Smith apologizes for latest mistake

Updated: November 3, 2003, 8:27 PM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina receiver Steve Smith apologized Monday for his latest mistake, a costly personal foul for kicking a Houston player late in the Panthers' 14-10 loss to the Texans.

"He came in this morning to apologize to me," coach John Fox said. "It's something that he knows hurt the team. Steve made a mistake."

Smith has made his fair share of blunders in just under three years in the NFL.

He beat up a fellow receiver in a team meeting last year, drawing a one-game suspension from the Panthers. Smith later signed up for anger management classes.

Then he upset team management by lashing out over Carolina's slow stance in contract negotiations earlier this season. He apologized a day later, but not before calling a local sports radio show and insisting reporters baited him into the contract rant.

On Sunday, with just over six minutes to play, Carolina had the ball on the Texans 38 when Jake Delhomme dumped it off to Smith for a 7-yard gain. Smith was tackled by Jerry Deloach, who fell on him and made no attempt to quickly climb off Smith's leg. Smith drew the penalty after giving Deloach a swift kick in the back with his free leg.

Carolina ultimately had to punt and never got the ball back again.

"The guy's trying to injure me," Smith said after the game. "The play's over. He's laying on my leg. He's made the tackle already."

Smith, who declined to speak to reporters Monday, also admitted after the game that he was wrong.

"This is one day of many years I'm going to play in this league," he said. "This is one mistake of many mistakes."< ^Packers=

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A broken right thumb didn't prevent Brett Favre from rifling passes at the Metrodome or hunting for deer in the Wisconsin woods.

Less than 12 hours after a season-saving victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay's ironman quarterback went bow hunting in the sleet and snow.

Coach Mike Sherman gave his players an extra day off after their 30-27 victory that narrowed the Vikings' division lead to two games. Only players who needed treatment reported to work Monday, and that didn't include Favre, who played with a plastic splint on his right thumb.

"The only treatment he seems to employ is going out in the woods and going deer hunting with bow and arrow," Sherman said. "So, maybe that strengthens it."

The possibility of surgery was raised Wednesday when Favre had a difficult time at practice following the bye week, but he was on top of his game Sunday night, throwing three touchdown passes with a fourth one negated by a questionable flag.< ^Cardinals=

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The defense that was supposed to be the Arizona Cardinals' big weakness this season is getting better all the time, especially along the line.

The past two weeks, Arizona's defensive front stuffed the running games of the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, and the Cardinals won both times. The same thing happened earlier this season in Arizona's victory over Green Bay.

"That's key," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said Monday. "We've stopped the run against some good running teams. To stop the run you have to want to, first of all. It takes throwing your whole body in there. You've got to have the will to stop the run, and I like what we've been doing with that."

In the last two games, Arizona's front four has put pressure on the quarterback without the help of a blitz, which hadn't happened this season or last.

Cincinnati managed just 47 yards rushing, averaging 2.5 yards per carry. That forced Jon Kitna to pass, and he was intercepted twice. Had it not been for a roughing-the-passer penalty, it would have been three times.

The Cardinals also completed an unprecedented three days of in-season contract activity by signing wide receiver Bryan Gilmore to a two-year extension. The move came just before the deadline for contract adjustments that would count against this year's salary cap.

The Cardinals, who before this year almost never re-signed players still under contract, have re-signed or restructured deals with nine players since the start of the season. On Saturday, Arizona signed offensive tackle L.J. Shelton to a five-year extension worth $20 million to $25 million. The deal reportedly gives Shelton another $7 million this season.

In other moves on Saturday, the Cardinals restructured the final three years of guard Leonard Davis' contract to give him more money this year; running back Damien Anderson signed a three-year extension; and tight end Steve Bush, kick returner-running back Josh Scobey and linebacker LeVar Woods got two-year extensions. ^Colts=

INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety Idrees Bashir is expected to miss Sunday's game at Jacksonville with a dislocated right shoulder.

Colts coach Tony Dungy said Bashir will miss "a couple weeks at least" with the injury. He hurt the shoulder while trying to tackle Miami running back Ricky Williams during Sunday's 23-17 victory.

Bashir has started 37 of 40 games in his career.< ^Ravens=

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Even during his most optimistic moment this summer, Brian Billick could hardly imagine the Baltimore Ravens in such a lofty position at the midpoint of their season.

Despite starting a rookie quarterback and fielding one of the NFL's youngest teams, the Ravens hold a two-game lead in the AFC North and could soon begin printing playoff tickets for the third time in four years.

The 2000 Ravens team that won the Super Bowl and the 2001 club that reached the second round of the postseason both started 5-3. Billick insisted Monday this team is superior to both.

"I feel very good about this 5-3 football team," he said. "We've been here before, and I think this is the best 5-3 team I've had. That's saying a lot."

Billick stressed that the 2003 Ravens have amassed more yards and more points than the Super Bowl team that staggered to the halfway point in the midst of a three-game losing streak and a five-game touchdown drought.

This year's Ravens own the league's No. 1 rushing attack and are averaging 23 points per game.

"Defensively, it would be ambitious to compare it to the 2000 team, but this is a more athletic team that has a bigger upside at this point than that team did," he said.< ^Jaguars=

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars signed center Brad Meester to a five-year contract extension on Monday worth $13 million. The extension includes a $3.5 million signing bonus, and it could keep the fourth-year lineman under contract through 2008.

Meester was a second-round draft pick out of Northern Iowa in 2000, and has started all 56 games since he entered the league. The first three years he played mostly at guard, and this season he moved to center.< ^Eagles=

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb is spreading the ball around, piling up chunks of yards and even found a wide receiver in the end zone. All is suddenly right with the Philadelphia Eagles' offense.

Memories of an 0-2 start are fading. The Eagles are 5-3, have won five of six and are only a game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

The Cowboys, Miami and Carolina are the only teams on the Eagles' remaining schedule with winning records. The offense, which ranked among the worst in the league for most of the season, has quickly revitalized the last two weeks.

McNabb played his best game of the season against Atlanta, throwing for a season-high 312 yards and a touchdown.< ^Dolphins=

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are looking for some offensive line help a day after rookie left tackle Wade Smith gave up three sacks to Dwight Freeney in a 23-17 loss to Indianapolis.

The Dolphins worked out two free agent tackles. They also have seven-time Pro Bowler Richmond Webb scheduled for a workout Tuesday.

"You know, the grass is always greener," coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday. "You can fall into that trap if you don't really know what a guy can do. Most of the guys that are out there are out there for a reason. What's their ability level? What's their commitment? You have to take in all these variables. Now, if we can find somebody that would help us, then we'll definitely do it."< ^Bengals=

CINCINNATI -- Jeff Burris will meet with doctors Tuesday to find out whether his latest concussion will keep him out of the Bengals' lineup.

The 10th-year cornerback suffered a mild concussion Sunday when he tackled a kick returner during a 17-14 loss in Arizona. It was his second concussion in four weeks -- he also was knocked unconscious during a game in Buffalo.

Burris had an MRI test Monday and planned to meet with doctors to discuss the ramifications. He's had five concussions in his career, four in the last three years.

"At this point in my career, I'm enjoying the game. "I don't even think about (retirement), but obviously there are more serious things that you have to wonder about and be concerned about."< ^Browns=

BEREA, Ohio -- Quarterback Kelly Holcomb will finally return to Cleveland's starting lineup this week. He may have picked the wrong time to get healthy.

Holcomb, who broke his right leg in a Sept. 21 win at San Francisco, will start Sunday's against Kansas City. However, Holcomb will come back to an offense missing its top running back and wide receiver.

On Monday, coach Butch Davis suspended second-year running back William Green for one game and benched wide receiver Kevin Johnson in favor of Andre' Davis.

Green must sit out following his arrest last week on charges of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. Green has rushed for a team-leading 559 yards this season.

While recovering from a broken right fibula and sprained left ankle, Holcomb made two relief appearances for Tim Couch, who will once again be Cleveland's No. 2 quarterback.

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