Friday, August 11, 2006

Willie Roaf supposedly surprised the Kansas City Chiefs by retiring on the day players reported to camp, but the 11-time Pro Bowl lineman said he informed the Chiefs of his plans in May.

“If I felt I could play like I used to play, I’d play again,” said Roaf, a left offensive tackle. “I started running around and my legs were bothering me. I kind of knew right then that I would need to do this. I’m 36. I have to face that fact.”

New coach Herman Edwards is still hoping for an about-face.

“Sometimes they change their minds,” Edwards said. “Sometimes you have to sit back after … a decision like that and ponder it.”

Roaf said his decision is final and has nothing to do with Edwards, adding, “I respect my teammates too much to go out there and play at a level that I’m not used to.”

The Chiefs signed Kyle Turley this spring after right tackle John Welbourn retired. The club is gambling that the former New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams starter — who was made infamous as a Saint by ripping off the helmet of an opponent and tossing it far downfield — can still play after sitting out two years with back problems.

“I’ve been ready for quite some time now,” said Turley, who had hoped to return as a blocking tight end because the lower weight needed at that position would have put less pressure on his back.

“Kyle’s a very solid left tackle, an excellent athlete,” Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said. “He’s a very legitimate guy.”

Lelie’s holdout continues — Ashley Lelie threw a hissy-fit worthy of Paris Hilton when the Denver Broncos traded for the Green Bay Packers’ disgruntled receiver Javon Walker in April, a move that likely would reduce Lelie, the incumbent starter, to a backup.

Lelie’s fit still is going on. He declined to report to training camp and is being fined $14,000 each day he holds out. If he stays out through the Sept. 10 season opener, Lelie will be docked more than $600,000, roughly equivalent to his base salary.

Coach Mike Shanahan never has had a player hold out this long, and he is furious. Lelie is a dazzling deep threat, but he caught just 133 passes in his three years as a starter. His 36-year-old teammate, Rod Smith, caught 238 during the same period.

“Our guys aren’t going to worry about someone who doesn’t want to be here,” Shanahan said. “They know that guy isn’t going to win you a championship. Ashley’s got a contract. He’s obligated to be here. We’re holding all the cards.”

Lelie’s agent, Peter Schaffer, remains “very optimistic” that his client will be traded, but the Broncos want a first- or second-round draft pick or a starter in return.

The Atlanta Falcons are the leading candidate to trade for Lelie, who has a year left on his contract and will be a free agent in March if he plays this season. The Falcons lost No. 3 receiver Brian Finneran to a season-ending knee injury and have unproven starters in Michael Jenkins and Roddy White.

Fading Favre — Brett Favre is the only three-time MVP in NFL history, but he struggled last season and has been shaky in practice this summer.

The Packers quarterback threw 29 interceptions last season — the most by a passer in 17 years — and was picked off five times in practice on July 31.

“That’s not acceptable,” new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. “We’re going to get it corrected. You can’t throw down the middle late. You just can’t do that.”

Favre will turn 37 in October.

Fired-up Ferguson — D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the offensive tackle and a former All-American at Virginia, is off to an encouraging start with the New York Jets.

Ferguson, the fourth pick in April’s draft, manhandled one rusher after another in practice after line coach Tony Wise got on him for a lackluster showing against defensive end Bryan Thomas.

“You saw that anger, that fire, that competitiveness,” first-year-coach Eric Mangini said.

No P.R. man? — After Paul Tagliabue announced his retirement in March, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the league didn’t “need a public relations person” as its next commissioner.

Wonder if Lurie was aware that NFL chief operating officer Roger Goodell, who was elected on Tuesday as Tagliabue’s successor, began his career as a P.R. man for the New York Jets and the league?

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