A week into Tedy Bruschi's would-be return to the New England Patriots, there's no official word on whether the Pro Bowl linebacker will play Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills. But the early signs seem to indicate that he probably will, given that he has begun participating in full-contact practices without suffering any apparent setbacks.

Bruschi resumed practicing last week, about eight months after he suffered a mild stroke. He remains on the physically unable to perform list. The Patriots have two more weeks to decide whether to promote him to the active roster, which would make him eligible to play in games, or place him on the injured reserve list, which would end his season before it even started.

The Patriots, who had a bye last weekend, have had a wildly inconsistent season, alternating wins and losses on their way to a 3-3 record. They certainly could use the emotional boost that a return by Bruschi undoubtedly would provide, and Bruschi is said to be performing well in practice. But the Patriots are not going to take any chances with Bruschi's health and put him on the field for a game if he's not ready to play, and Coach Bill Belichick is not the sort to put a player who can't help him into the lineup merely for sentimental reasons.

Belichick, not surprisingly, hasn't tipped his hand yet about his plans for Bruschi this weekend. The Patriots might wait until Saturday to add Bruschi to the roster if they decide to play him against the Bills.

"I'd like to get out there and see," Bruschi said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. "But it's out of my control now. I'm back. I'm a player. I'm a member of the team. . . . Whatever my coach decides to do, I trust that."

Benson Writes to Saints Fans

Saints owner Tom Benson wrote an open letter to his team's fans in Wednesday's editions of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Benson said he would like to return the franchise to New Orleans but cannot be certain that he will do so because of economic and stadium issues as the city recovers from Hurricane Katrina.

"No decision has been made about the future of the team, because no decision has been made about the future of New Orleans," Benson wrote. "Our city endured one of the worst catastrophes in history and I clearly stated in the days following that it is our desire to be at the table during the rebuilding and revitalization of our city. However, there are many factors that will affect the future of our team, the same factors that will affect the future of many other companies when faced with the decision to return to the city of New Orleans. . . . But my desire is to return to New Orleans."

The Saints have been based in San Antonio since being displaced in August by Katrina. There have been reports that Benson is interested in keeping the club in San Antonio next season and perhaps beyond. Three NFL sources told The Washington Post that the league has no interest in San Antonio as a permanent home for the team but might allow the Saints to remain there next season with an eye toward a future move to Los Angeles if New Orleans cannot rebuild and properly support the club.

The Saints' home in New Orleans, the Superdome, was damaged by Katrina, but repairs are under way. Superdome officials said this week that repairs could be completed as soon as mid-October next year and the Saints could play a portion of their 2006 home schedule in the facility. Benson said in his letter that "the Superdome has suffered damage that may keep it offline indefinitely."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sharply critical in recent weeks of Benson's reported interest in moving the Saints to San Antonio.

In his letter, Benson said: "I am aware that the many comments and speculation coming out of Texas and other places only inflame the emotions of our fans, and rhetoric of the media in New Orleans. Many cities desire an NFL franchise and the politicians of these cities are going to continue to voice this desire. Our own mayor did a similar thing in leading the campaign to bring the [NBA's] Hornets to New Orleans from Charlotte. Yet, when the subject matter of the Saints arises, comments from our current mayor are made without a single phone call being placed to our team to check on our plans or to get the facts. If the Saints and Tom Benson were as important to the city as the mayor of our city has claimed in the recent past, why such harsh comments, when a simple phone call could have saved him from embarrassment[?]"

The Saints are scheduled to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. It is their first game in Louisiana since Katrina struck, and the first of four games this season they're scheduled to play at LSU's Tiger Stadium.

QB Maneuverings

Ken Dorsey likely will be the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback this week, with rookie Alex Smith suffering from an ailing knee. Dorsey made seven starts last season but was the club's third-string quarterback this season until veteran Tim Rattay was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Smith, the top overall selection in this year's NFL draft, hurt his knee during last Sunday's 52-17 defeat to the Washington Redskins and sat out Wednesday's practice. Coach Mike Nolan might give Dorsey the official starting nod today for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. . . .

Cleveland Browns Coach Romeo Crennel decided to stick with struggling veteran Trent Dilfer as his starting quarterback instead of going to rookie Charlie Frye. The Browns play the winless Texans in Houston on Sunday. If Dilfer struggles during the game, it's possible that Crennel would go to Frye. . . .

The New York Jets have a bye this weekend, but Coach Herman Edwards averted any simmering quarterback uncertainty by announcing Wednesday that Vinny Testaverde remains the starter as long as he has recovered from a strained calf muscle by next week. . . . Josh McCown remains Arizona's starter this week, ahead of Kurt Warner.

Cadillac Could Be Back

Rookie tailback Carnell (Cadillac) Williams participated in the Buccaneers' practice Wednesday and appears ready to return to the lineup Sunday in San Francisco. His sprained left foot remains a concern to club officials, but if Williams feels all right today he likely will get the go-ahead to play against the 49ers. He has missed Tampa Bay's last two games. He amassed 434 rushing yards in the Buccaneers' first three games of the season, then was limited to 13 yards in a game against Detroit before being shelved.

He hasn't played since Oct. 2 but the Buccaneers, who had a bye last weekend, might need to rely on him heavily Sunday with Chris Simms taking over for the injured Brian Griese at quarterback. The team has the NFL's second-best record, at 5-1. . . .

The New York Giants could be without linebacker Carlos Emmons for Sunday's game against the Redskins at Giants Stadium. He has a slightly torn pectoral muscle and missed Wednesday's practice. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress also sat out the practice because of a sore shoulder. The Giants placed linebacker Barrett Green on the IR list because of an ankle injury. . . .

Lions cornerback Dre Bly underwent wrist surgery Wednesday and is to be sidelined for about four weeks. . . .

Oakland Raiders guard Langston Walker is to be out at least six weeks after undergoing emergency surgery late Tuesday for a hemorrhage in his stomach. . . .

Fullback Lorenzo Neal signed a two-year, $2 million contract extension with the San Diego Chargers that runs through the 2007 season. The deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus.