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Middleton has (bunch of) last words

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2003

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The running cross-country diatribe between Oakland guard Frank Middleton and New York defensive tackle Josh Evans was a highlight of the week leading to the game.

Sunday, Middleton figured the victor got the spoils, as well as the last word.

"Tell Josh Evans I've got tickets for him if he wants to come to the championship game," Middleton said. "Make sure you print that. I'll fly him down for the game, him and his family, first class. They can even stay at the (swanky) W Hotel. Tell them to come on down and watch me play."

Middleton said there was the usual amount of trash talking on the field, but that he was angered when Evans and other Jets said they were trying to hurt Oakland players and that they stood over injured center Barret Robbins and said they hoped he was severely hurt.

"Those guys are punks," Middleton said. "They're cowards. You're not being a man when you start talking about taking away a man's livelihood."

Several Raiders also were upset at the way the Jets acted during pregame introductions and gathered on parts of the field the Raiders felt they didn't belong. There were a few resulting stare downs.

"It was pretty disrespectful for those guys to do that," safety Anthony Dorsett said. "You've got to hold ground in your own home."

TWO (MORE) FOR THE BOOKS: With four catches for 47 yards, 40-year-old Raiders receiver Jerry Rice set a record for combined net postseason yards (2,133, passing Thurman Thomas) and tied the mark for postseason touchdowns (21, matching Thomas and Emmitt Smith). "When you can break records like that, that's great," Rice said. "I'm having a ball."

INTERESTING OBSERVATION: Among many comparisons, Colts, and former Bucs, coach Tony Dungy likened Jets quarterback Chad Pennington to Shaun King, given the way both won right away. But Jets coach Herm Edwards, a former Bucs assistant, said there is one major difference.

"The difference from Shaun King is the way (Pennington) works," Edwards told New York reporters. "Shaun was a good player, but he did not have this kid's work ethic at all. He's driven. He doesn't want to go to the movies. He doesn't want to buy cars. He doesn't want to own a restaurant. He wants to be the best quarterback he can be and win games. He understands football is not a hobby. It's his occupation."

WELL DONE: Raiders cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tory James, who both had surgery to have metal plates inserted in fractured right legs, played well. "Really gutty, gritty, aggressive, however you want to call it," Oakland coach Bill Callahan said. "We had our two plate men out there and they performed exceptionally well." ... Tight end Rolando Williams sat out and was placed on the inactive list with toe and knee problems.

MISCELLANY: Veteran referee Dick Hantak worked his last game. ... The Jets had a rough start with two false start and two delay penalties in the first 18 minutes. ... Sunday was the sixth time two teams from a metropolitan area played postseason games in one day. The Raiders and 49ers have done it four times, the Raiders and Rams once and the Giants and Jets once.

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