Vilma contributes with more than just tackles

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The music was blasting inside the Jets' big white practice bubble. They were trying to simulate the noise and indoor feel they will experience tomorrow at the Minnesota Vikings' home dome.

Jonathan Vilma stood on the field simulating with them, directing traffic before the scout team's snaps.

The 2005 Pro Bowl linebacker has been cited for being more of a traffic cop and less of a playmaker in the 3-4 defensive system coach Eric Mangini brought here this year.

He has been calling signals and getting guys in the right spots. Then he has been staying in his proper area, meeting up with a lot of linemen and not having as much of a loud impact.

Now, Bucs are targeting Hester

TAMPA -- The late second round of the NFL draft last spring showed how philosophy and decisions based on need can sometimes work against teams.

Instead of trying to move up a few spots for a shot at Devin Hester, the Tampa Bay Bucs stayed put and selected offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood with the 59th overall pick.

The Chicago Bears, who had no first-round pick and no glaring needs, chose Hester, a cornerback / return specialist from the University of Miami, two picks before Trueblood

Raiders' Sapp says Rams ripe to lose Sunday

ALAMEDA, Calif. - The Oakland Raiders have an 85 percent chance of losing Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, based on Oakland's 2-11 record this season. Take the Raiders to win, defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. Huh?

"The money's good this week," Sapp assured everyone within earshot.

That's right, Sapp said. The Raiders stand an 83 percent chance of beating the Rams based on the Rams' playing a Monday night game and then having to play a road game six days later.

Jackson out, Williams in

BEREA — The Browns are pleased with the progress of one rookie inside linebacker and get the chance to analyze a second one starting this week.
Second-round pick D’Qwell Jackson earned raves for his play in the first 13 games but decided to have surgery Thursday to repair a turf toe suffered Dec. 7 versus Pittsburgh. He will likely go on injured reserve next week and miss the remainder of the season.

“I thought he did a really good job to come in and start right away for us,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He was able to hold his own.
“At times he struggled with some of the bigger (offensive linemen), but his instincts allowed him to get around some blocks, come in the back sides of blocks. He was productive as far as making tackles and was good in pass coverage.”

Jackson’s injury allows the Browns to take a three-game look at fourth-round pick Leon Williams out of the University of Miami. Williams has played in every game this year but has been limited to special teams and certain defensive packages. He has three tackles and a pass breakup.

“He’s got some size, got some speed,” Crennel said. “The thing lacking now is experience.

“We have to see how that goes in the game. He’s been in meetings and gotten practice time. I think he’ll be representative.”

Gore breaks through in 4th - AFTER ROUGH START, HE GAINS 106 OF HIS 144 YARDS IN FINAL QUARTER

SEATTLE - Frank Gore laughed off the question. No, he said, he wouldn't play every game against Seattle if it were up to him.

The results, though, appear to tell a different story.

For the first three quarters Thursday, the 49ers running back was mediocre. In the fourth quarter of the 49ers' 24-14 victory against the Seahawks, he was magnificent.

Gore finished with 144 yards in 29 carries, but 106 yards were earned in the fourth quarter. He also caught four passes for 34 yards. And in the Niners' season sweep of the NFC West-leading Seahawks, Gore rushed for 356 yards.

Hester in a class of his own

One thing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do well is cover kickoffs. They are second in the league to Dallas. One reason the Bucs do well is they are the lowest-scoring team in the league, so they don't have to kick off very often.

That is one way to slow down Devin Hester. But even in a copycat league, not many coaches are likely to advise their teams: "Don't score."

There will be other strategies. Special teams coaches everywhere are staying up nights devising ways to keep Hester from putting them out of work. That means the Bears have to stay innovative too.

Vilma sacks claim 3-4 scheme isn't for him

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Following last Sunday's 31-13 loss to Buffalo, Bills left tackle Jason Peters echoed the sentiments of the media by saying Jets inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma and the 3-4 defensive scheme are a bad marriage.

Vilma, who has struggled making the adjustment from the 4-3, was credited with just one tackle against the Bills.

"I got up on him a couple of times," Peters told Jets Confidential The Magazine. "He doesn't like it when somebody gets up on him and blocks him. He's more of a sideline-to-sideline, fill-the-gap type of guy. He's more of a 4-3 guy. The 3-4, I don't know. It's going to be hard for him to make plays in the 3-4."

Johnson learned a lot from Feagles

Jeff Feagles already was a veteran punter when he and Dirk Johnson first met in 1998 at Seattle Seahawks training camp.

Johnson, who now punts for the Eagles, was there essentially trying to beat out Feagles for a job. But Feagles, who now punts for the Giants, wasn't exactly intimidated.

"I was wearing these three-quarter top shoes, with mud all over them and held together by Velcro," Johnson recalled. "He just kind of laughed at me, and he said, "What's that?"

Despite struggles, James nears 1,000

TEMPE, Ariz. - Despite all his struggles in his first year in Arizona, Edgerrin James is closing in on a 1,000-yard season.

That's no big deal for James. He topped 1,000 in each of his last three seasons in Indianapolis and five times in his seven NFL seasons. But the Cardinals haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Murrell in 1998.

With three games to play, James has 925 yards and is coming off consecutive 100-yard efforts in victories over St. Louis and Seattle.

"Anything that's good for the franchise is good for me," James said after Thursday's practice. "It would be something that shows that the offensive line has improved. It would be a nice accomplishment, but me, I'd like to be in the playoffs and play for that Super Bowl ring. I've had 1,000 yards."

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK ; Wilfork Not Likely to Play

FOXBORO - The Patriots are preparing to face Houston this weekend without standout nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who sprained his ankle Sunday in Miami.

Wilfork is listed as questionable on the injury report but, according to a source, he is unlikely to play as a precautionary measure.

If Wilfork can't go, he'll be replaced by second-year pro Mike Wright, an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati who has worked his way into the defensive line rotation.

"Vince is Vince. There's only one," defensive end Ty Warren said yesterday. "But Mike, he's been around here two years. We expect and the coaches expect and I'm sure he expects himself to go out there and help the best way he can."

Leon Williams Gets His First Start

Rookie Leon Williams will get his first start at inside linebacker in the regular defense. Williams will line up on the strong side, with Andra Davis moving to the weak side.

"It's an opportunity," Williams said. "I love being out there playing football."
Williams has played sparingly since he was used to "spy" Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons. He had a solid game in the Browns' win, and now faces the back - Jamal Lewis - who set an all-time NFL record against the Browns.

"That was a few years ago," Williams said. "It's a different team this year. The past doesn't matter."

Williams brings a little more size than Jackson to the position. He's 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Jackson is 6-foot and 228.

Cortez Kennedy Graduated Today

Returning 16 years after he started at the Univeristy of Miami, Cortez Kennedy received his bachelors degree in Liberal Arts today. Cortez was one of the students spotlighted during this winter's graduation. Cortez is a coaching consultant for the New Orleans Saints. Randy Shannon was called down after his introduction for a group photo.

Congrats to Cortez!

If you want to watch the video
Click Here and go to the 1 hour and 33rd minute mark.

NFL by the Numbers - Devin Hester

2 ... Bears rookie Devin Hester has six combined kick returns for touchdowns in 13 games, not only establishing an NFL single-season record for combined kick returns for touchdowns but also putting him almost halfway to the NFL record of 13 career kick returns for TDs set over 14 years by Brian Mitchell. Hester, who had only returned two kickoffs in his life, is the sixth player in NFL history to return two for touchdowns in the same game.

Click Here for Full Picture.


Hester on offense is a no-brainer

Need I remind Lovie Smith that LaDainian Tomlinson, greatest runner since Sweetness, might reduce his suddenly vulnerable defense to a collage of spilled ketchup, used dental floss and shredded peat moss? Need I suggest the Chargers, Ravens and Bengals would beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI? That his team might not survive possible back-to-back lakefront visits by Dallas and New Orleans in January?

Should I alert His Loveness that Dan Marino, Hall of Fame quarterback, still believes Rex Grossman must be on a short leash? Tell him the Bears did nothing more the other evening than pull away from a lowly opponent, one of nine losing teams they've played in a season in which their 16 foes currently have a collective 86-122 record? Should I nudge him about the injured list growing longer as the weather grows colder? Basically, doesn't he need all the help he possibly can muster as the playoffs approach? Shouldn't he be tapping every imaginable resource?

Yes, I think I need to have a talk with the man. Because Lovie is not thinking straight. If he were of the right mind, he wouldn't have spent Wednesday dropping this shocking bit of logic about America's newest sports conversation piece:

Devin Hester will NOT be used as an offensive weapon.

Johnson frustrated despite career season

HOUSTON (AP) - Texans receiver Andre Johnson should be enjoying the best season of his life. But losing is getting in the way.

On the day NFL players cast their Pro Bowl votes, Johnson said there have been enjoyable parts of what figures to be a career season that will top his Pro Bowl year of 2004. He's just having a hard time getting past a 4-9 record that has the Texans headed for a second straight last-place finish in the AFC South.

"It's just frustrating," said Johnson, who has a career-high 92 catches and is 93 yards from his highest yardage total of 1,142. "It's hard when you accomplish something and you sit back and look at it and you didn't help your team win."

Johnson can become the 35th NFL player to catch 100 passes in a season, and he admits that's special.

"I remember when coach (Gary) Kubiak first came here, he came to me and said, 'What do you think about 100 balls?' I said, 'Yeah! I'm with it,'" Johnson said. "But still, it would be a lot better if we were winning."

Bears’ Hester already getting jobs lined up

LAKE FOREST — If some company along the lines of Target or Wal-Mart were smart, they’d secure Devin Hester right now to be their post-holiday spokesman.

Imagine having Hester saying not only can you returns kicks fast, you can also return your gifts just as quickly at such and such a store.

By that point, that particular company would simply be standing in line itself. Hester, after setting an NFL record for scoring returns with six, already is being targeted for promotions.

“A telephone deal. Nike deals are starting to come around. Commercial shoots here and there,” he said Wednesday at Halas Hall.


Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, signed in October, made his first interception since 2004 while with the Raiders. Buchanon started at left cornerback, splitting reps with Bolden, who has a sore quadriceps.

"You can't make plays when you're on the sideline," said Buchanon, whose interception in the end zone came in the second quarter.

"I'm thankful for the chance."


Vilma Update

Jonathan Vilma's struggles are being noted by opponents. "I got up on him a couple of times," Bills LT Jason Peters told Jets Confidential after playing against him Sunday, when Vilma was credited with one tackle. "He doesn't like it when somebody gets up on him and blocks him. He is more of a sideline-to-sideline, fill-the-gap type of guy. He is more of a 4-3 guy. The 3-4, I don't know. It's going to be hard for him to make plays in the 3-4."


Leon Williams Likely To Start

With D'Qwell Jackson listed as doubtful for Week 15, Browns rookie Leon Williams is expected to start at inside linebacker against Baltimore. We've not heard much from former Miami Hurricane this season, as he's been excelling almost strictly on special teams. Williams could be a good source of tackles and may hold up better at the point of attack because he is considerably bigger than the man he is set to spell.


Wilfork not likely to play

FOXBORO - The Patriots [team stats] are preparing to face Houston this weekend without standout nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats], who sprained his ankle Sunday in Miami.

Wilfork is listed as questionable on the injury report but, according to a source, he is unlikely to play as a precautionary measure.

If Wilfork can’t go, he’ll be replaced by second-year pro Mike Wright, an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati who has worked his way into the defensive line rotation.

49ers' best shot at a title is Gore's run for top rusher

The 49ers still have a crown within their reach.

It's not the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It's the league's individual rushing title.

Frank Gore can win it, remarkably in only his second season since the 49ers drafted him out of the University of Miami.

The Kansas City Chiefs' Larry Johnson and the San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson are the only players with more rushing yards than Gore, and those two will meet Sunday night in an AFC West clash in San Diego with playoff implications on the line.

The 49ers' playoff hopes are shot, courtesy of a 5-8 record and three-game skid. But the team still can escort Gore to the NFL rushing throne.

Porter apologizes, but not to Winslow

Linebacker Joey Porter apologized yesterday to anyone he might have offended over some crude remarks he made Thursday, except for the target of his comments -- Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow.

"I would just like to say it was a poor choice of words in the comment I made toward Winslow," Porter said. "If I offended anybody, I apologize for that."

Porter twice called Winslow a name considered derogatory when used to describe gay men.

"I guess how we used that word freely, me growing up using it, I didn't think nothing of it like that," Porter said. "Like I said, I apologize to anybody I offended on it.

"I didn't mean to offend nobody but Kellen Winslow. Pretty much, that's it about that."

Hester Named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Hester, the Special Teams Player of the Week, had a record-breaking performance in the Bears 42-27 win over the St. Louis Rams. The rookie returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and set the NFL single-season record with six touchdown returns. Hester scored his first touchdown of the game on a 94- yard return in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, he took a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

This year, Hester has an NFL-record five combined kick-return touchdowns (three on punts, two on kickoffs) and tied the mark for the longest play in NFL history with a 108-yard touchdown return on a missed field goal. He leads the NFL with a 14.4-yard average.

In his rookie season, this is Hester's second consecutive Player of the Week Award and the third of his career. He is the first special teams player to earn the award in back-to-back weeks since 2004.


Hester wows all-time greats

By the time Billy ''White Shoes'' Johnson had returned to his suburban Atlanta home from his Bible study group Monday, the Bears-Rams game was into the second quarter.

He had just taken a seat in his living room when he saw rookie return sensation Devin Hester approach the wedge along the Bears' sideline.

''I was just getting comfortable when he hit that thing outside,'' said Johnson, an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Atlanta Falcons. ''I said, 'Oh, gosh!' because he outran the angle, and it was over.

''It is great to be a feared man. I am sure he will tell you that.''

NFL Insider: Sapp-y outlook: Raiders deserve four in Pro Bowl

These hardly are the best of times for the Raiders. Still, wily veteran Warren Sapp says there might be consolation for the 2-11 team if some of its defensive standouts make the Pro Bowl.

"Our defense is solid," said the 12th-year defensive tackle, who was a Super Bowl champion with Tampa Bay and seven-time Pro Bowl player but has experienced mostly frustration in three years with Oakland.

If Sapp had his druthers, though, as many as four Raiders would be chosen for the NFL's all-star game in Honolulu on Feb. 10. He especially doesn't hide his praise for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a 2003 first-round pick from Cal who is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, and defensive end Derrick Burgess, making a run at a second consecutive NFL sack title with 10.

Rocky McIntosh Update

Redskins LB Roger McIntosh says he had no idea why he was relegated to special-teams duty without getting to work with the first-team defense prior to Week 14. The coaches had told him to keep studying his playbook before giving him his first extended action with the base "D" vs. Philly.


Jeff Feagles Update

Jeff Feagles became the first punter to put six kicks down inside the 20-yard line since Carolina's Todd Sauerbrun did it on Dec. 22, 2002 against Chicago.


Seahawks hope to shut down 49ers Gore

SEATTLE - Mike Holmgren is hoping to get a better defensive effort against this time.

"I think we'd like to tackle him," the Seattle coach said. "We didn't do that in the first game."

Less than a month ago, Gore slashed through the Seahawks' questionable run defense for a San Francisco-record 212 yards rushing in the 49ers' 20-14 victory that made the defending NFC champion look anything but formidable.

Neon Deion reveling in Hester's success

CHICAGO -- Devin Hester got close to the end zone and started to do a high-stepping strut the final few yards. It was a tribute - or as he called it a "shout out" - to his mentor, Deion Sanders.

Even the original "Prime Time" was shaking his head at the latest from Hester, who has an NFL-record six returns for touchdowns this season.

"It's sort of like I really can't believe, can't fathom," Sanders said Tuesday in a conference call.

What can Wilfork do for you?

At the heart of the Patriots defense, which ranks third in the NFL at stopping the run, is its defensive line. The anchor of the Patriots defensive line - and at 325 pounds, he’s a fitting one – is nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He’s appeared in every game the Patriots have played since entering the league in 2004.

Like most nose tackles in the NFL, his numbers on paper aren’t dramatically impressive. He’s recorded four quarterback hurries, a pass defensed and a sack this season.

What matters to the team is what Wilfork does for everyone else.

Take the way fellow defensive lineman Ty Warren described his most recent sack, which happened three defensive plays into Sunday’s game, as an example.

Hester: Two for the book - Rookie returner burns Rams twice to break NFL record break

ST. LOUIS -- Just imagine how many touchdowns Devin Hester might have if he had been returning kickoffs all season.

The electric return man not only cemented his place in the Pro Bowl on Monday night, he carved out a space for his name in the NFL record books. Just don't be too quick to ink his new mark in, you might need an eraser because there are three games and who knows how many more returns left.

Hester torched the St. Louis Rams for two touchdowns, becoming the sixth player in league history with more than one in a single game. His 94-yard return in the first quarter answered the Rams' first touchdown, which Torry Holt scored on Hester. His second came with the hands team on the field and the Bears expecting an onside kick from Jeff Wilkins after St. Louis had pulled within 35-20 with more than seven minutes to play.

McGahee battles through illness

Just give him a ham sandwich and he'll be all right.

That was exactly the formula for Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee in Sunday's 31-13 upset of the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

McGahee battled his way both through an upset stomach and a porous New York run defense, amassing 125 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
McGahee averaged 7.8 yards per carry, which was a single-game best.

'My stomach got upset,' said McGahee, who replenished his body with a ham sandwich on the sideline. 'I didn't eat anything before the game because I had to come out to the stadium earlier than I usually do.'

'Devin Can't Wait' a reel football classic

ST. LOUIS -- If a game could be reduced to watching Devin Hester nodding and talking to himself, bobbing his head while awaiting a kick that he can deliver to the house any time whatsoever, you'd have no worries. We are witnessing maybe the greatest returner ever, the most pulsating No. 23 in Chicago since You Know Who, and I am tempted to place him in a cocoon and forget about the rest of the Bears, including Rex Grossman.

''It looks like the gates of heaven just opening up for me,'' said Heaven Devin.

Call him unfriggin'believable. Call him the freak of freaks. Call him Gale Sayers, Deion Sanders, a miracle in stick-on eye black. Give him a nickname, too, like Billy (White Shoes) Johnson. All you need to know about Hester, as he returned two more kicks for touchdowns Monday night and blew away the NFL single-season record and every St. Louis ghost in his path, is that the normally humdrum Lovie Smith was boogeying down the sideline after his 96-yard sprint in the fourth quarter.


Wilfork’s loss would hurt big

FOXBORO - As far as playoff seeding goes, the Patriots’ 21-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday was mighty costly. The Pats can only hope that’s the only way they’ll be paying for it.

Both tight end Benjamin Watson and nose tackle Vince Wilfork went down in the third quarter with leg injuries, and neither returned.

Neither was in the locker room yesterday.

“It’s the Monday after the game,” Pats coach Bill Belichick yesterday said. “Everybody’s sore, everybody’s getting treatment. We’ll see where we are on Wednesday. The crystal ball’s a little cloudy today.”

Rams marvel at Hester's ability as kick returner

Early in the second quarter Monday night, the Rams took a 6-0 lead over Chicago. Thirteen seconds later, the Bears were in front by a point.

Then midway through the final period, the Rams closed to a two-touchdown deficit, 35-20. Thirteen seconds later, the Bears had regained a 22-point cushion.

Instant production came in the form of record-setting rookie Devin Hester, a second-round draft pick out of Miami. His 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown erased the Rams' early lead; his 96-yard jaunt to the end zone snuffed the home team's late rally.

Winslow about Porter: 'Classless act'

Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. called it a "classless act" for Steelers linebacker Joey Porter to call him a derogatory term for a homosexual.

Porter used the term against Winslow twice in reference to his late hit on James Farrior in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 27-7 victory over the Browns.

"All I can say is he's entitled to his opinion, and he's a great player, and I have great respect for Joey Porter," said Winslow. "If he wants to be a tough guy or whatever, that's fine. But that's a classless act. I see what type of guy he is now and just lost a little respect for him."

NFL U Week 14 Video Highlights Both Hester Returns are up!

Check out Week 14 NFL U Video Highlights featuring both of Hester's Kickoff Returns, Shockey's TD, Edge's TD and more! Click at the top on NFL U Video Highlights or click here!

McIntosh Makes His Defensive Debut at Linebacker

Washington Redskins rookie Rocky McIntosh played with the first defensive unit in its base package for the first time this season. McIntosh, the Redskins' top pick in the April draft, has been a consistent performer on special teams but until yesterday had not been able to crack the defensive rotation at weak-side linebacker.

McIntosh made his first impact play a week ago on special teams when he blocked a punt against Atlanta.

"I think he was good," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "He had that youthful bounce that young guys have."

Orien Harris Update

Roye to IR: DL Orpheus Roye’s season is over as he was placed on the injured reserve. Crennel said he has an MCL and it should heal on its own and no surgery is currently planned.

"I wanted to give Orpheus some time to see if could improve," he said. "It doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to come back."

To take Roye’s place on the roster they added DL Orien Harris, who was on the Steelers’ practice squad.
Crennel said he wants Roye to return to his form from 2005.

"I think it’s pretty important because Orpheus is one of the more consistent guys on the defensive front," he said. "The thing about this year he hasn’t been totally healthy all year."


NFL U Week 14 Season Gallery Updated

Check out Week 14 pictures to NFL U Gallery. Check out more pictures of Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James and more by clicking above on NFL U Season Gallery or click here.

Performance by Buffalo’s McGahee Leaves Sick Feeling

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 10 — When Willis McGahee dashed into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown against the Jets, he made a quick U-turn toward the Buffalo Bills’ sideline and kept on moving.

He scooted past his coaches, dodged his teammates and finally found a sliver of light by the Bills’ bench.

And then he threw up.

“I asked him, ‘Are you all right?’ ” said J. P. Losman, the Bills’ quarterback. “He was sick.”

Lehigh grad Buchanon gets pick


TAMPA — In a game that featured few highlights for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, cornerback Phillip Buchanon made one of them.

In the third quarter, with Tampa Bay leading 6-0, the Falcons were threatening to score.
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick dropped back on third down with 4 yards to go for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Buchanon, who played at Lehigh Senior High and the University of Miami, dropped back as well, covering Atlanta receiver Ashley Lelie one-on-one.

Porter uses sexual slur against Winslow

Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter should expect to hear from the NFL after he referred to Browns tight end Kellen Winslow as a slur that is associated with a person's sexual orientation Thursday night.

The Steelers beat the Browns 27-7 at Heinz Field and afterward Porter was still fuming about a play in which Winslow got called for a personal foul for a late hit on Steelers linebacker James Farrior.

It happened in the fourth quarter.

"It was late, that's what (slur) do," Porter said. "He's soft. He wants to be tough but he's really soft."

Another record-breaking day for Gore

Except for his seventh lost fumble of the season, which led to a gift field goal for the Packers, it was another good day for second-year running back Frank Gore, who set a team record with his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season during the 49ers’ 30-19 loss. Here’s a rundown on some of Gore’s exploits from the game:

--- Gore’s 72-yard run in the first quarter ties his career long run. He had a 72-yard touchdown run at Washington on October 23, 2005.

--- Gore entered the game with an NFL-leading 13 rushes of 20 or more yards and increased the total to 14 with the 72-yard run. Gore now has five runs of 40 or more yards in 2006.

McGahee eats Jets for lunch

Moments after he barreled through the Jets' defensive line and scored on a 57-yard first-quarter dash, a nauseous Willis McGahee threw up on the sideline and was in dire need of something to fill his stomach to boost his waning energy.

So, the Buffalo running back ordered a submarine sandwich and ate a late lunch on the sideline during the first half.

"It was a ham and cheese," McGahee said. "Something basic. I took the cheese off because the dairy product probably would have made it worse."

Sapp's lament: `We didn't give ourselves a chance'

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Bengals had the ball deep in Raiders territory in the fourth quarter Sunday, on the verge of scoring yet another touchdown. Normally, players crowd the sideline, watching the proceedings and exhorting their teammates to make a play.

Almost every Raider not on the field was seated on one of the benches, far from the field and out of view from the goings on. As it turned out, all they missed was quarterback Anthony Wright kneeling down for three plays to run out the clock.

The Raiders had seen enough of the Bengals to know that whatever happened on the final drive wouldn't hide the fact that they had been outplayed and outclassed by a better team in a 27-10 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

``This one hurts,'' Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. ``This one stings. It wasn't even close. We didn't give ourselves a chance.''


This week the Green Bay Packers were given quite the scare when Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks failed to show up for work. Repeat calls to his home phone and cell phone were made and still, no answer.

Franks is one of the most reliable players on the team — a solid professional who would never miss work much less show up late.

The Packers, fearing the worst, went so far as to dispatch a member of the team to Franks' house to investigate with the hope of getting to the bottom of it. The team official repeatedly banged on the door and a window to no response. Fortunately, Franks finally responded and it turned out his alarm clock never went off and he was just in a deep sleep.

Still, because Franks is the consummate pro the team feared the worst. Luckily, their fears never came to fruition.


"Gore"-y Return for Alexander

SAN FRANCISCO, Cali - The San Francisco 49ers have worked themselves into the N.F.C playoff hunt by grabbing a 20 to 0 lead in a 20 to 14 win over Seattle. Frank Gore ran for 212 yards on 24 carries, including a 51-yard scamper that set up Joe Nedney's 39-yard field goal in the first quarter. Alex Smith threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the Niners' third straight win, which leaves San Francisco just a game behind the first-place Seahawks in the N.F.C West. He tossed a nine-yard T-D pass to Arnaz Battle, then ran for a one-yard run that put the 49ers ahead 17 to 0 in the second quarter. Smith was 19 of 25 for 163 yards and no interceptions for the 5-5 Niners. Seneca Wallace passed for 252 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions for the 6-4 Seahawks. Seattle running back Shaun Alexander had 37 rushing yards on 17 carries in his first action since missing two months with a broken foot.


McGahee will test Jets - Running back hopes to show up ex-teammate

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Willis McGahee leaned into the microphone for effect, knowing each playful jab eventually would get back to Jonathan Vilma.

"Jon, you can't stop me, bro," the Buffalo Bills running back said. "Just case closed, that's it."

And with that, the friendly rivalry between the former college teammates was back on. The two will meet again today when the Jets (7-5) play host to the Bills (5-7) at the Meadowlands.

"Tell Willis that's cute," the New York linebacker said with a big grin. "That's real cute. Tell him when he gets Defensive Rookie of the Year and he gets to the Pro Bowl and he gets to the playoffs, then we can talk."

Sapp rising for Bengals game

Oakland's Warren Sapp has a little extra motivation Sunday when the Raiders play at Cincinnati. He says the Bengals nearly signed him in 2004 before backing out of a potential deal.

"They snatched the offer off the table," he told reporters this week.

Sapp, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time after having been released by Tampa Bay, said the Bengals "gave me an hour to take the offer.

"I called back in 57 minutes and they took the offer off the table. They said they were bidding against themselves."


James, Alexander struggling after stellar seasons

SEATTLE - A year ago, they were two running backs approaching free agency at full speed.

Shaun Alexander set the league's season touchdown record, and Edgerrin James surpassed 1,500 yards rushing for the fourth time in seven NFL seasons.

They were two Cadillacs headed toward the open market with one caveat: their mileage. Each was well past the average career span of an NFL player, but Alexander and James were anything but average.

They run into each other today, the second intersection of their star-crossed seasons. Alexander was stopped for six games by a broken foot, while James has been battered behind a busted line after going from Indianapolis to Arizona.

A Look Back At Last Week's News

- CNNSI Ranks The Last 20 Heisman Winners
- Q & A With Frank Gore
- Hester's Role Expected to Expand
- Moss' hamstring back to full strength
- Texan's Johnson in the mold of former Bills WR
- McKinnie gets nastier - Talented tackle says Hutchinson has made him more aggressive
- McDougle Courageous
- Willis McGahee Talks Some Trash to Vilma (video)
- Jamaal Green Update
- Beane Arrives and Lands Piazza
- Hester Named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week
- Blades carries UM torch
- Redskins Portis Has Shoulder Surgery
- Dallas Green Calls out Burrell
- Lang Debuts with Bang