The bye comes at a great time because the Vikings are scrambling to solidify their linebacking corps…
Week 4 NFL Player Wire
RB Tyrone Wheatley's shoulder injury remained a mystery Monday as coach Norv Turner said the team had not received a report on his injury. There were various reports that had Wheatley suffering a separation and others that he had a subluxation. Turner said "there is a medical term and I'm not sure I understand it. He had an MRI and we'll know more later." Tennessee Titans WR Tyrone Calico played for the first time Sunday and caught two passes for 13 yards. He also left the contest when his left knee "buckled." Minor surgery on that knee following the third preseason contest caused him to miss the first three contests of the regular season, but it is expected he will practice some this week. RB Troy Fleming turned 22 last Friday and told teammate Antwan Odom that "all I wanted for my birthday was to get to play in the game and play a lot. I guess I got it." Fleming returned six kickoffs for 101 yards, including one for 27 yards which is the longest for the Titans this season. He also made two special teams tackles, caught one pass for four yards and had an apparent 23-yard reception overturned by replay. In the first three games combined he returned one kickoff, caught one pass and had no special teams tackles. WR Derrick Mason caught his first touchdown pass of the season Sunday at San Diego. Eleven of his 31 career touchdown receptions have come during the month of October. RB Chris Brown has had at least one gain of 18 yards or more in every game this season, which has tied the longest such streak of Eddie George's career. George did it twice. Atlanta Falcons RB Warrick Dunn, who did not return to the Falcons' 27-10 win over the Panthers after his left hamstring cramped up in the third quarter, was said to be fine Monday. MLB Chris Draft, who had a modest three combined tackles and assists Sunday against the Falcons, nonetheless is pleasing Atlanta coaches with the way he quarterbacks the defense. Draft has great command of the defense, and coordinator Ed Donatell praises him for being a, "connector," between the staff and players. RB T.J. Duckett looks like he's carved out a serious spot in the Falcons' backfield rotation. He played a couple snaps early in the second quarter of Atlanta's 27-10 win over Carolina Sunday, but really impressed late in the game, when starter Warrick Dunn was out with a hamstring cramp. Duckett rushed 13 times for 63 yards, including 11 carries for 59 yards in the decisive fourth quarter, when his 4-yard touchdown run put the game away. San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is tied for the AFC lead with nine third-down catches for first downs. WR Kassim Osgood received high marks for his special teams play on Sunday. New York Jets CB Donnie Abraham suffered a hip pointer against Miami, but resumed running Monday and is expected to play against Buffalo this Sunday. C Kevin Mawae snapped left-handed the entire game against Miami with bad exchanges kept to a minimum. He may have to do the same this week against Buffalo but will have more practice time behind him so things should go more smoothly. LB Jonathan Vilma started at middle linebacker in place of the injured Sam Cowart, marking the first time a Jets rookie started at an inside linebacker position since Kyle Clifton in 1984. "I thought I did a pretty good job," said Vilma, who led the Jets with eight tackles and making his return to the city where he played collegiately. "I made some good reads at the right time, but I still have a lot to learn. It's so much faster than at Miami." WR Wayne Chrebet caught three passes for 48 yards against the Dolphins after barely being used in the first two games. It may not be a sign that he'll be getting more work each week, however. Of the Jets' 14 completions, only five went to receivers. RB Curtis Martin and FB Jerald Sowell combined for seven catches out of the backfield, meaning the Jets just won't force things downfield. LT Jason Fabini, who missed nearly the entire week of practice with a stiff back, played the whole game against the Dolphins and played well, teaming with guard Pete Kendall and center Kevin Mawae to block well enough to get Curtis Martin 110 yards on the ground. New Orleans Saints RB Deuce McAllister did not play for the second straight week against the Cardinals because of a sprained right ankle. McAllister ran Monday for the second time since injuring the ankle on Sept. 19 and coach Jim Haslett said they'll see how he responds to the running before deciding when he might be able to return. WR Jerome Pathon was inactive for Sunday's game with the Cardinals after pulling his hamstring in practice Wednesday. Coach Jim Haslett said he was close to being ready and will likely return to practice later this week and play in Sunday's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. SLB Sedrick Hodge was reinstated to the roster Monday after serving a four-game suspension for a repeat violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Hodge, a backup, is expected to be ready to play on special teams in Sunday's game with the Bucs. WR Devery Henderson dressed out against the Cardinals for the first time this season because of injuries to Jerome Pathon and Talman Gardner. Henderson, the first of two second-round draft picks this spring, has been behind since holding out for the first nine days of training camp. He played mainly on special teams although he did get into the game as the third wide receiver. DT Jonathan Sullivan made his first start of the season against the Cardinals. Sullivan lost his starting job when he came to training camp 15 pounds overweight and spent all of training camp trying to get in shape. Howard Green, who has been bothered by a sprained ankle, started the first two games and Shaun Smith got the nod last week. WR Talman Gardner missed Sunday's game because of a sprained right ankle. Coach Jim Haslett said he'll probably also miss the game with the Bucs. DE Melvin Williams, a second-year player, was waived to make room on the 53-man roster for LB Sedrick Hodge. Williams had been inactive for the first four games this season. Dallas Cowboys DB Tyrone Williams got the law according to Bill Parcells handed down to him before he was signed by the Cowboys last week. Williams, who could play as a nickel back this Sunday against the Giants, was deactivated for the final nine games with Atlanta last season for conduct detrimental to the team. "I don't talk to players too much about what transpired somewhere else," Parcells said. "What I do tell them is what it is like here. Here is the way it is going to be, so if you can accept that, that's fine. If you can't, then you won't fit in. Especially when you bring in a veteran, I think it is important to tell them." The speech is short and sweet and goes something like: Don't make me regret bringing you here. One of the reasons Parcells felt comfortable bringing in Williams, despite his recent problems, is that Parcells' good friend, former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, gave Williams his OK. SS Roy Williams has been fined $7,500 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Washington wide receiver Laveranues Coles in Monday night's victory over the Redskins. RT Jacob Rogers has been alternating practice reps with starter Torrin Tucker. Coach Bill Parcells said he wants to get Rogers, a rookie second round pick from Southern California, some playing time so he can be ready if called upon because of injury. Cincinnati Bengals RB Chris Perry, who was active but did not play in Weeks 2 and 3, caught two passes for 24 yards against the Steelers. "I was happy to get in," Perry said. "You're always happy to play." Both of Perry's receptions came on second down. His first catch, an 11-yarder in the first quarter, contributed to the Bengals' first scoring drive of the game. C Jerry Fontenot made his third consecutive start at Pittsburgh. S Kim Herring, foot, is questionable for the Bengals week-six contest against Browns. S Kevin Kaesviharn, back, is questionable for the Bengals week-six contest against Browns. DL Carl Powell, knee, is questionable for the Bengals week-six contest against the Browns. DT Matthias Askew, knee, is questionable for the Bengals week-six contest against Browns. C Rich Braham, knee, is questionable for the Bengals week-six contest against Browns. LB Caleb Miller ankle is probable for the Browns game. He returned to the game Sunday after twisting the ankle. OL Larry Moore knee is probable for the Bengals week-six contest against Browns. He dressed but did not play Sunday at Pittsburgh. Baltimore Ravens RS B.J. Sams recorded 250 yards in returns, 25 yards off the team record set by Jermaine Lewis in 1997. RB Jamal Lewis will miss practice Thursday, when he will enter a guilty plea to avoid a federal drug conspiracy trial, but he is expected to start Sunday. "I'm comfortable that he'll have enough time to be ready for Sunday's game," coach Brian Billick said. "Jamal will be back here Thursday night. We'll catch him up very quickly. With what we'll be able to get done Friday and Saturday, we're comfortable with the fact that he'll be able to go out and perform on Sunday in Washington." TE Todd Heap is unlikely to play and will miss his third straight game because of a sprained ankle. He will be replaced by Terry Jones. WR Travis Taylor is unlikely to play and will miss his fourth straight game because of a groin injury. He will be replaced by Randy Hymes, who is leading the Ravens in receiving. RB Chester Taylor suffered a mild knee sprain but is expected to play Sunday. C Mike Flynn will be out for the fifth game this season with a broken collarbone. He could return after next week's bye. Minnesota Vikings RB Onterrio Smith will begin serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Smith can rejoin the team Nov. 1 and play in the Nov. 8 Monday Night Football game at Indianapolis. He exits on a hot streak, having compiled a career-high 198 yards from scrimmage in the Vikings' 27-22 victory over the Bears on Sept. 26. RB Michael Bennett had successful arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday and might be able to return in time to play in the Oct. 24 game against Tennessee. Bennett has been out since the third preseason game and has missed 11 of the past 19 games. LB E.J. Henderson knee didn't practice Monday and already has been ruled out for Sunday's game at Houston. LB Chris Claiborne calf will try to practice on Wednesday. He's still predicting he will play Sunday. TE Jermaine Wiggins hand hasn't returned to practice and will not play on Sunday. RB Moe Williams calf won't practice much this week. But that doesn't mean he won't play on Sunday. Williams, 30, is an experienced veteran who doesn't need to practice much to be sharp on game day. RB Mewelde Moore, who was fourth string entering training camp, might start because of injuries to Michael Bennett and Moe Williams and Onterrio Smith's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Moore has good moves and great hands for a running back. QB Daunte Culpepper has never played better. His 73-percent completion percentage and one interception in 100 attempts are examples of how well he knows the offense. QB Gus Frerotte has thrown only one pass, an incompletion that came after he botched a hold on a field goal attempt. He's still one of the best backups in the NFL. RB Larry Ned, who might not have made the team if not for injuries and Onterrio Smith's impending suspension, will help carry the workload in the backfield. He is a fumbler. WR Randy Moss hasn't struck deep for a touchdown this season, but he has been unstoppable near the goal line. All five of his touchdown catches have come inside the 5-yard line. WR Nate Burleson continues his workmanlike progress as a second-year pro. His 63-yard catch set up the game-clinching touchdown against Chicago two weeks ago. WR Kelly Campbell continues to be one of the NFL's most dangerous deep threats. He is averaging 24.6 yards on five catches. E Sean Berton, who was re-signed off the street before the Chicago game, isn't as good of a blocker as Jim Kleinsasser, who is out for the season because of a torn ACL. However, Berton did have five knockdown blocks against the Bears. P Darren Bennett continues to struggle because of inactivity. The former Chargers punter is used to kicking at least five times per game. But he has punted only five times in three games this season. He's averaging only 34 yards per punt. LB Dontarrious Thomas has a team-high 32 tackles, including a team-high 21 solos. His speed is unlike anything the Vikings had last season. Despite being benched as the WLB before the Bears game, Thomas became the emergency MLB when E.J. Henderson was injured. Thomas hadn't played or practiced the position since college, but his speed enabled him to make a game-high 13 tackles. CB Antoine Winfield is second on the team in tackles with 28. He has proven to be a fearless tackler, but his hands are below average for a cornerback. He dropped an INT against the Bears. DT Kevin Williams has a team-high two sacks and also is tied for second in passes defensed with three. He has shown flashes of becoming a Pro Bowl player in only his second season. Chicago Bears C Olin Kreutz will have his right elbow scoped Wednesday to clean up some loose material, and he may not practice much between now and the Redskins game, but he's not expected to miss any games. "He can play with pain, and he's been playing with pain, and it's been going on for a while," coach Lovie Smith said. "We had targeted this date to get it all cleaned up." G Rex Tucker elbow should return to practice at least by next week but it will be at least another couple more weeks until he's ready to play. QB Jonathan Quinn was inaccurate and indecisive early on in his first start in three years, but he played better as the game went on, although his failure to avoid sacks remains a concern. He received repeated votes of confidence from coach Lovie Smith. RB Thomas Jones got a taste last Sunday of defenses geared to stopping him. Jones 32 yards on 13 carries can expect a steady diet of the same until fill-in QB Jonathan Quinn proves capable of beating opponents with the pass. MLB Brian Urlacher is expected to be at full speed by next week and should start in the Bears' next game, Oct. 17 against the Redskins. He missed the past two games after re-aggravating a preseason hamstring injury. CB Jerry Azumah is expected back in the starting lineup for the next game after being sidelined since early August following surgery for a herniated neck disk. QB Chad Hutchinson will get a crash course on Terry Shea's offense during the bye week as the Bears hurry to get the recent acquisition up to speed and prepared to play the role of backup, so that rookie Craig Krenzel can go back to the more comfortable No. 3 spot. RB Anthony Thomas did not play a down in Week Four, even though the ground game struggled big time. Coach Lovie Smith said he didn't consider using Thomas as a change of pace because Thomas Jones is clearly their best threat. WR David Terrell had the second 100-yard game of his career and the second of this season, when he caught nine passes for 116 yards last Sunday. Terrell is averaging 16.7 yards per catch, more than double last year's 8.3-yard average. WR Bobby Wade had four catches for the second straight week and has already matched last season's rookie total of 12 receptions, and his 161 yards are 24 more than last season. WR Justin Gage, the team leader last season with a 19.9-yard average per catch, didn't catch a pass last week and has just two all season. Coach Lovie Smith said he wasn't sure why Gage hasn't been more involved in the offense. TE Desmond Clark had two catches for 11 yards a week after being blanked in Minnesota, where he played with a sprained ankle. PK Paul Edinger's 25-yard field goal last Sunday was just his ninth in his last 18 attempts. LB Hunter Hillenmyer has played well enough while filling in for Brian Urlacher at MLB that he might be considered for a starting job on the strong side where Joe Odom and Marcus Reese split time last week. Detroit Lions RB Kevin Jones, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the Lions' 30-13 loss to Philadelphia, got a good start toward recovering from the injury by resting the ankle and getting treatment during the Lions' bye week but it appears unlikely he will be ready to play in Atlanta on Sunday. Jones is walking without a limp but has yet to test the ankle by running. CB Dre' Bly suffered a sprained left knee in the first quarter of the season opener at Chicago and missed the next two games but is hopeful of returning for their game Sunday at Atlanta. The Lions miss Bly's playmaking ability and his leadership in the secondary. CB Andre Goodman has not played since the season opener because of a strained thigh muscle - a muscle between his quad and hamstring, as coach Steve Mariucci explained it - but might be ready to return Sunday in the game at Atlanta. Goodman is the backup to RCB Dre' Bly and also the nickel back, probably the third best corner on the Lions roster. QB Joey Harrington has had a bye week to cushion the blow of his poorest outing of the season and now he has another major challenge when he goes against the Atlanta defense that has surfaced as one of the NFL's toughest in the early weeks of the season. Harrington completed 21 of 38 for 199 yards and two TDs but was sacked five times in the Lions' 30-13 loss to the Eagles two weeks ago. The Falcons defense features DE Patrick Kerney, who leads the NFL with seven sacks. QB Mike McMahon has yet to play a down as the backup to Lions starter Joey Harrington. McMahon has a career completion percentage of only 42.3 percent but showed indications of playing under control and improving his accuracy in the preseason. RB Shawn Bryson is listed as the third running back in the Lions depth chart but fills a valuable role as the most veteran of the team's halfbacks. Aside from FB Cory Schlesinger, he is the team's best at picking up the blitz, he can handle fullback duties if needed and is likely to get occasional rushing assignments with rookie Kevin Jones hampered by an ankle injury. His 25-yard gain is the Lions' longest run of the season and he is averaging 6.9 yards on nine carries. WR Roy Williams, the rookie leading the Lions in receptions with 17 for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games, could be in line for a major workout if the Lions have trouble moving the football against Atlanta. Williams has become the favorite target for QB Joey Harrington, showing his big-play ability quickly in his rookie season. WR Az-Zahir Hakim and fellow-veteran Tai Streets will be counted on to step up their production as the Lions try to keep their offense going after the loss of WR Charles Rogers for the season and RB Kevin Jones for an indefinite period because of a high ankle sprain. Hakim has six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in the first three games but should get more opportunities as opponents zero in on rookie WR Roy Williams in coverage. TE Casey FitzSimmons looked like he would play a significant role in the Lions passing game during the pre-season but has been forgotten for the most part since the start of the regular season. The sure-handed FitzSimmons has just two receptions for 10 yards in the first three games, primarily because the Lions aren't throwing to him. PK Jason Hanson is being limited offensively by the Lions' lack of scoring punch. In three games he has had only three field goal opportunities and has connected on two of them, missing only a 47-yard attempt. DE James Hall will go into the game at Atlanta on Sunday as the team's leading quarterback sack threat, despite two pins remaining in his broken left thumb. Hall has 3.5 sacks in the first three games. The only other Lions DE involved in a sack is Kalimba Edwards, who has a half sack. Kansas City Chiefs WR Chris Horn enjoyed the biggest day of his brief pro career on the brightest regular-season stage possible. The first-year player caught five passes for 60 yards in the Monday night win in Baltimore. His most important catch was a diving 14-yarder that was the big play in KC's drive for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. QB Trent Green had his best overall game of the year in the 27-24 Monday night victory over Baltimore. He had a higher QB rating than Monday's impressive 99.3 in the loss to Houston, but his ability to scramble out of several potential sacks to either complete throws or run for positive yardage 20 yards before taking a knee on the last three snaps were huge in KC's effort to control the ball. RB Priest Holmes went a second straight game without catching a pass, but rushed a season-high 33 times for 125 yards against his former Baltimore team. TE Jason Dunn stepped up huge in the first half of Kansas City's 27-24 win over Baltimore. Dunn caught two passes for 20 yards in KC's 60-yard drive for a first series touchdown that wiped out the Ravens' early 3-0 lead. His 3-yard touchdown catch came on a big third-and-1 conversion. RB Derrick Blaylock stepped up with a big reserve effort in spelling Priest Holmes occasionally in the win over Buffalo. Blaylock's six carries for 28 yards included four huge runs for 24 in the 80-yard, 13-play drive for the game-winning touchdown. Cleveland Browns OL Enoch DeMar replaced LG Paul Zukauskas in the third quarter against the Redskins. Coach Butch Davis isn't saying whether the change is permanent. DeMar started ahead of Zukauskas in preseason, but did not play well enough to keep his job. QB Jeff Garcia raised his quarterback rating from 56.5 to 67.9 with his game against the Redskins. RB Lee Suggs is still looking for his first NFL start, but he was the leading rusher in the last two games he played - 186 yards against the Bengals in the last game of 2003 and 82 against the Redskins last week. TE Aaron Shea's touchdown against the Redskins was his first since Nov. 9, 2000. K Phil Dawson likes to get to the stadium by 9:30 a.m. when the Browns are on the road so he can get a feel for the footing and the wind. He has made 18 straight field goals, home and away. FS Chris Crocker might be in for some more playing time. The Browns expect opponents to test their pass defense because they defended the run well against Jamal Lewis and Clinton Portis. DT Gerard Warren plans to play against the Steelers Sunday. He missed the last two games with a pulled pectoral muscle. OLB Warrick Holdman is beginning to assert himself on run plays. Other than change because of injury, he is the only starter different from last year. Holdman was with the Bears in 2003. Pittsburgh Steelers LB Kendrell Bell will miss at least two more games after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a sports hernia on Tuesday. Bell has not played since the first exhibition game Aug. 14. QB Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception since his first play of his first start at Miami Sept. 26. He has thrown 46 passes since then without an interception while completing 29 for two touchdowns and 337 yards. QB Brian St. Pierre, the only other quarterback on the roster, still has not taken a snap in an NFL game in his second season. RB Duce Staley has consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time since 2002. He has never done it three straight times. RB Verron Haynes scored his first career touchdown Sunday in three NFL seasons. He's second on the team in rushing, tied for third in receiving and he's tied for the lead with six solo special teams tackles. WR Hines Ward leads the AFC in catches with 28 and yards with 394 even though he had his lowest production of the season Sunday with only 48 yards on six catches. WR Plaxico Burress' average per catch is up to 19.1 yards, but he has only caught nine passes as teams continue to double team him, leaving Hines Ward a more inviting target. TE Jay Riemersma caught his third pass of the season on Sunday as the Steelers continue to ignore their tight ends. They have four catches combined in four games. SS Troy Polamalu, who scored his first NFL touchdown on a 26-yard interception return against the Bengals, continues to lead the team in both solo tackles 23 and total tackles 33. LB Larry Foote has started all four games in Kendrell Bell's absence and is second on the team with 23 solo tackles. He also has a sack. San Francisco 49ers WR Tai Streets is the Lions' second leading receiver with eight receptions in the first three games but he has averaged only 7.0 yards per reception. With Charles Rogers out for the season with a broken collarbone, the Lions need increased production from Streets and fellow West Coast offense veteran Az-Zahir Hakim to keep their passing game moving.
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