An MRI exam taken this morning of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's left knee showed that he did not suffer a serious injury late in Monday night's last-second triumph at San Diego, according to the club.
Roethlisberger suffered a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise, according to the Steelers. That leaves his status for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in doubt but should not keep him sidelined for a significant amount of time.
"I think we all have a deep sigh of relief in regards to the prognosis," Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said at a news conference today.
Cowher indicated he will ready third-string quarterback Charlie Batch to start against the Jaguars, if necessary.
Roethlisberger left Monday's game with just over a minute to play after being hit by Chargers rookie defensive tackle Luis Castillo on a completion to wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. With backup quarterback Tommy Maddox already hurt, the Steelers turned to Batch, who handed off three times to tailback Jerome Bettis to set up Jeff Reed's 40-yard field goal with six seconds left that gave the Steelers a 24-22 win and improved their record to 3-1.
Roethlisberger's knee was bent awkwardly by Castillo's hit, and he was taken from the field on a cart after the game. Roethlisberger has a 16-1 regular-season record as a starter in the NFL, and he led the Steelers to the AFC title game last season after taking over for the injured Maddox in Week 2.
The Steelers can't turn back to Maddox now, since he suffered a calf injury during a practice Friday and is to be sidelined three to four weeks. Batch made 46 starts for Detroit between 1998 and 2001 but has thrown only eight regular-season passes for the Steelers over the past four seasons, all of them in 2003.
R. Williams Returns
The Miami Dolphins tailback has completed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, making him eligible to play Sunday in Tampa against the Buccaneers.
Williams last played in a regular-season NFL game on Dec. 28, 2003, when he rushed for 73 yards on 20 carries in a Dolphins' triumph over the New York Jets. He sat out last season after informing former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt just before training camp that he was retiring, but he returned to the club this summer and seems to be on good terms with new coach Nick Saban.
He returns to a team that no longer needs him to be its offensive centerpiece. Rookie tailback Ronnie Brown, the second overall choice in the NFL draft in April, has totaled 229 rushing yards in the past two games, although he lost a key fumble in Sunday's 20-14 loss at Buffalo that dropped the Dolphins' record to 2-2.
Martz Takes Leave of Absence
The St. Louis Rams can't be certain about when Mike Martz will coach them again. Martz, on his doctor's orders, took an indefinite leave of absence Monday while he's being treated for what's been diagnosed as a bacterial infection of his heart.
Rams President John Shaw said during a news conference Monday that he expects Martz to return to the team this season, but he can't be certain of that. Shaw said that Martz could be back in as little as two weeks, or his absence could be longer. Martz reportedly will be gone at least six weeks.
He said last week that doctors believed he was suffering from endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the lining of the heart or the heart valve. Martz said last week that further tests were needed to confirm the diagnosis, but he had begun to be treated with antibiotics. Shaw said during Monday's news conference he thought that endocarditis was the diagnosis but he'd been told only that Martz was suffering from an acute bacterial infection.
According to the Rams, Martz was examined by a specialist Monday and was told he could not continue coaching until his condition improved. Martz met with Shaw at the Rams' training facility early in the afternoon, then delivered the news to his players during an emotional meeting a few hours later. Martz checked into a hospital Monday afternoon and was told by doctors that he must remain there four to 12 days.
Joe Vitt, the Rams' assistant head coach and linebackers coach who ran the practices last week that Martz missed, takes over as the interim coach. Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild assumes Martz's offensive play-calling duties, and defensive coordinator Larry Marmie continues to run the defense.
Last week, Vitt simply implemented the practice plans left for him by Martz. This time, according to Shaw, Martz will stay away completely and will have no input in the daily running of the team or formulating game plans.
Saints Lose McAllister for Season
The New Orleans Saints have lost the player they could least afford to lose -- tailback Deuce McAllister. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Sunday's 52-3 loss at Green Bay and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
McAllister was seeking another opinion from Birmingham orthopedist James Andrews, but the Saints don't expect him to play again this season.
Just before training camp, the Saints made McAllister one of the league's highest-paid running backs by signing him to an eight-year, $50.1 million contract extension. He became the franchise's career rushing leader earlier this season.
The Saints had decided entering the season that they wanted to change their offensive personality from finesse to power and hand the ball as often as possible to McAllister. That would keep the ball in the hands of their most dependable player -- and, they hoped, prevent error-prone quarterback Aaron Brooks from feeling that he had to win games single-handedly. The approach worked well in the Saints' two wins, at Carolina in the season opener and in San Antonio against the Bills nine days ago.
But Sunday's lopsided defeat to the Packers dropped the Saints' record to 2-3. The strain of their vagabond existence perhaps showed in their performance in Green Bay: Going back to the final two preseason games, the Saints have played their last seven games in seven different cities. When they host the Atlanta Falcons this weekend in San Antonio, it will mark the first time since Hurricane Katrina forced them out of New Orleans that the Saints will have played a second game in the same city. They'll turn over their tailback duties to Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker. . . .
The Falcons were sorting through their options after losing middle linebacker Edgerton Hartwell for the remainder of the season because of a torn Achilles' tendon. It's possible that the club will move Keith Brooking or Ike Reese, both veteran outside linebackers, to middle linebacker to replace Hartwell, the team's most significant offseason addition.
Coach Jim Mora, meanwhile, said during his news conference Monday that it was too soon to know whether quarterback Michael Vick will be able to return to the lineup for the Saints game. Vick sat out Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. . . .
The Falcons tried to beat the Patriots, the NFL's kings of keeping injury information under wraps, at their own game last week. Mora spent the week saying that he expected Vick to play, and initially listed him on the Falcons' injury report as probable. The Falcons did not downgrade Vick to questionable on their injury report until Saturday, after a walk-through. . . .
The Lions are short-handed at wide receiver this week, with Charles Rogers suspended and Roy Williams and three other wideouts hurt. Cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who played both offense and defense in college at Oklahoma State, volunteered to fill in, and Coach Steve Mariucci said during his news conference Monday that he's considering getting McQuarters ready for some playing time at receiver. . . .
The Packers placed tailback Najeh Davenport on the injured reserve list, ending his season. He underwent surgery Monday for the broken ankle he suffered Sunday during the win over the Saints. . . .
Jets tailback Derrick Blaylock is to be sidelined six to eight weeks because of a broken foot. The Jets originally had believed that Blaylock would miss the rest of the season. . . .
Cleveland rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards remained hospitalized because of an infection in his elbow. Edwards underwent surgery Saturday, and the Browns have not given a timetable for his return.
Browns, Winslow Agree
The Browns and tight end Kellen Winslow have agreed to a new contract. The deal runs through the 2010 season, adding a season to Winslow's previous contract, and includes incentives that allow Winslow to possibly recoup $2 million of the nearly $3 million in bonus money that he lost after suffering a knee injury in an offseason motorcycle accident that will keep him sidelined all season.
Mularkey Again Coy About QB Situation
Bills Coach Mike Mularkey is congratulating himself for supposedly keeping the Dolphins guessing last week about whether Kelly Holcomb or J.P. Losman would be Buffalo's starting quarterback on Sunday.
Never mind that it was clear by midweek that Mularkey would be switching to Holcomb. Never mind that Holcomb managed only 169 passing yards Sunday, and the Bills needed 18 penalties by the Dolphins and Brown's late fumble to win. Mularkey said during his news briefing Monday that his decision not to announce his starting quarterback last week may have worked in the Bills' favor, and he plans to use the same approach this week for Sunday's game against the Jets.