Backup QB doesn't plan to stop riding

Updated: May 20, 2005, 12:24 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Pittsburgh Steelers: Don't expect Steelers backup quarterback Tommy Maddox to criticize starter Ben Roethlisberger for riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

Maddox also rides without a helmet, and has done so for four years. And, just like Roethlisberger, Maddox apparently doesn't plan to stop just because of the recent accident involving Browns tight end Kellen Winslow.

Winslow injured his right knee May 1 when he was thrown from his motorcycle after it struck a parking lot curb and he is unlikely to play this season.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher recently cautioned Roethlisberger about the risks of riding a motorcycle without a helmet, but Maddox doesn't seem to think it's a major issue.

"Everybody's had bikes for a long time, and one guy wrecks and everybody makes a huge deal out of it," he said. "One guy's doing tricks in the parking lot and wrecks, and all of a sudden it's a front-page story.

"You have to look at life, obviously you have to be smart, and I try to be smart because I have a wife and two kids, not because I'm playing a game."

Sixth-round choice signs: Offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu of Utah, the Steelers' sixth-round choice in the 2005 draft, has signed his first NFL contract. The three-year deal is for $986,750 and includes a $61,750 signing bonus and standard minimum base salaries of $230,000 (for 2005), $310,000 (2006) and $385,000 (2007). The salary cap charge for '05 is $250,583.

Kemoeatu is the first of the team's eight picks to reach a contract accord.

Despite seeing his draft stock drop in the weeks preceding the lottery, Kemoeatu is seen as an excellent prospect, one who will be counted on to quickly add depth to a Pittsburgh unit that had two starters defect as unrestricted free agents this spring. Kemoeatu, 21, was a three-year starter in college and the Steelers will work him at both guard spots.

San Diego Chargers: The team rebuffed a proposal from the agents for first-round pick Shawne Merriman in which the former Maryland defensive end would have attended the club's offseason program but not participated in any on-field activities.

"There is no such thing as a half-Charger here," general manager A.J. Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Either you're a Charger or you're not."

The earlier of the Chargers' two choices in the first round, and the 12th prospect taken overall, Merriman skipped a recent minicamp because he and his agents had issues with the language in the injury protection agreement that San Diego uses for draft choices. Such agreements essentially stipulate that a franchise will negotiate in good faith with a player even if he is injured before signing his contract.

Merriman and his agents, Kevin Poston and Carl Poston, have said the player will sit out all offseason workouts until the matter is resolved. They have contended the language in the agreement does not adequately cover Merriman in the event of an injury. Chargers officials countered that the agreement was accepted by other draft choices and that they have used the same language for years.

"We thought we made a good-faith gesture," Kevin Poston said. "I want [Merriman] to be there, and he wants to be there. We want him to meet with coaches, talk with coaches, walk through things, but just not do any physical activities."

Philadelphia Eagles: The team rewarded defensive coordinator Jim Johnson with a four-year contract extension Thursday.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Over the last five years, Johnson's defense ranked first in the league in fewest points allowed (15.5 per game), sacks (236), third-down defense (33 percent) and red zone defense (86 touchdowns in 213 attempts).

"As I've said many times, Jim Johnson is the best in the business at what he does," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "His defensive units continue to produce at a very high level as he puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses. We're happy to have him here for the next several years."

Despite using a new tandem of starting cornerbacks -- Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown -- in 2004, the Eagles ranked second in the league in points allowed (16.3) and sacks (47).

From 2000-02, the Eagles had a streak of allowing 21 or fewer points in 34 straight games, the second-longest in NFL history.

Final autopsy complete for Reggie White:
  The final autopsy report on former NFL star Reggie White, released earlier this week, confirmed that the former defensive end died from complications from sarcoidosis. White died Dec. 26, at the age of 43, after having breathing problems in his sleep.

Dr. Michael Sullivan, of the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Medical Examiner's Office, ruled that White died from a cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat that was caused by the complications from sarcoidosis.

Pulmonary sarcoidosis occurs eight times more often in African Americans than whites. Sarcoidosis often forms inflamed cells in vital organs.

ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.

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