Quarterback Michael Vick didn't participate extensively in the Atlanta Falcons' practice Wednesday or Thursday, but he and the team still seem optimistic that he will play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Vick hurt his right knee in last Sunday's triumph over the Minnesota Vikings, which improved the Falcons' record to 3-1. According to the team, an MRI exam showed no serious damage and Vick has only a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament.

But backup Matt Schaub has been working with the starting offense in this week's practices, and would start Sunday if Vick is unable to play. Schaub made one start last season as a rookie and the Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints. He replaced Vick in the second quarter last Sunday and led the Falcons to 16 points against the Vikings.

Vick tested his knee with some limited work in drills during Thursday's practice. It could be telling whether Vick participates fully in today's practice. But even if he doesn't, the Falcons probably wouldn't rule out him playing against the Patriots until seeing how he feels during pregame warmups Sunday. Coach Jim Mora told reporters Thursday that there's no reason to sit down Vick as a precaution and indicated that Vick will play against the Patriots if he's able to play.

Chiefs Lineman Hospitalized

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Kevin Sampson is hospitalized in Hoboken, N.J., after reportedly summoning paramedics to his home and then collapsing.

The Chiefs have a bye this weekend and weren't practicing, and Coach Dick Vermeil had allowed his players to leave town. The Chiefs had not been able to receive any updates from the hospital on Sampson's condition.

Sampson, 24, is a second-year pro out of Syracuse and made his first NFL start in last Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Culpepper Also Hurting

Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper has been playing with a sprained MCL in his right knee, which might be a contributing factor to his struggles this season. He has four touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 67.2. Last season, Culpepper had 39 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 110.9 passer rating. The Vikings (1-3) have a bye this weekend . . . .

Minnesota defensive end Kenechi Udeze will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery this week to repair torn cartilage . . . .

The Patriots are being secretive, as usual, with injury information, but defensive end Richard Seymour's status for the Atlanta game is unclear. He missed at least portions of practice both Wednesday and Thursday.

The Patriots, who are coming off a defeat to the San Diego Chargers, haven't lost consecutive games since December 2002 . . . .

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tailback Carnell (Cadillac) Williams might practice today, but the club still is weighing the possibility of having the rookie sit out Sunday's game against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium. Williams has been slowed by foot and hamstring injuries and had only 13 rushing yards in last Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions.

"If he's okay to play, if he's cleared by our doctors and trainers, he'll play," Coach Jon Gruden said during his news briefing Thursday. "If he isn't, he won't . . . . These are regular-season games, and we have got to win." . . .

The Green Bay Packers placed wide receiver Terrence Murphy on the injured reserve list, ending his season. He suffered a neck injury during Monday night's loss at Carolina. Murphy has full movement in his arms and legs and has only a slight tingling sensation in one shoulder, according to Packers Coach Mike Sherman, but still will require eight to 10 weeks of rehabilitation from the injury. His injury reportedly is a bruised spinal cord, and his prospects of resuming his career are unclear at this point.

Green Bay signed running back ReShard Lee . . . .

Arizona placed middle linebacker Gerald Hayes on the IR list because of a knee injury. He has been sidelined since the preseason . . . .

The league extended its working agreement with NFL Europe for five more years during Thursday's owners' meeting in the Detroit area . . . .

Miami Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael signed a four-year, $18 million contract extension that includes just less than $9 million in bonuses. The deal, negotiated by agent Drew Rosenhaus, runs through the 2009 season . . . .

The Saints announced that they've sold all but 2,000 tickets to their Oct. 16 game in San Antonio against the Falcons. Ticket sales for their Oct. 30 game in Baton Rouge, La., against the Dolphins aren't going as briskly. According to the Saints, 25,000 tickets have been sold for that game, which will be played at LSU's 79,000-seat Tiger Stadium . . . .

Linebacker Jamie Winborn is in Jacksonville today to undergo a physical for the Jaguars. If he passes, the Jaguars will complete a trade in which they'll obtain Winborn from the San Francisco 49ers. Winborn had lost his starting job in San Francisco and had left the team while the 49ers tried to work out a trade.