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Jags back fumbles away job, gets cut

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000

JACKSONVILLE -- Chris Howard got his first start at running back for the Jaguars and dropped the ball. On Wednesday, coach Tom Coughlin decided to drop him.

Howard was waived three days after he had two fumbles on eight carries in a 39-36 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, a move Coughlin initially described as a simple roster shuffle brought on by more injuries.

The Jaguars activated linebacker Erik Storz from the practice squad to replace Brant Boyer, who injured a groin and is doubtful for Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

Asked if Howard would be on the team had he not fumbled twice (one was recovered on the Jaguars 14 and led to a touchdown), Coughlin didn't hesitate.

"No," came his terse reply. "Circumstances that happen roster-wise on a weekly basis forced me to have to do things. I have six running backs. I have to make a move."

So, he cut the third-year back, who was ahead of Shyrone Stith and Chad Dukes on the depth chart. But then, Howard also violated the aspect of the game Coughlin preaches the most.

Hang on to the ball.

"When a guy gets an opportunity, he's got to perform," Coughlin said. "As I look over the squad, I have to evaluate those people who I think have performed under pressure. The message is, every man has to play to the best of his ability all the time. Ball security is an extremely critical factor."

BLACK DROPS APPEAL: Former NFL agent Tank Black dropped an appeal of his decertification by the players union for recruiting violations, the union said. Black, 42, and six co-defendants are awaiting a Jan. 8 trial on criminal charges of conspiring to gain control of the salaries and signing bonuses of University of Florida football players that Black's sports management firm represented in contract negotiations with NFL teams.

EX-JET SENTENCED: Former Jets star Mark Gastineau was sentenced in New York to 18 months in jail for failing to complete an anger-management course after hitting his estranged wife. Gastineau admitted in May he had violated terms of his probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in October 1998.

BRONCOS: Terrell Davis practiced for the first time since spraining his left ankle in the opening loss to St. Louis. Despite soreness, the star running back was confident he would play Sunday against Oakland. ... The team signed kicker Joe Nedney to replace the injured Jason Elam and added running back Raymont Harris. Elam is out 3-8 weeks with a back injury.

BROWNS: Cleveland, which lost left guard Jim Pyne for the season and receiver JaJuan Dawson for at least eight weeks, signed lineman Paul Snellings and receiver Lenzie Jackson to its practice squad.

DOLPHINS: Receiver Tony Martin and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener remain doubtful for Sunday night's game against Baltimore. Martin's sprained left foot remained in a cast, and Gardener, who has not missed a game in his five-year career, has a herniated disc in his back.

PACKERS: Running back Dorsey Levens practiced for the first time since Aug. 13, when tendinitis in his left knee became so painful he had arthroscopic surgery two days later. The team hopes Levens can return to the lineup Sunday against Philadelphia.

RAMS: It didn't take the NFL long to crack down on St. Louis' latest touchdown celebration.

The "duck down," in which players squat Spiderman-style on the field after scores, lasted one game. An NFL measure passed in March against orchestrated group celebrations saw to that.

Players learned the news a few days before their 37-34 victory at Seattle on Sunday. So players simply flipped the ball to an official after scoring.

"It's crushing us a little bit that they're taking away our dances and everything," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "But we'll keep it classy."

SAINTS: Running back Ricky Williams thought he had bruised his foot in the opener. He actually chipped a bone. It's painful, but he plans to keep playing. "It's not that bad; it's nothing I'm worried about," Williams said.

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