- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2004

Who says all the big NFL surprises come in February or June because of the salary cap?

Future Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown’s release by Oakland on Thursday was the fourth shocking roster move in the past 16 days.

Brown’s exit from the Raiders — brought on by his unwillingness to see spot duty behind the ageless Jerry Rice and youngster Jerry Porter — happened the day after the stunning release of quarterback Quincy Carter by the Cowboys amid a swirl of rumors of failed drug tests.

Plus, Tennessee waived its all-time rushing leader, Eddie George, and Miami offensive linchpin Ricky Williams — with drug problems of his own — told the Dolphins he no longer wants to play football.

“This is a pause button,” said Brown, who holds Raiders records with 241 games, 1,070 catches (third in NFL history), 14,734 receiving yards (second) and 104 touchdowns. “This is not a stop button. No matter what happens, [Raiders owner Al Davis] and I’ve agreed that I will retire as a Raider.”

Defending Super Bowl champion New England already might have wrapped up the AFC East with Williams’ retirement, and Buffalo’s defenders are especially thrilled. Williams shredded the Bills for 589 yards on 123 carries in their four meetings the past two years.

Said Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams: “Good luck, Rick. Don’t come back. Don’t change your mind. I don’t care what they say about you; we love you and congratulations.”

While the loss of Carter, who’s athletic but merely an adequate passer, isn’t nearly as big a blow to the Cowboys, coach Bill Parcells will be forced to start 40-year-old Vinny Testaverde, who managed a 3-8 record filling in for the New York Jets the past two seasons.

Parcells cut disappointing former starter Chad Hutchinson last month, so the backups are rookie Drew Henson, who hasn’t played a down in four years while pursuing a baseball career, and Tony Romo, who didn’t take a snap as a rookie in 2003.

“I told Quincy this doesn’t mean he’s not a good quarterback,” said Testaverde, a first-year Cowboy who played for Parcells’ Jets in 1998. “He’s a good kid, and I hope he gets another shot with another team. … I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t feel confident that I can lead this team where it needs to go.”

Duce rips Eagles — Duce Staley, the focal point of Philadelphia’s offense until Donovan McNabb matured into a fine quarterback, blames coach Andy Reid for the Eagles’ losses in the past three NFC Championship games because they averaged 38 passes but only 23 carries.

“I strongly believe that if we had been committed to the run in those three games, we would’ve won all three,” said Staley, who signed with Pittsburgh this spring after averaging a career-low 8.2 touches a game in 2003.

While there was no room for the 29-year-old Staley in an Eagles backfield that features youngsters Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook, Staley believes he will get plenty of work with the Steelers even though 32-year-old bruiser Jerome Bettis is still on hand.

“I’m glad to be somewhere where I’ll get a chance to start,” Staley said. “There’s a possibility I might touch the ball 25 times a game. With the Eagles, to touch the ball 25 times, we’ve gotta be up 50-0. Even then, we might throw it on third-and-1.”

Dumb Dawg — Fellow first-round picks Philip Rivers, Kellen Winslow, Marcus Tubbs and Chris Perry are unsigned, and Sean Taylor has a contract but keeps changing agents, but former Georgia tight end Ben Watson deserves this summer’s rookie duncecap for being a holdout. The last pick of the first round never has much leverage because he has been drafted by the champions, and Watson means even less to the Patriots, who are deep at tight end with Christian Fauria, Daniel Graham and Zeron Flemister, all of whom have been NFL starters.

McGahee ready — Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe took plenty of heat for using his first-round selection in the 2003 draft on Willis McGahee, knowing the fleet University of Miami halfback likely would miss the season while recovering from knee surgery. Coach Gregg Williams ended up paying with the loss of his job after a 6-10 season, but successor Mike Mularkey could reap the dividends of the McGahee pick immediately.

McGahee, who is behind 1,000-yard runner Travis Henry on the depth chart and could wind up as the third-down back, has been practicing without a brace on his reconstructed left knee as he prepares for his first live action in tomorrow’s scrimmage with Cleveland.

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