CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- George Siefert was fired Monday as coach of the Carolina Panthers, who set an NFL single-season record of 15 straight losses.
Seifert had joined Carolina in 1999 with the best winning percentage in NFL history and two Super Bowl titles while coaching the San Francisco 49ers. But, that kind of success did not follow him to Charlotte.
Although no possible successors were mentioned, speculation immediately centered on Steve Spurrier, who resigned last week at Florida to seek an NFL job.
"I felt I had no choice with 15 straight losses," owner Jerry Richardson said at Monday's news conference. "We were 31st in offense, 31st in defense. I couldn't continue it. I just couldn't continue it."
"Just not enough decisions I made worked out and what's been done is probably in the best interests in the football team," Seifert said. "I'm disappointed in the way I'm going out as a
football coach. But I think there's a good nucleus here as far as the football team is concerned."
The Panthers opened the season with a stunning win at Minnesota with rookie quarterback Chris Weinke at the helm, but proceeded to lose their next 15 games and capped the campaign with a 38-6
defeat to the New England Patriots before barely more than 21,000 disgruntled fans at Ericsson Stadium.
Seifert, who turns 62 later this month, compiled a 16-32 record in three seasons as Carolina coach. The Panthers were 8-8 in his first season and 7-9 in 2000.
Seifert succeeded Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh in San Franciso in 1989 and led the 49ers to a 108-35 record -- the highest winning percentage in NFL history at .765) -- and two Super Bowl titles in eight seasons.
Warner has throat injury
ST. :LOUIS, Mo., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- St. Louis Quarterback Kurt Warner has been instructed not to talk for seven days after suffering a throat contusion during Sunday's regular season finale win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams announced Monday.
"We are taking this precaution with consideration of the bye week before the playoffs begin," Rams Coach Mike Martz said. "We expect Kurt to make a full return to practice when we get ready for the divisional playoff game next week."
Trainer Jim Anderson said Warner's condition will be monitored during the week.
The Rams finished with the best record in the NFL at 14-2 and have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Warner threw for 4,830 yards, the second-highest total in NFL history, this past season and also led the league with 36 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of higher than 100.
Bills' Hansen retires after 11 seasons
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Defensive end Phil Hansen, one of the last ties to the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl years in the early 1990s, announced his retirement on Monday.
Hansen, 33, played his entire 11-year career with the Bills, was a starter on three of their four Super Bowl teams and the franchise's second all-time leader in sacks with 61 1/2.
The Bills concluded a 3-13 season, their worst mark since 1985, with a 34-7 loss at Miami on Sunday.
Hansen missed four games with an elbow injury and finished with 46 tackles and three sacks in 12 starts. But, he recorded his first career interception in the final two minutes of Buffalo's
14-9 upset of the playoff-bound New York Jets two weeks ago.
Although he never received Pro Bowl recognition, Hansen started 148 of 156 games with the Bills and was regarded as one of the team's most consistent players, compiling 867 tackles.
Early NFL hopefuls Florida based
By United Press International
The state of Florida is well ahead of other states in underclassmen planning to enter the NFL draft early.
Running back Clinton Portis and defensive back Phillip Buchanon of national champion Miami announced on Sunday that they will bypass their senior seasons and enter the draft.
Portis ran for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season and carried 20 times for 104 yards and a score in Thursday's 37-14 win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl that assured Miami of the national title. Buchanon had five interceptions this season.
Two other Miami juniors, tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive tackle William Joseph, also are considering the NFL.
The University of Florida will no longer have the services of offensive lineman Mike Pearson, who also announced Sunday his intension of turning pro. Pearson, who already has his degree, is expected to be a first-round pick.
With Steve Spurrier stepping down as Florida coach last week, the status of some other star underclassmen for the Gators is in limbo.
Brigham Young running back Luke Staley, the winner of the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the country, Ohio State cornerback Derek Ross and Kentucky defensive end Dennis Johnson already have announced they are turning pro.
Players have until Friday to formally apply for the draft, which will be held April 20-21 in New York.
Lightning add defenseman
TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning got defenseman Dan Boyle from the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round pick in the 2003 draft Monday.
"Dan is a gifted offensive defenseman," Lightning General Manager Rick Dudley said. "We've been looking to generate more offense from the blue line and work on our passing out of our zone, and those are his fortes."
Signed as a free agent by Florida in March 1998, the 25-year-old Boyle has recorded 10 goals and 29 assists in 129 games over the past four seasons with the Panthers.
Nets add backup for Kidd
Johnson was drafted in the second round by the Sacramento Kings in 1997 and has averaged 4.7 points and 2.5 assists in four seasons with Sacramento, Atlanta, Orlando and Cleveland.
"We are pleased to add Anthony to our roster," Nets General Manager Rod Thorn said. "He has proven NBA experience at the point guard position."
This season, the 6-3 Johnson was averaging 11.9 points and 2.9 assists in 15 games with the Mobile Reverlers of the NBA Development League.
Two more seeds upset in Canberra Classic
CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Two more seeds fell in the first round Monday at the $110,000 Canberra Women's Classic tennis event.
Iva Majoli of Croatia fell to Australian Rachel McQuillan, 6-4, 6-2.
McQuillan will face countrywoman Amanda Grahame, a qualifier, in the second round. Grahame was leading 7-5, 2-0 before Germany's Barbara Rittner retired with a shoulder injury.
Two seeded players did move into the second round. No. 5 Elena Likhovtseva of Russia dispatched Selima Sfar of Tunisia, 6-3, 6-2, and sixth seed and 1998 winner Patty Schnyder of
Switzerland eased by Rossana Neffa-De Los Rios of Paraguay, 6-4, 6-4.
Tasmanian first round delayed by rain
HOBART, Australia, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Persistent rain throughout Monday cancelled all first-round action at the $110,000 ANZ Tasmanian
International tennis event.
On Tuesday, former Australian Open champion Mary Pierce will face Kristina Brandi of the United States. Pierce, who received a wild card into this event, is attempting a comeback after
missing seven months last season with back problems.
Top seed and 1999 finalist Rita Grande of Italy will play Rita Kuti Kis of Hungary; second-seeded Paola Suarez of Argentina meets Russian qualifier Elena Tatarkova; and fifth seed and defending champion Meilen Tu of the United States will battle
Cara Black of Zimbabwe.
Hometown favorite win in Heineken
AUKLAND, New Zealand, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Much to the delight of his hometown fans, Auckland's Mark Nielsen ousted seventh seed Andreas Vinciguerra of Sweden on Monday in the first round of the Heineken Open tennis event.
Nielson, the world 457th-ranked player, needed a wild card to make the main draw before posting a 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 victory. He became the first New Zealander to reach the second round here since Brett Steven in 1999.
Also Monday, Fernando Vincente of Spain dispatched Franco Squillari of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2, and France's Jerome Golmard topped New Zealand wild card Daniel Willman, 6-4, 6-1.
Top seed Marat Safin's battle with Michael Chang highlights a busy day on Tuesday.