Brooks beats out Blake for Saints' QB job
Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2001 10:59 PM
THIBODAUX, La. (AP) -- Aaron Brooks, an inexperienced backup when he was pressed into service last year, was chosen the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, beating out veteran Jeff Blake.
"A number of things came into the decision," head coach Jim Haslett said. "Jeff is coming off an injury, and it takes time to get back to 100 percent.
"We weren't trying to replace Jeff. He was the guy we signed last year to be our quarterback. It just so happened he got hurt. Aaron stepped in and did a great job and he really took over the job."
Blake was acquired as a free agent last spring, signed to a four-year, $17.4 million contract and selected the starter.
The Saints acquired Brooks in a trade with Green Bay during training camp last summer. He became New Orleans' starter when Blake broke his right foot against the Oakland Raiders in the 11th week of the season.
Brooks passed for a team-record 441 yards against Denver and led the Saints to their first playoff victory, beating the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.
"I've been through a lot," Brooks said, now in his third year. "I've improved a lot. Last year was my first taste of playing in the NFL in the regular season, understanding what teams want to do against players like myself. But now I've had the whole offseason to prepare myself and condition myself. And I just feel I'm a lot better in a lot of areas."
Brooks apparently secured his hold on the starting spot this spring when he was able to work during minicamps and coaching sessions while Blake was still rehabilitating his injury.
"It's been everything," general manager Randy Mueller said. "It's been all spring. Aaron's been sharp. Not to take anything away from Jeff, but Aaron's been playing at a high level."
In the first two exhibition games Brooks was 22-of-28 for 232 yards and a touchdown.
Although Brooks will play for a league minimum $325,000 this season, Blake's salary will not be a factor this season.
"It's really not an issue," Mueller said. "Aaron's a minimum salary guy. To me it matters how much you're spending at a position, not particularly who's getting it."
Before getting hurt last season, Blake was 184-of-302 for 2,025 yards and 13 touchdowns and had led the team to a 7-3 record. Under Brooks the team went on to finish 10-6.
Brooks and Blake said at the beginning of training camp that they would not allow the competition to become bitter. Both stuck to their resolve, maintaining that team goals were more important than individual goals.
"I think it's a credit to both of them the way they handled it," Mueller said. "And I still think we're going to need both guys at some point. Jeff's been a pro about it the whole way. I don't have a question he'll end up winning a game or two for us this year."
Blake said he would continue to try to help the team.
"I have an opportunity to still be a leader on this team," Blake said. "Aaron is going to be ready to play. I'm going to make sure of that."
"That situation will never change between Jeff and me," Brooks said. "He'll always be in my corner."
Bengals, top pick Smith still far apart
GEORGETOWN, Ky. (AP) -- Justin Smith's agent left the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp Tuesday without reaching a contract agreement for the first-round draft pick.
The defensive end is one of only two 2001 first-round picks still unsigned. San Diego hasn't signed running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the fifth overall pick. Smith was chosen fourth.
The Bengals and Smith are at odds over a split signing bonus and contract incentives. Agent Jim Steiner met with Bengals officials for three days, trying to break the impasse less than three weeks before the season opener.
Steiner said progress was made but both sides still couldn't overcome some issues.
"I think we made progress, there was some give and take on both sides," Steiner said. "It was time to get away from it for a little bit."
Troy Blackburn, Bengals director of business development, said the Bengals and Steiner were trying to craft a compromise that gave both sides some of what they wanted.
Steiner has been negotiating face-to-face with Blackburn and his wife Katie, the Bengals executive vice president and daughter of Bengals owner Mike Brown.
The sides will continue to talk by telephone.
Packers waive QB Tolliver, TE Drayton
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers were officially awarded quarterback Michael Bishop on Tuesday, a day after they claimed him on waivers from the New England Patriots, and waived backup quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver.
In other moves, the Packers acquired defensive tackle Giradie Mercer, also on waivers from the Patriots, waived tight end Troy Drayton and placed tackle Matt Keneley on injured reserve.
The move involving Bishop wasn't official until Tuesday because the Packers played an exhibition game Monday night, beating Denver 22-7.
Bishop had fallen from second to fourth on New England's depth chart before being waived last Friday.
"He is mobile, has a very strong arm, gets out of trouble and we just want to take a look at him and see where he's at," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said.
The 25-year-old Bishop was a seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State in 1999 after finishing second to Texas' Ricky Williams in the Heisman Trophy voting. He played in eight games for the Patriots last season, going 3-of-9 for 80 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Bishop passed for 1,090 yards and 11 touchdowns for the NFL Europe League's Frankfurt Galaxy this summer.
He was due to join the Packers at practice Wednesday.
Keneley was waived injured by the Packers on Sunday.
Cowboys CB Goodrich tears Achilles' tendon
Goodrich went down during 7-on-7 passing drills in the Cowboys' Tuesday evening practice after becoming entangled with another player.
Goodrich writhed around on the ground for a bit, then was carted off the practice field.
He's scheduled to undergo surgery in Dallas on Wednesday.
Goodrich, a second-round draft pick from Tennessee, was trying to play his way into the Cowboys' nickel defense lineup after logging most of his minutes last season on special teams.
Redskins sign former Rams safety Lyle
CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) -- Safety Keith Lyle signed with the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, the third veteran pickup in less than a week by a team trying to fill its holes before the end of training camp.
Lyle played seven seasons for the Rams in Los Angeles and St. Louis, tying for the NFL lead in interceptions with nine in 1996. He was cut during the offseason as the Rams tried to fix the defense that allowed an NFL-high 471 points last season.
Head coach Marty Schottenheimer had been considering Lyle for months, but he finally made the move when the Cleveland Browns also got interested.
"I thought it would come, I didn't think it would come this late," Lyle said. "I was getting impatient. I had a lot of arguments with my agent."
After Mark Carrier was released in the off-season, the Redskins opened camp with third-year player David Terrell at free safety. Terrell has played defense in just five NFL regular season games, all as a nickel formation cornerback last season.
Terrell started the first two exhibition games this month, but his progress wasn't fast enough to keep Lyle away.
"I think he's going to be a good safety," Schottenheimer said of Terrell. "The question is timing: Can it happen fast enough to satisfy us?"
To make room for Lyle on the roster the Redskins released cornerback Mike Watkins.
Bills QB Johnson returns to practice
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -- Buffalo quarterback Rob Johnson returned to action after missing a week of practice and Saturday's preseason game with a sprained index finger on his right throwing hand.
After getting limited action in the morning session, Johnson took over the Bills' first-team offense in the afternoon. While bobbling one snap, he threw 17 passes during team drills, progressively getting stronger -- smoking his final throw into the arms of tight end Jay Riemersma.
"Anybody that misses a little bit of time it takes a little bit to get back into the rhythm," Riemersma said of Johnson. "Obviously, toward the end of practice, he got back in rhythm."
Pats concerned about future of two players
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Robert Edwards and Andy Katzenmoyer, the Patriots' first-round draft picks in 1998 and 1999, are still sidelined, leaving their futures a question mark.
They've practiced little and haven't played at all in the team's two exhibition games. With just two games left and 19 days before the Patriots' season opener, head coach Bill Belichick needs to see more.
"The sand in the hour glass is dropping out," Belichick said Tuesday. "You can't put it back in. So they're running out of time."
After rushing for 1,115 yards as a rookie, Edwards suffered a devastating injury to his left knee and nerves in the left leg and missed the last two seasons. His knee has felt fine this summer, but he's been slowed by a groin injury since early in camp.
Katzenmoyer started 11 games in his first season but played only eight all last year when he was bothered by back and neck injuries. He underwent neck surgery in the off-season but hasn't participated in contact drills since experiencing neck pain the first week of camp.
Broncos DT McGlockton to sit out Saturday's game
McGlockton, one of Denver's key defensive free-agent additions this offseason, will not play in the team's preseason game at Invesco Field at Mile High because of a sprained left knee.
McGlockton was injured Monday night when teammate Trevor Pryce accidentally hit him in the leg on a play that was whistled dead during Denver's 22-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Tests showed a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in McGlockton's left knee. He will be re-evaluated before Denver's final preseason game on Aug. 31.
Colts likely to start Rhodes at running back Friday night
So the Colts likely will start undrafted free agent Dominic Rhodes, who is likely to get his most extensive playing time of the preseason on Friday night.
Rhodes is listed as the Colts' No. 3 running back, and when he has played, he has been impressive. In the preseason opener, Rhodes carried seven times for 39 yards, caught one pass for 12 yards, recovered two fumbles and scored on a 2-point conversion run.
Last week Rhodes played nearly a half after replacing Gordon, who was injured early in the game, carrying 13 times for 35 yards and catching four passes for 35 yards in a 27-26 loss to Detroit.
Vikings RB Chapman to miss Colts game
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Running back Doug Chapman won't play in the Vikings' exhibition game Friday against Indianapolis because of a thigh bruise.
"Most of the time in the preseason, with a guy you're counting on, he's got to be close to 100 percent," head coach Dennis Green said.
Moe Williams is also still hobbled by a foot injury, so rookie Michael Bennett -- who has rushed 16 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota's first two games -- should see extensive playing time. Bennett is the top candidate to replace the retired Robert Smith, but Chapman could also play prominently in the Vikings' plans at that position.
Dallas releases veteran TE LaFleur
OXNARD, Calif. (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys released tight end David LaFleur on Tuesday, severing ties with their injury-plagued first-round draft pick in 1997.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said LaFleur, who had been on the physically unable to perform list, was let go after failing a physical. "It was apparent that he was not going to be able to run," Jones said. "I think he gave us all he could give us."
LaFleur was nagged by a groin injury last season, and a herniated disc in his lower back sometimes makes walking painful. LaFleur's back problem dates to his days at LSU.
The 6-foot-7, 272-pound LaFleur had 85 receptions for 729 yards and 12 touchdowns in his four-year career, but it was his blocking skills that the Cowboys coveted. With LaFleur, running back Emmitt Smith rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons.
"He was a warrior, he played hurt," Jones said. "When he was able to perform, he was very important to what we were trying to do."
Eagles sign K Akers to seven-year deal
ATLANTA (CNNSI.com) -- The Philadelphia Eagles announced Tuesday that they have signed placekicker David Akers to a seven-year contract extension through the 2007 season. As is club policy, financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.
Akers, 26, is in his third season with the Eagles after signing as a free agent in 1999. In his first season with Philadelphia, Akers was a kickoff specialist and handled long field-goal attempts while serving as an apprentice to veteran Norm Johnson. Last season, however, Akers took over the place kicking duties on a full-time basis and, by season's end, shattered the club's record for points in one season with 121.
Last season, Akers was selected as first alternate to the Pro Bowl. He set a new Eagles mark with 13 consecutive field goals. Overall, he converted 29 of 33 field-goal attempts. He was named NFC Special Teams player of the month in November after kicking game-winning field goals in three of four games, including two that he tied at the end of regulation and later won in overtime.
Akers signed as an undrafted free agent with Carolina in 1997. He then had stints with Atlanta and Washington before signing with the Eagles.
Dolphins K Mare has inflammation in foot
Mare, second on the NFL's career field goal accuracy list, has an inflamed tendon in his right foot and is considering playing with the injury this season.
"It's sore. I just got some sharp pains in there and hopefully it will be gone in a couple of days," Mare said Tuesday. "I don't know how long it will last. We're just trying to treat it every day."
Mare was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, an irritation to the tight band of muscles beneath the arch of his kicking foot. Mare also has been experiencing soreness in his right heel.
An MRI exam taken Sunday was negative, but Mare plans to get a second opinion this week.
"It doesn't really hurt kicking-wise," Mare said. "A lot of standing around makes it sore; sleeping hurts for some reason. It's just a pain that happens. I don't know what it is and what's causing it.
"Whatever happens when the season starts, we'll have to play with it. Hopefully, it won't get any worse."
Although Mare didn't practice Monday and wasn't scheduled to work out Tuesday, he expects to play Saturday night against the Green Bay Packers.
"His foot is sore, so we'll just give him a couple of days rest," head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He's done a ton of kicking. The 58-yard field goal [against San Diego on Saturday] was long enough, so I'm not concerned about that. He's ready to go. It's not a concern at all."
Mare has missed four of eight field goals this preseason, two of them inside 35 yards and two outside 50 yards.
Mare has made 117 of 140 field-goal attempts (.836) in his four NFL seasons, second only to Green Bay's Ryan Longwell (.847).
Wannstedt thought Mare's injury might have been caused from squeezing his size 11 foot into a size 9 shoe, a common practice among NFL kickers. Mare hopes that isn't the case.
"You want something's that tight and fitted, so you get the feel," Mare said. "That's just how us kickers like it. You don't want any room for your foot to move around. I don't know if that's the problem. I've been doing that for a long time, so hopefully it's not."
Browns TE Campbell to miss start of season
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Cleveland Browns tight end Mark Campbell sustained a hairline fracture in his left shin and could be sidelined for seven regular-season games.
Campbell, who started 10 games last season, was injured during an Aug. 13 practice when a teammate fell on his left knee. It took the team several days to diagnose the injury.
The third-year tight end had thought the injury was more severe. He said doctors have targeted early November for his return.
"I look at it as a blessing in disguise," Campbell said. "When I first went down, I knew something was really wrong. I was in excruciating pain and my whole knee was throbbing. I thought I had blown out a ligament or something."
Campbell, signed as a undrafted free agent out of Michigan in 1999, had a solid training camp and played well in the Browns' first preseason game.
He caught 12 passes, including one for a TD last season.