Packers, Panthers lose stars

Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers already have serious injury problems after one week of the season.

The Packers lost their top wide receiver, Javon Walker, for the year, and the Panthers will be without their best defensive tackle and run stopper, Kris Jenkins. Both tore knee ligaments in losses Sunday.

Walker will need an operation once the swelling subsides to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament and will require between eight and 12 months of rehabilitation.

Walker was hurt in the third quarter of the Packers' 17-3 loss at Detroit when he pushed off safety Terrence Holt on a 55-yard catch that was negated by his offensive interference.

With Walker down, Robert Ferguson will start alongside Donald Driver, who will move from split end to flanker. Ferguson is the Packers' best special teams player, but might be taken off those units now.

Jenkins missed all but four games last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Now, the 2003 All-Pro is gone again, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Although he was injured in the first quarter, he said Monday he didn't realize the severity and briefly returned to the field in the third quarter before leaving for good.

''I didn't think it was that bad ... it felt like I had hyperextended it at first,'' he said. ''I could still run on the thing. I know that's a little odd.

''When I went back out there, I realized then I had torn something big.''


Mark Brunell will start Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, taking the quarterback job from Patrick Ramsey. Brunell came in to lead a season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Coach Joe Gibbs had prepared for nearly a year for Ramsey to be the 2005 starter, but the coach changed his mind after Ramsey threw an interception and fumbled twice in Sunday's game before leaving with a mild neck injury.

''This is something that is extremely hard,'' Gibbs said Monday. ''You don't like doing this. I don't. Sometimes you don't chart the circumstances or what happens — it just happens. Certainly it wasn't the plan I had going in, but sometimes plans change, and I think you do the best you can in dealing with it.''

The Redskins are looking for a kicker after John Hall strained his quad muscle on his last kickoff Sunday, an injury similar to one that ended his injury-riddled season last year. And right tackle Jon Jansen sported two casts on his two broken thumbs.

He broke the left one in practice last week and the right one in the game.


Cornerback Champ Bailey has a dislocated shoulder and running back Mike Anderson has separated cartilage in his ribs and need to be evaluated further before their status for next week is decided.

Bailey hurt his left shoulder making a tackle in the third quarter of Denver's 34-10 loss to Miami on Sunday. Anderson went out in the first quarter.

At first, Broncos trainers thought Bailey separated the shoulder, but after tests Monday, the injury was not deemed as serious. Coach Mike Shanahan said the injury normally takes one or two weeks to heal, but Bailey could play next week against San Diego if he can deal with the pain and can play with his arm in a harness.

Bailey has never missed a game or a start in his six-plus years in the league, a span of 97 games.


The New Orleans Saints will head back to their home state for four games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., and will play three others in San Antonio's Alamodome, their headquarters since being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

While the team and league settled that matter Monday, most of the specifics are still being determined. Ticket plans are being worked out, too, as are ways to tie proceeds to the relief effort.

Many of the Saints are living in a hotel across an interstate from the Alamodome. So they'll have a short commute for games Oct. 2 or 3 against Buffalo, Oct. 16 or 17 against Atlanta and Dec. 24, 25 or 26 against Detroit.

The team will travel to the LSU campus for games Oct. 30 or 31 against Miami, Nov. 6 or 7 against Chicago, Dec. 4 or 5 against Tampa Bay, and Dec. 17, 18 or 19 against Carolina.

The Saints seemed please with the split, which enables them to reach out to fellow Louisiana residents trying to recover from the devastating storm while also showing appreciation for the hospitality they've received in Texas.

''I think the fact of what San Antonio did for us — we had no other place to go where something like this was set up — that's what made this happen,'' Saints owner Tom Benson said.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the hurricane, Benson repeatedly deflected discussions about the team's future.

''We're not going to worry about that today,'' he said, adding that his only long-term goal is getting the Saints to the Super Bowl this season.

After spending last week getting settled into a new routine in San Antonio, coach Jim Haslett began to like the idea of playing in the Alamodome.

''It's more of a travel issue,'' he said. ''I know what their agenda was, to play as many games as possible in our home state. Our players like that, too. ...

''I'm not really worried about the location,'' he said. ''Our first concern is just to win football games.''

No decision was made on the site of potential Saints home playoff games this season.

Agreement on the schedule was reached after a meeting Monday in Baton Rouge involving Benson, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe and other school officials.

''We had an excellent meeting this morning and quickly developed a dual consensus,'' Tagliabue said. ''The first was to continue to give priority to the needs of the region and the second to the scheduling of Saints games in a way that made sense under the total circumstances. ... We also appreciate the cooperation of the Alamodome officials and the hospitality of the people of San Antonio for their support of the Saints at this difficult time.''

The Saints won their season opener 23-20 at Carolina on Sunday. Their first home game was set for this coming Sunday, but was moved to Monday night and will be played at Giants Stadium against the Giants. Saints season-ticket holders and anyone who had purchased tickets for the Giants-Saints game at the Superdome were given first call for tickets to the relocated game. After that, however, Giants season-ticket holders were given priority, meaning it will be a true road game for the Saints.

The manager of the Superdome has said it will take months before the building's future can be determined. It's possible to stadium will be torn down, leaving the Saints to find a new home.

During Hurricane Katrina, with thousands inside seeking refuge, three large holes were blown through the roof. In all, about 70 percent of the roof failed and water poured into the building during the storm, along with debris.

Benson has a home in the San Antonio area and for decades owned car dealerships in the city. He urged local fans to fill every seat and he encouraged the networks to bring the games to a national audience to ''give this city great recognition for what they've done for the New Orleans Saints.''

''It's most important for there to be capacity crowds to attend every game we have here,'' Benson said. ''It could make me proud, not only of our football team, but show what kind of city you have here.''

Henry Cisneros, a former San Antonio mayor and former Cabinet member in the Clinton administration, attended Benson's news conference and said he expects a great turnout.

''I think San Antonio will fill the Alamodome three times,'' he said.

The stadium seats roughly 65,000 for football.


With a new head coach, a new scheme and seven new starters, the Miami defense looked much like the unit that has been the team's strength since Dan Marino retired. Miami stymied Denver's vaunted ground attack, forced three turnovers and won 34-10.

''Our defensive playbook is like a phone book, and we didn't get through the A's,'' rookie linebacker Channing Crowder said. ''We have a lot things we can pull out if we need to, or we can let our great players make plays. That's what we did Sunday — we stayed conservative and let great players make plays.''

That included Zach Thomas, who made three tackles during a goal-line stand that helped Miami preserve a 6-0 lead. Cornerback Sam Madison helped limit Ashley Lelie to two catches for 17 yards. End Jason Taylor repeatedly harried quarterback Jake Plummer, forced him to fumble on the final play, scooped up the ball and sprinted 85 yards for a touchdown.


Fred Taylor walked through the locker room Monday without a knee brace, without an ice pack, and most importantly, without a limp. Jacksonville's star running back had no problems a day after his first significant playing time in nearly nine months.

Taylor ran 20 times for 76 yards in the 26-14 victory over Seattle. He also caught two passes for 14 yards.

He broke tackles, made cuts and bounced up after hard hits. He might not have been as explosive as in his younger days, but he promises that will return, too.

''Each game I'm going to get better,'' Taylor said. ''That's the plan. I'm going to get this thing back to where I was.''

Taylor injured his left knee Dec. 19 against Green Bay and missed the final two games of last season. He had surgery to repair two partially torn ligaments a month later and said doctors ''cleaned up some other stuff, too.''

''I expected to feel worse, actually. But I feel pretty good,'' said Taylor, who missed 24 games during his first four seasons.


Bengals running back Kenny Watson had surgery Monday to repair a torn biceps, and will not play again this season. Watson, a fourth-year player, appeared in all 16 games last season on special teams and as a third-down running back.


The Lions feared cornerback Fernando Bryant broke his jaw in the win over Green Bay, but X-rays were negative. Before he got the good news, Bryant got some advice on dealing with having his mouth wired shut from Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Izzo suffered a broken jaw several years ago playing softball, just a few days before he was to be the best man in Mariucci's wedding. ''He had to give the toast with an interpreter,'' Mariucci joked.


The offense managed 166 yards, and its lone touchdown was set up by a special teams turnover at Washington. Coach Lovie Smith was quick to praise rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, saying, ''I know he'll get better. I'm really excited about his potential for the rest of the year. That was the question coming in.''

Orton, who became the starter after Rex Grossman got injured and Chad Hutchinson was cut in the preseason, completed 15 of 28 passes for 141 yards, but was intercepted in the end zone after trying to force a pass to Muhsin Muhammad. He was the first Bears rookie quarterback to start an opener since Zeke Bratkowski in 1954.

The defense, meanwhile, held Washington to three field goals, had three sacks, knocked quarterback Patrick Ramsey out of the game and recovered two of the four fumbles it forced. Yet, no one was happy.

''Everybody on the defense has that one play where if they could have gotten it back ...'' linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said.


If cornerback Adam ''Pacman'' Jones studies the Tennessee defense really hard, the first-round draft pick has a chance to dress and play Sunday. Jones, the sixth pick overall in April, was deactivated for Sunday's 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Jones really must ''buckle down.''

''We're going to place him in some key roles on special teams. He'll accept them. He'll have to excel there and really buckle down on defense, become familiar and convince us he has a really good understanding,'' Fisher said.

The Titans hoped Jones would win one of their two open spots at cornerback. He didn't sign a contract until three days were left, and the cornerback from West Virginia hasn't had much time to catch up.


Matt Hasselbeck was stiff and sore Monday, but didn't get bruised until after Mike Holmgren talked.

Seattle's coach had stern words for his offense — Hasselbeck in particular — a day after the Seahawks 26-14 loss to Jacksonville.

''I probably bruised him today myself,'' Holmgren said. ''I didn't think we played very smart on offense.''

Leading 14-13 at halftime, Seattle's offense went stagnant in the second half, gaining just 100 yards and turning over the ball three times in the fourth quarter, all by Hasselbeck.

''He had some strong words for our offensive team and they were justified,'' Hasselbeck said. ''He has very high expectations for us and me personally. It's nothing that we need to get all upset about. It's true, we've got to play better.''

Perhaps no turnover was uglier than Hasselbeck's interception with 6:29 left and Seattle trailing 20-14. Hasselbeck appeared to be throwing the ball away while pressured in the pocket, but instead of sailing the ball out of bounds, Hasselbeck's sidearm pass fell into the arms of Jacksonville's Daryl Smith at Seattle's 15.

The Jaguars converted the interception into a field goal and a 23-14 lead. On Seattle's next possession, Hasselbeck was sacked and fumbled, and Jacksonville kicked another field goal, putting the game out of reach.


Receiver Johnnie Morton plans to play for San Francisco on Sunday in Philadelphia despite receiving a concussion in the season opener against St. Louis.

Morton, a 12-year veteran in his first season with the 49ers, was hurt while making an acrobatic 30-yard catch late in the first half of San Francisco's 28-25 victory Sunday. He stayed in his uniform on the sideline for the second half, but didn't play after doctors detected a concussion.

''Everyone has had a couple (of concussions), but it's been a long time since I had one,'' Morton said Monday. ''I'm going to be ready to go.''

Coach Mike Nolan said Morton lost his memory of the catch on the sideline after it happened, but his memory returned Monday. The 49ers will wait until later in the week before approving Morton to play.

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