Falcons' owner buys an ad to buy some time

Posted: October 22, 2003

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank took out a full-page advertisement in the sports section of yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution to appeal to fans for patience after the team's awful start.

The Falcons (1-6), playing without star quarterback Michael Vick all season, have not won since an opening-day victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

In the last two games, they have been outscored by 81-17, including a 36-0 blowout by the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. That loss prompted Blank to write a letter of apology to the president of ABC Sports.

Vick broke his right leg in the preseason. The Falcons do not know when he will return.

Atlanta, off this weekend, will host the Eagles on Nov. 2.

Steelers. Jerome Bettis will make his first start of the season Sunday against St. Louis as Pittsburgh tries to jump-start its struggling running game and end a three-game losing streak.

Coach Bill Cowher downplayed the move yesterday because Bettis and Amos Zereoue have split time in recent weeks.

Colts. Team president Bill Polian signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him with Indianapolis into 2009.

The 60-year-old Polian joined the Colts after the 1997 season following stints as an executive with the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers.

The Colts have gone 44-26 since the start of the 1999 season - the fourth-best mark in the league during that stretch - and qualified for the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

Buccaneers. Tampa Bay's struggling defense suffered a major blow when cornerback Brian Kelly was placed on injured reserve with a torn chest muscle that will require season-ending surgery.

Ex-Steeler Hank Poteat was signed to replace him.

Kelly, who tied for the NFL lead with a career-high eight interceptions in 2002, injured his left pectoral muscle during the Buccaneers' 38-35 loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 6.

He sat out the next game at Washington, then started Sunday's game at San Francisco but did not finish it.

Titans. Steve McNair's case on drunken-driving and weapons charges will go to a grand jury.

Nashville judge Leon Ruben ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the case to move forward, but there was no word on when the grand jury would convene. The Tennessee quarterback left with his lawyer after the hearing and did not talk to reporters.

McNair was pulled over by police while driving a sport utility vehicle in Nashville just after midnight May 22. Police said McNair's blood-alcohol level was 0.18 - well above Tennessee's limit of 0.10.

The weapon charge involves a 9mm handgun found in the SUV. McNair has a permit for the handgun, but an intoxicated person may not legally carry a loaded weapon.

Giants. New York placed guard Rich Seubert on the injured reserve list and signed offensive lineman Omar Smith to the 53-man active roster.

Offensive lineman Dion Meredith took Smith's place on the practice squad.

Seubert underwent surgery Monday in the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City to repair fractures to his right tibia, fibula and ankle. He was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday's 14-10 loss to the Eagles.

Raiders. Rich Gannon underwent tests on his injured shoulder, and Oakland coach Bill Callahan would not guarantee the quarterback's starting job until the results were known.

Gannon, a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep and Delaware who was last season's league MVP, was pounded by the Kansas City defense throughout the first half of the Raiders' 17-10 loss Monday night.

He was held out of the second half with a bruised right shoulder; Marques Tuiasosopo replaced him.

Broncos. Quarterback Steve Beuerlein will miss the rest of Denver's season after breaking the little finger on his throwing hand in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Broncos placed Beuerlein on the injured reserve list. Danny Kanell is the team's only healthy quarterback.

Jets. New York reached an injury settlement with cornerback Leonard Myers and waived running back Johnathan Reese from the practice squad.

Myers, a third-year player out of the University of Miami, was signed to the practice squad Sept. 18 and then to the active roster Sept. 30. He hurt his shoulder against Buffalo on Oct. 12, was waived/injured Oct. 15, cleared waivers, and was placed on the Jets' injured reserve list Oct. 16.

Bears. Chicago waived tight end John Davis after he failed a physical exam. Davis was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list Aug. 24 after back surgery.

Noteworthy. Former Pro Bowl linebackers Seth Joyner and Ken Norton Jr. have joined the league-owned NFL Network as analysts on a prime-time weeknight show.

The network will make its debut Nov. 4 on DirecTV, a satellite service available in about 11.6 million U.S. homes.

Joyner, a former Eagle, and Norton will be joined by coaches Mike Ditka and Marv Levy on the network's NFL Total Access, the league said. The one-hour show will be on at 8 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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