NFL ROUNDUP News and notes
Playoff dates: The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the opening game of the second round of the NFL playoffs on Jan. 15, with the Atlanta Falcons at home for that day's second game. The Steelers, seeded No. 1 in the AFC, will face the Chargers, Jets or Broncos at 4:30 p.m.. New York is at San Diego this weekend, while Denver is at Indianapolis. The NFC South champion Falcons will play Green Bay, Seattle or St. Louis at 8:30 p.m. The Packers host the Vikings in the first round, when the Seahawks host the Rams. On Jan. 16, the Philadelphia Eagles will be at home at 1 p.m., and the New England Patriots will host that day's second game at 4:30 p.m. Philadelphia, seeded No. 1 in the NFC, will play the Seahawks, Rams or Vikings. New England will play the Colts, Chargers or Jets.
Draft order: San Francisco, Miami and Cleveland will have the first three picks in the NFL draft, with the Dolphins getting the second choice because their 4-12 record came against easier opposition. The NFL released the order for the first 17 teams on Monday with the rest to be decided by the outcome of the playoffs. The team that wins the Super Bowl will pick last. Then come Chicago, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Oakland, all 5-11; Arizona, Washington, Detroit and Dallas, all 6-10. Playoff-bound San Diego picks 12th with the choice of another 6-10 team, the New York Giants. New York and Dallas finished in a tie, but the Cowboys pick ahead of the Giants because they lost twice to New York. The Chargers are followed by Houston, Carolina and Kansas City (7-9), and New Orleans and Cincinnati (8-8).
Vikings: Injured starting strong safety Corey Chavous and two other players may not play in the NFC wild card game Sunday at Green Bay. Chavous was scheduled for an MRI on the left elbow he hurt in Sunday's loss to Washington, and coach Mike Tice said it's probably broken. Wide receiver Kelly Campbell separated his right shoulder in the regular season finale against the Redskins, and nickel cornerback Terrance Shaw sustained an unspecified rib injury. All three players are questionable at best for this week, Tice said. Special teams captain Willie Offord will replace Chavous, and cornerback Rushen Jones will move to safety to back up Offord and free safety Brian Russell.
Jets: Defensive end John Abraham will play against the Chargers on Saturday after missing the last month with a sprained right knee. Abraham injured his lateral collateral ligament against Pittsburgh on Dec. 12. The Jets have sorely missed him in the last two games, when they struggled to generate a pass rush in losses to New England and St. Louis. The three-time Pro Bowl selection had 91/2 sacks before he was hurt. Though he will play, Abraham will see a limited role during pass-rush situations, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. "I don't want him to try to play on a bad wheel 60 plays," Henderson said. "I'll put him in some situations where he can pass rush and do his deal." Coach Herman Edwards also said Wayne Chrebet is probable after sustaining a mild concussion against the Rams. Chrebet, who missed the final eight games of last season with post-concussion syndrome, was hurt early in the game and sat out the rest as a precaution. Edwards expects Chrebet to practice Wednesday.
Packers: Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker and tight end Bubba Franks are expected to play for Green Bay against the Vikings. Walker had his head slammed into the ground and Franks jammed his left knee. Coach Mike Sherman said Monday that backup running back Najeh Davenport, who missed the regular season finale with a strained shoulder, also is expected to play against the Vikings next Sunday. But wide receiver Robert Ferguson is unlikely to play after missing the last two regular season games following a hit Dec. 19 by Jacksonville's Donovin Darius that left him temporarily paralyzed. Sherman did not yet rule him out entirely, however.
Colts: Tight end Dallas Clark, linebacker Rob Morris and wide receiver Troy Walters were tested for concussions Monday. All three still are expected to play in Sunday's first-round playoff game against Denver. Coach Tony Dungy said the Colts escaped Sunday's 33-14 loss at Denver without any serious injuries or losing additional players for this week's playoff rematch with the Broncos.
Lions: Offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis will retire at the end of the month, coach Steve Mariucci said Monday. Lewis, 62, joined the Lions in 2002. He was Minnesota's offensive coordinator from 2000-01 and Green Bay's offensive coordinator from 1992-99. His NFL coaching career started in 1984 with San Francisco. The former Michigan State standout halfback was a Spartans assistant from 1969-82.
Andre Rison out of jail: Former Pro Bowl receiver Andre Rison was released from jail Monday after paying $10,000 in child support. Rison spent almost a month in jail for failing to pay child support for more than two years. He owed $127,000 to a woman with whom he has two sons. Rison requested his release Monday, saying he had an opportunity to play for an Arena Football League team. The Grand Rapids Rampage said Rison was invited to try out. The 37-year-old player was sentenced to jail on Dec. 8. Raycoa Handley, the mother of his 18-year-old and 16-year-old sons, contended he hadn't paid his $3,500-a-month child support since August 2002. Judge Cynthia Becker said Rison could leave jail if he made the $10,000 payment. The judge also stipulated that if Rison received a signing bonus from his new team, half would go to Handley, said Randall Kessler, Handley's attorney. Kessler said attorneys were working on reducing the monthly obligation to $1,000, but added that Rison had made no effort to make payments. Rison, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, spent 12 seasons in the NFL with Indianapolis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Kansas City and Oakland. He last played in the NFL in 2000 with Oakland. He was suspended for four games in 2001 for a repeat violation of the league's substance abuse policy and was out of football until August, when he joined the Toronto Argonauts and played five games with the CFL team.