- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

Today is going to be a day like no other in NFL history.

The first day back in action since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that cost thousands of lives and postponed last week's games will be marked by moments of silence, a 1-minute film about last week's events, a special rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Bon Jovi, Lionel Richie and Mary J. Blige and performances of the "Star-Spangled Banner" that will include local volunteer workers. All players will wear an American flag decal on the back of their helmets for the rest of the season. Coaches' sideline caps will also sport the stars and stripes. And all fans attending each team's next home game will receive small American flags.

With the New York Giants, New York Jets, Washington and Pittsburgh all on the road, the most emotional scene may well occur at Foxboro, Mass. That's where the Jets meet their AFC East rivals, the New England Patriots. Two of the four doomed flights took off from Logan Airport, about an hour from Foxboro. The Jets have helped load cases of bottled water for the rescue workers at the ruins of the World Trade Center and they've been to Ground Zero to thank the firefighters, policemen and rescue workers for their efforts.

"When our team decided to come down here, it was a big step for us," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "The players really got this out of their system and feel like they've done some things to help. They're part of the healing process."

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, whose father helped build the Twin Towers, took a piece of the rubble back to the team's practice facility.

"I told the team I want this symbol to represent to us the commitment to what we do right here in this locker room," Testaverde said.

The Jets are looking for a fourth straight victory at Foxboro in their final visit to the stadium which is being replaced next season. Testaverde has an impressive 99.9 quarterback rating in nine career starts against the Pats.

• Dolphins-Raiders: Defending AFC East champion Miami is out to avenge its only playoff shutout loss (27-0) when Oakland visits today. The Dolphins have won 14 straight at home in September and 37 of 42 in humid South Florida in the season's first month since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. But the Raiders' 18-9-1 record against the Dolphins is the best of any Miami opponent.

The fearsome Miami defense will be without tackle Tim Bowens (knee) but features Player of the Week Zach Thomas, the linebacker who had 12 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown in the opening upset victory at Tennessee. Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon has won 14 of his past 18 starts including the opener at Kansas City, and receiver Tim Brown has gone over 100 yards in each of his last three games against Miami.

• Titans-Jaguars: Tennessee, picked by many to win the AFC, could well be looking at an 0-2 start. Quarterback Steve McNair won't play because of an ailing shoulder and halfback Eddie George looked rusty against Miami after a lingering toe injury limited his offseason work. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is intent on showing it's back after tumbling to 7-9 last year.

"I don't think we have anything to prove," said quarterback Mark Brunell, who has a 31-15 AFC Central record despite having lost five of the past six against the Titans. "To hear that we don't have talent or that we're not what we used to be, that's ridiculous."

The Titans, who lost corner Denard Walker and safety Marcus Robertson to free agency, have lost their replacements, Dainon Sidney and Bobby Myers, to season-ending injuries. Having cut veteran Carnell Lake and having lost Donovin Darius to a hip injury, the Jags might be forced to go with two rookie safeties, Marlon McCree and James Boyd.

• Rams-49ers: San Francisco won 17 straight in this NFC West rivalry from 1990 to '98, but St. Louis has captured the past four meetings by an average margin of 16 points.

The Niners rallied to win their opener against Atlanta, but beating the Rams would show they're contenders. St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner's sprained right thumb might not be fully recovered, but considering his numbers in his three starts against the Niners (65 of 97, 918 yards, eight touchdowns), he might not have to be 100 percent. Warner is looking for his 19th 300-yard game in his 30th start, which would eclipse Dan Marino's NFL record of 14 in his first 30.

Rams receiver Isaac Bruce caught 16 passes for 317 yards in the two games against San Francisco last year while halfback Marshall Faulk produced 343 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. Defensive end Grant Wistrom, who missed St. Louis' opening victory at Philadelphia, is back from a knee injury, but San Francisco might be without receiver J.J. Stokes and linebackers Julian Peterson and Jamie Winborn as well as tight end Greg Clark.

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