Little died while working out

Updated: March 23, 2005, 1:04 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Pittsburgh Steelers: David Little, a durable linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1990, died while weightlifting at home in Miami. He was 46.

Little had heart disease, and a cardiac fluttering Thursday caused him to drop on his chest 250 pounds of weights, which rolled onto his neck and suffocated him, the coroner said Tuesday. Little was found by his sons, David Jr. and Darien.

Little played his entire 12-year career in Pittsburgh after he was drafted out of Florida in the seventh round in 1981. He started 125 of the 179 games he played for the Steelers and once played in 89 in a row. His last season in the league was 1992.

His older brother, Larry Little, was an All-Pro guard for the Miami Dolphins.

Little is also survived by his wife, Denise, his mother, daughter and four sisters.

New England Patriots: Linebacker Don Davis was re-signed on Tuesday.

Davis, an unrestricted free agent who is entering his 10th NFL season, played mostly on special teams during two seasons with the Patriots. In 2004, he started at safety for the final two games of the regular season.

The 32-year-old Davis has also played for St. Louis, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. A starter in 17 of his 120 career games, he had 32 tackles in 16 games last season and has one interception and 140 tackles in his career.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pioli honored: For the second straight year, New England VP of player personnel Scott Pioli won The Sporting News NFL executive of the year award.

In voting by his peers, Pioli, 39, received 19 votes, easily beating A.J. Smith of San Diego (9) and Tom Heckert of Philadelphia (8 1/2).

Pioli joined Bobby Beathard and Bill Polian as the only back-to-back winners of the award. He was the youngest winner last year.

"This is a humbling honor, a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people," he said. "I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a tremendous support staff. Without them I couldn't do my job."

Cincinnati Bengals: Safety Anthony Mitchell, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year contract Tuesday with the Bengals.

Mitchell is a sixth-year player who was with the Bengals for the final 12 games last season after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He played for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis for two seasons in Baltimore, when Lewis was the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

Seattle Seahawks: Salary cap expert Mike Reinfeldt, brought in as a consultant last month to help Seahawks officials deal with a dire free agency situation, has been hired full-time as the team's vice president of football administration.

The addition of Reinfeldt, a former standout NFL safety and the AFC defensive player of the year in 1979, is the first key front office move made by new Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell, who was hired last month. Reinfeldt was key since the outset of free agency in helping Seattle retain quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and offensive tackle Walter Jones with new long-term contracts.

"He knows the numbers, he knows the market," head coach Mike Holmgren told the Tacoma News Tribune. "In my opinion, he's excellent at determining the value of a player for the Seahawks."

Reinfeldt, 51, was originally hired by the Seahawks in 1999 as the senior vice president, moving to Seattle along with Holmgren, following a long tenure in the Green Bay front office. But Reinfeldt, regarded as one of the NFL's top salary cap managers and contract negotiators, left the Seahawks in February 2004 because of front office upheaval.

Facing the daunting task of trying to retain most of their 16 pending unrestricted free agents -- including big names like Hasselbeck, Jones and tailback Shaun Alexander -- the Seahawks hired Reinfeldt as a part-time consultant two months ago. The move came just after owner Paul Allen dismissed then-president Bob Whitsitt, and with the front office in a potentially disastrous state of flux.

Reinfeldt quickly negotiated big-money deals with Hasselbeck and Jones, which allowed the Seahawks to then designate Alexander a "franchise" player.
--ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli

New Orleans Saints: Six veteran players have reached new agreements with the Saints, the team announced Tuesday.

Safety Steve Gleason has agreed to a three-year deal; defensive end Tony Bryant, two years; and one-year agreements were reached with tight-end Lamont Hall, linebacker Sedrick Hodge, safety Mel Mitchell and linebacker Terrence Melton, according to a team news release. ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reported Mitchell agreed to a one-year contract worth $656,000.

Hodge, 26, is the most notable of the veteran re-signed, according to Pasquarelli. The four-year veteran is a former third-round draft choice (2001) who, if healthy, could vie for a starting job. The onetime North Carolina star started 15 games in 2002, and posted 75 tackles that season, but has been limited by injuries to just 18 appearances and 15 starts the past two years. Hodge has appeared in 50 games and has 141 tackles, one sack and 10 passes defensed.

A five-year veteran, Hall, 30, is mostly used as a blocking tight end. His retention further crowds an already deep tight end corps, Pasquarelli said. The former Clemson standout has 13 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns in 78 games. Mitchell, 26, was a fifth-round pick in the 2002 draft and has appeared in 31 games, principally on special teams.

Gleason, a special teams standout, was an unrestricted free agent entering his fifth year. In 2004, he had 15 tackles (14 solo) and had a blocked punt for the third-straight year. He has posted 62 special teams stops (44 solo) since 2002, the clubs highest total over that span, according to statistics from the Saints.

Bryant was voted NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking a potentially game-tying field goal on the last play of the victory in the 2004 finale at the Carolina Panthers. On the defensive front, he had 31 tackles (23 solo), a pair of sacks and three pass defenses last season. He was an unrestricted free agent entering his fifth year.

Mitchell, a restricted free agent and special teams standout entering his fourth season, had 29 tackles in 2004, forced a fumble on the kickoff coverage unit at Oakland that was run in for a touchdown by linebacker Colby Bockwoldt.

Melton was signed by the Saints, in early December off the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad and was an exclusive rights free agent.

--The Associated Press and L.P.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Restricted free agent safety Deke Cooper, who figures prominently in the Jaguars' plans for 2005, has re-signed with the team. The three-year veteran signed the one-year qualifying offer of $1.43 million.

Cooper is regarded by Jaguars coaches as an emerging player, the heir apparent to the strong safety spot currently held by Donovin Darius. The Jaguars have been attempting to trade the disgruntled Darius and, although Jacksonville officials recently suggested that the veteran safety likely will return in 2005, they would still deal him for the right offer.

Part of the rationale in marketing Darius is that the Jaguars feel confident that Cooper, 27, is ready to be a starter. At 6-feet-2 and 210 pounds, Cooper is a physical hitter in the secondary and has nice range. The former Notre Dame star has 75 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and six passes defensed in 40 appearances, including 10 starts.
--L.P.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, an unrestricted free agent who has appeared in just seven games over the last three seasons, has re-signed with the Steelers. The nine-year veteran signed a one-year, $665,000 contract to remain with the team.

Despite his lack of playing time, keeping Brooks became key for the Steelers when they lost tackle Oliver Ross to Arizona in free agency and failed to land either of the two potential replacements who visited with Pittsburgh officials. Barring the acquisition of another veteran, Brooks likely will be the top backup at both tackle spots in 2005.

Brooks, 32, has appeared in 102 games and started 62 contests. But 45 of those starts came in the first three seasons of his career, with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he has been mostly a backup ever since.
--L.P.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE