Bears' Azumah to have neck surgery

Updated: August 5, 2004, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

Chicago Bears: Jerry Azumah, Chicago's Pro Bowl kick returner, will undergo neck surgery for a disc problem and will be sidelined three to four months, the team said.

Azumah, a starting defensive back, led the NFL in kickoff return average last season and ran two back for touchdowns.

Coach Lovie Smith said it was premature to discuss whether the injury was career-threatening.

"It's pretty early to say that when we say we're going to get him back in three to four months," Smith said. "It's tough when you don't know for sure, and now we know so we're moving forward."

San Diego Chargers: Doug Flutie underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss an estimated two weeks.

The 41-year-old quarterback had been bothered by soreness in his left knee and hadn't practiced since Saturday. He tried to return to the Chargers' training camp afternoon session on Wednesday, but was pulled out when the pain returned.

"That kind of stuff just doesn't happen to him," said Drew Brees, currently the starter ahead of Flutie and unsigned rookie Philip Rivers. "He's just not used to that."

Flutie, who turns 42 in October, has had few injuries in a pro career which dates to 1985 and the New Jersey Generals in the USFL. He did miss three games in 2000 as a member of the Buffalo Bills with a groin injury.

Tennessee Titans: Prosecutors said they will seek to drop drunken driving and gun charges against quarterback Steve McNair because a judge ruled two weeks ago that police didn't have sufficient cause to stop him.

District Attorney Torry Johnson said he decided not to appeal the July 22 decision by Judge Cheryl Blackburn that effectively eliminated all police evidence in the case, including a breath test that showed McNair was intoxicated. Instead, Johnson will ask Blackburn to dismiss the case at a hearing Friday.

"While her conclusion is contrary to our position, I cannot say it is illogical or clearly wrong and neither would an appellate court," Johnson said.

McNair was arrested in May 2003 while driving his sport utility vehicle in downtown Nashville. His blood alcohol content registered at 0.18 percent, almost twice the 0.10 level then used to define driving under the influence, according to a police report. The DUI threshold has since been lowered to 0.08 percent.

In last month's order, Blackburn ruled that a police video didn't show McNair's vehicle weaving outside his lane of traffic and that officer Shawn Taylor did not have a reason to stop him. That ruling meant all evidence gathered after the stop, including a gun found in McNair's car and the blood alcohol test, was excluded.

Atlanta Falcons: A series of fights broke out during the first of four practices between Atlanta and the Titans in Nashville. By the end of the nearly 90-minute session, the Falcons felt as if they stood their ground well.

"Tennessee had to match our tempo," Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking said. "They're a very good football team. We don't have a lot of respect right now, and it's not deserved. We came here to test ourselves against a really good football team."

Atlanta tight end Jason Rader and Titans rookie tackle Aaron McConnell got into a fight that turned into a scrum with all the linemen moving in, and Titans end Carlos Hall grabbed an Atlanta player and pulled him away from the pile.

Philadelphia Eagles: Terrell Owens acknowledged he is making too many mistakes, including a drop over the middle, perhaps because he's still adjusting to wearing pads in workouts.

The Eagles use pads in their morning sessions and run more live drills than their new star receiver was used to in San Francisco.

"I've just got to conform to the way they do things here," he said. "Whether I like it or not, it's just the way things are done. From my standpoint, to go live you take a risk at getting guys hurt, especially some of the key guys. I feel like I'm one of the key guys in the offense."

Minnesota Vikings: Center Matt Birk had a hernia operation this week but is expected to play in the season opener against Dallas.

Birk had minor surgery Wednesday to determine the cause of a pelvic injury that caused him to miss three consecutive practices.

Coach Mike Tice said Thursday the Pro Bowl player would miss three to four weeks, and that he has been guaranteed that Birk will be ready for the opener Sept. 12.

Vikings cut Kelly: Offensive lineman Lewis Kelly was cut after four seasons.

Almost two years ago, his wife died from a rare blood disorder. Rakiva Kelly was pregnant at the time.

This year, Kelly was trying to win a job as a backup center with Birk being treated for a sports hernia. But rookie Anthony Herrera impressed coach Mike Tice for the third spot on the depth chart behind Cory Withrow.

"Very, very tough, but it was time to move on," Tice said, referring to Kelly's release.

Carolina Panthers: Former first-round draft pick Rashard Anderson was waived, hours after the defensive back was reinstated by the NFL following a suspension of more than two years for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The former Jackson State star was suspended by the league May 23, 2002. He applied for reinstatement repeatedly over the last 15 months before getting permission to play again Thursday.

NFL teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the former first-round pick. If he isn't claimed by 4 p.m. Friday, Anderson becomes a free agent.

Anderson will cost the Panthers $560,000 under this year's salary cap, the remaining prorated portion of his signing bonus.

In other news, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad dislocated a finger during Thursday afternoon's practice and was forced to leave practice early. Muhammad will be listed as day-to-day.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback Fernando Bryant strained his right hamstring. Coach Steve Mariucci said he hoped Bryant would miss only a few days.

Bryant, who was a five-year starter in Jacksonville, is being counted on to start, joining Dre' Bly to form a speedy and experienced tandem of corners. He signed as a free agent in the offseason.

Cincinnati Bengals: Second-round pick Keiwan Ratliff reached an agreement on a four-year contract. Running back Chris Perry, the team's first-rounder, remains unsigned.

Ratliff's deal includes a signing bonus between $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

Seattle Seahawks: Center Robbie Tobeck missed practice after straining his right calf the previous day, and trainers initially said he could miss up to two weeks.

However, coach Mike Holmgren said the medical staff was encouraged by how Tobeck felt, "which leads me to believe it's not going to be two weeks."

Third-string quarterback Brock Huard, who left Wednesday's practice when his back tightened, also sat out.

"We took pictures of it. There's nothing dramatically wrong with his back," Holmgren said. "It's muscle spasms. It will be a couple of days before we know when he can really come back."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press