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NFL briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000

Broken thumb sidelines Couch

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Tim Couch fractured his right thumb on the final play of practice Thursday and will be out at least six weeks.

Couch was following through on a 25-yard fade pass to rookie Dennis Northcutt into the right corner of the end zone when his hand banged into the hand of linebacker Ryan Taylor.

"He'll need surgery and he'll miss at least six games," coach Chris Palmer said. "If it was an injury to a player other than a quarterback he could come back in a couple weeks."

Palmer said the fracture was at the base of his thumb, and that Couch would need either a screw or pin surgically inserted. With nine games left this season, and the Browns not getting a bye until Week 17, there's a chance Couch may not return in 2000.

With Couch out, Doug Pederson will start Sunday against Pittsburgh. Pederson was signed Sept. 1, after backup Ty Detmer was lost for the year with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

"Here's another opportunity for a player to step up with another player's misfortune," Palmer said. "We just have to close ranks and march on."

Some players didn't seem to notice Couch had been hurt.

A few of the Browns had dropped to a knee to huddle around Palmer for their post-practice talk as Couch was being examined by trainer Jim Colello and two assistants.

Couch shook his hand several times before heading to the locker room. His hand appeared to be red and swollen and he winced in pain as he went through the doors of the training facility.

"It wasn't a dirty play," Palmer said. "It was just an unfortunate accident."

Brunell backs Coughlin

JACKSONVILLE -- Criticized for insisting on keeping the role of offensive coordinator while his team struggles, Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin got support Thursday from quarterback Mark Brunell.

"In all honesty, Coach Coughlin hasn't fumbled a ball yet, he hasn't thrown an interception yet and he hasn't missed a block," Brunell said. "In my opinion, our past speaks for itself. We won 15 games last year with Tom Coughlin as our offensive coordinator."

But last season also was marred by rumors of bad blood between Coughlin and Brunell. The two never appeared comfortable working so closely together in the first season after the Jaguars lost coordinator Chris Palmer to the Browns.

Just two weeks ago, Coughlin pulled him from a 15-10 loss to the Ravens, then left Brunell hanging through most of the next day before committing to him as the starter for Monday's game against the Titans.

Brunell said he was disappointed with being pulled and his good friend, left tackle Tony Boselli, said it sent the wrong message to the team.

That's why it comes as something of a surprise that Brunell was so outspoken in Coughlin's defense. He may have been just speaking the party line, but it seemed pretty convincing.

"When we're not scoring points, the offensive coordinator-slash-head coach is an easy target," Brunell said. "But I don't think it's right. We need to go out there and play, execute and go win games."

Also, wide receiver Jimmy Smith missed his second day of practice with a bruised right knee.

He's still listed as probable on the team's injury report, although Wednesday and Thursday are the key practice days for the Jaguars and Smith has only watched, riding the stationary bike on the sideline.

"I don't know," Coughlin said, when asked whether Smith will play Sunday. "If he practices tomorrow, we'll see how that goes."

Definitely out is defensive end Renaldo Wynn, who strained ligaments in his right knee and could be out through October.

COWBOYS: Wide receiver James McKnight, benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Giants in favor of rookie Damon Hodge, will be back in the starting lineup against the Cardinals on Sunday.

Hodge, who celebrated a promotion from the practice squad with three receptions for 52 yards in his first pro game, still might be one of the five receivers active Sunday, coach Dave Campo said.

JETS: Rookie linebacker John Abraham will miss Monday's game against Miami because of a pulled abdominal muscle.

Abraham, drafted 13th overall this year from South Carolina, has been used primarily on passing downs and leads the Jets with 41/2 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder also has 16 tackles and two forced fumbles.

BRONCOS: Lennie Friedman will get his first career start at left guard, replacing Mark Schlereth, out a few weeks after surgery on his left knee.

EAGLES: The team got a scare during practice when All-Pro cornerback Troy Vincent sprained his right knee.

Vincent said after practice he was fine. He most likely will be listed as probable for this weekend's game against Chicago.

REDSKINS: Washington apparently is preparing to start veteran tackle Andy Heck at left guard Sunday at Jacksonville in place of Keith Sims.

"I'm getting ready to go," Heck said. "I'm preparing like I'm going to be the starter. I feel pretty good."

RAMS: There's a good chance the team will be without two starters on the offensive line and a third out of position this weekend against Kansas City.

Tackle Ryan Tucker (ankle) and guard Adam Timmerman (knee) have not practiced this week. Tucker is listed as questionable, Timmerman probable.

"I'm not real encouraged by either one of them right now," coach Mike Martz said.

If they can't go, center Andy McCollum would move to guard. His backup, Steve Everitt, would start at center. Second-year player Cameron Spikes would start in place of Tucker at tackle.

Arena League

The league's board of directors approved the move, the second this week. On Tuesday, the New England franchise left Hartford for Toronto

The Indiana team will be named the Firebirds and will compete in April at Conseco Fieldhouse in the nation's 12th-largest market. The arena also is home to the NBA's Pacers.

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