliday said. "I don't know what's going to happen upstairs. I have no idea. I have a lot of respect for Randy Mueller, as well. But my interest is in what's best for this team and getting us in the right direction."

With his team mired in the longest playoff drought in franchise history — six years and counting — Huizenga has long sought different ways of doing exactly that. If that contract gets signed, bringing in the 66-year-old Parcells might wind up being the latest big Huizenga move.

In January 2004, he hired Miami's greatest player, Dan Marino, as senior vice president of football operations, a job created just for him. Marino resigned from the loosely defined role 22 days later, saying he didn't want to change his lifestyle.

Later that year, Huizenga hired coach Nick Saban away from LSU; he lasted only two seasons in Miami before bolting after the 2006 campaign to return to college football at Alabama.

"Bill Parcells," Holliday said, pausing and smiling. "That's a big name."

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Ravens QB Troy Smith may get first NFL start
December 19th, 2007

Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - With Kyle Boller still recovering from a concussion from a clobbering by Vonnie Holliday in last Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, rookie QB Troy Smith is now preparing for the possibility of making his first start in the NFL.

Last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Smith entered the game against Miami and conducted a game-tying, 59-yard drive with time winding down in regulation. In the ensuing overtime, the fifth-round draft pick marched the Ravens into position for the potential game-winning field goal, but Matt Stover missed the 44-yard try. Miami secured their first win of the year on the following possession.

Boller did not practice Wednesday, leaving the Ravens' facility after team meetings, bothered by headaches and sensitivity to light. Coach Brian Billick indicated that if he is still dealing with those issues come Thursday, Smith will be inserted as the starter for Sunday's game versus the Seattle Seahawks.

For the year, the Ohio State product is just 8-of-16 passing, for 82 yards. He has thrown no interceptions or touchdowns, good for a quarterback rating of 65.1.

Other notables on the Baltimore injury report include Ray Lewis, who has a hand injury and Terrell Suggs, who has an injured thigh. Both did not participate in practice.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Rookie QB Troy Smith to start against Seahawks, coach confirms
December 20, 2007

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -Rookie quarterback Troy Smith will make his first start Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Seattle Seahawks.

With Kyle Boller missing his second consecutive day of practice due to lingering effects from a concussion, including headaches and sensitivity to light, Ravens coach Brian Billick confirmed Thursday Smith will take his place.

``With Kyle, it would be problematic for him on Sunday, so, hopefully, he will be available to back up,'' Billick said. ``Missing two days of practice would make it tough. We're certainly not going to put him at risk.''

Billick acknowledged that Smith, last year's Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, may also the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to Boller's injury.

``Concussions are very unpredictable,'' Billick said.

Smith will be the third quarterback to start for the Ravens this season. Steve McNair started six of the first nine games, but struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 3.

Smith rushed for a touchdown in his NFL debut against Indianapolis on Dec. 9, and directed a game-tying drive in regulation in a 22-16 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

``He's a very strong personality,'' Billick said. ``If things get ugly with him, he'll be all right through whatever happens. He's a very strong-willed young man.''

If Boller is unavailable to be the backup, then the Ravens would likely promote undrafted rookie Cullen Finnerty from the practice squad. Wide receiver Mark Clayton is a potential emergency option.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Romo's thumb healing; C Gurode, S Watkins out
December 20, 2007

Associated Press

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Tony Romo's bruised right thumb should be just fine when the Dallas Cowboys play the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night, but he'll be taking snaps from a new center.

Cory Procter will replace Andre Gurode, who won't be traveling because of an injured left knee. Safety Pat Watkins will be staying home because of an ankle problem.

"We don't want them walking around, on an airplane, that kind of thing," coach Wade Phillips said.

Terry Glenn also was unlikely to go. While the rest of the receivers ran routes at the start of practice, Glenn was off to the side wearing a sweat shirt, catching a few balls. Phillips had said the decision whether to take Glenn would be based on how he did at practice.

"If he has confidence and if we have confidence that he can play, then it would be a limited amount," Phillips said.

Romo is getting ice and treatment for the injury sustained in the second half of this past Sunday's game, but he took part in all of practice Thursday. Romo hasn't spoken with reporters all week, so updates have come only from teammates and Phillips.

"I talked to Tony and he said things are progressing well," Phillips said before the workout. "He said he's feeling better and better. He's real positive. We're still going to be protective of it, but it looks real positive."

Another new option for playing time is fullback Zack Crockett, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday. He practiced Thursday and said he's ready to go -- on offense, special teams or anywhere else.

"I'm cramming, learning the system as fast as I possibly can learn it," he said. "I'll be ready if my number is called."

Crockett was let go by Tampa Bay, which used him in only one game this season, his 14th. This is the first season since 1999 he hasn't been a weekly fixture. All those were with Oakland; he started nine games last year.

Phillips said Crockett was an intriguing pickup because the team has been carrying only one fullback, Oliver Hoyte, who missed several games earlier this season with a neck problem -- and because running backs coach Skip Peete worked with Crockett for years in Oakland. Besides, Dallas had a free roster spot for a few days because safety Roy Williams is suspended.

"With only one fullback, and he's been banged up, we'd like to at least look at someone just in case something happens, and also to have someone here," Phillips said.

Also Thursday, safety Ken Hamlin wore Williams' No. 31 jersey at practice, but didn't want to talk about it.

"I'm just working," he said, smiling. "I don't know nothing about that."

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Bills WR Parrish questionable for Giants game with sore shoulder

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish is questionable for Buffalo's game Sunday against the New York Giants because of a shoulder injury.

Coach Dick Jauron said Parrish hurt the shoulder after falling on it late in Thursday's practice. He did not participate in Friday's workout after he developed some soreness in the area.

Parrish, Buffalo's third receiver, leads the league with a 17.5-yard punt return average. He also has 33 catches for 307 yards, and has scored a rushing, receiving and return touchdown.

Tight end Robert Royal (knee) practiced on Friday and is probable.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Panthers DE Peppers doubtful against Cowboys
December 21, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers is doubtful for Saturday's game against Dallas with a sprained right knee.

Peppers missed his fourth straight practice Friday, and will likely be replaced by Stanley McClover or rookie Charles Johnson in the lineup against the Cowboys.

Peppers, who was injured in Sunday's win over Seattle, has been held to three sacks and had his streak of three straight Pro Bowl selections snapped this week.

Safety Chris Harris returned to practice Saturday after missing Friday's workout with a sore hip and is listed as probable to play against Dallas.

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde (Achilles' tendon) also participated in Friday's walkthrough after a day off and is listed as probable. Testaverde will likely be the No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Moore, who will make his second straight start.

Receiver Keary Colbert (knee) will miss his second straight game, leaving Drew Carter as the starter opposite Steve Smith.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

McCown to start for Raiders, Russell to play

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Jacksonville,with rookie JaMarcus Russell slated to come off the bench as a reserve.

Coach Lane Kiffin had considered giving Russell his first career start against the Jaguars and then bring in McCown to finish the game. Russell, this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, has played five series in two games as a reserve so far.

Kiffin said Russell could come in during the first half and possibly might finish the game depending on how the situation played out.

Russell played 16 plays in his debut Dec. 2 against Denver and nine plays last week against Indianapolis. He did not play at all in the cold in Green Bay in between those two games. Russell is 6-of-12 for 66 yards in his brief playing time for the Raiders (4-10).

Kiffin also said that Dominic Rhodes will start at running back in place of the injured Justin Fargas, with LaMont Jordan coming off the bench.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Ravens' Heap doubtful, Lewis questionable
December 21st, 2007

Owings Mills, MD (Sports Network) - Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game in Seattle with a thigh injury.

Heap, who did not participate in practice on Friday, has not played since November 11.

In six games this season, Heap has 23 receptions for 239 yards with one score.

Starting linebacker Ray Lewis is listed as questionable after missing practice all week with a hand injury suffered in Sunday's overtime loss to Miami.

For the season, Lewis has registered 120 tackles with two sacks and a pair of interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Packers' DT Pickett, game-time decision against Bears
December 21, 2007

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -The Packers might have to face the rival Chicago Bears on Sunday without Ryan Pickett, a key member of their defense.

The defensive tackle hurt his groin in the Packers' 33-14 victory over the Rams last week and only took part in a limited portion of practice on Friday. He was listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Pickett, who has started all 30 games since joining the Packers before last season, is one of their top defenders and a central part of their run defense.

``He's clearly the anchor,'' McCarthy said. ``You talk about staying square, all the basic fundamentals and techniques that are important playing defensive tackle, particularly in the run game; I think Ryan Pickett is the perfect fit for our system and has played at a very consistent level for us.''

If Pickett can't play, McCarthy has said first-round pick Justin Harrell would make his first NFL start and take Pickett's spot. But Pickett doesn't want to miss the game against a division rival.

``I don't like taking any time off,'' Pickett said.

McCarthy said Pickett, nicknamed ``Big Grease,'' is lobbying the coaching staff to play even though the Packers have wrapped up the NFC North division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

McCarthy said he'll wait until game time before making a decision, based partly on the weather and field conditions at Chicago's Soldier Field.

``That's something you factor into it,'' McCarthy said. ``That's why you get over there early in the morning and you make those calls at the stadium.''

Pickett, who signed with the Packers as a free agent before last season, said he wants to stay on the field so Green Bay can start building momentum toward the playoffs.

``It's time for us to start playing our best ball so it can definitely carry into the playoffs,'' Pickett said. ``You don't want to go to the playoffs coming off a loss or anything like that. You want to have all the momentum you can.''

Harrell said he's not anxious about the possibility of his first start, partly because he won't know until Sunday.

``This is one of the things you kind of find out when you get out there,'' Harrell said. ``I know there's going to be a lot of emotions in this game, I'm going to have to kind of control it and make sure that I'm going out there and doing my job.''

The Packers selected Harrell with the 16th overall pick in April's draft even though he tore a tendon in his left biceps after three games at Tennessee. Harrell said the arm has long since healed following surgery, but he still was inactive for nine games, in part due to the depth at the position.

``Just look at his performance the last two weeks. He's like a number of our younger players. He just needs an opportunity, particularly in live reps, so he's made progress and if Ryan doesn't play, this will be a big step for him because obviously his reps will increase,'' McCarthy said.

Harrell, who will wear a cast Sunday to protect his left thumb that he dislocated against the Rams, said he was fine with being inactive because the organization explained what they wanted him to accomplish while he worked on putting on weight and learned the defensive scheme.

``Talking with family members, veteran guys on this team, coaches, we pretty much all had a good understanding of what was going on earlier in the year. It all happened for a reason,'' he said.

Much was made earlier this season of the Packers' decision to keep 11 defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and they still carry 10 despite season-ending injuries to defensive tackles Colin Cole (arm) and Johnny Jolly (shoulder).

``We've been fortunate to have our injuries occur at a position where we have a lot of depth,'' McCarthy said. ``Injuries are a part of the game, but yeah, definitely it's worked out to our strength. Going back to the 53-man roster, we kept 11 linemen because we felt that those 11 players were part of our best 53 players coming out of camp.''

Harrell said each of his teammates on the line has made a contribution, and he appreciates a bigger opportunity if he gets it on Sunday.

``It would be my first NFL start, that's always a big thing, a great accomplishment for me,'' Harrell said. ``I'm just going to approach it like every other game, just be out there a little sooner and just be ready to go.''

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Re: NFL Week 16 News and Notes

Seahawks must again manufacture emotion for woeful foe
December 22, 2007

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -With Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis all but ruled out for Sunday's game in Seattle and Baltimore already on a franchise-record losing streak the Seahawks have another reason to play with less-than-playoff intensity.


``Do we know Lewis isn't playing?'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said Friday of the nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL defensive player of the year, sounding hopeful.

Nick Greisen will start for Lewis. Lewis is officially listed as questionable, but Ravens coach Brian Billick said ``it doesn't look good'' after Lewis missed a third consecutive practice with a dislocated finger that split a knuckle on his left hand in last weekend's loss at Miami and required stitches.

``First of all, Ray Lewis is one of the best players I have ever seen in my life,'' the 59-year-old Holmgren said.

``Last week, we lost a football game to a quarterback (Carolina's Matt Moore) who had never played before. So, I think you have to be real careful about thinking about those things too much - if at all.''

Holmgren has been telling anyone within earshot this week that he wants more emotion from his NFC West champions. They were mostly flat while losing 13-10 to the Panthers in a lifeless stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Seattle did not score a touchdown until 1 second remained and its five-game winning streak came to a thudding end.

Now the Seahawks (9-5) get the woeful Ravens (4-10), losers of eight straight.

Baltimore will be giving rookie quarterback Troy Smith his first start because Kyle Boller has a concussion and Steve McNair is on injured reserve. The Ravens will also be missing Samari Rolle, who joined fellow starting cornerback Chris McAlister on injured reserve Friday. Rookie cornerback Willie Gaston and Corey Ivy will start for them. Baltimore will also likely to be without starting tight end Todd Heap, who is doubtful with a strained hamstring. He'll likely be replaced by Quinn Sypniewski.

Next week, Seattle, currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, plays the Atlanta Falcons (3-11).

Not exactly the best way to motivate a team that has little to play for, since they are assured of hosting a first-round playoff game next month.

``The key will be the emotion,'' Holmgren said. ``Honestly, each individual player has to decide how he is going to do that.

``Now, we have to get the energy going.''

The players who were trying to figure out how to block Lewis hadn't heard that he probably won't play. Good news?

``I think so. He's a great player. His reputation speaks for itself,'' said left guard Rob Sims, who was going to face Lewis for the first time while continuing to share snaps with veteran Floyd Womack.

``But I'm the type of guy who loves to play against the best.''

The Ravens are far from that right now. Their smash-mouth defense has lost its punch, especially without Lewis.

``He's like having another coach on the field,'' said Baltimore outside linebacker Bart Scott, who expects Lewis to miss next week's season finale, too. ``What you lose is formation recognition, play recognition, experience of being in certain situation, knowing tendencies.

But Scott had a caution for the Seahawks.

``If anything, they should know that this team is always dangerous, always had a lot of good players,'' he said. ``You don't just go from 13-3, then the next year be 4-12, whatever we are, and still be a bad team.

``We still have a lot of those good players, and any week we're always capable.''

That's also the thinking of Walter Jones, Seattle's Pro Bowl left tackle. Told Lewis was likely out, Jones dismissed that by blowing air through his lips to make a scoffing, sputtering sound.

``I don't know, man. They've still got a lot of good guys on that defense,'' Jones said. ``They are very aggressive, man. They come after you.''

Notes: Starting WR D.J. Hackett (sprained ankle) practiced with the scout team. Holmgren said it was unlikely Hackett would play for the first time in four games on Sunday but added ``he's close'' to returning. ... The Seahawks listed starting DT Rocky Bernard as questionable with a strained groin that has kept him from practicing for weeks but not from playing. Holmgren said Bernard is likely to play again against the Ravens. ``Rocky's on the veteran plan. Free lunches. Free dinners. Play on Sunday,'' Holmgren said, grinning. ``I never question him ... he's hurting and he gives us what he can.''

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