Saturday, February 09, 2002

Tampa reverses field, breaks off Lewis talks


Gannon, Warner ready to start in Pro Bowl

The Associated Press

        TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' search for a new coach took another bizarre turn Friday when the team abandoned plans to hire Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

        Three weeks to the day after being rejected by Bill Parcells, the sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer decided against hiring Lewis — a stunning turnabout that again leaves the team scrambling for a backup plan.

        Lewis was told early Thursday that he was the choice to succeed Tony Dungy, who was fired Jan.14.

        But the Glazers never approved general manager Rich McKay's recommendation and squashed the plan after meeting with Lewis for five hours in the Washington, D.C., area on Thursday night.

        Lewis issued a statement through the Ravens.

        “There's no doubt that this is a setback for me and my family,” Lewis said. “I'm disappointed. Emotionally, it's difficult, but I'll rebound in a hurry.”

        I have to. I feel badly for my family, the Ravens and all the families whose lives were put on hold while I waited for a decision.”

        “I believe I can and will be a successful NFL head coach. I especially appreciate the efforts Rich McKay made on my behalf. I also appreciate the time the Glazer family gave me in an interview last night.”

        Lewis emerged as the prime candidate after Bucs general manager Rich McKay made an unsuccessful pitch to get Oakland's Jon Gruden.

        Tampa Bay contacted the Raiders this week about the possibility of hiring Gruden, who has one year remaining on his contract. The Bucs offered draft picks and perhaps cash as compensation, but abandoned hope of making a trade because Oakland's asking price was too high.

        Lewis, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and former Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner interviewed for the Tampa Bay opening last week.

        Turner dropped out of the running Monday, a day before accepting a position as the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator. Mularkey was told Thursday that the team intended to hire Lewis.

        It's the third time that Lewis, architect of one of the NFL's most dominating defenses, has come up short in a bid to become a head coach. He interviewed for the Buffalo Bills job that went to Gregg Williams after the 2000 season and was a candidate for the Carolina Panthers opening filled by John Fox last month.

        Lewis would have become just the third black head coach in the NFL.

        PRO BOWL:

        Rich Gannon doesn't care what anyone says, the Pro Bowl means something.

        And not just for the $30,000 you get if you win.

        Yet the Oakland quarterback understands why it's easy to think of the Pro Bowl as anything but a sporting event.

        It is billed as a weeklong party in paradise for the NFL's elite, and that's fairly accurate. Players talk coaches into cutting short practice, and an afternoon of beach bowling on popular Waikiki is the newest featured event.

        Still, Gannon's mind is made up.

        “I think this is taken seriously,” he said. “Everyone wants to play their best, especially when you get to the fourth quarter.”

        Gannon will play in his third Pro Bowl today at Aloha Stadium, starting for the AFC. He expects to last about a quarter.

        Coach Bill Cowher of the Steelers hadn't made a final decision on playing time Friday morning, when both teams canceled practice because of a downpour.

        Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart will relieve Gannon in the game, which tends to favor the offense.

        Kurt Warner of Super Bowl runner-up St. Louis will start for the NFC, followed by San Francisco's Jeff Garcia and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb.

        NFC coach Andy Reid and others say it's hard to predict Pro Bowls, though his team was the slight favorite.

        “We're going to go out there and kick their butts,” joked Brady. “There's a lot of talent on this team from what I see. But I don't know how they could even pick a line for this game.”

        RAIDERS:

        The defense attorney for Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell blamed the alleged victim of a reported rape, saying she consented to sex, dressed provocatively and bragged about posing for Playboy.

        Prosecutors contended Thursday that Darrell Russell ran the video camera that taped a 27-year-old woman being assaulted by at least one of Russell's friends.

        Prosecutors said they were unsure whether Russell had sex with the woman but are charging him with 25 felonies as an accomplice. Under California law, Russell could be found guilty of crimes committed by either of his two friends charged in the incident if he did not intervene.

        Police said the attack occurred last week at the Alameda home of Raiders defensive back Eric Johnson. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Allen denied Russell's request to reduce his $1.2 million bail.

        Russell was released Thursday night from Alameda County jail after posting 10 percent of that bail.

        Alameda (Calif.) County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Murphy and Russell's lawyer, Anthony W. Gibbs, both said they believe Russell held the camera.

        Gibbs said there was no evidence of any drugging and that the sex was consensual.

        TEXANS:

        Houston Texans owner Bob McNair bought out former Enron Corp. leader Kenneth Lay's minority share in the expansion NFL franchise.

        “Ken no longer has any interest in the Texans,” McNair said Friday. “Neither the team nor I will be making any further comments at this time.”

        Lay, Enron's former chairman and chief executive, was one of 10 minority owners of the Texans.

        Lay family spokeswoman Kelly Kimberly confirmed the sale, but neither she nor McNair would reveal the amount of Lay's stake.

        Lay's wife, Linda, has said they are trying to sell real estate holdings except their $7.1 million penthouse Houston home to stave off bankruptcy following Enron's collapse.

        BEARS:

        Quarterback Henry Burris signed a free agent contract Friday with the Chicago Bears, ending his ties with the Green Bay Packers after one season.

        Burris, 26, signed a three-year, $921,000 contract with the Packers last February, hoping to become the No. 2 quarterback. But those hopes faded when Green Bay brought in veterans Doug Pederson and Billy Joe Tolliver to take the bulk of snaps in the preseason.

        Pederson won the job as Brett Favre's backup.

        SAINTS:

        New Orleans hired three assistant coaches Friday. Mike Sheppard was hired as quarterbacks coach, Danny Langsdorf as offensive assistant-quality control coach and Paul Chryst as defensive assistant-quality control coach.

       



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