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NFL briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001


Haslett rewarded for Saints revival

NEW YORK -- In the Year of the Coach, the job Jim Haslett did in New Orleans was the most outstanding.

Haslett, in his first season coaching the Saints, beat a strong field to win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award, announced Saturday.

Haslett, who took over a perennially under-achieving team and turned it into the NFC West champion, easily beat Philadelphia's Andy Reid in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcaster who cover pro football.

"Guys that had been here a long time, that had never won, never had a winning season, that takes a toll on you," said Haslett, who stepped in after Mike Ditka was fired. "The franchise wasn't in great shape, after four bad years.

"I think the No. 1 thing we had to do was get them on board with what we were trying to do, and that was to build a team and an organization that people could be proud of ... to try to change people's thinking inside by learning how to win, learning how to deal with adversity, learning how to deal with success. It wasn't easy.

"I don't think we're where we want to be yet, but I think we have a good start, a good foundation," added Haslett, whose Saints went 10-6 to supplant the defending NFL champion Rams in the NFC West.

New Orleans then beat St. Louis last weekend for its first post-season victory. It lost to Minnesota 34-16 Saturday in the playoffs.

"We've set a standard already, and now everyone has to live up to it," Haslett said.

Haslett received 301/2 votes. Reid got 91/2 for leading the Eagles from 5-11 to 11-5 and into the playoffs. They were followed by Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Oakland's Jon Gruden and the New York Giants' Jim Fassel with two apiece. Getting one vote each were Miami's Dave Wannstedt, Baltimore's Brian Billick, Denver's Mike Shanahan and San Francisco's Steve Mariucci.

COWBOYS: Troubled defensive end Dimitrius Underwood tried to kill himself for the second time in about a year, this time by running into traffic twice on a busy suburban highway in Coral Springs, police said.

Underwood, 23, told police he "wanted to go to Jesus" after he was detained for kicking and denting a car and asking passers-by for a gun on Wednesday. Underwood was taken into custody and hospitalized, police said.

The name of the hospital is not being disclosed by police, Coral Springs police dispatcher Elizabeth McDaniel said.

Underwood suffers from bipolar disorder, which causes him to display manic and depressive behavior, according to his agent, Bob Huebner. He also tried to kill himself in 1999 by cutting his throat in Lansing, Mich.

Police detained Underwood after residents reported that he jumped into their cars.

Coral Springs resident Lorrie Thomas, 49, was driving Wednesday when she said Underwood walked in front of her Chevrolet Astro van.

"It was very disturbing," Thomas said. "He thrust his hip out to me, expecting to be hit. When I stopped, he was right at the front of my van."

Thomas told police Underwood looked at her after she stopped and just walked away. Thomas then called 911 from a nearby pay phone.

CARRUTH TRIAL: The state of North Carolina has been paying for Rae Carruth's defense in his capital murder trial since August because a judge has declared the former Panthers wide receiver indigent, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Carruth's lawyers so far have been paid more than $104,500, according to records kept by the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. Taxpayers also have paid $10,000 to Carruth's jury consultant and $7,100 for investigative work on the case.

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