Peterson a 'long shot' to play this week

The Minnesota Vikings will probably be without star running back Adrian Peterson for at least another week.

Peterson was sent to work out in a swimming pool Monday for continued rehab on his injured right knee. Coach Brad Childress said he didn't expect Peterson to be ready for the next game against the New York Giants.

"It's hard to say right now. He hasn't been on hard land yet," Childress said.

Chester Taylor resumed his role as the featured back and rushed for 164 yards on Sunday in a victory over Oakland with Peterson watching from the sideline.

Peterson, who still leads the league by a wide margin with 1,081 yards rushing, was hurt in the third quarter of the Nov. 11 game against Green Bay on a tackle by Packers cornerback Al Harris that caused his lateral collateral ligament to tear. The LCL is the least critical of the four knee ligaments.

Peterson has spent "literally, six to eight hours a day" in the training room since then, Childress said. He'll have to practice before being cleared for action in a game, so it's likely he won't return until some time in December.

Also, fullback Tony Richardson sprained his knee and also hurt his ankle against the Raiders.


Quarterback J.P. Losman will get his fourth straight start at Jacksonville on Sunday, when Buffalo could again be without top offensive threat Marshawn Lynch.

Coach Dick Jauron said Monday that while he wouldn't count out Lynch, he's not optimistic the rookie running back will be fully healed from a severely sprained left ankle.

"I don't want to discount him ever," Jauron said. "But it is a substantial sprain and injury."

That's potentially bad news for the Bills (5-5), who are trying to rebound from a 56-10 loss to New England on Sunday and hoping to stay in the AFC playoff hunt.

Jauron said Lynch, who was hurt in a 13-10 win at Miami on Nov. 11, was still wearing a protective boot through last weekend.

Despite missing the game against the Patriots, Lynch still ranks eighth in the NFL with 751 yards rushing and leads the Bills with six touchdowns. With a touchdown passing, Lynch has had a hand in seven of 11 TDs produced by Buffalo's offense this season.


Quarterback Alex Smith plans to get a second opinion on his injured throwing arm from Dr. James Andrews, coach Mike Nolan said.

Smith was scheduled to travel to Alabama on Monday to consult with the noted orthopedist, who has reviewed the results of Smith's MRI exams ever since the former No. — draft pick separated his right shoulder against Seattle on Sept. 30. Smith then developed soreness in his forearm after returning to workouts.

Smith struggled through three games before clashing publicly with Nolan last week. Smith revealed his injuries were more serious than the quarterback or his coach let on, while Nolan said Smith hadn't communicated well with him.

"Right now he's questionable, and I'm hopeful," Nolan said of Smith's status for Sunday's game at Arizona.


Joey Harrington was sixth in the NFC in completion percentage and had led the Falcons to two straight wins when he was benched by coach Bobby Petrino for the start of Sunday's 31-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

It's little wonder Harrington bristled, especially after he completed 16 of 20 passes with the Falcons' only touchdown throw in relief of Byron Leftwich.

"I'm not trying to make a case to start," Harrington said. "I'm trying to do a job for this team. Coach has made his decision. My job is to be ready for this team whenever I'm needed. If that means to start, then I'll start. If it means to back up and be ready to play, that's what I'll do as well. I want to play for this team."

Leftwich threw two interceptions and lost one of his two fumbles. A combination of too little protection by the line and holding the ball too long doomed Leftwich, who was 15-of-28 for 106 yards and was sacked three times before he was pulled in the third quarter.

Fans began booing Leftwich in the second quarter. They chanted "Joey! Joey!" and cheered when Harrington came in the game.

The likely scenario is Petrino sticks with Leftwich for Thursday night's home game against the Colts, though the coach was clearly disappointed in Sunday's performance. Leftwich started after missing two games following ankle surgery.


The Panthers' tight end didn't know he was supposed to be on the field. The holder forgot to count to 11. And to make matters worse, the Packers knew what was coming.

Then the linemen started getting flattened, ending with Tramon Williams' 94-yard touchdown return of a pooch punt Sunday in Green Bay that may have best summed up Carolina's season: outsmarted, mistake-prone and overmatched.

"Anytime they've got 11 and you've got 10," coach John Fox said Monday, "it's not a good deal."

The touchdown, midway through the first quarter, gave the Packers the lead for good in their 31-17 win. It wiped out any momentum from Julius Peppers' blocked field goal on the previous possession and helped send Carolina (4-6) to its fourth straight loss.

Facing fourth-and-7 from the Green Bay 34, Fox sent out the field goal unit, even though the Panthers had determined they had to get to the 30-yard line for John Kasay to kick a field goal.

The Panthers were going to line up in field goal formation, and have Kasay punt it away. They did it two weeks earlier in Tennessee &

and the Packers knew it.

"It's something we practiced all week," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.

Kasay did punt away from Williams, but Williams moved to his left and fielded the ball on the second bounce at the 6. Soon, he was gone.


Provided they don't have to deal with any more controversial field goals that warrant bringing both teams back onto the field, the Ravens intend to affix a normal finish to their extraordinarily unusual season.

Any shot Baltimore had of reaching the playoffs probably dissipated with its 33-30 overtime loss to Cleveland. The Ravens sprinted into the locker room thinking they had won, only to be called back after the officials ruled &

correctly &

that a tying 51-yard field goal by the Browns' Phil Dawson was good.

The strange defeat was merely an extension of a year in which very little has gone right for Baltimore (4-6). Coming off a 13-3 season, the Ravens expected to be a Super Bowl contender.

"We're certainly not where we want to be," coach Brian Billick acknowledged.

"You hold onto whatever competitive perspective you choose to, individually and collectively. You've got to take the mentality of, 'OK, we'll run the table with six wins,'" he said. "Unrealistic? Sure. But you have to take that attitude."

A 6-0 run is unlikely because Baltimore next faces San Diego on the road before hosting New England and Indianapolis. There's also a season-ending matchup against Pittsburgh.


How could what looked to be the Steelers' easiest game of the season until now become a loss? This is how.

The defense that was giving up the fewest yards and points in the league allowed a 100-yard running back (Thomas Jones) for the first time in 35 games. A quarterback making only his third NFL start (Kellen Clemens) drove his team nearly the length of the field against them for a tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.

The offensive line quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can't wait to praise each week allowed seven times and a half-dozen more pressures by a defense that previously had only seven sacks. A team that is among the least-penalized in the NFL was flagged for 100 yards in infractions.

"We played totally out of character," Hines Ward said.

All this added up to a sloppily played, unemotional, lack of attention-to-details 19-16 overtime loss that could create further problems the rest of the Steelers' season.

"We win together," coach Mike Tomlin said, "and we stink it up together."


The Lions have all but stopped running the ball, and they aren't ready to throw it to heralded rookie Calvin Johnson.

That might not make sense to Lions fans, but coach Rod Marinelli isn't questioning Mike Martz's system.

"We are doing things based on coverages and matchups," Marinelli said Monday, a day after Detroit lost 16-10 to the New York Giants. "We have to run our system."

That system seemingly has abandoned any attempt to balance the run and the pass. In back-to-back losses to the Cardinals and Giants, the Lions have rushed for exactly 7 yards.

"You want to run the ball more, but it is hard to stay with it," Marinelli said. "We average 2.8 yards a carry, and we knew that the Giants were a top-five rushing defense. That's what you have to look at."

Against New York, Kevin Jones gained 19 yards on Detroit's first four offensive plays. But Martz only called seven more rushing plays, good for 6 yards.

"We felt we were going to have some great matchups in the passing game," Marinelli said, echoing his comments after the Cardinals loss. "We have to do what we think is going to let us move the ball down the field."

The problem is that the passing game isn't producing much. While Jon Kitna has thrown for 673 yards in the two losses, he has been intercepted five times while only producing 31 points.


Quarterback Marc Bulger, who absorbed six sacks in Sunday's victory at San Francisco, is about to get some relief.

The Rams (2-8) are expected to sign veteran Todd Steussie, who started 15 games for the team last year, but broke his foot in the preseason. St. Louis is so beaten up on the offensive line, with three starters on injured reserve, that the 36-year-old Steussie could start this weekend at home against the Seahawks.

"Because of the circumstances we're in with our offensive line and injuries, that's a possibility," coach Scott Linehan said. "We'd like to get him ready as soon as possible."

Linehan also said center Brett Romberg could be back from a high right ankle sprain that has sidelined him for three weeks.

Under terms of an injury settlement, Steussie wasn't able to sign with the Rams until this week. He's a two-time Pro Bowl player with experience at tackle and guard.

"He's one of those guys who works very hard to keep in shape," Linehan said. "He's going to have to get himself as close to playing shape as he can this week."

Tackle Alex Barron is the only opening-game starter left for the Rams, who have filled in with substitutes and castoffs. Brandin Gorin and Rob Petitti rotated at right tackle on Sunday.

Linehan said Romberg was "getting closer" after having a setback last week in practice.

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