With Hurricane Rita closing in on the Texas coastline, the Houston Texans canceled their practice scheduled for Thursday and told their players to leave town.
The team has a bye this weekend and doesn't play again until an Oct. 2 game at Cincinnati. It next plays at home on Oct. 9 against the Tennessee Titans.
That game could be moved to Nashville if necessary, in which case a Dec. 11 game between the two clubs scheduled to be played at Tennessee would be shifted to Houston. If the Oct. 9 game is moved, the Texans would not be scheduled to play at home again until Oct. 23.
Club officials are studying the possibility of having the team practice in Cincinnati next week, if necessary, to prepare for the Bengals game. For now, the club's players are scheduled to report back to Houston for a morning team meeting Monday.
Coaches Already Feeling Heat
Last year, there were two head-coaching changes in the NFL during the season, as the Miami Dolphins' Dave Wannstedt and the Cleveland Browns' Butch Davis failed to finish what they'd started.
Only two games into this season, there already are whispers around the league that two coaches, the Minnesota Vikings' Mike Tice and the Texans' Dom Capers, could find their jobs in jeopardy if their teams don't start playing better in the coming weeks.
The Vikings and Texans are among the NFL's seven 0-2 clubs, and both expected better this season. The Vikings hoped they'd be among the top NFC contenders after an offseason in which they retooled their defense and attempted to add by subtraction with the trade of talented but troubled wide receiver Randy Moss. So far, nothing is working as planned. The defense is ranked 30th in the league overall and last against the run, and quarterback Daunte Culpepper has struggled mightily without Moss and injured center Matt Birk, with eight interceptions and no touchdown passes.
Tice kept his job even after late-season collapses by the Vikings the previous two years. They reached the playoffs last season, with a record of 8-8, thanks to the forgiving nature of the NFC's postseason chase, and won a first-round game at Green Bay before losing at Philadelphia in a conference semifinal. A quirk in Tice's contract -- a team option for this season had to be exercised before the season ended -- might have played a role in preventing former owner Red McCombs from giving more serious consideration to firing him. But now Tice has a boss, new Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf, who didn't hire him but inherited him, putting him on even less sturdy footing.
Wilf has indicated that he plans to play a more active role in the team's football operations. He said publicly this week, in the aftermath of last Sunday's 37-8 defeat at Cincinnati, that Tice's job is not in jeopardy. Meantime, Tice is searching for answers, taking over some of the club's offensive play-calling duties from first-year coordinator Steve Loney, who took over when highly regarded offensive coordinator Scott Linehan jumped to the Dolphins in the offseason.
The expectations weren't quite as grandiose this season in Houston. But the Texans reasonably could have expected to make a serious run at being a .500 team this season, and so far they haven't looked capable of that. Capers isn't standing pat. On Monday, the day after a 27-7 defeat at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and replaced him with offensive line coach Joe Pendry. On Tuesday, he announced the benchings of two defensive starters, outside linebacker Jason Babin and cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
But Texans owner Robert McNair is said to be highly frustrated, and the scrutiny could fall on Capers soon if the changes he's making don't work out.
No Progress on Labor Front
Representatives of the league and the NFL Players Association met Wednesday but made little progress in negotiations on an extension of their collective bargaining agreement. The league's bargaining committee contains several new members and needed until next week to respond to what the union is seeking in the deliberations.
Rhodes Back to Work
Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes is resuming close to a full workload this week after missing one game, then attending another but relinquishing his play-calling duties. Rhodes's doctors told him that he'd suffered a mild stroke . . . .
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick sat out Wednesday's practice to rest the hamstring injury he suffered during last Sunday's loss at Seattle. His status for this weekend's game at Buffalo might not be determined until shortly before game time Sunday. Matt Schaub would start if Vick is unable to play. Schaub made one start last season as a rookie and threw two interceptions as the Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints . . . .
Bills safety Lawyer Milloy underwent thumb surgery, but could play against the Falcons with the thumb heavily wrapped. The Bills also are hopeful that linebacker London Fletcher (strained hamstring) and right tackle Mike Williams (sprained ankle) will play . . . .
Quarterback Donovan McNabb and wide receiver Terrell Owens didn't participate in the Philadelphia Eagles' practice Wednesday but almost certainly will play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. McNabb, who played last weekend's lopsided triumph over the San Francisco 49ers wearing a special pad to protect his bruised chest, has a groin injury, and Owens is plagued by lower abdominal pain.
Kicker David Akers, who is plagued by a strained hamstring, tried field goals but not kickoffs during Wednesday's practice. The Eagles signed Todd France to their practice squad this week as a potential fill-in kicker . . . .
Jacksonville re-signed defensive tackle Martin Chase and offensive lineman Derrick Fletcher and placed safety Donovin Darius, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend, on the injured reserve list.
Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich, who suffered a groin injury during last Sunday's defeat at Indianapolis, sat out Wednesday's practice but should be in the lineup this weekend.
The Jaguars yielded six sacks against the Colts, and could be ready to shake up their offensive line. Rookie Khalif Barnes could be moved into the playing rotation at left tackle, sharing time with Ephraim Salaam ahead of Mike Pearson. Fletcher could get a shot to earn playing time at left guard or center in the coming weeks . . . .
The Vikings likely will be without wide receiver Nate Burleson and linebacker E.J. Henderson for Sunday's game against the Saints. Burleson has a sprained knee and Henderson has a sprained ankle . . . .
The Saints placed kick returner Michael Lewis on the IR list. He suffered two torn knee ligaments during Monday night's loss to the New York Giants. The Saints signed wide receiver Nate Poole to take Lewis's roster spot. Aaron Stecker takes over as the team's kickoff returner while Donte Stallworth and Az-Zahir Hakim are slated to split the punt-return duties . . . .
Carolina safety Mike Minter sat out Wednesday's practice because of a strained calf muscle that could cause him to miss Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins . . . .
Green Bay could be without tight end Bubba Franks because of a bruised knee . . . .
Cleveland released Doug Johnson and claimed fellow quarterback Derek Anderson off waivers from Baltimore. The move leaves the Browns with two rookies, Charlie Frye and Anderson, backing up starting quarterback Trent Dilfer. Frye had beaten out Johnson for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart during the preseason.