Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cincinnati Bengals Top Wash Redskins 19-3; Clinton Portis Hurt -

And to add insult to injury, the Bengals used a flea-flicker in preseason.

Bengals stop Redskins; Portis injured wire reports

CINCINNATI (Aug. 13, 2006) -- Clinton Portis didn't even want to be on the field for the first preseason game. Now, the dependable running back isn't sure if he can be on the field when it counts.

The Washington Redskins' revamped offense took a significant jolt Sunday night when Portis partially dislocated his left shoulder during a 19-3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, leaving him sidelined indefinitely.

"Right now, it's tough to say," coach Joe Gibbs said. "Obviously, it's going to be a while."

Portis ran for a club-record 1,516 yards last season, when Washington made the playoffs as a wild-card team, and was counted on to steady an offense retooled by assistant coach Al Saunders in the offseason.

Instead, Washington is wondering how long it will be without its best running back -- something Portis can't comprehend.

Portis opened the game with an 8-yard carry, then blocked for Mark Brunell's passes. When Brunell's sixth throw was intercepted by cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, Portis ran him down and reached to make the tackle.

His left arm was extended when he hit Ratliff, momentarily knocking the bone part of the way out of the shoulder socket. An MRI confirmed the injury.

"After that 8-yard run, I was like, 'Get me out of that game,"' Portis said. "That's what I was thinking. It's football. It can happen to anyone. It happened to me."

Standard treatment involves rest and strengthening exercises. Portis had the left arm in a blue sling after the game, when he lobbied for regulars to play less in the preseason.

"For whoever's watching: Let's get rid of some of these games," Portis said. "Four games is ridiculous. Then you play a 16-game season and the playoffs behind that."

Gibbs planned to keep Portis and his other starters in the game for only a short time.

"We wanted to have one good drive," Gibbs said. "We didn't want him to carry the ball more than one or two times."

Mark Brunell threw an interception while under pressure. Clinton Portis was injured making the tackle on the return.
Without Portis, the running game will depend upon backup Ladell Betts, who ran for 338 yards last season and missed four games because of a knee injury.

"Who knows what it is?" Portis said of his injury. "Even if it's not serious, to be nicked up for the first week of the season ..."

For Cincinnati, the opener was a chance to gauge what the offense will look like if Carson Palmer isn't ready to start the season. Palmer stood on the sideline in a white Bengals T-shirt and gray sweat pants, watching newcomer Anthony Wright make a lackluster debut.

The Bengals failed to get a first down on their first three series behind Wright, a free-agent quarterback signed less than four months ago. He was sacked twice and looked indecisive in those three drives.

He finally got going with the help of a flea-flicker -- a trick play seldom used in preseason -- that surprised the Redskins. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was unguarded downfield for a 52-yard catch, setting up Wright's 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry.

"I think overall it was a good start, for the first time," Wright said. "There's a lot of complications to this offense."

Wright was 9-of-16 in the first half for 101 yards, more than half of them on the one trick play. Doug Johnson went 11-of-14 for 128 yards with a touchdown and three sacks in the second half, when both teams played their backups.

Palmer tore ligaments in his left knee during a playoff loss to Pittsburgh in January and had reconstructive surgery. He's not expected to play until at least the third preseason game, leaving his status unclear.

Bengals Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson showed up with a new look -- his mohawk was dyed blond -- but didn't catch a pass in limited action. Johnson had shaved his head for games in the past.

Receiver Chris Henry, one of six Bengals either arrested or suspended in recent months, had six catches for 61 yards. Henry is scheduled to go on trial on a gun charge in Florida later this month.

Brunell played only two series, going 4-of-9 for 66 yards with the interception by Ratliff that was Portis' final play. Backup Todd Collins finished the first half, going 6-of-13 for 68 yards with an interception. Collins also was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

Matt Leinart Demands Arizona Cardinals Hold Training Camp At His House - Onion Sports

PHOENIX—Arizona Cardinals first-round draft pick quarterback Matt Leinart has stunned the team by not only holding out on signing his rookie contract but demanding that training camp be moved to the more convenient location of his house.

"I don't see why we have to go to all the way up to Flagstaff for camp. What do we need? A pool? Because I've got a pool. And some weights, and a 72-inch plasma television for, like, film study," the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback told coach Dennis Green Wednesday.

"And, oh, I just got this huge dining-room table that'd be great for drawing up plays, or even just, you know, chowing down." Football experts consider it unlikely that Cardinals management will accommodate Leinart, especially after strongly considering but ultimately rejecting his previous suggestion that the team play all its home games in Los Angeles.

Reggie Bush' 44-Yard Run - Video

In this video, New Orleans Saints Running Back Reggie Bush shows the speed that made him Heisman Trophy Winner and the second pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, during his first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

Raiders Tyler Brayton Moved To Defensive End - Oakland Tribune

Coach Art Shell reshapes the Oakland Defense.

Raiders LB experiments have mixed results
Irons finds himself a new home, while Brayton returns to defensive end spot
By Bill Soliday, STAFF WRITER - Oakland Tribune

NAPA — When last visited, Oakland Raiders defensive ends Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons were being reinvented into linebackers — one willingly, one if not unwillingly, with at least a degree of skepticism.
One switch worked. One didn't, and change is in effect.
Brayton is back at defensive end, the position at which he was drafted in the first round in 2003. Irons, an undrafted rookie that same year, is still plying his trade as a linebacker.
Both are delighted. And, in Brayton's case, there is no longer need for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to tell his player to keep his thoughts to himself and just play ball.
"Sometimes you have certain needs, and people have to adapt to those needs," Ryan said by way of explaining originally switching Brayton.
There has been speculation that the move took the heart out of Brayton, who was drafted largely because of his nonstop motor. Ryan would disagree.
"Tyler has always been a team player," he said. "Right now, he is working down at defensive end, and obviously that's where we think it's best for the team.
"With him, you always get hard work, and you always get 100 percent. That's all you can ask from a guy."
Irons had an impressive debut in last weekend's exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, living up to the nickname coaches and teammates have bestowed upon him — "Game Ready."
He administered a sack, forcing Jeff Garcia to fumble and threw running back Bruce Perry for a 5-yard loss.
"This is my fifth year in the NFL," Irons said, explaining that his goal is to play with what he calls aggressivefrom Sports 1
passion. "Each and every year there is more to learn, and I want to improve and get better. It's all been a learning experience and a great journey."
"He's been doing a great job," Ryan said. "He has really improved. He's another smart guy. He has great talent. His abilities really help us on defense. He can make plays. We like those kinds of guys."
There wasn't much to Brayton's first game back at end. He had one tackle, and it would be a stretch to say the starting line distinguished itself.
However, if happiness is the measure of a man's potential, Brayton's future looks bright indeed.
It was during the off-season that Brayton learned he was being reinstalled at end.
"It was still on the fence going into the off-season," he said. "I just kind of took it upon myself. I got in the weight room ... put on a few pounds. I just put it in my mind that's where I was going to be, and it turned out that's where coaches told me to be. Once I found that out, I knew I was going in the right direction."
Coach Art Shell broke the news to Brayton.
"I said 'Tyler, you're a defensive end,'" Shell recounted. "He said, 'Thanks a lot, coach. I really appreciate it. I'll show you what I can do from that position.'"
For the most part, Brayton toed the company line when he had been asked to play in the up position. However, on occasion he acknowledged the strangeness of it all.
"I had played my entire career with my hand on the ground," he said.
However, if he was fighting it, he kept it to himself.
"It was one of those deals where I'm going to do whatever they ask me to do the best I can," he said. "You can't sit there and complain about anything. My (approach) was it wasn't a position, it was a disposition. So, outside linebacker, defensive end — there wasn't a ton of difference. But it's definitely a lot more comfortable being a defensive end."
Brayton refuses to say the experiment was a total loss.
"Playing outside linebacker has given me a whole new perspective," he said. "You get to see the whole field. You know what everybody does on the defense. You understand what we're trying to accomplish with every blitz and every movement, in every defense.
"Sometimes, when you play defensive line, you get locked in and think 'I need to be here or here,' and that's it. You don't really understand why. Understanding helps you get the job done that much better.
"I don't think it was a waste at all."
Brayton wants to play at 270 pounds. Although he was being fashioned as a linebacker carrying 10 fewer pounds, the team believes he is stout enough to play on goal-line situations.
"I think 270 is an ideal weight for me," he said. 'It's just a matter of getting used to getting my pads down again, getting underneath blockers."
Getting used to being at home.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick's Concerned About Defense and "Reaction Plays"

Here's what may be a chnk in the armor of the New England Patriots defense: how they play against what Heach Coach Bill Belichick calls "reaction plays" like screens, boolegs, and draws.

The Coach expressed this concern in the Saturday press conference after the game against the Falcons.

As bootleg passes are becoming the norm in NFL 2006, the Patriots defense is going to have a hard time this year if they don't correct that problem.

But considering they play a 3-4, those plays will be a constant thorn in the side of the New England Defense.

Vikings Coach Brad Childress Puts Clamps On Hazing Of Rookies - ESPN

MANKATO, Minn. -- Fred Smoot couldn't wait to get rookie cornerback Cedric Griffin to training camp.

Entering his sixth NFL season, Smoot has become an expert in the time-honored tradition of rookie hazing.

"When we first got here, Smoot and some of those guys were talking about shaving my eyebrows off, cutting my dreadlocks, shaving people's legs, pouring water on me when I go to sleep," said Griffin, a second-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings.

There was a time when hazing was as much a part of Vikings training camp as two-a-days in the August heat. But new coach Brad Childress put a stop to that this year, issuing a no-hazing edict that has made life easier for his first-year players.

"Awwww, never!" Smoot recalled saying when he first heard about the rule. "But he did it. He really wanted us to focus on winning, and I respect that. I just wish he was my coach my rookie year."

Smoot was drafted by Washington in 2001, coming to a team loaded with veterans like Bruce Smith and Darrell Green who knew how to make a rookie's life miserable.

"My first practice they made me tackle everybody, then they taped me to the goal post and poured some water on me and left me there for about two hours," Smoot said. "Then ... I make it to my room and my mattress was thrown out the window. So I had to sleep with no mattress and no alarm clock. They had stole my TV and my alarm clock out of my room for like four or five days."

Ever since that tough initiation, Smoot has relished returning the favor.

Not under Childress's watch. The no-nonsense coach sees hazing not as harmless fun, but as a potentially divisive force.

"You better be inclusive," Childress told his players. "You better pull people into the pile, because if that guy can help you win and you're a seven-year player and you think that doing something to him or making him get up and sing or alienating him is going to help you, no, it's not."

Childress isn't the only one to feel that way. Across the nation, stories of hazing incidents gone wrong have grabbed headlines, most notably at the college level.

In June, Northwestern's women's soccer coach resigned and several players were suspended after photographs appeared on a Web site allegedly showing members of the team clad only in T-shirts and underwear, some blindfolded and others with their hands tied behind their back.

"Hazing is something that happened in high school, it happened in college," said Chad Greenway, the Vikings' first-round pick. "I was guessing something would happen here, but Coach Childress has been strong in that we won't have any of that and it's nice to hear as a rookie."

It's yet another stark contrast between Childress and his predecessor, Mike Tice, who in some respects was more like a bullying older brother to his players than a coach.

Under Tice, rookies had to stand up during lunch and sing their college fight song and put on a "talent show" later in camp.

Most of it was the kind of good-natured fun found at many NFL stops, including when defensive end Erasmus James had his clothes stolen out of his locker, dipped in cold water and thrown outside on a frigid December afternoon to freeze solid.

But the prank infuriated James, which is just what Childress is hoping to avoid.

"We're not a team that hazes because, hey, we want all hands on deck," Childress said. "If there's four [rookies] who can contribute, or three, we want them there if they can help us win."

Offensive lineman Chris Liwienski said his fellow veterans initially were disappointed with the policy, but they have been understanding.

"The league is competitive, and if we need rookies to step in and make plays for us then we need to start embracing them as teammates as early as we can and not alienate them," said Liwienski, who was taped to the goal post and covered in shaving cream as a rookie.

It's just one less thing to worry about for Griffin. While rookies across the league lie awake at night wondering when the vets are coming for them, Griffin dozes off peacefully.

"I'm happy about the situation," the former Texas Longhorn said. "I can actually go to sleep at night without being afraid about who is coming to get me."

Deion Branch Ready To Sit Out Most Of Season - Pats Blog

According to this post -- click title -- from Patriots blog, WR Deion Branch is prepared to sit out the majority of the season to get the contract he feels he deserves. I personally think Branch is right to do this, and the Pats are perhaps playing this in an unwise fashion.

Deion Branch's value to the organization is obvious by the role he's played in their games. From the outside looking in, this seems to be less a business decision and more of a "who's the boss" approach -- that kind of negotiating style's not only unintelligent, but serves no one well at all.

Because of it, Branch sits out, and the Pats receiver corps quality stuffers.

San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers Goes 15 for 21; LaDainian Tomlinson Sits Out - Chargers Beat Packers 17-3

I'm still not convinced Rivers is the best choice over Drew Brees. This is just the first game of preseason.

Rivers impresses as Chargers top Packers wire reports

SAN DIEGO (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer has high expectations for new quarterback Philip Rivers.

Rivers didn't disappoint in his debut, throwing for 169 first-half yards and leading two early scoring drives in a 17-3 victory over Green Bay in Saturday night's preseason opener for both teams.

"I thought he played excellent," Schottenheimer said. "He played pretty much like I expect him to."

The Chargers showed their faith in Rivers, a third-year pro, by letting Drew Brees leave for New Orleans during the offseason.

Cool in the pocket and crisp with his passes, Rivers completed 15-of-21 while playing the entire first half except for the final play. He connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson on the Chargers' opening series to cap a 64-yard drive, then engineered an 18-play, 86-yard scoring march the first time they had the ball in the second quarter.

Philip Rivers looked in control of the Chargers offense.
"He was standing in the pocket, stepping into his passes like he's been doing his whole life," said Keenan McCardell, San Diego's leading wide receiver last season.

"Nobody in the huddle had any doubt. He gave you all what you wanted to see," added McCardell, who had two receptions for 22 yards in the victory.

Rivers took the game in stride.

"We threw a lot of completions, threw a touchdown pass," Rivers said. "It was a good start. We had some things we didn't do well, but it's early. It's just what you want to do in the first preseason game."

Packers quarterback Brett Favre, pressured by the San Diego defense for most of the four series he played, was unable to generate much. The loss spoiled the head coaching debut of Green Bay's Mike McCarthy.

The 36-year-old Favre, who pondered retirement in the offseason but decided to return, completed 5 of 10 passes for 66 yards and was sacked twice on consecutive plays in the first quarter. He came out of the game early in the second.

"We've got a long way to go," Favre said. "We weren't very good."

McCarthy wasn't pleased with his first game at the helm.

"We leave here with a sense of reality of how we started our preseason," said McCarthy, a former assistant under Schottenheimer at Kansas City. "This isn't about me. This is about where we are as a team, and we didn't play the way we're capable of playing.

"It starts with me. I have to get prepared."

In the first half, before both coaches began wholesale substitutions, the Chargers defense held the Packers to 89 yards while San Diego's offense churned out 204 yards.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's first pick in the 2005 draft and Favre's heir apparent, was 9-of-11 for 124 yards while playing nearly half the game.

The 24-year-old Rivers, a former North Carolina State standout, threw for more yards -- and equaled his touchdown total -- in the first half of the exhibition victory than he had during his four career appearances in the NFL regular season combined.

As Brees' backup the past two years, Rivers was 17-of-30 for 148 yards, with one touchdown.

Rivers came to San Diego after he was drafted No. 4 by the New York Giants in 2004. The Chargers took Eli Manning with the first pick, then swapped him to the Giants for Rivers because Manning did not want to play for San Diego.

The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Rivers completed a variety of passes against the Packers.

After Jackson caught a perfectly thrown ball in full stride in the end zone for an apparent 17-yard touchdown 4 minutes into the game, the Packers called for a video replay, and the pass was ruled incomplete because Jackson stepped out of bounds.

No problem for Rivers. After a 5-yard penalty moved the ball back to the 22, the Chargers' quarterback lofted another pass to a diving Jackson in the end zone for an undisputed TD.

San Diego built its lead to 17-0 on a 23-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding late in the third quarter. Green Bay's Billy Cundiff finally put the Packers on the board with a 23-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

San Diego All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who rarely plays during the preseason, sat out the game.

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo Gies 19-25; Cowboys Beat Seattle Seahawks 13 to 3

I think too much is made of Drew Bledsoe sitting out. There are three more games and a lot of time for him to get work. This was a good move by Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells to get his backup ready.

Tony Romo goes the distance in Cowboys' win wire reports

SEATTLE (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Dallas coach Bill Parcells wanted to see Tony Romo play, and the quarterback was happy to oblige.

Drew Bledsoe's backup played the entire game and completed 19 of 25 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown in the Terrell Owens -less Cowboys' 13-3 win over the sloppy Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.

Owens, who stayed back in training camp with other injured Cowboys, may or may not have watched from Oxnard, Calif. Dallas' newest star is recovering from a strained hamstring.

Bledsoe watched from the sidelines wearing a full uniform and a blue baseball cap, simply because Parcells wanted to see Romo play.

And he did. Impressively.

Romo was especially sharp in the first half, going 12-of-15 for 154 yards on scoring drives of 12 and 15 plays.

He also mimicked his veteran coach afterward. When asked about Romo shining, Parcells said, "Why don't we start on the other end? He fumbled two snaps. You can't do that."

Romo's initial assessment of his most -- and most successful -- playing time since he was a Division I-AA national player of the year at Eastern Illinois in 2002?

"Honestly, I think more about the things I didn't do," said Romo, who didn't throw a pass in the regular season in his first three years in the NFL. "Two fumbled snaps ... that stuff sticks with me after a game."

Tony Romo guided the Cowboys offense to two first-half scores.
After his first dropped snap on Dallas' mistake-filled opening drive, Romo completed 12 passes in a row. Six were on Dallas' 15-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown throw to Patrick Crayton late in the opening quarter.

Crayton ran past Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu and in front of safety Mike Green, who was starting while Michael Boulware recovers from offseason knee surgery. Two other Seahawks defensive starters were out with injuries.

Crayton limped off at halftime with a sprained right ankle and did not return. Parcells said he doesn't think the injury was too serious.

Romo completed five more in row with the second-team offense on Dallas' second scoring drive. Three of those completions came in succession against Seattle's top draft pick, rookie Kelly Jennings, who is battling veteran Kelly Herndon for the starting left cornerback job.

Crayton's 33-yard juggling reception and run against Jennings set up Mike Vanderjagt's 21-yard field goal late in the first half.

Jamaica Rector made a spinning, leaping catch behind Jennings for 18 yards on a third-quarter drive. That ended with backup kicker Shaun Suisham plunking a 34-yard field goal off the center of the crossbar.

"I've got to work on that underthrown fade route," Jennings said.

Reigning league MVP Shaun Alexander rushed six times for 13 yards before leaving with the rest of the defending NFC champions' starting offensive backs and receivers early in the second quarter. Matt Hasselbeck was 4-of-6 for 43 yards passing.

His backup, Seneca Wallace, played until midway through the fourth quarter and was 11-of-17 for 117 yards. He was sacked four times.

Seattle's first-team offense, which led the league in scoring last season, gained 56 yards on 14 plays and scored three points.

"That wasn't us out there," Hasselbeck said.

Coach Mike Holmgren said: "On the whole, I thought we were a little bit sloppier than we have been in other first preseason games.

"I was a little disappointed, to be honest."

Anthony Fasano, Dallas' second-round pick in the draft, started at H-back. A Romo pass sailed high through his hands to end the opening drive.

That play included Seattle safety Ken Hamlin 's first true hit since he fractured his skull in an October street fight -- a first that Holmgren had acknowledged he was anxious to see. Hamlin came in late on Fasano and pushed his hands and head at the rookie's face.

"I'm all right," Hamlin said. "I was fooling around, having fun. This was just a tease for the regular season."

Houston Texans Rookie Wali Lundy Shines - Texans Top KC Chiefs 24-14

Rookie sparks Texans attack in 24-14 win wire reports

HOUSTON (Aug. 12, 2006) -- If the Houston Texans hope to justify spending their No. 1 pick on Mario Williams, he'll have to contribute more than he did against the Chiefs.

Williams assisted on one tackle in a quarter of play in Houston's 24-14 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Shuffled all around the defensive line, Williams looked tentative at times and was stood up on a couple of plays.

"I kind of got too excited and that made me get a little tired," Williams said. "But I was not nervous at all."

He finally registered his first stat late in the first, when he joined second-round pick DeMeco Ryans to stop Larry Johnson for a 3-yard gain.

In his 11 plays, Williams mostly lined up against Chiefs left tackle Kyle Turley, who was playing in his first game since 2003 because of back problems. Turley was thrust into the starting lineup when 11-time Pro Bowler Willie Roaf unexpectedly retired the night before training camp.

"I have a lot to learn," Williams said. "I was moving up and down the ball. I'm used to just coming off the edge and it's a lot different here."

While Williams' debut was forgettable, another Houston rookie -- sixth-round draft pick Wali Lundy -- had a head-turning first outing.

Mario Williams showed his inexperience at times, but the Texans prevailed.
With Domanick Davis out recovering from a lingering knee injury, the Texans started 10-year veteran Antowain Smith. Smith was ineffective early and the Texans turned to Lundy, who ran for 25 yards on his first carry and waltzed into the end zone untouched for Houston's first touchdown on a 3-yard run three plays later.

He finished with nine carries for 59 yards and had one reception for 9 yards for a performance coach Gary Kubiak said he was impressed with.

The former Virginia standout also returned one kickoff for 30 yards and a punt for 12 yards.

"I'm just happy I'm getting an opportunity to play in the NFL," Lundy said. "Anything I can do to help this team ... that's what I'm going to do."

Though it was a preseason game, Houston has to be happy with its first look at the team that was revamped after last season's 2-14 finish. The Texans had 325 yards of offense while holding the Chiefs to 172.

"I like how hard we played," Kubiak said. "I thought we were still pretty sloppy at times."

Johnson had seven carries for 30 yards with no scores for Kansas City in its first game under coach Herm Edwards. Dee Brown added 23 yards on five carries and had a 12-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

"Larry Johnson did a good job," Edwards said. "He was supposed to come out of the game, but he wanted to stay out there a couple of more times."

Trent Green was 5 of 6 for 34 yards before leaving after the first quarter. Canadian League Football star Casey Printers played the rest of the game and was 6 of 12 for 71 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

"He was real jittery at times," Edwards said of Printers. "He kept his poise for the most part. He lost it a couple of times, but that's kind of the problem at times of having a young quarterback."

Houston's first team managed to move the ball well in its first game under Kubiak. David Carr was 3 for 5 for 23 yards and added 20 yards rushing in the first.

Carr's first two plays of the night went to offseason acquisition Eric Moulds. Carr found Moulds for an 11-yard gain on the right side of the field before hitting him for an 8-yard gain on the next play.

After being sacked more than 200 times in his career, Carr stayed on his feet in this game -- a prospect that excites the quarterback.

"We didn't have a sack in the game and it's been a while since we've done that here," Carr said. "Keeping the quarterback clean, we're going to be able to score points."

Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels had a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and Kris Brown kicked a 22-yard field goal in the third. Damien Rhodes added a score on a 4-yard run in the fourth.

Notes: Texans TE Bennie Joppru, who had season-ending injuries the past three seasons, appeared in his first NFL game. He had a 9-yard reception in the fourth quarter. ... Michael Bennett, who was recently traded from the Saints, did not play while he struggles with a sore hamstring. ... This is the second time the Texans have played the Chiefs in the preseason, losing 19-9 in their inaugural season. ... Houston's 24 points scored was a preseason franchise record.

Dolphins Daunte Culpepper Goes 1-2; Jacksonville Jaguars Win 31-26

Marcus Vick catches two passes in game.

Jags upend Dolphins in preseason opener wire reports

MIAMI (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Daunte Culpepper 's teammates slapped him on the back as he came out of the game -- the only blows the Dolphins' new quarterback would absorb in his brief Miami debut.

Culpepper settled for one 2-yard completion, while the Jacksonville Jaguars completed four touchdown passes of 50 yards or more to beat Miami 31-26 in the exhibition opener for both teams.

Backup David Garrard connected on scores of 62 and 55 yards for the Jaguars, whose three quarterbacks netted 321 yards passing.

Culpepper tested his surgically repaired knee by playing one series, throwing two passes and directing his new team to a field goal.

"It felt great," he said. "You get those first little jitters out after the first play, and you're back into the game situation and game mold. It felt good to get my feet wet a little bit."

Miami's other new quarterback, Joey Harrington, completed his first pass to Randy McMichael for an 18-yard touchdown. Harrington later fumbled twice, bobbling a snap that the Jaguars' Tony Williams recovered to set up a field goal.

"We did some good things, and we did some first-game things," Harrington said.

Daunte Culpepper has shown he's ready to perform for the Dolphins.
Jacksonville's first-team offense sputtered until Miami began substituting on defense. The Jaguars' Byron Leftwich, playing for the first time since a broken ankle sidelined him for the final five games last season, threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones.

"We didn't start very well," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We settled down a little bit at the end of the half and got some things going and looked a little bit better."

Chad Owens, battling for a roster spot with the Jaguars, beat the Dolphins deep to catch a 62-yard touchdown pass. Second-round draft pick Maurice Jones-Drew caught a short pass from Garrard and wove through the secondary to complete a 55-yard TD.

Jacksonville's final score came on a 51-yard pass from Quinn Gray to George Wrighster.

Miami's first-round pick, safety Jason Allen, was on the field for Jacksonville's first three touchdown completions. He played only four days after ending a 10-day holdout.

The Dolphins mounted a strong pass rush against Leftwich and knocked him down several times, but Culpepper never came close to absorbing a hit. While he has yet to miss a practice in training camp, the game was his first exposure to contact since a knee injury ended his 2005 season with the Minnesota Vikings last October.

"I had a vision of seeing myself being ready for this first preseason game from the time I got hurt," Culpepper said. "It was very important to me to go out and show I'm ready to play."

Culpepper took six snaps, four of which were running plays. He missed Chris Chambers open over the middle on a short pattern and hit McMichael for 2 yards on third-and-7. Olindo Mare then kicked a 52-yard field goal.

Harrington played the rest of the first half and finished 10-for-19 for 99 yards.

Leftwich, who threw only five interceptions last season, was picked off on the Jaguars' second series by Eddie Jackson. Two plays later, Harrington threw to McMichael in the end zone for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Leftwich played most of the first half and finished 6-for-12 for 100 yards. He connected on a long pass to Jones, who beat Dolphins newcomer Will Allen for a score in the second quarter.

"We have a lot of work to do on offense, but it was great to get that much work," Leftwich said.

He was replaced by Garrard, who went 6-for-11 for 172 yards.

With Josh Scobee sidelined by a leg strain, Seth Marler did all the place-kicking for the Jaguars and made a 21-yard field goal. Jacksonville re-signed him this week.

Cleo Lemon, Miami's third-string quarterback, directed a 15-play drive in his first series that led to a field goal and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jason Willis.

Undrafted rookie Marcus Vick, a former Virginia Tech quarterback trying to make the transition to receiver, caught two passes from Lemon for 12 yards.

Buffalo Bills First String Lackluster; Panthers Win 14-13

Panthers hot early, beat Bills 14-13 wire reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 12, 2006) -- It didn't take Keyshawn Johnson long to show the Carolina Panthers are no longer a one-dimensional passing team centering around Steve Smith.

Johnson, in his first game with Carolina, caught an 18-yard pass from Jake Delhomme on the first play from scrimmage, the beginning of a game-opening touchdown drive on the way to a 14-13 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Delhomme hit Johnson twice for 27 yards on the opening series, then threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Drew Carter as Smith watched from the sideline with a strained left hamstring.

"You want to get the ball in certain guys' hands to get them off early, so they can stay in tuned to the flow of the game," Johnson said. "It's important to get off to a good start. Jake's starting to learn a little more and I'm learning him more."

Delhomme, who completed 5 of 6 passes for 64 yards before giving way to Chris Weinke, showed the Panthers could move the ball without Smith.

That wasn't the case last season. Smith led the league with 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns, but no other Panthers receiver caught more than 25 passes.

Carter had three catches for 20 yards and Keary Colbert caught two balls for 23 yards in place of Smith, who was injured on the first day of training camp.

New receiver Keyshawn Johnson notched his first catch as a Panther.
"Naturally, adding Keyshawn is going to attract attention," fullback Brad Hoover said. "He's going to help us out a lot. But I think it's the confidence of the other guys and just how they've matured that's sort of helped out."

Carolina's reserves didn't fare as well, as Casey Cramer and Efrem Hill both lost fumbles, but the Panthers were able stop the Bills' reserves on fourth down in the final minute.

Buffalo's quarterback troubles appeared no closer to a resolution. Kelly Holcomb and J.P. Losman both struggled in Dick Jauron's first game as coach.

Holcomb, who got the start, completed 2 of 4 passes for 16 yards and one interception, a poorly thrown ball that Ken Lucas returned 23 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter to give Carolina a 14-0 lead.

"I read the coverage wrong. I thought I had something I didn't have," Holcomb said. "I'm disappointed, I wanted to play better. It just didn't seem like I could get in a rhythm."

Holcomb was sacked by Julius Peppers on the opening drive and failed to lead the Bills to a first down in three series.

"Obviously Kelly had a rough night," Jauron said. "It was a sloppy start for us. The beginning of the game wasn't anything like we wanted to have happen."

Losman took over early in the second quarter and started with three straight incompletions. But he settled down and got into a rhythm in the second half against the Panthers' second and third strings. Losman was 15 of 24 for 144 yards for the Bills.

"We started off a little rusty, especially bringing in a new offense, new players, new coaches" Losman said. "I've always said the more I play, the more I'm in there, the more comfortable I'll get. As the game went on, I saw things better, but being in the offense for the first time, it takes time, it takes trust."

Running back Lionel Gates, who didn't play a down for the Bills last season, rushed for 31 yards on eight carries, including an acrobatic touchdown early in the third quarter.

Gates was sandwiched by Nate Salley and Keith Adams and did a complete 360 in the air, but came back down on his feet at the two-yard line. He then broke Jermaine Hardy 's tackle to get into the end zone.

Bills first-round pick Donte Whitner, who began practicing with the team Aug. 7 after an eight-day holdout, led the team in tackles. Matt Bowen, who started ahead of Whitner at strong safety, injured his right leg early in the second quarter. X-rays were negative.

Panthers first-round pick DeAngelo Williams had eight carries for 21 yards.

"I'm pleased with the way we came out on offense and defense and even in the kicking game," Panthers coach John Fox said. "After that we seemed to get a little sloppy and it leaves us with a lot of things to work on."

Ben Roethlisberger Returns; Cardinals Play In New Stadium - Win 21-13 -

The highlight of this game was the play of Steelers backup QB's Boyd and Jacobs, as well as the new stadium itself.

Cardinals open dome, top Steelers 21-13 wire reports

GLENDALE, Ariz. (Aug. 12, 2006) -- Ben Roethlisberger didn't mind that his appearance at the grand opening of the extravagant new home of the Arizona Cardinals was as brief as it was fruitless.

After what the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback has been through, simply taking the field at all was enough.

"It kind of hit me right before the kickoff," Roethlisberger said, "to sit here and say thank you that I'm able to be out here, to put on the jersey, to be in front of people and playing again two months to the day after a pretty bad accident."

Roethlisberger played one series that ended in a missed field goal.

Then his Arizona counterpart Kurt Warner took over, christening the place with a touchdown in the Cardinals' first drive, following it with another in a 21-13 preseason victory against the Super Bowl champs.

A capacity crowd of 63,400 attended the unveiling of the $455 million stadium in western suburban Phoenix.

"It's an awesome stadium," Roethlisberger said, "big, loud, very nice and the field is real good."

Roethlisberger, who lobbied his way into the starting lineup two months after sustaining serious head and facial injuries in a motorcycle crash, played one series. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 29 yards, the longest an 11-yard screen pass to Verron Haynes.

Warner played most of the first half, going 9-for-13 for 118 yards. The 35-year-old former NFL and Super Bowl MVP even ran for 5 yards.

"For the most part I thought it was really good for the first preseason game," Warner said. "We're so much farther along from where we were last year."

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked here, but walked away unhurt.
Roethlisberger drove the Steelers to the Arizona 26, but drew some shouts of caution after he escaped from a near-sack by Adrian Wilson and scrambled before throwing the ball. Coach Bill Cowher came onto the field a bit to tell him to take it easy.

"I just told him in the future that considering where we are right now, I would rather have him go down rather than trying to fight to get free," Cowher said.

The drive ended when Roethlisberger was sacked by Bertrand Berry on third down, and Jeff Reed's 54-yard field goal try was wide left.

"We came away with nothing on that first drive, but I'm glad from Ben's perspective," Cowher said. "He was able to get out there and I thought he made some plays."

Then the Cardinals drove for a touchdown on their first possession in their new home.

Warner went 5-for-6 for 59 yards, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson. Four of the completions came on third down, including a 20-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald on third-and-13 to the Pittsburgh 7.

After Reed's 48-yard field goal, Warner directed an 11-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by Johnson's one-handed grab of a 20-yard pass. The catch came on third-and-9 at the Arizona 46.

Fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo took a short pass from Warner and rambled 15 yards for a touchdown to put the Cardinals up 14-3 with 3:31 left in the half.

The arrival of star free-agent acquisition Edgerrin James had no immediate impact on what has been a woeful Arizona running game. James carried twice, once for a 2-yard loss and once for no gain.

Not to worry, said James, who would have preferred to sit out the game entirely to wait for the regular season.

"I kind of went through the motions. I just wanted to get off the field healthy," he said. "I did my job."

With rookie Matt Leinart still unsigned, Arizona backup John Navarre was intercepted twice -- both by rookie Anthony Smith.

On the first, Navarre was hit as he threw and Smith picked it off at the Cardinals 35. Third-string quarterback Shane Boyd threw 13 yards to Quincy Morgan to set up rookie Mark Brubaker's 24-yard field goal that cut the lead to 14-6 as the half ended.

Navarre completed 11 of 15 passes for 60 yards.

"Just OK," coach Dennis Green said of the quarterback's performance. "He did some good things, made one real blunder, and I think that always taints it a little bit."

Diamond Ferri ran 5 yards for Arizona's third touchdown with 9:41 to play. Omar Jacobs threw a 1-yard pass to fellow rookie Isaac Smolko for the Steelers' lone touchdown, with 1:25 to play. The Cardinals recovered the subsequent onside kick and ran out the clock.

"We got through the game with really no injuries," Cowher said. "That's the good news, but from an execution standpoint, we've got a long way to go, and I think that was very evident today."


Many of the fans were late arrivals because of traffic jams on the surrounding streets.
The Cardinals sold out a home game for the first time since Sept. 24, 2000, against Green Bay. They are sold out for the entire regular season.
Leinart is the only first-round draft pick unsigned.
In 2003, the Steelers also opened Ford Field in Detroit.

Arizona Cardinals first game in New Stadium Draws Fans from L.A. Desperate for NFL Football, Even Without Matt Leinart

Our man, Bill Chachkes

During our arrival in Arizona for our vacation (and our visit to Cardinals training camp) we met several fans on their way to the game between the Cards and the Steelers (the first game ever in the new stadium).

There were the Steelers fans who flew in from Pittsburg, but more surprising were the large amount of Cards fans from Los Angles who flew in for the game. We spoke with one father and son duo who told us that football fans in L.A. are so desperate to see Pro Football that they bought Cardinals season tickets! "we don't have a team at home anymore so we will come here for every home game" He said. His son continued "Even without Matt signed, this is an improved team. Now lets see them get him in here".

Vince Young's 4 of 10 Most Electrifying - Bush Thrills for Saints - Saints Win 19-16

Young makes NFL debut in preseason opener
By Craig Tapper
Titans Online

Rookie QB Vince Young made his NFL debut in the Titans' preseason opener vs. New Orleans Saturday night at LP Field.
NASHVILLE, TN, Aug. 12, 2006 -- The NFL debuts of Vince Young and Reggie Bush were expected to be the big story of the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints preseason opener. But while Young and Bush compiled their share of highlight worthy moments, the game was decided by a third-string quarterback.

Todd Bouman connected with Lance Moore for a 22-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, giving the Saints a 19-16 lead that held up Saturday night at LP Field.

Young made his first appearance with about nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. At times, Young displayed the strong arm and play-making ability that led him to be the #3 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. However, the rookie quarterback was unable to establish a legitimate groove, completing 4-of-11 passes for 56 yards, including a long pass of 19 yards. Young also ran four times for 28 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a mildly sprained left ankle.

Regardless, Young was enthusiastic about being back in a game situation for the first time since January’s Rose Bowl.

“It’s been a long time since the Rose Bowl game,” Young said, “I was excited and the guys on the sidelines were pushing me, saying, ‘let’s go V, it’s your turn, so I was excited and then it slowed down and got more relaxed.”

Young’s first offensive drive began with a pair of runs and ended with an incomplete pass. During his second drive, Young managed to break through with his first professional reception — a 14-yard strike to rookie tight end Jamie Petrowski. As the game progressed, Young seemed to settle in and feel more comfortable leading the offense.

“In the first series guys were flying around real fast,” Young said, “I thought in the back of my mind, ‘I’m fast too, so put your speed with those guys’ and that’s what I did and went back to just playing football. I kind of relaxed and slowed down and as you can see, the game went on.”

With the Titans leading 10-9 in the third quarter, Young effortlessly flung a 50-yard pass down the sideline intended for Roydell Williams. The pass hit Williams in stride, but the second year receiver out of Tulane was unable to corral the ball.

During the fourth quarter, Young displayed his scrambling ability by evading defenders and connecting with Courtney Roby for 10 yards. The positive gain was disallowed due to an offensive holding penalty, but Young’s ability to create helped excite the already exuberant crowd.

The Titans had a scary moment midway through the fourth quarter when Young was tackled from behind by Saints defensive end Tommy Davis. Young remained on the ground for a few seconds following the third down play with a left ankle sprain, but he was able to leave the field under his own weight.

“I guess the most notable (injury) and most curious was Vince,” Fisher said. “He’s got a mild ankle sprain. He should be fine, probably a little sore in the morning. I don’t expect him to miss much.”

Young was replaced by undrafted rookie Cody Hodges on the team’s next offensive drive, although according to Fisher, he was going to be replaced following the previous drive even before sustaining the injury.

“I didn’t take him out because of the ankle,” Fisher said. “We had intended to take him our prior to the drive, to take him out and give Cody [Hodges] and Matt [Mauck] some work. I think he could have probably finished if we had taped him up.”

While Young did not make many highlight-caliber plays, the Saints first round draft pick Reggie Bush immediately displayed the game-changing ability and pure athleticism which earned him the 2005 Heisman Trophy and helped cement him as one of the most explosive running backs in the nation.

Bush compiled 59 yards on six carries, but his night was highlighted by a 44-yard run during the first quarter. With uncanny vision, Bush first ran to his left, then changed direction and darted his way around the backside of the defense. While Bush managed to evade defenders during that run, the defense was pleased with its overall performance in containing Bush.

“We did bend a little coming out of the gate on Reggie’s one particular long run,” said linebacker David Thornton, “but all in all, I think the defense came out with some intensity and we established some things we wanted to do on the side of the ball. I’m really looking forward to the defense playing solid this year and tonight was a great start.”

During the second quarter, Bush collided with Titans cornerback Pacman Jones. Jones and Bush exchanged words and Jones was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Following the game, Jones was far from awestruck of Bush’s talents.

“He doesn’t run up the middle, period,” Jones said. “If you can contain him outside, you can contain him. He doesn’t want to run up the middle. He’s not very, very strong, pretty fast. That’s about it.”