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NFL

On the sideline

By Times Staff Writer
Published September 18, 2005

BEEN THERE, HURT THAT

Philly quarterback Donovan McNabb spoke to Titans quarterback Steve McNair on Tuesday about an uncomfortable topic: chest injuries. McNabb was bruised after taking a helmet to the chest in Monday's loss to the Falcons. McNair missed eight games last season with a sternum injury that eventually required surgery.

McNair made the call.

"He was just sore, it hurt to laugh, it hurt to do anything," McNair said of McNabb. "I said, "There are things to come.' I told him, "Don't rush it, just take your time and heal because as long as you go out there and aggravate it, it's going to continue to get worse.' But he's got a good spirit and hopefully he won't be out long."

McNabb plans to start today against the 49ers.

STAT OF THE WEEK

The seven teams with 100-yard rushers last weekend were 7-0.

LEINART SWEEPSTAKES

The Titans and Browns hold the early lead in the Matt Leinart Sweepstakes, the seasonlong chase to be the worst team in the NFL. The league's biggest loser wins the right to draft the Southern California quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. The Dolphins are one game off the pace. Keep an eye on Tennessee and first-year offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who spent the past two seasons calling plays for Leinart with the Trojans.

LIP SERVICE

Two of the league's most vociferous trash-talkers - Bengals receiver Chad Johnson and Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot - go smack to smack today. Johnson threw down the gauntlet early last week, looking directly into a TV camera to call out his wordy opponent: "Smoot, let's go. Smoot, who talks better trash?"

In their spare time, the two are pretty good football players. Smoot had an interception in his first game against Tampa Bay. Johnson had nine catches for 91 yards at Cleveland. But neither works well in silence.

"It's going to be a verbal matchup just like it's going to be a physical matchup," Smoot said. "I like that. That's my job. It's fun. And I love to yap, so why not?"

MUST BE GOLD LETTERING

The Dolphins will spend about $6,625 to present game balls to every player on their 53-man roster during last weekend's victory over the Broncos. The emblazoning of the football costs more ($75) than the ball itself ($50).

MILE-HIGH HEADACHE

San Diego seeks its first win at Invesco Field, where it is 0-4 lifetime and has managed a total of three first-half points. The Chargers trailed 20-0 at the half in 2001, 19-0 in 2002, 27-0 in 2003 and 13-3 last year.

FILLING THE VOID

A shoulder injury in Week 4 ended Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins' 2004 season and sent him into a spiral that included depression and heavy drinking. The catalyst was watching Carolina lose to Oakland and Warren Sapp, whom Jenkins dislikes. Jenkins faces another season on the sideline after tearing an ACL in the opener. He vows to handle the disappointment.

"I'm not going to need counseling," Jenkins said. "Last year was different. (The Panthers) let me know I have a support structure here and anything I need I can get. If I feel I need it, I'll go get it."

HOMEFIELD DISADVANTAGE

The Saints are miffed about playing their first "home game" in the opponent's stadium. And they won't be appeased by a few homey touches to Giants Stadium Monday night. There will be signage and one end zone will be painted in the team's black-and-gold colors. New Orleans natives Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis will perform the national anthem and New Orleans jazz trumpeter Irvin Mayfield will play America the Beautiful. Also, the Saints will wear their home black jerseys.

RARE HONOR

The Packers will retire Reggie White's No. 92 jersey today. White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died in December in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43, shortly after Packers president Bob Harlan approached him about having his jersey retired. Among the oldest major professional sports franchises, the Packer have retired only four jerseys: fullback Tony Canadeo (3), wide receiver Don Hutson (14), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66). White's will be the first since Nitschke's in 1983.

REMEMBER THESE GUYS?

Former Bucs receivers Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius combined to score four touchdowns in Week 1, though only Johnson was victorious. Johnson caught two TDs, including the winner, in Dallas' victory at San Diego.

"Keyshawn is a very good competitor. People don't give him enough credit for that," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I think he enjoys being in the fray and with things on the line, I think he wants to be involved in the process. A lot of athletes aren't like that. They run from it."

- Compiled by Times staff writer Joanne Korth using information from the Nashville Tennessean, Cincinnati Enquirer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, San Diego Union-Tribune, Charlotte Observer, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Associated Press.

[Last modified September 18, 2005, 02:15:36]


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