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Around the AFC

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

BROWNS: Earl Holmes was the man of the hour Thursday and not because he is the team's leading tackler. Or because Sunday's game is a homecoming for Holmes, who played his first six seasons with Pittsburgh.

Holmes was in the spotlight because of what he said to former teammates. Or didn't say. Or supposedly said. ESPN and the Associated Press reported Holmes left messages with several Steelers "talking trash" and claiming the Browns would leave Heinz Field victorious.

"Earl is always going to talk," Steelers WR Hines Ward said. "He left messages on our phones talking trash. ... He just said little things like, "You all ain't going to beat us three times in the same season,' and stuff like that. That's just how Earl is."

Said Holmes: "I spoke with Joey Porter and I spoke with Plaxico Burress. And there was no trash talking at all."

* * *

COLTS: Defensive end Chad Bratzke is expected to play Saturday against the Jets, but starting linebacker Marcus Washington likely will be sidelined.

Bratzke, who has 70 tackles and six sacks, practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Washington, who was inactive Sunday against Jacksonville, did not work out. Coach Tony Dungy called him "very questionable."

Starting linebacker Mike Peterson, team leader in tackles with 173, did some limited work with a cast on his broken left hand. Dungy was optimistic he would play Saturday.

* * *

RAIDERS: Coach Bill Callahan said there's a "fine line" during an off week between overloading players with information and still making sure they have enough practice time.

"I look at it as R and R, but not relaxation," he said. "It's rest and routine, and I think you have to keep those two things in mind. You have to make sure that your players are getting ample rest and that they do have the ability to recover, and you also have to maintain that balance to practicing them and keeping your timing and execution."

Callahan even gave his staff a break -- no all-night film sessions. "It's important that we're all fresh mentally," he said. "The evenings have been off, and I think it's well deserved."

* * *

STEELERS: Defensive starters Kendrell Bell and Chad Scott may not play Sunday. Bell, a linebacker who had four sacks in the past six games, has a sprained ankle. Scott, a cornerback, has been out since breaking his right thumb Dec. 23 against Tampa Bay. Bell would be replaced by rookie Larry Foote and Scott by Deshea Townsend.

* * *

TITANS: Tennessee is taking full advantage of its bye week by doing as little as possible. Coach Jeff Fisher has taken it easy, getting players outside for about an hour this week, mostly for exercise.

Fisher's message to his Titans has been to rest, hit the weight room and make "good decisions." That was meant mostly for the 11 rookies on the active roster.

"The young guys are part of the reason that we are here, and now they have to understand the importance," Fisher said.

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