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Author Topic:   NFL - 2005/06 Season
indiedan
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posted February 15, 2005 04:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
NBC says unlikely to offer enough to get NFL rights

NBC probably will not offer enough to secure broadcast rights to National Football League games even though it would be interested in carrying the widely watched games, executives at corporate parent General Electric said on Tuesday. NBC gave up the right to televise NFL games in 1998, saying it had become too costly. NBC Universal Chief Executive Bob Wright said cost considerations would again be the main factor in a decision for the network. "We would have an interest in something like football, but it's unlikely that on a broadcast side we would be able to put up enough money to interest football to do something with us," said Wright at an analyst meeting in Orlando, Florida. NBC also stopped televising National Basketball Association games three years ago and the network's sports line-up now focuses on the summer and winter Olympics, auto racing and golf. "We'd love to have football, (but) we will not make a stupid deal," NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker said in January. Last November, rival networks CBS, a division of Viacom and Fox, owned by News Corp., paid a combined $8 billion to extend their broadcast agreements with the NFL until 2011. Walt Disney Co. units ABC and ESPN are currently in negotiations with the league for the rights to broadcast Sunday and Monday night games. Complicating those negotiations are what to do with the NFL's proposal to broadcast eight games on Thursday or Saturday nights later in the season.

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fred
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posted February 15, 2005 10:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Arbitrator ruling upheld in Williams case

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- An arbitration ruling that ordered Ricky Williams to repay the Miami Dolphins $8.6 million was upheld Tuesday by a federal judge, who rejected arguments that the award disregarded Florida law and was excessive.

U.S. District Judge James Cohn ruled arbitrator Richard Bloch was ``well within the scope of his authority'' in his interpretation of the case.

Bloch ruled in September that Williams breached his contract by abruptly retiring. Under the terms of that contract, the 2002 NFL rushing champion was required to repay the Dolphins $8.6 million in bonus money he had received, Bloch said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFL Players' Association, said a decision would be made in the next several days regarding whether to appeal Cohn's ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

``We don't think the judge got it right,'' Kessler said. ``We didn't think his explanation as to why we didn't win was very persuasive.''

Kessler conceded at a hearing Friday in Fort Lauderdale that the Dolphins were entitled to some damages. But he argued that the case should be returned to Bloch and the award amount reduced because the arbitrator's ruling disregarded Florida law, which prohibits contracts from including penalty clauses.

Cohn said the public policy argument by Kessler and the NFLPA had some merit but was insufficient reason to vacate the arbitration award.

``They failed to establish that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law, or that enforcement of the award would violate public policy, or that the award is arbitrary and capricious,'' the judge ruled.

Williams' retirement last July sent the Dolphins reeling to a 4-12 season. He has been studying holistic medicine at a small college near Sacramento, Calif., and recently said he's enjoying retirement.

Kessler said last week he didn't know whether Williams had the money to repay the Dolphins.

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posted February 23, 2005 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Agent: Vikings agree to deal Moss to Raiders

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Randy Moss is heading for Oakland, the receiver's agent said Wednesday.

Dante DiTrapano, Moss' agent, told The Associated Press that the Minnesota Vikings and the Raiders had ``come to an agreement on Randy playing for Oakland next year.''

Neither the Vikings nor the Raiders would confirm the deal, which was first reported by The St. Paul Pioneer Press on its Web site.

``We have had discussions with the Oakland Raiders, but there's nothing to announce,'' Rob Brzezinski, the team's vice president of football operations, told The Associated Press.

Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor declined comment on the trade reports.

DiTrapano said he didn't know the terms of the deal, but the Pioneer Press reported the Vikings would get linebacker Napoleon Harris, along with the seventh overall pick and a late-round pick in the upcoming draft.

The deal cannot become official until March 2, the start of the NFL's fiscal year.

``It's just like any other contract. There's a meeting of the minds between the people who negotiate for the Vikings and the people who negotiate for the Raiders,'' DiTrapano said. ``It just hasn't been reduced to writing and it won't be until March 2.''

The flamboyant Moss had been the subject of trade rumors following this past season. He struggled with a hamstring injury, but still finished with 13 touchdown catches. He was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win. He also drew criticism for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss against Washington.

Team leaders Matt Birk and Daunte Culpepper confronted Moss after he walked off at Washington, and the organization's patience with the receiver seemed to dwindle in the past year or so.

``He's my good friend, but you almost get to thinking that maybe enough is enough,'' Culpepper said earlier this month at the Pro Bowl. ``And maybe the Vikings organization has had enough.''

DiTrapano said Moss was ``very pleased to be going to Oakland and looking forward to playing with a team that's promised they're going to throw the ball deep a whole lot to him and having a chance at winning the Super Bowl.''

``He doesn't leave Minnesota with any grudges,'' DiTrapano said. ``It just was frustrating for him to lose.''

On Tuesday, the Raiders re-signed Jerry Porter, their star wide receiver to a contract worth $20 million over five years. Porter could have become a free agent on March 2.

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posted April 18, 2005 03:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
'Monday Night Football' Moving to ESPN
By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer

NEW YORK - The NFL's "Monday Night Football," a hallmark of television sports programming since the days of Howard Cosell, is leaving ABC after 35 years for ESPN starting with the 2006 season.

The NFL's new broadcast deal also brings football back to NBC for the first time in six years. NBC will take over the Sunday night games previously broadcast on ESPN, and plans to use a flexible scheduling model that ensures meaningful games will played in that slot late in the season.

The Monday night move to basic cable, which includes an earlier start time of 8:40 p.m. eastern, is expected to cost ESPN $1.1 billion over eight years, two sources familiar with the deals told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.


NBC will get the Sunday night package for $600 million over six years, according to the sources. The network will also get the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012 as part of the deal, one of the sources said.


The NFL will continue to show all cable games on free, over-the air television in home markets. That means that local stations will carry ESPN's Monday night games in the cities of the teams involved.


The moves leave ABC — which reshaped sports broadcasting by turning football into a prime-time ratings draw with the advent of "Monday Night Football" in 1970 — as the only major network without NFL football.


ABC and ESPN are both subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Co. The deal with ESPN, which currently carries games every Sunday night and sometimes on Thursday, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.


"A great deal with the NFL is the best deal you can get in television," said NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol. He said the network hasn't started working on finding anchors for the Sunday night broadcast.


"We're celebrating for a day," Ebersol said. "Then I'm sure we'll get a lot of calls."


Last month, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said during the NFL meetings in Hawaii that the Monday night move was a strong possibility. ABC, which has been losing money on the package despite high ratings, had been balking at the NFL's asking price.


NBC has been struggling in prime-time this season, and even risks an unprecedented fall into fourth place in the ratings. ABC's newfound ratings strength with "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday nights has been particularly damaging.


NBC will devote its entire Sunday night prime-time lineup to the NFL. The Sunday night games will start at 8:15 p.m. eastern and include flexible scheduling for the final seven weeks of the season, details of which will be developed by the league.


That issue has become more pressing since parity caused by the salary cap has resulted in teams moving up and down the standings annually, leaving bad teams that were strong the previous season in prime time and good teams that were bad the past season off of it.


CBS and Fox already have agreed to pay a total of $8 billion over six years for the rights to Sunday afternoon games.


The NFL is still considering an eight game late-season package of Thursday and Saturday night games on cable and satellite. Tagliabue has said the NFL's own new network could show some or all of those games.

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posted April 25, 2005 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
NBC's NFL Deal "Brings Good Things To Life"

NBC's $600-million deal with the National Football League may not represent a loss leader as originally reported, according to MediaWeek magazine Under terms of the deal, the magazine said, all 32 NFL teams will be required to use products from NBC's corporate parent, General Electric, ranging from financial, healthcare and medical services to the stadium lights and medical equipment. The trade publication cited a report suggesting that as part of the deal GE could sell between $300 million and $500 million worth of products to the NFL each year.

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indiedan
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posted May 03, 2005 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Winslow's motorcycle use might be contract violation

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer
May 3, 2005

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Kellen Winslow Jr.'s use of a motorcycle might have violated standard NFL contract language that prohibits players from engaging in dangerous activities.

The Cleveland Browns could require Winslow, who lost millions last year because of a season-ending injury, to pay back a $4.4 million signing bonus he received in March.

The 21-year-old tight end sustained internal injuries and damage to his right shoulder and right knee in an accident that sent him flying over the handlebars of his newly purchased motorcycle.


Winslow was being treated at the Cleveland Clinic, where the team's medical staff was waiting for swelling in the shoulder and knee to subside. The team declined Tuesday to provide an update on his condition.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the standard NFL contract forbids players from taking part in any activity ``which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.''

It's another setback for the struggling Browns and Winslow, who entered the league last season with high expectations and a reputation as a hothead. His rookie season ended in disappointment when he broke his right leg during an onside kick in a Week 2 loss against Dallas.

With his leg still on the mend, Winslow purchased a sport bike last month and was learning how to ride it in a parking lot Sunday night when he hit a curb and was thrown off. He complained of chest pains after the crash.

Winslow held out last year before signing a $40 million contract -- a record for a tight end -- as the No. 6 pick in the draft.

Teams have the option of making contract language regarding dangerous activities more or less restrictive during negotiations with players, Aiello said. The Browns wouldn't release information about Winslow's contract.

There are a number of professional athletes who have violated contracts by getting hurt off the job.

In June 2003, Jay Williams of the Chicago Bulls crashed his recently bought motorcycle into a light pole, fracturing his pelvis, tearing knee ligaments and damaging nerves in his left leg. He hasn't played since.

The Bulls honored one year of Williams' contract even though he violated a standard clause, then waived him in February 2004 after reaching a settlement on the remaining two years. The buyout was reportedly worth about $3 million.

In 1994, Ron Gant was cut by the Atlanta Braves after he broke a leg in a motorcycle accident.

Aaron Boone was released by the New York Yankees before the 2004 season because he hurt a knee in a pickup basketball game.

Boone lost out on the majority of his $5.75 million, one-year contract because he violated language that prohibited basketball. He returned this season with the Cleveland Indians.

Winslow lost a $5.3 million bonus last season because of the leg injury that dealt a severe blow to Cleveland's offense, forcing the team to remove half its playbook.

New coach Romeo Crennel said in March that he has big plans for Winslow in the offense. The team envisions a passing game built around Winslow and rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

Winslow, the son of Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, dubbed himself ``The Chosen One'' back in college and, during his introductory news conference with the Browns, said he expects to exceed the accomplishments of his father.

Winslow's ego and his fiery personality have led to some bad decisions in the past.

Following a loss in his final season at the University of Miami, Winslow lashed out at officials in a profanity-laced tirade that ended with him referring to football as war and himself as a soldier. He later apologized.

He made no apologies last season for knocking a Cleveland teammate to the ground during a non-contact drill. Winslow remarked that the Browns should develop more attitude and play with greater intensity.

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NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN
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posted May 05, 2005 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH SUMMER INTERN     Edit/Delete Message
Preseason NFL Games to Air on Three NBC Stations

NBC has given no indication whether it intends to go to its affiliates with hat in hand asking them to help pay for the costs of acquiring Sunday-night NFL football. But three of the network's owned-and-operated stations got word Wednesday that they will be able to air several pre-season games this summer. WNBC (New York), WMAQ (Chicago), and WCMH (Columbus, OH) will begin carrying the pre-season contests of the Giants, Bears, and Bengals beginning in early August.

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indiedan
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posted June 15, 2005 10:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Madden joining NBC as game analyst

By CONNOR ENNIS, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- John Madden will join NBC as a game analyst when the network begins televising its newly acquired Sunday night football package in 2006.

The network scheduled an afternoon teleconference with Madden to make the announcement.

``John Madden is the best analyst in the history of the National Football League and, in my opinion, the best analyst of any kind in sports television history,'' said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. ``John is much more than a football legend, he's an American icon.''

Madden has spent the past three seasons teamed with Al Michaels on ABC's now-defunct ``Monday Night Football.''

``I have been doing this a long time and when I went to ABC to do 'Monday Night Football,' I thought I would finish my career there,'' Madden said. ``But when the NFL did this new television deal, I looked at 'NBC's Sunday Night Football' package, and I thought this really fits me well.''

Before joining ABC, Madden teamed with Pat Summerall to call Fox's lead game from 1994-2001. They were the top NFL announcing team on CBS for 13 seasons before that.

Known for his folksy style and his love of football's grit and grime, Madden has won 14 Sports Emmys.

The former Oakland Raiders coach -- he led them to a win over Minnesota in the 1977 Super Bowl -- has become a pop-culture phenomenon thanks in large part to the popularity of his video game ``Madden NFL Football.'' Since its initial release in 1989, the game has sold more than 43 million copies and become the No. 1 selling sports video game of all time.

NBC is reportedly paying $600 million for a six-year contract that will allow the network to broadcast the NFL's Sunday night game starting with the 2006 season. The Sunday night game was previously shown on ESPN, which will now televise the Monday night game.

NBC also gets two first-round playoff games and the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012 as part of the deal

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posted July 19, 2005 05:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Williams cleared to report Sunday to Dolphins

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has been cleared by the NFL to report Sunday with the rest of the team for the start of training camp, a year and a day after he abruptly retired.

The league's 2002 rushing champion decided to seek reinstatement after sitting out last season. He still faces a four-game suspension at the start of the season for violating the NFL substance abuse program.

``We've taken the steps necessary to ensure an on-time arrival, and he's excited about rejoining his team,'' said Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg.

The NFL cleared Williams to report on the first day of camp without incurring a further violation of the drug program, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday. Williams acknowledged shortly after retiring that he failed drug tests and faced a suspension for testing positive three times for marijuana.

Steinberg said Williams studied holistic medicine at a school in northern California from October to April and finished the first year of a three-year program, then spent April at a yoga center in India and became certified as an instructor.

``Both emphasize natural methods of healing and are opposed to the use of drugs and alcohol to alter consciousness,'' Steinberg said.

After retiring, Williams lost more than 20 pounds on a vegetarian diet. Steinberg said his weight is back above 215, still below his listed weight of 226 on the 2004 preseason roster.

Williams rushed for 3,225 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons with the Dolphins. He informed coach Dave Wannstedt of his retirement plans last July 23, one week before the start of training camp.

A court later found the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner in breach of contract by retiring, and ordered him to repay the team $8.6 million. The team has not yet sought to collect the settlement, and new coach Nick Saban offered Williams another chance to play for the Dolphins, who begin workouts Monday.

``Ricky and coach Saban seem to have established a very good rapport in the past several months,'' Steinberg said.

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fred
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posted July 25, 2005 05:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
He hasn't even played a down...

Smith agrees to $57 million deal with 49ers

By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Smith, the first pick in April's draft, agreed to terms Monday on a six-year, $57 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith will receive a guaranteed $24 million, a lawyer familiar with terms of the deal told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The agreement is expected to set off a run of signings of first-round draft picks.


The only other first-rounder to agree to terms is offensive lineman Logan Mankins, taken by New England with the 32nd and last pick of the first round. His deal was announced Monday.

But Miami had been waiting for Smith to sign before completing its deal with running back Ronnie Brown, taken second overall. Brown is expected to start for the Dolphins, then could alternate with Ricky Williams, who sat out last season, when Williams returns from a drug suspension after the first four games of the season.

Williams reported to the Dolphins on Monday.

Smith, who is represented by Tom Condon, will get $4 million more guaranteed money than Eli Manning, last year's first pick overall, who received $20 million from the New York Giants. Manning also is represented by Condon.

Smith's deal, according to the lawyer, is expected to average $8.25 million compared to about $7.5 million for Manning.

The quarterback, who left Utah after his junior season, led the Utes to their first BCS bowl win, a victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished 12-0 and were ranked fourth in The Associated Press poll.

This past season, he completed 185 of 280 passes for 2,624 yards with 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

He is expected to compete immediately with Tim Rattay for the starting job with the 49ers, who finished 2-14 in 2004.

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posted July 29, 2005 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Eagles DE Jerome McDougle shot, critically hurt in Miami robbery

MIAMI (AP) -- Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle was shot in the stomach by armed robbers, police said Friday. The team said he was in good condition after surgery.

He originally was listed in critical condition. However, Derek Boyko, the Eagles' director of media operations, said McDougle had spoken to team officials and was walking around his hospital room.

``Our understanding is that Jerome is in good condition after undergoing surgery,'' the team said in a statement. ``At this time, we are still in the process of gathering the facts of his situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jerome and his family.''

McDougle, who played at the University of Miami, was due to be in the team's camp Monday, the reporting date for Eagles' veterans. Rookies reported Friday.

McDougle, 27, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he underwent the surgery.

Three armed robbers approached McDougle at his silver Mercedes coupe late Thursday, police said. The suspects demanded the car, then fired their weapons, police said. McDougle was shot once in the stomach.

The robbers, who police said were likely teens, fled on foot and remain at large.

It wasn't clear whether McDougle was in his car or near it when he was approached, police said.

McDougle was a first-round pick in 2003, but has been plagued with injuries in Philadelphia. In two seasons, he had 18 tackles in 19 games, including two sacks.

McDougle had 114 tackles and 14 sacks in two seasons at Miami, and was a second-team All-American in 2002.

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indiedan
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posted September 12, 2005 08:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Football Overrun Wins Night for Fox


An overrun of Fox's telecast of its first NFL football game of the regular season on Sunday scored a 12.4 rating and a 21 share in the 7:00 hour and was enough to give Fox a win for the night, despite the fact that it scored no other top-rated shows elsewhere during primetime. Its roll-out of new comedies, however, airing mostly opposite repeats on other networks, did all right, however, each of them ending up in second place for the night. A particularly strong performer was The Simpsons, which nabbed a second-place 8.6/13 at 8:00 p.m. NBC remained down in the dumps as it moved a repeat of The West Wing into its new berth on Sunday night, only to see it relegated to fourth place with a 3.37 average between them.

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posted September 26, 2005 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Big-name injuries plague NFL action

Injuries to several NFL stars took some of the spotlight away from scintillating finishes by the Patriots, Eagles, Jaguars and Cowboys.

Rodney Harrison, Kurt Warner, Takeo Spikes and David Akers were among the ailing Sunday.

Harrison's knee injury, which looked serious, took some of the shine off yet another resourceful victory by New England, 23-20 at Pittsburgh on Adam Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal with a second to go. Harrison, the NFL's career leader for sacks by a defensive back, was taken off the field on a stretcher and driven to team bus on a cart after the game.

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``We brought 45 guys here,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``When one man goes down, that's what the other is there for. He steps in.''

The fill-ins were solid and such clutch players as Vinatieri and Tom Brady made the winning plays.

Akers, whose Eagles lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, matched Vinatieri's winning boot as Philadelphia beat Oakland, also 23-20. Akers, fighting through a strained right hamstring, kicked a 23-yarder with 9 seconds left. Earlier, he was sidelined for an extra point.

``You know it's going to hurt for one second and then the game is over,'' said Akers, a two-time Pro Bowl kicker. ``My whole leg hurts right now.''

Spikes, the Bills' brilliant linebacker, was less fortunate. He damaged his right Achilles' tendon, which could end his season, in a 24-16 loss to Atlanta.

Spikes was hurt in the second quarter while pressuring Michael Vick deep. The linebacker lay on the field face-down for a few minutes, then rolled over and slammed his helmet to the ground. After being helped to the sideline, Spikes appeared in tears as he was taken away on a cart.

``He's the pulse,'' safety Troy Vincent said of the eight-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl selection. ``I don't know how bad it is, but it could be devastating.''

Warner, the two-time MVP who has struggled in recent years, left the Cardinals' 37-12 loss at Seattle with an injured right groin after scrambling during the second quarter. Arizona couldn't move on offense without him and managed only four field goals.

``Obviously, things are worst in the first 24 hours,'' Warner said. ``It's a little sore right now, but hopefully it's not extremely serious.''

Elsewhere Sunday, it was: Dallas 34, San Francisco 31; Indianapolis 13, Cleveland 6; San Diego 45, the New York Giants 23; Tampa Bay 17, Green Bay 16; Minnesota 33, New Orleans 16; Cincinnati 24, Chicago 7; Jacksonville 26, the New York Jets 20; Miami 27, Carolina 24; and St. Louis 31, Tennessee 27.

The Monday night game has Denver hosting Kansas City.

Houston, Washington, Detroit and Baltimore were off.

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posted October 20, 2005 11:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
NFL moves Chiefs Dolphins to Friday night because of hurricane

NEW YORK (AP) -- The game between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs was rescheduled to Friday night to beat Hurricane Wilma's arrival in Florida.

The game will begin at 7 p.m. Friday instead of Sunday afternoon, which is about when Wilma is expected to hit Florida's southwestern coast.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said broadcast and television details were being worked out.

It's the third time since the start of the 2004 season that the Dolphins have rescheduled a home game because of a looming hurricane. Last year's home opener against Tennessee was played a day early because of Hurricane Ivan, and the Dolphins' Week 3 game with Pittsburgh was pushed back 7 1/2 hours by Hurricane Jeanne.

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posted October 27, 2005 09:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Report: NFL might move Saints to L.A.
League considering relocation if New Orleans can't recover from Katrina

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - The NFL will consider relocating the Saints to Los Angeles if New Orleans is unable to recover from Hurricane Katrina, the Washington Post is reporting Thursday, citing three sources familiar with the league’s deliberation on the matter.

The Saints have been based in San Antonio since they were forced out of the Crescent City by the hurricane in August. But sources have said the NFL has no interest in the Texas city as a permanent home for the club.

L.A. is the second-largest television market in the country and has been without an NFL team since the Raiders moved back to Oakland after the 1994 season.

On Wednesday, New Orleans' two major league sports teams made moves to calm fears about their future in the city.

Saints owner Tom Benson published a full-page letter in area newspapers and also sent it by e-mail to season-ticket holders on Wednesday, the same day Saints officials announced they would be donating more than $500,000 to New Orleans-area charities.

A day earlier, Hornets owner George Shinn launched a community relations initiative that he said would start the process of returning his team to New Orleans.

The bold-faced introduction to Benson’s letter read: “Tom Benson wants to return to New Orleans.”

“After reviewing the reports about our team and the abundance of wide-sweeping negative media commentary and columns, I offer this: No decision has been made about the future of the team,” the letter said. “We have continued to operate and represent the city and fans of New Orleans. When the time is right and the factors that are yet unresolved are resolved, a decision of the future of the team will be made.”

Meanwhile, Shinn went to Baton Rouge before Tuesday night’s preseason game against the Miami Heat at LSU. Shinn announced the Hornets would be raising money for Habitat for Humanity homebuilding projects in the New Orleans area, an effort that began with a telethon during Tuesday night’s game.

“New Orleans is our home, and we are committed to rebuilding New Orleans brick by brick and house by house,” Shinn said. “The Hoops for Homes initiative is important to us as an organization, and to me personally, because it begins the process for our eventual return to a rebuilt and revitalized New Orleans.”

Hurricane Katrina damaged the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Arena, the homes for the Saints and Hornets. Officials at the Superdome say that facility won’t be available for football until 2006 at the earliest. The arena is expected to be ready for basketball by this spring.

In the meantime, the Saints have been based in San Antonio and the Hornets in Oklahoma City. Politicians and business leaders in both places have seized the opportunity to prove their cities would be suitable long-term homes for the franchises. San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger has even discounted New Orleans’ ability to recover sufficiently from the disaster and stated he will work to keep the Saints in Texas permanently.

Benson, who has a home and business relationships in San Antonio, was silent for days after Hardberger’s comments, then added to speculation about his team’s plans by requesting cancellation of his lease of the Saints’ training headquarters in suburban New Orleans.

Shinn has bought a home in Oklahoma City and been highly complimentary of the support for his team there, pointing to aggressive efforts by the business community to take part in sponsorship deals. The Hornets also took “New Orleans” off their home jerseys, bought the Internet domain name “okchornets.com” and changed the official name of the team to the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

All of those developments have made fans nervous in New Orleans. Both teams’ owners addressed the matter this week, with the Hornets being more definitive about returning.

“It’s not a matter of if we return to New Orleans, but when,” Hornets spokesman Michael Thompson said on Wednesday.

Benson has been more noncommittal, saying his business is like many others that have had to re-evaluate their future in a hurricane-ravaged city, much of which was devastated by widespread flooding.

“No one within our organization has offered or made any official comment about what our long-term plans are,” Benson said in his letter. “It is too early to determine, but my desire is to return to New Orleans.”

Benson also shot back at criticism from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Last week, Nagin said he was appalled by talk of the Saints relocating elsewhere, calling it was an insult to longtime fans who are struggling to rebuild their lives. Nagin also said he would not buy tickets to the four upcoming Saints games in Baton Rouge.

“Comments from our current mayor are made without a single phone call being placed to our team to check on our plans or to get the facts,” Benson’s letter said. “If the Saints and Tom Benson were as important to the city as the mayor of our city has claimed in the recent past, why such harsh comments, when a simple phone call could have saved him from embarrassment?”

Nagin was more conciliatory Wednesday, showing up for a public meeting on hurricane recovery sporting a Saints sweatshirt and cap. He was not apologetic, however.

“I expressed what most New Orleanians expressed: frustration with the fact that, while we’re down on our knees — why is this happening?” he said.

He said he wanted to show his support for the team after seeing Benson’s full page ad expressing a desire to stay in New Orleans.

“So I went scrounging around and found this old T-shirt and I’m putting it on saying, ‘Hey, I’m a Saints fan and I’d like to see them here.”’

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