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.
After keeping McNair on the sideline during Sunday's 22-3 win over St. Louis, Billick promptly announced Boller would start against Buffalo, too. His reasoning was that no one would have believed he was still taking a wait-and-see approach to monitor McNair's health.
``I could have tried to play that game; you all wouldn't have bought it and I don't know if would have tricked Buffalo,'' Billick said. ``We kind of went past that by starting Kyle last week, and it was pretty evident we were going to do the same thing this week.''
McNair is known for his ability - and willingness - to play hurt. He's been playing through the groin injury since the first game of the season. But he realized his ailments weren't getting any better, and was sick of playing at far less than 100 percent.
If it's Monday, the Cardinals must be looking for a quarterback.
Last week, they signed Tim Rattay as a backup to Kurt Warner, who took over for the injured Matt Leinart. Now Warner is out indefinitely with a sprained left elbow, Rattay is the starter and the Cardinals are expected to sign Tim Hasselbeck as soon as they clear a roster spot. Rattay and Warner are the only quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
``It's obviously unusual,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``It's hard enough when you lose one quarterback, but when you lose two it's doubly difficult. But it's not going to change. I'm sure there's not a lot of teams out there that are feeling sorry for us right now.''
This is the fourth year since 2001 that the 36-year-old Warner, a two-time NFL MVP, has missed games due to injury. Warner had an MRI on Monday, but after Sunday's game he said he was having trouble gripping the ball with his left hand.
``I have no strength in there,'' Warner said. ``I couldn't really move it, so there would have been no way to hold the football with my left hand. Yeah, I could have maybe thrown it a little bit, but there is a lot more to the game than running back there with one hand and throwing it.''
While coach Jon Gruden detests using statistics to gauge how well his team is playing, there's one number he can't ignore: The Buccaneers have gained a NFL-low 47 yards rushing in the past two games.
The Bucs (4-2) have already matched their victory total for last season. However, Gruden knows it will be difficult to remain atop the NFC South unless he finds a way to compensate for the loss of injured running backs Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams and Michael Pittman.
The ground attack also has suffered from the absence of veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout, whose season-ending knee injury left the Bucs with four starters on the offensive line who are either first- or second-year pros.
Tampa Bay was held to 17 and 30 yards rushing by Indianapolis and Tennessee the past two weeks after gaining 182 and 189 with a healthy Williams and Pittman teaming with Earnest Graham the previous two weeks against St. Louis and Carolina.
The Bucs were averaging 137 yards per game rushing after defeating the Rams and Panthers, but the number has slipped to just over 99 per game following a lopsided loss to the Colts and Sunday's 13-10 victory over the Titans.
``We are certainly investigating the possibility of a trade,'' the coach said. ``Again, it takes two to tango.''
Tatum Bell expects the NFL's trading deadline to come and go Tuesday, leaving him in Detroit. Bell said reports his agent was asking the Lions to trade him were overblown, but the running back acknowledged being unhappy with his role and the timing of it.
``It's frustrating, being a contract year. You want to put a show on,'' Bell said Monday. ``But I'm here now. I'm staying. I'm excited about helping the team.''
Bell had just four carries for 15 yards in Detroit's last game, a 34-3 loss at Washington in Week 5.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli dismissed the trade talk swirling around Bell.
``All I know is, we're keeping him,'' Marinelli said.
The Lions acquired Bell and tackle George Foster in the offseason from Denver in exchange for cornerback Dre' Bly, and both might be in danger of losing their first-string jobs.
Playing for the Broncos, Bell ran for 1,026 yards last season and 921 in 2005. But Kevin Jones, the incumbent before he got hurt his foot, is being worked back into the offense at Bell's expense.
Given how poorly they played the first month, the Eagles aren't going to nitpick any win.
Sure, they barely squeaked out a 16-9 victory over the inept Jets on Sunday. Yes, they wouldn't have beaten many other teams. However, they found a way to avoid a loss that would've put the team in crisis mode just five games into the season.
At 2-3, the Eagles still have a chance in a mediocre NFC. But it's clear the defending NFC East champions need to improve in many areas before they can be mentioned as playoff contenders.
``We've always talked about a one-game-at-a-time approach and with the parity the way it is in the National Football League, you've got to over-exaggerate that,'' coach Andy Reid said. ``Don't worry about anything other than getting yourself better each week and the team that you're playing. You've got to make sure that you're preparing for them.''
Halfback Brian Westbrook looked sharp against the Jets after missing a game with an abdominal injury, and wide receiver Reggie Brown finally showed up after being a non-factor in the first four games.
But the Eagles struggled once they moved inside the Jets 20. They had four first downs inside the red zone and came away with only four field-goal attempts. Overall, the Eagles are 5-for-16 inside the red zone this season. Their only TD Sunday was a 75-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis.

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