- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the Saints were reportedly among a group of NFL players who tested positive for a diuretic that masks steroid use. Of course, New Orleans plays San Diego in London on Sunday. It’s kind of a do-or-diuretic game.

News item: Plaxico Burress receives three fines from the league totaling $45,000 - not long after being docked a week’s salary ($117,000) by the Giants for missing a team meeting.

Comment: I’m beginning to think Plaxico, in anticipation of an Obama presidency, is trying to get his taxable income under $250,000.

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Burress’ latest fines were for verbally abusing an official during the game ($20,000), “inappropriate” comments about the zebras after the game ($20,000) and throwing a football into the stands ($5,000). What was wrong with throwing a ball into the stands, anyway? Was he trying to hit the replay judge?

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In response to Troy Polamalu’s comments last week that excessive fines were taking away players’ aggressiveness, Mike Ditka told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “If you want to … get back to where people aren’t striking with the head and using the head as a weapon, take the mask off the helmet. A lot of pretty boys aren’t going to stick their face in there.”

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the competition committee discussed that one.

“So whattayathink, guys? Five-yard penalty if the tackler drags the ball carrier down by one nostril, 15-yarder if he drags him down by both?”

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Still, it would be cool to see the term “deviated septum” return to the football lexicon.

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Well, Brett Favre has set another NFL record: most cell-phone controversies in a season (two).

Back in July, you may recall, when he was still the property of Green Bay, Favre was accused of talking to the Vikings on a Packers-issued phone. (Turns out the Packers didn’t issue him a phone.)

Now we have Brett being charged with giving the Lions - via speaker phone in his truck - intelligence about his old team.

(The previous mark of one, by the way, was held by Joe Horn, who celebrated a touchdown for the Saints in 2003 by placing a cell call from the end zone.)

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Forget about the 455 touchdown passes, the 63,976 passing yards, the 281 consecutive starts and all the rest. This cell-phone record might be the one mark of Favre’s that will never be broken.

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I can’t decide what’s stranger, the Bills not playing a division opponent in the first seven weeks (one a bye) or three coaches and a general manager getting fired before the midpoint of the season.

Unless it’s Houston being penalized just 119 yards in its first six games.

(The refs must think: Aw, heck, they’re the Texans. They’ve been punished enough.)

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FYI: Only two clubs had fewer than 500 penalty yards last season - the Seahawks (428) and the Jets (486). Houston is on pace for 317 this year.

Which raises the question: Has a football team ever been awarded the Lady Byng Trophy?

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The Texans have no shot, unfortunately, at the NFL record for fewest penalty yards in a season - 139 by the 1937 Lions. You have to remember, though: In ‘37, there was no roughing the passer penalty. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whistle hadn’t even been invented yet.

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Then again, the strangest thing about this NFL season might be that three starting punters were born in Australia: Ben Graham (Saints), Mat McBriar (Cowboys, currently injured) and Sav Rocca (Eagles).

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Memo to Vinny Cerrato: In the future, instead of wasting a draft pick on a punter (e.g., recently cut Durant Brooks), just sign somebody from the North Melbourne Kangaroos.

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Speaking of punters, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in the last two years, the Raiders’ Shane Lechler has punted the ball better than anybody in history. In case you missed it - which is easy to do with an Oakland player - Lechler has, over this stretch, averaged 48.6 yards and netted 41.3 yards (with 39 boots inside the 20 and only 13 touchbacks).

But his most impressive statistic might be this: His 105 punts have been returned a grand total of 54 yards.

That’s right, every time he booms one, it gets run back, on average, about 18 inches.

Take that, Ray Guy.

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For those Joe Paterno fans wondering what Amos Alonzo Stagg was doing at the age of 82:

Stagg, in his 13th year at Pacific, coached the Tigers to a 4-7 record, including a 19-0 loss to the Alameda (Calif.) Coast Guard team.

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After my column Thursday on teams (like the Rays) changing their names and experiencing immediate success, Ron Webber, the Caps’ erstwhile play-by-play man, called to say: “I was reading in the paper the other day that Oklahoma State’s football team is 7-0 for the first time in 1945. Well, Oklahoma State was originally Oklahoma A&M, so it’s kind of a delayed example of what you’re talking about.”

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You’ve gotta love Ron. If you asked him, “What’s the mascot at the Colorado School of Mines?” I bet he’d know the answer.

(Blaster the Burro.)

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Did you hear about Tony Allen? When the Celtics were measured for their championship rings, Allen asked to have his ring fitted for his right pinkie.

So don’t be surprised if you see the following notation this week in a Boston box score:

Allen, DNP (dislocated finger).

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“That little pinkie will have to do some weight training to keep that thing up,” Ray Allen told the Boston Herald.

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Is it just me, or is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich starting to look like Steve Carrell in “Evan Almighty”?

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I see Rays manager Joe Maddon, old schooler that he is, squeezed home a run the other night. He must be saving the hidden ball trick for later.

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And finally, we close with a few words from Ty Cobb in 1916:

“The managers have the game by the throat.

“Their cry is all for machine baseball.

“Perhaps the average team can perform better work when directed by one dominant policy.

“The trick play is going, and it will be too bad when it goes.

“For it is the soul of the game, the thing above all others that gives spice to baseball.”