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Leftwich might get chance as Brunell heals

Wire services
Published September 25, 2003

JACKSONVILLE - Mark Brunell missed practice Wednesday and was listed as questionable on the injury report, furthering the chance that rookie Byron Leftwich will make his first career start this weekend for the Jaguars.

Coach Jack Del Rio would not divulge his plan for Sunday's game against Houston, leaving open the possibility that Brunell, Leftwich or second-year quarterback David Garrard could start.

"We have three quarterbacks we like. One is injured. We're evaluating him," Del Rio said. "It's day-to-day, and that's where we're at."

Leftwich, the first-round draft pick from Marshall, has been Jacksonville's second-string quarterback in all three games. In the past two, he entered with the game out of hand and led the Jaguars to touchdowns.

Leftwich said he wouldn't put any more pressure on himself to be ready for this week.

"But it's a dream to be out there, playing in the National Football League," he said.

Brunell, meanwhile, didn't take the field for practice. He needed five stitches to repair a laceration to his left elbow, sustained Sunday against the Colts.

A key issue in the debate is the possibility that Brunell might not see the field again as a Jaguar if Leftwich performs well. It would be an incredible waste of money - Brunell counts $6.75-million against the salary cap this season.

Del Rio has stuck with his desire to use the players who give the team the best chance to win. He said he is "optimistic" about Brunell's return, but said he may not announce anything until just before game time.

"There are a lot of things to contend with," Del Rio said. "The bottom line is, until he's cleared by the doctor, and until he feels well enough to play - when that's the case, we'll play him."

BILLS: Running back Travis Henry intends to play Sunday despite bruised ribs. Listed as questionable, he made a point to inform his teammates that the injury won't prevent him from playing when the team hosts Philadelphia on Sunday. "My mind-set is I'm playing," Henry said. "That's what I got. And I'm preparing to be out there to help the football team."

BRONCOS: Running back Clinton Portis might not play this weekend against Detroit because of a chest injury, and strong safety Kenoy Kennedy is also hobbled by a left ankle sprain. Portis suffered a bruised sternum two weeks ago against San Diego and re-injured himself against Oakland on Monday night. He played just two snaps after the second quarter against the Raiders. Fullback Mike Anderson expects to play after injuring his knee Monday night.

BROWNS: Kelly Holcomb waited seven years to start at quarterback in the NFL. If the decision is left to him, no hairline fracture of the fibula is going to keep him from calling the signals Sunday against the Bengals. "I'm playing," Holcomb said. "I mean, you have to think that way." Thinking that way and having it turn out that way are two different things, however. Tim Couch took most of the practice reps as Holcomb played catch and limped around with braces on both legs. Later, coach Butch Davis said a decision might not come until Sunday morning.

In other Browns news, receiver Dennis Northcutt has a broken rib and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Bengals. The team also released fullback Kevin McLeod and now has no blocking back.

CHARGERS: Receiver David Boston was sent home before practice as a disciplinary measure. Coach Marty Schottenheimer was guarded in his comments about Boston, who signed a $47-million contract as a free agent in March. "David and I had a discussion and in the course of the discussion, thought we ought to have this day (off), and he's been excused for a matter that is not related to the medical part of it," Schottenheimer said. General manager A.J. Smith wouldn't be more specific, but did say that it wasn't one incident that led to Boston being sent home, but rather, "it's several things."

COLTS: Edgerrin James did not practice because of a bad back and the running back might miss Sunday's game at New Orleans. Coach Tony Dungy said the team was closely watching the two-time NFL rushing champ. "Hopefully he'll be ready to go, but we'll see how it goes," Dungy said.

DOLPHINS: Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye was named AFC defensive player of the week for his seven tackles and two sacks in a 17-7 win over Buffalo on Sunday. Ogunleye helped the Dolphins limit Buffalo to 118 total yards with four sacks and three turnovers.

RAMS: Running back Marshall Faulk had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. Faulk also has two broken bones in his left hand, injured in Seattle last Sunday. He is expected to miss four to six weeks with that injury. Coach Mike Martz said Faulk should recover from the knee surgery in three weeks.

RAVENS: Chris McAlister returned to the defensive backfield after receiving a lecture from coach Brian Billick and apologizing to teammates. McAlister was held out of the game against San Diego last week after missing curfew and skipping a team meeting. The cornerback was fined the maximum amount allowed, and he was warned by Billick about the repercussions of a repeat violation.

TITANS: Quarterback Steve McNair practiced with his right ring finger in a splint, and coach Jeff Fisher said the knee McNair injured in the season opener is no longer a problem.

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