The truce between New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin and his players has ended. The Giants' four-game winning streak was halted by Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions at Giants Stadium, and Coughlin benched Barrett Green after the linebacker reportedly was at least 90 minutes late to work one day during the team's bye week.
Green was one of three Giants players who had grievances filed on their behalf by the NFL Players Association earlier in the season after they were fined by Coughlin for showing up early to a team meeting, but not early enough to suit Coughlin. The tension between the players and their demanding coach eased when the team reeled off one victory after another following a season-opening defeat at Philadelphia, but resurfaced when Green played only on special teams against the Lions, his former club, while Nick Greisen took over at his outside linebacker spot.
Green said after the game that he had been under the impression that he would receive playing time on defense. He called it "probably one of the most frustrating experiences of my life," and added: "I didn't understand it, but it's not my job or my prerogative to."
Coughlin declined to address the issue in detail, calling it a private matter between himself and Green. He said he would have played Green on defense if needed, but he thought Greisen played well. He declined to say whether Green's punishment would last beyond the Detroit game. Coughlin passed on that question again during his news conference Monday, saying he would address the issue when the Giants resume practicing today.
Internal friction spilled out publicly for the Indianapolis Colts this past weekend, too. The team played down a sideline argument between quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Reggie Wayne, caught by the television cameras during Sunday's loss to Jacksonville, that resulted in Wayne lightly shoving the quarterback.
"I don't think it's a big deal," Coach Tony Dungy said during his news briefing Monday. "I think it's been put behind us."
The Lions rank last in the league in total offense and 30th in total defense. They have been beaten badly twice at home, by 17 points by the Eagles in Week 3 and by 28 points by the Packers 10 days ago. But somehow, their rebuilding project is on course after going 10-38 the previous three seasons. They are 4-2 -- including 3-0 on the road, where they had lost an NFL-record 24 straight games entering the season.
"We are just playing real solid football,'' Coach Steve Mariucci said after the 28-13 triumph over the Giants. "We are not turning the ball over on the road, and that certainly helps. The weather doesn't bother us. We haven't had bad weather or anything. The crowd doesn't seem to bother us. The stress and the pressure and the situation don't seem to bother us. It's a complete turnaround. . . . We have just been playing smart football."
The Lions have the NFL's best turnover margin, at plus-10. Third-year quarterback Joey Harrington has 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions after totaling 38 interceptions and only 29 touchdown passes in his first two seasons. He is the NFC's third-rated passer, behind Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb.
"They're a good team," Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey said Sunday. "They're not the same Detroit team you've seen in the past." . . .
The Denver Broncos have lost tailback Quentin Griffin for the rest of the season. He hurt his knee during Monday night's loss at Cincinnati, and an MRI exam confirmed yesterday that he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Griffin began the season as Clinton Portis's successor but suffered a sprained ankle that provided a chance for Reuben Droughns, who has responded with three straight 100-yard rushing performances. . . .
The game was the Bengals' first appearance on "Monday Night Football" since Oct. 19, 1992. The Arizona Cardinals now inherit the league's longest active stretch of not appearing in a Monday night game, last appearing Sept. 27, 1999. . . .
Eagles running back Brian Westbrook has a broken rib and could miss up to two games, an NFL source said last night. Westbrook, Philadelphia's leading rusher, could miss Sunday's game against Baltimore and the team's Nov. 7 game at Pittsburgh, the source told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. . . .
Many in the league thought that Coach Jim Haslett could be in jeopardy of being fired Monday if the New Orleans Saints lost Sunday at Oakland. They didn't, but with a 3-4 record, they're on their way to another disappointing season. Haslett wasn't exactly pleased recently when General Manager Mickey Loomis said there would be changes made if the Saints didn't improve.
"I don't know if the timing is right," Haslett said, "but the message is understood. It would have been better if it had been later in the year. I understand this business, and it's just a part of the business."
Belichick Values a Victory
New England Coach Bill Belichick insisted after his team defeated the New York Jets on Sunday to set an NFL record with its 18th straight regular season victory that he had never mentioned that record to the Patriots all week. "I didn't say one word about it," he said.
Still, Belichick couldn't hide his glee after the game. He waved to the crowd, though he insisted he was aiming those waves to his family in the stands. But breaking the previous mark of 17 straight held by the 1933-34 Chicago Bears coached by Hall of Famer George Halas had to make it special for Belichick.
When he was 7, Belichick's father, Steve, longtime football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, took him to see a Bears game against the Colts in Baltimore. When Belichick was introduced to Halas in the locker room afterward, Halas pulled out a $1 bill, signed it and handed it to the youngster, telling him that because he was the first to congratulate him for the victory, he would be suitably compensated.
Belichick said Sunday he thought he still had that dollar bill somewhere at home but never realized how valuable it was. "I do now, especially after Mike Ditka had that famous quote about [Halas] throwing dollars around like manhole covers," he said. . . .
After the first of his two touchdowns Sunday in Cleveland, Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens threw the ball at a sign that read, "T.O. Has B.O.'' After his second touchdown, he tore down a sign that had pictures of Owens and a rat and the words, "It Takes One To Know One," a reference to Owens insinuating in training camp that Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia, Owens's former teammate in San Francisco, might be gay by saying that if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, it is a rat. Owens received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for ripping down the sign, leading to a sideline conversation with Coach Andy Reid.
During his news conference Monday, Reid said: "He's an emotional guy, and he loves to play the game. I love that part of him . . . [but] he's just got to be careful on what he does. . . . Heck, that wasn't a very good sign anyway. . . . Those are nothing compared to the ones hung here at the Vet when I first started."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.