Joey Harrington is getting what could be his final chance to be the starting quarterback of the Detroit Lions, and perhaps his final chance to prove that he was worth the third overall selection in the 2002 NFL draft.

Harrington was the last-rated passer in the NFL when Lions Coach Steve Mariucci benched him two games ago and went with Jeff Garcia, a former Pro Bowl quarterback for Mariucci in San Francisco. Garcia, who was returning from the broken leg and severe ankle sprain that he suffered in the preseason, led the Lions to a win at Cleveland but threw an interception that was returned for the game-winning touchdown in overtime by the Chicago Bears in Detroit's loss last Sunday.

Garcia aggravated his leg injuries in the Chicago game and was unable to practice Wednesday or Thursday, so Mariucci had little choice but to go back to Harrington as the starter for Sunday's game at Minnesota. It's still unclear if Garcia or rookie Dan Orlovsky will be Harrington's backup Sunday.

Harrington has a 16-33 record as the Lions' starter, and he could be released next spring. There was talk even last offseason about the possibility of the club cutting him, but he remained on the roster and remained the starter entering the season.

The one thing that Harrington seems to have going for him now is that there's little left for him to lose. He already has lost his starting job, and he already has all but lost his roster spot in Detroit. He never has dealt well with the pressure of his lofty draft status and the annual expectations of a Lions' revival featuring him, so perhaps now he can play with a feeling of freedom and not fret so much about what could go wrong. He is said to have had a solid practice Thursday. The Lions' plan appears to be to go back to Garcia when the veteran is healthy. But plans have a way of changing in the NFL, as Joey Harrington knows as well as anyone.

Vick Next To Last

Harrington remains the league's lowest-rated passer among those quarterbacks with enough passing attempts to qualify for the rankings. He has a passer rating of 55.6. The next-worst rating is the 63.0 of Atlanta's Michael Vick, which is just behind the 65.5 of Bears rookie Kyle Orton. The only other quarterbacks below the 70 mark are Miami's Gus Frerotte, New Orleans's Aaron Brooks and Arizona's Josh McCown . . . .

Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher had an interesting decision to make when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday, sidelining him for Sunday's game at Green Bay.

The Steelers are one of the few teams in the league with two veteran backups on their 53-man roster, thanks to the fact that their young quarterback -- Roethlisberger -- is their starter. So when he knew that he wouldn't have Roethlisberger, Cowher had two former NFL starters -- Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch -- to choose from to be his starter against the Packers.

Maddox was the Steelers' starter in 2002 and 2003, and he had the job entering last season until getting hurt and giving way to Roethlisberger. He started the game last month that Roethlisberger missed after hurting his left knee against the San Diego Chargers. But Maddox lost a fumble and threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in overtime to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a victory at Heinz Field, and Cowher moved Batch ahead of Maddox on the depth chart in recent weeks.

Batch hasn't started an NFL game since 2001, when he was with the Lions. He hasn't won as an NFL starter since 2000. He has thrown only eight regular-season passes in four seasons with the Steelers, all in 2003. But, with Maddox hurt, he finished the San Diego game after Roethlisberger injured his knee, and Cowher decided to go with Batch as his starter Sunday in Green Bay.

Roethlisberger is to be sidelined for 10 to 14 days after having a torn piece of cartilage removed from his right knee in a 15-minute procedure Thursday, so it's unclear if he'll miss one game or two. Roethlisberger's right knee had been bothering him since the opening game of the season, and he aggravated the injury in Monday night's win over the Baltimore Ravens . . . .

Quarterback Trent Green has made 71 straight starts for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Coach Dick Vermeil expressed uncertainty Thursday about whether Green will be in the lineup Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Green attended his father's funeral Wednesday in St. Louis and didn't make it back to Kansas City for the Chiefs' practice Thursday, and Vermeil said he wanted to see how Green was doing today before deciding whether to start him Sunday. Backup quarterback Todd Collins has been practicing with the starting offense this week.

The Chiefs have so many injuries that Vermeil scaled back Thursday's practice, which had been scheduled to be in full pads. The Chiefs don't know if left tackle Willie Roaf, who aggravated a hamstring injury, will be able to play Sunday, and tailback Priest Holmes spent Thursday in California being examined by a neurologist because of a blow to the head he absorbed during last weekend's defeat in San Diego . . . .

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is looking for his first victory away from Giants Stadium as an NFL starter in Sunday's game at San Francisco. Manning's only road win came in September when Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ordered the vagabond New Orleans Saints to move a game scheduled to be played against the Giants in New Orleans to Giants Stadium in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Giants technically were the visiting team in that game, even though it was played in their home stadium . . . .

The Saints claimed cornerback Joey Thomas, who'd been released by the Packers, off waivers . . . .

Superdome officials have moved back the projected earliest completion date for repairs to the building to November of next year. They had been projecting mid-October at the soonest, but had to push that back because of problems with an architectural proposal. The delay first was reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

T.O. Improving, McNabb Not

Wide receiver Terrell Owens participated in the Philadelphia Eagles' practice Thursday, improving the chances that he will play Sunday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field even after re-injuring his surgically repaired right ankle in last weekend's loss at Denver. The Eagles upgraded Owens's status from doubtful to questionable on their official injury report.

But quarterback Donovan McNabb sat out practice Thursday for a second day in a row. McNabb has been playing with a sports hernia, and suffered bruised ribs against the Broncos. He said Wednesday that he planned to play against the Redskins, but the Eagles didn't seem quite so sure about that Thursday. Backup Koy Detmer has been working with the starting offense in this week's practices, and Coach Andy Reid said at midweek that he'd also have Mike McMahon ready to play if needed . . . .

The Chargers and punter Mike Scifres agreed to a four-year contract extension through the 2011 season. It is thought that the deal will be worth more than $1.5 million per season and make Scifres, a Pro Bowl alternate last season, the league's highest-paid punter.