New Orleans rookie running back Ricky Williams, sidelined with an ankle injury since the first preseason game, has been cleared to play in the season opener.

Williams, injured after nine carries in the Saints' first preseason game, was given the go-ahead to play in the Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers, Saints trainer Dean Kleinschmidt said.

A second MRI exam of the injury, a high ankle strain, cleared Williams to return to the field.

CHIEFS: Team president Carl Peterson sounded like he meant it when he apologized for using obscene language while dealing with first-round draft pick John Tait, says the father of the deeply religious young Mormon.

"I told Carl first of all that we accept his apology. I believe he's being sincere," Alan Tait said from his home in Tempe, Ariz.

Peterson, in the meantime, was trying to work out details for a meeting he requested with the Tait family this weekend at their home.

Tait, the first offensive lineman taken in this year's draft, stormed out of Peterson's office Tuesday and accused Peterson of cursing and bullying him.

CHARGERS: Safety Rodney Harrison was fined $15,000 by the NFL for hitting Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce with his helmet twice in last Friday's preseason game.

However, Harrison was not fined for the hit on which Rams quarterback Trent Green suffered a season-ending knee injury.

That play was carefully reviewed, an NFL spokeswoman said, and officials determined there was no violation of rules because Harrison was coming off a block and did not have an unrestricted path to the quarterback.

BEARS: Shane Matthews, not Cade McNown, will start in the season opener against Kansas City and will play "the vast majority" of the game, Coach Dick Jauron said. But McNown, the 12th overall pick of the 1999 draft, will play in an unheard of time-share arrangement.

Under the Bears' plan, coaches will decide before the game when McNown will go in. They won't say how long McNown will play, but it will probably only be a series or two before Matthews returns.

RAVENS: Pro Bowl defensive end Michael McCrary returned to the team yesterday after skipping the past two days of practice over a contract dispute.

McCrary left the team on Saturday upset with efforts to negotiate a contract extension with the Ravens.

BRONCOS: Deposed quarterback Bubby Brister returned to the practice field and pledged his support to new starter Brian Griese.

"If it was just between me and [Coach Mike Shanahan], I probably wouldn't have come back," Brister said. "But I didn't want to walk out on my teammates and my assistant coaches."

PACKERS: Rookie punter Josh Bidwell is undergoing surgical treatment for a suspected case of testicular cancer, General Manager Ron Wolf announced.

The Packers claimed first-year punter Chris Hanson on waivers from the Cleveland Browns to temporarily fill in for Bidwell.