Cowboys Likely to Interview Colts, Bears Assistants

Antoine Bethea saves a touchdown by knocking Bears running back Thomas Jones out at the 5 after a 52-yard gain, one play after a fumble by the Colts' Joseph Addai.
Antoine Bethea saves a touchdown by knocking Bears running back Thomas Jones out at the 5 after a 52-yard gain, one play after a fumble by the Colts' Joseph Addai. (By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 5, 2007

MIAMI, Feb. 4 -- Two assistant coaches who participated in Sunday's Super Bowl likely will interview for the Dallas Cowboys' head coaching job within the next day or two.

The Cowboys appear intent upon interviewing Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, a source familiar with the club's coaching search said.

Rivera's candidacy was reported last week, but it had not been clear that the Cowboys would interview Caldwell despite the fact that both candidates were being endorsed by those people in the league connected with the diversity committee. Both are minority candidates. Rivera is Latino and Caldwell is black.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said at Saturday's Hall of Fame announcement that he might interview two more candidates but he didn't identify them. Jones attended the Hall of Fame news conference, celebrating the election of former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, with two of his head coaching candidates, newly hired Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Turner, a former Cowboys offensive coordinator, is viewed by many as the front-runner but others say that San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Garrett and perhaps 49ers linebackers coach Mike Singletary remain under consideration. Jones interviewed Singletary last week, then announced Wednesday that he would wait until after the Super Bowl to select a replacement for Bill Parcells.

It's possible that the Cowboys would try to hire Rivera as their defensive coordinator if they choose Turner or Garrett as their head coach. Rivera's contract with the Bears reportedly is expiring.

The Cowboys are the only team in the league with a head coaching vacancy.

Pro Bowl Parameters

The league and the NFL Players Association apparently will enact a measure beginning next season that would bar a player from participating in the Pro Bowl if he is suspended for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug that season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union chief Gene Upshaw said last week they were discussing such a measure. Upshaw said there was support for the proposal but there were potential complications because many players have clauses in their contracts tied to being selected for the Pro Bowl. But a league source said there is considerable support for the measure among the players.

Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was selected for next weekend's Pro Bowl after serving a four-game suspension this season for a positive test that he attributed to unknowingly ingesting a banned substance contained in a supplement he was taking. Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said during the season that Merriman should be ineligible for consideration for the defensive player of the year award, which Taylor won.

Harper Gets in the Game

Colts cornerback Nick Harper played in the Super Bowl after not practicing all week because of a sprained ankle suffered in the AFC title game. Colts Coach Tony Dungy had expressed hope late in the week that Harper would be able to play but said he wouldn't know for sure until Harper tested his ankle during pregame warmups. . . .

Bears tailback Cedric Benson didn't return to the game after injuring his knee late in the first quarter. Benson, who had fumbled on Chicago's previous possession, was hurt with 1 minute 16 seconds to play in the opening quarter when he was tackled after a four-yard gain. After staying on the ground for several minutes as trainers stretched out his knee, Benson got to his feet and walked off.

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