NFL WEEK NEWS AND NOTES

NFL WEEK NEWS AND NOTES

Steelers lose two players for season
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Steelers lost starting right guard Kendall Simmons and first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall to season-ending injuries during their 23-20 overtime victory over Baltimore on Monday night.

The Steelers (3-1) now face a short week before playing Sunday night at Jacksonville (2-2), a game in which fourth-string running back Mewelde Moore may have to start if Pro Bowl runner Willie Parker misses a second successive game with a sprained knee.

Simmons (torn right Achilles) and Mendenhall (fractured left shoulder) will be placed on injured reserve, coach Mike Tomlin said, and thus cannot return this season. A torn Achilles can be an especially difficult injury for a lineman to overcome because he pushes off his heel on every play.

''Our competitors, it has been well documented, a lot of those guys have suffered devastating injuries,'' Tomlin said. ''It is only devastating if you allow it to be. People are not concerned with our problems, they are probably happy that we have them. We will address them and get ready to play.''

Simmons was replaced by former undrafted free agent Darnell Stapleton on Monday, though it would seem likely that fourth-year lineman Trai Essex, who was not in uniform against Baltimore, would start Sunday.

The Steelers also lost running back Carey Davis (ankle) and backup linebacker Andre Frazier, who was carted off the field on a stretcher with a spine injury after the opening kickoff. Frazier initially appeared to be the most seriously injured, but he was walking freely and joking with teammates after the game. Tomlin said his tests proved negative.

Mendenhall's loss is a big one for Pittsburgh, and it came in his first NFL career start on a hard hit by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. He was drafted to give the Steelers a power back to go with Parker's speed, but Mendenhall's first season ended after only 19 carries. He had nine carries for 30 yards against Baltimore.

''We have some injuries that we need to deal with, that is part of football and we will (deal with it),'' Tomlin said. ''Our standard of expectation will not change. We have to go to Jacksonville on a short week, such is life in the National Football League.''

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Marc Bulger restored to Rams starting QB job
September 30, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) -Marc Bulger is the St. Louis Rams' starting quarterback again in one of Jim Haslett's first moves as their new coach.

Backup Trent Green started Sunday's 31-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Scott Linehan's final game as coach. Bulger was back with the starters in practice Tuesday. He is the highest paid player in franchise history.

Haslett was elevated from defensive coordinator Monday. He says Bulger will be the starter the rest of the season. The winless Rams have a bye this week.

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Kiffin fired as Raiders coach

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders fired Lane Kiffin on Tuesday just four games into his second season, bringing finality to a situation that had been simmering for eight months.

Kiffin had a 5-15 record since being hired last year, losing his final game 28-18 on Sunday to San Diego.

The decision on Kiffin was as much about his frequent criticisms of owner Al Davis' franchise as it was the team's performance on the field. Those critiques reached a peak when Kiffin distanced himself from the defense after a blowout loss in the season opener, saying that was under coordinator Rob Ryan and Davis' control.

The Raiders said the move was made for cause, meaning they will likely try not to pay Kiffin for the remainder of his contract. He signed a two-year deal worth about $4 million with a team option for 2009 when he took over last year. Kiffin's agent Gary Uberstine had no immediate comment.

The move comes a day after the St. Louis Rams let go of Scott Linehan, marking the second firing at the quarter point of the season. The last time a coach had been fired this early in the season was when Davis got rid of Mike Shanahan after four games in 1989.

The Raiders did not immediately announce a replacement for Kiffin, but there are plenty of candidates on staff, including Ryan and receivers coach James Lofton, who both interviewed for the job when Kiffin got it in 2007. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Tom Cable and advance scout Paul Hackett also could be possible choices.

The Raiders have a bye this week so the new coach's first game will be Oct. 12 at New Orleans.

Kiffin's job security was in question as far back as January, when a dispute with Davis over whether he could replace Ryan as defensive coordinator led to the owner sending his coach a letter of resignation to sign.

Kiffin refused to sign it and the feud went on throughout the offseason as Kiffin questioned big-money signings and other personnel moves made by Davis.

The situation grew more heated with Kiffin's comments on Davis' involvement with the defense two days after a season-opening 41-14 loss at home to Denver. Three days after that, reports surfaced that Davis was ready to fire his coach at any time and it dragged out from there.

Kiffin did his best to deflect the controversy and never went to Davis to lobby for his job or a resolution. The team played much better the past three weeks, beating Kansas City and taking leads into the fourth quarter against Buffalo and San Diego before losing.

Davis' once-proud franchise has fallen on hard times of late, with the blame going beyond one coach. Oakland has an NFL-worst 20-64 record since the start of the 2003 season, a stretch spanning the tenures of Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Kiffin.

Since returning to Oakland in 1995, the Raiders have had just three winning seasons and will be on their eighth head coach. The success mostly came under Jon Gruden, who led Oakland to division titles in 2000 and '01 before leaving for Tampa Bay. Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl the following season, but nothing positive has happened since that 48-21 loss to Gruden and the Bucs.

The one constant during that period has been Davis, who won three Super Bowl titles in his first 21 years with the Raiders but has had little success over the past quarter-century.

Kiffin, the son of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, became the latest coach unable to turn the Raiders around.

Kiffin was just a 31-year-old assistant at Southern California when Davis hired him to replace Shell following the 2007 season, becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era.

Davis said at the time that Kiffin's youth was not an issue, pointing to the success the Raiders had in the past with young coaches like John Madden and Gruden.

Kiffin instead is following the path of Shanahan, who was hired at age 35 in 1988 and then fired four games into his second season. Until this move, Shanahan had been the only coach Davis had fired in the middle of a season since joining the Raiders in 1963.

Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls with Denver.

Kiffin had some success changing the culture of a team in his first year but was unable to generate consistent wins.

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